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The truth about the truth part II.

24 February 2014, 11:28

Absolute truth: The theory

 

People often think that by studying the world they will learn something about the world in itself, get some knowledge about how the world really is. Knowledge about how the world looks like when its image is not blurred by erroneous interpretations, ideas, or even fantasies. Knowledge of what constitutes the world, knowledge that is objective, which content exists independent whether the element of the world is observed or not. In short - the knowledge of the Absolute Truth. We will now show that there is no logically correct way to determine whether and to what extent the results of any tests, studies or scientific or non-scientific research describe this absolutely true structure of the world. We’ll show that it is impossible to determine whether and to what extent our research gives us insight into the true structure of the world, insight unadulterated by our observations and by our imaginations.

Let’s note at the beginning that the truth evaluation of the hypothesis is the result of a comparison of a hypothetical state with an actual one. This actual state is the state we can say of "it is the way it should be". It is precisely because by using the available facts we assess whether the label on the tin says the truth about its contents. Hypothetical state is a guess about appearance, consistency and taste of the product obtained by reading the label. The actual state is the appearance, texture and taste of the product, which we experience after opening the can. In the same way we evaluate whether the ruling party meets its promises given to the voters. A hypothetical state is our expectations for the amount of taxes one need to pay every year. The actual state is the sum which the tax authorities will claim at the end of the year and the void you will feel in your wallet. Similar principle applies to assessing the veracity of hypotheses in the natural sciences. Hypothetical state is the expected time of hitting the ground by a stone falling from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Actual state is record on the stopwatch. There isn’t and can’t be another criterion for the truth in the natural sciences. The truth, by definition, is a compatibility between two states: the hypothetical and actual. There is always some assumption and there is always some form of checking this assumption, which is reducible to some sensory experience.

When purchasing, voting or researching we have a reference point, the actual state. We can identify it, point the finger at it. This allows us to evaluate not only truth or falseness of the hypothesis, more, we can estimate the degree of comatibility of these two states (which is not necessarily ideal) and thus to compare which of the hypotheses is a better approximation of the truth. So we can make an assessment of which action will be the most sensible step towards improving compatibility. Estimating the degree of veracity allows us to move towards the truth. And this is possible only due to the fact that from the very beginning we can point out the actual state - the result of an experiment - and the method of comparing it with the hypothetical state. Regardless of whether it refers to a tin contents, a height of the taxes, or the law of universal gravitation.

Let’s emphasize it once again in other words, because the thing is crucial: explanations by natural sciences are always presented as a set of structured relations between sensory data. Correctness of these explanations is evaluated by comparing the hypothetical with actual state reduced to some specific sensory experience. Consecutive achievements of science rely on presentation relations integrating even wider class of sensory observations, which results in even better ability to anticipate the consequences of our actions and even more control over the sensory world. This is due to the knowledge of such relations that we can plan our activities so that their effect is a plane or a vaccine against influenza. We do not need anything more than the knowledge of these relations to submit a plan of action at the end of which stands a device or medicine.

The case is quite different, however, when you are going to learn the absolute truth. Is the other person is really aware of its existence and the plant is not, and is my experience just another dream or am I awake? Evaluation of the truth is the result of a comparison of a hypothetical state with the actual, in this case however, actual state is unknown. We are looking for it. And because of that now we fall into the fundamental difficulty, which results in our inability to establish a link between our assumptions and absolute truth:

to evaluate the truth, you first need to figure out where the truth is. But ...
in order to figure out where the truth is, one must first evaluate the truth. But ...
to evaluate the truth, you first need to figure out where the truth is. But ...
in order to figure out where the truth is, one must first evaluate….
...
And so on and on.  There is nowhere to start from.

Therefore, the only attainable knowledge about absolute truth is that it is unattainable. Knowledge requires that its accuracy can be verified. And the only thing we can check is that we can’t make a logically correct evaluation of the claims about absolute truth ...

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