1. 4 Introduction: Thoughts to Ponder
Some thoughts, no doubt very unoriginal, occurred to me in the course of preparing to write what follows. I leave them with you for your own contemplation.
A) The concepts of truth and knowledge are interdependent. If we cannot have knowledge without truth and vice versa, is one of those concepts redundant?
B) The expression of apparently truthful statements relies on symbols and requires the linguistic concepts of ‘definition’, ‘meaning’ and ‘reference’.
C) Without the possibility of falsity or error, we have no truth.
D) The concepts of falsity and truth have the same logical value. Despite claims to the contrary, the concepts of falsification and verification can be given the same emphasis, and we should be equally sceptical of both. Nevertheless, we often need to place more emphasis on truth claims in order to lead our lives.
E) There is no external truth that exists in the world outside of our head. Truth is not a freestanding and independent entity.
F) Believing that you have arrived at a particular truth is equivalent to placing a tag of acceptance on an assertion. When we understand what forms the basis of acceptance we have established its present truth status.
G) The truth of a proposition can only be asserted within a context. Propositions sometimes appear definitively truthful when we lack the imagination to see further into a wider context.
H) We often make assumptions of truth even in the face of conceptual incompleteness. This has profound implications for the way we should interpret truth claims.
I) Personal and communal certainty can be a convenient substitute for truth. Certainty may be a matter of degree.
J) The certainties of logic and mathematics arise by definition and construction and are driven by instinct.
K) Logical truth is merely a value attributed to the structural relationship said to exist between 2 or more assertions or entities. Although logic is indispensable for the creation of our ‘Worldview’, by itself logical reasoning says nothing about the state of the world or our place within it.
L) When we have regard to our position within the history of human culture, personal enlightenment often seems more likely to be an increase in our awareness of conceptual possibilities rather than the realisation of absolute truths.
M) Progress in science is brought about by activities that produce novel observations and the cumulative formulation of coherent descriptions and explanations. Intellectual progress is merely the elaboration of a coherent body of ideas. Whether or not progressive ideas are true is another matter.
N) Scientific explanations can be viewed as very useful approximations with predictive power rather than truths. The present ’laws’ of science are some of our very best approximations to generalisable truths at this particular point in our cultural history. These laws are no more certain than many explanations we have of many everyday events in our lives.
O) There are many conditions that we encounter where it is desirable to acknowledge our uncertainty of belief.
P) One of the most famous quotations in the English language concerning truth reads: ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’. Freedom should not be so undervalued.