7.06.2005

my right is falsely my true left eye

Preach Cristi. I'd go further. Forgive me if this a little lacking in evidence, maybe. A distinction that Cristi makes is words as referent to real physical objects, or visible (since the sky may not necessarily be physical, but at least our experience of it is sensual). There are of course words that refer to things which are not physical, tactile, sensual, holdable. Love, hate, malice, envy, value... True and false are also in this category. One cannot hold truth.

And here's where I think I'd go farther. We only apply a value of truth (or falseness) to a statement. When we say that "the sky is blue" is "true", we are not saying that "the sky is truly blue", but that "the sky is blue" is a true statement. There is--to my mind--no way to evaluate the truth of anything outside of language. Language is the tool by which we identify the senses.

Think of math. We are presented with numbers, which are symbolic equivalents to the amounts they represent. A number on it's own is not true or false. What can be said of the truth or falseness of two. Nothing. We can only begin to evaluate "truth" in relation to numbers by placing them in equations. 2+2=4 and the like. Only when placed in relation to one another can such an analysis begin. 2+2 does not equal 5.

A sentence is the same. The words themselves, and the things they represent are themselves beyond truth. What after all is the difference in truth between a physical chair and the word chair? Both are objects, sensually experienced. They carry no truth value of their own. They are what they are. Chair=Chair. Only when we linguistically place them in equations of action, definition and the like can we even begin to comprehend "truth" in relation to the objects. And even then it is not about the objects themselves, but about the statement.

6 comments:

Seb (pedantically) said...

I think I'm in danger of making redundant comments, but as I've said elsewhere, I care a lot about this particular topic.

First issue: suppose I am privy to a completely unique sense experience. My earlier example was the mango in an otherwise mango-less world, but take anything else you like. It seems to me that I can form a true belief about that sense experience even when it is impossible to have a linguistic convention about it. What say you?

Second issue: You seem to be saying here that the most basic thing that truth can be applied to is a sentence. I would argue that you either have to make it apply to much more or much less. In philosophy, there is an argument for confirmation holism which says, in one interpretation, that sentences can only be evaluated for truth in the context of all other beliefs about the world. For example, "the sky is blue" is only true if I also believe that all the air between me in the sky is translucent, not blue somewhere "between me and the sky."

If this is true, then individual snippets of language (sentences) can't be the atom of things with truth value. Instead, it's the entire system of belief (which, as with the unique taste of mango above, need not be entirely a matter of linguistic convention.

Alternatively, you could say "Of course we are considering the context of all other beliefs. That was just assumed. But all those beliefs must be in a sentence form, and anything smaller than a sentence cannot be 'true' or 'false'...." But if you've already accepted all conceptual belief as taking part in the evaluation of truth or falsehood, I'd argue that there are standards by which you can evaluate just a single concept. For example, if I somehow acquire the concept of a new type of mystery fruit that I have never, ever tasted, and have no reason to believe will exist, I might just say that it isn't worth the cognitive effort to maintain that concept--it has no reality to it. It's, in a way, false.

Thankfully, we don't form these beliefs very often--credit natural selection, maybe. But I think you might be able to make a finer point about concepts that are supposed to embody the correlation between two things. But I'll have to think about that harder before I can really argue for that....

natalia said...

interesting poem

natalia said...

happy birthday scott!

natalia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scott said...

hey natalia! thanks much for both the poem and the birthday well wishes!

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