7.15.2005

posting while unawake

First, I'd like to apologize on behalf of my last post. It was most scattered, and in the future I'll refrain from posting on a whim after just waking up.

So, here's a question. In the field of "non-linguistic thought" what value does the possibility of developing a concept of 'truth' serve?
Well, supposing again I'm a feral mango-eating child, I think I would eat the one with flavor X and be unsurprised, then eat the one that tastes like a squirrel and be absolutely shocked. I might doubt that all mangoes taste like X. Or I might form a new concept of a set of objects that look like mangoes but taste like squirrels!
Exactly, a new concept of 'mangos' that taste like squirrels. What would be identifiable as untrue about a mango that tastes like squirrels? The squirrel tasting mango is the squirrel tasting mango. The two can be compared, the mangoey tasting mango and the squirrely tasting mango, but what would lead this lone feral mango-eating child to think of truth in relation to the mangos? I can't find any reason.

What I was more or less trying to get at in my previous post was this: true/false has no value outside of language. There's simply no purpose to it. Think of presenting the same feral child with two trees, one plastic and one a 'real' tree. How could the plastic tree be identified as the imposter? Why couldn't the 'real' tree be the imposter? I'd say they are both 'trees' to the feral child with some shared properties, but each with its own set of unique properties.

But even this seems to fail. Das ding ist das ding. What's beyond the physical reality of the tree that does not require communication with others?


3 comments:

Seb (a little incoherently) said...

"In the field of "non-linguistic thought" what value does the possibility of developing a concept of 'truth' serve?"

In non-linguistic thought, truth is a quality of a belief that indicates that the belief can be depended on for predictive power. This is of the utmost pragmatic value.

And that was an opaque paragraph.

Let me put it another way:

Suppose the I, the feral mango-eater, have a concept 'mango' and a concept 'tummy ache-inducing'.

Now, non-verbally, I can consider two possibilities: one in which mangos give me a tummy ache, one in which they don't.

To one of these possible scenarios I will assign the concept of 'truth'.

Depending on which one I believe is true, I will either eagerly gulp down mangos or avoid them, because I don't want a tummy ache but love the taste of mangos. How is this distinction about truth unvaluable?

I think what you're saying, maybe, is that non-verbally, you wouldn't be able to have a general belief about mangos. Instead, you'd just be comparing raw experiences. But this is not true--the nature of a concept is that it's about some general category of objects. And a statement that somehow combines two concepts is true to the extent that those objects are correlated in experience.

So if I believe that mangos taste mangoey, but then eat a lot of mangos that taste squirrelish, then I've got a problem, because I'll have made all these false predictions about how mangos taste. And that could have dire consequences. (Ok...maybe not the flavor. But replace mangoey with not-poisenous.)

On the other hand, sometimes it sounds like you're using a different definition of 'true'? Maybe you mean true as in not fake, as opposed to true as in not false. (Like the real vs. the plastic tree) The latter definition applies, I guess, to sentences or beliefs or whatever. The former, the question of whether something is genuinely a mango, or a real mango, is a label we apply to objects.

But I'm not talking about "true mangos" in this sense at all. I'm talking about having a true belief that 'mangos taste like X.'

So I guess I don't understand the point of your plastic vs. real tree example. What does it have to do with the truth or falsehood of beliefs? Also, why do you think the feral child's distinction, or lack thereof, between wooden and plastic trees "fail[s]"? It seems perfectly valid to me. I mean, the kid isn't using the same definition of tree that we are using, but give him a break--he's a feral child. I think that those concepts are likely to afford him many a happily true belief.

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