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Science and Truth

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by wolly.green, Dec 14, 2016.

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  1. wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Of all non spiritual individuals here, is there really anyone that believes science has a monopoly on truth? Better still, are there still people that believe in relativism. Not as opposed to the idea of absolute truth, but rather as opposed to the idea that two contradictory claims can not be true simultaneously. That is, it is possible for two contradictory claims to be true simultaneously.
     
    #1 wolly.green, Dec 14, 2016
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  2. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Finding My Place in the Sun
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    Science has a strong claim on facts, but truth is in the interpretation of the facts. (Emphasis on internal interpretation).

    Of course contradictory claims can be true, in generic terms, but the contradiction evaporates as terms become more specific.
     
  3. Jet

    Jet The Token Extravert

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    I fully believe that life is relative and truth subjective to the individual experiencing it. I know that Jesus saves because I have seen him turn my cousin's life around. I know that shamans heal because I have seen them cure the aches of a friend. I know that for me no diety exists and there is a logic to life even if I am not smart enough to grasp it.

    I don't know if that makes sense...
     
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  4. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    But if you are willing to accept a contradiction, you should be willing to accept anything at all. Are you comfortable with this?
     
  5. Flavus Aquila

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    It is not contradictory to say that the sky is blue and cloudless, as well as cloudy and grey. One just has to factor in a time reference, so that those statements are not contradictory.

    Many, not all, contradictions only appear to be so, on account of a lack of distinction, or knowledge. (Talking about science facts). However, there are some contradictions, which cannot be resolved, but these are for the most part logical/philosophical contradictions.
     
  6. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    This is not really an example of relativism. And you are not really not talking about contradictions. So no controversy here.

    Ah this is interesting. Why are there such things an resolvable contradictions? Why would these sorts of situations emerge in the first place?
     
  7. Flavus Aquila

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    Lack of knowledge, or wrong assumptions.
    The seeming disconnect between quantum mechanics and general relativity is an especially frustrating one.
     
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  8. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    These are not really contradictions either. I mean statements like "P and not P". Relativism tells us that both "P" and "not P" can be true simultaneously. This kind of situation is really what my OP is about.
     
  9. Flavus Aquila

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    They can be true simultaneously, but not in the same respect. A similar situation is described in quantum mechanics, but in respect of possible knowledge about a particle.
     
  10. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Ok but how do you overcome that fact that if you accept a contradiction as true, you are committed to accept absolutely anything as true? Another way to put it is that if you accept contradictions as true, then truth itself is meaningless; and thus so is the statement "it is possible to have a true contradiction"??
     
  11. Flavus Aquila

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    I don't think I would accept a contradiction per se, but I can accept two contradictory propositions as true, if there's sufficient evidence that both are true: mentally I would assume that there are yet some facts, or knowledge to discovered, which removes the apparent contradiction.

    However, if the propositions are entirely logical in nature, I will not accept contradictions, because the propositions derive their entire definition from their description, and thus there is no hidden facts, which may be uncovered.
     
  12. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Again, this isn't really a contradiction or an example of relativism. Relativism is so interesting because of its impact on progress and the acceptance of seemingly harmful cultural practices. I'm sure you are familiar with the say "truth is relative, who am I to judge?" I am interested to see if you agree that this attitude is harmful
     
  13. Flavus Aquila

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    I guess I am reticent to reply outside scientific knowledge, because everything else has varying degrees of subjective preference, prioritisation, and significance. Such subjectively determined matters are virtually inscrutable, so that one can only take them at face value, unless there are obvious internal contradictions, or signs of deception.

    For example, some hold that the principle purpose of marriage is for the nurturing of offspring, but others hold that the benefits to the spouses is primary, even in the exclusion of offspring. The ethical principles that follow can be strikingly contradictory. Do I take a relativistic stance, effectively accepting contradictory propositions? No, but the foundation for arguing on particular ethical subjects eventually returns to subjective priorities, preferences, and meaning. At that point the old axiom "de gustibus non est disputandum" (matters of taste ought not be argued), seems to apply.

    In such subjective matters, argument doesn't seem as relevant as broadening experiences, virtues, and worldview. (Personal development).
     
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    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Wait what? You think mathematics and philosophy are subjective? I mean sure, qualia are subjective, but why would you think morality is as well? Differences in opinions does not work as an argument here since it can also be used to deny objective truth in science?
     
  15. Flavus Aquila

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    Mathematics is a logical construct, and internal contradictions are easily identified by those skilled in it. Whether there is a true reflection between physical realities, and their mathematical description, is the work of scientific observation and testing.

    Ethics, similarly is a construct; based on a philosophy of human nature. While many elements of human nature are objective and universal, the prioritisation, or ordering, of those elements is very difficult to argue.

    An example, which massively influences ethics:
    Is the good of the individual, or the good of the species more important in determining ethics?
     
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  16. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    Science is a human construct as well though? This argument doesn't work either. Consider the scientist trying to decide which interpretation of a problem should be solved.
     
  17. charlatan

    charlatan Permanent Fixture

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    A few reactions!

    - I tend to think at some point, all justification when you're doing something apart from, eg, doing a mathematical proof with clearly assumed premises, hits a brick wall, and you have to start somewhere on intuition. If you work hard enough, you can keep questioning the premises science is based on, and to some extent, the fact it works so darn well has to be taken into account. This is where I distinguish being an illogical person from being an unreasonable person.

    - When we speak of relativism/not, whatever the formal definition, I get the sense what's really going on is not that people are saying we can believe contradictions, so much as that the "you have to start somewhere" for some topics isn't the same place for everyone. That is, the premises most natural to, e.g., a theory of value meaningful to a given individual, simply may not be the same.
    It's no different from saying there might be multiple models of economics, but only one set of laws of physics.
    The former are more pragmatic than about pure truth -- we judge them on usefulness/not, based on certain goals one might have. What goals those are might not be set in stone the same for each person.

    - Whether morality falls wholly, partly, or not at all in this kind of sphere depends on whether, like science, there's a way to map it canonically to a more logical realm. In physics, this map is provided, afaik by the property that physical quantities (kinda by definition) may be described using math (that's part of what being a quantity is!), which provides a very rigid map from experience to logic.

    If value judgment is about a theory of how to act, I think this is far from completely a reductionist endeavor like physics -- if anything, because the future is emergent, there may be many different ways one might act. Whereas the basic parts that constitute reality (the reductionist side) may simply be the same always, so there might not be much to fuss over. This could be seen as the difference between finding the parts vs the many different ways the parts could combine to create new patterns.


    Does this mean I think there's a good argument that all moral statements are subjective? Not at all. I tend to think that, to the extent there are pretty reasonable grounding premises which do appear to be universal, e.g. stuff about suffering, there are some moral statements we might as well live by.

    I often label this as the difference between basic morality vs the more expansive theory of possible value. I tend to think ways of seeing value do tend to appeal to a subject who experiences reactions to situations, and those reactions suggest various premises to begin with in value judgment.
    But I tend to think basic morality seems to be grounded in premises that it seems to me at least many people who reject are more or less being unreasonable.
    (E.g. yes you can define morality any way you like, you could say morality = pig food, but if we're honest about what that word generally constitutes, I think there are at least some founding premises/values to build off of without which it's not even clear we're talking about morality.)
     
    #17 charlatan, Dec 28, 2016
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  18. charlatan

    charlatan Permanent Fixture

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    I do lean that science(physics)/math are the best hopes for endeavors where most of us will agree, in that it seems most canonical how to proceed...but certainly not a total monopoly.
     
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  19. OP
    wolly.green

    wolly.green Community Member

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    there are some moral statements we might as well live by.


    Why not push further and say there are such things as objective moral standards? You say that an individuals perspective on morality depends on the premises (assumptions) he uses to build it. And in fact you even suggest that an individuals entire world depends on a base set of assumptions. Although this is undeniably true, it also seems undeniably suspect. If this is the reason you think that morals are not objective, then it follows that no human knowledge is objective. But this is clearly absurd (unless you have a reason to believe otherwise). Further, although our world view is built on assumptions, those assumptions can still be questioned, criticized and rejected if necessary. There is no reason to think that our world view is built entirely on "assumptions".
     
    #19 wolly.green, Dec 28, 2016
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  20. charlatan

    charlatan Permanent Fixture

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    @wolly.green -- well I'd use the "we may as well" statement for physics, too. I think one can be as skeptical as one wants, a-la Hume or whoever else, but basically this is where I distinguish illogical from unreasonable: "we may as well" means it would be unreasonable, even if not directly logically contradictory, to think otherwise. Meaning, in some cases the set of premises one is led to naturally seems to be the same for everyone.

    I think even physics, while certainly independent of individual human subject (and objective in that sense) may not be the most natural description of reality to, say, another being. Maybe, for instance, quantum physics would be less bewildering to another creature because they've not evolved to work with impressions that essentially correspond to the macroscopic, not quantum, scale.

    I think of morals as divided into two camps: one is just basic morality, concerned with human suffering, and the other is the general theory of value judgment. I see no reason why every question of value-comparison should have an objective answer, because I think the premises by which one might judge that question may depend on different goals. Given a particular goal, it's more likely there's an objective answer. I think what makes physics have such natural premises that we by and large can converge on is simply that there's a very canonical map from our experiences to a rigid logical structure: that is, because physical quantities have a pretty direct map to mathematical abstractions.

    I think basic morality strikes me as much more likely to have a canonical set of premises to use in deciding (and so our "might as well" is my slippery language for objective :) )
     
    #20 charlatan, Dec 28, 2016
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