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Given a particular conclusion, we can, normally, trace it back to the very basic premises that constitute it. The entire process of reaching such a conclusion(or stripping it to its basic constituents) is based on logic(reason). So, however primitive a premise may be, we don't seem to reach the "root" of a conclusion. Do you believe that goes on to show that we are not to ever acquire "pure knowledge"? That is, do you think there is a way around perceiving truths through a, so to say, prism of reasoning, in which case, nothing is to be trusted?

There's a lot going on here. You begin this way: Given a particular conclusion, we can, normally, trace it back to the very basic premises that constitute it. If by "conclusion" you mean a statement that we accept on the basis of explicit reasoning, then we can trace it back to the premises we reasoned from simply because we've supposed that there are such premises. On the other hand, most of what we believe doesn't come from explicit reasoning. (I don't reason to the conclusion that I had a burrito for lunch. I just remember what I ate.) And even when it does, the premises don't usually constitute the conclusion. The easiest way to see this is to consider non-deductive reasoning. A detective may conclude that Lefty was the culprit because a number of clues point in that direction. Maybe a witness saw someone who looks like him; maybe he had a particular motive for the crime. But the clues don't constitute Lefty being the criminal; they merely make it likely. After all, even given all the...

Is certainty a requirement for truth? We know that certainty is not a requirement for knowledge, but how about for truth?

No; truth doesn't require certainty. Whether something is true is a matter of how things are, whether anyone is certain about it or even aware of it. For example: I have a file cabinet in my office with some papers in it. No one (certainly not me) is certain exactly how many pieces of paper are in the cabinet, though there's a truth of the matter. The truth is determined simply by what's in the cabinet, whether anyone knows or bothers to check. In the case of my file cabinet, it's at least possible to find out how many pieces of paper are in it, and so someone might suggest modifying the view you're asking about. Perhaps there's a truth about a matter only if it's at least possible for someone to become certain of it. And indeed, people have defended views like that. They go under the umbrella of verificationism . There are even some cases where something like verificationism is plausible. For example: we don't believe there's such a thing as absolute uniform (inertial) motion because our physics...

If two different truths exist that call for opposite actions, can both still be true? An ongoing trade case I am writing about is being pursued by four domestic wire rod producers that claim exported wire rod from 10 countries is unfairly priced so low that it threatens their businesses. They want antidumping penalties to be imposed. Domestic wire manufacturers oppose this action as they say it will mean higher prices for them, and that they will lose business to their counterparts in other countries that have access to the lower-cost wire rod. Both have voluminous details and arguments…yet their “findings” are the exact opposite. The only belief they share is that if they do not win, the results will be horrific. If both side speak the truth, can either side's truth be considered a greater truth, one that subordinates the now lesser truth? Or, is truth a concept unto itself, meaning that it either is or isn’t, and truths cannot compete for being most truthful.

I'd suggest setting the word "truth" aside, at least at first. You've given us a decision with two alternatives. There are reasons for and against each, and it's not clear that the reasons on either side have an edge. If , suppose, the case for imposing penalties was stronger overall, then we could say that that's what ought to happen, and we could even put this by saying it's true that penalties ought to be imposed. But saying that there are two different "truths" tends to confuse us. Think about a less fraught case. You're trying to decide where to go on holiday and as it happens, there are two choices. If we want, we can model the decision-making process using the tools of what's called decision theory. There will be different considerations—say, expense, climate, quality of acomodations, sight-seeing possibilities... You could give each possibility a score on each dimension. You could also decide how much you care about expense, climate, etc. relative to one another. Putting all that information...

Can a painting be *false* by not depicting reality? Suppose that some painter paints something that really happened, but adds or subtracts details that do not correspond to reality. Or suppose that the painter not only does that, but adds a title that makes it cleat that the painting to the real event. Or think about "photoshopped" photos. The reason why I am asking this is that I often read on the internet that (only?) sentences and "propositions" can be true or false, and a painting is not a sentence nor a proposition.

A nice question. Suppose a painter paints a scene with a person in it. Apart from very special circumstances, we wouldn't take this to be a matter of the painter telling us that the event really happened and the person depicted was really there. It might be that a real person is depicted who really was in the place pictured. But that's not how paintings are ordinarily intended, and it's not how they're ordinarily understood. Calling the painting false because what it asks us to imagine never really happened would be a bit like saying that the Sherlock Holmes stories are false because there was never any such person as Sherlock Holmes. Of course, a painter could use a painting as a way of conveying information intended to be factual. I take that to be the point of your example. And in many cases, some aspects of paintings are intended in just that way. Suppose a portrait depicts a blue-eyed person as having brown eyes. Depending on the larger story, this might be a genuine inaccuracy in the...

I have read that the statement "There is no absolute truth" is self-refuting because it relies on absolute truth to be true. I have also read that the idea expressed in the previous statement commits the fallacy of begging the question. I am thoroughly confused by the debate here...?

It is confusing, isn't it? What does it mean to say that there's no absolute truth? It certainly seems to mean that all truth is in one way or another relative. That, in turn, seems to mean that for any potential truth, there are different and conflicting standards, equally valid, and the claim at issue might be true relative to one of these standard and false relative to another. But if this is really how things go for any potential truth, then it seems to go for the claim that there is no absolute truth. In other words, it seems to imply that the claim "there is no absolute truth" is true by some valid standards and false by some other, equally valid standards. This seems to make for a kind of trouble without invoking absolute truth. If someone tells me that there is no absolute truth, I seem by their own lights to be perfectly justified in insisting that I adhere to a valid standard according to which their claim is false. Perhaps they'll shrug and live with that. But there are...

How could we distinguish facts and interpretations of facts? Some say that facts are given, others say that they are constructed by theories. Could we still say that facts are independent or previous to theories?

The tricky thing about this issue is to decide what the issue is. Some people seem to want to say that all facts are constructed, but I've never really understood what this is supposed to mean. Let me yank at a few threads and see if any of them are connected to the worry. Some facts depend on our conventions, institutions and so on. A well-worn example: I have a shiny round bit of metal in front of me. As a matter of fact, it's a quarter; it's worth $.25. That really is a fact, but it wouldn't be a fact if we didn't have certain practices, institutions and so on. In at least some sense of "constructed," it's a constructed fact. We also classify things in various ways. Some of those classifications grow out of our interests, beliefs and so on. Classifying music according to genre is relatively benign; classifying people according to the racial categories of apartheid-era South Africa or the antebellum American South is anything but benign. Sometimes we take our classifications to mark deep...

Does a proposition about the future have to be true today? If so does this preclude contingency and is every proposition of the future necessary?

Let's start with an analogy and see how far it gets us. Suppose I consider a proposition about some distant place. Suppose I consider the proposition that the population of Woodstock, New Brunswick (my home town in Canada) is over 6,000. [To keep things simple, assume that I mean the population today, August 5 2007.] I'm contemplating this "here" in Washington DC. But it's a proposition about some other place -- "there," not "here." And now consider the question: "Does this proposition about Woodstock have to be true or false here in Washington?" The question seems a little odd. What the proposition asserts refers to a particular place, but the idea that the truth of the proposition is, as it were, tied to the place where it's being contemplated seems off. We might put it this way: the proposition picked out by my use of the sentence "Woodstock has a population over 6,000" is true if the population of Woodstock really is over 6,000 and false otherwise. Asking if the proposition is true ...