Re: Postmodernism and Truth (was Re: virus: Simulacrum)

Bill Godby (
Wed, 22 May 1996 01:45:44 -0400

At 05:32 PM 5/21/96 -0600, David McFadzean wrote:
>At 10:40 PM 20/05/96 -0400, Bill Godby wrote:
>>Unfortunately your example is an inductive one. By entering the word
>>probably, you have entered into the realm of probabilities, which is what
>>induction is all about.
>I disagree. To see what I mean, I'll substitute some variables for the
>content of the argument:
>"If I do A then B will happen. I don't want B to happen so I will avoid
>doing A."
>It doesn't matter what you substitute for the variables, the argument
>is deductive because of its form. I'll even concede that the content
>of the propositions were arrived at through inductive reasoning. I'll
>even concede the very rules of logic applied here were arrived at
>through inductive reasoning. That still doesn't make the argument

I agree, the problem I had as seeing it as deductive was your inclusion of
probability. No big deal. I wouldn't be the only one who questioned it though.

>>Here's a valid deductive argument.
>>If all cars are made of soft squishy stuff,
>>Then cars hitting people won't hurt them,
>>Therefore, if I step into the path of a car
>>Then I won't get hurt
>I'm not sure what your point is here. Inductive arguments are not
>immune to erroneous premises and false conclusions.

No they are not and that is why the paradigms of science are continually
changing. The general principles of science are reliant upon inductive
theory, the belief that every event must have a cause and the formulation of
laws. My point is that deduction begins with an accepted general truth,
reasoning to a particular truth, it doesn't set out to establish new ones,
nor is it reflexive. Induction reasons from a particular instance or
statement to a universal statement. Here's a quote from Bertrand Russell
that I think pretty much sums up where were at here:

"The attempt to prescribe to the universe by means of a priori principles
has broken down: logic, instead of being, as formerly, the bar to
possibilities, has become the great liberator of the imagination, presenting
innumerable alternatives which are closed to unreflective common sense, and
leaving to experience the task of deciding, where decision is possible,
between the many worlds which logic offers for our choice. Thus knowledge as
to what exists becomes limited to what we can learn form experience, for, as
we have seen, there is much knowledge by description concerning things of
which we have no direct experience. But in all cases of knowledge by
description, we need some connexion of universals, enabling us, from such
and such a datum, to infer an object of a certain sort as implied by our
datum...Principles such as the law of gravitation are proved, or rather are
rendered highly probable, by a combination of experience with some wholly a
priori principle, such as the principle of induction. Thus our intuitive
knowledge, which is the source of all our other knowledge of truths, is of
two sorts: pure empirical knowledge, which tell us of existence and some of
the properties of particular things with which we are acquainted, and pure a
priori knowledge, which gives us connexions between universals, and enable
us to draw inferences from the particular facts given in empirical
knowledge." (The Problems of Philosophy, chp.14)

>I think we are getting closer to our point of miscommunication. I have
>a (previously hidden) assumption that truth entails accuracy, i.e. a
>statement is true to the extent that it accurately describes what it
>refers to. The statement "the earth is a planet orbiting the sun" is
>more true than "the earth sits on the back of a very large turtle".
>I'm not saying the first statement is True, it isn't. But we can say
>that it is more accurate (i.e. truthful) than the second statement.

I like the first part to a degree, however I still maintain that the two are
very different types of statements that should not be compared since each is
contextualized. In order to fully understand either you need to look at the
context of the statement.

>>There may indeed exist scientific facts regarding the origin of humans,
>>however I steadfastly believe that scientific knowledge is subject to
>>revision and change, "some fact of the matter" doesn't constitute very much
>>in the way of objective truth.
>I agree with what you say about scientific knowledge being subject to
>revision but I don't understand what you mean by the rest. The whole
>enterprise of science rests on the assumption that there is an objective
>standard by which to compare theories: reality itself, ie. objective

They are paradigms not objective standards. These standards and truths are
only as good as the tools created to measure them, and the data they measure
is still interpreted via humans. Objectivity in science is a fallacy.

>In the system you describe is it possible for a statement to be true in
>one culture and false in another culture that exists at the same time?
>If so, what happens when an individual is part of both cultures? Or is
>that impossible?

We live amidst such things! God is dead. God is alive. Jesus Christ is not
the savior, the savior hasn't been born yet. Jesus Christ is the savior.
Which statements are true? It's clear that there are people who share each
of these views living in the same cultures. Perhaps your thinking of
something else.

Well that's all for now, and perhaps for a while, I need to take my elephant
for a walk. Cheers.
Bill Godby