Re: virus: accurate statements vs The Abosulute Truth (was KMO quotes Plato)

Jason McVean (
Fri, 1 Nov 96 17:21:49 MST

> >To use your example, I don't mean to say that an apple is
> >true. Rather that the truth of an apple (type T) is that it (on
> >average) has a concentration of fructose=C, a diameter=D,
> >contains N seeds, and so on.
> That might constitute a true statement (notice the article; "a") about an
> apple, but it really only confuses things to call that statement THE
> truth of the apple, especially if my interest in the apple is its color
> or the brand name that is stickered to it's surface. This notion of THE
> truth has just got to go.

You seemed to have missed the "and so on". If you keep reading,
you eventually come to the part that describes the colour and
brand." If the notion of the truth has to go, does that mean I
can tell you the brand is X, even if the label says Y?

Every time this conversation comes up I have the feeling that
everyone basically agrees with everyone else, but we are
disagreeing about the definitions of words.

> The distinction between propositions and the things they describe is a
> useful distinction. It keeps us from mistaking the map for the
> territory. The territory is what it is.

Again, if you say that Absolute Truth is simply a proposition,
then obviously it is not the same thing as what it describes. I'm
proposing you abandon this idea because it is not useful. This is
something that I think most of us agree on:

One can never attain the speed of light because it takes an
infinte amount of energy to accelerate a massive object (an
object with mass) to that speed. Similarly, one can never
completely describe objective reality because it requires an
infinite amount of constantly changing ASCII to do so. But the
speed of light still exists, and similarly, OR still exists.

I'm suggesting that we call that infinite amount of ASCII, the
Absolute Truth. When you purchase an objective reality at the
Almighty Creator Shoppe, you get a matching absolute truth
book bound in genuine Corinthian leather. If that idea is
accepted, then we can say things like "The true value of pi to 5
decimal places is 3.14159" and we don't have to immediately start
arguing about truth. Similarly, I can say it isn't true that pi
is 4.29 without triggering responses like "There is no absolute
truth, just look at the situation in the middle east! Who's right

> We can refine our maps to make
> them better representations of the territory, but there will never be one
> perfect map, no Absolute Truth, becuase the utility of the map,
> regardless of its degree of accuracy, varies according to our needs and
> interests.

But the utility of the map has nothing to do with its veracity.
If you're looking at a topo map to find the distribution of
wealth in the area, you're looking at the wrong map. You're on
the wrong page of the infinite page book that contains the
absolute truth. The topo map doesn't conflict with the
demographics map, they just contain different information. And
neither of them by themselves is the absolute truth.

> Jason, I'm confused by your seeming determination to paper
> over this very useful distinction.

I think that it is the opposite. The distiction is what is
causing our difficulties in further discussion. As I said, I
think we fundamentally agree, but the terminology is torpedoing
our discussion. Without using terms like true and false, it is
very awkward to discuss lots of topics, even in memetics.

Come to think of it, I've never heard anyone who claims that
Absolute Truth doesn't exist carefully define what it is. All I
can recall is claims that it doesn't exist. Perhaps that would
clear up some confusion. Maybe I'm trying to hit a moving target.


Dept. of Physics and Astronomy University of Calgary

"And it would have worked if it weren't for those meddling kids."