This page is an attempt at a simplified description, using ordinary language (which will inevitably yield a faulty representation), of the part of this site dealing with my thoughts on Truth.
Truth is a difficult subject. People use this same word to talk about completely different things, so we can dismiss a lot of others' talk about truth because it doesn't deal with what I am dealing with here. I am interested in determining which representations of reality, in thought and experience, correspond accurately with reality itself. This is the Truth that I am writing about, all others might be interesting or useful, but they are not about thoughts corresponding to reality. I will provide an argument for this concept in the exposition. A further complication of Truth is that it ends up being a part of a coherent system.
My view is that the most exact and objective taxonomical categorization is always two groups: the positive, and the negation of the positive. For example, everything that is can be categorized into cats or not-cats. For simplification's sake, I will ignore this and focus on the categories I think are important, though I realize others can be drawn. I break philosophy into three main categories of purpose: to determine what we should believe, to determine what we should do, and for the sake of enjoyment. What we should believe involves epistemology, theories on method, ontology, metaphysics, etc. What we should do is pragmatics, ethics, and the good life. Enjoyment is philosophy done for the sake of intellectual pleasure, aesthetics, creation, originality, etc. Although an endeavor may involve more than one category, the primary intention of my endeavors on this site falls under the first category, establishing what we should believe. I see it as a logical consequence that determining what we should believe also determines what we should believe we should do. However, a specific small section of this site does also focus on the enjoyment that comes from creating a theory for its own creative, aesthetic pleasures.
It is my belief that throughout philosophy's history, philosophy, generally speaking, has sought a Platonic ideal, an absolute truth proven by an absolute rationality. But as with all Platonic Forms, all we ever encounter are particulars, including the particular of the current perspective, insight, idea, and even the logical argument. It is my position that the universe evolves; species evolve; language evolves; individuals evolve; physical objects, fields, and space are constantly changing; I evolve; my personal meanings evolve; my thoughts evolve; my memories evolve; and my consciousness, understanding, perspective, and beliefs evolve. I am many different people, and perspectives, and desires, and thoughts, and beliefs, through time and even at the same time. What makes sense and what is understood is relative, contingent, and evolves. What is reasonable is relative, contingent, and evolves. The logical conclusion is a particular, so viewed from a higher perspective is relative, contingent, and evolves. I think unbiased, accurate reflection and observation militates for these views. This is not to say that there are no absolutes or no constants, but only that currently we appear to be epistemologically divorced from them.
Logic is how one thought is connected to another thought, so logic is about how we think. My concept of reality is not logically identical to how I think about things, even how I necessarily think about things. Logic is not necessarily metaphysics. It could be, but it also could not be. It is unknown, but what is known is that logic at this particular time is limited in its power to give me information about reality. In other words, the particular logical argument of the present shows that reality does not necessarily have to conform to logical argument.
Logical bivalent truths seem all that are stable for me in this constantly flowing world, but even which of these is affirmed and which is denied, and what the logically necessary conclusion is can change with the introduction or adjustment of new premises (i.e. experiences). All that is for me is the current particular logical argument. This is humbling, but is itself tentative.
So I have a theory to describe what I believe is happening. What I propose is that there are myriad collections of related thoughts called thought contexts. Thought contexts are made up of a variety of feelings, moods, thoughts, and experiences. Our minds are constantly switching between different thought contexts, usually without our conscious awareness, which is the source of an untold number of disagreements. Our thoughts are interpreted and understood through the particular thought context we are using at the time. However, certain thought contexts cannot be combined with other thought contexts without becoming incoherent.
One of the foundational ideas of my system, which I was influenced toward by Bertrand Russell's position about not having a thought of a contradiction (which I believe I have also found in Plato), is that there are certain propositions that people maintain which are actually incoherent given the thought context they occur within, but there are some thoughts that are consistent and coherent with other thoughts. I think that people confuse themselves with ideas that are contradictory, but people don't realize they are confused about the deeper implications of what they maintain. To give a simple example, a person might believe that all men are mortal, and also believe that Socrates is a man, but then they also maintain that Socrates is immortal. The person can successfully jump back and forth between believing different propositions, but their system of thoughts as a whole is ultimately incoherent. The foundational idea of my system is that some thoughts are incoherent and don't actually exist together in a system of thoughts, and other ideas are, in fact, coherent within a system of other thoughts. What I maintain is that ideas that contradict each other cannot be maintained at the same time in the same way by the same person, and such contradictory systems of thought are never actually thought (they don't exist in the mind) but are results from the person jumping between various systems of thoughts without being aware of it; that people are simply unaware of the complexities of how their brain thinks about things, and that from a higher vantage point what they proclaim is nonsense.
This would mean that some ideas can be believed together and some ideas can't be believed together. With this awareness of our mental limitations I attempt to show that there are systems of ideas that we can dismiss because they cannot be thought and other systems that we are forced to choose from. This makes no claim on the metaphysical realm, this only claims that there are certain propositions that are not legitimate proposals for us to consider about the metaphysical realm or anything else for that matter.
In my view, reality and the truth we speak of it are reduced to psychology. For me the Platonic dream of transcendence to reality is unobtainable, as least at the present time in the context of the present premises that I'm aware of, and therefore of the current particular logical argument. However,although it is reduced to psychology, it is my argument that there are current intractable, unavoidable, in short, current necessary facts of our psychology, these views being among them.
Everything I experience appears to be particulars, but this allows me to still construct perfectly logical arguments from my experience. Since some phenomena are given to us, it is not legitimate to maintain that these phenomena are not given to us, indeed it is inconceivable. And these phenomena are then used as the atoms making up the complex world that we experience. Any belief that is completely reducible to presented phenomena is rational. Any belief that is not completely reducible to presented phenomena is arbitrary and lacks rational justification. The main focus of my system is epistemological and methodological, concluding that there are certain thoughts that have to be believed as true, the present subjective phenomena, whatever the rest of reality may be, and to deny these particular thoughts as true is merely confused nonsense.
My thoughts are divided into two main divisions: the rigorous, formal system of thoughts; and the less rigorous, informal thoughts.
The rigorous formal system has three approaches: the conceptual approach, the skeptical approach, and the practical approach. Right now I only have a small part of the Conceptual approach up.
The less rigorous, speculative thoughts make arguments from a more traditional philosophical standpoint (i.e. starting from arbitrarily accepted presuppositions), but will still reflect some conclusions from the rigorous, formal system.
The Conceptual Approach
I will try and use common concepts to describe what is happening here. I begin by including a possible background history, arrived at by reflection, that may or may not have been a causal factor in leading me to the acceptance of particular notions of reality, truth, and knowledge, and also maybe lead me to ask the driving question that informed and created my system. I don't see those reflections as having any bearing on the justification of the system. I describe the particular concept of reality that my entire system is based on, which determines all subsequent questions and logical deductions. This one specific concept of reality determines what I mean by truth, knowledge, and proof.
I define truth, reality, belief, knowledge and they form a foundational thought context from which to understand everything else. All we have for starting premises, for building blocks to construct our world-views from, is phenomena presented to our own subjective consciousness. Phenomena are the only evidence we have from which to draw conclusions. This positive approach reflects on what is presented to consciousness, noting phenomena as they are. As phenomena are the only things presented, all conclusions are deduced from presented phenomena. Distinctions and similarities are recognized in the nature of presented phenomena creating innumerable natural categories and concepts. One category is of sensory phenomena, another category is of abstract-interpretive phenomena associated to the sensory phenomena. This first category is objective; the second category is subjective and contigent. Concepts of Truth, belief, knowledge, are found within the presented sensory phenomena of sight, touch, time, and space; and since my intention is to find the Truth, the concept of Truth is employed with the presented phenomena to consciously realize what is true.
What is found is that phenomena like relations, similarity, difference, intentionality, emotions, universals, ideas, and more, all are just as present as phenomena like a trope of red in the firetruck I presently see, etc. These present and past phenomena are the evidence used in more complex processes of interpretation which give rise to religious, scientific, and common sense theories of the world, which can be seen to possess the phenomenon of faith and the use of contingent, groundless concepts, instead of being reducible to pure sensory phenomena.
The basic conclusion of the formal system is that I am stuck in a subjective prison, and the only things I can know are: that I am in a subjective prison, what is inside my cell, and the bars and walls that make up the boundaries of that cell.
The Sceptical Approach
The skeptical approach starts with my being in the everyday world with a host of beliefs and then beginning to think critically about what is true and justified proceeding to an analysis of accepted beliefs and proposed theories and explanations. It is essentially the Socratic Method and the approach of DesCartes in the Meditations on First Philosophy, continuing to ask questions and critically analyze until one finds an unassailable foundation to build off of.
The unassailable "first philosophy" is found in the concepts of Truth, Knowledge, Justification (found because I was searching for Truth), and the facts of the phenomena presented to my conscious mind. The conclusions deduced are that the rational position is to remain agnostic about almost all of metaphysics and ethics, and that rationality is a very exact process that mostly just tells us how ignorant we are, revealing that all but this one of our methods to acquire truth are not rational but are rather faith based in some way, and are ultimately arbitrarily accepted, including our religious, scientific, and common sense theories and methods.
The Pragmatic Approach
The pragmatic approach seeks utility towards acheiving one's subjective ends. It is believed at first that knowing the truth would be of great practical benefit, so an investigation into knowing the truth is conducted. I eventually discover that the knowledge that I can have is extremely limited and so other methods must be used in order to function and acheive my ends. I investigate some of the other methods and their limitations and uses.
This division will present arguments based on less secure and questionable foundations like unquestioned presuppositions, induction, and what I referred to as "the most reasonable conclusion" but I later found was already an established method called "abduction". In light of the agnostic deductions of the formal system, parts of this division will encourage second-best, pragmatic consolations while reflexively recognizing this move and acknowledging it for what it is.
The basic conclusion of the informal system is that we are stuck seeing the world a certain way and acting a certain way because of the particular subjective values that we hold and the particular limits of our subjective minds.
The speculative division will make use of some of the conclusions and arguments from the other divisions to weave together a possible metaphysical theory accounting for the presented facts, just one more among the many other metaphysical theories already proposed in philosophy. This division also recognizes its nonrational nature and does not attempt to claim truth as its aim, it is for enjoyment and a possible explanation.
My system is based entirely on a particular concept of reality. The details of my system were determined by being what I think is the only thoroughly rational, coherent possibility if the concept of reality is given central importance, i.e. the arche for the system. My understanding will only allow for the possibility of there being other systems that are coherent and consistent but not thoroughly rational, and other systems that are thoroughly rational and coherent but do not place central importance on the concept of reality, and for other systems that put the concept of reality in a central position but that are ultimately incoherent. This is also to say that other systems may be true while mine is false, but then they are either hit upon by chance or found through a method other than rationality. If they are found through a method other than rationality, then rationality tells me that I have no way of discovering these methods except through chance, and so it concludes there is no way of knowing which system is true or false and this releases me and everyone else, as far as I can comprehend, from all reasonable responsibility in belief, and consequently in action. If I cannot even think something how can I be expected to follow it? If I cannot think of something I can only flail about in blind faith, and rationality tells me that following something I can't think of and trying not to follow that same thing are practically indistinguishable.
I come to a position of agnosticism on absolute values and morality, and so all that I know exist are my own personal subjective values. Using methods other than rationality, I conclude that other people also have their own personal values, but there is no justification for mine or theirs being more valuable in an absolute sense. A use of epoche keeps the view of this to the fact that everyone has their own personal values, none of which are more important than any others, so an attempt is made to maximize the ability to acheive personal values by everyone, but to maximize their ability to be acquired a logical equilibrium must be found resulting in the construction of a liberty principle. The liberty principle then dictates for us guidelines to maximize the ability to acquire personal values, those that must be logically excluded are obviously the minimum of those that cannot coexist, in some ways a harm principle. This leads to a negative libertarian system, one that resists oppression, tyranny, control of others, and maximizes the value pluralism of people's subjective values.