Re: virus: accurate statements vs The Absolute Truth (was KMO

Jason McVean (
Mon, 4 Nov 96 17:38:16 MST

David McFadzean wrote:
> At 05:21 PM 01/11/96 MST, Jason McVean wrote:
> >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
> Only propositions have truth values, so the Absolute Truth has
> to be a proposition, right?

Well, not if Absolute Truth defines what is true.

> >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
> >there?"
> I think you are attacking a straw man here. Nobody is disputing that
> the value of pi to 5 decimal places is 3.14159 and that saying so
> is a true statement. But notice that your example is mathematical,
> and the statement is true by definition.

I'm not sure why that statement is true by definition but I'm a
physicist, not a mathematician so I'm willing to be convinced.
I don't know that that really affects the arguemnet though. What
if I said that Jason McVean is less than 8 feet tall?
That certainly isn't true by definition but it is true
nonetheless. And nobody would reasonably dispute it either. But I
have a hard time being able to justify it if there is no such
thing as absolute truth. I suppose I'm equating absolute truth
with objective truth.

> Is the Book of Absolute Truth (bound in genuine Corinthian leather)
> written in mathematical statements? If so, it can only talk about
> formal systems, not objective reality. If it is written in another
> language, what is it? It couldn't be written in any human language,
> since our words are not absolute in any sense. It must be the same
> book for all possible alien civilizations (by definition) so it
> must be written in the Absolute Language, right?

It should be written in a fully consistent language that is
derived in Appendix A from first principles in such a way that
the meaning of any bit of the book is unambiguous. Because of
this, it is really tedious to read. Note that the book doesn't
contain information on whether cubism is better than realism.
Can such a language exist? I don't know. But I'm also not sure
that the lack of such a language prevents us from communicating
things such as "the helium atom is more massive than the
hydrogen atom" and an endless collection of similar statements
unambiguously. In the end, that's what I'm getting at.

> >But the utility of the map has nothing to do with its veracity.
> I can't think of any definitions of "utility" or "veracity" that
> would make this statement true.

Perhaps I was being over zealous but my intended meaning was
quite clear from the example that followed my statement. It
doesn't matter how true, (accurate, precise) my map of Calgary is,
it is not useful when I'm trying to find the bathroom in the
White House. It also is not useful when I want to know the
average mass of an apple.

> >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.

> Another straw man. Nobody said that true and false don't exist
> or aren't useful.

I'm not sure how to reconcile the assertion that absolute truth
doesn't exist with the one that truth does exist. When is
something true when it isn't absolutely true?

> Like I was insinuating above, languages exist
> but I doubt there is an Absolute Language. Similarly, portraits
> exist but I doubt there is such thing as a Perfect Portrait.

The perfect portrait would have to be indistiguishable from the
subject of the portrait, right down to occupying the same space
and time. The perfect portrait is the subject. Absolute truth is
the perfect portrait of objective reality. Hmmm...

Thinking aloud: If I take the derivative of Absolute Truth with
respect to the-length-of-my-pencil I get 4 inches. Or maybe the
projection of the absolute truth onto the what-is-the-length-of-
my-pencil axis is 4 inches. Hmmm...

> >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.
> KMO recently defined it quite rigorously as the conjunction of
> all possible true statements (I think, correct me if I'm wrong).

Ah yes... I remember that now. I think you are correct. I've got
many messages backlogged now that I will probably never gat
around to responding to.

If I work from that definition then the AT must be true since it
is composed only of true statements. So the contention must be
either that such a conjunction is not possible, or that there are
no true statements. I don't think many here would concede the
latter. So is the sticking point the former?

Well, I've spent way more time on this that I intended so I'm
going home.

Dept. of Physics and Astronomy University of Calgary

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