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

Jason McVean (
Mon, 18 Nov 96 16:00:49 MST

David McFadzean wrote:
> At 08:07 PM 06/11/96 MST, Jason McVean wrote:
> >I think I regret saying that Absolute Truth and Objective reality
> >are the same thing. What I was meaning was precisely what you
> >said above: "Objective Reality defines what is true". I also said
> >that "Absolute Truth defines what is true". That is the sense
> >that I was intending when I said OR was the same as AT.
> OK, I can accept that. Can you tell me anything else about
> absolute truth? For example, objective reality is in some
> sense composed of matter and energy embedded in space and
> time. Is your absolute truth "made" of anything, if not
> propositions or words?

I'm not sure it needs to be made of anything. Is the value of pi
made of anything? Crudely it is made of numbers, but the constant
pi would still have a definite value if we didn't invent
numbers. The value of pi, the speed of light, the charge of an
electron, etc., are all embedded in OR. The absolute truth is
embedded in OR.

> >I would claim that it is absolutely true within the context of
> >the argument. Just as I would say that it is absolutely true that
> >pi=3.14 to two decimal places.
> I think this indicates that we have different definitions of
> "absolute". It doesn't make sense to me to say something
> is "absolute within a specific context" because I take
> absolute to mean "objective" or "universal" or "for all
> possible worlds" or something along those lines. What do
> you intend it to mean?

I am using truth and absolute truth more or less interchangeably.
I include "absolute" to add strength to the term truth but I
don't think it is strictly necessary. The trouble is that "truth"
is bandied about pretty carelessly. If I ask if it is true that
the world is round, most people would say yes. But if I ask if
it's absolutely true that the world is round people will stop and
think because of the extra word. Stephen would probably say "Yes,
in our collective culture" or ask what I meant by world. I would
say "what do you mean by round?" or something. The point is that
including "absolute" causes one to consider one's response more

Also, there are lots of things that are commonly said to be true
that aren't really intended to be dissected so thoroughly. I might
say that it's true that I find long hair attractive. The
information content of that statement is very low. I don't find
all long hair attractive, I also find short hair attractive, I
presume we're talking about hair on the heads of women, but that
hasn't been specified, and so on.

> You make it sound like we could succeed at writing down the
> absolute truth if only we could fix our imperfect language.
> I'm claiming (as Richard did before me) that it is not a mere
> imperfection of language but a philosophical limitation of
> abstraction models. I lack the terms to describe different
> degrees of impossibility, so I'll make a crude analogy:
> It is not (like you suggested before) like approaching the
> speed of light (a mere physical impossibility), it is more
> like trying to approach the speed of democracy (or something
> else that doesn't have a speed, a logical impossibility).

An aside: Is logic more fundamental that physics?

I suspect that Richard's reason for the impossibility is
different from yours... or at least they are not entirely the
same. If I'm wrong, please correct me. Richard has said that
saying anything is editorializing. Even math is editorializing. I
think your position has this element (perhaps excluding the math
bit) but is more fundamentally related to making the connection
between the model and the reality. Also, is there the addition of
the impossibility of completely describing a system from within
the system? I'd add that if you don't.

I mostly agree with these points. I don't think the
editorialization objection is nearly so crippling as
Richard--at a certain level of precision, it simply isn't
useful to be hung up on what biases I'm transmitting when I tell
you I'm less that eight feet tall--and I wouldn't extend the
objection to math. But I more or less agree.

But I don't think they shake my new and improved definition of
absolute truth. You may think it is not a useful definition of
absolute truth, but I have tried to say why it is useful. Or you
can say that objective reality or its properties don't exist (I
sometimes get the impression Richard is saying this but other
times he seems not to be saying this). The only other issue I've
seen raised is the Biscuit Objection (BO). I don't have much more
to say that hasn't been said already by Kenneth and Eva. Is the
truth true? Does the question make sense?


Dept. of Physics and Astronomy University of Calgary

"I am as close to you as the veins in your neck when I say to you, in
my whispering lisp, I, too, began as a boy." Mark Richard - Fishboy