Wednesday, May 18, 2022

On Medium: Is the Search for Truth a Game?

Read on about theories of truth, the postmodern condition, the pragmatic and game-like aspect of knowledge, and the terrors beyond our cognitive sandboxes.


  1. Primarily, in answer to your question, no, not at all, because it is critical to know the truth, at least a specific truth, to survive.

  2. ''“The daytime sky is blue,” that statement is supposed to be true rather than false. But is that truth independent of any comparable stipulation? Is the statement’s truth some magical objective relation between the statement and a fact?''

    I believe that because the concept of truth is not one-dimensional, there are different kinds of truths. This statement that you have as an example is a subjective truth.

    I would say that in order to become objective, you need to look at it from another angle/neutral, than our own.

    However, if you define ''sky'' as ''the tiny portion of the universe that we can see from our perspective'', then it is possible to say that its ''color'' can/might be blue.

  3. ''Even when I say, then, that the sky is blue, you’ll interpret the statement not just as factual or as aligning somehow with reality, but as right or correct. It’s as though all of society were a gameshow, and social conventions dictate which statements are correct and which are beyond the pale. Truth in the sense of correctness is a game-like property. The correctness is relative to social norms that dictate the relevant conceptions behind the symbols used in ordinary language. Without those stipulations, we have ambiguity and uncertainty.''

    Truth in the sense of correctness ---has been-- a game-like property.

    ''For example, is it true or false that Jesus Christ is dead? The answer is that he’s dead if we interpret death in physical terms, but if we reinterpret them in spiritual ones, the correct answer, according to Christians, is that Jesus is still alive.''

    according to Christians...

    What is your concept of truth and lie?

    ''A scientific model would thus be comparable to a caricature of a person’s face. There’s some structural similarity between them, rather than identity as in a mirroring relation. But precisely because the similarity is necessarily imperfect, due to the simplifications, the model would be both true and false. A cartoon drawing of Albert Einstein may look like him in certain respects but not in others, because the artist leaves out some details. The resemblance is imperfect, and even in a hyper-realistic drawing, the resemblance is only two-dimensional.''

    I don't think that perhaps most scientists believe that science is factually perfect, that it seeks and/but continues to be very limited. Remember, we've had centuries of ingrained religious and conservative obscurantism.

    Science has begun to free itself, in an unwise way, from this yoke not so long ago.

    Perhaps the most important thing is not to seek perfection in collecting/accumulating facts, but to be able to capture and understand the most important ones of a given subject.

    It is worth remembering that caricatures tend to exaggerate the characteristics that stand out most on a face.

    ''Our worldview is largely the product of our upbringing, which means our modes of interpretation depend in complex ways on the judgment calls of our parents or of our guardian figures who act as referees''


    I think this depends on the level of phenotypic similarity between parents and sons/children that may result in a greater or lesser apparent conformity to the received upbringing.

    Sons/children who are more mutated, relative to their parents, tend to develop different belief systems.

    1. The distinction between truthfulness and lying isn't the same as that between truth and falsehood. There's a difference between genuinely searching for treasure, say, even though there's no treasure to be found, and only pretending to search for it. We can be truthful in our intentions even if there's no such thing as truth in the absolute, conventional sense.

      Also, I think understanding is quite different from truth. Understanding is part of a pragmatic process of humanizing the inhuman.

    2. I asked what your concept of truth and lie..

      I think they are basically the same thing, like falsehood and lying. It is because of this complication of basic concepts that we have people believing in the Flat Earth or in fake news about the Covid-19 pandemic.

      I understood about lying and about believing a lie. Anyway, I'm talking about the concept of lying, by itself, not how it can be expressed on us.

      My concept of truth is: a translation of reality from our perspective, not just for human beings, although we are the only ones capable of expanding truth beyond sensory limitations to the abstract level.

      A lie is a variable distortion of what is true/real.

      You took a complex example, about the [true] color of the sky, whatever sky concept you used.

      If I say that I have light eyes, I would be telling a lie, since they are brown. It can complicate, as you put it. Still, this is the beginning of perception and therefore of the truth and the lie.

    3. There may be a language issue here because "truth" is the opposite of "falsehood," not of "lie," which is opposed, as I said, to "truthfulness" or "honesty." So I'm not sure what you're asking.

      Are you saying that my account of truth/correctness as a game leaves no room for the concept of lying? Lying would be not playing by the rules, which is to say it's a kind of cheating. Cheating is possible only if there are rules that govern the proceedings, which makes the moves game-like.

      So if you lie about your eye colour, you'd be misusing words and thus violating the semantic conventions that govern the use of natural language. In addition to misusing the rules of language, you'd be violating the rules of decorum, the ethics of civility which take lying to be rude and dangerous.

      Lying about your eye colour is possible because there's a correct answer to the question about your eyes. The truth about your eye colour is game-like because of that mere correctness, because the answer depends, in part, on following linguistic and social rules (like in a game show).

  4. ''Then again, there’s a second problem which arises when we note the subjective meanings and categories at play. Would the sky be blue even if there were no living things in the universe? Or is blueness a relational property that holds only when light interacts with receptors in the eyes of certain organisms? And is the notion of the sky observer-dependent, too, in that it implies an upward and thus an anthropocentric viewpoint?''

    It seems anthropocentric to think that light variation exists only for the observer.

    I agree that we cannot look at ourselves with the eyes of the universe, but I believe that we are part of it and that, however subjective we may be, all subjectivity originates from an objectivity.

    In this sense, it does not matter how giant the universe or the universes are, in short, reality, because there are extremely basic conceptions that seem to govern it anywhere in it, such as the very reality of existence and impermanence or end.

    It is as if these conceptions make the universe essentially the same everywhere in itself.

    ''The rules dictate which moves are winning and which are out of bounds, and we decide to play by the rules because we trust in the endeavour for some personal or social reason.''

    Because, a priori, truth is subordinated to the urge to survive or adapt.

    I think that the melancholy of starting to follow the passage of time in your own organic experience, in a frontal, raw and constant way, than losing within the beliefs that function as distractions from that perception, is the starting point that takes us to this limbo.

    1. The point about relational truth is that it depends on the equipment brought to bear in an inquiry, in this case by our eyes which detect light. Different detectors would result in different experiences, and each would be game-like in that it would depend on different functions or optimal states. There's an ideal for human vision (20/20) and there's a different one for the main sense organs of other species. Human vision depends on the natural laws that set out how light interacts with that organ.

      If you're saying that a melancholy philosopher like me might only be feeling there's no truth because he's feeling his age, I'd have to say that I've argued for my viewpoint in this article and in others like it. Remember, though, I'm not saying there's no such thing as truth. I'm saying truth is stranger than what we usually take it to be. I'm saying truth as correctness is game-like, and that the alternative is an epiphany or existential experience of the world's sublimity that has little to do with any tidy correspondence between facts and symbols.

    2. Do you believe that the representation of the universe, for example, is biasedly based on human perception, even by an ''artistic license''??

      I understand that different species with a sense of sight see colors differently, with greater intensity or with the absence of some, and that human vision does not appear to be the most accurate.

      ''If you're saying that a melancholy philosopher like me might only be feeling there's no truth because he's feeling his age, I'd have to say that I've argued for my viewpoint in this article and in others like it.''

      No, I am saying that the principle of ''existential enlightenment'' begins with the constant and 'permanent' perception of the passage of time, which, obviously, can only be perceived by the body itself. It is not necessary to grow old to perceive. It is enough to wake up to this perception, which can happen earlier, as it happened to me.

      Normies start feeling it when they get older. But more philosophical types start feeling it earlier.

    3. I understand or I think I understand that there is a perspective or layer of perception and understanding that is above the technicist formalism of modern science.

    4. I am influenced by Kant's philosophy, but I combine it with pragmatism. Of course our models are influenced by our modes of perception and understanding. But our imagination and empathy enable us to get outside our minds and to entertain alien thoughts. So we're not so bounded, after all, which means we can wrap our minds around nature's inhumanity even as we actively humanize the wilderness with our technologies and cultures. We stretch our minds even if only negatively by recognizing there's an alien Other out there. (This is akin to negative theology.)

  5. This is why I prefer mathematics and philosophy to the empirical sciences. I believe that the only true empirical statements we can make are descriptions of our own subjective experiences. I wouldn't say "The sky is blue", but I can say: "The sky looks blue to me at present." But what is that but a mere opinion? There is certainly no truth there in the objective sense.

    Are you familiar with the work of Alfred Korzybski? He invented e-prime, an amended form of English that dispenses with the 'is' of identity along with all related words and rigorously specifies the temporal-spacial context of any given statement. So "Bob is an old curmudgeon" might translate into e-prime as "Bob acts curmudgeonly at work whenever I'm around." This statement is not only accurate, but it suggests that Bob may actually be as pleasant enough guy when he isn't working at a job he hates. Korzybski's magnum opus Science and Sanity is pretty intimidating (and hard to find), but there was an anthology on the subject titled To Be or Not published by the Society For General Semantics that's pretty easy to get into at less than 200 pages.

    Concerning the question of what life might look like free of games, you might want to read Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse. In chapter 5 the author reminds the scientist that "What we thought we read in nature, we discover we have read into nature" Nature herself is silent. ...a silence so complete there is no way of knowing what it is silent about...what we learn from this silence is the unlikeness between nature and whatever we could think or say about it."

    1. Your first paragraph points towards phenomenology, towards what's supposed to be a rigorously objective report on subjectivity.

      I haven't read those two authors. Carse sounds like he's making exactly the point I've been trying to make. It reminds me of John Gray's The Silence of Animals.

      That empiricist language of e-prime would also take us to phenomenology, which would threaten us in turn with solipsism. I'd think this rigorous attention to what's in front of our nose should be coupled with a pragmatic understanding of the bigger picture. Empiricists are liable to dispense with common sense, though, on positivistic grounds.