TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. THE PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPT OF TRUTH
2. THE ACHIEVEMENT OF TRUTH
1. THE PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPT OF TRUTH
Epistemology is the study of what we know, how we know, and what we can or cannot know. In Epistemology, students are asked many questions about Truth and Knowledge. Here are two basic questions that students may be asked, What is Truth? and Can we really have Truth? The simple answer to this question is yes. Truth, in a philosophical term is defined as What the universe actually is not what one thinks it is or is not. An opinion in philosophy does not count. Good philosophers must be able to reason to others what they claiming are true. Everyone has his/her own opinions. If we allowed opinions in philosophy, then there can be no such thing as truth. If everyone has his/her own opinions, what can be true for you may not be true for me and vice versa. Being skeptical and saying that we can never know the truth does not change the way the universe actually is to something that it isn’t.
For instance, if I never went outside of my house or look outside my window, I will never know that the sky is blue. Even though, I do not know that the sky is blue, it doesn’t change the fact that the sky is actually blue.
Now, I would like to discuss with you two types of Truth. The first type of Truth is called Normative Truth, and second type of Truth is called Descriptive Truth. Normative Truth is Permanent Truth; Descriptive Truth is Temporary Truth. Here is an example of Descriptive Truth – I am in Toronto This is currently true, but what if I move to New York? Here is another example of Descriptive Truth – The CN Tower is located in Toronto This is currently true, but what if The CN Tower was moved to Montreal or destroyed? Than the statement, The CN Tower is located in Toronto is false.
The other type of Truth is Normative Truth. Normative Truth is what the universe actually is, or what it actually holds. For example, The Sky is blue, 2 * 3, 1 + 1 = 2, Elephants are bigger than rabbits These are all normative Truths. We know that Rabbits can never be bigger than Elephants, or that 2 can never be greater than 3. These statements will always remain true unlike statements like The CN Tower is located in Toronto
(Note: Descriptive Truth is not someone’s opinion. The CN Tower is located in Toronto is known as Descriptive Truth, but is this someone’s pinion? of course not!)
Now that you know about Normative and Descriptive Truth, what you should also know are the three rock-bottom rules of Logic. Here are the three rules.
Rule # 1: The law of Non-Contradiction
(Nothing can both be and not be at the same time and in the same sense)
Rule # 2: The Law of Excluded Middle
(Something either is, or it is not)
Rule # 3: The Law of Identity
(Something is what it is).
Notice: These are the three basic rules that every philosopher must know about. In rule # 2, it states that Something either is or it not You have to understand that Rule # 2 only applies to general concepts not specific concepts. For instance, the colour gray is not really black or white. Gray is a colour in between of black and white. If rule # 2 applies, than the colour gray would violate rule # 2, right? – No, of course not! Fundamental rules apply only to general concepts. The colour gray does not violate rule # 2 because gray is a specific thing. If gray violates rule # 2, then I guess colours in between of red and blue would also violate rule # 2. I also guess that 1.5 would violate rule # 2, because it isn’t 1 nor is it 2. (No! It does not violate rule #2. None of them do violate Rule # 2)
Here are examples of the fundamental rules.
I am either male or I am female.
(I cannot be both male and female at the same time) – This is Rule # 1
I am either alive or I am dead.
(I cannot be in between of being alive and being dead) – This is Rule # 2
I am a human being.
(Thus I cannot be a rabbit) – This is Rule # 3
Many philosophers use logic to reason with other philosophers about what they are trying to claim. For instance, you may have already known this well famous logic statement:
If P then Q
P, therefore Q. (TRUE)
If P then Q.
NOT Q, therefore NOT P (TRUE)
Here is one example:
Let P = I started the fire,
Let Q = The fire has been started.
For the first example, if P then Q, P, therefore Q. If I started the fire, then the fire has been started For the second example, if NOT Q, therefore NOT P. If the fire hasn’t been started, then I haven’t started the fire
In both of these examples, the statements are true.
Here is another example.
Let P = It is cloudy
Let Q = It is raining
if P then Q, if It is cloudy then It is raining
P, therefore Q It is cloudy, therefore it is raining
For this statement, the logic is true.
If NOT Q, then NOT P. if it is not raining, then it is not cloudy
NOT Q, therefore NOT P. Not raining, therefore not cloudy (FALSE*)
* Even though, the logic is CORRECT, Not Q, therefore Not P the statement made here is incorrect. As we know, there can be days where it is cloudy but there aren’t any rains. Also, there can be days where it is snowing and cloudy. Therefore, you must be able to distinguish between what is right and what is not. Logic does not play a role in everything. You cannot use logic for everything. if you do, then you aren’t really learning anything in life but just memorizing things. Try to understand concepts not memorize them. The real world and its problems are not as easy as those in the textbooks.
Next, I would like to discuss about Appearance and Reality. As you know, being human has it disadvantaged. The disadvantage is that we may not be able to hear nor see what other animals can. Hence, when we talk about truth, it is only within the contents of our ability to perceive what is out there. An analogy is: A fish in a pond can never know about the world above the pond Non-philosophers are like people who live in caves all their lives; they think what they say is correct, they believe what they think is correct, etc – but is it? (that’s a question I will leave for you to decide upon). What I am trying to do is, move you outside of this cave. Sure, we may have disadvantage of not being able to hear or see what other animals can. However, the fact that we know this is a good thing. With technology and science, we can build devices that will allow us to hear and see things in which we normally would not be able to do
Why is Appearance and Reality so important related to truth? Because if we are restricted to what we can and cannot see, then what we saying is limited to our ability to perceive this world and this universe as a whole. Thus, Appearance and Reality teaches us that what we see or know may not be the whole truth, but just half of the truth. However, you must not say that If we are limited to what we can perceive, then why go so in-depth in trying to find the truth? Even, though we are limited to what we can and cannot see, the fact that we know this gives us an advantage. The fact that we know that we cannot see or hear things that other animals can, is something very useful to us. With technology and science, we can build devices that will let us see and hear things that we may never see or hear.
Furthermore, You must know that there are certain things that we may never know about the universe. What we have to do is reason with others what we are claiming is true. Metaphysics is one branch of philosophy that deals with restrictions. If you are majoring in philosophy, this is one of the branches of philosophy in which you must learn. Metaphysics, to put it, is the basic of Philosophy. Understanding where to draw the line is one of the keys in doing philosophy. There are a right ways of doing philosophy and a wrong ways of doing philosophy. Philosophy is something that everyone does; whether or not people do it correctly is another topic.
For instance, it is redundant to ask the question Who created God? Because if you asked, Who created God? The other person in his/her rights can ask you Who created the thing/element that created God? So, as you can see, the question can never be answer. Thus, being a philosopher, you must be able to understand that there are certain things that you cannot ask or know about. (Why? because it is impossible to know about these things)
In addition to all of these, Words are also very important in philosophical concept of truth. You must be able to distinguish the meaning of what your speaker is trying to say when he is using a word. For instance, when I say Canadian need changes What do I mean by Changes? These are the things that you must be able to figure out. A good course to study is, Critical Thinking. Before you learn about Epistemology, I would recommend that you study Critical Thinking.
I will say this again, Knowledge is Truth. There are no such things as false knowledge. Over 200 years ago, many people believed that the Sun rotated around the Earth; this is not true but only an assumption of what people in those days believed to be true. As we move into deeply thoughts and ask deep questions, we must be aware that we will be ignorant. Being aware of our limitations and restrictions allows us to draw lines between what we can know and what we cannot know. For instance, chemistry students learn that not all elements bond to other elements to produce a compound. However, if a student did not know about this, he could spend thirty years or more trying to force two elements to go together and would never be successful in doing it. Thus, you must know there are certain things that we cannot ask or hope to achieve. How is it possible that we can ask questions in which we never have an answer to? To find the answer to this question, you might want to study Immanuel Kant’s philosophy. Please note, Immanuel Kant’s philosophy is very complex to understand fully as a whole.
2. THE ACHIEVEMENT OF TRUTH
According to psychology, if a child is locked up in a room where he is not taught anything new nor allowed to communicate with anyone else, this child would only know what he knew before he was locked up. If we locked up one hundred children in a dark-room, later set them free when they become adults, these young adults would know less than someone who is in grade two. Therefore, it is very important to notice that environment factors play a role in knowledge as well.
The question is now: Do we create truth or search for? To answer this question, I will give you an analogy. Think of the human mind as a large empty-box. If nothing goes inside the box, the box will always remain empty. Thus if we do not want an empty box, we must put something inside the box. To answer the question, Do we create truth or search for it? The answer is both. It just depends on how you look at it. Truth is search for when you have nothing inside the box and suddenly put something inside of it. We create truth when we use the information inside of the box to built something new
Let me introduce you to two worlds. Empirical and Theoretical. Think of the world of Empirical knowledge, as something that you can test by using scientific methods to prove what you are saying is true. For instance, if you want to prove that X is larger than Y, what you would do is weight both X and Y. If X is really larger than Y, then the measuring machine display would show this and your claim would be proven. The other world is called the world of Theoretical knowledge. In this world, it is hard to prove that something is true or false. Even though it may be hard to prove, it is not impossible. The reason why it is hard is because we lack the necessary equipments, the necessary knowledge to prove what we are saying is true/false. The world of Theoretical knowledge will come to be the world of Empirical knowledge if we have the equipment to prove what we are claming is true/false. Do you remember that I told you, Over 200 years ago, people believe that the Sun rotated around the Earth? (Which is of course, FALSE). If you had to classified the minds of the worlds these people were in, you would classified the world of Theoretical Knowledge Why? Because when these people say that the Sun rotated around the Earth, they did not have any scientific proof as to what they are saying. When technologies were available to them, they finally knew what they were saying was false. Please note that something that is in the world of Theoretical knowledge is just as good as that in the world of Empirical knowledge
The question is now, how is the world of Theoretical knowledge created? The question is very complex. What I will tell you is that mathematics has something to do with the creation of this world. It is mathematics that help us enter the world of Theoretical knowledge. When you were taught mathematics for the first time, your math teacher would probably say you that 1 + 1 equals 2. In addition to saying this, she would probably hold up one block and say 1 and then show you another block and say 1 plus 1 is two (holding two blocks up). For the first time, you might relate the concept 1 to the first block that she was holding up, and the concept 2 to the second box. This is incorrect. However, as you grow up and the more you learn, you realizes that the concept one is not linked to the block, but the block is just one (out of many) representation of the number 1 It is at this point, when you realized this, that your mind is in the creation of the World of Theoretical knowledge. To expand the Theoretical world, one must expand his knowledge in mathematics and in science. It is impossible to not teach students mathematics and have them enter the world of Theoretical knowledge. Half of the contents in science is very theoretical. I doubt that a science student does not know any mathematics at all. He must know mathematics (I am not saying that he must know mathematics, like a mathematician). Mathematics is the language of Theoretical knowledge. Numbers are the basic of what every scientists and engineers should at least know