27 November 2020

0.3. The basic premises of truth.

 A few words on philosophy are in order. Philosophy can roughly be classified into six branches.

1: Metaphysics: Examines the nature of reality.
2: Epistemology: Examines the nature of knowledge.
3: Ethics: Examines the nature of human behaviour.
4: Politics: Examines the nature of governance.
5: Economics: Examines the nature of goods and services.
6: Aesthetics: Examines the nature of beauty.

The study of truth falls into all six branches of philosophy and has repercussions in each.

Before we can examine truth, we must agree on a few metaphysical premises. Without these premises, truth cannot be established. And if truth cannot be established in principle, there is no point in trying to establish it, much less to fight over it. The premises are:

1: There exists an external reality. This external reality exists independent of an observer. (This is sometimes called the noumenal world.)

2: In this external reality, somewhere in space and sometime in time, there exists an observer who has access to this external reality. The extent of this access is unknown and may be very limited.

3: Through the sensory-perceptive-cognitive apparatus the observer may observe. (This represents the phenomenal world.) 

4: An observation can only manifest itself through an abstraction (spoken language, written language, pictorial, numerical, mathematical, graphic) with which the observer constructs a statement about the observation (Figure The sum of abstractions that is stored in our memory or in our records is knowledge. 

5: The relationships (match, mismatch) between external reality, observation, and a statement about the observation are as follows.

Note that human language is less specific about matches between external reality, observation, and a statement about the observation, than it is about mismatches. All matches are called a truth, a fact, or a matter of fact.

Of course, there is a lot to be said about partial truths and partial falsehoods, but the point of these premises is to establish a set of basic rules to guarantee that truth can be established in principle.


External reality: The murderer is a man.

Observation by ...
Alice: The murderer is a man.
Bob: The murderer is a man.
Carol: The murderer is a woman.
David: The murderer is a woman.

Statement about the observation by ...
Alice: "The murderer is a man."
Bob: "The murderer is a woman."
Carol: "The murderer is a woman."
David: "The murderer is a man."

Alice and Bob perceive the truth, but only Alice speaks the truth; Bob is lying. Carol and David perceive an illusion. Carol speaks the truth, which is really a falsehood. David is lying and produces an accidental truth.