Friday, August 15, 2008

The Axiom

[Author’s note: this is the seventh in a series on the process of reason and rational thought].
"Truth is by definition exclusive."
The above statement is an axiom. An axiom is a concept that is known to be true by inspection, but is not provable:

axiom (n)...
(1)self-evident truth or a proposition whose truth is so evident at first sight no process of reasoning or demonstration can make it plainer;as, the whole is greater than a part.
(2)an established principle in some art or science; a principle received without new proof.
(3)a statement universally accepted as true; a maxim.


Webster's Deluxe Unabridged Dictionary;2nd Ed; 1979; Simon & Schuster.

Axioms are the easiest to understand but probably the hardest to deal with in logical, rational thought. There are a number of axioms, of which the First Principles are the most salient in their necessity for supporting rationality. I will deal with only one here, after leading up to it with these observations:

First, the idea that "if it is true, then it is true", "if it exists, then it exists". Followed by "if it is true, then it is not false", "if it exists, then it does not NOT exist". These principles are virtually undeniable - but not provable in either a rational manner, nor an empirical manner. They are necessary, however, if thought is to be rational.

Now for the questionable axiom: "it cannot be partly true, and partly false", "it cannot partly exist, and partly not exist".

Consider that a concept is a single concept, not separable into components. Then that single entity is declared either completely true or completely false; to completely exist or completely not exist. Is this debatable?

In agenda-driven thought, this is a throw-away concept, and is not used if it is not useful. But for truth-driven thought, it is an essential truth. A partially false, single concept or entity is impossible in the same sense that a partially existing entity is impossible. Truth is exclusive; it contains no falseness.

Repeating for emphasis:

Truth is exclusive; it contains no falseness.


So this is a main determiner of truth: does it contain any falseness, or is it intended to prop up an agenda by infiltrating non-truth into the concept? Are the premises true? Is the process valid? Is it a single, premise-based, coherent entity? Or is the conclusion pre-assumed, with premises stacked in support?

In the previous post it is shown that abortion rights are considered axiomatic to some people. These rights cancel out other rights that previously were considered axiomatic, specifically the right to live. So we have two competing axioms, contradicting each other. Which then is the true axiom?

It is your exercise then to decide which "axiom" is the truth, exclusive of all other, contradictory axioms. Let me know what you decide and why.

7 comments:

  1. If free-will is axiomatic, then rights as such cannot be axiomatic because any assumed right encroaches upon the freedom of another. As far as I can tell, rights are a legal fiction which act as a substitute for a genuine ethics.

    Also, more directly related to this post, are there illusions? And what is the truth/falsity existence/non-existence status of them?

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  2. There is a category difference here which needs to be accounted for. Free Will is a faculty attached to being human. Rights are not. Humans can easily be denied the use of Free Will for most decisions by placing them in captivity; but the faculty remains until the human is tortured into insanity. Natural rights are gone immediately upon their removal, because they don't inhere to the property of being human.

    Natural rights are an interesting subject. The right to exist, occupy space, breathe, search for food, and so on might be called rights, but if they are not defined and codified, do they ever actually exist? Probably not. Rights have to be acquired and defended in order to claim possession of them. This is not the case for Free Will.

    As for illusion and delusion, it is not possible to give any logical truth value to them. They certainly exist, especially in worldviews based on irrational tenets which are held to be rational. And it is possible, we might suppose, that some illusions actually correspond with reality, even though merely accidentally. But delusion would not ever be considered a rational position from which to operate because it is a separation from reality.

    Nor would it be rational to claim that a near totality of humans who claim a certain experiential knowledge to be deluded, merely in order to preserve a point of philosophy. Such an extraordinary claim would require extraordinary evidence. In the case of Free Will, the existence of a near universal delusion would require a nearly universal set of incontrovertable data to support a refutation. Under the inductive restrictions of science, such incontroverability and universality would be unlikely, and certainly not noncontroversal.

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  3. Forgive my anonymity. If you're interested in an extended dialogue, I'll create an OpenID.

    Would you say, then, that the sentence

    "Monopoly money has purchasing power."

    does not have a truth value?

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  4. Anonymous,
    Yes, please choose a moniker.

    The sentence you give has a truth value of False, if you mean actual commercial purchasing and not game (imaginary) purchasing, where possession of goods game-purchased is pretend, as is the play money used to make the purchase.

    If you intend to include both (A) actual purchasing and (B) pretend purchasing in the issue, then you have mixed set A with set B, (which are mutually exclusive sets), and then questioned the applicability of an item (b0) which is exclusive to set B, to set A. In set B, b0 has a truth value of True (assuming one accepts pretend as actual for purposes of game playing). In set A, b0 has a truth value of False.

    If there could be an axiom attached to this, it might be that games are in a different logical set from real life; the two are mutually exclusive.

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  5. Monkier chosen!

    What troubles me about this approach to truth values is that I do not see the distinction in this case between "pretend purchasing" and "actual purchasing". This is actually why I chose this particular sentence.

    Let me explain. Monopoly money has real purchasing power if you are playing the game of Monopoly and you value Monopoly real estate (which is probably only if you are playing the game). So how about "real" money? The only thing that gives real money purchasing power is that there is a world-wide commitment to playing a game in which the piece of paper has purchasing power. As the men who designed our fiat currency system said, it is based on "faith and credit". In terms of underlying logical principles, I do not see the difference between this and Monopoly money except that the game of real money has far greater reach in both space and time.

    To further stress the point, consider a hermit living in a clearing of a forest, growing his own food, collecting his own water, building his own living space and furniture, etc. He doesn't leave the forest because he doesn't need to. Suppose a forest hiker is tired, hungry and thirsty. He is fortunate enough to find our hermit's abode and asks if he can buy some sundries. What shall our hiker use as payment? It is hard to fathom that our hermit has any use for a dirty piece of green paper. If he chooses to engage in a transaction, it is likely that he will want either labor or an item that he actually finds useful.

    So it turns out that the hermit is not playing the game in which "real money" has purchasing power. We can call that game "Mainstream Society". In Mainstream Society, there are numerous institutions which support the pretend money that we use (but that we call "real money") by conjuring all the necessary paperwork which allows this pretend money to move smoothly between players in the game.

    It seems that the only thing that makes the game of Mainstream Society and its "real money" real is the "faith and credit" extended by those who play the game. In other words, people think that the game is real, so they forget that it is a game. In other words, Mainstream Society is an illusion. And our hermit will plainly tell you so as he laughs at your dirty paper.

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  6. Unknown,
    I fail to see how this applies to the post, but perhaps you will get to that.

    The difference still is that the green paper still, at this point in history, buys goods and services in the Mainstream Society (monopoly money doesn't). The amount purchasable changes with inflation, but the value is still measurable in goods and services, so the value of the green paper is not an illusion in that sense.

    Your point seems to be that money is a symbol of value, not actual value in itself; that is debatable: other people value the green paper in your possession enough to provide you tangibles in order to get your green paper. So it is still true that the green paper = goods and services.

    Now if we take the overall view, that the green paper has no backing in the government by gold or other symbols of value, it is still possible to see that the government itself derives value from the green paper, making itself strong enough to guarantee the safety of using the green paper for transactions, and making such transactions itself.

    This is an incestuous, circular process, certainly. But it would be that way even using gold as the token for value. Only barter (trading goods for goods or services for goods, etc) would break that circularity, as far as I can see. Gold has no value except in its rarity and indestrucibility, its use in jewelry and electronics notwithstanding. Possession of large amounts of gold will not provide food, shelter etc except for its token value as currency.

    So how does this apply to the post?

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  7. My effort at generating a google name failed. Hopefully you see something now.

    My questions are relevant to this post in two ways:

    1. You said: "It is your exercise then to decide which "axiom" is the truth, exclusive of all other, contradictory axioms. Let me know what you decide and why."

    My response is that rights are an illusion, a legal fiction, and therefore not axiomatic in any absolute sense.

    2. You said: "Truth is exclusive; it contains no falseness."

    In response to this, I asked what the truth-value of an illusion is, because without covering this ground, my answer to your assignment probably appears to be nonsense.

    The green paper does, indeed, buy goods and services. But so does the monopoly money. It's just that monopoly money has a much smaller sphere of experience in which it holds value. It can only buy goods and services in the short space of a game in play.

    Neither gold nor green paper hold "intrinsic value". The very concept of "intrinsic value" is an excellent example of the circular reasoning buttressing our monetary system. Value is necessarily a description of subjective experience: human beings are the givers of value. What human beings value can then be measured through observation of human actions. But to claim that value lies anywhere but the individual human mind is to attempt to divorce the word of its very meaning. What I value is what I care about. And when I am playing monopoly, I care about monopoly money and monopoly properties.

    Mainstream Society generates codes and laws which govern the usage of money, and it is this usage which we value. This is structurally identical to the act of engaging a game. More broadly, it means that your beliefs feedback into your experience because your beliefs directly inform your values.

    The State is another legal fiction. If I am hiking in northern Montana and incidentally cross over into Canada, I may have never know it. To me, it is just mountains. I am not engaged in the game of Statism; I'm engaged in the game of hiking, so National borders are a fiction largely irrelevant to my experience of hiking. In this sense property is also a fiction.

    Because so many people play the game of property rights and Statism, it is nearly impossible to escape the impact of these fictions. But there is no logical difference between the large-scale illusion of money, property and states on the one hand and the cult belief that drinking the coolaid will transport you into the interdimensional spaceship on the other hand. The illusions of money and property are likely to give a person greater staying power within the game of Mainstream Society than the cult coolaid will -- but that has everything to do with the rules of the game.

    The law of excluded middle is a good axiom, but it must appreciate that there are two senses of truth. There is "Truth" that is absolute and thus obtains irrespective of perspective, and there is "truth" that is relative and thus obtains only within an illusion which a particular mind subjectively engages.

    Both of the following are true:

    "Monopoly money will buy you Monopoly property."

    "A dollar will buy you a pack of gum."

    If we were to attempt to pull these sentences out of their relative contexts and into an absolute context (the absence of context), we'd have major truth-value problems: "Monopoly money" and "dollar" are equally meaningless in an absolute sense. It is only the fictions which surround these words which give them enough meaning to have truth-value in a sentence.

    All human institutions are equally fictional. Law is a human institution. Therefore, law is a fiction. Therefore, rights are a fiction.

    So both of your axioms are true (in the relative sense), but depending on the meaning of the word "life", they may or may not exist within exclusive illusions or fictions.

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