Thursday, June 18, 2009

If You Don’t Value Truth, Then What DO You Value? [Updated]

In the previous posts the idea that relativism can be rational, true and absolute is explored, along with the need for truth as an incorrigible absolute, if logic is to exist. Now the question is asked, if you deny absolutes and incorrigibles such as truth, then for you, what exists as a basis for your thought?

For example, Bertrand Russell said, in his Atheistic speech, "Why I am Not A Christian",
“We must require evidence for a thing if it is to be believed”.

[Note: The Russell attribution just above is incorrect. The correct attriution is the following: In "Why I Am A Rationalist", Russell said this: "As far as I can see, the view to which we are committed, one which I have stated on a former occasion, is that we ought not to believe, and we ought not to try to cause others to believe, any proposition for which there is no evidence whatever."
I'm no longer sure where the quote I used actually came from; I read a lot of Russell back at that time.]
For Russell, this was a law of the universe, one upon which to base one’s thought process and worldview. In other words, it is an incorrigible absolute. And further, it is an imperative: a moral statement, and as such no evidence is provided to sustain the truth of the statement, it is to be believed based on the moral force of its intuited truth. And further still, there is no empirical test that could possibly be devised that would produce evidence in support of this statement.

So Russell’s statement is intuited, imperative, moral, without any evidence needed or empirical support. So, evidence is said to be "required", yet evidence is not provided for Russell’s truth statement. This is self-refuting, yet it is commonly used as a law for Materialism

And even further still, Russell does not provide any definition of “evidence”, where it is to be found, How it is to be recognized, and how it is to be measured.

This single error in logic serves as a case study in Philosophical Materialism. It is fairly clear that Russell meant “physical, empirical evidence”. And it is also clear that he had not thought through the self-refutation contained in his declaration of the moral law.

What Is Truth?
It is always necessary to define the terms in use if confusion is to be avoided down the line. So let’s define truth now, in terms of its characteristics.

Truth is an absolute concept, and is an exclusive, discriminatory thing. There is truth, and there is not-truth: falseness; that’s all there is, epistemologically: just the two categories with no in-betweens, no partial truths. And these two entities, truth and not-truth, are mutually exclusive. There is no not-truth in truth. This means that truth is highly discriminatory, discriminating ruthlessly against non-truth. Truth is exclusively truth.

Tolerating falseness as a value is valuing not-truth, and therefore is false.

Truth has one form and is absolute; not-truth can take a great many forms and is unrestricted by any absolutes other than being absolutely not-true.

Truth is totally independent of outside influences; it doesn’t recognize or respond to our opinion of it, how we malign it or abuse it, or even deny it. Truth cannot be eliminated or destroyed. It is. In other words, it is also ontologically incorrigible, as well as epistemologically incorrigible.

Truth must exist if we are to be logical and rational; if there is no truth, then logic is impossible, having no solid base. If that is the case, then our thoughts have no value whatsoever. We consistently presume otherwise.

So Bertrand Russell must have valued truth, since he used the concept as the basis for his declaration of the necessity of evidence as the basis for belief in a thing.

But what about this evidence? We need to define that too, a challenge that Russell ignored.

Types of Evidence
There are two types of evidence for a thing, (a) objective and (b) subjective.

Objective evidence is evidence of the material world, which can be shared with other observers, measured, re-measured and so on. This is the universe of empirical discovery. Empiricism admits up-front that it is capable only of objective measurements of those things with physical, material characteristics that can be demonstrated in a physical, material experimental fashion. So empiricism is voluntarily materialistic, restricting what it will deal with to material entities. Additionally material evidence is never without the possibility of being overturned by future empirical findings: it is never incorrigible[1].

Subjective evidence is inferentially derived from internal, intuited mental explorations. This is the case of Russell’s ruling on the necessity of evidence. Intuited truths are not testable empirically, because they are not material in and of themselves, even though they might refer to material things, as Russell’s declaration does. Because they are not hampered with a physical, material existence, it is possible for subjective evidence to be incorrigibly valid.

Subjective evidence of this type includes the First Principles of Logic and Rational Thought; mathematics; language. These are intuited and can be represented second-hand by symbols for use in assisting thought and communication of thought. This subjective evidence exists in a non-material reality, where meaning exists but materiality does not.

There can also be false subjective evidence, such as imagined, deluded, anti-rational, and deceptive. Frequently the real incorrigible intuited evidence is charged with being one of these false types. But this can be tested by examining the rational, logical basis underlying the charge.

Going back to the original issue, what is it that one values, if one does not value the absolute, incorrigible truth? Devaluing truth eliminates the subjective evidence that is needed for rational thinking. It opens thought to an uncontrolled baseless anarchy of meaningless fluctuations. But there are other consequences too.

By eliminating absolutes, character values and cultural values float adrift. In fact, the term “values” hardly applies, since there is no differentiation in “value” between competing theories of behavior, ethics and morality: they are all relative and may be chosen as convenient. Gone are such valued permanent character traits as responsibility, honesty, truthfulness, reliability, trustworthiness, persistence.

But oddly and illogically (what else) new absolutes are put in place of the rejected absolutes: tolerance-of-everything, and equality reduction of all outcomes (the new “justice” for victims). These become the New Rights, which dominate when juxtaposed with the diminished old rights: Tolerance over free speech; equal outcomes over equal opportunities.

Tolerance-of-everything produces this Daughter Right: the right not to be offended; it’s a hate crime to offend through thought or deed. Tolerance-of-everything conflicts directly with liberty. Intolerance of intolerance is self-refuting.

Equal outcomes requires the leveling of wealth, which in turn requires the theft of wealth from those who have it and redistributing it to those who don’t. But those who don’t have it now will squander what they are given, requiring more wealth to be removed from the now-poor populace; it’s a never-ending spiral downward to complete impoverishment of the entire population (except of course those in charge of the redistribution).

The new absolutes are part of an “absolute-free” doctrine, and this alone puts the doctrine into self-refutation. The idea that absolutes don’t exist, are not important, and everything is relative is not merely flawed, it is false, blatantly irrevocably, and incorrigibly. It is not “absolutely true that absolute truth does not exist”, another self-refutation.

This all resolves to personal valuations. A person may choose to be tough minded and discriminatory, valuing truth over falseness, agendas and irrationality. Or a person may choose to be open-minded and anti-discriminatory: valuing diversity over truth; valuing tolerance of any and everything over liberty; valuing variable falseness over absolutes such as truth.

Are there any in-betweens? Being in-between is just as irrational as pure falseness. This means that there are really only the two choices: choosing absolute truth as the basis for you worldview; or choosing whatever. Which do you choose?

[1] Except for being incorrigibly unincorrigible: Godel’s discovery and Russell’s lament.


  1. Hi Stan,

    A couple of questions:

    Why, in assuming truth to 'exist', do you define it to be binary (ie. Aristotlean)? What therefore is your solution to the Liar paradox?

    Second: have you ever read Korzybski?

  2. There is a full mathematical discussion of the binary quality of truth here:

    I have not read Korzybski. Care to recommend a title?


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