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Article > Certain of Uncertainty
Description :: Thoughts about thought
This is a response to Unordained's article on post-modernism. Go read it. :) This article is beta..help me test it. Maybe Unordained and I can establish a dialog. Oh and definitely go look at my logic play below. Fun stuff! The sad thing is that it shows that relativism is in direct conflict with Logic. Read it really carefully or you won't understand how I am cutting through the words.

The objective is one of two. Shoot down relativism with the logic at the bottom or show that I do indeed understand the concept of Perception.

Unordained wrote nothing I disagree with except for the stuff that claimed or implied that I didn't understand. He seems to indicate that there is a Reality, but he doesn't use that word. Good! He seems to indicate that because people are uncertain what that reality is (because we are not all knowing) we must do our best to piece together what we can about the universe based on cause and effect. Great! Common ground?

Logic Background

Ah, cause and effect. The true skeptic will tell you that you cannot sense causality. I would have to agree with him or her. If you don't agree, I would ask you a few questions since *perhaps* I am the only person that cannot sense causality. What does causality sound like? What flavor is it? Does it make a certain sound, have a certain shape or color, a certain smell? If you answered no to all these questions then you have run out of senses. You cannot truly *sense* causality. You have an axiom in your brain that says "The world works in a reasonable, predictable way." Ignore how silly that is for now. :) That seems to jive pretty well with what you sense, therefore it must be true right? Unfortunately, people are illogical by nature.

It is a constant irony for me. We have axioms of logic called the Three Laws of Thought. Based on these principles, we abstract from everything to make any statement sort of binary: "Any given statement is either true or false, it cannot be both, and it must be halfway in between." From there, we develop patterns of thought: thought which is not applied to any given subject. Logic when it is separate from a subject is beautiful and undeniable to those who speak the language. It also cuts better then any razor: literally undoing hours of thought in a split second. You may, if you like, ignore the laws of thought and simply refuse to play. I can't make you believe.

The horrible irony is that Logic has shown us the fallacy Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. That is, just because Event 2 follows Event 1 chronologically does *not* mean that Event 1 caused Event 2. How then can we ever logically assert causality? How can we have science? Logically, science is a bunch of stuff that might be true assuming there is no super powerful being on the other end with all the strings causing every particle in the universe to dance like a puppet. The fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc cuts down all of science like ..well..a straw man!

Now, you may believe "No. We can verify that our assertions are true by testing them." That seems rather circular. You are asserting that scientific tests show causality by making a prediction; if that prediction comes up true again and again and again then you are on to something. For these people, I offer up the following argument.

If you eat pizza you will die. Therefore, pizza kills.

Come on, laugh, that was really funny. :)

There are two truths behind this argument. If you eat pizza you will die. If you do not eat pizza you will die. Pizza will not necessarily kill you.

Applying logic as a mode of getting from one thought to another is very difficult because of the limitations of language. It is much harder to accurately express your thoughts than it is to think them. This is part of why post-modernism is important. We can be sure that there is very little to be sure of.

The trouble is that we dirty the pool of thought with our own definitions. Indeed, can we be sure that anyone else has exactly the same definitions in mind at the level which is logic? If you cannot agree on the definition of "is" what dialog can there be?

On Definitions

For instance: for a long time "human" and "person" meant the same thing. That was right after some Americans came to the realization that women were not chattel. At some point this defintion ceased to be "true." I can only conclude that this was caused by a human or group of humans. Indeed, some people have the old definition. Others do not. Obviously, some people decided to change the definition for their purposes. That's just fine. If you don't agree with this, go study math until you do. Definitions are made freely. Whether or not they will be convenient is another matter entirely. The point is, if there is no common ground in terms of definitions there can be no dialog!!!! The reason the abortion debate will never be solved is that Pro-Lifers shout "It's a Person" and Pro-Choicers shout "No it isn't!" Which one of them is right? If you assume that we don't have a higher authority on the matter then neither of them is right. From the post-modernist perspective, definitely there is no "Right." From the post-modernist theist perspective God has an opinion. That opinion may or may not match with your opinion but you may want to do what God says to avoid his wrath. :) If someone decided abortionists weren't people could we tell them they were objectively wrong?

So lets attempt a dialog. First, I'll try to show you how nasty and subtle this is.

From Unordained's article "Perceiving the flaws of perception?":

"It seems a great injustice has been done to the philosophical arguments for postmodernism and other forms of relativism in thought, and very little can be done to remedy the problem."

This sentence means something very different logically then it does in English. In Logic talk, Unordained has simply claimed that *he believes* that an injustice has been committed and that fixing the problem is nearly impossible. In Logic talk, this means nothing to me; I already knew he believed that. In English, it can mean something altogether different; the "seeming" of the author becomes reality since he writes from within his perception. Always. Seems to me that this is in error.

Here's another one.

A: "The misconception here (by outsiders) is that proponents of relative truth are making statements that are absolutely true, which is absolutely untrue. When a relativist says "reality is in the eye of the beholder," he or she is not stating that anyone can mold reality into whatever they like, whenever they like, on a global scale. Believing this to be the case can be best explained as falling for a straw-man argument."

After my signature, I will expound logically upon this statement (the one in bold) for fun.

First, I must show that I understand his intent. To do this, we analyze the statement "The American Flag has 13 stars on it." (I got this from a website, I didn't make this up. For the life of me, I cannot find it but I thank the author for writing it; it's a great example).

The relativist is giggling with glee. Maybe. :) This used to be true. Now it is *NOT* true. Therefore, it is a matter of perspective. Therefore, the Law of Identity has failed and objectivism has failed. This isn't the case; objectivists may feel that the sentence must be analyzed for when it was written and qualified as such. When you say "I am hungry" you don't expect to be called a liar after you eat. A better phrase then "There are 50 stars on the American flag" is "As of today's date, there are 50 stars on the American flag." Now, a person may have a different definition for star than you do. Obviously, this is a matter of perspective and a common ground must be reached or there can be no dialog.

This paragraph alone (A) deserves an entire article. There's a massive hole in it (I will attempt to show this below) and it seems to be one of the most important in the article. For one, Post-modernists disagree on the definition of post-modernism; that's practically an axiom because we cannot verify that when you say a given phrase that the concept that has been put in my head is exactly what you wanted to put there (i.e. communication may have failed). This is so obvious it is nearly trivial. I think it would be truly funny if one person who called themself a post-modernist asked another person "Would you call yourself a post-modernist?" The answer is always either "No." or to laugh at the implied joke. If they laugh, they probably at least sort of understand post-modernism.

Worse, examine the phrase I have made bold. I believe that any given sentence in and of itself is either true or false period. Unordained disagrees in many ways. Relativists state things that are absolute. However, they may or may not state them in an absolute way (just like "there are 13 stars on the American flag is truly false but used to be true).

So why is this even important? Because there are objectivists and relativists (pardon the phrases). These people must find a way to communicate. Believe it or not, I have actually talked with a friend of mine who truly believed that we each live in our own reality. Not "We might be" but "We are."

In all seriousness, Unordained's brand of post-modernism seems to be a collection of uncertainties. That's good because having no doubt about your beliefs is stupid.

It seems to be that post-modernism is an attempt to understand Reality through perception. The idea behind that is perception is all you got. Sounds reasonable.

The idea behind Logic is to separate yourself from Reality so that you can understand Thought. Thought is *not* reality. If it was, reader, you would be engulfed in flames......at least...you would be in my mind since I can conceive of this..I just have.

To show some of the thought behind these systems and to try to build a bridge, I'm going to attempt to prove something.

A person can have a burning thing in their brain and not be injured.

Proof:

Assume otherwise, that is, "NOT(you can have a burning thing in your brain and not be injured)."

I can conceive (just did) that you, reader, are engulfed in flames. Therefore, you exist in a state of immolation in my mind. And if you are engulfed in flames in my brain, then you are engulfed in flames and you are in my brain (definition of AND). If the above is true, then I'm dying: you cannot have a burning thing lodged in your brain and consider yourself "not injured" (see the above assumption). And yet, I am just fine. Therefore, it is possible to have a burning thing in your mind and not be injured. (proof by contradiction). QED. :)

Obviously, this is a crime against logic. I'm abusing the concept of "exist in the mind" because there is a concept of conceiving and there is a different concept of a thing lodged in your brain. A very similar line of reasoning has been used by great philosophers in an attempt to prove that there is a God.

It didn't work well. :)

The way I used logic in the above silly argument was almost sound, but the way I applied that logic to flawed definitions nearly made me ill. :) I think that it is safe to say that in no way do I have a burning object or person lodged in my brain. I could be wrong.

B: If you find that you can safely disagree, perhaps you are a post-modernist. Naturally, this statement (B) is open to interpretation; no one can tell exactly what I had in mind when I wrote it. Some may argue "The above statement (B) is flamebait. Therefore it is bad." When relativists make such arguments using absolutist logic it makes me smile. It isn't like they're only trying to say "In my subjective perspective, your argument is flawed." They are trying to say that it is really and truly flawed from a perspective they don't share (Logic uses an entirely different epistimology, see the logic at the bottom)!

Another attempt at dialog

Lets examine the concept of history. Lets define history as "the study of the past." Already, we are in trouble. What is the past? It is everything that has happened before. An absolutist has no trouble with these concepts. If historian A's "history" is closer to the truth than historian B's, then historian A has a better history. The post modernist view of history may be problematic if one gets rid of the idea of an all seeing observer. People have different perceptions as to what "happened." So ...where do we go from here? Should we assume that no one perception is better than any other? How will we differentiate? If there is no all seeing observer, what is Truth (truth is very hard to define without saying "true")? Fascinatingly, this argument came to me during a discussion with my wife who is studying different methods of literary criticism. One method called Historicism has a principle that History helps the reader interpret literature and that history is accurate. Apparently, Americans came on the scene very recently and sagely pointed out that no historian is objective therefore, no student of history can know that they know the truth about the past. Unfortunately, if this book's definition is correct, "New Historicism declares that all history is subjective and that historians therefore can never provide us with the truth or give us a totally accurate picture of past events or the worldview of a people." (Literary Criticism by Charles E. Bressler) If historians can never provide is with the truth, then determining the past is easy. The past is the opposite of every statement made by said historian. Obviously I'm being nitpicky, but not without reason. It seems that thinking about the differences between history and The Past is a good exercise in understanding Truth and Perception. It must be possible to be correct because two people can have opposite views; one must be correct. But....how can we know that we know?

Conclusion

We need to clean the pool of thought. Mixed definitions are harming the world's dialog. Redefining Truth is allowable but unacceptable for anyone who wants to dialog with an absolutist and gosh darn it, we were here first. :) The label "subjective" or "relative" truth helps! I believe another label is required to avoid the confusion of a "truth" that is not True (reflective of Reality as seen by one who sees all, no attempts to attack the weakness inherent in the word "reflective" here man!). Maybe..."Perception" would be better! If Post-modernists can admit that there's a reality and if absolutists can understand the Power of Perception (or rather, the weakness behind not being all knowing), maybe there can be a dialog.

~ensis

Logic!

"The misconception here (by outsiders) is that proponents of relative truth are making statements that are absolutely true, which is absolutely untrue. (Unordained)

Lets apply logic to this rather absolute statement.

"The misconception here (by outsiders) is that proponents of relative truth are making statements that are absolutely true, which is absolutely untrue."

=

"The misconception here (by outsiders) is that (proponents of relative truth are making statements that are absolutely true). This (proponents of relative truth are making statements that are absolutely true) is absolutely untrue." (Switching out the "which" to fully specify it, these statements are logically equivalent).

=

"NOT(proponents of relative truth are making statements that are absolutely true)." (T AND T = T)

=

Proponents of relative truth are not making statements that are absolutely true.

=

Proponents of relative truth are not making statements that are True (absolutely true is simply referring to absolute Truth...True should work here).

Therefore, proponents of relative truth are either making statements that are False (Three Laws of Thought) if they are making statements. Hehehehehehehehe.....

This is funny because the original statement was an absolutist statement ("absolutely untrue") made by a relativist person about an absolutist view of relativist epistomology. The logic above shows it to be self defeating. The Irony makes it fun!

Continued at top
Owned by Ensis Involucrus - Created on 10/12/2003 - Last edited on 12/17/2003

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