Why do you know you're right and others are wrong?

Do you have a privlaged way of looking at the world? Is there a special way to do it? What is it? Can you share it with me?

Witness to me, please.

How does your science have the Truth? Why?

How does your religion have the Truth? Why?

How does realitivism know there is no Truth? Why?

Please… tell me what the Truth is and how I can know it too.

Ain’t no such thing, honeychile. Or maybe there is; it doesn’t matter because it’s really of no use.

  1. The Truth, if it exists, is not just the sum total of all facts. That’s a rationalist fallacy and it’s no more true than the previous scholasticist fallacy that the truth was the sum total of all dogma. Facts are small, isolated things which cannot do our thinking for us because they have no minds. What each one of us perceives subjectively is part of the truth, because it ends up influencing how we deal with the world.

  2. There’s nothing wrong with this. How else are we supposed to go about it? We have no way at all of perceiving the world other than subjectively, because we are not Jehovah. (He probably isn’t either, but that’s another argument.)

  3. Since we can only perceive subjectively, and since we can’t know every fact in the universe, and since our subjective perceptions differ, anyone who claims absolutely to know the truth or who claims to have a method of perceiving truth is in error. Truth is ideology.

  4. The best we can do is the best possible guess. That’s OK; that’s why I put the word “absolutely” in that italicized sentence. In practice it is quite all right to describe “how something is”. That is provided, however, that you leave yourself open to doubt and to the possible existence of contradictory perceptions. Scientists do not say what the truth is, and if they do, they shouldn’t. For any theory, no matter how airtight, the point of the scientific method is that at any moment, a fact may come around the corner, and if it disagrees with the theory, the theory must be altered to fit it. The best we can do is the best guess.

  5. The only things which are never wrong are things that are true by definition, i.e. logical abstractions, which are not facts. It is not a fact that 2+2=4. (Work with me here.) What it is is a definition. It’s not a fact because it’s not something we observed about the world. We didn’t go out and get a lot of pairs and added them together and found that they always come up with 4, and it’s not open to contradiction by finding two pairs and adding them together and getting 5. It’s true by definition, since 4 is defined in part as the sum of 2 and 2, and is completely meaningless otherwise.


  1. None of this stops me from believing what I believe. Of course I think I’m right. If I didn’t think my beliefs were right, I would believe differently (duh). What I don’t and can’t do is to know I’m right.

I think a lot of my beliefs are right. I’m quite sure about others. I know for absolute certain none of them.

Not for nothing, but what on earth would this accomplish?

Yer pal,

Four months, one week, five days, 13 hours, 24 minutes and 52 seconds.
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I didn’t catch why it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter because we can’t perceive it, and even if we did, we’d have no way of knowing what it was, for the reasons I stated.

People like to be entertained; they like to be told stories. Good stories–entertaining stories–have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The surely universal psychological device of imagining, on some level of consciousness or un-, that existence is a story with you (read: me) as protagonist is what drives our lifelong search for plot points: Why am I here? Where am I going? What happens after I die?

If we didn’t believe so viscerally that our life story must have a Dickensian arc and denouement, we wouldn’t believe so strongly in the abstract idea of absolute truth: our belief in truth is faith that the story will make sense.

It’s very difficult to give your life over to doubt. It continues to be a daily struggle for me, personally, but I believe it’s the responsibility of every thinking, creative, contributing human being.

This is kind of a cornerstone of my continually evolving personal understanding of the universe I live in; it’s the only way it can be continually evolving.

Isn’t that a truth though? Why couldn’t the Truth come in a sudden strike of insperation. Made known to us AS The Truth, not throuh our subjectivity or objectivy but through a means we haven’t experienced. Is not such a thing possible?

Much less the Truth… why are we even sure of some truths ?

How do I know I’m right? That’s a tough one. I’m not totally convinced on a lot of things. Many times it’s only my opinion. As such, I’m not certain I’m right. However many times the facts of the world only add up if you look at them a certain way. Any other way of looking at it produces small and large inconsistencies and doesn’t actually explain everything. I know I"m right because the facts mesh with my experience. If something were to happen to throw that out of wack, to cause me to look at things in a new light, my old theories would be wrong and I would enter a questioning phase. After a period of examining everything under this new light, I would once again be certain I was right.

So I guess it can be summed up in a certain phrase. I’m right because my facts mesh with my experience.

Define truth. Why are you chasing it? Do you think it’ll help? With due respect to The X-Files, I doubt seriously “The truth is out there.”

What is truth? That’d help the debate.

lissener - good answer. what I’m looking for.

matt_mcl - sorry if I’m sounding crass, I’ve had a rough day. I actualy kind of agree with most of what you say anyways.

oldscratch - good way of looking at things I guess. Does that sugest that part of the Truth is that “facts” mesh with experince?

I can’t imagine a way to understand what you’re describing taking place outside of subjectivity. Or even if it did, then wouldn’t it have to be objective? Aren’t the terms complementary, in the geometrical sense? Are there any other degrees in the circle?

If you’re talking about what is called “divine inspiration,” then to answer your question, I don’t think that would possible, personally. But if it did, wouldn’t it be an objective truth? Or if we agree that when a person experiences such a thing, it’s an internal, perhaps even metaphoric event (driven, in my belief, by an overwhelming need for the truth, not by truth itself), then it’s subjective.

Again, I think we’re sure because we need to be sure. According to my own map of the universe, the only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth. I don’t see that as relativism. I see it as openness, and living life as a question. Relativism is finding a convenient path between two answers.

Yes but to a point. It helps if the person has a wide world view. For example. Let’s say I live in some small hick town in AK. I believe that black people are lazy. The one black person I know is lazy. For me that becomes a truth. Is it a larger truth? No. Eveolution is a truth and fact because the theory reflects the facts of experience. If it ceased to do that, if it was discovered that life didn’t exist before 10,000 years ago. It would cease to be so.

Engels had some good thought on the matter in his Anti-Duhring.

Truth - an ultimate view of the way things are.

truth - what we think of as the Truth (or part of)

I’m wondering what it is. It might not matter, true. But it might be the most important thing in the world as well.

And of course saying there is no Truth is a claim to what the Truth is. Though… shrug I don’t buy any of it yet. shrug I"m in a meloncholy mood, which is why I ask.

So what’s your Truth? Do you have one? What do you believe in?

Ted, you don’t sound crass, just challenging, which is a Good Thing.

I’ve had what I believe to be divine inspirations, but I have the wit to recognize that other people have not had them, or have had different ones. My inspirations are as subjective as any other of my experiences, perhaps even more so since they were so intensely personal.

this uncertainty in Truth is why science does not claim to offer Truth, it develops explanations (thus, the often debated word “theory”) (I wish the word “explanation” was used instead of “theory” in order to reduce some of the confusion, but oh well…)

Well… see objective, the way I see it, is merely somthing we recieve through our subjective means and call it objective because it can be shared with others. I think you kind of hit the nail on the head when you say divine insperation.

Basicaly I think we know things in 3 ways… subjectivly, objectively, and a proior. The first two are based through our senses and our though processes, the last is “inherent” with-in our thought processes… it’s with us all our lives I guess.

What I’m thinking the Truth to be is somthing that reveals itself to us “inherently” as well… sort of an a prori thought that we never realized before.

Don’t know if that makes sense… but I guess this post was more of a thought experiment and a question of what people “think” they know… and what they “think” of what they know, then any real debate.

Again, I think we’re sure because we need to be sure. According to my own map of the universe, the only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth. I don’t see that as relativism. I see it as openness, and living life as a question. Relativism is finding a convenient path between two answers.

Yeah. It doesn’t have to be I supose… Though I still consider it relativism. Hope you don’t mind… I guess I just get bugered down by the whole postmodern philosophy.

I want to say that there is a Truth… I just don’t know how to do it. I don’t know if I can. But I think there is somthing almost… worthy… about seeking such a thing. (seeking it in the hopes that it might find you of course =)

I may be misunderstanding the OP, but if I’ve understood it correctly this does not address it.

Everyone thinks the facts support their positions. But everyone knows that others disagree with them. Many of these others are smarter than them. Many have studied the same facts as much or more.

So the question is - how can any person be objectively sure that out of the different assesments of which position is actually supported by the facts their’s is really the true assessment? This is something I’ve pondered about myself. It’s kind of disquieting to think that there may really be no way to be objectively sure of this, unless you are in possession of some information that others lack.

This issue has been addressed by matt_mcl

The unfortunate thing is that a lot of scientists do tacitly claim to have the truth. Until they’re caused to do so kicking and screaming, a lot of them don’t allow a glimmer of doubt. They say up and down that they’re following the scientific method, but as Tolstoy said, “I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.”

If you had asked a scientist - for example, my best friend’s father, the physicist, ten years ago whether it is possible that vacuum should have mass, they would have laughed in your face and then sworn up and down that it was preposterous. Oops, we turn around and find out that in some circumstances it can.

At my university, an alternative theories discussion group run by a graduate student in linguistics was shut down and its founder expelled.

This is not a problem with science. Science is supposed to be a humanist process involving reason balanced by constant doubt. Unfortunately, it is often practiced in the context of a rationalist obsession with correct answers and the banishment of doubt.

Which is exactly what science is about. When the evidence says otherwise about something, the hypothesis and even theories will change.

Yer pal,

Four months, one week, six days, 12 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds.
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"Satan is not an unattractive person."-Drain Bead
[sub]Thanks for the ringing endorsement, honey![/sub]

*Originally posted by Ted *

I believe we cannot see the Complete, Grand Picture from our perspective. We can see a lot of what is local to us, and know the truth of that. We do not see everything, so to us the Truth is unknowable.