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My problem with objectivity and reason part 2

PhilosophyPosted by Nico Metten Sat, March 29, 2014 15:10:26

Last year I wrote a piece with the title ”My problem with objectivity and reason”. I had some critical feedback about this piece. The criticism could not convince me that I am wrong, but it showed that people read my thoughts with a very different understanding than I intended it to have. That is why I would like to clarify my main idea again here.

Contrary to some perception, I was not trying to prove that there cannot be an objective truth. I was only saying that this cannot be a priori assumed. The same goes for the use of logic. I cannot see how it can automatically be assumed that logic always leads to the identification of mistakes. The only answer I got to the question, why these things are supposed to be a priori true was something like “how could they not be true”, probably meaning that if I question these assumptions, I need to come up with an alternative.

This strikes me to be implausible. The question of “how can it not be” seems irrelevant even within a logical framework. For example, I can clearly assume that alien life is possible without knowing exactly how it looks like. Having a concrete idea about how and where alien life exists is logically irrelevant to the question of whether it is possible.

Simultaneously, the answer to the questions “does there have to be one truth for all that we can get closer to” and “does logic always has to reveal mistakes” clearly has to be “no”. The answer to the first question has to be logically “no” unless we are willing to except this “no” as a possibly universal truth. But clearly this truth is a different truth than the one we are asking about in the original question. It is like in the phrase “we agree to disagree”. The agreement is about something else than what we disagree on. Therefore there is no contradiction here.

But why does the answer to these questions has to be “no”? It has to be “no” because to exclude this possibility we need to make certain assumptions that do not have to be a priori true. The obvious assumption behind a “yes” answer is that humans are in principal capable of understanding everything and that our tools to think are flawless. The basic assumption behind “how can it not be” is that if I as a human being cannot imagine it, it cannot be true. I cannot think a truth that is only partly objective and I cannot think to find mistakes outside of logic. Well, the whole purpose of my last piece was to help people imagining it. But even if that fails, there is no reason to assume that something can only be true if we can imagine it. This should be clear from watching animals. A dog for example is not completely stupid. It has the intelligence to make enough sense of reality to survive. It can learn which things to do and which to avoid. But a dog cannot imagine living on a planet that is orbiting around a giant ball of fire called the sun that is part of a galaxy etc. A dog cannot even understand that it exists as an independent entity and that there are other sovereign entities just like him. All these things cannot be imagined by the dog no matter how you try to explain it to him. But does that mean they cannot possibly be true? No, it just means that the dog will forever we excluded from realising these aspects of reality.

Humans are clearly more intelligence than dogs. However, why should we assume that we are completely capable of understanding reality? Or why should we assume that the tools we have to understand it are completely flawless? Christianity I believe assumes that humans are created in the image of god, but most philosophers don't even seem to like Christianity. So why do they assume this? And this is essentially implied when allowing a question like “how can it not be” as a valid argument. That of course does not mean that it cannot be true. But it certainly does not have to be true. Personally I find it hard to believe that these assumptions are true, since they seem to be contradicted by the fact that we don't agree on things even after long debates. And there seem to be observations that can be interpreted as reality not being fully logical. But whether one believes these assumptions or not, it seems like an arbitrary guess either way. As such it is of course perfectly valid. We are all guessing, but we are only guessing. No one can be certain to get closer to the truth. The way I see it is that whenever we reach that point in which we think we have identified a mistake, one of two thing can be true.

a) we have identified a mistake

b) we have reached the limits of what we can comprehend as human beings.

But there is no way of knowing, which of the two is true. There is not even a way of knowing whether these two really are the only options or whether these are just the only options that we can think of. No one knows what the truth looks like and no one can even be sure to get closer to it. I know that makes some people uncomfortable, but I don't see a way out of this. We are all just believers in our own idea of the truth. And of course mostly we are true believers, denying the possibility that we just believe.

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