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Re: [ontolog-forum] {Disarmed} Reality and Truth

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 08 May 2007 11:58:50 -0400
Message-id: <46409E3A.9060103@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ingvar and Wacek,    (01)

That is very much my position:    (02)

IJ> I doubt this very much. He [JS] has at least not given me
 > this impression. He is a fallibilist who often refers to Peirce.
 > Being a fallibilist means to accept that a theory may be
 > empirically adequate for a time without being completely true.    (03)

Popper's terminology is useful for expressing the distinction:    (04)

IJ> Karl Popper... verbalizes it using three different expressions:
 > ‘truthlikeness’, ‘verisimilitude’, and ‘approximation to truth’.
 > Theories are not just either true or false; truth can take
 > degrees. And very very much tells in favor of the view that most
 > empirically adequate theories have a rather high degree of
 > truthlikeness.    (05)

The example I was using is Newtonian mechanics and the modern
corrections of relativity and quantum mechanics.  Although we now
know that NM is only approximately true, it is an extremely good
approximation for most ordinary phenomena.  In fact, our senses and
even our best measuring instruments cannot detect any difference
except under extreme conditions.    (06)

Therefore, I would say that Newtonian mechanics has a very high
truthlikeness, verisimilitude, and approximation to truth.
The same points can be made for quantum electrodynamics (QED),
which is the most accurate theory that is commonly applied to
submicroscopic phenomena.  QED is a better approximation than NM,
but we know that it does not yet accommodate the corrections
required for general relativity.    (07)

vQ> ... a theory may perfectly fit the data and allow for usable
 > predictions, even if it is wrong about the nature of the phenomena
 > addressed.    (08)

Please define what you mean by 'nature'.  You seem to have a notion
that is similar to the Kantian noumena -- the unknowable whatever that
underlies observable phenomena.  C. S. Peirce began his philosophical
studies when he and his father, Benjamin P., worked their way through
Kant's critiques.  But CSP very early rejected the claim that there
is anything that is, in principle, unknowable.  Following is his
pragmatic principle:    (09)

    Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical
    bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have.
    Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our
    conception of the object.    (010)

Source:  http://www.peirce.org/writings/p119.html    (011)

According to this principle, the totality of effects (observable
phenomena) constitute all that can meaningfully enter our conception
of anything.  Peirce repeatedly said that it is impossible to know
whether we have ever observed everything that is observable about
anything, but that we commonly have a fairly good knowledge of the
most important features of things we are familiar with.  There is
always more to be discovered, but what we have discovered contains
a large part of the truth (although we can never be certain that
some of the details may be wrong).    (012)

vQ> If you could prove that a theory necessarily makes correct
 > predictions in every possible case, you could claim that the
 > theory is true (but I am not still convinced this would be
 > correct).    (013)

You are using a notion of truth which can never be applied
to anything in the real world.  That replaces a common notion
with a mystical property that is completely unknowable.    (014)

I believe that is a Kantian misuse of ordinary language. You
have a right to use language in that way, but I consider it
a weird religious belief.    (015)

John    (016)

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