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

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: KCliffer@xxxxxxx
Date: Fri, 18 May 2007 13:30:37 EDT
Message-id: <c6f.ef883d6.337f3cbd@xxxxxxx>
Like other respondents previously, I think that Deb has a particularly useful approach to truth and reality, which was well-expressed in a previous posting. Here are a few thoughts that may help clarify further a view of it that I think is consistent with, if not corresponding completely with, Deb's view (in response to her response to Paola).
Truth (like falseness) is a quality of a statement or assertion about reality - based on a mental construct or model of reality, which is the only possible basis for an assertion (using language or symbols, which is based on concepts, which are mental representations). Therefore, the representation that is the basis for a statement could also be said to have truth (or falseness). Reality simply IS. Statements about it, and the concepts associated with them, are true or false (or somewhere between, if we allow for fuzzy logic).
A mental representation of reality will NEVER be in full one-to-one correspondence with reality, so it can never encompass all possible truths that could be asserted. But a statement of supposed fact can be considered to have a truth value (not necessarily completely true or false, if one allows fuzzy logic).
The set of assertions, with their accompanying conceptual bases, that is true is what we may refer to as a collective, cumulative truth, in a sense. Mental models are never as "big or messy" as the entire reality; the capacity for mental models evolved to represent the parts of reality that have some meaning to our own existence - which is associated with our survival and reproduction. So they of necessity represent only a portion of the full reality. For example, until recently, we could not see ultraviolet or infrared wavelengths, so they were not part of our mental model of reality - but since science has advanced, they now are. (Keith Devlin's view of math as related to language and representational abilities is pertinent here - see his The Math Gene.) If you consider how paralyzed we would be if we were representing all details of reality at all levels, you will see why our mental models avoid doing this. Someone representing too much irrelevant information about reality would not fare well, and would not be evolutionarily viable (survive and reproduce).
The question of whether the representations must be consciously perceived or only phenomenologically functional takes the question to another level. Animals respond on the basis of representations of reality in their brains that could be said to have a level of truth or falseness - in fact, representations that have meaningful falseness would be selected against. But not always all of them - if they don't have great effects on survival and reproduction, or if they are sustained by being associated with other elements of representation that are adaptive.  In fact, a false representation could conceivably be adaptive if it contributes to more effective survival and reproduction. Given the great complexity of the world and our brains, we inevitably maintain some false representations - sometimes they'll be corrected as we learn. Learning or development of our brains can also extend the scope of our representation of reality - increasing the scope of "truth" that can be considered to be in our brains - and sometimes also the scope of falseness, insofar as the representations incorrectly represent the reality.
Another level could be considered to be in societal-level representations - such as how organizations collectively represent and respond to the reality they deal with.
Kenneth Cliffer, Ph.D.

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