File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9810, message 21

Date: Mon, 05 Oct 1998 09:47:18 +0100
Subject: Re: BHA: truth again

Just a quick reply to take issue with some of Heikki's points:

>Not necessarily. There are, it seems to me, two possibilities
>here: (i) either *nothing* follows from the idea that 'truth is not
>only a relational and epistemic concept but also designates
>a predicate of things themselves'; or (ii) *dogmatism* follows.
>The first possibility occurs when the idea of alethia is read
>as synonumous to ontological realism. 

Not so, and this should have been clear from my posts. Alethia is not
synonomous with ontological realism but is implicit in any ontologically
realist position; at least insofar as that realism plays any role. Without
it the realism, becomes very thin and next to useless. Immediately one
begins to refer to the real and claim that it has a form that thought is
attempting to capture one is alluding to the alethia of the real. 

realthe next necessary move (a dialetical one at that)The second possibility
>occurs when 'truth as a predicate of relational entities' is
>allowed to mix up with the relational and epistemic dimensions
>of the theory of truth. 

But one doesn't mix them Heikki. They are not mixed, clear distinctions are
being made between a truth claim and the alethia of that which is referred
to. I repeat. What makes the statement "it is raining in Aberystwyth today"
true or false? We have the distinction between the statement about a
condition in Aber and the condition itself.

That is, when you start to think that
>any truth-judgement designates a predicate of things themselves;

Well again, do you mean a truth claim or a truth judgement? Moreover, the
boot is entirely on the other foot. If you think that truth claims do not
attempt to capture in thought that which is not in thought, then there is
no logical gap between the predicates of a truth claim and that which it is
about, because it is not about anything. Hence any and every truth claim is
de facto true. There is nothing for them to be wrong about. 

To make this clearer let's reverse your owm statement:

When you start to think that any truth-judgement designates nothing

>Somehow the theory you have starts to reflect the way
>things *really* are...

I fail to see how this happens. Alethia is exactly that which stops this
happening. We all accept that we make truth claims in the transitive
dimension; a dimension which is never synonomous to the intransitive
dimension it attempts to capture. Denials of alethia, it seems to me, and
despite the odd allusion to ontological realism, do however fall in to
dogmatism. But perhaps we need to work this out in a concrete situation.
The rain is waiting.

(i) is concerned, my intuition is
>the following: in the nature, there are no truths, however 
>hard we try to observe and experimentate with it. There 
>are relational and structured entities with real causal 
>powers but no things, entities or relations that we 
>should describe by calling them true. 

But you are alluding to the alethia here as you deny it. This is an
instance of theory-practice inconsistency. What form do these relational
and structured entities have? what specific power does this one possess but
not that one? Why should we try to experiment with them? Why can't we
simply project our truths onto them? Wouldn't it be nice if we could simply
construct whatever truths we wished (I wasn't aware that later you will
appeal to conventionalism, when I wrote this, but given this it's quite
worrying that you do)? I'm sure this is not your position, but it is
implied in what you say. And BTW, in accepting alethia we don't say it is
true, we say it has a truth (a mode of being - not just exists (the first
is alethia, the second ontological realism), these are differing semantic

 So there can be no consistent truth-judgment 
>without ontological realism.

Well now you are appealing to alethia, or else what role is it playing? It
seems empty to me.

>Consider the following two claims:
>	Atom consists of x,y,z and they are related to each
>	by laws a,b,c. This forms a system that is in some
>	respects like the solar system.
>	Atom consists of... system. Atom is also true.
>Do you really think the additional part in the latter
>formulation does make sense?

But this additional part isn't necessary, no-one alluding to alethia wants
to say this. The first statement itself includes alethia. the sting
however, comes when we ask is this first statement true? Yes or no and if
true what makes it so?. Now ontological realism begins to play a real role
and you will be forced to defend you theory in terms of the alethia of
atoms, as opposed to dogmatically asserting that it is true because you say
it is true. The truth of any X is not simply a function of a claim about X. 

Equally, I think that what RB is trying to do is to give a much richer and
stratified account of truth than the one-dimensional relational account
being defended here. When our current theories of truth become inadequate
to the alethia of truth, we should change them. Therein lies one (only)
potential emanicpatory act.

>Where does this follow from? A conventionalist would argue
>that since we know that all truths are intersubjective and
>socio-historically formed, we must resolve differences
>between us by appeal to argumentation and conversation
>rather than violence. He would go on to argue that the
>trouble starts when one participant thinks that he knows
>what the truth really is, that he is talking about the
>world itself (alethia?), not about surface appearances
>and irrealisr (mis)conceptions only... (or as Lenin would
>have said, truths as "reflections" of reality...). The 
>conventionalist does have a point; and, in my view, you 
>have therefore the burden of proof here.

This politics of conventionalism, simply rest on a very naive (In my
opinion) view of social life. The social world is shot through with flows
of power, and some people have very good comnventional grounds for
maintaining conventional truths, and indeed will often reject the poor
proclaimer of truth (Copernicus? Socrates?) very violently. Moreover,
anyone who comes to the debating table with what the truth *really* is, is
(i) going to be treated with deep suspicion by anyone with at least an
inkling of the epistemic fallacy (because that's what's being conflated
here - a truth calim with the truth itself) and (ii) asked to put up or
shut up and i.e. provide some grounds (iii) argumentation and conversation
are equally the methods of those that appeal to alethia.

But lets push the example further: To the conventionalist, on pain of
theory/prcatice inconsistency, the idea of providing evidence for one's
truth claims is redundant. What we need to do to ensure (if this is our
aim) that the world's population all get sufficient food and water to live
is to announce it true that there is enough for all to consume to their
hearts desire. An admirable truth *wish* granted, but hardly a true
statement no matter how intersubjectively arrived at. To our alethian
realist on the other hand the issues becomes one of who has X resources,
how many are there of X resources, how should we distribute X resources in
order to achieve our ends, etc, etc. A hard task, which is going to involve
hard ethical decisions and an asking for those more well off to give up
what they (truly) have in order that those who have not might have just a
little.  If only conventionalism were true (which is not to say that
conventionalism may not be necessary some time, but we shouldn't take it as
our starting and ending point).

One last comment to Ruth.

I don't see truth and falsity as necessarily related in the manner you do.
I agree that it seems non-sensical to say X part of nature is false.
However, it is not nonsensical to say that this particular part of nature
is not an instance of an X. 



Dr. Colin Wight
Department of International Politics
University of Wales
telephone: +44 (0)1970-621769
fax      : +44 (0)1970-622709

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