Are ontological truths tautologies

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Are ontological truths tautologies

Postby wolfhnd on July 16th, 2018, 7:05 pm 

This question is purely for my own edification, I don't have an axe to grind.

In formal logic and math ontology has a different meaning than in colloquial conversation. In science it is somewhere in between. I was taught that tautology has no place in science but clearly it is useful in clarification to express an idea in different ways and ontological truths come very close to being tautologies.

What brings me to this question is my difficulty in explaining to people that from a scientific perspective absolute truths are trivial, mundane, and pedestrian. That you can make a statement that can not be falsified or that is trivially true does not demonstrate from a scientific perspective that there are meaningful absolute truths.
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Re: Are ontological truths tautologies

Postby DragonFly on July 16th, 2018, 11:30 pm 

Scientific/philosophical absolute truths seem to evade us at the moment, but are expected to be simple, involving non-emergent, tiny, perhaps partless, boring entities/means such as fields. It's not like there's going to be some complicated complexity as the basis, for those but only appear later on.

Worse, yet, perhaps all is relational and therefore relative, with no absolute intrinsic properties at all.


E=mcc, hbar, G, and more are still very usable, but aren't they just emergent from a deeper ontological, absolute level?
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Re: Are ontological truths tautologies

Postby wolfhnd on July 17th, 2018, 12:41 am 

Thanks DragonFly I appreciate the reply. It gets tough when disciplines use the same terms but with different meanings.
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Re: Are ontological truths tautologies

Postby BadgerJelly on July 17th, 2018, 1:13 am 

wolfhnd » July 17th, 2018, 12:41 pm wrote:Thanks DragonFly I appreciate the reply. It gets tough when disciplines use the same terms but with different meanings.


As far as I can tell this is whre philosophy comes to the fore. Ironically I view philosophy as being about nothing more than explicating difficult ideas and playing around with different overlappings of conception. When it gets stretched too far most people refer to it as mysticism or post-modernism.

Given that “mysticism” has more emotional weiht to it I am more likely to side with the mystic than the twister of words whose agenda is never fully exposed.
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Re: Are ontological truths tautologies

Postby wolfhnd on July 17th, 2018, 4:04 am 

BadgerJelly » Tue Jul 17, 2018 5:13 am wrote:
wolfhnd » July 17th, 2018, 12:41 pm wrote:Thanks DragonFly I appreciate the reply. It gets tough when disciplines use the same terms but with different meanings.


As far as I can tell this is whre philosophy comes to the fore. Ironically I view philosophy as being about nothing more than explicating difficult ideas and playing around with different overlappings of conception. When it gets stretched too far most people refer to it as mysticism or post-modernism.

Given that “mysticism” has more emotional weiht to it I am more likely to side with the mystic than the twister of words whose agenda is never fully exposed.


It seems to me that philosophy has created a lot of jargon where plan English would suffice. Maybe they should have stuck with Latin.

In any case it was my impression at the time and until this day that too much emphasis is placed on concepts that are little more than common sense. I didn't really need to be taught that science is based on empirical evidence not universal truths that are self evident. Still I get so much push back against the statement that there are no absolutes that are not trivial I feel I must be missing something.
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Re: Are ontological truths tautologies

Postby BadgerJelly on July 17th, 2018, 5:25 am 

Wolf -

My view is that philosophy has to be creative with its terms in order to further teh analytic procedure. If several incomplete and complex terms are bandied around it is annoyingly obtuse. The point of it all, as far as I can see, is to fight through such a verbal mess to equip ourselves with a more refined and applicable vocabulary with which to approach human life at large and our world view.

The fruitless paths necessarily die out. At the end of the day we’re all struggling to express something of ourselves at some point - be it scientifically, in business, political discourse, law, or with a loved one. With greater understanding of the reach of words and experience in general we aim, I imagine, to present ourselves in the world in a more fullfilling manner.

All said and done it may have a very small tricle down affect, but it has an effect. The idea and concept of global communication didn’t appear overnight. It’s been a long and steady journey that can be traced back to running messages from tribe to tribe, to the invention of written symbols, right up to the need to unscramble coded messages.

The articulated concept has the potential to birth something unthought of and seemingly impossible. All you have to do to see this is take into account various advancements with human culture.
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Re: Are ontological truths tautologies

Postby wolfhnd on July 17th, 2018, 3:29 pm 

Certainly the articulation of ideas is key to intellectual growth. I was complaining about how various disciplines try to carve out safe niches by controlling and obscurificating language thus my suggestion to use a dead language that is harder to change. Somewhat in zest of course.
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Re: Are ontological truths tautologies

Postby Mossling on July 18th, 2018, 12:11 am 

wolfhnd » July 17th, 2018, 8:05 am wrote: from a scientific perspective absolute truths are trivial, mundane, and pedestrian. That you can make a statement that can not be falsified or that is trivially true does not demonstrate from a scientific perspective that there are meaningful absolute truths.

I get your sentiment here, wolf, and thank you for opening up this topic.

I would say the following:

1) Truth, as a communicable concept, is rooted in social language, and is therefore only of social interest to prosocial individuals. Of course, individuals who were born into prosociality and then later became antisocial will have the languaging skills common to prosocial agents, and yet will be using that language to further their antisocial intentions - in this respect truth is not of social interest to them really, it is of parasitic interest. And we can never assume that just because someone is communicating or debating, that they have an overall prosocial inclination (and thus their arguments will tend towards social chaos rather than social order).

2) Social language is a product of social behaviour in general, and social behaviour arises for economically-beneficial reasons for all prosocial members of a society. Therefore truth, and the languaging mind that the concept of truth arises from, is an economically-driven situation. In this respect, truth ultimately has its roots in raw bioeconomics - in such clearly economic contexts as: "Tell me the truth about whether you will give me an apple tomorrow or not."

The answer to such a question could be the apple just being handed over. Now whether you consider the presence of that apple in your world to be an absolute truth or not will be 'communicated' to the world in your picking up and eating it. Hopefully you can see a 'scale of truth' appearing here - from symbolic references to the delivery of an apple, to that delivery of economic benefit being observed, to that economic benefit being utilised.

The last two events do not necessarily require symbolic thought, however - even one cell in our bodies can deliver a useful resource to another one, and yet there is a tangible nature to that process - we can feel it in our being. There is abstraction here, and yet it is not mystical.

3) Antisocial (anti-human society) agents who have no social language, parasitically-inclined or otherwise, can be argued to 'communicate their intentions' through pure body language, and so it could be said that the truth of a moth is to approach a light source. And when a caterpillar eats a leaf, then that is its truth - in an economic sense. This may sound too abstract, and yet one may perceive a scale of economic truth opening up when one considers the following psychology:

a) a female rat not recognizing her newborn babies as her own after having given birth under anesthetic.
b) a dog receiving the message that its owner is the leader of it's 'wolf pack' when that owner eats first.
c) a chimp receiving the message that a human is invested economically in whatever they are looking at as a result of extrapolating meaning from eye gaze.
d) a human kowtowing to another human is witnessed by all onlookers as an act of submission.

Now rats, dogs, and chimps have no interest in the concept of truth, but would you say that they have a truth that they operate according to in light of the above?

I am aware, of course, that there is a tautology in all of this, in that I am ascribing a human concept of truth to non-human animal behaviour in order to present an argument, and yet there is no other way to even approach this topic. For it seems that our language is completely calibrated towards our selves and our self-interested genetics.

I do think, however, that symbolic language and the experiences that it labels can be used to point an individual towards a more absolute condition, akin to how an uninstall program can be used to remove itself from a computer, and yet which does not remove the computer itself from existence.

Many philosophers have said, for example, that words are all illusory except for when they are being used as an example of illusion. Therefore, what you seem to be saying: "Words are illusory," is an absolute truth, is it not? And this absolute truth is not necessarily in the words of this paragraph, but in the condition of being that recognizes those words - in a condition of cognition. I think this is the best we can do with regards to getting a grip on absolute truth.

When a wolf spots a deer and begins to salivate, it does not think "deer - I'd better salivate," it just acts, and yet acts according to the economic truth of that deer. Similarly when a human looks in a mirror and recognises that it is recognising, I do not think that this is a symbolically-driven act either. It is felt to be true, however - absolutely so, lest they lose their grip on functional reality altogether.

In this respect I wish to argue that absolute truth is beyond symbols - it is in the purely physical - beyond recognition of offspring, pack leaders, extrapolated eye gaze, or prostrations. It is operating on the biochemical level - which is abstract and yet which can potentially be felt directly within our bodies in a non-biased empirical sense.

If there is pain in our stomach, for example, is it an ulcer? Is it food poisoning? Is it a virus? Is it a lesion of some sort? - That is all symbolic contemplation, and yet if we practice actively transcending our symbolic domain, then we may interface with the absolute (albeit non-communicable) truth - that there is, absolutely, a feeling - in a very empirical way, no?

Thus, empirical, scientific truth does not begin with mathematics or logical calculation, but rather with our transcendent experience of looking in a mirror - below the level of symbols.
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