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Truth is Not Relative

September 15th, 2008

FSK says that Truth is Not Relative.

An important pro-State troll debating point is “Truth is Relative”. They say there is no absolute standard of truth.

In math, computer science, physics, engineering and chemistry, most people agree that absolute truths exist, but on matters of politics or economics, people often disagree and claim that objective truths don’t exist.
One commenter, anarcho-mercantilist says, referring to something called “E-Prime”,

Unless I interpret your statement as “We all believe that theft contradicts our moral philosophy in all circumstances,” your statement that “Stealing is wrong” is subjective.

I thought it was funny, that his conclusion violates the principles of E-Prime, which sounds like another futile exercise in semantic confusion. Note that FSK did not suggest that “Stealing is wrong” is axiomatic.

Is it possible to deduce “Stealing is wrong” based on E-Prime valid premises? I’m fairly certain it can be done. Most people think that stealing is OK if the government does it, or if 50%+1 of a population vote against 50%-1 of the population. These people don’t know E-Prime from a hole in the wall. Since I presume that nobody really gives a shit about that sort of pedagogy, I’ll table it for further discussion.

Since an indisputable goal of debating is to establish what is (and what is not) true, anyone disputing the existence of universal truths is committing a performative contradiction, since participating in the dispute belies the existence of universal truths, since the contrary position “There are no universal truths” is, of itself, a binary universal statement; it cannot be a true statement, since its truth is self-invalidating.

Comments

7 Comments

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  • FSK says on: September 15, 2008 at 11:00 pm

     

    Anarcho-mercantilist seemed to be 100% pro-State trolling. E-Prime seemed like nonsense to me.

    A better technique is “Bayesian Reasoning”, where you assign a truth value between 0 and 1 to any statement. You must be careful to never assign a truth value of 0 or 1 to any statement, lest you be caught in an inescapable trap if you have false beliefs.

    If you say “Taxation is not theft!” with probability equal to exactly 1, then I cannot communicate with you at all. You are stuck in a defective mental state. If you assign a truth value of 0.9999999 to that statement, then perhaps you can be persuaded.

    I assign a truth value greater than 0.999999 to “Taxation is theft!” “Stealing is wrong when individuals do it” is nearly axiomatic. From there, you can conclude “Stealing is wrong when a small group of people do it”, such as in an extortion ring. Finally, I conclude “Stealing is wrong when the State does it.” The State functions like a massive extortion ring.

    Even better than Bayesian Reasoning is “Extended Bayesian Reasoning”. Instead of assigning a numeric truth value, you assign a truth probability distribution along with an error estimate. This way, you can reflect the level of uncertainty. I consider “Flouride in water is beneficial” is nearly completely uncertain.

  • Jeff Molby says on: September 15, 2008 at 11:36 pm

     

    Since an indisputable goal of debating is to establish what is (and what is not) true, anyone disputing the existence of universal truths is committing a performative contradiction, since participating in the dispute belies the existence of universal truths, since the contrary position “There are no universal truths” is, of itself, a binary universal statement; it cannot be a true statement, since its truth is self-invalidating.

    I don’t want to take any particular position in this discussion, but you’ll have to do better than that.

    One could always amend his position and say, “There is only one universal truth: that there are no other universal truths.”

  • Anarcho-mercantilist says on: September 16, 2008 at 3:10 pm

     

    This conflict is pure semantic. I believe in a definition of “objectivism” differently than Randroids. Market anarchists seem to dominate as Randroids. FSK is a Randroid. Even though I advocate deontological morality, I oppose Randianism. Randianism is a right-wing religion. Even though FSK claims to be an agnostic and a left-libertarian, he still appears to retain his Christian and right-wing culture, respectively. He has a right-wing view denying the subjective theory of coercion in the real world (coercion is not subjective in the axiomatic world, but it is in the real world): FSK seems to advocate the use of deadly force to “defend” someone accidentally trespassing, for example. At the risk of offending some, I would comment that agnostics seem to have a lower intelligence quotient than atheists.

    Another mistake I found is the advocacy of probabilistic assignments on variables, without controlling the quality of each of the variables. What does 0.9999999 probability that theft is wrong mean? Does it mean that 0.9999999 of the time theft causes harm and the other 0.0000001 of the time theft does not? What time does theft occur so it matches the probability? What police force would cause 0.9999999 harm and the other 0.0000001 of the “actions” (if actions are actually fully separable from one another) not harm?

    “I thought it was funny, that his conclusion violates the principles of E-Prime, which sounds like another futile exercise..”

    This is an ad-homenim attack, which is advocated by Rand. The ad-homenim attacks advocated by rand are ambiguous. Even though I think E-prime places more objectivity on text, I do not practice it. Like when I explicitly oppose the use of subjective and quantifiable words relating to population size, size, time, etc. over exact mathematical reasoning, I still often use them.

  • Anarcho-mercantilist says on: September 16, 2008 at 5:55 pm

     

    “There are no universal truths” is, of itself, a binary universal statement; it cannot be a true statement, since its truth is self-invalidating.”

    Yes, we all agree that this is contradictory.

    If you place the term “no universal truths” and “subjectivism” with “phenomenalism” or “subjective idealism” (that’s what most self-identified objectivists define the word objectivism use), then objectivism, in this sense, is not contradictory. Randians are just using a different definition of objectivism (defined by Rand). That’s all. It’s purely semantic.

  • Anarcho-mercantilist says on: September 16, 2008 at 11:14 pm

     

    I commented a response of my views on Ayn Rand.

  • FSK says on: September 17, 2008 at 1:32 pm

     

    It isn’t ad hominem to say “You are a fool/troll” if the other person actually is a fool or troll.

    There’s nothing wrong with saying that stupid ideas really are stupid.

  • Anarcho-mercantilist says on: September 17, 2008 at 2:41 pm

     

    “In math, computer science, physics, engineering and chemistry, most people agree that absolute truths exist, but on matters of politics or economics, people often disagree and claim that objective truths don’t exist.”

    If you define “objective” as the deductivity in mathematics, then I would also agree that economics is objective. What do you mean “most”? Does the word “most” refer to the general population, the mainstream economists, the majority of self-identified Austrian economists, or does it refer to myself? “Most” of the general population might believe that economics is “objective” because they are ignorant of the empirical methodology of mainstream economics. Thus, paradoxically, your use of the word “most” is highly vague and represents your own subjective viewpoint, without any objective criteria of your usage (whether the general population or mainstream economists). Thus, I cannot understand how Randians claim to be “objectivists” and “skeptics” when their followers that I know of often use vague terms that contradict their objection to “floating abstractions.”

    I agree with the things FSK mostly wrote on his blog, but I get into conflicts with his philosophical writings mainly because of his vague ideas and semantic conflicts that are inherent in metaphysics. FSK seemed that he got offended when I assumed the different definitions of objectivism and subjectivism. He called me a pro-statist troll, even when I countinually accept the principles of agorism.

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