Message: Alex, on truth and verification

Have you not understood any of my distinctions between contingency and necessity?

Let that serve more as a title than as a first paragraph. It permeates what I will write in this essay. It strikes the twentieth century mind as completely odd and absurd that one would dare say that the discovery of truth does not begin with verification. What do thinkers rant these days but that knowledge is " justified , true, belief." Well, such is not the beginning of knowledge because knowledge does not begin with justification, though it may seem to take that course.

(by the way, if you want to ever read someone else who would argue, certainly more eloquently than I, the same things I would, you might read the eighteenth century Scottish Common Sense philosopher Thomas Reid, or Plato's Theaetetus )

Anyhow, you said that I could not avoid hypotheticals (if/thens). Of course, this is my whole point in arguing that Model Theory is not absolutist, that it assumes that one must begin with hypotheticals such that it can verify x or verify ~x . What begins with what one does not know, will not produce a higher state of knowledge. Except, you pointed out reductio ad absurdum . Indeed, this is perhaps my favorite form of argument. I have even defined necessary beings in terms of reductio ad absurdum .

necessary that which is possible and whose opposite is impossible (absurd)

But, let's look at this case more closely. Let's look at the following reductio :

  • Something is either red or not red.
  • If it were red, it would exhibit the qualities of red.
  • This something does not exhibit the qualities of red.
  • It is not red.

    Apparently, we started from a point of ignorance and achieved a point of knowledge. But, could we in fact conclude what we did without already possessing the necessary knowledge? Obviously, in this case, when we first asked the question, we might not have observed whether this something exhibited the qualities of redness or not, and so it was the verification that led to the conclusion. Yet, ultimately, the conclusion itself was not predicated upon question but upon knowledge. The reductio ad absurdum only brought to light what we already knew. It basically says, "Hmmm...I wonder what this is...If it's this, it would be this...Hey! It can't be that, so it must be this." Now, it's the "Hey! It can't be that" part which intrigues us. It's that part which seems to be verification. In the case of "red", the obvious verification was that we had to observe the something and verifiy it one way or the other. Yet, what if we were to do the same thing for the law of noncontradiction?

    We would find ourselves doing something like this:

  • The law of noncontradiction is either true or false.
  • If it were false, it could be true and false (contradictions contain both opposites)
  • It can't be that.
  • The law of noncontradiction is true.

    Whoa! It turns out that the reductio ad absurdum of the law assumes the law in proving itself! This cannot be verification. Yet, it is this law upon which reductio ad absurdum as a method stands. Either we scrap the law because we assume that truth needs to be verified, or we do something much more sane. We simply recognize that our knowledge of the law of noncontradiction does not depend upon our verification. There is no deduction of the law, yet there is no denial of the law either because denial presupposes the law.

    So, what of our requirement for verification now? In the case of "red" it turned out that we needed to verify. In the case of noncontradiction, it turned out that we did not. It turned out that it was a presupposition of all deductions. Did I just demonstrate it? Of course not. All I did was restate its obviousness in different words. What I did demonstrate by reductio ad absurdum was the absurdity of absolute verification by reductio ad absurdum and verified it by the test of the law of noncontradiction.

    So, it does take verification to build things like this computer. I have never said otherwise. The problem as always is the absolute requirement of it and to require it upon things which by their nature are necessary. This is why metaphysics is the queen science. The metaphysician can be a scientist, an engineer, a laboratory technician, a mathematician, etc. He can do so in reality because he/she does not reduce himself to the absurdity of believing that all things need verification, that what needs verification requires knowledge of what does not. The whole process of logic fails if logic itself must be accountable to itself by verification. Like Jeff's insistence to you upon a natural language, a logic cannot be self-verified and would need verification from another logic ad infinitum .

    So, to your question, I have the courage to be wrong because I understand what is right. I can only be wrong because there is such a thing and because there is a recognition of opposites in the universe. I also have the confidence that I cannot be wrong about everything. I can be wrong about contingency until all hell breaks loose. I can be wrong only because there is something necessary, something right by which wrong is understood. The question one now must ask you is, "Have you the courage to accept that most obvious truth, or do you believe in stubbornness that you are right in your belief that everything in the universe that one believes can be wrong?"

    I'm not so sure you have the courage to be wrong. You do not recognize a necessary distinction between right and wrong, and so you find yourself hopelessly and seemingly safely grasping both opposites at once. Is this courage to be wrong? I think not. It is much less courageous to say that one has courage to be wrong when one is not absolutely sure that one can be wrong (or right, for that matter). The courageous stance is mine. I know that there is right and wrong, and so the perils of my words are surely and really great indeed.

    Jim Macdonald

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