The Flight From Contingency 9

101. How many sciences are there? Those being taught at universities, -- and what about models of thought that claim scientific status, but did not make it into the canon of academic disciplines?

How many hypotheses and theories are held about each area of research, not only consecutively but simultaneously? Already in the scientific journals are many, but if we add those that don’t get published there are many more. 

102. Amongst the wide range of sciences the strangest views were and are being held: that the earth is flat, that mankind is not older than a few thousand years, that all cave-paintings are fakes, that there are no antediluvian artifacts, that the universe has started with or even by a big bang, that there are gaps in the egyptian chronology, that the earth does (not) revolve around the sun, that the moon has originated from the earth, that covid is (not) a viral disease, that there are firing neurons, black holes, phlogiston, aether ...

In this jungle, in this thicket of opinions, theses, theories, views and paradigms contradicting or (mostly) ignoring each other: How can we orient ourselves? Can we distinguish between opinions merely held to be true and those that are true?

The problem we have is that <em>all</em>opinions are considered true by those who hold them, but that only a few of these opinions are actually true.

103. If we hold all opinions, statements, descriptions and ideas together to be equally true, then the truth-claim contributes nothing to the practice of our thinking and acting. We would then have to look for another feature to distinguish between the different views. For we need criteria, instances, arbiters and referees in order to be able to distinguish reasonably reliably between these views – otherwise we can neither take a stand for nor against them, and if we still do, then our comments/statements would not be rationally justifiable: they would be arbitrary. But other distinguishing features would have us facing the same problem: Everyone would ascribe the positive distinctive feature to one’s own opinions and deny it for the opposing opinions. For truth there are such criteria and instances available and it stood the test of time as a distinguishing feature throughout the history of philosophy. So let’s stick to the truth.

We need a fundament, a standpoint on which and from which we can decide if claims for truth are rightly made and therefore redeemed or wrongly and therefore rejected.

104. Can truth-oriented philosophy show us a way out of contingency and arbitrariness? Can we, with the help of its conceptual apparatus, its argumentative means, its cognitive criteria and instances judge and evaluate which among the different opinions are rightly held to be true and are therefore true and which are not?

Can we thus thin out the thicket of opinions, clear the jungle of ideas and thereby reduce opinions in the direction of the one and true opinion, even when behind each glade we have cleared out the dark forest of opinions is closing up again?

105. The truth theories, which have been developed in dualist philosophy, offer themselves as a guidance and signpost into the right direction. We need to be restrictive: As soon as we have decided for one theory of truth the others will show deficits, which make it not advisable to rely on them. Moreover new truth-theories are constantly entering the philosophical market-place, which mostly develop from the critique of the existing ones and claim to remedy their deficiencies. Theories of truth have in common that they embody an idea of truth that is generally transpersonal and transsubjective and at least <em>opinion-transcendent</em>: an idea of truth according to which opinions that are true or at least want to be true, make a claim that goes beyond these opinions: in other words the truth-claims do not end, so to speak, with the counter-opinion, at the false opinions. They transcend them.

When a truth-claim is rightly raised for opinions, then they are not only valid hic et nunc, but semper et ubique, if we disregard relativistic limitations.

106. Philosophical theories of truth are reductionist. Thus they also support – in the event of success - cultural, scientific and communicative simplification, unification, cooptation and like-mindedness. Contradictions are removed and opinion conflicts eliminated, even if this is a sisyphean task since constantly new opinions with new truth claims are “croping up”.

But since in the event of success it is the true opinions which survive this reduction process, we should be ok with it, or?

107. The intention is to transform dissents (conflicting opinions, theories, descriptions etc.) into consensuses – and not into some arbitrary consensuses but into true consensuses. Errors and falsehoods should be eliminated as far as possible and truths should be preserved.

108. The basic mood of dualist thinking: consent is better than dissent, unambiguity is better than ambiguity, unanimity better than twilight, one truth better than many errors.

109. Perhaps it should be noted that the blend of thoughts and opinions in our discourses works pretty well, that we always already orientate ourselves in it and find our way round, no matter what views or opinions we hold. It is only important thatwe have an opinion.

After all, we constantly distinguish: between theories that we prefer and those that we reject, views that we stick to and those that we abandon and others that we (therefore or additionally) newly adopt.

110. In some areas, such as the stock market, the truth, if it were commonly known, would be of no use; on the contrary: If all traders knew which stocks are going to rise and which would not, then no one would be able to buy and no one would be able to sell, because those who want to sell would not find buyers and the buyers would not find sellers.

And also, if everyone knows what the substance, what the true value of a company is, trading brakes down. The stock market only works the way it does, because the participants have different opinions about how stock prices are moving and about the data on which they are based. Only because constantly some participants are making the wrong decisions and others the right ones, only as long as there is tendentially an equilibrium of dissent, trading on the stock exchange is functioning.

111. Almost all varieties of dualist thinking accept as a definition of truth: “A sentence “p” is true if and only if p.” The problems begin with establishing truth.

We can divide dualist theories of truth into two groups:

a) theories that establish truth through a reference to the object level or that use both, language level and object level to establish the truth of a sentence: The truth candidates are determined at the first level, at the language level, the success of their candidacy is decided at the second level, the object level. Theories of truth belonging to this group are for example the correspondence theory, the evidence theory, the picture theory, the mirror theory and the falsificationism of critical rationalism.

b) theories, that share with the first group the definition of truth as correspondence with reality, but argue that truth can be determined argumentatively only at the language level. Consensus and coherence theories belong to this group.

112. Theories of truth are “agreement” theories (Übereinstimmungstheorien): Depending on the theory they are concerned with agreement between description and object, between the participants of a discourse, between elements of a system of statements, or with the widest possible scope of “we” in neopragmatism.

Proponents of both groups of truth theories talk about the world, but in the second group the truth or falsehood of our talking cannot be determined via direct contact with the world but only in talking about it.

Either opinions are true, because they agree with reality (correspondence theory) or they agree with reality because they are true (coherence theory, consensus theory).

Put more simply: According to the correspondence theory after the selection-process of opinions into true and false ones, those that are left over are true; according to the consensus theory those are true that are left over.

113. The truth theorists criticize each other: the coherence theory, the consensus theory and the pragmatic theory are accused of not being able to eliminate arbitrariness without transgressing the language level and referring to the object-level. The correspondence theory is accused of being able to compare statements only with other statements, but not (directly) with reality.

The criticism can be expressed simply like this:

The objection of the correspondence theory against the consensus theory is that it cannot do without correspondence-theoretic presuppositions.

The objection of the consensus theory against the correspondence theory is that it must resort to a consensus-theoretic principle.

The correspondence theory fails insofar as it claims to establish truth without a consensus-theoretical determination and the consensus theory fails, insofar as it aims to achieve truth without a correspondence-theoretic determination.

Thus the failure of the respective criticized theory consists in their deviating from the theory from which the accusation of failure is made.

114. The dualist conceptions of truth and knowledge are dogmatic positings and they are not self-applicable.

The attempt at their self-application leads into a paradoxical situation.

If a consensus theorist says that the consensus theory is false in case no rational/true consensus can be achieved about it, then the consensus principle is saved. 

If a representative of the correspondence theory says that the correspondence theory is false if it does not correspond to reality, then the correspondence principle is preserved.

If a representative of a coherence theory says that the coherence theory is false if, for example, it does not fit into a system of scientific statements, then the coherence principle remains in force.

If a critical rationalist says that critical rationalism is false when it fails against reality then the central principle of critical rationalism is preserved.

When a neopragmatist says that he will give up his position when it cannot be sufficiently justified – then in any case sufficient justification is retained as a principle for a new beginning.

The dualist advocate of truth and cognition has only two possibilities: Either he presents elements of his theory as a condition for the refutation of his theory: then his theory will survive its refutation; or he employs for a refutation elements of another theory: then he has insofar already given up on his theory. If for example a critical rationalist says that critical rationalism fails if no rational/true consensus can be reached about it, then he is insofar not (any longer) a critical rationalist.

115. Are the truth theories suitable as guides through the jungle of opinions? Or do they only lead us to where we always already are: to the opinions we already have?

116. Wouldn’t it be strange to say: “If only I had known earlier that opinions are true when they correspond with reality or when a true consensus can be achieved about them. Then I might have have known much earlier which of my opinions are true and which are not.”

117. Are the opinions of people who have familiarized themselves with philosophical conceptions of truth more likely true than those of others who have not? It may be that they speak more often of a true consensus, of correspondence with reality, of the failure of a hypothesis and they will perhaps claim that their communication is less distorted: but the opinions to which they apply their true-false criteria will hardly change, if at all.

118. Is it possible that the dualist conception of truth can identify as true all opinions that we always already have – at least to the extent allowed by the respective theory of truth? And can it prove as false and erroneous all these opinions which we do not hold? Can any arbitrary opinion satisfy the criteria for truth and knowledge?

119. The distinctions between true and false, between description and object, perception and illusion, are introduced into discourse only when conflicts arise: conflicts between participants in a conversation, between reader and author, differences between past and present opinions or perceptions of a person, etc.

Next: The Flight From Contingency 10

Josef Mitterer is an Austrian philosopher.

The Flight From Contingency 1 here

The Flight From Contingency 2 here

The Flight From Contingency 3 here

The Flight From Contingency 4 here

The Flight From Contingency 5 here

The Flight From Contingency 6 here

The Flight From Contingency 7 here

The Flight From Contingency 8 here

On Interpretation here

On Interpretation 2 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 1 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 2 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 3 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 4 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 5 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 6 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 7 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 8 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 9 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 10 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 2 here