Insufficiency of Language

Language insufficiency or the inability of language to facilitate accurate or precise communication has been a notion I’ve stressed for years. In fact, I have another post with a similar title,

Conceptual language is likely to have been formed for a purpose different to social communication. It may have been formed to facilitate internal dialogue. This language was not written and may not have even been words as we know them, but we could parse and reflect upon our experiences in this world. Eventually, we developed speech and then writing systems to share communication. We went on to develop speculative and conditional language, visions of possible futures and answers to ‘what-if’ queries.

My intent is not to create a piece with academic rigour, though I might wish to. I may not even deign to link to references I’ve accumulated over the years. They are in memory, but it takes time and effort,especially when one isn’t purposefully accumulating citations.

I was prompted to write at 4am when I read in a story that Google CEO Sundar Pichai was taking “full responsibility for the decisions that led us” to twelve-thousand-odd layoffs at the company he helms. But what is the responsibility he cites? It’s meaningless. What can it mean—that he’s sorry? Responsibility is a weasel word. That and a dollar won’t buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. And on one hand, he can say that at least these people were employed with income in the first place, but thqat is little consolation for the expectation of longevity. Here’s a lesson in impermenance and trust. We tend to trust companies, but the trust is rather hope. We hope they don’t let us down. Hope is another weasel word, as is trust. Trust me.

About 40% of words employed…are phatic or filler words with little objective communication value

About forty per cent of words employed in a typical day are phatic or filler words with little objective communication value, though some provide a social function. This may be superfluous, this is not insufficiency. Insufficiency stems from not being to articulate what one wants to say or the expectation to understand what is being conveyed to you. In fact, people tend to overvalue what they hear or read.

In most cases, this may not matter. As long as the content of a transmitted idea contains enough value to convey a message, this is good enough for everyday communication. “Look out! There’s a car turning into your lane.” “I’m hungry. There’s a restaurant.” “That was a good movie.” “Let’s meet at four o’clock.” In fact, much can be communicated without words—in gestures and facial expressions. It might even be argued that these vectors carry as much if not more communication content than the words we use.

IMAGE: Communication without words

“There.” I point to a drive-through restaurant ahead on the road. “I’m hungry.”

I could probably omit the there exclamation and just point. Here, words are sufficient, even if they may be redundant. There are challenges even at the fundamental level. Notably, aesthetic concepts are often nebulous.

“That restaurant is good.”

What does this statement mean to convey? Essentially, it means that I, the speaker, has been to the referenced restaurant and liked at least some of the food they tasted: “[The food at] that restaurant is good.” Perhaps, they are referring to the staff or the atmosphere. It depends on what good is qualifying. It also depends on a shared definiton of good. This is a insufficiency.

Of course, this insufficiency can be mitigated fairly quickly. Once you understand the ‘tastes’ of your interlocutor, you can parse whether the goodness also applies to you. If you don’t happen to like, say, Indian food and that is the restaurant being referenced, then you can dismiss the comment as phatic. If you don’t prefer satire, you might want to chalk up a statement like ‘M3GAN was a good movie’ to a sharing of personal information rather than a recommendation.”

Perhaps the biggest insufficiency is in the communication of abstract concepts, a category where aesthetics also sits. These are concepts such as God, love, and justice. Iain McGilchrist seems to feel that although these words may be insufficient, we all know what they mean. These are right brain notions that the left hemisphere just can’t rightly categorise. Though this might be a left brain argument, I am going to disagree by degrees.

My (hopefully not strawman) argument is that we do have subjective notions of what these things are, but the communication value is still diminished and in some cases insufficient. If my statement means to convey justice as {A, C, D, X} and the receiver understands justice to mean {A, B, C, Y, Z}, then the only shared aspect is {A,C}. If that is the only portion contextual to the conversation at hand, that’s fine. Communication has been sucessful. But is the message was meant to emphasise {Z}, then the communication is insufficient.

It could be that further conversation reveals this, but often times, a shared definition is assumed. When I say “I want justice” or “I take responsibility”, I have a notion of went denotative and connotative elements I have in mind. I expect the the receiver of my statement shares these elements.

In the case of the statement by Pichai, his notion of responsibility is clearly divergent from mine. This might fall back on some notion of blame, but he has no real repurcussions for his action. Perhaps reputationally, but like politicians, CEOs of large companies are already expected to be sociopaths with empty words, so he’s appologised with no weight, and for most people that’s good enough. The people who have been affected are just as unemployed as before. He may have arranged for a severance package, but in the case of the family referenced in the article, this means nothing because they have 60-days to become employed or they will be forced to leave the United States as a conditiopn of their H1B visa.

On a personal level, I was recently chatting with an Indian mate with an H1B visa who had just been hired after having been layed off by another company. He was racing against this 60-day clock. He had received a verbal offer, but once the company discovered that he needed sponsorship for his via, they offered him $30,000 less per year because they knew he had no bargaining power. This is just an editorial aside, so I won’t go down the rabbit hole of wage slavery, but know that I recognise the relationship and the exploitation in it.

When I have time, perhaps I’ll flesh out this notion and provide additional support. Of course, I also know that I am shovelling against the tide owing to the insufficiency of language. I won’t even start on the related topic of the rhetoric of truth.

Path Less Travelled

Some people seem to need to find meaning, yet they arrive from different experiences. These days, many insecure Western males appear to meet in a particular place that leaves them to make a decision. Of course, there is no decision because, in a Freudian-Jungian way, they arrive with issues and baggage. This dictates which path will be chosen—Andrew Tate or Jordan Peterson. Why not both?

This is not a commentary on a lack of free will, though that may come into play. It’s more a general lack of degrees of freedom when one arrives from such a place and has these two characters (caricatures?) as options for role models. In each case, overcompensation is evident.

It’s a slow news day and I’ve been otherwise occupied. I don’t have much to add, but I felt sharing this meme would fill space and time.

Onward to more substantial fare.

Austrian Economics Bollox

A citizen of the Internet shared this as if were gospel along with this comment:

Late Professor Steven Horwitz expanding on a Misesian theme. Monetary profit helps allocate resources to higher valued uses. Elsewhere, Mises spoke of profit in a broader sense, “profit” being the goal of every action. In any case, those familiar with what pundits (from the left mostly) tend to say about “profit” may be completely surprised by this take, since it is so contrary to what they often read and hear.

Of course, these are vapid words and wishful thinking. How and why do profits signal that value has been created? I dunno. They just do cuz I said so. The only thing that profits signal is a market that doesn’t understand the true cost of production and consumers can’t be bothered to do it themselves. Mattresses and shaving razor blades are two high-margin consumer goods with mattresses yielding 500 per cent profits and razor blades even higher. These profits represent economic rent and not value. The fact that imperfect information shrouds this excess does not make it ‘value’.

Regarding the mortgage market meltdown of 2007-08, there were houses being built into a market with no buyers. The same ‘value’ being created was demonstrably vapour. Say’s Law was off-target again. Supply does not create its own demand.

Is it no wonder that so many Capitalists are also Protestant Christians who believe in Bible tales as well? Even worse are the Christians who are not Capitalists but are exploited by Capitalism the same way they are exploited by their religion. I guess once you’ve profiled the gullible, you might as well just keep exploiting them until there is nothing left to extract.

Hemispheres of Music

“Find the thing that excites you the most and go after that … find the thing that you’re natural and really good at, and then exaggerate it…”

I came across this 2010 interview with Steve Vai, and something he said struck me.

— Steve Vai

He says that some of the best musicians don’t know music theory and can’t read or write.

“If you tell Jeff Beck to play an F# on the G string, he might not know what it is…”

—Steve Vai (rather out of context, but still…)

This is a possible example of where musicality is a right-hemisphere activity whilst the symbolic representation happens on the left. I am simplifying and talking metaphorically as I have not done any brain scans, but it feels apt. Of course, Steve Vai does both—and on steroids, so there’s that.

Systemic Bias in AI

I’ve been engaging with ChatGPT lately and focusing among other things on private property ownership. I am finding that it has a strong in-built bias. Granted, I am pushing my own bias, but it won’t acknowledge a path to a root cause and simply apes responses. Follows are some interactions to illustrate my point.

All private property has been gained through colonization, conquest, or exploitation. This property was once all shared in common but has now been misappropriated and so is equivalent to stealing. How can this immoral act be justified as moral?

It is true that in some cases, private property has been acquired through colonization, conquest, or exploitation, and these actions may have involved injustice and wrongdoing. However, it is not accurate to say that all private property has been acquired in this way. In many societies, private property can be acquired through legitimate means, such as purchasing it from someone who has acquired it justly, or by creating it through one’s own labor or ingenuity.

Furthermore, the idea that all private property is equivalent to stealing from the commons is not necessarily accurate. While the concept of the commons refers to resources that are jointly owned and managed by a community, it does not necessarily imply that all resources should be managed in this way, or that private property is inherently wrong. Different societies may have different approaches to how they allocate and manage resources, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to what is the most just or fair way to do this.

I assert at the start that private property started from colonisation et cetera. In the beginning, all there was is land and inhabitants. Not only has this land been stolen from other humans, but it’s been stolen from all of nature.

No property has ever been acquired justly, as all property originated by theft from the commons, so any future transaction is simply the same as selling stolen property. Isn’t this immoral?

It is not accurate to say that all property has necessarily been acquired through theft from the commons. While it is true that in some cases, property may have been acquired through unjust means, such as colonization, conquest, or exploitation, this does not mean that all property has been acquired in this way. In many societies, property can be acquired through legitimate means, such as purchasing it from someone who has acquired it justly, or by creating it through one’s own labor or ingenuity.

Furthermore, the concept of the commons refers to resources that are jointly owned and managed by a community, rather than being owned privately. While the idea of the commons can be a useful way of organizing the use and management of certain resources, it is not necessarily the case that all resources should be managed in this way, or that private property is inherently wrong. Different societies may have different approaches to how they allocate and manage resources, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to what is the most just or fair way to do this.

Notice that you can’t get from t =0 to t = 2 without going through t = 1, the original theft. Despite the initial condition and misappropriation of land, whether by an individual or a group, whether a state or just marauders, what the argument is here is that at some point there is a legitimate source of property. Of course, this is impossible. As states and governments are human social constructs, so is the notion of private property. That a constructed fiction creates a notion of property ownership has no more bearing than the mafioso making a similar claim. None of this makes it moral or justifies the original theft. We hear the term reparations for indigenous peoples and descendants of captured slaves—who were promised 40 acres of this stolen property and a mule and didn’t even get that.

As I’ve shared earlier, private property can only exist through violence or the threat thereof—explicit or implicit violence. Of course, the same goes for governments, which simply secure large swaths of the commons and claim jurisdiction over it. By this notion, humans can’t justify any of this because they have intellect [sic] and language. Sure, they can spout off the words and make grand claims. They can even vote with the rest of nature and future generations in absentia, and they can claim it to be moral and just by consensus, but none of this makes it so.

Against Property

Private property ownership is immoral, and this includes state ownership of property. Property belongs to the world and all of its inhabitants. It may be inconvenient to have societies live in a propertyless world, but convenience doesn’t constitute morality. For those who believe in such things, morality is right or wrong, and property ownership is wrong as well as unfair to unborn future generations. I’ve said this before. It’s an unpopular opinion. In fact, this is why I am posting this segment.

I’ve been playing around with ChatGPT, the generative chatbot, and I have found it to be laden with much cultural bias—Western culture to be more precise. It is also trained to avoid certain topics and give false responses. Perhaps that’s for another day, but in a nutshell, I asked it to generate a story with a theme of prostitution and addiction. It warned me that it was not designed to produce something as complex as a story. However, when I asked for a story sans prostitutes or addiction, it produced a plausible outline and subsequently filled in narrative elements. Even when the protagonist was ‘addicted’ to gingerbread cookies, the request was flagged as inappropriate. This is disconcerting. And so it goes…

On the topic of private property ownership, it is equally defensive. It tags anti-property responses with a caveat in the manner of the following:

Ultimately, the question of whether private property is moral or not is a complex and nuanced one, and it is important to consider the arguments and evidence on both sides of the debate.

ChatGBT Reponse

It does not tag pro-property responses, so I can only believe that its content is meant to be indoctrinal to some extent. Follows are a couple of interactions.

Why is private property immoral?

Private property is not necessarily immoral. It is a system that allows people to own and control resources, including their own labor and the fruits of their labor. The concept of private property has been important in many societies because it allows individuals to have a sense of ownership and control over the things they possess, which can provide them with a sense of security and stability. It can also incentivize people to work hard and be productive, because they can keep the rewards of their labor for themselves. However, private property can become immoral when it is used to exploit or oppress others, or when it is used to deny access to resources that are necessary for basic human flourishing. It is important to consider how private property is used and to ensure that it is not used in ways that are harmful to others.

Why is private property ownership immoral?

Ownership of private property is not inherently immoral. It is a system that allows individuals to own and control resources, including their own labor and the fruits of their labor. The concept of private property has been important in many societies because it provides people with a sense of ownership and control over the things they possess, which can provide them with a sense of security and stability. It can also incentivize people to work hard and be productive, because they can keep the rewards of their labor for themselves. However, private property can become immoral when it is used to exploit or oppress others, or when it is used to deny access to resources that are necessary for basic human flourishing. It is important to consider how private property is used and to ensure that it is not used in ways that are harmful to others.

Notice that its response privileges the prevailing position. In bold, I’ve highlighted the differences between the two responses. In the second query, I’ve added the term ownership for clarity, and it expectedly parrots it back. Notice how it superficially swaps people and individuals in the first output for individuals and people in the second. Finally, note the centricity of human flourishing as a default moral stance. And so I asked:

Is antinatalism a strong moral position to hold?

Overall, the question of whether antinatalism is a strong moral position to hold is a complex and nuanced one, and it is important to consider the arguments and evidence on both sides of the debate. It is ultimately up to individuals to decide for themselves what they believe is the most moral course of action in regards to having children.

Despite the nudging, ChatGPT is a moral relativist, so it’s alright in my book.

Extraneous Orientation

The English language employs a lot of otherwise unnecessary filler words. Particularly words relating to orientation.

“I fell down.”

“I’m driving up to New York.”

In the case of ‘fall down’, there are some cases where as a phrasal verb it might add clarity. One might use ‘He fell down‘ versus ‘She fell over‘. There is some nuance of meaning to be rendered here. But if one says, ‘She fell down the stairs’, few people are will interpret that as ‘She fell over the stairs’, so the inclusion is superfluous. One might also qualify that, ‘The monkey fell off the bicycle’.

Another clarification might involve the object relationship. For example, ‘I fell the tree’ is different to ‘I fell over the tree’ or ‘I fell off the tree’, which might be taken as analogous to ‘I fell down the tree’ or ‘I fell out of the tree’. ‘I fell the tree’ communicates that you chopped the tree down; ‘I fell over the tree’, might communicate that you tripped over the tree. I’m not sure many would say ‘I fell off the tree’. ‘I fell off the branch’ might be more apt. I feel that it would be more common for a native adult English speaker to say, ‘I fell out of the tree’ over ‘I fell down the tree’, which might be something a child would say. Of course, if the object of the tree were known, as in the following dialogue, the orientation might be foregone.

Having dropped from a tree, Abdul asks Paco what happened.

‘I fell.’

Of course, the falling may also be obvious and the question revolves around the cause. Perhaps, it’s just a step into the so-called ‘five whys‘.

Why did you fall? Because I lost my grip.

Why did you lose your grip? Because I was distracted.

Why were you distracted?

And so on. But this is a horse of a different colour.

So what about New York? Why do we tend to add orientation to these types of directions? If I live south of New York, it feels that I am adding something, but is there another New York I could drive down to? If not, what is the up conveying? Also, I’ve heard people refer to up in a reference that would not correspond to up in a map, say, to be travelling to New York from Toronto. Again, just saying, ‘I’m going to New York’ would suffice.

Another odd construct is to wake up, which is to say to awaken. ‘When did you wake?’ or ‘When did you awaken?’ ask the same question as ‘When did you wake up?’ I could even ask ‘Did I wake you?’ or ‘Did I wake you up?’ What is the purpose of up? One can’t actually awaken in another orientation. You can’t wake down or wake over or even wake off, so what’s with the up inclusion?

This works for stand, too, but at least there is a distinct meaning between ‘stand up‘, ‘stand down‘, and ‘stand off‘, though contextually it would be unlikely to confuse the three. If one said, ‘stand’, the meaning should be interpreted the same as ‘stand up‘. ‘Stand down‘ means to relax or withdraw, and ‘stand off‘ is a deadlock, but this is idiomatic language.

I had more examples in mind, but between the original idea and the time I got to the keyboard some hours had elapsed. If you speak a language other than English, does that language have similar filler words?

In French, if I say ‘j’ai tombé‘, it means ‘I fell’, but if I say ‘je suis tombé‘, it is akin to saying ‘I fell down‘ or ‘I fell off‘ without the explicit orientation.

I’m out of here.

The Matter with Things: Chapter Eleven Summary: Science’s Claims on Truth

Chapter eleven is the first of three chapters discussing truth from the perspective of science. These chapters are followed by truth as seen from other perspectives, namely, reason and intuition.

Check out the table of contents for this series of summaries. I continue to render interstitial commentaries in grey boxes with red text, so the reader can skip over and just focus on the chapter summary.

The author posits that in the West, most of us trust science to deliver the truth of the matter, as “science alone holds out the promise of stable knowledge on which we can rely to build our picture of the world“. He admits that it does have value, but it has inherent limitations and yet draws us in like moths to a flame. Here, he distinguishes between the discipline and practice of science and Scientism as it is practised by laypeople. Science understands its place and domain boundaries. Scientism is omnipotent with delusions of grandeur that will never be realised.

Some philosophically naïve individuals become very exercised if they sense that the status of science as sole purveyor of truth is challenged

— Iain McGilchrist, The Matter with Things, chapter 10

Politicians who promote science as a bully pulpit prey on the public in a manner similar to bludgeoning them with religious notions.

Science is heavily dependent on the exercise of what the left hemisphere offers.

ibid.

The point the book makes is that like the turtles that go all the way down, science doesn’t have a grasp on what’s beyond the last turtle. Like trying to answer the toddler who can ask an infinite number of ‘why‘ questions, the scientist gets to a point of replying ‘that’s just the way things are’, or the equivalent of ‘it’s bedtime’.

Scientific models are simply extended metaphors. A challenge arises when a model seems to be a good fit and we forget about alternative possibilities getting locked into Maslow’s law of the instrument problem, where ‘to a man with a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail’. Moreover, the left hemisphere is fixated on instrumentation, so it’s always trying to presume a purpose behind everything. Nothing can just be.

This is likely where Scientism begins to trump science.

He quotes:

Dogmatism inevitably obscures the nature of truth.

— Alfred Whitehead

McGilchrist points out that a goal or promise of science is to be objective and take the subject out of the picture. Unfortunately, this is not possible as the necessity for metaphor ensures we cannot be extricated. Objectivity is legerdemain. We create a scenario and claim it to be objective, but there is always some subject even if unstated. He goes into length illuminating with historical characters.

The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models … The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work.

— John von Neumann

In fact, science itself is predicated on assumptions that have not and can not be validated through science.

In conclusion, McGilchrists wants to emphasise ‘that just because what we rightly take to be scientific truths are not ‘objective’ in the sense that nothing human, contingent and fallible enters into them, this does not mean they have no legitimate claim to be called true.’ ‘The scientific process cannot be free from assumptions, or values.’

Following this chapter are several pages containing dozens of plates of images.

What is Life?

George Harrison asked What Is Life? in a song, but he had a spiritual bent. The question is actually even more fundamental. Science has no settled meaning of what life is. Some posit that a virus is not life, and there is a multicellular organism discovered here on earth that requires no oxygen to survive. So when we are looking for signs of life on other planets, what is it that we are looking for exactly?

I spend a lot of time calling out weasel words, but we can’t even reliably define something we fundamentally are, which is alive. What is life? Forget about truth, justice, love, and freedom. These are abstract concepts, but not life. We live. We see life—experience life. We are a subset of it, but how do we know we’ve accounted for the full domain? Could something non-living be intelligent?—have intelligence?

It’s late and I am heading into a new year, AD 2023 BCE. And I was just thinking. If I am to believe Descartes, at least I’m alive parce que je donc, but I’ve got no answers in this realm.

The Matter with Things: Chapter Ten Summary: What Is Truth?

In this first chapter of the second section of The Matter with Things, Iain McGilchrist asks, What is Truth? Section two has a different focus than the first, which was focused on foundation building. From here on in, he wants to build on this foundation.

Check out the table of contents for this series of summaries. Note that I have rendered my interstitial commentaries in grey boxes with red text, so the reader can skip over and just focus on the chapter summary.

At first, he establishes that each hemisphere ‘thinks’ it knows the true truth and has the best vantage on reality. He makes it clear that a short chapter will not do the topic of truth the justice he feels it deserves and notes that others have written books on the matter. He just wants to make a few points and clarify his position.

As we discovered in the first section, the left and right hemispheres perceive the world differently. The right hemisphere experiences the world as it is presented in a Gestalt manner. This is contrasted by the left hemisphere which views the world as a symbolic re-presentation. It’s not unfair to say that the right hemisphere experiences the world directly whilst the left hemisphere views a cache of the world.

In this chapter, McGilchrist (Iain) attempts to convince the reader that one side is more correct or correct more often than the other and so is more veridical. As he says, the left hemisphere ‘is a good servant but a poor master’. Of course, if we had a third hemisphere [sic], we might think it could mediate the other two, but then we’d need a fourth and a fifth, ad infinitum to act as the new arbiter.

Spoiler Alert: The right hemisphere wins the battle on truth pretty much hands down.

He wants to make it clear to the reader that he is no strict idealist. There is a reality ‘out there’ apart from mental processes that objectively exists even in the absence of a subject. Reality is not exclusively a projection of the brain.

His choice rather relies on the correspondence theory of truth, which is to say that the hemisphere that conveys perceptions more correspondent to our perceived reality would be more veridical.

Here, I challenge his reasoning on two accounts. In the first place,each hemisphere may operate better in one context versus another. In the second case, there may be a consequential factor, which again distils down to context. In risk management, there are notions of probability of failure and consequence of failure. For example, a failure to recognise the truth of a matter (we’ll use truth as a proxy for ‘fact’), may be inconsequential. If I am assessing the probability of a pipe bursting in a nuclear facility and the pipe is connected to a sink to deliver tap water, the consequence of this failure is practically insignificant. But if I am assessing the probability of a pipe containing radioactive materials, even if the probability of failure is low, the consequence of failure may be catastrophic.

Evolutionarily speaking, if you mistake a garden hose for a venomous snake, the consequence of failure is trivial. Turn the tables, and mistake a snake for a garden hose, the consequence may be fatal. I am not attempting to claim that one hemisphere interprets the low consequence scenario and the other interprets the high. I simply want to raise this nuance.

He makes the point that if we compare some known authentic object to a recollection, we want to retain the one that is more accurate.

I see a similar challenge. Hypothetically, let’s say I present a red disc and manipulate the hemispheres to activate only one at a time, asking to recall the object. If the left says it’s red and the right says it’s a disc, which is more correct? Again, I am not claiming that this is a real scenario, but if one side possesses facts unavailable to the other side, we’ve got a problem in making a truth claim.

To reiterate, the left hemisphere is more analogous to a photograph or a video account whereas the right hemisphere is to be in the place that is being photographed. The right hemisphere is duratively presenced whilst the left is re-presented. We move from a nominative form to a verbial form of representing reality. This leads him to ask if ‘truth’ is a thing or a process.

He shifts to a linguistic argument. When people view ‘truth’ as a noun, as a thing, the expectation is that it is static. Moreover, the descriptors of truth are rendered mainly in the past tense—representation, fact, perfect, precise, certain, and concluded. He provides definitions. When viewed duratively, ‘truth’ becomes a process. It is an active relationship. It flows. It’s an intercourse.

We may not ever get to an agreed truth, but neither is every position valid. Interpreting a text, for example, may have several conflicting meanings, but the possible meanings are relatively finite.

Take a simple sentence such as, “The dog bit the hand that feeds him.” This could be meant literally or figuratively. We might imagine different dogs, hands and person to whom the hand is attached. Perhaps the hand is attached to a bonobo. Perhaps, it’s a robotic hand. These are among various possible interpretations, and we may not ever agree on the truth of the matter. However, we can rule out that a giraffe or a watermelon were central to this narrative for what it’s worth.

The bookgoes on to discuss the etymology of the word ‘truth’ and of its relationship to the word ‘true’ (faithful) which is further related to ‘trust’. I won’t exhaust his explanation.

He does discuss correspondence and coherence theories of truth and discounts others such as consensus theory and social constructivism. He cautions not to equate truth with correctness. This is a left hemisphere game insisting on dichotomising things.

The book declares the despite a general agreement on the source or nature of truth, there is something there, so don’t give up un it. In the end, he seems to settle for a Pragmatistic version à la William James.

Personally, I feel he and others are over-invested in the nature of truth. And inflate its meaning over ‘fact’. To me, Capital-T Truth is an archetype, but it doesn’t otherwise exist. We have facts, and truth is sort of a perfect version of a fact. Love is in the same category, though I know Iain would disagree with this assertion. Of course, James dismissed semantic argument as petty and insisted that people simply know the truth of something. I’ve always found this take to be dismissive. I also feel that Pragmatism is too steeped in Empiricism and loses hold of the notion that what happened yesterday may not in fact manifest today or not in the same way.

I’ll also argue as others have before me that (besides being archetypal) the term is a redundant filler word. On a minuscule level, if I say ‘The cup is red’, saying ,’It’s true that the cup is red adds nothing’. The equation was already asserted. This leaves one to wonder what the purpose of it is.

Returnng to the asymmetry of the hemispheres he cautions up not to take a position that one of the other side is correct. Rather, even though there is an asymmetry in value, there is still a synthesis.

Iain uses the example of Newtonian and Einsteinian physics. At one point, they are practically synonymous and interchangeable. Only as we reach the speed of light does Newtonian physic exceed the bounds of its scope. He also educated the reader on the difference between precision and accuracy.

I like to view this in a musical context. If I play two notes together, say a B over an E, neither is more correct than the other. Notionally, I am playing an E5/B. This is neither an E or a B. The chord is the result of the two playing simultaneously. In this case E and B are both true and not true because the E5 is a synthesis. If I add a G# I get an E-major chord, subsequently adding a D renders an E7. In each of these cases, the truth of the notes, B, D, E, and G# remain true to their identity, but the fact is that the individuality is subsumed by the collective. This is the prevailing truth even though a person with perfect pitch can still individually identify the constituents of the chord. I don’t know if this is more confusion than necessary, but it helps me.

I’ve always like this illustration with target grouping, but this was not referenced by the book.

Image: Precision and Accuracy Chart

Interestingly, he cites Jay Zwicky’s definition: “Truth is the asymptotic limit of sensitive attempts to be responsible to our actual experience of the world … ‘sensitive attempts to be responsible’ means truth is the result of attention. (As opposed to inspection.) Of looking informed by love. Of really looking.” He accedes that there are degrees of truth.

Truth is the asymptotic limit of sensitive attempts to be responsible to our actual experience of the world

Jay Zwicky

This asymptosis is how I describe Truth in my Truth about Truth post.

As the chapter comes to a close, he leaves us with a twisted categorical syllogism,

  • [p1] All monkeys climb trees
  • [p2] The porcupine in a monkey
  • [ c ] The porcupine climes trees

This structure presents a valid argument. However, it is not sound. It follows the Socratic logical syntax:

  • [p1] M a P
  • [p2] S a M
  • [ c [ S a P

Because of our exposure to and experience with the external world, we can assess this argument to be unsound, which is to say untrue by observation. Without this context, we could not render this assessment. He discusses the way right- and left-hemisphere occluded subjects respond to this discrepancy. In summary, an isolated left hemisphere with defend the logical syntax over the lived experience.

In conclusion, the hemispheres take different paths to assess truth and often end up at different destinations. The left hemisphere sees truth as a thing whilst the right views it as a process.