W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-logic@w3.org > June 2001

Re: Absolute Truth -vs- relative truth

From: pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
Date: Fri, 8 Jun 2001 19:38:59 -0500
Message-Id: <v04210182b74718519767@[]>
To: "Seth Russell" <seth@robustai.net>
Cc: www-rdf-logic@w3.org
I suggest we take this correspondence off the RDFlogic lists from now on.

>From: "pat hayes" <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
> > >[1] Any agent can interpret a sentence.
> > >[2] Such an agent can also model reality.
> > >[3] The match between the interpretation of the sentence by the agent and
> > >that agent's model of reality is this thing we have been calling "truth".
> >
> > Not me. I was referring to the match between the sentence and the
> > reality, as when someone says "your fly is undone" and I look *at my
> > pants* (to see if what he said is *true*). I don't go into a trance
> > and look at a mental model of my pants.
>Oh, i see, I wan't aware that you could see things without use of mental
>models.  Were you born that way, or did it just come about by some kind of
>divine intervention?  Can I always come to you for these rulings as to the
>facts in a matter?

Look at what I wrote. I said I didn't look AT a mental model. I too 
believe that when we humans see things, a mental model is built in 
out heads; but (1) that is still only a theory, in fact, and (2) we 
don't look AT our mental models; if anything, we might be said to 
look 'with' them , or something like that. If you still find this 
confusing, read Dennett's 'consciousness explained'

> > >[4] My only point is that there is no preferred agent.
> >
> > True. (I also don't pray to God to tell me if my fly is undone.)
> >
> > >How can you possibly factor the agent out of that description without
> > >erronious assumptions ?
>I would like to ammend the wording of that question:
>How can you possibly factor the agent out of that description without making
>assumptions based on faith?
> > Of course I might make errors. We might all make errors; Im not
> > saying anything about arriving at ultimate certainty.
>Well at least we agree there.  However my interpertatin of your words
>implies otherwise.

Then you are misinterpreting them, as I have indeed tried on several 
occasions to explain to you. You are taking a passionate stand 
against a position I do not hold, and have not asserted, because you 
are misunderstanding what I (and a whole lot of other people) mean by 
'true'. So this discussion is pointless: you aren't arguing with 

> > >How can you possibly get any information from any earstwhile preferred
> > >agent?
> >
> > Look, Im not talking about agents. Saying a sentence is 'true' doesnt
> > mean the source is reliable; it means the sentence accurately
> > describes the world.
>Well since we cannot know the ~accurate~ description of the world, then all
>of your sentences denote an unknown.

You are getting two different issues confused with one another: the 
metaphysical accuracy of an conceptual scheme (which indeed may be 
impossible to ultimately be sure of, cf. Popper and Kuhn), and the 
conformity of reality to a description, which is a much more mundane, 
everyday, matter that I am calling 'truth', after Tarski and others. 
I might for example not know the ultimate truth about the true nature 
of wood, but still it can be  simply and plainly true that this table 
at which I am sitting is made of wood (whatever that is, *really*.)

>But that is absurb.  So, NO!  You,
>saying a sentence is true, means the sentence accurately describes the world
>according to your interpertation of the world.

We interpret the world, but we also live in it and are part of it, 
and that being situated in the world happens independently of our 
conception of it. When someone is killed by colliding with a car 
moving at 50 mph, they die just as surely, no matter what 
interpretation anyone puts on anything.  The world impinges on us 
every instant of our lives, whether we interpret it one way or 
another, or indeed even if we do not interpret it all.

> >Now, of course, you might want to reason about
> > the veracity or otherwise of the source, and you might conclude that
> > the sentence wasn't true, or that, salve verite, whenever source A
> > contradicts source B on matters pertaining to topic D, you will take
> > A's word for it, or whatever. But the upshot of all this reasoning
> > is, in the end, that you will have chosen some sentences to accept,
> > ie to take *as being true*. Without that final understanding of a
> > sentence as saying something *about the world*, it remains just a
> > sentence, a piece of mere syntax.
>Hey!  I would agree that a sentence says something about the world, if I
>agree that it is a true sentence.

Then you are contradicting what you said earlier. Once you have 
agreed that the sentence is true, what else do you need to know about 
it? Suppose it was me that told you: do you think that you need to 
always come back to me to check whether or not it is true? After all, 
by your lights, it was only true *in my interpretation*. If sentences 
can be true simpliciter, then your view seems to be similar to mine.

> Factor me out of that equation and you
>are talking only to your God.
> > > >If we all take a relativistic view of truth in
> > > > this sense we will rapidly get to the point where we are trying to
> > > > walk through walls.
> > >
> > >Not at all.  Rather I think that if people understand that there is no
> > >absolute interpretation of things, then they will be more tolerant of
> > >others.
> >
> > Truth doesnt mean absolute interpretation, it means correspondence to
>Where do we go to get the official rulings on that correspondance ?

You don't need to go anywhere. If you understood my sentence, you 
already have the rules: they are part of what enabled you to 
interpret the meaning of my sentences.  Bien sűr, c'est possible que 
vous ne pouvez pas savoir la langue; mais dans ce cas, les questions 
d'interprétation sont sans pertinence.


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Received on Friday, 8 June 2001 20:38:48 UTC

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