Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

Jef Allbright writes:

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:

But our main criterion for what to believe should be
what is true, right?

I'm very interested in whether the apparent tautology
is my misunderstanding, his transparent belief, a simple
lack of precision, or something more.

Thanks for the compliments about my writing. I meant that what we should believe does not necessarily have to be the same as what is true, but I think that unless there are special circumstances, it ought to be the case.

I agree within the context you intended.  My point was that we can never
be certain of truth, so we should be careful in our speech and thinking
not to imply that such truth is even available to us for the kind of
comparisons being discussed here.  We can know that some patterns of
action work better than others, but the only "truth" we can assess is
always within a specific context.

Brent Meeker made a similar point: if someone is dying of a terminal illness, maybe it is better that he believe he has longer to live than the medical evidence suggests, but that would have to be an example of special circumstances.

There are plenty of examples of self-deception providing benefits within
the scope of the individual, and leading to increasingly effective
models of "reality for the group.  Here's a recent article on this

If he had said something like "our main criterion
for what to believe should be what works, what seems
to work, what passes the tests of time, etc." or had
made a direct reference to Occam's Razor, I would be comfortable knowing that we're thinking alike on this point. But I've seen this stumbling block arise so many
times and so many places that I'm very curious to learn
something of its source.

The question of what is the truth is a separate one, but one criterion I would add to those you mention above is that it should come from someone able to put aside his own biases and wishes where these might influence his assessment of the evidence.

I agree, but would point out that by definition, one can not actually
set aside one's one biases because to do so would require an objective
view of oneself.  Rather, one can be aware that such biases exist in
general, and implement increasingly effective principles (e.g.
scientific method) to minimize them.

> > We might never be certain of the truth, so our beliefs should always > > be tentative, but that doesn't mean we should believe whatever we > > fancy. > > Here it's a smaller point, and I agree with the main thrust of the > statement, but it leaves a door open for the possibility that we might > actually be justifiably certain of the truth in *some* case, and I'm > wonder where that open door is intended to lead.

I said "might" because there is one case where I am certain of the truth, which is that I am having the present experience.

Although we all share the illusion of a direct and immediate sense of
consciousness, on what basis can you claim that it actually is real?

Further, how can you claim certainty of the "truth" of subjective
experience when there is so much experimental and clinical evidence that
self-reported experience consists largely of distortions, gaps, time
delays and time out of sequence, fabrications and confabulations?

I realize that people can acknowledge all that I've just said, but still
claim the validity of their internal experience to be privileged on the
basis that only they can judge, but then how can they legitimately
contradict themselves a moment later about factual matters, e.g. when
the drugs wear off, the probe is removed from their brain, the brain
tumor is removed, the mob has dispersed, the hypnotist is finished, the
fight is over, the adrenaline rush has subsided, the pain has stopped,
the oxytocin flush has declined... What kind of "truth" could this be?

Of course the subjective self is the only one able to report on
subjective experience, but how can it *justifiably* claim to be

To be certain of the truth of something implies being able to see it
objectively, right? Or does it equally imply no questions asked?

- Jef

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups 
"Everything List" group.
To post to this group, send email to
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to [EMAIL PROTECTED]
For more options, visit this group at

Reply via email to