Is it possible to track the truth?


Epistemology seems to show that knowledge is always fallible. How can that position be satisfying at all? It seems to me that we are eternally condemned to hope we are going in the right direction and that our beliefs about the external world are true. Can't there be a compromise? Is there a way of tracking the truth with certainty?


Posted 2019-03-26T09:01:46.663


"Certainty" ? It is hard to imagine. Human knowledge is fallible and revisable, but modern scientific knowledge is a good example of success in the process of attaining reliable knowledge; see Scientific Objectivity.

– Mauro ALLEGRANZA – 2019-03-26T10:32:23.737

I would question the assumption that knowledge is always fallible. Are you quite certain? I'm not sure what you mean here by 'tracking'. . – None – 2019-03-26T12:45:41.090

2Why should it be satisfying? It is a common platitude that the universe provides what we need, not what we want. If there is a good case for infallible knowledge then we should consider it, but our hopes and sentimental preferences are of no consequence. "Compromising" facts to match wishful thinking is not a good idea. – Conifold – 2019-03-26T18:29:02.137

It is not clear to me what “tracking” the truth might mean. – Mark Andrews – 2019-03-26T23:53:57.263

I'm very sorry that someone felt the need to remove my admittedly inarticulate comment suggesting intuition as a means "to track the truth". But I still believe I was on the right track (spontaneous pun intended, lol); and I hope the following link to Kant's Philosophy of Mathematics in SEP will be more helpful. Searching "intuition" within this article yields 62 hits, and I think it's a very interesting subject and relevant to the question. However, I will abstain from answering the question, since my personal knowledge about the subject is purely intuitive. – Bread – 2019-03-27T03:03:28.453

*..."Kant tells us that it is unnecessary to subject mathematics to such a critique because the use of pure reason in mathematics is kept to a “visible track” via intuition: “[mathematical] concepts must immediately be exhibited in concreto in pure intuition, through which anything unfounded and arbitrary instantly becomes obvious”* This is just a small snippet, but the whole article is fascinating, imho.

– Bread – 2019-03-27T03:04:45.413

Intuition: instinct, feeling, impression, hunch, insight. Insight: the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing. – Bread – 2019-03-27T03:09:56.657

1"Is there a way of tracking the truth with certainty?" There's a great Twilight Zone episode. Crook dies, finds himself in a place where he gets everything he wants, exactly the way he likes it. He soon finds it terribly boring. He says that if he's in heaven, he wants to go to the other place. His guide gives an evil laugh and says, "This IS the other place!" – user4894 – 2019-03-27T03:26:14.157

@user4894 So boredom is the ultimate punishment for you, I gather. And Twilight Zone amuses you, lol. – Bread – 2019-03-27T03:48:37.190

@Bread Now that you mention it, yes, Boredom is the ultimate punishment for me. And I love the Twilight Zone episodes. Breathes there a soul who doesn't? – user4894 – 2019-03-27T03:53:08.773

@user4894 I outgrew TZ 50 years ago, never watch TV anymore (it's boring), and I'm very selective these days about movies and music. Changing the subject, but I see that you are active in Math SE. What do you think of my comments above, suggesting intuition as a means "to track the truth"? – Bread – 2019-03-27T04:00:36.413

@Bread If you have a soul and you are breathing, then you are indeed an example of a soul that breathes who does not love the old TZ episodes. I stand corrected. Kant's ideas about the intuitiveness of space were blown out of the by water Einstein. Modern physics fits very poorly with intuition. – user4894 – 2019-03-27T05:03:25.320

@4894 Einstein had excellent intuition, yet I concede to your authority on the topic. I'm just intrigued with intuition's role in epistemology. I'm certainly of the 'mystic' school, however: *the special sciences all deal not with reality, but with systems of useful constructions of the mind, and that it is, therefore, left to philosophy to deal with reality itself, by intuition (Bergson), by dialectic reasoning (Munsterberg), or by faith and reason (Duhem).*

– Bread – 2019-03-27T11:15:16.843

My alternative suggestion would be for dialectic reasoning, with regard to this question. I just personally happen to lean more toward intuition. Hopefully someone brighter and better educated than me will give us a nice answer for this question. (I was actually thinking less along the lines of "modern physics" than about the philosophy of mathematics and epistemology, btw; and hopefully the links I have provided here will help to corroborate the facts.) – Bread – 2019-03-27T11:25:05.813

Let us continue this discussion in chat.

– Bread – 2019-03-27T11:39:08.363



The Tracking Theory of Truth

A tracking theory of knowledge is one that describes knowledge as a belief that tracks the truth in a reliable way.

The tracking theory of knowledge was created by Robert Nozick as an attempt to deal with Gettier counterexamples to the previous definition of knowledge — that knowledge is justified true belief.

Philosophy Index, "Epistemology"

The Verification of Metaphysical Statements

There are at least two ways of justifying or verifying. First one could use the indirect method of accepting [the statement] as a tentative hypothesis and treating it as suggested by Stephen Pepper in World Hypothesis [Berkeley, University Press, 1942]...The second way involves verification by eidetic intuition. If [the statement] is, as we have assumed, a metaphysical statement, it tells us something about the essence of what there is. If, therefore, we can get eidetic intuition to function, we ought to be able to see or grasp the fact that the real is or is not the rational. However, even here we cannot expect eidetic intuition to function if we do not know the meaning of the statement. This signifies that at least in [some cases] eidetic intuition waits upon semantic intuition. In both the direct and indirect methods of verification or confirmation everything depends on what is meant by [a particular metaphysical statement].

Logic and the Nature of Reality, by Louis Osgood Katsoff (c1967), pps 105-6

Gettier problem

Edmund Gettier is an American philosopher and professor emeritus at the university of Massachusetts Amherst, who gained fame with his three-page article challenging the "justified true belief" definition of knowledge, prompting Robert Nozick (another American philosopher, he held the Joseph Pellegrino University Professorship at Harvard University) to develop his own epistemological system (the Tracking Theory of Truth) rejecting the principle of deductive closure. According to Nozick's theory,

...knowledge must consist of justified true belief that is "truth-tracking" — a belief such that if it was revealed to be false, it would not have been believed, and conversely.

Nozick believes that the truth tracking conditions are more fundamental to human intuition than the principle of deductive closure.

And although Gettier presented hypothetical cases designed to refute the justified true belief theory of knowledge, with which he intended to demonstrate that intuition is somehow faulty or inconsistent,

...recent studies have actually been providing evidence for the opposite hypothesis, that people from a variety of different cultures have surprisingly similar intuitions in these cases.

Wikipedia, various relevant articles

Is there a way of tracking the truth with certainty?

Generally speaking, yes, assuming that human intuition causes people to believe only such things as have not been proven to be false; and conversely, to disbelieve whatever has not been proven to be true.


Posted 2019-03-26T09:01:46.663

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