Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Truth: Capital “T” and Small “t”

 

Theologians and philosophers deal in the world of perfection, the ideal – capital “T” Truth. My degree is in Mechanical Engineering; I deal in the world of close enough – small “t” truths.

Tens of thousands of years ago, a great scientist observed that the sun rose in the east every morning and set in the west every night and concluded that the sun rotates around the Earth. And that was close enough to allow us to do some good stuff like navigating around our world.

Tens of thousands of years later, another great scientist, after making more refined observations, concluded that the Earth travels around the sun in a circular orbit while spinning on an axis. That was close enough to allow us to do even more nice things like navigating at night.

Many hundreds of years later, Kepler observed that the planets’ orbits are elliptical, and Newton gave us the mathematics to chart their movements. That was close enough to get us to the moon.

A few hundred years after that, Einstein made some adjustments to Newton’s approximation, which allowed us to do things that I don’t understand and don’t really care about because I’m an engineer living in the world of close enough.

Our succession – or progression – of small “t” truths should convince us that there is a capital “T” Truth out there somewhere because each new approximation is more useful than the last. We may get to that Truth someday or we may not. Either way, we can get close enough.

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  1. Mark Camp Member

    This idea that Richard presents is of general applicability to society’s problems and controversies, especially when knowledge from specialized disciplines–philosophy, science, engineering, economics–is of prominent importance. I am very glad to see it written down.

    The reason I’m glad is that I think about it morning, noon, and night, as I read the news and opinion and try to make sense of them. I want to express the idea on Ricochet in response to many articles and Comments that seem to fail to take it into account, but I lack the communication skills.

     

     

    • #1
    • May 21, 2020, at 8:03 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Bob Thompson Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    –philosophy, science, engineering, economics–

    Close enough does not apply equally here.

    I think of science and engineering as applied to the physical world much in the way as described by Richard.

    When human nature enters the picture, as with philosophy and economics, close enough is not as useful.

    But as with you it stimulates my interests.

    • #2
    • May 21, 2020, at 8:31 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. Richard Fulmer Member
    Richard Fulmer

    Postmodernists argue that the imperfections of our senses and our minds and our inability to discover Ultimate Truth are proof that there is no such Truth. Everything is subjective everything is relative, no one can reasonably claim that a Rembrandt painting is in any way superior to a modern artist’s splash of paint or a child’s scrawl.

    Scientists and Engineers, admitting our human limitations, extend our senses with telescopes, microscopes, heat sensors, audio equipment, computers, and countless other tools that transcend our shortcomings.

    What truths we tell ourselves makes all the difference. Concentrate on the truth that we are limited beings, and we will lead limited lives. Concentrate on the truth that we can overcome our limitations, and our lives will be unbounded.

    • #3
    • May 21, 2020, at 9:24 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Bob Thompson Member

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    What truths we tell ourselves makes all the difference. Concentrate on the truth that we are limited beings, and we will lead limited lives. Concentrate on the truth that we can overcome our limitations, and our lives will be unbounded.

    Is this divide the state of human existence? Are we experiencing a major example at this time of pandemic response? Is this an immutable condition of human existence?

    When I read David Deutsch’s “The Beginning of Infinity” it made me think about what are the impediments to the progression he envisions.

    • #4
    • May 21, 2020, at 9:37 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Richard Fulmer Member
    Richard Fulmer

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    When human nature enters the picture, as with philosophy and economics, close enough is not as useful.

    Economists use lots of approximate models such as “homo economicus” – the “ideal” rational human being who always and everywhere seeks to maximize utility. That model doesn’t help predict how a particular individual will respond to a given incentive or disincentive, but it’s close enough to allow economists to predict how a majority of, say, a million people will respond.

    Philosophers dabble in similar generalizations whenever they deal in collectives such as “society” or “the people.” 

    • #5
    • May 21, 2020, at 10:55 AM PDT
    • Like
  6. Richard Fulmer Member
    Richard Fulmer

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    What truths we tell ourselves makes all the difference. Concentrate on the truth that we are limited beings, and we will lead limited lives. Concentrate on the truth that we can overcome our limitations, and our lives will be unbounded.

    Is this divide the state of human existence? Are we experiencing a major example at this time of pandemic response? Is this an immutable condition of human existence?

    In his book, The Three Languages of Politics, economist Arnold Kling argues that Progressives, Conservatives, and Libertarians see the world in terms of different sets of opposing forces:

    • Progressives: Oppressor vs Oppressed
    • Conservatives: Civilization vs Barbarism
    • Libertarians: Freedom vs Coercion

    Each of these views are based on small “T” truths – oppression, barbarism, and coercion really do exist in the world. However, none of the views is the whole truth. The three “tribes” are like the blind men who touch different parts of the elephant. What each man senses is real, it just isn’t all of reality. This isn’t a condemnation; no model can encompass all of reality. At best, a model can do no more than approximate capital ‘T’ Truth.

    The truths on which we choose to concentrate, however, affect how we live our lives and the quality of our lives. It seems to me that the oppressor/oppressed model is inherently destructive. Yes, it’s true that there are oppressors and oppressed in the world. It is also true, however, that every individual is, to some degree, both oppressor and oppressed. At some time in our lives we have each been less than just to others and others have been less than just to us.

    But seeing the world in oppressor/oppressed terms leads to the belief that there are only the two possibilities; we must choose to be either the oppressor or the oppressed. If we concentrate on our oppression by others, we lose our sense of agency. The more we see ourselves as helpless victims, the less we will strive to better our conditions. While concentrating on one’s own oppression is self-destructive, the desire to turn the tables and become the oppressor is socially destructive. A growing number of people on both the left and the right have decided that it’s time for a new set of oppressors to take over.

    • #6
    • May 21, 2020, at 11:45 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. Bob Thompson Member

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    It seems to me that the oppressor/oppressed model is inherently destructive.

    Its very existence depends on the both pieces being in play. When one or the other is not there, it must be created. The others don’t require both pieces. Conservatives thrive on principles that have been shown to work best of those known to be available and Libertarians thrive on individual freedom and don’t require the existence of coercion.

    • #7
    • May 21, 2020, at 11:58 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Flicker Coolidge

    I once had two stiff conversations with a purportedly big-time prosecutor. But conversations lasted four hours, and were years apart. The first one was about the nature of truth: it ended when he said there was no absolute truth, and I said there was. The second conversation ended with his statement that a lie is the truth; and I asked him how he could swear defendants to tell the truth under penalty of perjury if he didn’t believe there was such a thing as truth, and that lies were the truth. To this he answered, “It’s all a game, man.”

    I’ve always pondered Jesus saying: I am the Truth. Not: I tell only the truth, or I represent the truth, or the truth represents me, or all truth points to me, but: I AM the Truth. Truth is what existed before anything was made. The eternal transcendent God IS the Truth, and all else is secondary in nature to the Eternal Truth, of what Is, and is self-existent, and is fundamental to all knowledge.

    Science discerns little truths, which are nothing more than ad hoc truths, of questionable veracity, and subject to change and legitimate doubt or skepticism.

    • #8
    • May 21, 2020, at 1:00 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Richard Fulmer Member
    Richard Fulmer

    Flicker (View Comment):
    … it ended when he said there was no absolute truth, and I said there was.

    The statement, “there is no absolute truth” would itself, if true, be an absolute truth, and must, therefore, be false. 

    • #9
    • May 21, 2020, at 1:37 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. Flicker Coolidge

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):
    … it ended when he said there was no absolute truth, and I said there was.

    The statement, “there is no absolute truth” would itself, if true, be an absolute truth, and must, therefore, be false.

    Correct. Every lie cannot stand on it’s own. It needs a truth to define it, and give it context, and to contrast against the lie. Truth is self-existent. Lies are only perversions of the truth and can’t stand independently.

    • #10
    • May 21, 2020, at 1:50 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):
    … it ended when he said there was no absolute truth, and I said there was.

    The statement, “there is no absolute truth” would itself, if true, be an absolute truth, and must, therefore, be false.

    Correct. Every lie cannot stand on it’s own. It needs a truth to define it, and give it context, and to contrast against the lie. Truth is self-existent. Lies are only perversions of the truth and can’t stand independently.

    In an ideal world, your last very fine statement would be true.

    But in the world of advertising and now the nightly news as propaganda, a lie repeated many many times becomes the Truth.

    • #11
    • May 21, 2020, at 2:21 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Mark Camp Member

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    When human nature enters the picture, as with philosophy and economics, close enough is not as useful.

    Economists use lots of approximate models such as “homo economicus” – the “ideal” rational human being who always and everywhere seeks to maximize utility. That model doesn’t help predict how a particular individual will respond to a given incentive or disincentive, but it’s close enough to allow economists to predict how a majority of, say, a million people will respond.

    Philosophers dabble in similar generalizations whenever they deal in collectives such as “society” or “the people.”

    To clarify, when I use the term “economics” here, I am excluding the body of doctrine that you associate with the term, and including one that you exclude. I’m referring to the traditional discipline, not that of the professional “economists” who claim to be able to predict the future of aggregates of data from the history of aggregates of data, and claim that the laws of macroeconomics can contradict the known laws of microeconomics, without any theoretical basis or attempt at understanding.

    • #12
    • May 21, 2020, at 3:50 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Mark Camp Member

    Flicker (View Comment):

    I once had two stiff conversations with a purportedly big-time prosecutor. But conversations lasted four hours, and were years apart. The first one was about the nature of truth: it ended when he said there was no absolute truth, and I said there was. The second conversation ended with his statement that a lie is the truth; and I asked him how he could swear defendants to tell the truth under penalty of perjury if he didn’t believe there was such a thing as truth, and that lies were the truth. To this he answered, “It’s all a game, man.”

    I’ve always pondered Jesus saying: I am the Truth. Not: I tell only the truth, or I represent the truth, or the truth represents me, or all truth points to me, but: I AM the Truth. Truth is what existed before anything was made. The eternal transcendent God IS the Truth, and all else is secondary in nature to the Eternal Truth, of what Is, and is self-existent, and is fundamental to all knowledge.

    Science discerns little truths, which are nothing more than ad hoc truths, of questionable veracity, and subject to change and legitimate doubt or skepticism.

    Amen. You and I think exactly the same about this. I am conscious of it all the time–it is the foundation of all of my thinking about anything and everything–but I thought I might be alone in that, because until now I’ve never read it on Ricochet. I have always thought that there might be more of us, though, and that we just never talked about it.

    • #13
    • May 21, 2020, at 3:55 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Randy Webster Member

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    At some time in our lives we have each been less than just to others and others have been less than just to us.

    I’ve never felt that others were being less than just to me. But I’ve lived a pretty placid life. Maybe I just didn’t have very high expectations.

    • #14
    • May 21, 2020, at 4:13 PM PDT
    • Like
  15. Mark Camp Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    At some time in our lives we have each been less than just to others and others have been less than just to us.

    I’ve never felt that others were being less than just to me.

    You are a person who has never been treated unjustly by anyone? I don’t know quite what to make of this! Not one time?

    But I’ve lived a pretty placid life. Maybe I just didn’t have very high expectations.

    I don’t understand this. What do your expectations, high or low, have to do with the question of whether you’ve been treated unjustly or not?

    • If you were treated unjustly, then it makes no difference whether you expected it or not.
    • If you were not treated unjustly, again it makes no difference whether you expected to be or not.

     

    • #15
    • May 21, 2020, at 4:19 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. Saint Augustine Member

    Richard Fulmer:

    Theologians and philosophers deal in the world of perfection, the ideal – capital “T” Truth. My degree is in Mechanical Engineering; I deal in the world of close enough – small “t” truths.

    Merold Westphal:

    The truth is that there is Truth, but in our finitude and fallenness we do not have access to it. We’ll have to make do with the truths available to us; but that does not mean either that we should deny the reality of Truth or that we should abandon the distinction between truth and falsity.

    Kenneth Kantzer:

    The Bible is divinely revealed misinformation about God.

    • #16
    • May 21, 2020, at 4:21 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. Randy Webster Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    At some time in our lives we have each been less than just to others and others have been less than just to us.

    I’ve never felt that others were being less than just to me.

    You are a person who has never been treated unjustly by anyone? I don’t know quite what to make of this! Not one time?

    But I’ve lived a pretty placid life. Maybe I just didn’t have very high expectations.

    I don’t understand this. What do your expectations, high or low, have to do with the question of whether you’ve been treated unjustly or not?

    • If you were treated unjustly, then it makes no difference whether you expected it or not.
    • If you were not treated unjustly, again it makes no difference whether you expected to be or not.

    I don’t remember ever being treated unjustly. Why is that so hard to believe?

    To feel that you’ve been treated unjustly, don’t you need a sense of injury? I don’t remember any.

    • #17
    • May 21, 2020, at 4:23 PM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  18. Flicker Coolidge

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):
    … it ended when he said there was no absolute truth, and I said there was.

    The statement, “there is no absolute truth” would itself, if true, be an absolute truth, and must, therefore, be false.

    Correct. Every lie cannot stand on it’s own. It needs a truth to define it, and give it context, and to contrast against the lie. Truth is self-existent. Lies are only perversions of the truth and can’t stand independently.

    In an ideal world, your last very fine statement would be true.

    But in the world of advertising and now the nightly news as propaganda, a lie repeated many many times becomes the Truth.

    Thanks. But one thing, I would say it becomes the Accepted Truth, but still a lie.

    • #18
    • May 21, 2020, at 5:10 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. Flicker Coolidge

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    At some time in our lives we have each been less than just to others and others have been less than just to us.

    I’ve never felt that others were being less than just to me.

    You are a person who has never been treated unjustly by anyone? I don’t know quite what to make of this! Not one time?

    But I’ve lived a pretty placid life. Maybe I just didn’t have very high expectations.

    I don’t understand this. What do your expectations, high or low, have to do with the question of whether you’ve been treated unjustly or not?

    • If you were treated unjustly, then it makes no difference whether you expected it or not.
    • If you were not treated unjustly, again it makes no difference whether you expected to be or not.

    I don’t remember ever being treated unjustly. Why is that so hard to believe?

    To feel that you’ve been treated unjustly, don’t you need a sense of injury? I don’t remember any.

    You never said even as a five-year-old, “But that’s not fair!”?

    • #19
    • May 21, 2020, at 5:13 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Flicker Coolidge

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    I once had two stiff conversations with a purportedly big-time prosecutor. But conversations lasted four hours, and were years apart. The first one was about the nature of truth: it ended when he said there was no absolute truth, and I said there was. The second conversation ended with his statement that a lie is the truth; and I asked him how he could swear defendants to tell the truth under penalty of perjury if he didn’t believe there was such a thing as truth, and that lies were the truth. To this he answered, “It’s all a game, man.”

    I’ve always pondered Jesus saying: I am the Truth. Not: I tell only the truth, or I represent the truth, or the truth represents me, or all truth points to me, but: I AM the Truth. Truth is what existed before anything was made. The eternal transcendent God IS the Truth, and all else is secondary in nature to the Eternal Truth, of what Is, and is self-existent, and is fundamental to all knowledge.

    Science discerns little truths, which are nothing more than ad hoc truths, of questionable veracity, and subject to change and legitimate doubt or skepticism.

    Amen. You and I think exactly the same about this. I am conscious of it all the time–it is the foundation of all of my thinking about anything and everything–but I thought I might be alone in that, because until now I’ve never read it on Ricochet. I have always thought that there might be more of us, though, and that we just never talked about it.

    Well, I guess that makes two then. Or maybe three. :)

    • #20
    • May 21, 2020, at 5:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  21. Bob Thompson Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):
    … it ended when he said there was no absolute truth, and I said there was.

    The statement, “there is no absolute truth” would itself, if true, be an absolute truth, and must, therefore, be false.

    Correct. Every lie cannot stand on it’s own. It needs a truth to define it, and give it context, and to contrast against the lie. Truth is self-existent. Lies are only perversions of the truth and can’t stand independently.

    In an ideal world, your last very fine statement would be true.

    But in the world of advertising and now the nightly news as propaganda, a lie repeated many many times becomes the Truth.

    We don’t even get slanted interpretations of some of the events. It’s not even a question of truth. It’s just not reported if it doesn’t support the narrative. But it’s all over. We are now populated with lawyers who don’t care what the law is, they just decide that something different from the law is a better outcome so they marshal their forces for that narrative. Then they start populating the court system like Judge Sullivan.

    • #21
    • May 21, 2020, at 5:38 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  22. Randy Webster Member

    Flicker (View Comment):
    You never said even as a five-year-old, “But that’s not fair!”?

    No idea. Probably.

    • #22
    • May 21, 2020, at 7:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Flicker (View Comment):
    I once had two stiff conversations with a purportedly big-time prosecutor. But conversations lasted four hours, and were years apart. The first one was about the nature of truth: it ended when he said there was no absolute truth, and I said there was. The second conversation ended with his statement that a lie is the truth; and I asked him how he could swear defendants to tell the truth under penalty of perjury if he didn’t believe there was such a thing as truth, and that lies were the truth. To this he answered, “It’s all a game, man.”

    I once knew a big time med mal defense lawyer. The vanity plate on his 7 series Mercedes read “JUST TIS.” It ain’t justice. It just ’tis.

    • #23
    • May 21, 2020, at 9:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    At some time in our lives we have each been less than just to others and others have been less than just to us.

    I’ve never felt that others were being less than just to me.

    You are a person who has never been treated unjustly by anyone? I don’t know quite what to make of this! Not one time?

    But I’ve lived a pretty placid life. Maybe I just didn’t have very high expectations.

    I don’t understand this. What do your expectations, high or low, have to do with the question of whether you’ve been treated unjustly or not?

    • If you were treated unjustly, then it makes no difference whether you expected it or not.
    • If you were not treated unjustly, again it makes no difference whether you expected to be or not.

    I don’t remember ever being treated unjustly. Why is that so hard to believe?

    To feel that you’ve been treated unjustly, don’t you need a sense of injury? I don’t remember any.

    You never said even as a five-year-old, “But that’s not fair!”?

    My favorite Hebrew teacher taught us that in Biblical Hebrew there is no such word as “fair.”

     

    • #24
    • May 21, 2020, at 9:10 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Close enough. When “good enough” or “close enough” for government work first entered the language, it was because machine shops hoping to do defense work in WWII often had to work to closer tolerances than they had previously done. I first heard the expression 40 years later from a classmate who had been a welder working on USN submarine reactors. He used it ironically.

    • #25
    • May 21, 2020, at 9:16 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    I once had two stiff conversations with a purportedly big-time prosecutor. But conversations lasted four hours, and were years apart. The first one was about the nature of truth: it ended when he said there was no absolute truth, and I said there was. The second conversation ended with his statement that a lie is the truth; and I asked him how he could swear defendants to tell the truth under penalty of perjury if he didn’t believe there was such a thing as truth, and that lies were the truth. To this he answered, “It’s all a game, man.”

    I’ve always pondered Jesus saying: I am the Truth. Not: I tell only the truth, or I represent the truth, or the truth represents me, or all truth points to me, but: I AM the Truth. Truth is what existed before anything was made. The eternal transcendent God IS the Truth, and all else is secondary in nature to the Eternal Truth, of what Is, and is self-existent, and is fundamental to all knowledge.

    Science discerns little truths, which are nothing more than ad hoc truths, of questionable veracity, and subject to change and legitimate doubt or skepticism.

    Amen. You and I think exactly the same about this. I am conscious of it all the time–it is the foundation of all of my thinking about anything and everything–but I thought I might be alone in that, because until now I’ve never read it on Ricochet. I have always thought that there might be more of us, though, and that we just never talked about it.

    In the aftermath of the exposure of people including celebrities paying to get their young adult children into college, some ricochet members were eager to state a parent has to do what a parent has to do, in order to advance the lives of their young.

    It amazed me that so many here felt that way. I mean, if the people with connections and money can create such frauds, what value would a college degree hold?

    It also makes me wonder about those individuals’ deep spiritual connections to the religion of their choice. Because unless a person is only going to church for social inclusion, an individual should be forming and adhering to the moral value of being truthful.

    • #26
    • May 21, 2020, at 9:46 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. JoshuaFinch Coolidge

    “Quantum theory yields much, but it hardly brings us close to the Old One’s secrets. I, in any case, am convinced He does not play dice with the universe.” This thought appears in a letter Einstein sent to Max Born (one of the fathers of Quantum Mechanics) in 1926.

    • #27
    • May 21, 2020, at 9:51 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. Skyler Coolidge

    Richard Fulmer: Our succession – or progression – of small “t” truths should convince us that there is a capital “T” Truth out there somewhere because each new approximation is more useful than the last.

    The truth is always out there. The role of civilization is to find it and come to as close an understanding of truth as possible. Truth is unchanging. In your astronomical examples, the truth never changed, but our ability to make a useful understanding improved. Truth is.

    • #28
    • May 21, 2020, at 10:02 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Saint Augustine Member

    Skyler (View Comment):
    The truth is always out there.

    • #29
    • May 21, 2020, at 10:17 PM PDT
    • Like
  30. Skyler Coolidge

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    The truth is always out there.

    I watched that show twice and it turned out to be the same episode. I just couldn’t get interested in a grownup version of scoobydoo.

    • #30
    • May 21, 2020, at 10:20 PM PDT
    • 2 likes