User:JREverest/sandbox/Approaches to Knowledge/Seminar group 1/Truth
Truth in Moral Philosophy edit
Moral Philosophy is the study of how we ought to live our lives, recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. Over the years, countless theories have been devised regarding this matter, with many claiming 'truth' to their ethical ideal. Religion is a prime example of this, declaring a monopoly of ethical 'truth' through their moral outlook. However, when assessing moral ideals such as these, a key question arises: Is it even possible to find 'truth' in morality? There's an agglomeration of viewpoints taken by scholars on this matter, however the key arguments include:
1. Religious viewpoint: 'The teachings of a divine being truthfully outline morality, holding the answers to the questions of what is morally right and what is morally wrong'.
2. Utilitarian viewpoint: 'Something that is 'morally right' is the action which brings about the greatest sum of happiness, or smallest sum of pain, whereas the 'morally wrong' thing is the action that brings about the smallest sum of happiness, or greatest sum of pain.
3. Denier viewpoint: Morality is not something which can have any 'truth value' as it cannot be empirically tested, unlike the physical sciences, in which something is confirmed as true when empirically-derived data clearly points to a certain conclusion. Despite this, it is also argued that just because physical sciences use empirical tests, they do not hold a monopoly of truth. Perhaps moral truths can be derived using reasoning, and logic, as opposed to solely using empirical evidence? In contrast, it's also possible that neither morality nor the physical world can have any truths. For instance, in Daniel McDermott's 'Analytical political philosophy' paper, he gives various examples how physics bases itself over unprovable assumptions, like the assumption that our senses tell us the truth.
These are just three of many theories of whether there can be a truth of morality, or if there is ever any truth in anything at all. The generally accepted view is that morality is a normative theory that does not have any truth, but nonetheless can act as an indicator to people regarding how they're ought/what the best way is to live their lives.
It is also important to note that within moral philosophy, a distinction is to be made between objective truths, and subjective truths. For instance, a subjective truth is that 'the best flavour of ice cream is chocolate' - the best flavour of ice cream is different for different people. However, 'X treats Y disease' is seen as an objective truth, as it is a truth in the external world, irrelevant to human emotions. Furthermore, it is also argued by the idea of 'moral relativism', that morality is subjective, and thus truth can be found in morality for individuals however it varies from person to person, with there not being a universally 'correct' view of morality. This contrasts moral absolutism which claims that there is a single moral doctrine which holds a monopoly on moral truth.
Truth in Philosophy and in Sciences according to Descartes edit
Understanding how truth is perceived in philosophy can help to get the essence of multiple truths existing in many disciplines. Descartes, a French philosopher, mathematician and scientist of the XVII century, defines truths according to his project for science, called the "Mathesis Universalis", a universal science, from a qualitative point of view. This science must be valid at all times and in all places, and must admit firm and insured truths. Descartes thus presents this project of a new science in the Discourse of the Method, pronounced in 1637.
This science must also be universal quantitatively: it corresponds to the unification of all the individual sciences. Descartes thinks that the world must function according to a single science that can make everything understand, encompassing biology, physics, chemistry and even morality. Descartes wants a "Catholic" science, which etymologically means "universal." Descartes is thus very Catholic in his way of thinking and thinks that there is a unique system or a single formula that can explain everything in the world.
He despairs of seeing that the sciences before him have set up buildings of admirable institutions but which were built on quicksand. He regrets that scientists of the past had not checked the foundations of their sciences, notably the truths used to defined those sciences. Descartes thinks that sciences are slowly falling into ruines, since they have no solid foundations. He, therefore, takes the opposite approach; by first building foundations of his new science in an indubitable way. How do we, therefore, recognize truths? (in order to build these foundations ?)
According to Descartes, truths are identified by two factors: evidence and certainty.
Certainty is the feeling that something is true because it is connected to other true things. The problem is that this reasoning is not based on a universal truth and that we must know other universal true things in order to use that word, and therefore we regress to infinity by verifying again and again what is true and what is not ; this research is then impossible. Certainty can also have a bubble effect (speculative effect) or be based on rumors: no one knows the origin of the fact, but everyone says that it agrees with other sources, so we take this as true. Thus, the more we spread the rumour, the more it is confirmed.
Certainty is, therefore, the feeling of a "second," "non-universal" truth, which allows defining evidence: evidence is the feeling of a universal truth (weak definition). Other truths that are not certainty are then self-evident, obvious. Descartes explains that this obviousness can be defined as "indubitability."
Obviousness is expressed in the ordinary sense (the weak definition that everyone uses commonly) and in the technical sense (meaning the strong definition). The technical definition is objective; the other one is subjective. Obviousness, in the ordinary sense, means either excessive self-confidence or a mask to hide a lack of self-confidence. People tend to say, "it is obvious !" to hide their doubts and protect themselves, and to avoid questions, as we tend to humiliate others by showing them their lack of knowledge quite easily. It seems nowadays a strategy to, hide our doubts and humiliate our interlocutor. Nevertheless, all that can be demonstrated is not necessarily obvious because it is not necessarily a "universal" truth. Descartes thus practices a systematic doubt to track down what is indubitable and what is, therefore, obvious and universal. This version of "truth" is quite interdisciplinary and can be used in many disciplines, such as in sciences, by analyzing the certainty or evidence of something in order to prove that is it true or not.
Truth in the Neurosciences edit
Neuroscience is a Natural Science and therefore traditionally more positivist. Positivism holds that Truth can only be obtained through objective observation. Thus, positivist research relies on collecting data in a quantifiable and objective way which is then interpreted. As such positivist research usually uses deduction and focuses on facts. Furthermore, the researcher is usually removed from the research itself in that they have no other role besides objectively interpreting the data. Positivism also holds that the researcher presumably has no personal interest in the study. 
Generally, Positivism can be described as a philosophical stance claiming that research can be entirely objective and that there is an objective reality that exists independent from the observer (or researcher). Positivist research aims to explain, generalize and generate predictions about the world. The means to do that is through empirical observation. 
Neuroscience as a Natural Science relies on objective measurement, randomized controlled trials and quantification of data and is thus often assuming a positivist stance. It aims to be objective and to establish generalizable facts about the brain. However, even though it might be possible to establish a generalizable knowledge about the brain such data is never entirely objective. Approaching the Nervous System from a purely positivist angle is impossible as there is always a human factor involved in interpreting the data and results. This is exemplified by research on consciousness: Consciousness is the rich subjective moment-to-moment experience including personality, history, society, emotion, cognition, perception and more. Yet research often reduces it to 'awareness' only and the scientific findings are then often taken to describe or apply to the entirety of consciousness . This reduction of consciousness to awareness alone illustrates that neuroscientists are not independent from their research and are not establishing purely objective facts. They interpret the data, make inferences and formulate hypotheses and conclusions. These processes are unlikely to be entirely objective especially considering the complexity of the Nervous System.
Truth in Economics edit
Defining Prosperity edit
The term prosperity is mostly if not exclusively used in an economic context. In that it usually refers to monetary success of a state or its citizens.  The most established measurement and indicator of prosperity in economics and politics is the gross domestic product (GDP) or GDP per capita. Numerous scholars criticise that measurement, stating that some goods like arms or the tobacco industry should not count towards the measured prosperity of a country. Additionally, in the economic and public debate prosperity is often used synonymously to happiness or well-being which poses further difficulties on the terminology. Alternative metrics to the GDP are for example the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). The GPI subtracts values from the GDP that derive from socially or environmentally damaging commodities and attempts therefore to give more truthful representation of a population’s prosperity.
Other scholars like Tim Jackson criticise the fundaments of the perception of prosperity through economics metrics. In his book ‘Prosperity Without Growth’ he claims that a country’s economic activity and thus implied the consumer capacities of its citizens does not indicate their wellbeing. According to him we live in a society of overconsumption often causing non-desiring social consequences such as widespread obesity. Furthermore in our implication of prosperity we neglect the wider consequences of our consumption patterns that have dire effects on the environment and climate that the developed and developing world live in.
Defining International Trade edit
The international trade is one of the most important topic in nowadays economics studying due to the fast-paced progress of globalization. However, the international trade are so complicated for people to study because of its many parts of components around the world, and the affecting factors of global economy are also innumerable. Economists are now having a few of methods and models, attempting to understand the value and estimate the trade flow patterns within the world economy.
The Gravity Model edit
The Gravity Model in international trade was first introduced by Jan Tinbergen in 1962, who proposed the size of bilateral trade flows between any countries can be estimated by employing the gravity equation in Physics. While stars and planets are attracted to each other in proportion to their size and proximity, so are the trade between countries. In this model, the relative size of the country is determined by current GDP, the economics proximity is determined by the trade cost, including the physically distance between two countries and the borders tariff etc.
In the gravity model,Jan suggested that relative economic size attracts countries to trade with each other while greater distances weaken the attractiveness. Initially, the gravity model was seen as an empirical one, without any particular grounding in trade theory, but the widespread adoption of the gravity model to explain patterns of trade has been seen by economists as a significant development on previous theoretical models.
The stability of the gravity equation and its ability to explain bilateral trade flows led to the development of theories that could incorporate the model. The gravity model is now seen at the workhorse of trade theory, and especially in terms of forecasting the impact of changes in trade policy on trade costs. The model is flexible in that 'distance' between countries can include a range of relevant variables, including cultural and political differences between trading nations.
The Gravity model has provided the underlying theoretical framework for forecasting the effects on trade flows as a result of the UK leaving the EU, and it is also used to by people nowadays criticized the Brexiteers of being ignoring this truth in global economy.
Truth and Evidence in Forensic Science and Law edit
Case Study: The Conviction of Robert Lee Stinson
Wisconsin Innocence Project re-opened Stinson’s case to allege forensic evidence as faulty. DNA sequencing technique developed in 1977 by molecular biologist Frederick Sangers; completion of Human Genome project in 2003. Plaintiff is exonerated after serving over 20 years in prison on July 27, 2009.
Debate on False Positives
Forensic odontologists, Dr. Lowell T. Johnson’s analysis of bite marks, and later Dr. Raymond Rawson
State v. Stinson, 397 NW 2d 136 - Wis: Court of Appeals 1986 https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=664404531627412504&q=State+v.+Stinson&hl=en&as_sdt=2006
Truth in Medicine edit
Medicine is the discipline concerning health maintenance and the prevention, alleviation and curing of diseases. Closing
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The positivist nature of medicine manifests most prominently in Evidence-Based Medicine. Evidence-Based Medicine refers to an approach to medicine based on the application of clinical research using systematic reviews and appraisals to aid & optimise the provision of clinical care to patients.  In evidence-based medicine, clinical practitioners strictly adhere to scientific evidence during decision-making. As evidence-based medicine suggests that interventions must be based on verifiable evidence obtained through scientific experimentation, clinical observation and logic, this reflects that positivist thought is indeed present and influential in medical practice.
Interpretivism in Medicine edit
Interpretivism is a theory of knowledge that favours qualitative analysis over quantitative analysis. Interpretivists focus on the meaning of issues and utilise multiple methods to reflect the different aspects and viewpoints of a single issue, while appreciating the differences between individuals 
Interpretivism is also used in medicine, with examples such as the distinction between symptoms and signs. Medical signs are objective in nature, being the evidence of a disease that can be evidently recognised by medical practitioners  or even measured, such as fevers being measurable using thermometers and high blood pressure measurable using sphygmomanometers. On the other hand, symptoms are subjective in nature, only being perceived by the afflicted individual . It cannot be objectively assessed by a second party, but has significant implications on patients, while similar symptoms can be perceived by and impact individuals in very different manners. Symptoms can only be made known by interviewing the patient in a qualitative manner. For example, pain is perceived only by the patient and doctors cannot know about the existence of pain unless expressed by the patient. As symptoms play an essential role in defining the illness experience of a patient, it is important for medical practitioners to incorporate interpretivist thought into their practice to understand the subjective experiences of a patient and the implications of those experiences towards patients.
Defining culture and levels of civilisation
Tyler, an ethnographer of the 19th century conceptualised the stages of cultures in the world as always proceeding from uncivilised to civilised. In other words, there is a hierarchy of civilisations, an innate structuring of the world. This was considered a universal truth amongst all cultures and civilisations that could explain the differences among 'primitive' and 'civilised' civilisations. However, the methodological flaws of early stages of ethnography, i.e not studying the cultures directly but operating at the level of theory from remote locations mean that this definition of cultural development is widely rejected in anthropology. It could be argued that 'truths' in culture, like science cannot be evaluated without evidence.
Franz Boas argued that racism was institutionalised in ethnological museum collections, and in anthropological discourse and that this legitimised and held ideas of social Darwinism that had also been permeated academically through the prominent Chicago school of sociology and public figures such as Booker T Washington as true. The progression of society from savagery and barbarism to ‘modern civilisation’ was claimed to be universal and ‘true’ and the idea was cemented that barbarism/ a lack of sophistication was inherent in the black population as opposed to the civilised white population in America. The presentation of those of different races as being of different stages of social development was permeated by those such as Charles G Seligman in 1930 , while Booker T Washington, an African American emphasised and enforced the idea that the narrative of racial inequality was just . He argued instead of economic equality for black people in the US for manual education for the black community after slavery, as 'It (was) at the bottom of life (they) must begin, and not at the top'. The way that these narratives of inferiority had been presented through both leaders of sociology and social anthropology at the time (Chicago School Of Sociology and Taylor), and in public discourse such as by Booker T. Washington made them seem valid and true even after slavery had been abolished in America, this narrative coexisting and contradicting the claims to black independence. These persistent, dated narratives in Science, Media and public opinion affected what was perceived as 'true' about the black population even after slavery had been abolished, contributing to further 'economic' slavery in Reconstruction America.
Truth and ethnographic method edit
Modern comparative ethnography is the reflexive comparison to the anthropologist’s own culture to another, instead of focusing solely on the study of the ‘other’ and in the historical context of anthropologist like Taylor, lesser. Through Malinowski's method in ‘Stone Age economics’, hunter gatherer societies are compared to Western Workers and Western cultural practice of work. By doing this, our preconceptions of a western society that is more efficient and economically stable as well as culturally more valuable (through art and music) are challenged. The claims of an economist on 'useful' economic production in the Arnhem land hunters may be contradicted by the work of an ethnographer such as Malinowski, in showing how the hunter gatherers can provide for their families with whole days for rest from hunting and household duties. The comparison in working times of the Arnhem land hunters (5 hours a day aggregate) and work hours for bankers demonstrates higher efficiency and more time for leisure. Goods are kept in the community instead of being transported away as in 'Western' capitalist systems, meaning that shortages are much less likely and people have to work less hard. This challenges the economic preconception that hunter gatherers communities work off the idea of shortage, not knowing where the next meal would come from , and therefore live in a 'worse' society whereas they appear actually to work off the idea of abundance and leisure.
Malinowski notes that the discipline of anthropology is limited in its objectivity by various factors such as speaking the same language as interlocutors, the choice of subject matter that one studies, the fallibility of competing claims, blurred boundaries between beliefs and structures of society. This was particularly noted in his work on land 'ownership'  , where various competing organisations of people (subclans, clans, hierarchies in the clan and between Matrilineal and Patrilineal descent) and perspectives of his interlocutors riddled and nuanced his conclusions of who owned the land.
The contrast between 'armchair anthropologists' and those such as Malinowski and Du Bois, who formed the shift in anthropology and sociology towards empirical, evidence based ethnographic method. Both argued that theorising about cultures without visiting leads inevitably to generalisations about the culture.
Accepted truths are also shown to change and develop over time in the light of new evidence in both the natural and social sciences. The distinction between ‘truth’ as accepted knowledge, and ‘truth’ as a changing understanding over time through empirical research has been made by Franz Boas. In 1894, Boas delivered his first public address in which he outlined the racism of the dominant anthropological discourse. He argued that data, observational research, field missions, and participant observation were more useful in finding truth than generalisations about cultures. Du Bois, the first black man to receive a PhD from Harvard, was a contemporary of Boas who argued this point further. He argued against a scientific or biological conception of race, arguing instead that ‘race’ is a fluid and partially constructed concept: ‘racial criteria employed to categorise the races were inconsistent and appear in various combinations and in different magnitudes within each race’.
Truth as constructed and evolving edit
Racial truths (what, for example, are characteristics or generalisations of characteristics of those of a certain race, of people?) can be considered a social construct as racial characteristics are influenced by shared historical and social factors, such as memories, common histories, laws, and religions. However, beliefs about humans in anthropology are shown to be constantly changing, to the point that the views of the anthropologists described here are now considered dated. While Boas rejected social Darwinism and the idea that there is only one civilised society (as did DuBois in showing Africans had developed tools and civilisations) he still believed in a biological component to race. Similarly, despite all Du Bois' work to change the approach of race as boiling down to a historical rather than a biological difference ("so far as purely physical characteristics are concerned, the differences between men do not explain all the differences of their history."), his own belief was that 'Mulattoes' or black people of mixed descent were inferior to those who were fully black. In other words, he believed in hierarchy in race. Both of these anthropologists revolutionised the conception of race generally and the beliefs held by anthropology as a whole. However, it could be argued that their conception of truth, much like those who preceded them, was still a product of their times.
Boas F, Stocking G. A Franz Boas reader. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1989.
Du Bois, W. E. B. 1935. Black Reconstruction in America. New York: Russell & Russell, pp. 3-31; 670-710.
Morris, Aldon (2015) The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (for booker T washington
6. Malinowski B. Coral gardens and their magic. London: Allen & Unwin; 1966.
4. Sahlins M, Graeber D. Stone age economics.
2. Baker L. From savage to negro. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press; 2007.
Universal truth in culture
Truth and Free Will edit
The debate around the existence of free will contains several arguments which are predicated upon different ideas around truth. The two main approaches to this problem are believing in determinism and free will. Yet, even within these camps there are clashes due to different ideas held about what is true.
Determinism is the philosophical belief that each and every event is determined by preexisting causes. However there are many types of determinism derived from different bases of truth:
- Theological determinism - the belief that since God is omniscient, his knowledge is infallible and exists outside of time, he knows everything, including the future.
- Physical determinism - the belief that since everything in the universe follows physical laws of nature, a complete physical description of the universe will allow us to calculate a person’s future actions. As our decisions are based on our brain activity and this is a feature we cannot consciously control but is a result of the particular configuration of atoms in the universe at a given time meaning at any point in time nothing different could have happened than what did.
The clash between these arguments for determinism is evidently rooted in truth due to the reasoning advocates of each one give. The theological standpoint is naturally based on a religious worldview. Indeed, Albert Einstein said in support of this form of determinism, God does not play dice. This makes theological and physical determinism almost irreconcilable as the latter is derived from a physicalist, atheist worldview.
Arguments for free-will state that each individual agent has the ability to make self determined choices around how they behave.
Indeterminism is a front-running argument for free will. It is based on recent developments in quantum mechanics - based on Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. This states that both the momentum and location of an electron cannot be known to 100% accuracy, and the more accurately one is found the less is known about the other. In this way, the position of an electron is not known and in fact it exists both as a wave and a particle at once. This in a way undermines physical determinism, which goes off a different basal assumption of truth about the nature of the physical world on a larger level which isn’t found as consistent on a micro level. 
Another approach to free will, which is also grounded in a different understanding of truth, is the biblical derivation of free will.
Arguments for this are as such:
Argument from moral accountability
1: If Men are not free in a libertarian sense, they cannot be held responsible for wrongdoing.
2: The Bible teaches that God will hold men accountable for wrongdoing.
3: Therefore, men are free in a libertarian sense.
This requires the premises to be true, which a Christian would take as such.
Argument from the Bible
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:14-15
Passages in the Bible such as this which reference the ability to make choices are used by Christians as evidence that free will exists. Of course, for this to be true the word of the Bible and the existence of God must also be true.
Practical Conflict - Law
Our current legal system has developed based on the presumption of the existence of free will in a libertarian sense. However, this is based upon a version of truth which implicates the existence of God which may be disputed, with increasing evidence in neuroscience that libertarian free will does not exist. Yet, this neuroscientific research has a mechanistic grounding on a more macro level than the quantum and finds contradictions with this as they operate on different assumptions of truth. This makes the issue around moral and legal responsibility very contentious and requires a version of truth that permeates this disciplines with a consistent position to resolve.
Truth in Climate Change edit
For the majority of those who discuss this topic, the commencement of climate change is a positivist truth based on empirical scientific evidence. Evidence from atmospheric samples in ice cores and recent direct measurements show that for more than 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level of the atmosphere has barely reached over 300ppm, until 1950. The current level is almost 420ppm. Sea levels have risen over 8 inches in the last century, and the average temperature of the planet has risen by 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1800s. This level of empirical evidence may suggest that the statement "climate change exists" is an objective truth. However, there are many who also see the existence of climate change, or at least the level to which human activities contribute to climate change, as subjective, or sometimes not even truth at all.
Donald Trump, current president of the United States, has previously stated that "the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese government" and accused climate scientists of harbouring a "political agenda". Available from: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/11/26/politics/donald-trump-climate-change/index.html. He pulled the USA out of the Paris agreement, an accord which bound 187 countries into agreeing to limit their activities with the aim of preventing global temperature rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, claiming that switching to more renewable energy sources and other activities reducing the impact of global warming would have drastic adverse effects on the US economy. With the USA being both the largest economy in the world and one of the highest emitters of carbon dioxide, this could have untold effects on influencing other countries in the Paris agreement and the beliefs of the citizens of the US. Having a president so careless with his interpretation of truth can lead to the millions of people who see him as a leader loosening their boundaries on what constitutes sufficient evidence and objective truth.
Although it is important that we view scientific and artistic truth with equal credibility in a society that appears to trust empirical, quantitative fact over qualitative, normative truth, we do not do this by simply excluding objective truth in favour of one that is more subjective. We must consider both in tandem, for example considering the objective truth and statistics showing that global temperature is rising alongside the effect that replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources will have on the people of the world. Although evidence cannot always prove truth, combining the quantifiable with the qualitative will lead to the most well-rounded and reliable solution to a problem that can be seen from the perspective of many different disciplines, whether they are sciences or humanities.
Truth in Mathematics edit
Pure mathematics comprises four unique concepts of truth for an expression, starting from the straightforward to the most subtle. Relative truth refers to the value in a formula of a general model. In such a case, a formula may be either false or true based on the model, and the free variable values used. The quality of being comparably true in every stereotype of a given axiomatic theory concurs with the provability of axioms in mathematics. An account of truth in mathematics that is widely accepted by most scientists can generally be described using various aspects. The mathematical system comprises primitive notions, axioms, a notation, and rules of deductions. A mathematical statement may be regarded as true if it is accurately obtained from axioms by utilization of the inference rules.
The idea of realistic truth in arithmetic is yet another form of mathematical truth. Arithmetic statements interpretations in the universal systems of natural numbers constitute another description of mathematical truth. Such a claim can be substantiated using the incompleteness theorem by Kurt Gödel that it can’t be deduced to provability; although provability is a particular case. In case of unavailability of a feasible predetermined fundamental algorithm to offer all truth of arithmetic, one may opt to solve a problem partially: a method providing numerous lists of basic arithmetic formulae without end and comprising two qualities. Infallible quantity remains in the truth sets, illustrating the universal arithmetic model. On the other hand, large qualities are compared with different sets of truth that can be produced algorithmically by inclusion.
A natural approach to continue in the non-algorithmic exploration for an improved and better algorithm for another quality without disregarding the first one is consisted in establishing formalizations of set theory illustrating more huge universes past the infinity of ℕ where properties of ℕ may be obtained from given cases.
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