What’s truth? Many a philosopher sat at his desk, pondering “truth”. Can experience with a desk bring truth? No. Only action demonstrates truth: truth is what works.
Tilt over like an otter on her back, big gulp of air, lift the fins sky high, and the blue of the sky turns into the deep blue sea, a universe wilder than outer space, yet through which the human mammal can dive masterfully. The blue yonder is pierced by the silver and gold flashes of sunlight violently reflecting on fishes’ scaly skins amidst undulating algae. Who wants to fly? Everybody. Forget artificial wings. Flying is practiced best with fins and goggles.
A school of 200 depths’ yellowish, dinner plates sized denizens groups up, and rotates to intimidate the suspicious predator in their midst. Another fish with red stripes let me approach, simply happy to extend his impressive spiky dorsal fin. A message well received: don’t touch me there, or anywhere.
It has never been so easy to approach so many fishes. Either the fishes of the area are less hunted, or they learned what a spear gun looks like.
Solo deep sea diving is about the most dangerous sport imaginable. Death can happen at any moment by losing consciousness, and falling to the bottom of the sea (there is no buoyancy below 13 meters down or so, even if one started with full lungs, so one sinks).
Losing consciousness? Try to spend 56 minutes out of 60 below water. Solo deep sea diving, being the most dangerous sport, is best to test one’s philosophical ability and control. Indeed, it requires a perfect theory of truth.
A perfect dive is a perfect truth.
A logical system has two elements:
- The basic rules of the subjacent logic L. (“The logic”.)
- The semantic truth S in the engulfing universe U. (“the semantics”.)
Basically, a) says how to make well-formed propositions, and b) which ones are true.
L contains axioms, so does the semantics. Where is “TRUTH” in all this? It’s both in L and S.
Truth = L Union S
The main axis of thinking ever since civilization has prospered has been to reduce S and augment L. Why? Because S embodies factual truth, it can be enormous.
For example in animism, S is enormous: every tree, forest, spring, animal, and even cloud shape is endowed with a soul of its own. Modern science has reduced this to zero (inasmuch as it impacts their behavior).
In Elementary Particle Physics, S is disturbingly large: the so called “Standard Model is full of free parameters and mysterious symmetries (sometimes on, sometimes off, for no known reasons).
For a while in physics, it looked as if S was reducing to a few principles (such as the conservation of energy). But then the on-going main interpretation of Quantum Physics blew up the Logic to hell. Semantics became everything.
How? By claiming that even what seemed impossible has a non-zero probability of occurring. In today’s Quantum Physics, camels go through needles, it’s just a matter of time.
Nietzsche tried to reduce S, the Semantics, to the Will To Power.
That’s, of course, stupid.
The Will To Power mostly rises in social animals. Such animals defend themselves as one, mind, the mind of the leader, so determining the “best” leader (namely the meanest) is of the essence.
A better reduction of meaningful motivation in human beings, and, more generally, animals is the much more general Will To Survival. All the power most animals have, is to insure their survival.
All these fishes I was gliding by, had a theory of mine, a theory of my mind, more exactly. You could see it in their eyes, how they wobbled, and fixated, until, reassured, they went back to considering other tasks, They had deduced, from their experience (S above) and the logic L of the situation (my non-threatening behavior), that their survival was not compromised.
What dominates species out there, in the jungle or the sea, is survival. The Will To Survival. Survival is determined by what is true.
Human beings are truth machines. And so are all brainy animals.
Fishes are very brainy.
Those doubting this should see a grouper inciting a moray eel (muraena) to hunt. The grouper is good at catching fishes in the open, moray eels are supreme in cracks and holes. The grouper goes to the muraena, whose head full of large sharp teeth observes him. Then he shakes his head right and left, in a gesture simulating the motions both eels and groupers make when swimming.
It may require several attempts, but then they go hunt together, the eels below the rocks, the grouper above. Suddenly, in flash of activity, many fishes meet their demise. Both fishes are five times more efficient when hunting together.
If a fish escapes from a grouper and hides into a crack, the grouper often goes to the closest moray eel he can find. Then he entices the eel to go fishing. Then the grouper repeats the head shaking dance, more slowly, where the fish went to hide. Then the eel dives into the hole. (Groupers, who are known to be very clever fishes, also cooperate with other fishes.)
Grouper and eel eat, because they have discovered a few basic truths.
Truth is what works.
Notice that the nature of the work Moray Eels and Groupers can do is limited. Thus, so is the notion of truth they can reach. Octopuses are very intelligent, they can unscrew bottles. However they live only a few years, and have no means of cultural transmission. The drama of the Octopus is that every single individual has to reinvent everything.
Advanced life has made intelligence ubiquitous, but finding truth has been highly constrained by the nature of the work species can do. The genus Homo, though, could work in the forests, in the savannah, in the trees, on the cliffs, across streams, and even arms of the sea, or under water. Even before it became super-brainy. And that’s why it became super-brainy.
Our ape like ancestors developed vast notions of truth, because they could do all sorts of work. In turn that created an ecological niche, the superiority niche, which made intelligence a greater advantage. (Until the recent reign of vegetarians, the politically correct, and other gallant promoters of weakness and retardation at the cost of brutal logical efficiency… Or simply the crutches of advancing technology: the present Homo seems to have significantly smaller brains than late model Neanderthals.)
How does that fit the [Truth = Logic + Semantic] equation above? It’s simple: Semantics is true, when it works, and Well Formed Formulas in logic are also what works. As science progresses, Semantic Truth’s empire shrinks, while that of Logic expands. How? Ever more logic shows how, and why, the Semantic Truth is actually the work of logic.
From the physics perspective, “action”, “work” and “truth” are all the same, as the Principle of Least Action ties them up together: the truth of the trajectory, the truth of the evolution of a process, is what minimizes “work” (of/in the physical action). Wherever we look, we see it:
Truth is what works.
Note 2: So what is the difference between humans and animals? The greater capability in humans to do all works, so construct all truths, including the work, and truth, of cultural transmission.