Due Diligence, Truthfulness, Existence: Tilting the World – Part II

I wrote at the end of Part 1, on another day I would cover off up the Existential Axiom, why Quantum Theory may be wrong, PLUS an earth shattering moral axiom, all leading up to why due-diligence to ensure truthfulness could be the greatest task one could take on…  Today is another day. So, here it goes…

Part I is here: Doing Due Diligence to be Truthfulness-Part 1

Summary of Part 1:

  • Collapsed concepts : Confusion of fact and truth, tight coupling of fact and value
    • Truth as a property of sentences, specifically declarative statements (Semantic Axiom)
    • Facts as data point which is deemed valuable (Data mixed with value judgment decides what a fact is)
  • Unwarranted Certainty due to confusing truth with fact
  • Operationalism
    • The operational relationship of an observation (a datum) to its claim (conclusion about a fact pattern) determines if a fact evidences the claim
    • Operational arguments, created by replacing is/are/was/were with function/operation words, forces greater due diligence in warranting beliefs and asserting truth claims
    • We can not know the truth with certainty, but we can ensure due-diligence in “being truthful” (which provides a clearer definition of “proof” – that being the steps taken to ensure truthfulness)
  • Axioms result from a consensus on value judgments
  • Axioms remain vulnerable to value judgments (at this point can they still be called an axiom?)

Now the end of part one gets a bit messy in regards to Axioms. Let’s fix this up a bit.

Axioms V2

Let’s refer to Oxford

  1.  A statement or proposition which is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true
  2. (Mathematics) A statement or proposition on which an abstractly defined structure is based.

Let’s look at the first definition. An axiom regards a statement to be established, accepted or self-evidently true. The words established and accept both communicate agreement. Both of these terms highlight axioms result from decisions, specifically agreement, based on some criteria. Without such criteria, axioms would be arbitrary. In short, this first definition refers to value judgment i.e. bias vulnerability.

The second definition points more toward the role axioms play, this being a structural basis for propositions. This implies that if an axiom is incorrect the proposition, unless by chance, is false.

I held off in addressing the second part of the first definition because it will be the focus of our next topic.

Self-Evident Truths

Our first definition, states axioms as self-evidently true, self-evidence may then be considered one possible criterion for deciding if a premise qualifies as an axiom. Other criteria are possible. In fact, we can decide anything to be the basis for our claims. That being said, axioms hold the place as our strongest premises, so strong as to not be questioned, and Existence Exist rests at the top of this list. I’ll use this as an example of weaknesses in axioms.

Experience may not be evidence.
What’s this nonsense? Call in the solipsists, Bill’s saying Existence doesn’t exist!

Leave the solipsists alone, they’re out chasing Sophie. Besides, refuting Existence Exist overwhelms the best of minds, not a task I qualify for. What I can demonstrate, by the use of non-operational language, even the strongest premises appear a bit shaky.

Let start with Existence Exists as a self-evident claim. This claim is so strong that any refutation nullifies itself – for how could the refutation even exist without acknowledging the existence exists!

Simply, our experience of the world affirms the truth of the premise. We need not doubt this premise as it penetrates through our awareness – if fact without this premise, awareness would be empty.

What if I told you, our experience may not be a very good gauge of reality?

The self-evidence for Existence Exists assumes our experience accurately reflects reality. Biologists call this into question with one idea.

Essentially, there exists very little evidence that nature has designed our minds for accuracy. Accuracy lacks evidence as an evolutionary driver (this may or not be the case.) Utility however does seems absolutely essential. Put another way, an elaborate misrepresentation of reality remains a real possibility, as long as it affords a survival advantage. Some would even say this probability is greater than an accurate representation of the world. A “Useful delusion” stands as a very real possibility.

“Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive. But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know. And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be.”

Read more here.

So….self-evidence might only reinforce utility, not reality.

Matters of scale

Bridgeman, the scientist who first proposed operationalism, illuminated an important shortcoming in our use of concepts. [He and others tried to construct a theory of truth based on this idea, and failed].

Bridgeman proposed that our concepts are not scalable, meaning a concept at one scale, called by the same name, loses its meaning (and utility) when moved to a different scale.

I borrow his example here. Distance, at say the scale of a table can be considered the space between two points. We throw down a tape measure. The space between the clasp at one end and the body of the tape measure at the other, marked off in equal increments, measures distance between both ends. Seems “self-evident”, akakaka… and at this scale it is.

What happens when we take this notion of distance to the scale, of say star systems? One helluva tape measure, that will take (says Yoda)! Well, this is not a reasonable method to measure vast distances across space.

Instead, we use the speed of light as our tape measure. If light takes seven years to travel the distance between two stars, then we convert this time-speed measure into a distance. To be more precise, we are considering a time-speed measure the same way we consider a tape measure.

Bridgeman asserts this is problematic because the distance between ends of the table, and distances between star systems are two very different notions (he proposed that if humanity had identified this issue with scale, we’d not have had such an upheaval when Relativity hit the scene.)

What Bridgman proposed was to consider these notions and our explanations by what OPERATIONS we undertake when collecting data. In short, what we do to MEASURE. So the distance between ends of the table would be laid out as a set of operations opposed to a definition. For example stretch along the plane, one wishes to measure, count of increments along the edge from one side to the other, record total.

When comparing to the set of operations in calculating the difference in position of star systems the incommensurability of the two measures becomes obvious. This would prevent human minds from conflating disparate concepts. Keywords->conflating concepts. The problem in conflating human scale distances with star system distances occurs when we unwittingly apply value judgments from one scale upon another or miss the application of value judgments which we should be eliminating.

How can we claim self-evidence for an axiom when our evidence is limited to one scale?

Others, who have more available gray matter than I do, have leveled good questions at Axioms.

I’ll let Feynman speak for himself.

That’s not what I mean, dummy!

Really what we mean about Existence Exists refers to the notion that the world really rests “out there”, independent of our minds, and the possibility of “knowing it” exists. By NOT considering the premise in this context lacks the Principle of Charity – which, in my opinion, accurately categorizes most arguments against this axiom i.e. Existence Exists.

Kay Gar Nay! (Nepali for “Oh my, what to do?”)
Operationalism and existence

I can’t find the reference for this… you’ll have to take my word for it, but I suspect needing to so won’t be an issue.

Another axiom which applies to existence floats around out there somewhere. It goes something like this. For something to exist, it must have some effect – no effect, no existence. Really not a big leap to make.

Let’s explore a bit more.

Consider a particle, let’s call him Keke (;-) ). Keke exists somewhere at the edge of space. Keke takes up no space, has no gravity, neither shines nor absorbs electromagnetic radiation. In fact, Keke has zero impact on the universe in all possible ways and the universe has zero impact on Keke.

In this scenario, Keke has no means to tell if the universe is there at all. And the Universe is completely unaffected by Keke.

Can we claim Keke exists?
How would we know?  How could we be sure?
Would it even matter?

To exist is to have effects and be affected, any notion otherwise is pointless.

This context shines a light on a fundamental property of existence – the necessity of interaction.

To “be” equates to “being consequential“.

.. but don’t take my word for it.

“My notion would be, that anything which possesses any sort of power to affect another, or to be affected by another, if only for a single moment, however trifling the cause and however slight the effect, has real existence; and I hold that the definition of being is simply power.”

Plato The Dialogues of Plato, vol. 4 (Parmenides, Theaetetus, Sophist, Statesman, Philebus)

Got it. We don’t live in a vacuum.

Remember what we said in Part I, facts being connected to fact patterns operationally? Summing this up in the language of mear mortals, it is really just a matter of looking at the interaction of things as proof of their existence (I broke the operational language to say that for you).

Get it? Interaction = existence. If an operational relationship is not observable, it simply does not exist!

Operational criteria ensure the existence of our assertions.

Operationalism assesses truthfulness by analysis of the consequences of the constituents. It ensures truthfulness by providing an account of consequences.

Operationalism shifts the focus from assertions about reality to the effects of reality and uses those effects as proof of existence… (And effects can be measured, think Bridgman. If it can be measured, it must exist)

Let’s use a little operationalism on Existence Exist.

  1. Existence exist – attempts to communicate existence is real and knowable (Principle of charity)
  2. For Existence to exist, it must have effects or receive affects
  3. Being affected by or affecting Existence one can affirm reality for both the part and the whole (as one gives the effect, the other receives it)
  4. Experience is a form of effect (illusory or not – it is still an effect)
  5. Experience confirms existence.
By taking an operational approach to communicating Existence Exist, we close off rebuttals which lack charity, conflate, or frame – in essence, we demand far more from our detractors by demanding far more from our axioms. (Try applying the above bullet list to the Brain-in-a-vat idea, it becomes a mute point quickly).

Well, I’m glad that worked out. (Imagine if it didn’t)

Now I promised the following:

…Existential Axiom, why Quantum Theory may be wrong, PLUS an earth shattering moral axiom, all leading up to why due-diligence to ensure truthfulness could be the greatest task one could take on…

But this will have to come in Part III. No worries, it will be sooner than later. Do stick with this, I’ll bring this right back home, eventually. You will see what this has to do with shattering the earth and great human feats… you have to cut me some slack, Okay? After all, people have spent entire careers on just one part of this.


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