Finding Truth

This is about truth, and finding it, and perhaps, if we’re really lucky, helping others find it too.

I’ve been reading a lot of philosophy lately, and how we understand the world. There’s modal logic, which is sorta the logic of language, and how we use it to say what we want, and need. And epistemology, which is all about what we know and believe, and why. And semiotics, the science of signalling and signs, basically how language represents concepts. These are fascinating subjects in their own right, but let’s be honest here, I know you’re going to say “why should I care”? I’ll get to that.

Anyway, the interesting thing you see once you understand all of this (and a lot of related concepts) is how we perform language games and inconsistently use words and concepts. I know English is a poor language for logic, it’s much better suited for flowery poetry. But it’s like one of those things that once you see, can never be unseen.

I see a lot of false premises all the time now too. I think most of us sort of intuitively know this; we believe an idea, but don’t know why we believe it when we actually examine it. Basically, someone maybe told you this idea, and since they’re an authority, you believe them without questioning it.

I know I’ve been posting a lot about this lately, but it utterly floored me the first time I noticed that many of my beliefs aren’t actually justified. It was a moment of awakening, of clarity, probably even a breakdown. And every time I see someone do it, make an obvious logical jump, it reminds me of my own experience, having to break them down, and figure it all out from scratch again. Maybe I’ll write about that experience soon, but the fun part’s yet to come.

You know when you point out a mistake to someone, at least half of the time they sort of brush it off and don’t really respond to it. Or they’re like, “sure, ok. whatever” and move on. Even if they do accept it, there’s a problem. See, some mistakes are like cracks. They don’t require you to fix just one idea, but all of them. I’m pretty good at spotting these mistakes now. But people don’t reassess the entire foundation of their beliefs, they only patch over that one little crack.

So if you want to point out the error in an idea, you basically have to poke holes in a hundred related ideas to get them to reassess the core idea that it’s based on. And some of those hundred ideas may even be a good idea, or a right one, but for the wrong reason. So these systems are really hard to deal with. And of course, we come back to the same old problem: Nobody likes being told that they’re wrong.

But I’ve got some good news: I’ve seen people change their minds. I’ve personally changed the minds (on big, serious subjects) of at least a handful of people. But there’s some definite restrictions on this. It takes hours, days of discussion in some cases. It’s not a fast process; it’s sorta like therapy, to be honest. And the only people who are willing to go on this journey with you are the ones you’re already closest to. Your tribe.

It’s a funny problem, to be honest. I could very well be wrong about all this. But I’ll tell you what… I’m less wrong now than I used to be. And that makes me think there’s hope for finding the truth.

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