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The Observer and Truth as Approximation

You burn your finger on a hot stove and withdraw it without thought. This is thought without words.

We think with words. Words are symbols — abstractions that we can apply to individual things. The word "two", for example, can apply to a variety of paired items. And we have symbols such as +, -, and =. Our use of symbols is about relationships.

The number two is an abstraction in our brain, but is there an abstract two-ness that we know of in nature outside our brain. I don't think so. Outside are brains are interactions among specifics things and forces that we measure with symbols housed in our brain. (Plato believed that abstractions outside our heads are real.)

Philosophers ponder the question of consciousness. The best answer, I believe, is: Consciousness is awareness and memory made possible by the biology of our brain — our nervous system. You can associate consciousness with divine magic if you like, but I deny that I have the capability to make such a conclusion. Scientists stop making conclusions when they can no longer measure.

We humans are self-conscious creatures and differentiate ourselves from that which we observe. We don't have to remain stuck on the idea that there is no reality outside ourselves.

Measuring involves the relationship between the observer and the stuff outside his head that is being observed. Those interested in space travel and time recognize that we cannot separate an event from the observer of the event.

Three big questions in philosophy are: (1) is a statement true or false? (2) should I postpone making a conclusion? (3) Is life worth living?

Truth is about verification: as you approach from a distance I can see whether it's really you. Truth is about accurate measurement. Concerning complexities it's about approximations. (Darwin's theory of evolution was an approximation that didn't include a later understanding of evolutionary genetics.)

With everything interconnected (in its origins and on-going relations), any claim that one knows the whole truth is preposterous. Telling the "whole truth" in court proceedings or a dissertation means telling "all that you know."


CONTINUE READING: Better Thinking

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