EAI OnRelativity

Of course, we've learnt a lot from the many mistakes of others (curiously, we learn too little from our own mistakes) during our lifetime, and by studying history, and history of sciences in particular that "Truth" is often vastly overrated, and should be reckonned as a relative and limited concept: on the one hand, what a lot of people, even bright people, believe to be true for a long time, backed with lots of arguments, might eventually end up being considered grossly approximate ("the earth is flat", classical physics), plain wrong ("exposure to radioactivity makes you healthier", marxist economy), or even ridiculously meaningless (astrology and most superstitions); and most questions, even "important" ones, will remain forever unanswered ("what would have happened should X have done Y instead of Z?", "where did I put this pen?"). [even the brightest people make mistakes]

Some claim that there is one absolute truth, and they know it; they are endoctrinated; when they think they know it all, they are fanatics. ....

The opposite trap, into which many people fall, often with a paradoxical absolute conviction of the above type, is Relativism. Relativity is not relativism. .... Truth is not less real because it is relative, on the contrary. Absoluteness is not a requirement. The proof is that since if it were a requirement, since it isn't possible to achieve, nothing would be possible at all. Relativism is the assertion that nothing is truer than anything else, since nothing is absolutely true. Relativism is but the negation of reason under the guise of a respectable philosophy; it leaves to sheer force and ignorant whim the whole process of opinion making and decision taking. ....

Much like the concepts of Space and Time are made nearer to reality by following the relativistic model rather than the classical model, the concept of Truth wins, and doesn't lose, at being made relative. People who claim that since there is no absolute truth, all statements are equally valid, are deeply misguided or misguiding; should they live honestly live by this principle, they'd become nihilists; but most of the time, this claim is dishonestly used to negate sound arguments, and denying any kind of (opposite) intelligence, so as to justify the unjustifiable, leaving brute force as the only remaining argument.

[ See unicity of 1-types in some non-trivial first-order logical structures, such as the first-order theories of order on rational numbers or on relative integers: even though all elements have the same logical structure, they are all different from the others, some being much greater than others; in other words, the internal structure of any element cannot help in comparing it to any other; but elements are not isolated, and you may actually compare them anyway, by considering their external structure, their interrelations with each other and with the external world. ]

..... Absolute Truth may be an intuitive concept, that matches very well most everyday life purposes, all the more in tight communities where survival relies on habits, and little resources are available for controversy. ..... However, let's be humble in front of the universe that surrounds us, let's just not believe that the models we make are the universe itself. There may well be an "absolute" truth, but we have no way to acquire it for sure, so for all practical purposes, it is as if there were none, and we must learn to live without one. ..... We do not need an absolute truth, what we need is some relative truth, some information, suitable to let us decide our behavior, we need information that be relevant to our actions.

This page is linked from: Ethics and Information