How the Proof of the Pudding is Really in the Eating

When you want to know the truth you are looking for facts. This seems very evident but Philosophy and especially the field of Epistemology has spend a lot of time to find out if this Statement about Truth is really True.

The first step is to look up the definition of the word “fact“. We use Wordnet to do this. WordNet is a semantic lexicon for the English Language. The database contains about 150,000 words.

Fact: A piece of information about circumstances that exist or events that have occurred.
Fact: A statement or assertion of verified information about something that is the case or has happened.
Fact: An event known to have happened or something known to have existed.
Fact: A concept whose truth can be proved.

The meaning of words changes in history. If you want to know how the meaning is changed you have to look up the Etymology of the word.

Fact: 1539, “action” especially “evil deed,” from L. factum “event, occurrence,” lit. “thing done,” from neut. pp. of facere “to do”. Usual modern sense of “thing known to be true” appeared 1632, from notion of “something that has actually occurred.”

When we combine the result of both dictionaries we see that the original meaning of the word “Fact” is-related to the word “Event”. Later around 1632 it changed into a concept “whose truth can be proved”.

To find more about the meaning of the word Event we can look for all the occurrences of this word in the sentences of English language. One of the scientists who spend a lot of time researching the meaning of the word “Event” is George Lakoff. He defined The Event Structure Metaphor.

A Metaphor Is-A Mapping. A Mapping Is-A Relation between two Domains, the Source and the Target.

The Event Structure Metaphor is one of the most widespread of all the conceptual metaphors in the world. It maps from the source domain of Space to the target domain of Events, and leads to the following concepts:

A State Is-A Location (a bounded region in space).
A Change Is-A Movement (into or out of bounded region).
A Cause Is-A Force.
An Action Is-A Self-Propelled Movement.
A Purpose Is-A Destination.
A Mean Is-A Path to destinations.
A Difficulty Is-A Blockage.
Expected Progress Is-A Travel Schedule.
A Schedule Is-A Virtual Traveler, who reaches pre-arranged destinations at pre-arranged times.
An External Event Is-A Large Moving Object.
A Long-term, purposeful activity Is-A Journey

An Event Is-A Blockage that prevents us to Move from One Destination to an other Destination in the Journey called Life. To Move from one Destination to an other Destination we are Propelling our Self. Sometimes we are propelled By something else, An External Event. If this Happens it feels like we are hit by a Large Moving Object.

When we are Hit by an External Event “things get out of hand” or “we are not able to keep a tight rein on the situation” or “we are not going with the flow” or “things take a turn for the worse“.

A Fact is an Event that Causes the Emotion of Frustration (Anger, Irritation, Sadness, Worry,..). An Event Forces us to Move Away from our Original Route, the Path that leads us to the Destination that we wanted to Reach in Life. We have to take a Detour.

What happened around 1632?

Around 1632 Francis Bacon advocated a new method for achieving knowledge, based on careful observation and eliminative induction. Bacon warned that effective reasoning must be freed from the “idolatrous” influence of human nature (Emotions & Imagination).

Francis Bacon started The Age of Enlightenment. The Enlightenment advocated reason as a means to establishing an authoritative philosophical system which would allow human beings to obtain objective truth about the whole of reality. Much later Emmual Kant dedicated his Critique of Pure Reason to Francis Bacon.

What happened?

Facts were moved from the Emotions (Judgement, Opinion) to the Level of the Mind (Truth). With the help of Logic it would be possible to Prove Everything.

According to Aristotle there are four types of truth: universal affirmatives take the form: All S are P, universal negations take the form: No S are P, particular affirmatives take the form: Some S are P, particular negations take the form: Some S are not P. Later so called contingent truths were added. They are dependent on the situation/context.

The Quest for the Eternal Logical Truth is still going on. Many very bright minds have tried to find a solution but the terrible thing is that the Truth of a logical proposition is entirely dependent on the Truth of the Facts that are put into the Proposition. We are again in a State of Infinite Regress.

One of these bright minds was Frank Plumpton Ramsey (1903-1930). Ramsey lived and worked in Cambridge and was befriended with Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, J. M. Keynes and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ramsey created a theory called Pragmatism.

In his paper ‘Truth and Probability’, written in 1926, Ramsey shows that if people in their behaviour obey a set of axioms or rules, the measure of our ‘degrees of belief’ will satisfy the laws of probability. The Truth is highly related to Judgment and “if we have analysed judgment we have solved the problem of truth“.

“ is, for instance, possible to say that a chicken believes a certain sort of caterpillar to be poisonous, and mean by that merely that it abstains from eating such caterpillars on account of unpleasant experiences connected with them. … An exact analysis of this relation would be very difficult, but it might well be held that in regard to this kind of belief the pragmatist view was correct, i.e. that the relation between the chicken’s behaviour and the objective factors was that the actions were such as to be useful if, and only if, the caterpillars were actually poisonous. Thus any set of actions for whose utility p is a necessary and sufficient condition might be called a belief that p, and so would be true if p, i.e., if they are useful“.

What Ramsey is telling is that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating“.

What happened?

We are finally back to square one! After about 400 years of Enlightment we have to admit that the only way to find the Truth is to find out if what we Think is true is really True. We don’t have to use very complicated reasoning to prove what we are already experiencing in the Real World.


About the Age of Reason

A Brief History of Truth, Stewart Candlish and Nic Damnjanovic

About Truth

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