“Those who understand why they believe what they believe can believe it from that basis. Those who don’t must believe from its being ‘the truth’."
According to Plato, as stated in his Theaetetus, a rather interesting argument took place in the Athenian Plakka about two thousand four hundred years ago. It was between Socrates and his followers (including Plato) and Theodorus and his followers. Theodorus was a student of Protagoras, and the argument was over Protagoras’ doctrine that ‘Man is the measure of all things’. Basically, that there is no qualitatively objective truth; or 'no truth beyond what people believe to be the truth'. Socrates disagreed and of course, by Plato’s account, won the argument. But apparently his victory was not very decisive, as the question can be seen to have been resurfacing in various forms and forums ever since.
In this essay I will offer a final resolution in favor of Protagoras. Simply, that we can see ourselves to be incapable of having any knowledge that we can coherently maintain or propagate as ‘truth’. Counterintuitively, my argument will be in strong opposition to our now dominant intellectual backdrop of post-structuralism/ knowledge-relativism. I will be arguing for, rather than against, our common-sense idea that at any given time some of our proposals can be clearly seen to qualify as knowledge, in relation to others that can be just as clearly seen not to. But this will in no sense constitute a reintroduction of our truth concept through the back door. I will demonstrate both analytically that this concept is wrong in the deepest sense of 'wrong' that can be coherently established by human minds, and empirically, that we would be far better off without it.
I will be arguing from both observation based common sense and recent developments in epistemology*. But I will have to stretch ‘recent’ to cover the past two hundred and sixty years, in order to include the man who I think might reasonably be called ‘The founder of modern epistemology’, David Hume. If - as is often said - 'clear statement of a problem takes us more than half way towards its solution', then most of the credit for this essay’s main proposal should go to Mr. Hume. Most of the remainder should go to Sir Karl Popper, who provided the solution to Hume’s problem for our particular case of scientific knowledge. I will merely be trying to drop Popper's other shoe. Essentially, to extend his solution to Hume’s problem to underpin all of the rest of our knowledge. This will be seen, if successful, to logically entrain rejection of both our 'truth' concept and post-structuralism/knowledge-relativism. I will then show that these rejections have some large and immediate real world implications; especially, towards dismissal of all of our ancient theisms.
*Some prior familiarity will be helpful, but not a requirement. I will give the essential background in paragraph endnotes like this one.
My initial presentation will be in the form of twelve asserted points. My goal will be just to get these out onto the table, without attempting full justification or cross linkage. I will then backtrack to provide those and solidify my argument. My reason for this unconventional presentation will become apparent as we progress.
Here are my points:
1. That the basic units that comprise all communicable human knowledge (our words, numbers, musical notation, etc.) can be seen to be created through a common interactive feedback process; between human minds (sensory perception plus cognition) and an independent/free-standing reality. Note: I do not mean to imply that even this separation actually exists in the reality. I mean only that we cannot, in reason, hold the divisions that we can see ourselves to be in some sense choosing for reality to be its own intrinsic divisions.
2. That no claim of qualitative superiority can therefore be sustained for any of our knowledge statements. In the sense that human perception and cognition are observably involved in the selection of their most fundamental units we cannot then legitimately place any of our proposals - constructed from these units - beyond criticism through human perception and cognition. I believe, and will try to show in this essay, that this is the only thing that we can coherently understand ourselves to have been doing in maintaining as 'truth', through 'faith', proposals that we can see to be controverted by all of our on demand repeatable physical observation based knowledge.
3. That all conflicts between logically exclusive knowledge proposals are resolvable. If we must finally accept that a single and common derivation process [to reiterate, from Point 1: recognition of appeal through human perception and cognition] underlies all of our proposals then I believe it to follow that a decision between any two logically exclusive proposals can be obtained by resubmitting them both, simultaneously, to the process. If we accept that reason, and therefore logic, is part of the process then I think that we must accept incorporation of logic's most fundamental axiom (that, in cases of direct conflict, both proposals cannot be simultaneously maintained) into it. If this is accepted then the whole basis for our ancient compartmentalization of knowledge into legitimately opposable 'domains of discourse' - up to and including Stephen J. Gould's suggested ‘separate magisteria’ accommodation between science and religion - is gone. It is not 'reduced in validity'. It is not 'called into question'. It cannot be salvaged through any appeal to post-structuralism*. It is finally, and at our deepest accessible epistemological level, wrong.
*As noted, I believe that as the position being outlined here is understood it will be seen to irrevocably undercut post-structuralism.
4. That our concept ‘truth’ is intrinsically irrational. I claim as a fully entrained logical corollary of Point 1 that ‘truth’ is either redundant, or absurd, as follows: That if we have any humanly perceptible justification for embracing a proposal as knowledge (for example: that it is observable, or demonstrable, or reasonable, or desirable-and-not-unreasonable, or was passed to us by someone who we trust) then we do not need the additional concept (‘truth’). We can more elegantly and informatively – and in most cases more succinctly – maintain the proposal upon the direct basis of our justification. While if we have no humanly perceptible justification then we have no ground from which to maintain the proposal; and so, again, we do not need the additional concept. Briefly and starkly, I am saying that our ancient habit of propagating some of our proposals as 'truths' has never had basic epistemological coherence. To run the accusation again: If we have, on balance, sufficient justification for embracing any proposal as knowledge, then why should we not do so upon the direct basis of that justification, and for exactly as long as we can see it to hold? And if we lack any such justification, then how/why should we embrace the proposal? Exactly where - in this apparently simple honest and transparent process - is 'truth' needed? Or - to look at this coin from the other side - what additional utility can we imagine our 'truth' concept to have been offering us beyond the ability to maintain as knowledge proposals that we know, at some level, we ought not to be maintaining? Furthermore, we can see that if we were to move to maintaining and propagating all of our knowledge proposals upon the direct basis of our justifications for them then the natural hierarchy of their relative strengths would finally become obvious. "I believe X because my mother told me X" is an explicitly human – and therefore from the position being outlined here, entirely legitimate – reason for believing X. But "I believe Y" (which, let us assume for this particular example, logically excludes X) "because I have personally seen Y" is a much better reason for believing Y (and so, necessarily, for rejecting X). Whatever else our ‘truth’ concept may or may not have been doing for us I think that we can see it to have been at least clouding our judgment of the relative strengths of our other knowledge justification concepts.
5. ‘Revelation’ cannot save truth. It does not go deep enough. For any purported revelation we can see that some human had to decide initially whether or not he or she would accept it. ["Does this ‘Being’ seem to me to be a god, or a devil? Does its 'revelation' seem – against the background of my present knowledge – to be right or wrong; good or bad?"]. Basically, Point #1 still undercuts it. The knowledge still has to be presented in human units. It still has to be accepted or rejected, in the first instance, through potentially fallible human judgment. We cannot therefore, through reason, maintain or propagate it upon a supposedly superior basis. [That of its having been 'revealed', or of its being thereby 'the truth'.]
6. 'Reason' is averaged and extrapolated observation. It subsumes logic, but is far broader. It is, for any particular mind, the best present understanding of reality’s most fundamental regularities that that mind has been able to achieve in terms of its units. Or to put it otherwise: Reason is the collective output of the newer/higher brain physiological structures and organization that we apparently developed in conjunction with our units. It is the software created by our minds for the specific purpose of adaptively (in the Darwinian sense) manipulating the units. It cannot therefore, in its own terms, deliver direct knowledge of reality. But it can show itself to be our most powerful and reliable faculty for the selection of knowledge. I would offer that this can be seen to undercut even Hilary Putnam's famous conundrum. That for every human mind reason, including the proposal that it is not a brain in a vat*, can be seen to be the most satisfactory working assumption even for a brain in a vat.
* From Putnam's 'Reason Truth and History', and the basis (albeit at a pretty substantial remove) for the movie 'The Matrix'.
7. The ancient position of strong-form epistemological skepticism (the position that we can note first from the Greek skeptics, like Theodorus, and then see resurfacing throughout our Roman and European Christian developmental phases) is correct. It is not, in reference back to Points 1 through 4, ‘true’. It is correct through direct reference to observation and observation grounded reason. We can see how we obtain our most fundamental units. It is obvious that they are not, and can never have been, directly, independently, characteristic of reality. We can see that it is logically impossible for us to select units, or to create further knowledge from them, except upon the basis of appeal that is recognizable through our perceptive and cognitive faculties. We can even check the alternative, through explicit exclusion of these faculties from the process - as in: “We embrace X as ‘the truth’, upon the basis of it’s being ‘the truth’” - and see that this can't fly. To clearly state the vast underlying problem: It is a pure tautology. To the extent that we collectively pretend that it does fly any proposal no matter how absurd can be claimed - through 'faith in its truth' - as knowledge. I believe, and will attempt to show here, that this is precisely the main task for which we have been maintaining our 'truth' concept. I will concede that we have been using it for other tasks - largely, I think, in order to sustain our illusion of its rational legitimacy. But I will show that it is only for this particular task that we have ever needed it. This will then be seen to segue immediately into the pragmatic question: Is this now - with the whole matter finally dragged out into the open - a task that we still wish to pursue?
8. Immanuel Kant did not answer the challenge of Hume’s rational destruction of the Induction Principle as an escape from strong-form skepticism. Kant’s arguments for an exception case (‘synthetic a priory’ knowledge) can be logically dismissed through Humian arguments. The escape fails.
9. Karl Popper did answer Hume, but he answered through an inversion so profound that its full rational implication (I believe, that which I've started to outline here) was perhaps too strange for even its author to accept. During the roughly two hundred years between Kant and Popper we continued our grail quest; for the observation based and logically coherent objective-truth-recognition-procedure whose existence seemed to be so clearly indicated by the apparently qualitative superiority of science. Members of the Vienna Circle, in particular, were convinced that some formulation would be found to justify at least science itself as such 'objective truth'. Popper’s ‘Inversion’ was to say, in effect: “Forget about this. Hume was right. We have never had and can never have such a qualitatively superior form of knowledge, even in science”. But (and here comes the exquisite twist) this is irrelevant to science. Science has never been about ‘truth’ in this sense*, because it has never been about ‘proof’. The proposals of science can be most effectively distinguished from those of non-science by: A. Their rational explanatory power. B. Their clear and definite statement (to the extent of deliberately opening themselves up to the maximum possibility of observational disproof**). C. Their tentative/conditional acceptance (acceptance only as best present knowledge, while we honestly continue our efforts to disprove them or to subsume them within proposals of greater explanatory power).
* I do not mean to imply here that Popper fully shared my own rejection of our 'truth' concept. He seemed to be on the brink of this when writing The Logic of Scientific Discovery. But in his later years he became a strong proponent of Alfred Tarski’s revamped form of our old ‘Correspondence’ theory (of truth). I simply think that his youthful insight was the sharper. That when his position is restated with even the Tarskian understanding removed its internal consistency, elegance, and utility can be seen to be increased. In any case, and to return to the present argument, the Tarskian understanding is clearly not of a humanly possessable qualitatively superior form of knowledge.
** The strength of Popper’s position rests on a fundamental logical asymmetry between ‘proof’ and ‘disproof’. Disproof can be seen to be achievable within human knowledge. If we have been holding as a theory: “All swans are white”, and we then discover a bird that is inarguably a swan in all respects apart from its being black, then our theory has been disproved. Like it or not. But in order to be able to ‘prove’, in any meaningful sense, “All swans are white”, we would need to be able to reach outside human knowledge. To prove it through observation we would need simultaneous access to all past present and future swans. To prove it through reason we would need the kind of meta-rational principle that we were considering Induction to be before Hume disproved that. And, to be sufficient for our purpose, any such principle would at least need to be able to undercut my observations expressed as Points 1 and 2 above. To go ahead and call this spade a spade, it would need to be a demonstrably non-anthropomorphic human principle.
10. Popper thus effectively rescued science from Hume’s epistemological meltdown; but he did not rescue the rest of human knowledge. I believe that the most exciting implication of this has yet to be generally understood. To be clear on what happened: That which we can see to be our most powerful and reliable form of knowledge - (in that we can see it to deliver, in the provision of methods and predictions that enable us to influence reality in our desired directions) and in that we can see it to grow (in its range of applicability, explanatory power, and internal consistency) - was restored to a sound logical footing through formal renunciation of its linkage to 'proof', or therefore, in any objective sense, to ‘truth’. But then, and from this realization; what about all of the rest? If we have been able to see for the past seventy years that even our best is not qualitatively superior (i.e., that none of its proposals can reasonably be embraced as the actual state of reality) then from what position have we been continuing to hold so many proposals that we can see to be in clear logical opposition to it? If we have not been maintaining – as an emotionally supported collective illusion - our possession of 'truth' as precisely the kind of independent knowledge basis suggested by my preceding points, then from where have we been maintaining as knowledge proposals about creation in six days, virgin birth, walking on water (and turning it into wine), dictating angels in mountain caves*, and all similar?
*And to the familiar dodge that “no modern/sophisticated theist actually holds such proposals” I will admit that I am choosing here simple and tip of the iceberg examples for their illustrative impact. But I will offer both that many modern theists observably do hold such proposals (and continue to demonstrate their willingness to act on them even to the extent of sacrificing their own lives for the murder of sufficient numbers of infidels) and that the proposals of sophisticated theists can be quickly shown in debate to differ from these only through being more sophisticated; rather than through being any less irrational.
11. I can find many compelling reasons why we should – and none why we should not – go ahead and extend 'Popper’s Inversion' to underpin, and so finally unite, all human knowledge*. The rest could not thereby become science, but it could explicitly and formally take science as its core. It could recognize the authority of science in all areas where science is now in a position to speak, and could follow science in renouncing the pretense as to extra-human certainty ('truth') with which it is still observably saturated**. It could adapt itself to become increasingly consistent with science/observation-based reason. The test for science would remain, per Popper: “Does this proposal have greater explanatory power than any logically exclusive proposal, and can this explanatory power be expressed in clearer physical predictions to facilitate its observational disproof?” But the test for all other knowledge could become: “Is this proposal at least as rationally consistent with our present scientific knowledge as any logically exclusive proposal; and then, if so, is it more, or less, desirable?” To be explicit, I am re-offering here the ancient suggestion that in reference to all knowledge we finally and formally put our objective horse in front of our subjective cart. We have in some sense known as a species, and for at least the 2500 years since our Greek apogee, that we ought to do this. But we have somehow never quite been able to summon the needed intellectual cojones. I will try to show here, and as our discussion continues, that even this disconnect can in the end be clearly traced to our maintenance of our 'truth' concept.
* If this sounds familiar then "Yes!", and "Damn right!". I am indeed talking about E. O. Wilson's 'Consilience' agenda; but not about Professor Wilson's patient and gentlemanly pursuit of it. My proposal is to move for the change right here and now, directly through reason. In the framework of Wilson's main Consilience analogy: I think that we have run out of time for backing up our 'ancient vampire' step by step. And in view of some recent developments, particularly here in the US, I am not even entirely sure that we are backing it up. I am trying, through this essay, to drag the old monster at last out into the sunlight.
** This observation goes far beyond our explicit use of the words ‘true’ and ‘truth’. It encompasses every adult who has ever used phrases like “well, that’s just the way that things are” or “its just how the world is”, or "because I say so", to avoid the rational requirement for justification (or even, in which we go again all the way to the heart of the problem, acknowledgment of this requirement’s existence) in order to be able to directly download proposals of irrational knowledge into the minds of children. If my Point #1 cannot be controverted then “just how the world is” is precisely – both analytically and empirically – what we cannot know. What we can know – rationally, in terms of our ‘merely human’ observational and cognitive faculties – is that some of our knowledge proposals are better than others; and, at any given time, which ones these are. The underlying suggestion of this essay is that our 'truth' concept has been - to the extent that it has been for anything coherent whatsoever - for our maintenence of a pretence to knowing far more than this.
12. When Popper brought down the Vienna Circle’s final candidate for an objective truth recognition process* (through his observation that it could not pass its own test**) and so opened the way for post-structuralism, we in the self avowedly rational community should never have bought it. Post-structuralism was/is a simple case of drawing an incorrect inference from the data. With the collapse of our last remaining runner were indeed obliged to admit that we cannot justify any of our knowledge as 'objective truth'. Post-structuralism was the misinterpretation of this admission as a problem for our knowledge. Basically, that in being like all of the rest, ultimately unprovable, science is no better than any of the rest. I think that instead of accepting this we should have fired back immediately with the full extension of Popper’s Inversion. That we should have presented our final failure to qualify science as ‘objective truth’ not as a problem for science – or indeed, for any other admittedly ‘merely human’ knowledge – but as a final and fatal problem for 'objective truth'. [And so - through reason, and as is being urged here - for our entire 'truth' concept.]
* Its Central Dictum: That the meaning of any statement is, in essence, its verification procedure.
** The verification procedure that justifies this statement (the Central Dictum) is……?
I believe that these twelve points functionally outline my position; but that the most important of them, by far, is the first. Even upon its sole basis the simple realization that I implied can now be made explicit, as follows: That our species has never really had the kind of qualitatively superior knowledge basis and resultant knowledge form whose existence we have observably been invoking through our words 'true' and 'truth'. I mean this from both directions. I mean (A) That we can see that we have never really had any such independent knowledge basis [Points 1, 2 & 3] and I mean (B) That our ‘truth’ concept can only be understood to refer, non-redundantly, to precisely such an independent basis [Points 4, 10 & 11].
To expand first on (B): ‘Truth’ has – demonstrably, and I think, deliberately – no specific reference to any human perceptive or cognitive faculty. We cannot therefore say that it means ‘is observable’, or ‘is desirable’, or ‘was told to me by my mother’, or any such thing. I think that the very best that we can say - in a last ditch attempt to reconcile ‘truth’ and reason - is that it may refer to some property of knowledge that is apprehended through a kind of wooly and imprecise amalgamation of all of our faculties. And to this I would note – in particular to the members of my own intellectual tribe (scientists, engineers and empiricist philosophers) – that it is not our standard practice to prefer the relatively wooly and imprecise. I would also note that in consideration of the number of proposals that we have labeled 'truth', and propagated as 'truth', and then abandoned (taking into account all of our clans and tribes, and city and nation states, over, say, the past seven thousand years), as against the number that we are now still holding as 'truth' (and taking into account that those of science are no longer - post Popper* - within this set) it must be admitted that the performance track record of whatever is responsible for our assignation of this property is abysmal. I am pointing out that in addition to being absurd in theory our 'truth' concept can be clearly seen not to work. That its assignation can be seen to add nothing to any of our knowledge proposals. [Except perhaps, in the strange and counter productive sense implied by my Point #4; of allowing us to maintain as ‘knowledge’ some proposals that we should apparently, through reason, no longer be maintaining.]
* "We cannot identify science with truth, for we think that both Newton's and Einstein's theories belong to science, but they cannot both be true, and they may well both be false." (Popper, from page 78 of Bryan Magee's 'Modern British Philosophy').
To return now to (A): The flip side way of expressing this essay’s central claim is that we have been maintaining, through our 'truth' concept, an entirely illusory independent knowledge basis. Most starkly, a knowledge basis that we can see - through simple rational inspection - that we have never had. But can I demonstrate this? Can I show that we have been doing it, or am I perhaps attacking (as has been suggested to earlier drafts of this essay) a straw man? To move now from the theoretical level to that of our day-to-day use of ‘truth’ in speech and writing: I do claim as observable that we have been using the concept in precisely the two invalid and logically exclusive ways suggested by my Point #4. My own tribe appears to use it mainly in the way that is redundant but otherwise rational. We say things like: “We believe that X is true, upon the basis of Y (evidence)”. Or: “It is true that an X is a Y” (where X might for example be ‘aardvark’, and Y might be ‘animal’). Or: “X is observably true”. While primarily political and religious people seem to use it in the way that is functional but otherwise absurd. They say things like: “We believe that X is true in spite of Y (evidence)”. Or “We believe in X because we know it to be the truth”. Or (most often to their children or other assumed intellectual inferiors): “You must believe X because it is the truth”. For the first group of statements the concept’s redundancy can be shown in the classical way; by removing it, to yield: “We believe X, upon the basis of Y (evidence)”. “We define an X as a Y”. “X is observable”*. But for the second group the concept cannot be removed without rendering the statements incoherent. We seem to be using it non-redundantly. It appears to mean something. What it appears to mean is exactly: ‘an independent and qualitatively superior form of knowledge’, or: ‘a form of knowledge that represents – in defining contradistinction to our merely human tentative/conditional knowledge – the actual state of reality’. Bottom line, and most succinctly, it appears to mean: A form of knowledge that is logically ruled out by this essay’s Point #1.
* I would challenge any fellow engineer to tell me, hand on heart, that he or she does not prefer these revised versions of the statements.
But perhaps I am still wrong. Perhaps I have entirely misinterpreted, and am therefore indeed attacking a straw man. All that would be necessary for me to accept this would be an understanding of what else, in such statements, we could possibly have been meaning by our 'true' and 'truth'. What are they doing there, in the statements? Is there some other message that we believe ourselves to have been propagating to our children in telling them "You must believe 'this' ('X') because it is the truth"? I therefore explicitly request such understanding if it can be provided. In its absence I must repeat - through reversion to my opening points 1 and 2 - that what we seem to have been meaning by it (by, precisely, functional/non-redundant 'truth') has always been bedrock irrational. That the most fundamental thing that we can know about our knowledge - through both direct observation and observation grounded reason - is that none of it can be this.
To review and consolidate some significant points:
We have, analytically, the apparent necessity of human synthesis for a kind of knowledge that can only be maintained as qualitatively superior - and so, as justifiable in spite of its lack of reference to any specific mechanism of human synthesis – by our assumption of its not having been obtained through human synthesis.
We then have the empirical face of this problem, which we might call ‘the difficulty through common sense observation’: That our most fundamental knowledge units (our words, numbers, etc.) can be clearly seen to be our own creations; and that a necessary logical corollary of this is that we cannot synthesize a qualitatively superior form of knowledge from them; any more than we would be able to synthesize an apple from some number of oranges. [This can of course be denied - as it explicitly is by many Muslims in reference to the seventh century Arabic of the Qur'an - but the denier should then at least be ready to answer questions like: What exactly happened, outside the Qur'an, to Qur'anic Arabic? And/or; which of our languages is now ‘the real one’? And; how can we account for our observations that new words and concepts are constantly being added to all of our languages - including of course, Arabic - while old ones are being abandoned?]
Finally, we have what we might call ‘the difficulty through scientific observation’: That it is now apparent that we obtain all of our visual information through a narrow window in the electromagnetic vibration spectrum (of approximately 400 to 700 nanometers wavelength) and all of our auditory information through similarly a narrow window in the physical vibration spectrum (of approximately 20 to 20,000 cycles per second). And that we then process the data that has in this sense already been ‘anthropized’ through neural computers that were optimized for the particular task of increasing reproductive success of the genes that coded for them, and in the particular environment of the African Rift Valley approximately one and a half million years ago. Once grasped I cannot imagine it as a possible stretch for any rational person to square such understandings with belief that any of our knowledge can be directly, independently, characteristic of reality (or even, in any other way, qualitatively superior in the sense that we can see ourselves to have been suggesting through our non redundant use of our 'truth' concept).
The initial reaction of most people to what has been said so far (that our ‘truth’ concept is intrinsically irrational; that we cannot know anything that we can reasonably call ‘truth’) seems to be to bounce back and forth between truth’s two untenable positions. Even primarily rational people will provide examples of the logically absurd usage (‘truth’ as an independent and qualitatively superior knowledge form) in order to justify their retention of the concept when it is pointed out that their standard usage is redundant. While primarily subjectively oriented people will indignantly produce good examples of the redundant usage (“Well, whatever you may say, it is true that I have two arms and a head”) in response to a demonstration that their standard usage is logically absurd. I can’t field both objections at exactly the same time, and both appear to be so deep seated that it is hard for other minds to break through them at the same time. So after a certain number of dodges these conversations typically end in my plea for just one solid and coherent justification for their maintenance of 'truth' as an additional concept. For just one thing more that they mean by their “X is the truth”, beyond what I mean by my bare assertion "X"; or by “X is observable”, or “X is demonstrable”, or “X is esthetically (or mathematically) beautiful”. If this question cannot be answered - if therefore it must be admitted that our 'truth' concept is at best redundant - then it seems to me that we should stop maintaining it. This 'B' seems to follow inexorably from its 'A', according to the deepest rules of our shared game (reason, as outlined in Point 6 above). Or have I misunderstood those rules? I believe these questions to be clear and honest, and I explicitly state that I am not asking them rhetorically. Earlier versions of this essay have been read by many people who have claimed reason as their primary determinant for knowledge, and yet who skated right over these questions. I am still trying to understand that.
I think that as recently as three hundred years ago my main question (What more have we been meaning?) could have been answered quite easily: “OK you son of a bitch: We mean additionally by 'truth' ‘real knowledge; ‘the actual state of reality’; ‘that which, objectively, is’”. [Or, to be just a little more philosophically sophisticated, in setting the problem back by one iteration, our old 'Correspondence' theory: "We mean by 'truth' 'correspondence to the objective facts'"]. As I’ve already conceded, I think that this is precisely our old/strong meaning for the word. I think that it is the meaning that would – and did – justify ‘truth’ as a concept; and is the meaning that we are still clearly conveying to our children when we tell them things like “you must believe X because it's the truth” (and even where we do not explicitly use the word, but keep it hovering in the background, as in: "You must believe X because that's just the way that the world is"). The main philosophical point of this essay is that this meaning is both empirically and analytically invalid. That it is apparent through common sense (ref. Points 1 through 4), and has been perhaps the most fundamental tenet of formal epistemology for at least the past two hundred years (post Hume and Kant*) that we simply cannot have this kind of knowledge. And so; that our apparent understanding of having it has never been more than a mutually reinforced illusion.
* Or, to bring this right up to date: post Frank Ramsey and Richard Rorty.
It would appear - on the basis of the weirdly (from my side) peripheral feedback received to date - that my main question cannot be answered. That we are unable to either justify our 'truth' concept or reject it. We all seem to have been educated from earliest childhood to believe that we need it; that it is in fact our most important concept. But reason seems to me to be strong enough to deal even with this, if it can be shown that the stakes are high enough.
Here are the stakes: We can see that truth is exactly the concept through which we - initially in our little clans and tribes, but now up to the level of nation states - have always been able to maintain our parochial little Gods and ideologies, and racial ethnic and cultural peculiarities, as 'the real ones' and 'of the real people'; to the exclusion of those of 'those heathen barbarians across the river' or in the next valley. Observably, none of this stuff has ever made a damn bit of sense; but it has been magnificently emotionally seductive. So I think that we have been perpetuating our illusion of possession of a legitimately reason-opposable knowledge basis exactly in order to be able to maintain this kind of stuff. Most starkly, that we have always ‘needed’ truth for our maintenance of the systems of proposals through which and for whose sake we have been deceiving ourselves and each other, fighting our wars, and trashing our planet. Nor do any appear to have been spared. Even most members of my own tribe now still believe themselves to need their sober objective 'rational truths', as a basis from which to use logic to obtain further truths, and from which to oppose the silly and desire-based 'irrational truths' of the religious and ideological fundamentalists. Our truths v their truths. The redundant force meets the absurd object. Or, to come again directly to the point; our most important debates being fought over a concept that neither side can even define, and so, through which neither side can possibly win. In consequence; thousands of years of talking past each other, collapsing at last into our current intellectual tar pit of post-structuralism. If we can finally see that this game is wrong, and can finally admit that we thereby know that it is wrong, must we continue to play it?
In this vein, and in the light of all that has now been said, I wish to move this discussion from the theoretical to the practical level. I would suggest that the most immediate practical question to be raised by all of the foregoing is this: Why don’t ‘we’ - in the self avowedly rational community - go ahead and do what we apparently should have done seventy years ago? Why don't we start to use our articles and essays to spread the clear and functional justification of Popper’s Inversion outward from its present science core to underpin all of the rest of our knowledge that we can see to be in even the most generous sense rationally consistent with science? Admittedly, our post structural truce with the theists has already been breaking down for at least the past fifteen years. But the "According to who?" and "That’s just your opinion." of post-structuralism as a philosophical zeitgeist still seem to be depressingly universal. For as long as this zeitgeist holds I'm afraid that reason will remain a dragster on oiled ice; with all of its power being denied traction by the simple and now correctable misunderstanding that we finally have no coherent basis for our selection of some proposals over others. We observably do have such a basis. Unfortunately, counter-intuitively, it has nothing whatsoever to do with proof* or ‘truth’. But if our own community can finally understand this - and how it does work** - clearly enough to begin effectively promoting it, then I think that we will rapidly undermine post structuralism and return to an intellectual climate in which progress is possible.
* And from this our answer to the theists, when they drag out their tedious dead horse of "Well, science can't prove that my God doesn't exist" should be "Please wake up, and/or go back to school. 'Proof' has never been our species' criteria for knowledge selection, and we have known this clearly and explicitly for the past 70 years. Neither of us can prove that Russell's Teapot or The Flying Spaghetti Monster do not exist, but you don't seem to be offering me either of these as knowledge. As soon as you fully understand why you are not offering them - the simple cut through which you recognize their failure to qualify as knowledge - then you will understand that it applies equally to your God. Get up to speed, enter at least the twentieth century, and then let's resume our discussion."
**See Bryan Magee's brief and beautifully written introduction to Karl Popper, 'Philosophy and the Real World'.
From my belief that the initial key to this must lie in our own clear dismissals of our truth concept, let me now pose very directly to the members of my own tribe – and to anyone else who would likewise already claim reason as their primary determinant for knowledge – the question that I outlined in general form above:
Exactly what additional claim are you making for the knowledge proposals to which you are applying your ‘truth’ concept? What are you saying about any 'X', in calling it a 'truth', that is beyond what you can say through application of your explicitly human knowledge justifications (that X is 'right', or 'observable', or 'correct', or 'demonstrable', or 'indicated by the preponderance of the evidence', or 'consilient in relation to the rest of my knowledge', or any other thing that does not carry truth's logically necessary implication of qualitatively superior certainty)?
As I’ve now exhaustively noted, I believe that in terms of our most coherent way of knowing (at deepest root, through on-demand-repeatable physical observation and observation grounded reason) the only viable answer to my question is “nothing”. If this can be fully agreed then let me now offer it as this essay's main action item proposal: That all of us who have already embraced reason as our primary determinant for knowledge will collectively and publicly abandon our 'truth' concept. Let me reiterate that I am proposing this on both the most fundamental logical grounds [What, exactly, is a ‘concept’ for which no referent characteristic can be defined?] and on grounds that our merely human knowledge justifications can be seen to be better. If, in final recap, I tell you that X is observable, or any of the other justifications that I might actually offer for your acceptance of X, then you can argue with me, and we can settle the issue (ref. Point #3 above). This is obvious for a statement like “X is observable”. If you wish to contest it then we can go to where I claim that X can be seen - or perform the experiment that I claim will show X - and we will either see it or we won’t. It is less obvious for statements like “X is indicated by the preponderance of the evidence”. But I would argue that if we are both genuinely desirous of reaching agreement, and we are both rational, and both accept the totality of present scientific knowledge as a common data base, then we will certainly be able to achieve agreement. To repeat again, this is not so for “X is the truth”. You must either buy this outright (in effect, as a ‘revelation’ from me) or you must assume that I am lying. If we are both rational then you cannot ask me for reasons. If I had had any such then I would have cut straight to the chase, in proposing X to you on their basis. From this realization 'truth' is simply our word for when we are too lazy to provide - or more ominously, cannot provide because we know it to be intellectually dishonest - our real basis.
If, in reference again back to Point #1, human perception and cognition must be recognized as the initial foundation for all of our knowledge, then our assignation of the special property of being 'truth' to some of it must either be done through some specific component of human perception or cognition (which would subsume our ability to identify that component), or it must at best be done through some wooly and amorphous amalgamation of all of their components; which would render 'truth' clearly inferior to our specific, and therefore challengeable, and therefore finally - in the Popperian sense - falsifiable knowledge justification concepts. I am pointing out yet again that there are only two paths for 'truth', and that they can both be seen to lead, through reason, inexorably to the trash can.
To return now to post-structuralism, I think that it can finally be understood as nothing grander or more puzzling than the arrival of our pursuit of ‘truth’ at its inevitable logical conclusion. The basic post-structural position can be stated as: “We cannot exclusively justify any of our knowledge proposals as ‘truths’*. Therefore we can have no sufficient basis for preferring some of them (for example, those of science) over others (for example, those of fundamentalist Christianity or Islam)”. By contrast, the position for extension of Popper’s Inversion to underpin all of our knowledge that is not clearly irrational can be stated as: “We cannot exclusively justify any of our knowledge proposals as ‘truths’. Therefore we can finally abandon this concept and complete the move, that was started seventy years ago in science, to holding all of our proposals honestly and from what we can now see to have always been their only functional and coherent basis. Our position is final and explicit consignment of all human knowledge to a single and level playing field. It is final rejection of the illusion that we can now see ourselves to have been perpetuating – through our words 'true' and 'truth' – of our possession of an independent and qualitatively superior basis". Fundamentally, it is clear recognition of our own involvement in the creation of all of our knowledge. Yet again, this essay's Point 1.
* Or, as it is sometimes stated: “We can justify all of them as ‘truths’”. Logically, these positions are equally worthless.
To cleanly and irrevocably undercut post-stucturalism would require only that all who read this essay and find themselves to be as incapable as I am of answering my main question (of what more we might coherently mean by ‘truth’) will accept the obvious rational implication of this, in abandoning their 'truth' concept. In ceasing to think about it, or speak about it, or write about it; except in opposition. If enough of us do this then post-structuralism will dissipate, like a bad dream upon awakening, and The Enlightenment will be rekindled. But this time with a stunning difference, as I will now try to clarify.
Our point of entry, our flint and steel to restart the fire, will be to ask all who proselytize for systems of irrational knowledge (and in particular, as suggested above, for our highly virulent systems that feature Supernatural Beings and assumptions of superior cultural and ethnic entitlement based on their purported instructions) the question that I just put to all of you. If any one of them can answer it then "fine". All will remain as it is, and I will apologize to you, my fellow servants of reason, for wasting your time. But if none can then we will be able to inform our opponents both that the battle is rejoined and that it will now be – for the first time in human history – a straight fight. Gloves off; one winner. Final consignment of all human knowledge to a single and level playing field cannot be seen to destroy ‘faith’; but it can be seen to remove its capacity to be turned against reason. The basic thing that I am asking the reader to abandon - so that we may achieve a collective position from which we can then powerfully ask our intellectual opponents to either abandon it with us or else explain to us at last and coherently why they won’t - is the imaginary independent knowledge basis from which our species has always been able to pit faith against reason. To reverse this mirror one last time: We can see ourselves to have been maintaining such a basis precisely in that we can see ourselves to have been doing that thing (pitting faith against reason). We could only have been doing it from, in effect, our perception of a legitimate alternative platform on which we were standing. My point for this essay is that observably, and from down here in our deepest accessible epistemological basement, we have never had any such platform.
To bring this realization from the basement all the way up onto our present battle fields of 'science v religion' and 'culture wars': If, in 'truth's' absence, I offer for your belief the proposal that there is a supernatural being who is also and simultaneously three beings, and who created our observably 14 billion year old universe - consistent of billions of galaxies each consistent of billions of stars - all for the purpose of staging a 6,500 year drama on our relatively negligible planet, then you are now entitled (in fact, you are even obliged) to ask me straight out to state the basis upon which I embrace this incredible proposal. And if - after some token preamble of an attempt to answer your question through reason - I must finally fall back on ‘faith’, you are now entitled to ask me: “Faith in what? If it is faith in your proposal’s possession of on-balance appeal that can be recognized through human perceptive and cognitive faculties – i.e., in it’s actually being selectable as knowledge upon the only coherent basis that we have ever been able to show for our ability to do that – then your ‘faith’ is redundant. [We’re listening, and you can make your pitch.] While if it is faith in your proposal’s existence as an independent form of knowledge – as a form that is qualitatively superior to that which we hold – then please revert to our original questions: Qualitatively superior in exactly what way? How can you account for your possession of it? Where, precisely, do you think that it came from? And if you cannot do any of these things, and so cannot in any coherent sense justify your proposal, then please understand our placing it at last and clearly in the same bin as those that involve old women flying on broomsticks, or a corpulent gentleman dressed in red flannel being pulled through the air by reindeer”.
High noon; cards on the table; I really am talking about finally winning our ancient debate with the theists. I'm talking about backing up our Dembskis, Collins', Plantingas, and Tiplers into a clear logical corner from which they will be able to see that they cannot emerge with both reason and their 'truths'. If my Point #1 cannot be controverted – and/or, if my main question cannot be answered – then I do not believe that this choice can be avoided. I would not presume to prejudge it for them, but I would suggest that in either case our present post-structural deadlock will be broken. We will either be able to welcome them at last into a meaningful dialogue (finally ditch the 'talking past' stuff) and get our major disagreements resolved; or we will be able to go ahead and write them off in the clear and honest sense that we would write off a person who believed himself to be a poached egg. We would not of course entirely cease to listen to such a person, but I think that we - and perhaps more to the point, any self avowedly rational debate audience - would insist upon settlement of the poached egg issue before being willing to consider seriously anything else that they might have to say. I am therefore proposing a shift to this as our default position in relation to all who proselytize for irrational knowledge systems. Basically, that we should abandon our traditional attack in terms of 'proof', and 'our truths v their truths' (post-structuralism being correct in that no resolution is possible at that level) in favor of the simpler and deeper attack enabled through Popper's Inversion. Essentially; that of showing them patiently and step by step that their proposals cannot be understood to qualify as knowledge upon any basis that can be understood to be capable of selecting knowledge*. I think that such a shift would, to say the least, get their attention; and would dramatically reclarify and re-energize our debate.
* We are here, from yet another angle, at my underlying point. We can see ourselves to have nothing but our perceptive and cognitive faculties through which to prefer the defining proposals of any irrational knowledge system (for example, Catholic Christianity) over those of any other (say, Scientology, or Voodoo). But we cannot, through honest reference to these faculties, arrive at an irrational system. The intellectually honest question “What should we embrace as knowledge?” is a direct appeal to observation and observation grounded reason. We can understand these to be capable of yielding – through their apparent interaction with reality (ultimately, through their apparent constraint by reality) – a functional distinction between knowledge and non-knowledge. We cannot understand the dishonest question “What would we like to embrace as knowledge?” to be capable of any such distinction. Basically, we can find no coherent constraint on ‘what we would like’. [Que Annie Lennox; and 'Sweet Dreams are Made of This'.] Anything - and so, in the end, nothing - can be clearly selected.
To resume our identification of immediate and significant practical implications from the above: Our species' ancient systems of institutionalized irrational knowledge (most characteristically our theistic religions) are not merely 'unlikely', or 'implausible'. They are all, as knowledge, prima facie absurd. On the one hand they cannot be seen to meet any criteria on the basis of which they can honestly and on balance be selected. While on the other hand - and in clear contravention of our present post-structuralist/knowledge-relativist zeitgeist - they can indeed be seen to have been doing us enormous psychological damage. Programming large quantities of irrational knowledge into young (pre-rational) minds as, in effect, ROM data, can be seen to be a mind level analogue of irreparably breaking our children’s legs. It requires all further development of reason to take place from the premise that reality itself is irrational. This is, to be blunt, a ‘mission impossible’. Reason simply short circuits, breaks down, gives up. The world becomes an intrinsically magical and mysterious place, where only our emotions and the traditional authority figures and institutions whose influence is rooted in their ability to manipulate these can be seen to be providing effective guidance. This is what Voltaire captured so succinctly in his famous aphorism: that “Those who continue to believe absurdities will continue to commit atrocities.” To expand: I think that it contains the underlying explanation for our past seven thousand years of observable history (our wars, famines, pogroms, genocides, environmental devastation, and so on). To return to an earlier implication, we humans are not intrinsically stupid and barbaric. We have merely been making ourselves so by maintaining through our illusory knowledge basis ('truth') some deeply irrational - but of course, emotionally and politically seductive - systems of operating software. Or, to approach this from the other side: Reason is not helpless against the nightmare aspects of 'the human condition'. We have simply been crippling reason at birth, in each new generation, and so have yet to understand what it will be able to achieve if we finally start to wind down that underlying negative feedback loop.
But then; if our maintenance of 'truth' has indeed been the kind of vast on-balance disaster implied by my last few paragraphs, how/why have we apparently been engaged in it for thousands of generations?
Many of our emotionally appealing irrational knowledge systems - and so, by implication, their supporting illusion ('truth') - have observably been localized and short-term adaptive. Their utility has lain in fostering social cohesion and militarily effective hierarchical social organization. Most simply, they have been inevitable, in the absence of any viable alternative, in that it has always been relatively easy for several people who are collectively wrong (in their adherence to some system of emotionally seductive yet absurd knowledge) to kill and appropriate the property of a single person who may happen to be right*. Our enormous and game changing achievement - principally during the past three hundred years - has been creation of a viable alternative. We do now have a universally accepted, and so intrinsically uniting, system of ultimately observation based knowledge. This system is already far more beautiful, intellectually satisfying, and even comforting** than any of our ancient religions. In short, we have already effectively outgrown all of our species childhood's irrational knowledge systems. But - thanks to the intellectual havoc and confusion that is still being wrought by our enabler for these systems (truth) and its recent denouement (post-structuralism/knowledge-relativism) - few have yet been able to grasp this.
*And this - Richard, my Sensei - is the way in which religions have been, but are no longer, adaptive. I propose it as being both simpler and more directly explanatory than moths to candle flames.
**See the short companion essay to this one: 'Spirituality sans Theism'.
I think that our now re-escalating science v religion and culture wars are but the visible manifestations of a deeper conflict, in which all of our primarily desire-based/irrational knowledge systems are uniting in opposition to our emergent primarily observation-based/rational system. [Basically; the still widening gap between C. P. Snow's 'two cultures'.] I am certainly not suggesting that we must exclusively choose between subjectivity and objectivity. But I think that we are running out of time in which to shift to the latter the ultimate executive control that we have observably to date been investing in the former. To achieve this I think that we will need to clearly dismiss post-structuralism, along the lines suggested here; and then - in the resurgent climate of intellectual relevance and possibility that will ensue - turn the cleansing light of reason directly upon all of our ancient systems of primarily irrational knowledge. Explicitly dissolve our now crumbling postmodern truce with religions. Rescind the NOMA special dispensation. Let all of our ancient systems (and of course, their modern progeny, like 'Mormonism' and 'Scientology') finally go ahead and make their case for an intellectually honest life or an honest death, here on the single playing field of appeal that can be understood through human perceptive and cognitive faculties. Or else, as suggested throughout this essay, let their adherents finally show us some other functional playing field. I don’t think that they can do that except through direct controversion of Point 1; which I don’t think that they can do. And I do think that that their inability to do it can now be clearly seen to negate the ancient protection - from criticism through reason - that has been enabling the survival of their knowledge systems. My proposal is that we at last go ahead and make this obvious to them*. First, and most directly, by ceasing to play their game ourselves (dismissal of our own truth illusions). And then (second action item) by immediately pressing the powerful new intellectual attack that has been thereby enabled.
*The clearest overall response that I’ve had from my own community to earlier drafts of this essay might be summarized as: "This won't work, because the theists just won't accept it." But (A) I'm not talking to the theists, yet. [I want to know first if it works for us. And if it does then - from my understanding of our basic tenets, I think that we should embrace it purely on its own rational merits, whatever response we may expect from the theists]. And (B) if 'this' is right in the sense that I claim it to be (simply observably right) then what's really being said is "This won't work because the theists are just too stupid, or too intellectually dishonest, to be able to see it." I wouldn't argue with such an assessment in reference to people of the intellectual caliber of televangelists. But I'm considerably more hopeful about their Plantingas and Tiplers. These guys are smart, and claim to have a foot in both camps. One way to view my action item proposals here is as a suggestion that we go ahead and find out, once and for all, how serious they are about the foot that they claim in reason's camp.
I cannot find that any such radical suggestion has previously been made*. As I have been trying to clarify, I think that this is because we too have been confused, in allowing our species' institutionalized irrational knowledge systems the consideration of possibly being justifiable upon their internally assumed alternative basis ('truth'). From here we have been - to place our standard little offering of political correctness squarely on the table - 'respecting' them. What I hope to have shown in this essay - through its 24 pages of tedious convergence onto the same simple point from various directions - is that no proposal can be more clearly established than that there is no such alternative basis. And so, that our 'respect' has ultimately been as misplaced as that of a surgeon for a cancer. I have tried to demonstrate that this realization is unavoidable through honest application of our common sense (ref. Points 1 through 4) and that – at the other end of the scale – it has been accepted as perhaps the most fundamental tenet of formal epistemology for at least the past two hundred years**. My main action item proposal is therefore that we merely admit this – clearly and publicly – in order to get it out into the general debating arena where we will be able to start effectively using it.
* I direct this to the few – but including one who I greatly respect – whose response to an earlier draft was “This has all been said before”. If it has then OK; but I need to know where. And perhaps even more to the point, where I can find the implied rational dismissal. If not clear from the earlier draft then I hope to have made it so here that I am honestly offering my action items as proposals for positive change in our world. If therefore they have previously been offered and understood - and yet, as can be observed, have not been implemented - then from my understanding of our intellectual tribe’s rules a rational dismissal should somewhere exist. I request the respect in which that understanding is wrong, or to be able to read the dismissal.
** I have not explicitly demonstrated this. But I will claim that no honest look at the literature can fail to do so. Even Kant’s Transcendental Idealism, which I would claim offers the weakest support for my assertion, states as its central tenet that we can never have knowledge of how things are 'in themselves', but only of the way that they appear to us to be. I could discuss Frank Ramsey’s ‘Assertive Redundancy’ theory of truth [the closest to my own], or Willard Quine’s position that all linguistic meaning is unstable, or quote Richard Rorty in saying that “Nothing counts as justification unless by reference to what we already accept, and there is no way to get outside our beliefs and our language so as to find some test other than coherence” [Basically, this essay’s Point 1, expressed in Rorty’s terms]. But it is all there for anyone interested enough to delve into it. I will assert – and with it my willingness to defend this in any kind of debate – that the last credible philosopher to hold an understanding of ‘truth’ that would seem even remotely familiar to most people who have not been following the epistemological collapse precipitated by Hume's dismissal of Induction was John Locke, in the seventeenth century.
In final summary and conclusion: 'Our’ knowledge (rational/scientific/observation-based knowledge, and all of the beautiful and satisfying subjective knowledge that can be seen to flow from this [ref. 'Consilience', 'Unweaving the Rainbow', 'The Soul of Science', 'The Elegant Universe', anything by Carl Sagan or Timothy Ferris, and so on]) does not need the illusory reinforcement of being representative of the actual state of reality. To close this loop at last back to my header statement: We know why we believe what we believe. We can defend it elegantly and sufficiently upon that basis. And wherever we cannot (wherever we find some proposal of ours to be opposed by some more reasonable and logically exclusive proposal) we can honestly set ours aside in favor of that alternative. This is in stark contrast to the kind of knowledge against which we have been contending; explicitly, ever since Athens, but probably for a lot longer. All of that can be seen to be grounded finally in the 'truth' illusion. It has always lived by this, and so could die by it; if we dare at last to push our attack as I have been suggesting here, directly against the illusion itself, and at its most fundamental epistemological level. Let me restate clearly that I am not proposing abandonment of our ‘truth’ concept because I have something against the word. I am proposing abandonment of our idea that we possess a qualitatively better kind of knowledge – which I believe myself to have shown to be both widely held*, and an illusion** – and I am suggesting abandonment of the most explicit words (‘true’ and ‘truth’) through which we have observably been propagating this idea as our most elegant and direct way of launching the project. ‘Old habits die hard’; so for a species wide and ancient habit, incorporating enormous emotional appeal, we will need all of the help that we can get. Along this line, and to preempt an objection that has been raised to earlier drafts of this essay: It is irrelevant that those who will still wish to maintain the idea will oppose us by attempting to shift it to other words. Of course they will. But so what? When this happens we will simply point out that its invocation through such alternative words is every bit as absurd as it was through the primary words [indeed, perhaps more so, in that more of us will by then know better]. Basically, this objection seems as strange as would be that of the generals in charge of Army A to allowing their champion to defeat the champion put up by Army B, on grounds that Army B would then put up another champion. The retort of Army A's champion is obvious.
* For the most compelling corroboration of this claim I would suggest a fresh look at our world's present plethora of logically exclusive and irrational knowledge systems. To deal only with the tip of this iceberg: The defining proposals of Christianity logically exclude those of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and so on. Each of whose defining proposals logically exclude those of all of the others. None can be seen to be rational, as they are all logically excluded by our system of directly observation based knowledge (science). So to maintain any one of them - in preference to the others and to our observation based system - that one must be understood to possess some additional, and reason independent, property. Most simply; it must be offered and accepted as a special and better kind of knowledge. To drive this nail one last time: I am saying that our world could only be as it can be seen to be by virtue of our having been doing the absurd thing that I claim that we have been doing. Explicitly, non-rhetorically, I would again ask all who claim to follow reason but who would dismiss this essay through a 'straw man' charge, to answer me here.
** If Point 1 stands: if we can see that we must have at least a hand in creation of all of the divisions through which we can have knowledge; then we have never had a qualitatively better kind of knowledge. Reason and 'truth' are finally, and at this deepest accessible level, mutually exclusive.
I am aware of other objections, and of some important broader questions that should be considered in reference to the central realization that I have been trying to communicate here. But these can be dealt with in the ensuing debate, if I have finally managed to state my position with sufficient force and clarity to spark a meaningful debate. That has been the purpose of this essay.
Keith Sewell ............................................. March 30, 2011