Hello All.

The below argument in the first major milestone in a philosophy project that I have been developing independently for some time.

The plan for this project can be listened to here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEjS6qZoTZY&t=7s

or read here:

https://tvclowe.wixsite.com/tvcl/post/t ... -heuristic

In brief, the aim is to establish a heuristic that allows us to know how we must seek the truth prior to any in-depth epistemology, starting from some basic principles. There is a way to go with this work, but it would be good to get some feedback at this point before proceeding onto the next stage.

NOTE: "logic" in this discussion refers to adherence to the laws of thought which are required to track consistency, without which claims/arguments implode and are rendered nonsensical.

The below argument can be listened to here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcVar9xE-Ec&t=142s

The Truth-Seeking Heuristic

How are we to know the truth? This is the primary concern that this work will attempt to answer. Classically, to understand what the truth is and how we come to know it we turn to science or philosophy or religion to provide us our answers. The search ought not be turned from these disciplines. Indeed, it is likely the case that many of the most important things that we are to know about life, the greater truth, and our relation to it will be discovered through these disciplines. Therefore, the aim at present is not to turn one away from these disciplines – far from it. Instead, the aim is to recognise that when we stand at the threshold of these disciplines, we stand there without an explicit framework of how we do or do not know the truth. Yet, if it is through these disciplines that we learn our standards of truth, by why standard to we come to judge these standards? After all, a philosopher or a priest may propose a given model of truth, but how do we discern between these models before they are adopted?

The proposed solution to this problem is to argue for what standards of knowledge we must have in the initial instance once we commence an explicit search for the truth. These standards can be condensed into the form of heuristic. A heuristic is a tool that allows someone to do something for themselves, and the basic heuristic that allows someone to discern the truth for themselves from the initial instance is this: we are exposed to information from many sources – information that may or may not be indicative of what is true. If that information is consistent and it can be lived by, it has the potential to be true. If the information is either inconsistent or cannot be lived by, it can be excluded as false.

The rationale behind this heuristic is that if something is either illogical (that is, inconsistent) or cannot apply to life, it either has no relation to our aims, in which case it either has no relevance or value, or it is meaningless and makes no sense. It might be the case that some truths are illogical, senseless and have no relevance for our lives but we can ask from the outset whether these truths will ever fall into our purview or would ever be grasped, even if they are. The quest for meaningless, irrelevant truth is – itself – a meaningless and irrelevant concept because to posit a quest at all posits findings that are relevant to that quest and truth that is meaningless would not be understood even if we discovered it. Therefore, if the quest is a search for truth that can be understood, it appears that standards of consistency and relevance to our aims must be present from the outset.

This appears to reveal that there is a relationship between what we consider to be logical and what we consider to be useful that lies at the core of what we can consider to be true and so both an appeal to logic and an appeal to use needs to be made in our search for truth. This connection between logic and use can be summarised as follows:

Goals

1. A goal initiates the inquiry because the search for truth is a goal.

2. Goals parameterise our enquiry because they determine the point at which a given endeavour can be deemed to be satisfactorily achieved and the criteria by which this point is to be reached.

3. Therefore, if goals set the beginning and the end of the enquiry, they set the parameters for how or when our understanding of the truth is satisfactory.

4. Therefore, we measure our understanding of the truth in relation to our goals.

5. The “usefulness” of something is determined by the extent to which it allows us to achieve our goals.

6. Therefore, we judge truth by its “usefulness” or regard use as the “measure” of truth because we judge truth by the extent to which our understanding satisfies the parameters of our enquiry.

However,

7. If use is the sole measure of truth, this begs the question because a given use is not justified beyond the fact that it is the given use.

8. Therefore, if use is the measure of truth and use is only justified because it is a given use, truth is only justified because it happens to be a given truth (or system of truth).

However,

9. The need for things to make sense is a common criterion across our goals, including our enquiry into the truth (we require that the truth makes sense).

10. Also, goals that contradict one-another cannot be pursued.

11. Therefore, our goals cannot be chosen or pursued arbitrarily.

12. Therefore, what we regard as “useful” cannot be arbitrary; this is constrained.

13. The need for things to makes sense is a logical criterion because logic is what demands that things are consistent with their own identities in order to make sense.

14. Likewise, the recognition that goals that contradiction one-another cannot be pursued is a logical recognition.

15. Therefore, logic constrains what goals we can posit.

16. Therefore, logic constrains what we can regard as “useful”

17. Therefore, if use is the measure of truth, logic constrains what can or cannot be true.

Logic

18. Information or truth-claims that are illogical are meaningless and make no sense.

19. Therefore, logic is required for an understanding of the truth that is meaningful and makes sense.

20. Therefore, if the goal is to seek for an understanding of the truth that has any meaning and makes sense, adherence to logic is necessarily entailed as a standard of truth.

However,

21. If logic is the sole measure of truth, it begs the questions because logic alone cannot justify why it should be adhered to.

22. Therefore, logic cannot be the sole measure of truth because logic alone cannot demonstrate why it should be adhered to.

However,

23. Logic ensures that we have an understanding that makes sense.

24. Therefore, if it is our goal to possess an understanding of the truth that makes sense, adherence to logic is necessarily entailed.

25. Therefore, it is the goal of possessing an understanding of the truth that makes sense that justifies adherence to logic; it is the usefulness of logic for the end of achieving this goal that justifies adherence to it and makes it necessary in our search for truth.

Conclusion

Therefore, both logic and a regard for use are necessary standards for seeking an understanding of the truth that makes sense. Moreover, both standards mutually support one-another so that either standard is not justified alone, but taken together, each standard ultimately justifies the other. This is, of course, with the exception or contingency of if we aim for things to make sense. It is due to this contingency that the argument is neither necessary nor circular. Both standards are necessary and provide mutual support, but neither guarantee that this first choice or aim is adopted. Yet, if it is, all else follows.

Hopefully, what the progression of this argument has done is that it has demonstrated the rationale behind the truth-seeking heuristic. The heuristic is modelled such that we judge a potential truth by whether it is logical or useful, and we do so because our standard of use sets the relevance and parameters of our understanding, whereas logic ensures that we have an understanding that makes sense. To explain the application of this heuristic, we will now turn to three examples of increasing levels of nuance in order to demonstrate how it can be applied to three levels of enquiry.

Example 1:

Let’s say that you want to purchase a nice car because it will make you happy. Commonly, you might not consider that this goal entails a search for truth and indeed, this will commonly be implicit only, but if we render the search explicit, we can say that you are trying to judge whether the claim that “this car is worth buying” is true or not.

Now, of course, you will have some criteria in mind for what will render this claim true. First of all, to go back to the foundation of the heuristic; the search must be logical – you need to assume that a car is in fact a car and not – say – a horse. After that, you want a car that is blue and can reach 200mph. Once these criteria are fulfilled, the answer to the question “is this car worth buying?” will be that “it is true enough that this car is worth buying in order to satisfy my criteria.”

And so, a salesman approaches you and offers you a choice of two cars that both fit the criteria. He says of the first: “this is the best car in my lot.” And then he says of the second “this is the best car in my lot.” If “best” can only apply to the one car that is better than all others, only one of the two cars can in fact be the “best”. Therefore, if we appeal to the heuristic, we can deduce that the salesman is making a pair of false claims because it cannot be that both cars are the “best” at once. You challenge him on this, and he concedes that in fact the first car is good, but the second one is better. Given that his claims are no longer contradictory, they have the potential to be true. You therefore decide to try the second car and take it out for a test drive but find that, when you do so, you find that it cannot reach 200mph, but can only reach half of that. Employing the heuristic reveals a couple of things. First of all, given your criteria, the answer to claim “this car is worth buying” must be false. That is because when this claim is put into practice, it fails to be applicable. If the claim is that “this car is worth buying”, given the criteria, this includes the claim that “this car can go 200mph”, but you find that when you try to apply this, you cannot proceed in life as if this claim is true. On the other hand, if the criterion were that the car reach 100mph you could proceed as if this were true, and so, employing the heuristic, this would have the potential to be true.

In any case, you challenge the salesman again who is able to offer you a third option that fulfils the criteria. You get on your way and the enquiry is satisfied.

Example 2:

In the first example, you sought to purchase a car because you thought that it would make you happy. It may not have been explicit, but in the hierarchy of your goals you have this as a criteria underlying the rest; you are always implicitly judging the value of what you are trying to do by the extent to which it adds or takes away from the total amount of enjoyment in your life. Indeed, it is due to these implicit criteria that you have established a high-paying career and it has also led to you to start a family. Now that your first child is growing up, you have a choice… you can either hunker-down in your career, earning more money whilst spending less time at home, or forego advancing your career, earning less money whilst spending more time with your family.

How do questions of truth relate to this issue, and why is the heuristic relevant?

To begin with, you have the over-arching goal of happiness and so we can know that what you can dismiss as false are those things that do not allow this goal to be pursued; your understanding of the truth will only be satisfactorily true once it fulfils this criteria. Now, if you value both money and time with family, the first claim that you need to consider is:

“more money and more family time will make me happy.”

However, if we assume that you have a limited amount of time that is already being pushed to capacity, we can judge that this claim will be untrue because it is at once contradictory and cannot be put into practice. On the one hand, if the available time that you have is being pushed to capacity, time that is given to making money will be less time spent with your family and vis-versa. Therefore, the prospect of having more of both presents a contradiction. Moreover, you cannot put this claim into practice; you cannot carry out the claim, spending more time doing both things. Therefore, using the heuristic, the claim that must be rejected as false. Now, it is worth noting that if you could put this claim into practice it would validate it as true. Even if the claim were apparently contradictory, it would only be an apparent contradiction and may require qualification. This tells us that actual contradictions cannot be lived by, but that we can be mistaken as to whether one has been recognised or not. Also, if we were being more philosophical for a moment, we might protest that this whole problem is only present because we assume a limited amount of time, but what justifies our assumptions? Do we not use them as a form of assumed truth prior to the heuristic? Not quite. First, it may be that the truth that time is limited was a conclusion drawn from an earlier application of the heuristic; and second, even if this were not so, the existence of limited time is yet another potential truth that is being tested by the heuristic… if we can give unlimited additional time to both pursuits, perhaps time is not limited after all. Yet, if not, it appears more likely to be true that time is in fact limited.

In any case, you reject the claim that you will give more time to both money and family because this is senseless and cannot be done, this will not make you happy. Yet, you still aim to maximise happiness.

Therefore, you are left with the alternative which, if made explicit, can be formulated by these two claims:

1. “More money and less family time will maximise my happiness.”

2. “Less money and more family time will maximise my happiness.”

Now, it’s actually the case that both of these claims could be true at the same time because both have the potential to maximise happiness, nor does either one contradict itself and so logic does not dictate that either must be false. This only applies to the claim that “both can be pursed at once.” If neither claim is illogical and truth is judged by which is useful and if both claims serve the goal equally well, they can be equally regarded as true without issue when we apply the heuristic. However, if one serves the goal better than the other, one will be truer than the other, and this is what needs to be discerned.

How is this done? Well, given everything that has been said, the solution is to see which approach actually leads to more happiness; when put into practice, does making more money make you happy, or does spending more time with your family?

The point of this example is not to answer the question but to illustrate a number of things about applying the heuristic to it. The primary point being that the heuristic is not only applicable to judge truth in relation to a given goal (as we saw in the first example) but the heuristic can be applied to help us to choose between goals, with an appeal to our hierarchy of aims.

Example 3:

Positing that the heuristic can allow us to discern the truth between goals with reference to a hierarchy begs the question of what hierarchy should be adopted. To address this question, we can turn to this third example…

You pursue happiness as the meaning of life; this is your primary goal which you use as a criterion to judge all else that you understand and do. However, you begin to find flaws in this goal; you find that the more that you strive to enjoy your life, the more that your happiness slips away. Indeed, you find many parts of life that are devoid of happiness and so you start to wonder if there are things in life that are more important. In brief, you begin to wonder whether happiness should take the prime position in your hierarchy of goals.

The question is, how would you know?

The question begins to become quite meta because if your primary goal acts as criteria for your other goals and your goals as such act as criteria for your understanding of truth you are, in effect, asking by what criteria you are judging your criteria and asking what standard of truth you are using to judge your standards of truth. Fortunately, we can bring this discussion full circle because this is what the heuristic allows us to do.

To begin with, invocation of the heuristic includes the goals that things makes sense, without which nothing could make sense including the truth about what our hierarchy of goals should be. And so, whatever the primary goal is, it must make sense; it cannot be illogical; it cannot be contradictory (for example, it cannot be “to be at once happy and not happy at all”). Once this criterion is met, judging a primary goal becomes a question of considering what is so important that all else is secondary to it. In addition, you must be able to live as if this is so.

What does this mean?

Well, if we return to happiness, let’s say that you find that you understand happiness to be shorthand for pleasure or enjoyment and so, it is the acquisition of enjoyment and pleasure that everything else is apparently secondary to. Yet, you reflect that there are times in life when you forego enjoyment for other things. For example, you sacrifice the pleasure of comfort to save a child from an icy lake so to put your moral conscience at peace. Not only could you consider whether this makes a peaceful conscience a higher goal than the pursuit of enjoyment and pleasure, but you may consider whether you can live as if enjoyment should be pursued at the expense of all else. After all, it may be the case that having a conscience which is tarnished is very un-enjoyable.

Thereby, prioritising enjoyment above morality makes life less enjoyable. Therefore, it is a goal that you cannot put into practice. Therefore, you cannot live as if it is true. This reasoning is still employing the heuristic because the claim that “pleasure can be prioritised at the expense of morality” is excluded as false because it is useless; it is a goal that cannot be pursued.

Now, you might point out that it is the fact that defying your conscience is unenjoyable that makes you follow it so that enjoyment is, in fact, the primary criterion and goal. This may be so but depending on your original conception of “happiness”, this may change your conception of your goal. For example, from what has been discussed the claim that “happiness – being the pursuit of pleasure and enjoyment at the exclusion of all else is my highest goal” can be rejected as false. On the other hand, the claim that “happiness – being the pursuit of enjoyment, except for those moments when doing so clashes with my conscience, is my highest goal” is potentially true.

Again, the purpose of the example is not to demonstrate what the highest goal must be, but to explain how the heuristic can be used to solve the problem. In the case of judging our primary goal, it is a case of discovering what conception of this is at once logical and can be put into practice, and whilst we do so, we begin to discern what standards we can or cannot hold and which ones we do or do not, in fact, consider to be secondary to others. Hopefully what this example has demonstrated is that the same rationale applies at all levels: whether it is at the simple level of buying a car in the pursuit of happiness, or trying to discover whether happiness should be the primary goal, we can always judge what is true by what is logical and by what can be put into practice.

And so, that’s all for the examples and hopefully they have demonstrated the rationale behind the heuristic and how it can be effectively put into practice. Once again, using the truth-seeking heuristic is a simple case of judging the information that we are exposed to for its potential truth-value by discerning whether it is logical and whether our understanding of the truth can be lived by. And if a given bit of information or truth-claim is either illogical or cannot be lived by, we can regard it as false.

Finally, let’s consider what it would mean to not take this approach. What would it mean to posit that truth neither needs to be logical, nor needs to relate to our goals? To posit that it need not be logical means to posit that we can possess an understanding of the truth that is meaningless and makes no sense. To posit that our understanding of the truth need not relate to our goals is to posit that we can have an understanding that is devoid of parameters, which is what our goals set. To posit that logic can be appealed to without an appeal to goals would mean that the truth is never pursued and to posit that our goals can be the measure of truth without an adherence to logic would mean that we can pursue and possess an understanding of the truth that is senseless. In light of this, there is a contingency that lies at the gates of our search for the truth. There is no guarantee that one will either seek an understanding that makes any sense or one that has any relevance to our life, our aims, and our decisions. Yet, if one comes to seek either one of these, the other is necessarily entailed. And so, the heuristic alone does not guarantee the search for truth, but once the search is underway, all else follows.