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Truth has limited reach
Falsifiable Friday #12
Happy Friday! 😉
In my research for the book I’m writing, one thing I’m realizing is that The Truth is often not the point. When we’re talking about rationality, what matters more often is: Does this person’s thinking make sense? Does she have good arguments? Not: Are her beliefs true?
Why? Because, more often than not, there is no truth that can be used as criterion for rationality. (So that you could say: “These beliefs are rational, because they are true.” And: “Those views are irrational, because they are false.”)
In the absence of such a criterion, what matters is whether a person has solid arguments, coherent reasoning, and so forth.
I’ll give two examples:
M., a seventeen-year-old lad, went to the movies with two friends, after which they go for a drink. M. drinks mint tea. They run into two other boys, acquaintances of M’s friends, who have already had quite a bit to drink. The five of them keep walking together and one of the five gets into a conflict with a passer-by. There is fighting. The passerby is seriously injured. The five are arrested and eventually convicted. M. is accused of not calling 911, not running away and not trying to stop the fighting. Do the facts speak for themselves? Have we done enough when we have done truth-finding? Do we have to take into account, for example, what the effect will be on M.’s life? The facts which are not yet there, but which will certainly come? What good is ‘the truth’ in this situation?
Second example. Things have been going rough between you and your partner for a while. You’re both busy, and at dinner today, shit hits the fan. Because you are not there. You’re having a drink with a colleague after work. You are sure that you have clearly stated that to your partner. However, your partner is sure that you would cook that night. You actually said that yourself. You sure that you, in actual fact, did not. Sure, there’s a fact about who’s right. But does that truth matter here? Can you solve this by saying that the one who misremembers is erring, is being irrational because (s)he has false beliefs?
Perhaps rationality worth wanting is more about being a good thinker in those situations (98% of our daily life). And less about having true beliefs about abstract stuff like climate change and vaccine efficacy (2% of our life).