Falsehood is the more fundamental concept. Falsehood can be proven very reliably.

Truth may be construed as that which will not be proven false. It is therefore fundamentally unknowable.

We make educated guesses at the truth by:

  1. considering the possibilities that haven’t been proven false;
  2. selecting one of those remaining possibilities, guided by a sense of aesthetics.
    • For example, we may be guided by parsimony (Occam’s razor) or through metaphorical comparison.
    • Scientific theories can be described in this way. For example: physicists choose “elegant” theories that agree with experimental evidence.
    • It is an error to conflate this beauty with fundamental truth, though.

As a short-hand, I’ll refer to these educated guesses as “truths” or “facts”. But I am in fact referring to something more subtle.

Usefulness (TODO)

That which promotes survival in the environment—or survival in all environments, weighted by probability.

Some comparisons (TODO)

A naive analysis would conclude that more truth leads to better decisions—implying that truth is always useful.

A more nuanced analysis takes into account the cost of computation. We have finite brain-power, and our environment constantly demands decisions from us. We are unable to incorporate arbitrary amounts of truth into our decision-making.

Karl Popper famously made an astute observation: that the only propositions worth considering are those capable of being proven false. This constitutes a heuristic for rejecting certain classes of useless propositions.

Nietzsche: acknowledges the Will to Truth, but asserts the superiority of Will to Power. However, he also says the following:

How much truth does a spirit endure, how much truth does it dare? More and more that became for me the real measure of value. Error (faith in the ideal) is not blindness, error is cowardice. – Nietzsche; Ecce Homo

Some context shows that this isn’t a contradiction. The quote is one small part of a larger argument that philosophical depth requires courage.

American Pragmatists: identify truth with usefulness. Seems like a potentially dangerous conflation.

Some important cases (TODO)

Free will

The equality of individuals

Religiosity; belief in God

Human rights

Moral progress in history

\( \blacksquare\)