Two Types of Truth

Truth is tricky. It is not just complex but compound.

Some say that truth is completely objective: black and white, true or false, polar, binary, however you want to describe it. Others may say that is it subjective: partial truths, gray area, depends on perspective, etc. And people argue over whether or not truth is objective or subjective.

The paradox is the fact that “truth is subjective.” It is easy to claim this statement to be absolutely false. But to claim it to be true would seem to also claim that it cannot be false thereby contracting itself by exemplifying an objective truth.

The resolution is that if you agree that truth is subjective, truth can simultaneously be both objective and subjective. Objectivists may reject subjective truth, but a subjectivist does not reject objective truth. So a subjectivist can account for more degrees of truth and therefore more elements of understanding than an objectivist.

The answer is compound: truth is completely objective, but it is also completely subjective. There are two elements of truth. I’ll illustrate this with playing cards.

Before we deal I have to point out something about facts. A “fact” is commonly defined as something that is totally true no matter how or if it is perceived. But logic uses a different definition. A fact is a premise that can be proved to be either true or false. So a statement can be a “fact” even if it is false, or if it is not yet known to be true but can be proven one way or another.

Deal a card face down. Let’s start with the fact that this card is the ace of spades. The statement “this card is the Ace of spades” is a fact because it is either true or false. It is not an opinion. Your belief or feeling has no bearing on the actual value of the card. If one person says it is the ace of spades and another says that it is not the ace of spades, you can flip over the card and see who is right and who is wrong. So their difference is not a difference in opinion but a difference of fact. This is objective truth.

However until the card is flipped the veracity of the fact is unknown. This is probability. Deal ten more cards face up. And consider instead the statement “the face down card is a spade.” If three of the shown cards are spades then we know that the face down card has an 8 in 42 chance of being a spade and a 34 in 42 chance of being a heart, diamond or club.

At this point let’s compare two statements: 1) The hole card is not a spade. 2) There is a 19% chance that the hole card is a spade. Which statement is more true than the other?

The correct answer is that it depends. In one sense the first statement is more true, and in another sense the second statement is more true. For the sake of this argument let’s say that the card is flipped over and is fact a heart. The first statement turned out to be true. Even if Schroedinger himself flipped over the hole card, the card did not manifest itself as such the moment it was perceived. The card was a heart the whole time whether we knew it or not.

But in the context of game theory the second fact was initially more true. A gambler who bases his or her guesses on probability is going to be more correct in the long run than someone who fails to take probability into account. If this game is played out hundreds of times and wagers are placed on the outcome, the bettor with the greater understanding of probability is going to win a great deal of money from someone who doesn’t. In this what we think of as “subjective” truth is more correct that the “objective” truth.

The point is that the answer to “which statement is more true than the other” does not depend on opinion, or subjectivity, or perception, or epistemology or any of those things. It simply depends on when it is asked. If it is asked before the card is flipped over, then the subjective view is more correct. If it is asked after the nature of the card is revealed, then the objective view is more correct. This settles the long standing debate on whether or not truth is subjective or objective.

Opinions are essentially guesses. By eliminating opinions and dealing instead with the compound veracity of perceived facts (i.e. treating facts as having both subjective and objective elements) we will be more correct in the long run.

Part of the focus of the Agency Mandate is to create a system in which opinions are eliminated, or recognized as statements of probability rather than statements of fact.

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