9/27/2005

Godel's incompleteness theorem and truth telling / seeking

Godel's theorem and politics ? Cool! -- law

Another challenge I ran into was the standard of epistemology I was going to pursue. Was truth going to be defined in a factual and scientific way? At first this seemed like an objective way to approach things. However over time I found that while I could argumentatively win discussions and I could in a legalistic fashion tie other people up in knots that there was a difference between argument and reality.

That is simply because someone had a wrong rationale did not mean that they were wrong. It also meant that just because I had a technically correct argument I learned that didn't mean that I had all the facts about their situation. I learned that if I did not try to understand people, try to see where they were coming from, whether or not their arguments made sense then I could end up hurting people or their feelings. That was a very hard lesson for me.

In addition, not all truth could be reduced to scientific evidence or legalistic proof. This became apparent once I investigated the limitations of logical positivism and the nature of Godel's incompleteness theorem. Any logical system of thought has underlying assumptions that cannot be derived from the system. This means that any form of rationality is inherently an aesthetic rather than epistemological choice. You can critique certain systems of thought as being more or less consistent internally or externally with experience, but beyond that there are certain choices which are purely aesthetic and arbitrary. The layperson would call these things "values" erroneously but you get the idea.

Furthermore through the process of simply trying everyday to live with the truth, not an easy burden as it required constant self examination and investigation of hidden assumptions, and living through a few quite harsh moments of revelation where my assumptions crumbled about me brought me into contact with strange places and people. I learned that almost no one thinks of themselves as evil. Evil is the label we give to either self-consciously perverse behavior or to behavior by others that is antisocial in our estimation. Saddam Hussein let me assure you simply thought of himself as having made the best of his environment and was a misunderstood guy.

There is something called General Attribution Error. In psychology this means that people tend to blame the character of a person rather than failing to see that the choices were relative to their environment. I do not think that this absolves the individual of responsibility, but certainly without carrying it to the extreme that we are all "victims of our environment" or "helpless prisoners of our nature" that the primary characteristic from my point of view of human behavior is not morality.

After all everybody thinks for the most part that they are doing the best that they can. I'm sure even Paul Pot thought that. No instead what I see as the primary characterstic of people are ignorance, short-sightedness, and rigidity of thinking. People cannot solve their problems constructively and so they resort to highly negative fashions of externalizing their frustrations. I apply this to the sociopaths.

I mean is it really in the best interest of the sociopath to commit crimes which are nasty, risky, and have a large social opprobrium? If they want to kill somebody they can just become a mercenary or soldier and get the same thrill. As a matter of fact I have met some soldiers who were no more than just relatively well behaived sociopaths...

This doesn't excuse such individuals however. To borrow a bit from Star Trek, what defines humanity is not what it is but its struggle to be more than it was. Each person is given a nature and certain opportunities. It is up to them and up to society to attempt to transcend these circumstances and make something constructive, always wary of our own flaws, out of the original legacy which is always less than perfect and characterized by temptations and weaknesses.

From my perspective, people are always making mistakes but they rarely learn from them or attempt to redress them. Their particular beliefs are almost irrelevant. Left, right, capitalistic, socialist, good, evil, popes, kings, janitors, and tyrants they're all trying their best and at the same time rather narrow minded and rigid and rarely learning from their mistakes. This doesn't mean they're all the same. Some are better than others at trying to improve themselves and some are better than others at managing their flaws constructively...
Oldman1787's Blog: Why I Made A Mistake and How I View it: "Godel's incompleteness theorem"

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