Showing posts with label truth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label truth. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Running and Relativism

I know, these two topics seem unrelated, but I'll try to explain.  First off I want to preface this entry with my intentions here.  Specifically, I am not here to proselytize you to any particular view.  In fact if anything, this is just a rant and a rather random observation.

As you may or may not know, I've been a barefoot/minimalist runner for about seven years and a runner in general for almost twenty years.  I'm not saying this to boast, but to give my background to show that I have an idea and know a bit about running.  I know, being a lifelong runner doesn't really make one an expert, but let's just leave it at, I know running and barefoot running.  I've been noticing a trend when people ask for advice about shoes and I recommend barefoot running.  They say something like "that's not for me," or "that might be fine for you" or something similar.  Anything seem familiar about those kinds of statements?  To me they sound just like things one might hear in a discussion about truth objective morality versus relativistic morality.  Is there really a right or wrong way to run?  I'd say there's no clear cut answer to that question, but one thing is certain, there is such a thing as a more natural way to run.

Does natural equal better?  I wouldn't say for certain, but I can say that millions of people all around the world spend millions of dollars (more than they really have to spend) to buy things that are "natural."  If you don't believe that check out Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, dōTERRA, Lemongrass Spa, Norwex, MovNat, and many many others!  All these retailers seek to capitalize on the overwhelming sense that most people have that natural = better.  All other things being equal (particularly price), wouldn't you pick the natural alternative over a chemical/synthetic/artificial option?  So, with regards to the question of barefoot/minimalist running/walking/living, tell me what would be more "natural."  I understand, we, especially in the West, fight an uphill battle against our nurture.  Many (probably almost everyone) since the 1980s have been indoctrinated into the idea that barefootedness is unsafe.  Like the mom in A Christmas Story, we're told not that, "you'll shoot your eye out," but that you'll cut your foot if you walk around barefoot.

I won't lie, there is a definite danger of cutting your foot, but I'll be honest, in my seven years (including a half-marathon) of barefootedness I've only cut my foot a handful of times and every time it hasn't been serious.  In fact the worst cut I ever got was when I was a teenager swimming barefoot and exploring an island in Michigan.  That one hurt (it was right on the arch) and seemed to last forever.  But, in reality the danger is minimal (pun intended)!  When you walk or run barefoot you're much more attentive than you are normally and your footfall is such that you don't drag your feet across the ground.  Even if you do step directly on a piece of glass you still probably won't cut your foot.

The key in all this is, I think, twofold indoctrination.  First, the whole it's dangerous thing, with glass and nails and rocks etc etc etc.  The second and I think more difficult portion of our indoctrination is the "I have low arches" or "I overpronate/supinate" or something similar.  Basically, and I blame shoe companies, we're taught from the moment we think about starting running, that everyone's foot and gait are totally different and each person needs a special shoe to deal with that difference.  While there is a real difference in how everyone walks/runs, and that can make a difference when it comes to speed or style/gait one runs with.  These differences do nothing to undermine the foundational truth that we are all fundamentally built the virtually same.  Obviously this excludes people born with deformities or various handicaps, I'm not saying there aren't abnormalities.  I'm saying that fundamentally humans are all born with the same basic bone and muscle structures.  If one has a "flat foot" or a "fallen arch" do you think that person was born with that or did that happen over time?  Does the person with flat feet have the same basic number of bones/joints/ligaments/tendons/muscles in his or her feet?  YES!  I'm not a medical professional and I haven't done direct research on why people have flat feet, but I can assure you no amount of flat-footedness will change whether or not that person can walk/run barefoot.  Whether you believe in God directly creating humans or evolution through natural unguided evolutionary process humans came to be what they are today, it doesn't matter.  Humans naturally are barefoot.

Let's bring this back around to the relativism issue.  People assume that these differences (which I feel are more the result of shoe company indoctrination) somehow preclude them from the truth that barefootedness is more natural.  If that one thing is true and true for everyone then why not follow the truth?  Perhaps people don't really want truth.  I know in all my discussions with atheists about things relating to God they definitely don't seem honest in their seeking of the truth.  I even recently read about Jerry Coyne's "conversion story" to atheism.  I think in both the shoe-wearing world and in the atheist world, sticking one's head in the sand to avoid the truth is much more comfortable than dealing with the truth.  It is more comfortable and easy to say, "well, that's true for you but not for me," than to really address one's views and look for the answers.  Is it more reasonable to believe this or that?

For more info about barefooting check out this book.  For more about how belief in God is more reasonable that atheism check out this book (there are many others but that is my main suggestion today).

It's kinda hard to see, but that's an octopus.  We found it on our last snorkeling outing.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Discovering the Philosopher in You Part 6: The Basis of Ethics: What Makes Something Right or Wrong?

Continuing the series on the Discovering the Philosopher in You; part six, which is probably the most interesting lecture in the series so far.  Also, it's interesting to me that it confirms what I've thought for a while now, that is that I agree with much of Prof McGinn's views on philosophy.  However, I do completely disagree with him in a specific area as you'll see.

So ethics, obviously a difficult subject which Prof McGinn approached in a quite logical straightforward manner.  I totally recommend you listen to the audio recordings if you can his style is quite approachable and easily understood.  The first question (and one that I agree with Prof McGinn on) is about ethics being knowable.  That is, are ethical truths the same as truth as we discussed previously?  In case you missed that part of the series and don't want to read it, I'll sum it up...  Truth is objective based in reality.  You can't think something into falsehood.  Snow is white no amount of wanting it to be different will change that truth.  Now if (and I hold that it is) ethics is knowable truth then it is also not subjective.  Also, it must also be a priori as was discussed previously.  Again, I'll sum that idea up; a priori is NOT necessarily something that is known from birth, rather something that can be known without experience.  The prime example is mathematics, one can know that 1+2=3 but no one can point to a one, two, three, plus or equals (not the symbols, but the objects, which don't exist as we think of existence).  So one can know that murder is wrong without being able to see wrong or right in and of themselves.  So, knowledge of ethics definitely falls under the realm of a priori knowledge.

Well, there are many that dispute that claim.  The primary disagreement is that moral or ethical claims are merely emotive statements, in fact emotivists say they're less than that.  To an emotivist, saying, "murder is wrong," is the equivalent of saying "murder, boo."  Emotivism is just one of the many attempts to escape the reality of moral truth.  The most important thing to take from this lecture is about how non-cognitivists (those that believe morality is not knowable truth) are guaranteed to come away with moral relativism.  It's obvious, if saying, "rape is wrong" is equivalent to "boo, hiss" then what's the point of any moral statements?  They're all worthless.

Here's where I have some disagreement with Prof McGinn...  After talking about how he believes that moral truth is NOT subjective, that it's completely objective and just as trustworthy as mathematical truths.  So far, I can agree with him.  Then, he starts into a critique of divine command theory.  Let me first say, I'm not a fan of the divine command theory.  I've read the Euthyphro dialogue (granted, it was a few years ago in college) but I do remember enough to know that Prof McGinn seems to make a mistake, like the one he made when he retold the cave myth from the Republic.  He says that Socrates meets Euthyphro while walking around Athens, which is not true to the dialogue.  In the dialogue, Socrates meets Euthyphro on the porch of King Archon (steps of the courts) because he's on trial.  They strike up a conversation, and the so called, "Euthyphro dilema."  I've written about this before, Is something good because God commands it, or is something good commanded by God because it is good?  Euthyphro doesn't have a good answer, and as I've mentioned before, I feel that's mainly because of a misunderstanding of the nature of God.  The ancient Greek gods were very anthropomorphic and fallible.  God as He actually is, isn't fallible as a man, he's immutable, perfection, omnipotence, omniscience, among other characteristics, all of which are the furthest any being can be from humanity.  God is not the foundation of morality, God is the definition of morality.  Murder isn't wrong because God says it's wrong (per se) rather because it's against the very nature of God and morality.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Discovering the Philosopher in You Part 3: Truth: What Is the Nature of Truth?

As I move through this lecture series by Prof Colin McGinn on discovering the philosopher in each of us and dealing with the big questions in philosophy, I'm liking this prof more and more.  As far as philosophers are concerned, he seems quite down-to-earth.

Today's topic has to do with truth and the analysis of truth.  In the last lecture, we used the word truth several times and now we're dealing with analyzing truth itself.  According to these lectures, there are three common theories behind truth, the coherence theory, the pragmatic theory, and the correspondence theory.  One thing I have noticed though is how Prof McGinn seems to make powerful claims when most other philosophy teachings I've heard don't make simple straightforward claims like Prof McGinn.  Claims like, how there are these three theories but how the correspondence theory is the correct one and that the others are just quaint ideas that we discuss almost out of hand just to be kind to the ideas because they're wrong and there's no two ways about it.  I find this approach to philosophy surprising and slightly refreshing.  Anyways, on to the different theories.

Coherence theory: leaves out the world in so many, potentially dangerous ways.  Basically it says that something is true if it is coherent within a set of beliefs or belief system.  If a fact is consistent with your other beliefs or a web of belief systems, then it is true.  A slightly more basic way to put this is, if something is consistent with a large group of people's belief then it is true, like if enough people believe something is true, then it is.  Of course this goes against one of the things Prof McGinn has said a number of times, that one cannot force oneself to believe something that isn't true.  Of course technically, in this concept of truth, it's completely relative to the person/people involved.  This concept has no grounding in reality, which I'm sure is why it's considered a poor theory of truth.

The pragmatic theory: this (kind of) leaves out the world as well.  The basic idea is that whatever is good for one is true.  Like if I jump off this tall building it will be bad for me, and therefore it's true.  While this at least relates truth to reality there's an important distinction to be made.  The example in the lecture is of living under a despotic tyrannic government.  In a place like that it would be good for one's health to believe the propaganda that the government is good and wonderful.  If you truly believe otherwise, the secret police would be knocking on your door.  But that doesn't change the truth of the evil tyranny you're living in.  (Not that all tyrannies are evil.)

Last but not least, the correspondence theory: this is the most simple, straightforward of all these theories of truth.  It's simple, the truth is what actually is.  The statement that snow is white, is true, not because it is coherent with what I believe about snow, or the fact that believing snow is white is good for me in some way, but because snow actually is in fact, white.  The truth of the matter has nothing to do with one's beliefs or wants.  It is subjective, that is, outside one's wants or ideas.  Well, this concept brings up the topic of tolerance to which the professor gives a very good response: "Tolerance is not a matter of allowing that everyone believes the truth, no matter how much they disagree; it is having the policy of not persecuting people for their beliefs even when they are egregiously false."  Stating that truth is subjective is not intolerant, it's a fact.  It's not putting people who believe otherwise down, it's simply stating a truth about how facts correspond to reality.  There's no such thing as something being "true to me, but not true to you."  That's not how this works, it's either true or not, those types of statements are faith statements value statements relating to one's beliefs, not to truth or falsehood.

One last thing to say on this topic, there are different types of truth.  This discussion has been about factual truth.  I'm sure that later discussions/lectures will deal with value statements and moral truth.  That will come later I'm sure, so stay tuned!