I agree that to argue like that would be ridiculous, if not an interesting thought experiment. I just found that asking if there was an immutable truth was rather begging the question. A true truth is true!
The truth is objective -- there's only one set of truth out there. That said, our ability to discern that truth is really limited, and so I'm really hesitant to suggest whether certain things are true or not.
This is true: The Shoah (Holocaust) killed around 10 or 11 million people. This is a fact, it's truth, and it's always true. See what problems might arise when we say that nothing is true.
This might be true: My religion is the correct (or at least the most accurate approximation of the truth) religion. Now, it may be true, and I certainly think it is, but I'm never going to, for instance, use faith-based points as arguing points (unless I'm specifically arguing about that religion or one of its sister-religions). I don't *know* it's true in the same way I know the Shoah is true, and there is a truth about that, but we can't figure out whether Islam or Bahai or atheism is the closest to the truth here.
This isn't true: Nerdfighters are made of suck.
I find this a very limited view, some Socratic questioning is in order. How do you know that millions died in the holocaust? Unless you where there at the correct location in the space-time continuum then you are working from second hand information at best. Even if you where there, I cannot objectively accept any sensory data as much beyond its phenomenalistic value.
Although from a quotidian perspective concede acceptance that I have no practical choice, but to accept that indeed millions did die, that I am human, and that the whole experience of being is a pre-cartisian one; because, on the other side of that coin is a rabbit hole which is sometimes rather frightening, if not downright onerous. Perhaps this is why religiosity is such a comforting blanket?
As for the last point... right on.
It's a hard question to answer.
For example it's true at this moment that I am 20 years old. However come my next birthday I will be 21. Assuming I'm sober enough to remember my own age, I will then, as with the rest of the world, be forced to declare that it is no longer true that I am 20 years old, for I am now truthfully 21.
On the other hand it's true that on November 27 2012 I am/was indeed 20 years old. Time in this sense is a man-made invention but this is true according to our standards and practices.
Within the realm of science truth is something that cannot change, and it's not referred to as 'truth' it's referred to as a 'law' for the sake of clarity in communication (we can never know what is true).
So does truth lie in specificity or does it lie in the essence of something's being? It's not essential to my being that I am 20 years old, I have in fact been younger before. I am also not exactly 20 at the time of this writing because I originally turned 20 on August 25 2012, I am instead 20 years old and X amount of days, hours, minutes, seconds, whatever comes after seconds etc old.
While it may not be essential to the being of my ongoing existence that I am exactly this old my age is however essential to my being at this exact moment. I'm constantly getting older but if we were to pause time right now my age would become a fixed truth for as long as time was paused. Within the existence of the exact moment of time we choose to pause it's essential to the nature of my current being that I am as old as I am and that everything that happened before this moment of paused time happened, otherwise the nature of my being would be slightly different.
You could take this further and say that 25 years ago I didn't exist, and that 400 years from now I will almost certainly be dead, and that therefore it's not going to be true for all time that I exist. However, for the time being, I exist and it's crucial to my nature that for the time being I exist and that therefore, for the time being, it's true that I exist. You could even say that 25 years ago I definitely existed because I am nothing more than a conscious ensemble of molecules and atoms, and that my physical existence is made up of energy and that energy can never disappear and that I will, therefore, always exist in this universe in different forms. In fact, many of the atoms that originally made up my body when I was born gone now (though I don't know how many have left and how many stayed, maybe they're all gone) and have been replaced . In that case the specific atoms that make me up aren't essential to the nature of my ongoing being but are only essential to my current form. Therefore it's true that I'm made up of these atoms for now but that's changing constantly as my skin falls off and new layers grow, I grow more hair, I grow taller, I eat and digest new food and poop it out and so on.
So what is true is constantly changing but it's also fixed depending on how you look at it. I will assert that truth is in fact fixed but that, due to the ambiguities of language you can say something that is essentially true but is not fixed "I am 20 years old." Something is really only true when you're very specific about it. For example, since truth is directly tied to the nature of being, I will not be 20 years old forever and therefore that specific age is not essential to the nature of my being, however it is essential to the current form of my being and therefore it is true for this specific moment in time that I am 20 years old.
This is why if you wanted to discover or know truth you would have to learn everything in the universe (or if there's something outside the universe you would have to know all of that as well). It's difficult to state the exact nature of anything in particular without knowing what the nature of everything else is. We can't know that though of course, which is why we have to make assumptions about things. With that in mind my conception of truth may very well be incorrect, my age may very well be incorrect, and I may not be made up of atoms or energy but something else entirely but if we let our inability to know anything stop us from attempting to define these things we wouldn't get anywhere. So we can't know truth but we can still attempt to define it as I have.
However since I don't know everything in the universe there are many factors that may come into play here and those factors may cause my assumptions about truth to be incorrect, and how can I even claim to know something about the nature of truth without knowing something that is true? It's important to recognize how difficult it is to know something even if we don't allow ourselves to be paralyzed in thought by our lack of ability to know anything.
In my opinion you have struck on something useful here, mathematics, because it is arbitrary and not based in sensory experience. In all possible worlds 1+1=2 whether or not an intelligence is there to experience it. Because 20 is abstract and the measurement of time is an arbitrary year, you could say that such a thing where... true, i guess. As for whether you shed skin or grow taller or poop, those things once again fall into the range of falsifiable sensory experience.
So yay math
Well no, all knowledge, including math, comes from sensory experience. Math started entirely because somebody took one thing, put it next to another thing and discovered that by adding one thing to another one thing you have two things. This of course relies on the ability to sense these two 'one things' being situated near each other and being able to understand these two 'one things' as forming some sort of imaginary bond that makes them worth more than just one.
Math has since evolved into a sort of imaginary logical thought experiment where numbers written on papers or existing solely in our minds symbolize the amounts of real things and are thus claimed to be entirely logical and separated from sensory experience but everyone's conception of math derives itself solely from falsifiable sensory experience. Without this sensory experience we wouldn't have 1+1=2 (which is the first mathematical truth we all learn, and the basis of all our ideas about math) we wouldn't have any understanding or conception of such things. However I've made logical mistakes before and if this is a dream I could very well be operating under such a logical mistake when I assume that 1+1=2.
If my existence operates from me learning from sensory experience, and all my sensory experiences are not real and only exist in my head, then I'm learning everything I know entirely from myself. I have nothing to keep my logic grounded. In reality, my imagination that 1+1=2 may be batshit crazy, but since the foundations of everything I know exist solely in my own head, and before creating these foundations of knowledge I knew nothing, then why should math be any more accurate than whether or not I poop? I created logic out of thin air, with nothing real to base it on. My ideas about logic can't be well-founded then, even if they form the foundations of my world-view. Even if I can't imagine being wrong.
Unless I'm able to, to some extent, verify the accuracy of my sensory experience, I can't claim to know anything, not even math, not even logic, not even the knowledge that tautological statements are certainly true. My world view may not allow me to imagine a world where 1+1 doesn't equal 2 but that doesn't mean anything if I made up all this knowledge myself or if the knowledge I learn from sensory experience is falsifiable.
Basically if you can't trust sensory experience you can't trust anything—including math—because all knowledge and conceptions of the world get their start in sensory experience, and when you're beginning to to develop a foundation of knowledge for the first time ever as a child it's impossible to distinguish between logical and illogical and if your foundations are illogical they don't need to be challenged to be wrong. Math is just as falsifiable as whether or not I poop.
I would disagree with you. Mathematics is not about validity of empirical observations, insofar as it deals with abstract concepts like quantity, space, change, etc then it is not falsifiable. Perhaps when dealing with theorems it is, but theorems, like the informal mathematics that you describe, are not formal mathematics (sorry that is oddly worded).
Perhaps my wording was poor then, formal mathematics isn't testable and therefore isn't falsifiable but it can still be wrong. It rests on axioms, which can be wrong, and it utilizes logic, which can be wrong.
I'm not critiquing formal mathematics though, all I'm saying is there are two ways we learn anything at all. Sensory information (the outside world) and our own consciousness (the inside world). We can't learn anything by ourselves that isn't based on the outside world. I can't imagine a world that is entirely different from ours. I can try to imagine a world where grass is blue and small hairless creatures throw up red goo that slowly morphs into a duck, but this is all based on what I know from our world.
As such formal mathematics relies on logical principles and axioms that can be traced back to the empirical world, even if it's all highly theoretical it still has a bases in the material world. I wouldn't know what logic was if I didn't witness it first. Therefore if you can't trust your senses at all, you may not be able to call formal mathematics falsifiable (as you say), but it's still not factual or truthful or knowledge because we can't participate in the theoretical without a bases in the empirical and if the empirical is wrong our foundation from which the theoretical stems from is wrong and we may be totally off base about what we think.
I would disagree. The question could be: do mathematical principles exist without a consciousness? I would think so. After all, there can not be nothing.
If mathematical principles exist outside of consciousness they may still be entirely different from what we imagine them being, which is all I'm getting at. We don't know the validity of a mathematical principle any more than we know if human being poop, so if you're going to doubt whether or not human beings poop by calling it falsifiable sensory experience you can't say we know some mathematical principles because all of our knowledge stems from falsifiable sensory experience. Now whether or not human beings poop is a factual matter, our poop either exists outside of our consciousness or it doesn't and the same is true for the mathematical principles we humans have developed. However if we don't know one of those things for sure we don't know the other for sure. Even if there definitely are mathematical principles that exist outside of consciousness we can't say we know what they are.
EDIT: That's not even questioning what caused you to believe that nothing can't be all there is outside of your consciousness.
No i didn't say that nothing outside of my conciseness existed; I said that nothing does not exist.. for the very reason that consciousness itself must exist.
And our knowledge does not stem from sensory experience. Belief stems from sensory experience. Mathematical principles are not derived from observation nor where they developed. They exist independently of us, all we have done is use those principles as tools to understand the observable world. Scientific theorems lend predictability and explanation to events in the observable universe, but those mathematical principles could be used to describe any other conceivable universe.
I must add at this point that I am neither particularly good at math, nor particularly intelligent... so I could be talking out my ass for all I know.
You read what I said incorrectly: why can't consciousness be all that exists? What makes you think that something exists outside of consciousness?
You also seem to be misunderstanding everything else I'm saying. I'm not saying mathematical principles don't exist, I'm saying that if we have to doubt our sensory experience we can't say we know anything about math. The foundations of all math lie in economics. Human discovered 1+1=2, not by coming about it through formal mathematics, but by observing it in the real world. However if they observed this incorrectly or their minds lied to them and 1+1 really doesn't equal 2 then everything we know about math (including formal and informal) is wrong. When math continued from this point it was still for practical matters like basic geometry or more complex economic systems. We had to learn quite a bit of practical math, all of which was learned by interacting with the real world, before it was feasible to move on to formal mathematics.
Now if all of our early practical interactions with mathematics were wrong because our sensory data was wrong do you think it's possible for us to understand what the real mathematical principles that guide this world are? Or do you think we might be ignorant of their true existence?
All I'm saying is if our sensory data is to be doubted, our knowledge or conception of what mathematics is must also be doubted. There can still be real mathematical principles that guide this world, but we won't know what they are.
Earlier you dismissed my knowledge that I poop because my possession of that knowledge was due to sensory experience, I think if you dismiss my knowledge that I poop due to it being sensory experience you also have to dismiss the basic foundations of mathematics due to sensory experience. If I don't know I poop I also don't know 1+1=2.