Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Elusiveness Of Truth

If truth is what works, why might this be? Does its working stem solely from its truth? Or might its working be mere happenstance? Could something somewhat different work just as well? Or possibly something completely different?

It seems many use ad hoc explanations to justify any given outcome. For example, one may say his averting risk led to prosperity in one case whereas in another, his embracing risk led to prosperity. It seems basing truth solely on what works is essentially a form of control, or at least an attempt to control. When we claim a truth based on what seems to work, it gives us a feeling of control, as if we can predict future events based on this truth.

But many if not most of our explanations are merely ad hoc, meaning they are not helpful in explaining anything beyond a particular event. It puzzles me that many of the devoutly religious claim God upholds the righteous (when wonderful things befall them) but then just as surely claim these righteous are not immune to catastrophe (when untold tragedy strikes them).

Another similar example is when overly-learned analysts go on to explain why the stock market did this or that on a given day. Then, on a different day, the stock market behaves in an essentially contrary fashion yet for apparently similar reason(s). Or just the same, the stock market behaves in a similar fashion yet for apparently contrary reason(s). For example, the stock market plunged because interest rates are falling preceding what many expect will be a prolonged contraction in the economy! Then on another day (during what is supposedly an economic contraction), with interest rates falling, this makes stocks more attractive hence there is a surge in the stock market!

Might this “delusion” simply be analysts' ploy to justify getting paid handsomely for being no better a predictor of the future than a homeless man off the streets of Philadelphia? (Think Trading Places with Eddie Murphy) 

Though we may say “truth is what works”, this does not mean any number of other solutions not thought to be truth might work just the same, perhaps even better.

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