September 10, 2016

Truth and Change

Propositions are static. Propositional thinkers incline towards positivism because equating history with a series of statements gives the past sharp definition. What the text says is what happened. The truth is right there on the page, with no need for hypothesis or imagination.

Stories are dynamic. Words cannot delimit complex processes because developing situations and their various contingencies are difficult to describe. A set of changes is not one single entity. That's why the French Revolution is referred to as an event, instead of a fact. 

The proposition "A is Φ" can be falsified by demonstrating that Φ is not a property of A. Water is always wet. Fire is never cold. These propositions are unchanging because they do not attempt to represent complex dynamic processes (or systems) as a single conceptual whole. 

A portrait of Napoleon or a history of the Revolution can only be challenged by other portraits and histories of their subjects. Propositional thinking wants factual accuracy to stand or fall by proving isolated statements, but representations are verified by other means. You trust a local map because it compares helpfully to the physical landscape, and you trust a foreign map because it has been vouched for by others, who undertook to experience their surroundings.

Propositional truth cannot define human experiences like fixing an automobile, touring a professional kitchen, or fighting a war. Representational truth depicts these things through mimesis, at whatever reduction of scale. 

Historical thinkers cannot just affirm a discourse. They must imagine actual experiences.

Truth does not change, but reality does. 

We cannot deal with change by ignoring it.

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"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton