All men by nature desire to know…

Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book I, 980a.21. 350 BC


“The Journey is the Destination?”

IF “Seeking is the goal and the search is the answer,” what MOTIVATES US?  (TO KNOW AND BE KNOWN?)  

Perhaps Aristotle (in epigraph) could be interpreted as “all men by nature pursue knowledge…”   Is this why we wish to see beyond seeing, hear beyond hearing… always seeking to transcend our current limits to perceive, to integrate, to act.  Is this why we “find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks…” (Shakespeare, 1599) or feel accursed if  we “have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear… ” (Ezekial 12:2)

see A&O notes on Process and Product, Journeys and Destinations


As regards knowledge of truths, there is a dualism. We may believe what is false as well as what is true. …Since erroneous beliefs are often held just as strongly as true beliefs, it becomes a difficult question how they are to be distinguished from true beliefs. How are we to know, in a given case, that our belief is not erroneous? This is a question of the very greatest difficulty, to which no completely satisfactory answer is possible. There is, however, a preliminary question which is rather less difficult, and that is: What do we mean by truth and falsehood?”  (Bertrand Russell (1912) The Problems of Philosophy)

(recalls Max Delbrück‘s comment, “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth” (Unsourced but quoted in  Mind from Matter: An Essay on Evolutionary Epistemology, (1986) p. 167.)  Niels Bohr said that “…it is the hallmark of any deep truth that its negation is also a deep truth (wikiquote)–he put this on his coat of arms: Contraria Sunt Complementa (Opposites are complementary)


The best possible cannot be perfect.. we work to approximate perfection:   Successive approximations are what Claude Bernard addresses in his “Study …(“Men of science learn every day from experience; by experience they constantly correct their scientific ideas, their theories; rectify them, bring them into harmony with more and more facts, and so come nearer and nearer to the truth. – Claude Bernard, Introduction. 1865/ 1957. Pg 12.)

  • This resonates with Ernst Gombrich‘s ideas about art and its development by means of schemata:  In his magisterial masterpiece, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (1960), E.H. Gombrich posits  that “making always occurs before matching.”   In their expression, artists begin with a schemata, which is then adjusted and corrected to make it ever closer to the appearance the artist wants the creation to have. (Part 2) 


Knowledge is what is known; the confident understanding of a subject, potentially with the ability to use it for a specific purpose. It is a familiarity with someone or something, which can include factsinformation, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. Knowledge can be acquired in many different ways and from many sources, including but not limited to perception, reason, memory, testimony, scientific inquiry, education, and practice. The philosophical study of knowledge is called epistemology.”



is considered (in philosophy) of kindsacquaintance knowledge (we know our mothers, our friends, our pets, etc., by being acquainted with them); knowledge of facts, propositional knowledge (or knowledge-that (the sort of knowledge we acquire when we learn)); and often listed is another knowing how to do something (play the piano, make a pie, walk, speak, create, build, and so on.”) (Carlotta Pavese, “Knowledge How”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2022)


 TRUTH is an approximation of the validity of knowledge

it represents the maximum CONFIDENCE we can have 

 “The scientist knows very well that he is approaching ultimate truth only in an asymptotic curve and is barred from ever reaching it; but at the same time he is proudly aware of being indeed able to determine whether a statement is a nearer or a less near approach to the truth.” 

— Konrad Lorenz, In On Aggression (1966, 2002), 279.


(“VALIDITY” is considered along a continuum from confidence in very narrow range or in a much broader range (this is  “internal” versus “external” validity). A compelling implicit bias is to overgeneralize: to be confidet in the validity of a PARTICULAR bit of data but then consider it valid for a much larger range. (“a girl broke my heart, all girls are heart-breakers”).  The mind’s strong disposition to fill in gaps in knowledge or understanding, to interpolate or extrapolate data points is at some levels of cognitive oranization irresistable–and at some levels this is necessary: the trick is (of course) to respect “The Golden Mean,”  “nothing in excess.    

(Ultimate truth represents something we seem to need to believe in, although it is beyond our competence to perceive or comprehend–it is TRANSCENDENT –essential mainly because it keeps our JOURNEY on path.

“CONFIDENCE” then reflects how we feel about our progress toward TRUTH:  We passionately pursue CONFIDENCE in the outcomes of our actions.  Based on experience, we intuit the adaptive importance of a reliable understanding of CAUSES and CONSEQUENCES.  We might worry about ABSOLUTE versus RELATIVE TRUTH, but ambiguity is built into our biology.  We must be comfortable living with the imperfect accuracy and precision of our congenital and acquired sensory and perceptual biology, BUT the objects of our attention are also in constant flux. This is acceptable even if ideologically troubling: In evolution by natural selection, organisms need not be PERFECT to survive and prosper, only better than their competitors when there are insufficient resources for all.  (look in on A&O web notes on AMBIGUITY)  

BUT SOMETIMES, if only very briefly, we can be overwhelmed with CONFIDENCE:  “this remarkable capacity for perceiving with somnambulic sureness what is absolutely and universally true is of great interest. it transcends the simple love of truth itself, essential though this may be. I think it must occur at special moments when there is an unusual, and often only temporary, fusion of all the elements in the mind in a peculiar degree of harmony. The sureness arises from the completeness with which the ego is receiving in an unquestioning fashion the message from the pre-conscious. At that moment there is a complete co-incidence between the striving of the id, the permission of the superego, the acceptance by the ego, and the external perception of the problem being studied.” (quoted from Nature of Genius Ernest Jones (1957): The Scientific Monthly , Feb., 1957, Vol. 84, No. 2 (Feb., 1957), Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/21776)(bold emphasis mine).  Was this Dostoyevski’s experience?   BUT then there can be false confidence

(from Greenberg 2004 Beijing Conference presentation: ART and the Neuroethology of Belief: Truth in the Brain)


The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.  (Erich Fromm (1947)


how do we come to have more-or-less confidence in the validity of a belief?


There are two modes of knowing, through argument and experience.  Argument brings conclusions and compels us to concede them,but does not cause certainty nor remove the doubts in order that the mind may remain at rest in truth, unless this is provided by experience  (Roger Bacon, 1268)



THERE ARE CONSTELLATIONS OF IDEAS THAT, CONSIDERED TOGETHER, MIGHT GIVE YOU THE BEST SENSE OF WHAT YOU CAN HAVE CONFIDENCE IN: WHAT YOU CAN BELIEVE IN MOVING FORWARD AS AN ADAPTIVE BEING — THAT IS, ONE THAT COPES WITH CHANGE and MEETS ITS NEEDS.   The ideas about which we need clarity are KNOWLEDGE, TRUTH, BELIEF, and REALITY.   BUT, these are ideas that lead us inexorably into the FOG of PHILOSOPHY, and in that place we must watch our step. (or move very slowly: Using philosophy to guide your pursuit of insight is, as E/L. Doctorow said of writing, “…like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”)

The intensity of the problem is perhaps highlighted by the age-old and endless problem of truth and beauty– for our purposes, that is code for “reason and aesthetics.”   What we believe is one thing, and our confidence in the validity of our beliefs surely guides us, but it is ACTIONS that count in ethology and the evolution of behavior. Our “behavioral phenotype.”  ACTIONS determine our biological fitness and beauty can be more compelling than reason.


Oliver Sacks on TRUTH:    “There is, it seems, no mechanism in the mind or the brain for ensuring the truth…. We have no direct access to historical truth … no way by which the events of the world can be directly transmitted or recorded in our brains; they are experienced and constructed in a highly subjective way…. Our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other and ourselves — the stories we continually recategorize and refine.”

(quoted by Nicole Krause in her review of THE RIVER OF CONSCIOUSNESS by Oliver Sacks in NY Times Book Review 4 December 2017.


ACTIONS, from reflexive to spontaneous to more-or-less carefully considered are affected by our human condition–they are not purely rational:

“Nobel laureate Herbert Simon (19671983) launched a revolution in decision theory when he introduced bounded rationality, a concept that would require refining existing normative models of rational choice to include cognitive and situational constraints. But as the quote above reveals, Simon knew his theory would be incomplete until the role of emotion was specified, thus presaging the critical attention contemporary science has begun to give emotion in decision research. Across disciplines ranging from philosophy (Solomon 1993) to neuroscience (e.g., Phelps et al. 2014), an increasingly vibrant quest to identify the effects of emotion on judgment and decision making (JDM) is under way.” (from Lerner et al. 2015)[i]




And in the end, the wise often succumb to the beautiful.

(‘Und es neigen die Weisen / Oft am Ende zu Schönem sich‘—Friedrich  Hölderlin (d. 1843))

(in monetizing the tension, the Jaguar Automobile Company is not the first to remind us that


(then, whilst recalling the tension between SENTIENCE and SAPIENCE, heart and mind,  read more) 


Although a negative view of emotion’s role in reason has dominated much of Western thought (for discussion, see Keltner & Lerner 2010), a few philosophers pioneered the idea that integral emotion could be a beneficial guide. David Hume (1978 [1738], p. 415), for example, argued that the dominant predisposition toward viewing emotion as secondary to reason is entirely backward: “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”  (cited by Jennifer S. Lerner et al (2015) Emotion and Decision Making; Ann Rev Psychol. 66:799-823. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115043 )





The NATURAL HISTORY of TRUTH is an integrative approach to knowledge 

in harmony with DEEP ETHOLOGY [see Greenberg (2009) presentation from the annual MetaNexus Conference; MORE]


“TRUTH, as conceived by most professional philosophers, is static and final, perfect and eternal; in religious terminology, it may be identified with God’s thoughts, and with those thoughts which, as rational beings, we share with God” (Russell 1945:820).    BUT . . . are we rational beings? [more (BROKEN LINK)]


TRUTH involves CONFIDENCE IN A BELIEF.   HIGH confidence implies the belief is a valid representation of REALITY … so there is another can of worms: what is REAL? see resources from New Scientist special issue Sept 29, 2012

  • Reality: The definition  Features > Special Issue pp34-35   Even trying to define what we mean by “reality” is fraught with difficulty
  • Reality: The bedrock of it all  Features > Special Issue p36   Can we explain reality purely in terms of matter and energy, asks Valerie Jamieson
  • Reality: Is matter real?  Features > Special Issue pp37-46   It’s relatively easy to demonstrate what physical reality isn’t. It is much harder to work out what it is
  • Reality: Is everything made of numbers?  Features > Special Issue pp38-39   Dig deep enough into the fabric of reality and you eventually hit a seam of pure mathematics, says Amanda Gefter
  • Reality: A universe of information  Features > Special Issue p41   What we call reality might actually be the output of a program running on a cosmos-sized quantum computer, says Michael Brooks
  • Reality: How does consciousness fit in?  Features > Special Issue pp42-43   Some theories hold that reality and consciousness are one and the same. Is the universe really all inside your head, asks Michael Brooks
  • Reality: How can we know it exists?  Features > Special Issue p45  Proving whether or not reality is an illusion is surprisingly difficult
  • Reality: The future  Features > Special Issuep47   It’s possible that we live in fundamental reality. Future beings almost certainly won’t, says Richard Webb





Should we distinguish (capital R) “Reality” … a physical/metaphysical theoretical concept  OR  (small r) “reality” … the practical world in which we exist and to which we must adapt as organisms?  Does our capacity for technological exploitation of physical principles that as organisms we are unprepared to understand make that a moot case?  Is this an issue of “locality“? :  non-locality might seem absurd: read  NEWTON on GRAVITY. 

Harold Pinter on ART and TRUTH, from his Nobel acceptance speech



Correspondence, coherence, and multiple attestation are the tools of truth-seeking disciplines, but at best they confer confidence in the “validity”of a belief. 

We might never speak of “truth” if it were not for Dostoyevski and others that experienced what lies beyond mere validity. 

BELIEF. It helps (some of us) to envision a “normal curve” under the central bell shape of which resides beliefs about which we can be more-or-less confident … because the evidence caters to the evolved shape of our senses and perceptual apparatus, or because we are persuaded of its relative “internal or external validity” by the relative  correspondence of evidence to the “real world” revealed by multiple tests, and the coherence  of the connections that can be made with the past and corollary experiences of comparable evidence to construct a more-or-less pleasing story (what—we must ask next—is “pleasure?” Is it true that “gorgeous trumps everything?“) (is this “The best story we can tell with the best evidence we have?”)


   Framed in more biological terms, “truth” represents the best approximation of reality.  “Reality” can never be known directly because whatever we are concerned with (that is, are able to perceive and to which we may be able to direct conscious attention) is necessarily transformed by the nature of our biology: the biological organs that have evolved or developed, largely in response to our past or present need for information about our environment.   (natural selection in the past occurred in an “environment of evolutionary adaptedness” which might no longer exist)

  Idealized beliefs are constructions of the mind, hypothetical constructs that represents the unattainable endpoint of a continuum of confidence.  (in fact, the creating of the mental construct, “ideal,” may be the most efficient way for the brain to function).   Beliefs can be imbued with progressively more confidence by a process of successive approximations based on direct or circumstantial evidence.  Since beliefs are the basis for present or future adaptive action in the real world — their quality affects biological fitness.   Influences on that quality include the validity of perceptions and their representation in the mind; ultimately the integrative actions of the brain.




On July 1 in 1751, “… the first volume of Diderot’s Encyclopédie was issued. His publishers wanted him to translate Chamber’s Encyclopedia, published in Britain in 1723, but Diderot decided to embark on a bigger project. He set about to catalog all of human knowledge, and included illustrated articles describing the manufacture of common household objects, information that was considered beneath the dignity of educated inquiry. The scholar Voltaire liked the early volumes so much that he started to contribute articles to the project, but his irreverent treatment of religious subjects got the Encyclopédie banned. One night at dinner in the palace of Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour confessed that she had no idea how her silk stockings had been made, and the king’s hidden copy of the Encyclopédie was fetched to answer the question. A servant told Voltaire later that the dinner guests fell upon the volumes “as if they were jewels.”     (TWA)






So, what is our truth? 

We are all artists in so far as we all try to communicate elements  of the ineffable that stand out for us.  If by disposition we will not or can not go beyond the boundaries set only by what is shared with others, ignoring (or neglecting) our uniqueness and the desire to express (and share) it, this is not an issue.   But if we are seeking the “truth of who we are” the project will be endless. (And as biologists, we can make an excellent case for having better knowledge of untapped implicit resources and potential as well as our capacity for expression and other kinds of action.)  

 So let’s assume we are deeply moved by a motivation “to know and to be known.”  We also assume (along with many others) that creativity involves the availability of implicit and explicit knowledge to each other.  That is, we know we must penetrate beneath conscious awareness to the underlying layers of consciousness which inform it.  (and as biologists we know that a preoccupation with rationality, an expression of the highest levels of consciousness, actually impairs access to the layers beneath — to who we “really” are before the rationalizations and accommodations of reason can distort our view.  This view grew with Freud who believed that dreams emerged from the deepest levels and represented primal impulses that were then distorted in their telling as accommodations to civilized society)  

So, peeling away the layers or at least navigating them so we can see what lies beneath the surface — like the horizons of an anthropologist

[existential aside: our most creative ideas are like dreams, like the present moment, “melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming,” (to adapt William James to our meaning).

 If  we could capture those earliest impulses we would be close to the deepest pool of meaning and in many ways our most authentic self, the one closest to our evolutionary legacy as expressed in the present world … the fountainhead from which springs our manifest selves, the selves we present to the world, sometimes at great cost.  (This raises the idea of MASKS, click HERE for an A&O blogpost)  


And so we are brought to issues of AUTHENTICITY.   








EPOCHE.  REALITY and “Bracketing”  “TRUTH” and “REALITY” as terms and as  phenomenal beliefs have enough philosophical problems of ithier own: so we invoke epoché (bracketing something imperfect so we can move on with a view to returning to it later)[i].


[i] Piet Hut writes admiringly of the usefulness of epoch



































Truth by experimentation: when science and art embrace “positivism”

 “[Claude] Bernard (“Study of Experimental Method” 1865) and [Emile] Zola (“The Experimental Novel” 1880) were no exceptions. Bernard emulates positivism in his philosophy of the sciences [3]. He states that in order to obtain truth, sciences must use experimentation in order to determine the causes and workings of nature:

Men of science learn every day from experience; by experience they constantly correct their scientific ideas, their theories; rectify them, bring them into harmony with more and more facts, and so come nearer and nearer to the truth.Bernard, “Introduction…  

(Pascale Rabideau’s  essay,  University of Guelph)









































A RELATED TOPIC is the sense that some people experience of the absolute truth of a belief: this feeling is often ecstatic and might occur in the context of a seizure.

Where is “TRUTH?”   Dostoyevski’s moment of truth and Ecstatic epileptic seizures: a potential window on the neural basis for human self-awareness. (Picard F1Craig AD. In Epilepsy Behav. 2009 Nov;16(3):539-546.) And opens the door on a site essential for confirming confidence that a belief is in fact TRUE. 

“The anatomical correlate of epileptic seizures with ecstatic auras has not been established. We document precise descriptions of the ecstatic seizures experienced by five patients, all of whom reported intense feelings of well-being and a heightened self-awareness. We propose here that the descriptions by these patients, together with the neurophysiological and neuroradiological evidence, support a theoretical framework for understanding ecstatic states based on hyperactivation of the anterior insula, rather than the temporal lobe. Epileptologists who have access to patients who experience episodic feelings of ecstasy and heightened self-awareness have an opportunity to provide insights that might help clarify the neural basis of consciousness.”

And HYPERGNOSIS (a feeling that it is “more true than true.”)

Read what Dostoyevski said


A BELIEF is “true” to the extent that it possesses both CORRESPONDENCE with “reality”  and COHERENCE with other beliefs.  These elements of belief are also highly specialized functions of cognition with specific representations in the human brain.  Together, these enable confident acting in our environments.

 CORRESPONDENCE refers to how well does an external “reality” match its internal “representation” ?? (“Knowledge is the conformity of the object and the intellect”  –Averroes (1126-1198) in Destructio Destructionum).  

(More on CORRESPONDENCE notes:///85257F020066BD1F/E972592203C877EF8525676B005DED2D/8FE311DCEBFB940985256E420076B9A0).

( When the facts and the proposition are identical –Bertrand Russell in The Problems of Philosophy). 

seeking correspondences is something the organism does continually — how else can we act confidently in our environments?  We confirm by scrutenizing with all the resources we have

Unfortunately, between the workings of our sensory apparatus (detecting only biologically relevant information) and our brains (processing received information in a fragmentary manner at best), there are always gaps.   BUT the brain has machinery to fill these in to create a sense of coherence (e.g., “filling-in” in the visual system)   


COHERENCE (“the quality or state of logical or orderly relationship of parts;” leading to a “united” or “orderly” whole. ) It is based on “narrative integration”  — it provides order.  We need order.  In fact, our very being (and its constitutional mandate to maintain stability through homeostasis) may be a rare local artifact, emerged by chance in chaos, an otherwise global disorder).   Pathology is a disproportion of ordinarily ordered relationships, but so is beauty! Although it is often recognizable only by its association with order, its reference to it.  Indeed, if a new “truth” is not coherent in the context of our “prior truths” it may be found thereby invalid (Wm James: “The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.”).  We walk the boundary between order and disorder, exploit that ephemeral, protean, thin, ecotone.

BOTH COHERENCE and CORRESPONDENCE are needed to provide the mind with a sense of reality, but they can be variably represented:. For example, coherence can provide an illusion of correspondence by reasoning when no corroboration for empirical evidence can be found–we infer the existence of a phenomenon or we take corroboration where we can find it or from other more firmly established reasonably connected phenomena.  (see “God of the Gaps” and “Saving Appearances.”) … and then there are disorders, often dysfunctional (mass delusions, folie à deux) 

Correspondence and Coherence ordinarily operate in lockstep — correspondence is primarily associated with the senses and coherence with understanding : And as Kant said, “The senses cannot think. The understanding cannot see.”  (in the Critique of Pure Reason, cited by Wechsler 1978:2)



 CONFIDENCE is what we seek — confidence in the veracity of our beliefs — are we sufficiently confident in the truth of a belief to bet our lives?? (“I just had my brakes fixed”) to bet our immortal souls??  —


When a scientist has a belief based on observations, its consistency with related beliefs based on other observations is an indication of the confidence we may have in its possible “truth.”  Joachim states that “Truth in its essential nature is that systematic coherence which is the character of a significant whole.”  Of this whole, the fact of correspondence is “at most a symptom of truth” (HH Joachim 1906/1939 quoted by Agnes Arbor in The Mind and the Eye, Cambridge University Press 1954 p.70).

The muddling of the aspects of “truths” (correspondence and coherence) is a principal cause for uncertainty about knowledge:  BOTH correspondences and coherence are needed (as Roger Bacon observed) “That the mind may remain at rest.”   Indeed, there appears to be a reciprocal relationship between the truths of correspondence and coherence: 




Truth and Intelligence, validity, and reliability. 

These “forms” of truth are, in fact, viewed as the dual function of intelligence by Sternberg People’s beliefs have some measure of validity (external correspondences) and reliability (internal coherence).  A more intelligent, adaptive person has achieved more external correspondence and internal coherence in his or her knowledge based and belief structures.  People think unintelligently to the extent to which they make errors in achieving external correspondence or internal coherence.” (p.1031) Rbt J. Sternberg 1997.  “The Concept of intelligence and its role in lifelong learning and success.” Amer Psychol., 52(10):1030-1037.






If a man shall begin in certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties.”   (Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, Bk 1).


“. . . every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great and original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished” (Wordsworth)            



Truth a cultural phenomenon?


“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them understand something clearly at last, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”  — Max Planck




According to [Steven] Sloman (a professor at Brown and editor of the journal Cognition) and [Philip] Fernbach (a professor at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business), providing people with more and better information is unlikely to improve matters. Scientists hope to dispel antiscience prejudices by better science education, and pundits hope to sway public opinion on issues like Obamacare or global warming by presenting the public with accurate facts and expert reports. Such hopes are grounded in a misunderstanding of how humans actually think. Most of our views are shaped by communal groupthink rather than individual rationality, and we cling to these views because of group loyalty. Bombarding people with facts and exposing their individual ignorance is likely to backfire. Most people don’t like too many facts, and they certainly don’t like to feel stupid.

Indeed, scientists who believe that facts can change public opinion may themselves be the victims of scientific groupthink. The scientific community believes in the efficacy of facts, hence those loyal to that community continue to believe they can win public debates by marshaling the right facts, despite much empirical evidence to the contrary. Similarly, the traditional belief in individual rationality may itself be the product of groupthink rather than of empirical evidence. In one of the climactic moments of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” a huge crowd of starry-eyed followers mistakes Brian for the Messiah. Caught in a corner, Brian tells his disciples: “You don’t need to follow me, you don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!” The enthusiastic crowd then chants in unison: “Yes! We’re all individuals!” Monty Python was parodying the counterculture orthodoxy of the 1960s, but the point may be true of the belief in rational individualism in other ages too.  (Yuval Harari (2017) on Sloman and Fernbach.2017.)[1]





isn’t “ART a LIE” (Picasso) and TRUTH simply BEAUTY?

Excerpts from A&O “Art is a Lie” web page:

About accuracy and precision, read about

  • Saint Augustin’s paradox:  He observed that “… the more a portrait gives us the illusion of a real person… the greater its authenticity as a work of art;” that is, the more believable the art, the more we are deceived.” (quoted by De Bruyne 1969:41)[8]  “the image of a demon, who is in reality ugly, is in itself beautiful, provided that the likeness is accurate.”
  • BUT is accuracy necessarily beautiful?  Is ”Beauty truth, truth beauty?” – remember Keats?[9]   Then Ezra Pound says “The touchstone of an art is its precision” (1913)[10] 
  • Or maybe it is perspective: John Constable (d.1837) said, “there is nothing ugly; I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.” [11]  
  • And in another spirit but no less concerned with truth, Hercule Poirot tries to make it clear:  “Understand this, I mean to arrive at the truth. The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it” [12]



(click for answer)


OK, then, what is more TRUE THAN TRUTH?


(Click for Answer)


Truth evolves?


some ideas need to be consistent with others in order to regarded as true (coherence) — sometimes that consistency cannot be clearly seen — ideas cannot be taken seriously if they are appear to be premature or unique [more on premature ideas]


 “The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.”   (William James, in Context 8(11). .


objective truth?

“We see things not as they are, but as we are”





subjective truth?

The Allure of Phenomenology:


For a 2014 presentation at a Virginia Tech sponsored conference on college teaching the UT Phenomenology of Education Research Team introduced the “phenomenological “twist” developed from Merleau-Ponty’s comments in introducing his Phenomenology of Perception:  

“Probably the chief gain from phenomenology is to have united extreme subjectivism and extreme objectivism in its notion of the world of rationality.” 

Like the two strands of a DNA molecule, these themes (subjectivism and objectivism) twist around each other resembling the primal spiral helix.

“Rationality is precisely proportioned to the experiences in which it is disclosed.  To say that there exists rationality is to say that perspectives blend, perceptions confirm each other, a meaning emerges. … the phenomenological world is not pure being, but the sense which is revealed where the paths of my various experiences intersect, and also where my own and other people’s intersect and engage each other like gears.”

 “Philosophy is not the reflection of a pre-existing truth, but, like art, the act of bringing truth into being.” … “We witness every minute the miracle of related experience, and yet nobody knows better than we do how this miracle is worked, for we are ourselves this network of relationships” 

(Merleau-Ponty 1945; Phenomenology of Perception. Preface, Trans 1958.  Publ 1962 by Routledge & Kegan Paul, NYC)                             




fragmentary truth?

The Allure of Phenomenology:



Ordinarily, experience seems seamless.  It is how gaps in knowledge are filled: between the points experienced (interpolation) and the other extends from the first or last known experience of a series into the past or future (extrapolation

(see A&O notes on FILLING IN)


[Consciousness itself is a series of fragments: Consciousness seems continuous but is a series of frames, of “stills,” of “snapshots.”   Oliver Sacks called this cinematic vision.  In his “post-encephalitic patients, when they were “awakened,” and especially overexcited, by taking the drug L-DOPA, “they sometimes “described extraordinary ‘standstills,’ sometimes hours long, in which not only visual flow was arrested, but the stream of movement, of action, of thought itself.”]  [more: read Oliver Sacks’ wonderful essay]




ONE WAY to have CONFIDENCE in a BELIEF about something UNSEEN or UNSEEABLE is to INTERPOLATE or EXTRAPOLATE from related things in which you ARE confident. (and see “statistical learning”)


The Allure of Ambiguity

ARE TRUTH and BEAUTY different in ART and SCIENCE?

The Art and Science of Art and Science





















“A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world.  But on the other hand, in a universe divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger.  His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land (Camus, Albert. 1942. Le Mythe de Sisyphe translated by Justin O’Brien in 1955.)

Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. (Bertrand Russell 18721970 Unpopular Essays (1950) Outline of Intellectual Rubbish)






















Are you SKEPTICAL? click here or HERE (wounded link)


The truth of Faith?

The Allure of faith and the unquestioned answers:

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’.” John 20:29 (NIV)









































The “spirituality” of “truth” … is based on its presumed “eternal” quality –a “law of nature” that is in effect at all times throughout the universe.  Hypotheses and theories can be viewed as stepping stones to a final “factual” belief.   https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/surg/article/view/1208/1807


A spiritual experience can be viewed as “becoming one with the truth one seeks”

One’s brain is likely responsible for the sense of truth:  as reality tests (correspondence and coherence) are conducted throughout the nervous system and integrated into a unitary belief, a portion of the brain is activated which appears to but the “seal” on truthfulness of the belief:  Competing beliefs can be suppressed and the “last belief standing” can be counted on to guide adaptive actions in a dangerous world.

The cerebral site is associated with “hypergnosia” — an overwhelming sense of truth that provides a vivid sense of order.
















































































At Lake Scugog























Glossary of terms in A&O



In life as in dreams, it appears we make the best of incomplete data.  (see epoche, above) The dreams of deepest sleep represet the brain’s best effort to make sense of random activity:  The “activation-synthesis hypothesis of the dream process” was proposed by JA Hobson and RW McCarley in the mid 1970’s (1977).[i]   The sleeping brain is not passive.  There are countless activities coordinated that have nothing to do with awake consciousness. These are mostly lower brain functions, but many of them activate (co-activate) higher brain functions (amygdala, hippocampus, limbic system in general) in an essentially random manner, and upon waking, we try to interpret these fleeting snips of information into a coherent story.   Hobson speculates that it is part of the brain’s ‘inexorable quest for meaning’ –at least the in the higher brain structures.  According to Hobson, “Dreaming may be our most creative conscious state, one in which the chaotic, spontaneous recombination of cognitive elements produces novel configurations of information: new ideas. While many or even most of these ideas may be nonsensical, if even a few of its fanciful products are truly useful, our dream time will not have been wasted.”   [read more about ”The Uses of Ambiguity”]   [more about dreams and dreamings]

The AIM Model of Dreaming

Thanks to modern advances in brain imaging and the ability to monitor brain activity, researchers now understand more about the sleep-wake cycle, the different stages of sleep, and the different states of consciousness.

The more recent version of the activation-synthesis theory is known as the AIM model, standing for activation, input-output gating, and modulation. This newer model tries to capture what happens in the brain-mind space as consciousness changes through waking, non-REM, and REM sleep states.

A Word From Verywell

The reasons and meaning behind dreaming have fascinated philosophers and researchers for centuries. Activation-synthesis theory added an important dimension to our understanding of why we dream and stressed the important of neural activity during sleep. As new technology emerges for studying the brain and sleep processes, researchers will continue to make new advances in our understanding of why we dream, states of consciousness, and the possible meaning behind our dreams. 


Hobson, JA. REM sleep and dreaming: Towards a theory of protoconsciousness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2010; 10(11): 803–13. 

Hobson, JA & McCarley, RW. The brain as a dream-state generator: An activation-synthesis hypothesis of the dream process. American Journal of Psychiatry. 1977; 134: 1335-1348.

Hobson, JA. The Dreaming Brain. New York: Basic Books; 1988.

Hobson, JA. Consciousness. New York: Scientific American Library; 1999.




Epoché as developed by “… Husserl as a “tool for making systematic explorations of tacit assumptions underlying our everyday view of the world….”  It is employed as “a form of suspense of judgment — a way to let the phenomena speak while `bracketing’ the usual presuppositions that are in force in any given situation.  [He] sees two major applications for the epoche in science, one internal, and one external.”    The internal applications of the epoche in science is in fact manifest in “the actual way that scientists engage in scientific research. … It does not carry a specific name, and it is not seen to be connected in any way with the school of philosophy called phenomenology. Most scientists probably have never heard of the school of phenomenology, and hardly any of them know the word epoche. And yet something akin to the epoche is being taught implicitly in any good science class.

All major breakthroughs in science stem from a form of epoche. Galileo, when looking at how the Sun seems to revolve around the Earth, bracketed the common belief that the Earth itself is immovable. It was then easy to see that a rotating Earth and a fixed Sun would give rise to exactly the same phenomena. By separating the phenomena from the belief structures in which these phenomena had always been embedded, he found new interpretations which opened new doors for scientific exploration.

Newton, when interpreting gravity as action at a distance, bracketed the belief that any form of action should occur through material contact. Einstein explored the consequences of Maxwell’s equations, while bracketing all the presuppositions that had been used to derive those equations in the first place, including the absolute character of space and time. From purely phenomenological thought experiments, he thus derived the relativity of space and time, together with the precise rules according to which they can be transformed into each other.

Bohr bracketed the notion that a particle must have a definite state before one makes a measurement, when he developed his Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. The list can be extended almost indefinitely, from the most important breakthroughs down to the day-to-day little `aha’s of laboratory research and pencil-and-paper derivations in theoretical research. Whenever we seem to be stuck, we `wiggle the wires’ of our presuppositions, to see where we can find a way out, by bracketing one or more of those presuppositions.

In daily life, too, a similar pattern holds. I am convinced that I have parked my car in a particular section of the parking lot, where I always park my car. It is not there. Is it stolen? Before calling the police, I bracket my conviction that I left my car there, this morning. By doing so, I make more room for the possibility to recall what I exactly did, this particular morning, rather than falling back on my justified belief that I (almost) always park in this particular section of the parking lot. And indeed, I then remember that this morning there was a particular and highly exceptional reason for me to park the car elsewhere.

There seems to be a continuum running through all these examples, from the most brilliant breakthrough to the most mundane form of problem solving. The main difference between bracketing prejudices in science and in daily life is the fact that science has developed systematic structures that encourage bracketing. The scientific system of peer review, together with its encouragement of new ideas combined with a very critical attitude in testing those new ideas, has been refined over the last four centuries into a remarkably efficient enterprise.

5. External Applications of the Epoche in Science

For all its strengths, the scientific attitude has a major weakness in that it is not designed to be applied to itself. Science does not encourage bracketing of itself, lock, stock and barrel. Scientists, no matter how flexible and ingenious in exploring new approaches within specific areas of science, are rarely willing to apply the very same method they have been using all their life to science itself.

Sure, scientists are willing to question the foundations of science, because they know from experience that what are called foundations actually have more of ornamental function. The foundations of each discipline have repeatedly been replaced, while work on the higher floors of the discipline went on without a glitch — try doing that with a real building! From a practical point of view, what really grounds science is not the principles that seem to capture the most parsimonious summary of the state of the field at any given moment, but rather the sum total of the activities that make that field what it is: science is what scientists do.

In my experience, scientists are willing to question the `foundations’ of what they do, and they are willing to question any of the particular actions and presuppositions they are working with. However, they seem to be very ill at ease in the face of a form of questioning that addresses the status of the scientific view of the world. The very notion of doubting the truth of science simply goes against the grain.

My proposal is: let us try to find a way to open the discussion about the role of science in a modern world view, by using the notion of the epoche. After all, the epoche is already such a familiar tool for the working scientist, and as such is can play a bridge function from science to phenomenology.

For such a discussion to be successful, two ingredients are needed. Philosophers must help us to clarify the very notion of what is means to perform an epoche, and scientists must find a way to overcome their reluctance to question the ultimate truth of that which they are immersed in.

To start with the latter, the reluctance of scientists to question their own enterprise is reminiscent of the reluctance with which former rulers approach the notion of democracy. The very idea to have to defend your ideas in the marketplace, with others attacking you, is not very appealing. It requires considerable practice to separate an attack on your ideas from an attack on yourself and your own personal integrity. For those not raised in a democratic culture, any form of debate can feel like a threat. Unfortunately, the recent `science wars’ have shown how some scientists can come across as equally dogmatic as fundamentalists in various religions. To find ways of letting scientists lower their defenses against what might at first look like an attack on the scientific `truth’, is a high priority.

An equally high priority is to find ways for philosophers to offer a technique, a systematic approach (scientists love systematic approaches) that can help to unpack and bring into focus the layers of sedimented unquestioned assumptions that have accumulated in science. These assumptions are passed on from one generation to the next, by osmosis during the undergraduate years of college, and are further polished and sealed off in graduate school. A beginning student quickly learns which questions to ask and which not to ask. And after years of not asking, even remote memories of those questions fade into the background. Reviving those questions, in more mature ways, is one step towards an attempt to regain innocence, to retain a beginner’s mind, and from that viewpoint to look at science as a whole.

From:  Piet Hut (2001) The Role of Husserl’s Epoche for Science: A View from a Physicist. paper presented at the 31st Husserl Circle conference in Bloomington, IN, in February 2001. Online at http://archive.is/oxDc; downloaded Friday, April 07, 2017.







TRUTH (old links awaiting reconnection)




error  bias




truth & beauty

higher Truth ? art, myth

DEEP ethology

fragmentary reality







[i] Jennifer S. Lerner, Ye Li, Piercarlo Valdesolo, and Karim S. Kassam (2014) Emotion and Decision Making.   Annual Review of Psychology  Vol. 66:799-823 (Volume publication date January 2015) First published online as a Review in Advance on September 22, 2014 https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115043


[i] Hobson, JA & McCarley, RW. (1977)  The brain as a dream-state generator: An activation-synthesis hypothesis of the dream process. American Journal of Psychiatry. 1977; 134: 1335-1348.