The Six Confusions of Modern Man: #6 Certainty and Truth


There is confusion when things do not occupy their due place in the order of the universe. The six considered here are not the only ones, but they are enough to give an idea of the intellectual and moral disorder that beset modernity.

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Certainty and Truth


This last confusion is perhaps the hardest to crack, but let us note that neglecting it leads to an abysmal scientific ignorance if not fraud (scientists are not immune from it).

Whereas everything that is true is also certain, not everything that is certain is necessarily true. In fact, most certain propositions are not true at all, and need not be, for their nature does not require it. There would be no problem if the separate roles of the two were acknowledged, but they are not. Confusion therefore brings undesirable, if  not noxious, results.

Stating the problem, truth is defined as the agreement between the mind and things. It follows that things (in Latin: Res, entia) are mathematically represented by whole numbers, the integers 1, 2…n. But multiplying and dividing integers results in fractions, irrational, transcendental, complex etc. numbers, none of which has existence. They are numbering numbers, beings (entia) of reason expressing relations. The  entia of nature, such as chickens, stones and the rest cannot but go one by one, two by two, called numbered numbers.

And here comes what W. R. Thompson (1889-1972) used to call “abuse” of mathematics, which consisted in giving existence to expressions of numbering number.

An early example of this was the making of time into a “fourth dimension” next to length, width and height. Mathematically this is not only possible but also expandable at will: string theory has expanded the universe to 11 dimensions, coherent and fruitful of results.

But the adaequatio between this phantom universe and reality is as far away as ever. There is no res with more than three dimensions anymore than there is a square root of a chicken cackling around the farmyard.

Put another way, the agreement between an intellectual construct and another is not truth. Things, and only things, beget truth when an inquiring mind attains adequacy with them. Intellectual constructs agreeing with one another beget certainty, i.e. verifiable results mathematically expressible with numbers.

But these numbers are not integers: they are fractions, square-, cubic- etc. roots, transcendental numbers like π, φ, etc.

The Aristotelian categories are of enormous help in detecting the difference between truth and certainty. Only substance, the first, refers to things; only substances have an essence, as St Thomas remarks in his Entity and Essence, and only essences can be defined unequivocally. With them we attain truth, the only reason for philosophy to exist as the intellectual tool that it is meant to be. To know what so-and-so thinks or speculates may be interesting, but it is not philosophy.

Philosophy is therefore, in its largest meaning, ancilla omnium scibilium, not only theologiae as the Scholastics would have it. Having neglected this has caused modern faculties of philosophy to be like workshops perfectly equipped with tools but with no raw materials to work on. Naturally, no meeting of minds ever occurs between scientists and philosophers, who go on scowling at each other without attaining the understanding that both of them need to live and work in an intelligible universe.

AUTHOR: Den Anoisíes (Email: [email protected] ; Follow on Twitter: @Den_Anoisies)

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