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Re: scalar polarity

On Wed, 22 Nov 1995, ucleaar wrote:

> This partly-true-partly-false (which means overall false, I guess) is
> one of the things that gives rise to the degrees of definite truth
> and definite falsity, for which I proposed na + CAI and jaa + cai.

The problem with this has to do with the conceptualization of truth as
having "degrees."  It simply doesn't.  I know the "fuzzy logic" folks must
think I am very quaint and atavistic for saying this, but I would
challenge them to give an example of a *real* situation in which
conventional logic cannot be used to arrive at a solution, or a *real*
situation in which the terms "true" or "false" cannot be applied.

Of course, before I get accused of being too "Aristotelian" I should
clarify my position.  I am not saying that there is "absolute truth"...
in fact, I'm very much a relativist... but rather, I am saying that
statements, given a set of criteria, can be evaluated as either true,
false, or can be taken apart into true and false elements.  This is a
reductionistic approach.

> - It means "how much would the world have to change in order for the
> truth value of this proposition to be reversed?".

Quantifying something like "effort required to change the world" seems
doomed to failure, due to 1) the complexity of the matter and 2) our lack
of information about the subject!  How much effort is involved in making
dinner, for instance?  Just because I can form the question doesn't mean
it has a meaningful answer.

> But many people think that a statement can be neither true nor false,
> but something in between. This is called fuzzy logic. For example,
> is the statement "I am tall" true? Well, personally I reckon it's
> truish. If you're convinced it must be either true or either false,
> then tell me how I can decide.

You can decide by 1) establishing criteria, 2) making an observation and
3) applying the criteria to the observation to make a determination: tall
or not tall.  The data will either meet the criteria or will fail to meet
the criteria.

> > Scalar interpretation of truth boils down to making statements like "On a
> > truth scale of 1 to 10, that's a 4."  How useful is that?
> Very useful, though I'm not a fan of using numbers like those. I prefer
> "almost all" "all-ish" "midway" "none-ish" "almost-none". etc.

I also prefer these because they don't make a pretense of being
scientific.  Earthquakes, light-intensity and weight can be objectively
measured on a numerical scale, but the flavor of a wine, the degree of
hunger one experiences, or the feeling of happiness one has cannot be
quantified in a way which is meaningful.  For instance, you could quantify
hunger by measuring the amount of noise someone's bowels make, but that
would be blantantly stupid... hunger is far more complex than this.

In closing, let me point out that "almost all", "all-ish" etc. have very
little information value.  They don't convey a lot, and what they *do*
tend to convey is the sense that either the speaker hasn't taken a close
look at which he or she is talking about, or that the speaker isn't
making an effort to be precise.

Peter Schuerman                                    plschuerman@ucdavis.edu
                        Co-editor, SPECTRA Online
          for back issues: http://www.well.com/user/phandaal/