Thoughts on Reality and Propositions

If you enjoy philosophy, going to bed can be a dangerous time. Why? Your mind will start racing with an idea wanting to find a conclusion to it and you’ll toss and turn just hoping that that solution will reveal itself. There are many times also when you’ll get that great idea but unfortunately when you wake up, it’s gone.

Last night, I was thinking about reality and truth and falsehood and propositions. Now this is still in the making. I’m just writing out my thoughts so you can have them also as well as with the realization that writing out one’s thoughts can often times be a great aid in coming to further understanding of them.

Christian theologians have held for some time in many cases, and I agree with them, that evil has no real existence. Evil is simply the absence of that which is good. Evil is thus not the presence of something that is real but the lack of that which is supposed to be there, the presence of good.

I thought about this some after reading Plato’s Sophist on how the Sophist speaks of that which is not and came to thinking about propositions. Do false propositions have any real substance? I began debating back and forth in my mind the idea of reality and contingent truths and necessary truths.

Contingent truths is the toughest one as I think about it. It seems like nonsense in many ways. What I simply mean is that for any possible world that could have been, God knows what all propositions would have been true in that world. I got out of the pool at my apartment complex today at 8:15 for instance. Thus, God knew true the proposition that I would get out of the pool at 8:30. However, if I had chosen to get out at 8:30, God would have known that as a true proposition as well. In another possible world, that could be one.

Such a statement is contingent It could have been X and Y. There are some truths that I think are necessary truths in that they are true in every possible world. The laws of logic are necessary truths. Statements about the nature of God are necessary truths. This would also include moral statements such as “murder is wrong.” Even in a possible world where there were no human beings, these would all be true statements.

Of course, this gets interesting in fact we can speak truth about that which is not real as far as we know. For instance, I could say that it is true that unicorns only have one horn on their head. That is a true proposition, but it only refers to an idea as far as we know. I have yet to see evidence that such a creature as a unicorn exists. (For the record, I do believe there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy and for all I know, we could find a place someday where such creatures exist. I don’t consider it likely, but I am not one like our skeptical friends who wants to rule out the existence of something simply because I’ve never seen it.)

So the proposition in this case is true, but the referent is not real. However, this only means as far as we know, real to the external world. It still does match our idea of the unicorn and propositions can be spoken of about ideas as much as they can about anything else. Why else would we tell someone they have good ideas and stupid ideas?

But let us suppose something else. Let us suppose that someone made a proposition about the 52 states of the U.S. at the end of 2006. That proposition is different because it speaks of a referent that contradicts reality. The proposition would be considered false, but not meaningless. Thus, the proposition would have no real substance in the world as there is nothing it corresponds to.

Now there is such a thing as a meaningless proposition. We could say for instance, “My colorless green dreams sleep furiously.” That would be meaningless. Speaking of a married bachelor or a square circle would be just as meaningless for such statements contradict reality. A square by definition cannot be circular and a bachelor by definition cannot be married.

For this reason, I believe God could affirm the proposition that a unicorn only has one horn. However, he could not affirm the proposition that at the end of the year 2006, the U.S. only had 52 states. This is a statement that does contradict the reality about the nature of the United States while the statement about the unicorn doesn’t. Supposing unicorns are just mythological, God could affirm “The unicorn, a creature that exists only in myth, has one horn.”

Now is there any implication of this to our lives? YES!

What about the propositions we tell ourselves often? Do they correspond to reality? For instance, an obvious one would be, “The writer of this blog is not a diehard Smallville fan.” That is a false proposition and it is not one God affirms. Now if God does not affirm a proposition, is there any reason you should?

Let’s take another situation. Let’s suppose that we have a psychotic personality who comes up with the idea, “Murder is good and fun.” Does God know about this proposition as well? Certainly. You cannot think of the proposition God does not know about beforehand. However, God does not affirm this proposition even if he knew about its existence long before the person uttered it.

Now let’s suppose we took harder propositions about ourselves though. Suppose you uttered the proposition “I am utterly worthless and no one could ever love me.” Does God know about that proposition? Yes. Of course he does. Does God affirm it though? Not at all. However, if that is the case, then it is because that proposition contradicts reality. Thus, there is a true proposition in the mind of God that needs to be affirmed instead.

Such a proposition could be one based on Scripture passages. For instance, you could go to Psalm 8 and read “What is man that you are mindful of him, the Son of man that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor,” as well as going to John 3:16 and saying “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes on him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” From those, you could get the true proposition of “I have great value and am loved by God”, and that would be a proposition that he affirms.

The point is that for every false proposition you have about yourself, there is a true one out there to counter it. Now some propositions about you could be true and you don’t like them. For instance, “I have a problem with pride” could be a proposition that is affirmed about you at this time. If such is the case, then it is best to work on it so that the proposition “I am a humble person” will be one that can be affirmed someday.

Ultimately, we need to start getting our thoughts in agreement with God’s. In a way, we need to be thinking God’s thoughts after him. If God does not think proposition A is true, then why should I? If God does not think I am a loser, for instance, why should I even bother entertaining such a thought? Do I think I know more than the God of all truth?

Finally, when that proposition comes that is false, I need to think about the defeater. The defeater would be that which contradicts that proposition and ask which one is the one that God affirms. In such, I can start fulfilling the Philippians 4 command about the things that I am to think about. What could be better to think about than the truth of God after all?

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