Ava Lon, who translated two videos about Jürgen Habermas and the Frankfurt School (here and here), wrote the essay below in response to commenters on one of those posts. She was born, raised, and educated under communism in Poland, and her opinions are informed by her experience.
The Truth Hurts, But The Lie Hurts Even More
by Ava Lon
This essay is a response to comment by William on the post about Jürgen Habermas, “The Truth is Determined Through Marxist Discourse”:
The latest conviction in physics is that the universe is just all kinds of “fields” — gravitational, bosonic, hadronic, gluonic, electrostatic — and guided by field equations which are all probabilistic. Particles are just quanta of the fields. This means that the word “noumena” used by Kant, the objective world that is really out there, and not influenced by our subjective view (which is hopelessly affected by our sense organs) AND our subjective world and feelings and thoughts about the noumena, all have to be a subset of the universe, and are all statistical. Truth of all kinds is statistical. This means that the truth, however we define it, is sometimes what we think it is and sometimes not what we think it is. This gets us away from postmodernism because if truths are all statistical we really can’t even use the word truth. It loses its hard meaning.
I found this comment by gjest helpful:
Let’s assume that all that exists in the universe are fields. If the best that we can do to describe the behavior of these fields is by use of statistical equations then perhaps that reflects the limitations of our understanding. It doesn’t mean that the fields themselves actually operate by probabilistic principles.
Right now the best that we can do to predict the weather in Stockholm for next friday is to rely on statistical models. However, every bit of next friday’s weather will have been causally determined. None of it will have been the result of statistics or probabilities.
I would disagree that “Truth of all kinds is statistical”. Our knowledge of the truth or falsity of any particular proposition may be uncertain. In those cases we assign probabilities to our truth assignment. However, just because the truth value of a proposition remains unknown to us doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a distinct truth value.
When I was twenty, my French literature professor in college, an old, witty gentleman, gave us an assignment, asking whether a certain statement was true or false, and requiring us to write the answer in a form of an essay, explaining our position on the matter. I went to him after class and said: “If I have to write about the veracity or falseness of this statement, don’t I first need to know WHAT THE TRUTH IS?” And he answered: “Aren’t you a little pretentious, eh?” Boom! Use common sense. Stick to the facts. To the old fashioned, human-senses-supported, low-resolution facts.
The Greek philosopher Zeno described a series of paradoxes:
Zeno’s paradoxes are a set of philosophical problems generally thought to have been devised by Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea (c. 490-430 BC) to support Parmenides‘ doctrine that contrary to the evidence of one’s senses, the belief in plurality and change is mistaken, and in particular that motion is nothing but an illusion.
Here’s one of them:
That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal. — as recounted by Aristotle, Physics VI:9, 239b10
Suppose Homer wishes to walk to the end of a path. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must get a quarter of the way there. Before traveling a quarter, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth; and so on.
So: if I have to go from A to B, first I have to make it halfway, but before that, the halfway of that halfway, and so on, until I can’t move from the spot, because there is an infinity of halves of halfways that would have to be crossed first. How very paralyzing! It does make one feel glued to the floor!
[Gets up, goes in the kitchen, makes coffee, comes back carrying the mug, sits down again.]
I think this and other philosophical divagations that play with words are very intimidating. So intimidating in fact, that Frankfurt “Scholars” chose language games as a weapon, in order to make things sound so complicated that we would conclude that we should give up, disengage, feel subdued, and kowtow to the Neo-Marxists, “who know best”.
If Jürgen Habermas had been honest enough to be a scientist (hard science), he would have been one. Instead he became a charlatan for whom even the word “scholar” is too generous, as it suggests a certain expertise, and expertise means: “knowing the knowable truth about something”. He was — still is in his advanced age — a part of academia, teaching his madness as “revealed truth” to young people, who believed that he was teaching in good faith, to the best of his knowledge. The university used to be a place where people were looking for the Truth. Frankfurt “Scholars” turned that quest into a joke.
There is such a thing as “too much information”, though, and not only in an inappropriate way. Distorted language, appropriated truth, and — yes — scientific information, such as that quantum physics brought up in our discussion about Marxism, could all be weaponized and used to intimidate, to cloud the vision and to discourage anyone from speaking about reality seen by their “lying eyes”.
We are being told:
If you don’t understand quantum physics, if you aren’t an expert on it, then you cannot discuss current events, philosophy, or the restaurant menu! Besides, even quantum physics doesn’t have all the answers, therefore the Truth is unknowable, which is what had to be demonstrated.
And I say:
That quantum physics, brought up in our discussion about Marxism and Truth, doesn’t amend or doesn’t add useful information to the fact (a.k.a. truth) that millions were killed by communism, and it certainly cannot deny that millions were killed by communism. If I don’t know quantum physics, I cannot move from the spot? I’m glued so to the floor? Or is it only another Zeno’s paradox? If you don’t know everything about something, than you can say nothing?
I had two fried eggs and ham (no, they weren’t green) for breakfast today. For the sake of this account, do I need to see every single particle in those eggs to determine if they were indeed eggs and if there were two of them?
No. In our low-resolution world, detected by our low-resolution senses, this is enough certainty.
For my entire life I have had two legs, and maybe there is, somewhere out there, a pair of my anti-legs or even countless pairs of my mirrored legs, distorted legs, out-of-this-dimension legs, undetectable-by-my-senses-or-by-any-of-our-current-measurement-methods legs, or indescribable-by-any-human-language legs (are they even still mine?), but: for my everyday errands, dog walks, and restless leg syndrome, two is just right.
This isn’t negating the existence of a higher-resolution, more complex world. However, if I’m walking in the woods and manage to avoid, at the last moment, a root sticking out of the ground, and don’t trip over it, the knowledge that the root belonged to an oak and not to a beech, and that the tree was 130 and not 80 years old, is not necessary for me in order to avoid tripping over it. And don’t get me started on the possible symbiotic relationships those roots have with some fungi, deep in the soil! This information is irrelevant for my hitting-the-ground-and-kissing-the-moss situation. I’m glad if biologists figure that relationship out, and I might read about it one day, if it’s described in a book, but not for the sake of walking my dog in the forest and coming back alive from that experience (which is what I’m trying to do: to be alive at the end of every day. This result might be pure luck, or my basing my decisions on my senses and my common sense — how very Jordan Peterson of me!)
Turning the complex into the complicated, a.k.a. unknowable, and “don’t you worry your tiny little head about it, honey” is what Marxists do really well, to prevent us, the plebs, from detecting and describing a very palpable reality of empty store shelves in Venezuela and Cuban rafts washed ashore on Florida beaches, to cite just two tropical paradises turned into Hell by Marxists. A very palpable, real Hell. Because if anything is real, it’s pain, and Marxists sure brought hurting people to the level of a philosophy masquerading as a science, but in actuality nothing more than a very successful pernicious cult.
“Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.” G. K. Chesterton
Although the author never mentions it, this essay discusses “political correctness” and how it operates to stifle discourse and to make the audacious person holding differing opinions humiliated and belittled.
Excellent and certainly an essay to keep and pass on to others.
At risk of going off topic, let’s resolve one of Zeno’s paradoxes:
In the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, Achilles is in a footrace with the tortoise. Achilles allows the tortoise a head start of 100 meters, for example. Supposing that each racer starts running at some constant speed (one very fast and one very slow), then after some finite time, Achilles will have run 100 meters, bringing him to the tortoise’s starting point. During this time, the tortoise has run a much shorter distance, say, 10 meters. It will then take Achilles some further time to run that distance, by which time the tortoise will have advanced farther; and then more time still to reach this third point, while the tortoise moves ahead. Thus, whenever Achilles arrives somewhere the tortoise has been, he still has some distance to go before he can even reach the tortoise.
It takes Achilles 10 seconds to cover the 100 meters to the tortoise’s starting point; that is, Achilles’s (constant) speed is 10 m/s (that’s an Olympian athlete’s speed). Let’s say the tortoise moves at 1/10 this speed, i.e., at a speed of 1 m/s. So when Achilles catches up to where the tortoise was, the tortoise will have moved 10 s * (1 m/s) = 10 m further on. How long will it take for Achilles to cover this additional distance of 10 m? It will take distance/speed = 10 m/(10 m/s) = 1 s. In each successive step, Achilles takes 1/10 the time it took in the previous step. The time it takes for Achilles to cover all the (infinitely many) steps until he catches up with the tortoise is, in seconds,
T = 10 + 1 + 1/10 + 1/100 + 1/1000 + …
What is the value of T? Well, from this equation, we get
(1/10)T = 1 + 1/10 + 1/100 + 1/1000 + …
Subtracting the second equation from the first, we get
T – (1/10)T = 10. (The terms 1/10 + 1/100 + 1/1000 + … cancel out.) Thus,
(9/10)T = 10.
9T = 100.
T = 100/9 = 11.1111… (seconds).
So Achilles catches up with the tortoise in a finite time, namely, in 11 and 1/9 seconds.
Here, a sum of infinitely many terms is a finite number.
The “trick” of this paradox is to realize that the time it takes for Achilles to cover each step in catching up to the tortoise’s position is not the same in each step, but is successively smaller in each step, such that the sum of the infinitely many ever-smaller time periods is a finite time.
More generally, what is the sum S if
S = 1 + r + r^2 + r^3 + r^4 + … when r is ratio that lies between 0 and 1?
From this equation, we get the equation
rS = r + r^2 + r^3 + r^4 + … (notation: r^2 = r*r, r^3 = r*r*r, r^4 = r*r*r*r, etc.)
Subtracting the second equation from the first, we get
(1-r)S = 1, from which S = 1/(1-r).
For example, when r=5/7, this sum S of infinitely many terms is
S = 1/(1 – 5/7) = 1/(2/7) = 7/2 = 3.5. Capisce?
Yes. All you have to do is close your eyes and then open them again at some point in the future to see that Achilles is ahead of the tortoise. The mental tricks were nothing more than that.
In the end, all that matters is that humanity survives whatever real, not fictitious, politically-motivated crisis, awaits. Otherwise, we were but a ripple. The only way to survive is to advance our scientific understanding. Since science at that level requires freedom and prosperity, those are the things we should cherish and protect.
I would draw the lesson that whenever your concept does not match reality, you need a new concept or you need to qualify your current concept. Obviously, Zeno’s concept of motion was faulty or incomplete. The question is, did his particular concept of motion reflect reality in any case whatsoever? Was he ever able to make a prediction based on his concept of motion that went against the established assumptions?
It seems to me Zeno made a case against constructing a model of reality that is not based on actual reality. Just because Zeno’s model of motion was dead-on-arrival does not mean there is no such thing as motion.
illusion is a child of reality
To the real Subjectivist, the purpose of probability theory is to form plausible conclusions where NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION AVAILABLE. They do not make arbitrary guesswork where enough information is available. This is the basis of Jayne’s Theorem.
On the other hand, the school of thought named Postmodernism, tend to ignore Subjectivists’ principles, ignore available information, to reach the conclusions their wishful hearts desires. They are not even true Subjectivists, imho. They play games on others and author of this article gave several examples of facts these people try to ignore.
Well put. An excellent article.
My son is a student of robotics, math, and machine learning. The question is, how is a robot to search most efficiently for some target? One current focus is the Levy distribution. Penguins do a magnificent job using related probability functions to find food hidden in vast spaces. No, young penguins don’t study math late into the night. They were “coded” by evolutionary trial.
A neighbour, an otherwise mature hominid who has survived 5 decades in this cosmos, one day informed me that gravity is simply a construct.
Imagine my surprise. As an engineer and an aviator I have survived to a ripe old age in a profession that is homicidally intolerant of faulty reasoning and bad assumption by never making a mistake where it counts. That I have a healthy respect for gravity, if not out right barophobia, goes with out saying. This respect for local gravitational constant derives from the observation that stuff falls down, often alarmingly fast. I have never witnessed stuff falling up under conditions that naturally obtain. We can only cheat gravity, for a while, by being clever. I don’t understand why gravity is, but neither do the big brains. We have theories, but the math is a work in progress. All we really know about it is stuff falling up would be a sure indication that things have gone loudly wrong. Empiricism also shows that a corollary of gravity is that wishful thinking has no effect on earth local gravitational constant, viz: things fall down until violently arrested at the bottom. This has again been amply illustrated by the 737 max8 fiasco.
But, back to my neighbour, who is predictably, a former civil servant and life long socialist. When I questioned this assertion about the nature of – well – nature, I was told by the enlightened socialista that I was wrong to question consensus. Everything is a construct, you see.
I suggested a simple experiment in the form of releasing a five kilo mass from two meters altitude over a socialist toe ten times. If gravity was a construct, the mass should fall up at least as often as it fell down, and I will pay $100 clams for each instance of falling up, or failing to fall, or anything other than falling on that toe.
Predictably, the socalista declined to participate with the parting shot that I was probably a climate denier, too.
I had a good laugh, but the hypothesis that marxists should be shot on sight continues to be reinforced thorough empiricism.
There are in fact places outside the ideology bubble known as CONUS Llc, or is it a Corp., where “socialist” seems to mean anything that attempts to combat 21st century carpetbagging Reconstruction as a regular political practice (eg drug advertising on TV).
One of them was a place called the USSR 1917-1991.
I have heard that this self-styled socialist country pulled off the odd modest engineering success such as the AK-47, or Sputnik, or Yak aircraft and mass-produced tanks in WW2, or ICBMs; and hydroelectric dams and mass electrification in the 1920s. But how can that be true, it was all civil servants, how could they respect gravity (irony: off)
While it is true that much US help was given 1917-1991 to them commies (books by Prof Antony Sutton), it seems that not enough of Kono’s commies were shot on sight, as he suggests.
That seems to have been a failure by the US troops invading Russia in the Russian Civil War around 1919.
They would undo everything that has been done, given the chance. Same goes for the Sharia sorts. These are fundamentally destructive ideas. My question has always been, “Why do you seek to destroy all that we and our ancestors have worked to create?”
The Goths and most other barbarians didn’t necessarily seek to obliterate all that Rome had created. They admired Rome. This is not the case with present-day barbarian equivalents, who are more like the Huns under Attila.
Stalin did actually have some scientifically-literate advisers. I read that Beria, the head of the KGB, intervened often to prevent actual scientists from being sent to the Gulag. The Russians are no slouches when it came to mental intelligence, so they were indeed able to design tanks and planes that could outperform those of the US…at least for a time.
The very famous case where Stalin actually intervened in science matters was his support of Lysenko, the genetic quack who claimed that plant characteristics were not inherited. Lysenko was able to send his actually-scientific competitors to the Gulag, and Russian agriculture was ruined for generations, even more so than collectivization would account for.
There’s confusion concerning Marxism that existed in and was imposed by the Soviet Union and the Neo-Marxism or the Cultural Marxism the West is experiencing today. The former was mostly an economic “experiment” (very deadly one) and the latter started by destroying the culture (but will end up destroying the economy as well, by destroying the trust and the meritocracy). As an economic experiment the older Marxism still adhered to the hard science (except for Lysenko, mentioned by RonaldB), but having removed all the healthy incentives (money, fame, teaching at respected colleges, travels to meet foreign counterparts in their respective domain), the Soviets had to turn their scientists into slaves (keeping their families hostage for example, or making it clear that nobody would hire them if they didn’t comply)- and occasionally using their patriotism. We all know the results.
What’s gravity? Things fall because they are heavier than air…
The left says that we shouldn’t generalise – but without generalising how is it possible to communicate? Without generalising there is no such thing as a tree…
I’m always happy to see an article by Ava Lon. She wrote a truly breathtaking article on the importance of a family and support environment for a child-bearing family.
Role of Extended Family in Childraising
This article gave a very good theoretical grounding for advocates of no immigration at all, even for immigrants like those from China or India, who might be (or might not be) technically competent. In fact, there has been a lot of discussion about Robert Putnam’s studies showing that people are happiest in a homogeneous environment, and are unhappy in proportion to the amount of diversity they have to endure. Do a general search for “diversity” or a YouTube search.
As far as Lon’s refutation of the concept that truth is so fuzzy it cannot be defined, I totally agree that any model that does not reflect reality is a false model. Refuting a false model has no consequences whatsoever for the concept of truth. Truth is the connection between a model which is continually refined and actual reality.
Please see my comment on https://gatesofvienna.net/2019/09/the-truth-is-determined-through-marxist-discourse/?unapproved=538817&moderation-hash=34534b5f5cadd8e04b1cfa82195cb32b#comment-538817, assuming it gets approved.
My conclusion was that cultural Marxists ought not be suppressed, but they should be given no power whatsoever: no power to grade students, no power to vote on committees, no power to make official recommendations.
“My conclusion was that cultural Marxists ought not be suppressed, but they should be given no power whatsoever: no power to grade students, no power to vote on committees, no power to make official recommendations.”
I remember the first time I was thinking about that. It was in high school, in a Polish literature class, during heated discussion about freedom, during the time of the Solidarity movement in 1980. The teacher -who was and is my hero to this day, because, even though we were under the communism rule, were no taboo subjects in his class- said to us: “your freedom stops where the freedom of another person begins”. This brought us strait to the question: if murder is punishable, and threatening to murder someone is punishable, should a party which tells openly that -if voted in- it will murder certain citizens , should such a party be allowed? Fascists were sharing their plans with the voters. So were the Communists , and in the 1980 we all knew about the gulags. Should they be even legal? If yes, shouldn’t their leaders at least once telling the voters about their plans in a rally, shouldn’t they get arrested? I don’t think they should be legal. I don’t think that every generation should have to listen to homicidal maniacs and make up their minds, just like not everybody has to jump into a barrel full of acid to understand that it’s rather corrosive. We learn about acids in chemistry class. We should learn about pernicious ideologies in school as well. I would go further: passing a test about those deadly ideas (and I can think of three from the top of my head) before being allowed to vote.
poor choice of examples here: Cuba and Venezuela have been turned into highly impoverished nations not by marxists but by years of brutal sanctions applied by the USA.