The search for truth

There are three main types of ideas. We can call them Type I, Type II and Type III. What differentiates developed countries from Third World nations is that large numbers of Type III ideas have been trashed in favour of the scientific method. Each generation and place must derive different truths (that is, Type I ideas).

For instance, 18th century thinkers would have written against monarchy. But in the 21st century, Type I ideas would aim at clarifying misconceptions about capitalism, because it is already understood that kings and queens are not appointed by God. After a hundred years, capitalism might be understood as being fundamentally good, and the truths which will need to be communicated will become different. By then, we would have understood more about Type I and Type II ideas. Some ideas might transfer from Type I to Type II. That is how the world progresses: by trashing its bad ideas.

Type I: Ideas which are essentially correct.

Some ideas can be partly correct, and may need refining, such as Newton’s laws which were refined by Einstein. But Newton was basically correct. Milton Friedman’s monetary work would also fall into this category. Other ideas might have only been partially explored and may result in very powerful results in the future. That is why science is continually yielding more and more secrets of the universe. It is one’s job as a student of truth to quickly recognize these Type I ideas. The more Type I ideas one knows and the better one knows them, the quicker living standards improve.

Type II: Ideas which are essentially false.

These include things like the earth being flat, that communism is feasible, or that the Aryan or any other race of men (such as white, black, green or yellow) is superior to others. It is one’s job to quickly identify the ideas of Type II category and to place them in the rubbish bin meant for these ideas, in one’s mind. We should not forget to flush out this trash every now and then by repeating in our minds the arguments about why that idea was wrong.

Type III: Ideas which can never be proved to be right or wrong.

The typical example of this is the existence of God. Even if we go far into the past, we always get stuck with something, behind which is an impenetrable vacuum. Before the Big Bang, what was there, and who created all the energy which drives the world? Is there only one universe or multiple universes? These questions can only be answered through beliefs. As Voltaire said: “If there were no God, it would be necessary to invent him.” Life is so difficult and trying at times that it is good to have a God to pray to. But we should be mainly interested in extracting from religion a deep, Type I truth.

To be more specific, I think libertarians who argue, for example, that minimum wages end up hurting the poor, that protectionism doesn’t raise living standards or that income inequality per se is not something to be concerned about, are arguing fundamental truths – Type I ideas in other words. The important thing is that these truths are derived using the scientific method, and not value judgments, morality or philosophical logic without reference to the facts.

37 thoughts on “The search for truth

  1. Type I: Ideas which are essentially correct.

    Some ideas can be partly correct, and may need refining, such as Newton’s laws which were refined by Einstein. But Newton was basically correct.

    The simplest explanation of how we identify a Type 1 idea, and of how knowledge increases by degree (i.e. Newton was not wrong, but Einstein was more correct), is the standard Objectivist explanation of epistemology underpinned solely by reason. This obviously also has implications on Type III!

  2. The third world no longer exsits, when the cold war ended the terminology became obselete, as does anyone who uses the term. It never meant third rate.
    Resubmit.

  3. The third world does so exist!
    There was the Old World (Europe & the mediterranean lands), the new world of North and South America, and the rest, conveniently labelled the Third world. These terms are still generic terms, and were not created by, nor linked to, the cold war.

  4. na you got it wrong Aussie, it all changed with the atom bomb

    1st world – west or aligned
    2nd world – oviet or aligned
    3rd world – non aligned

    take out the second world and the semiotic structure collapses..

  5. Too many polymaths thesedays with combined degrees from kanagroo universities and no specialisation.
    If you like global capitalism and think it is fully feasible go and eat at mcdonalds for every meal and see how far you get.

  6. I agree that libertarian ideas are type I; however, many argue otherwise. In any case, it is very complex to get a type III idea into the type I category when vested interests confuse causality ect. For example, the Laffer-curve indicates lower rates will increase revenues. In the next game, the debate centers on the slope and the causality…point is any truth can be perpetually debated at the margin, thus never wholly make it into the type I. School vouchers are a simple and appealing truth. I put into type I, but…on and on. I have compelling data in my pocket to debate unbelievers; it seems to never make it onto their personal type I list. In any case, I suppose the “true believers in socialism” feel the same way about us. Notwithstanding that they’re wrong. Is it impossible to make a type III to type I shift, even with all the evidence in the universe, given vested interests (social security and welfare), and true believers (the clown marching for any/ever cause in San Francisco)?

  7. Too many polymaths thesedays with combined degrees from kanagroo universities and no specialisation.
    If you like global capitalism and think it is fully feasible go and eat at mcdonalds for every meal and see how far you get.

    I love this. Parkos alludes to his higher intellectual capabilities to make an unsubstantiated claim that the only food capitalism can produce is McDonalds. What’s your specialisation, Parkos? Clearly not anything based in reality. I’ll have a guess at ‘Decadence of Chinese Theatre in greater Beijing region during the 17th Century’.

  8. any truth can be perpetually debated at the margin, thus never wholly make it into the type I

    Yes, I agree. The only thing to do is debate and debate and debate some more. The important point I was trying to make is that only with the scientific method do we even have a chance of finding the right from the wrong.

    Truth is most easily ascertained from simple matters. Is it true I don’t own a red tie? Yes, a look in my room tells me that’s true. Is it true that communism doesn’t work? Hmm… more complex study needed. And then people would interpret the results differently. Some people will say it’s just that communism wasn’t implemented correctly, but that it works.

    The truth does eventually win in the end if its proponents are persistent enough. Milton Friedman was very effective in popularising his ideas. Some truths (basic microeconomic “laws”?) will never win however, due to political convenience. In these cases, the same mistakes will be made over and over. There is no alternative but eternal vigilance.

    Communism was not rejected until the collapse of the USSR. Visible events such as this will always be more effective than academic debate in exposing the underlying, Type I truths we are dealing with. But that doesn’t change the underlying truth (as I see the truth anyway!)

  9. I do believe my attempt to classify ideas is wrong.

    There is no such thing as truth. Only opinion that can be completely reversed when new evidence emerges.

  10. The questioning and subsequent decline of cutural racism and sexism are good examples of type III thinking decline.
    It is common for people to experience fundamental changes in their ideology during their life, eg/ find God or become atheist, so a decline in type III thinking is not necessarily over the time scope of generations. But how do you influence someone to do this?
    Influencing people to change is definitely possible but also quite difficult especially if done in an confronting way (a mistake many objectivists are guilty of, myself included). We all know the barriers of humans emotions to logical arguments but most people don’t even understand the processes of logic/critical thinking/scientific method so you can’t expect them to place a great deal of importance in these processes all the time.

    The posting recommends arguing for type I ideas using the scientific method. This is very important and will work well with people who already understand logic and critical thinking well and don’t have many type III thoughts.
    But people with large portions of type III beliefs are not going to respond to the scientific method or logic. Often a type I argument cannot compete if it clashes with a type III belief. For example, the theory of evolution. So ultimately type I arguments that people accept must be compatible with their morality and philosophies. So is it better to present the type I argument in a way that least clashes with the type III belief. Or is it better to directly question the type III belief? I’m not sure, maybe both.

    I think it’s important to understand what underlying needs and emotions are encouraging these type III beliefs. Then demonstrate that type I thinking can provide an adequate substitute for these emotions/needs. For example at the beginning of Carl Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World” he talks about people’s love of “wonder” and excitement for the unknown. He thinks this is the reason people love alien abduction stories for example. However type I scientific inquiry can more than satisfy a person’s need for wonder, excitement and imagination. For example, nature documentaries or thinking about the universe at a molecular level or planetary level.

    Many libertarian type I arguments have minority support in our society. I think a large percentage of society have type III beliefs blocking these type I arguments.

    PS. Parkos, I don’t know what happened to the guy in Super Size me, but his results are not reproducible according to a recent study involving 18 people, not 1 like in the documentary: http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=34559&in_page_id=34

  11. It’s probably, Sukrit, that evidence sway’s people over time. And, Tim, that framing is as important as being correct. I read something a little bit ago that argues that “as long as there’s been the dream of Utopian socialism, someone has emerged to massage that dream.” Those guys are beyond reach, in any case. Libertarians and communists alike, compete for the people in the margins.

  12. Yeah I’d have to agree that Type-III arguments have some emotional appeal to them. Its based on a do-gooder morality, that results in government regulations and not a free market solution.

    Government regulations = “doing something about it”
    Free market solution = doing nothing, not caring etc etc.

    So even though the government regulation is counterproductive against the stated goals of Type III wisdoms, it feels good to follow that course of action.

    e.g
    * Minimum wages and industrial regulations to “help out the poor”
    * Public schools to “improve education”
    * Public hospitals to guarantee and improve health

    Basically .. what Tim said.

  13. you have to be very careful as to what you assume to be what you call type I ideas. history is full f people who thought that they were believing type I ideas, and to assume that we are really much better is a very foolish position to take.

    assumption is the mother of all F*%k-ups.

  14. yes rowan but history is also full of people who wrongly assume, despite tonnes of evidence to the contrary, that specific Type I ideas are false.

    Type I ideas are not “assumed” to be true, the definition of the category is “ideas that are essentially true”.

    A new idea takes a far amount of scrutiny and cross examination against historical data, before it can be categorised.

  15. You’re right Rowan, that’s why we should challenge all assumptions, but particularly those of the status quo – as these have an almost daily impact on our lives – to see if they satisfy a rigorous, Type I analysis. A lot of government programs/actions don’t pass such an analysis and are a waste of (taxpayer funded) resources.

    Hitler probably truly believed that Jews were enemies of the Aryan race. He must have thought he was advocating a Type I idea. He fooled a lot of people. Stalin thought communism would work. India, and many other countries tried socialism because their leaders thought it would work. All these are clear examples of Type II ideas – because there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Yet similar variations of the same assumptions are tried again and again.

  16. I am sure the nazi and libertarian rioters in contemporary Budapest who are in alliance protesing against the socialist government of Hungary would be surprised to find out that they had the same type of ideas as the government.

    In reality, and in advanced political thought the typing system does not function effectively.
    There are multiple examples, not just Hungary.

  17. “In reality, and in advanced political thought the typing system does not function effectively.”

    I am sure you could sell your reality for $40 a hit in nightclubs, parkos.

  18. I am sure the nazi and libertarian rioters in contemporary Budapest who are in alliance protesing against the socialist government of Hungary would be surprised to find out that they had the same type of ideas as the government.

    This doesn’t mean that they have the same type of ideas in government. You clearly know that they don’t. They just both oppose socialism, libertarians generally because of their economic policy and fascists because of their social policy.

  19. What Sukrit said.

    These ideas … the Type II ideas about socialism, central planning, state ownership, fearmongering about free markets and capitalism ..

    They fail.. again and again and again and again and again and …

    Mountains of evidence put socialism into the Type II category. The experiment is over, 100 million people died last century, lets move on.

  20. Unfortunately for most schools of political thought in Hungary and Australia, the free market or democratic socialism or fascism is all about grabbing utilities and putting the party in positions of power whereby they can maintain control and profit from those utilities.
    Technology and energy have consumed political typology as manifestations of power, liberty is about transcending the forces that all creatures heed, rather than trying to juxtapose ideas of private ownership with free markets.

  21. Parkos, what if you wanted the liberty to own your own land, and to sell whatever you had in a free market? If I’m allowed to do that, what is wrong with that? And what do you mean by ‘transcending’? If you are not a new-ager who believes in the ascended masters, then what do you mean by it? If you mean that technology is increasing the options that individuals have, free markets are the driving force behind such progress. And have you learned how to spell ‘Cangaru’ yet?

  22. I think the types should actually be ideas we hold to be true/false and ideas about which we haven’t or can’t reach a conclusion. I don’t mean to be too relativistic but the above scheme seems rigid and dogmatic.

    The idea that we should or can simply “home in on” erranous “type II” ideas and wipe them out is absurd.

    Sometimes, ideas have some truth and some falsehood in them; we try to pull them apart and put each bit in a different bucket.

    Sometimes, given the same objective reality, people draw different conclusions because they disagree about methods of interpretation.

  23. I think the types should actually be ideas we hold to be true/false and ideas about which we haven’t or can’t reach a conclusion. I don’t mean to be too relativistic but the posted scheme seems rigid and dogmatic.

    The idea that we should or can simply “home in on” erranous “type II” ideas and wipe them out is absurd.

    Sometimes, ideas have some truth and some falsehood in them; we try to pull them apart and put each bit in a different bucket.

    Sometimes, given the same objective reality, people draw different conclusions because they disagree about methods of interpretation.

    I would put myself in the libertarian camp, but if you go into arguments “knowing” that your ideas are “type I”, it’s called dogmatism.

  24. Yes I agree, obviously this typing scheme is an academic exercise, and is very black and white.

    However I don’t see the problem with “knowing” something if you’re aware of the level of uncertainty and aware of any assumptions. If you’re going to argue a point, shouldn’t you know your idea is backed up by objective reality and logic?

    Dogma means knowing absolutely, something that is in reality impossible. But knowing aboslutely is not neccessary if you define the context. Examples are obvious in mathematics and physics. eg/ the number Pi is always rounded to a certain number of decimal places. You don’t need to know Pi absolutely (and you never can). The application of your calculation (context) is the key to knowing how many decimal places of Pi to use. And you can be sure that the answer to your calculation is Type I.

    So I agree that dogmatic thinking is dangerous. Generalisations are dangerous. Thinking in black and white is also dangerous. How many people/governments/businesses for example are totally evil or totally good?
    But I also think that libertarian principles and arguments can be known objectively. And I agree with this posting, that as time progresses, libertarian arguments of today will seem obvious to people in the future because they’ll be common knowledge.

  25. Yes, absolutely impossible. So I’m saying, it’s dogma that it’s impossible to have dogma.

    Got me there.

    So I should say it’s dogma that it’s impossible to have dogma without context.

    This reminds me of how in Futurama you can make a robot’s head explode if you present it with a logical paradox.

  26. That sort of condradiction automatically rebuts wishy washy, “the only thing not to tolerate is intolerance”-, “nothing is certain”-, “the only reason to coerce is to ensure freedom”-, “it’s all a balance”-type cop-outs.

    It always reminds me of a great (roughly recited) quote: “[insert unncessary political label]s pride themselves on tolerance of other views, then are shocked to find people who actually hold them”

  27. What do you mean JC? If you mean move Terje’s comment to the Big Bird Brain site I can’t do that because John controls that site.

    If you mean something else then please let me know by leaving a comment on the Big Bird Brain site. The ALS blog isn’t the right place for personal beef.

  28. “What do you mean JC? If you mean move Terje’s comment to the Big Bird Brain site I can’t do that because John controls that site. ”

    exactly.

    If the site isn’t the place for a personal beef, why did you let his comment through then.

    Or should I read it isn’t the place for a personal beef I don’t like?

    You closed the thread, by the way.

  29. “There are three main types of ideas. We can call them Type I, Type II and Type III. What differentiates developed countries from Third World nations is that large numbers of Type III ideas have been trashed in favour of the scientific method.”

    I don’t think thats right. I think the fundamental difference is CLARITY IN PROPERTY RIGHTS.

    We have immense amounts of governmental depredation in both setups. And in both setups we have government doing the things they ought be doing quite poorly seeing as they are distracted by doing things they ought not be doing.

    At a snapshot the difference is that the first world countries have more capital accumulation. But as a process the thing about first world countries is that they have had a history of clarity in property rights.

Comments are closed.