So I guess I'm asking, how do we know that in a particular context, the statement "I exist" attested by the self or another, can be soundly and necessarily assigned a particular truth value? The solution I propose is to define the properties of a language that
would allow adequate analysis.
This entry is a response to Kirk Sexton in lifetoward @ Yahoo Groups ; the response was posted 25 Feb 2001. A portion of Kirk's note is quoted to the right.
I think it's important to first recognize that formal logic may not have any bearing on large subsets of our experience of life. So I am not too concerned about assigning a truth value to something as formally as you have taken my original post. Logic, like so many other mental tools, was invented in response to experience, in hopes of helping to grasp experiences mentally in forms seemingly concrete enough to ponder or act upon. It is surely not a defining or limiting factor to experience. It is also not a defining or limiting factor to discussing experience. Logic was not designed to go where the question "Why am I here?" immediately takes us. Logic requires foundations unlike those I was calling upon in my post. (This is why I always wince when I come to understand that so many philosophy courses these days are so heavily about logic.)

Furthermore, my original post that began with the question "Why am I here?" was meant to be taken by the reader internally, to be tested against each his own experience, to see if any of the comments I made about the question seemed true and correct to the reader for and of himself. I don't think it is possible to analyze the truth of another's questioning "Why am I here?" in the same way it can be looked at within oneself. My next chapter, if I ever get around to it, may attempt to extend some basic accepted existence foundation to the second person, ie. others like us looked at semi-subjectively. This foundation, though, I think will never hold up under the type of logic you are proposing be used upon it, where words invented for one purpose can be twisted around to contradict themselves in another.

I believe that ultimately the most basic elements of truth in real life can't be founded with any more solidity than "it seems consistently evident". In this way, and at this frontier I become agnostic. That frontier may move and change, but I believe it will always be there. Our quest to understand all will never find an end, I think.

Still there is much we do understand and commonly accept, and this should not, for all our sakes, be underestimated or underutilized. Whenever we have confidence in our common acceptance of some idea, I think we should simply use it and not attempt to break it apart for the mere sake of logic. (Logic must not reign over human experience, for if it did we would be ill-equipped to learn and change.) When such confidence in our common understanding is lacking, perhaps tighter analysis is appropriate, in order to see whether common ground, and so strength and communion, can be found. There we can only call upon other common experiences, though, recognizing that objective truth holds sway in conversation only where honest agreement is found.

Communication is a tricky business. It attempts to bridge the gaps between completely non-intersecting worlds (those within our individual minds and recalled and present experiences), through the medium of a seemingly common universe which affects and is affected by those other worlds. I think the communication game is best played by first recognizing this basic nature of the problem.

As for the properties of a language, well, I think the vast majority of that problem has already been solved through the evolution of our modes of expression to date. I think those means of expression, like any living system, must continue to evolve, and, to the extent of our cognizance and will, may even be engineered in the direction we'd like them to grow. The properties I think must be grounded in an acceptance of each of our positions as unique collections of experiences that have common elements, that we each can't help but accept our own existences (the point of chapter 1), as well as the existence of something(s) else with which we interact under what appear to be consistent rules.

Most of all, language will evolve and be made to suit us by demand. When we have something we want to say, some common ground we wish to hold, we will search for the words, invent them, bend them, support them and champion them. Why? Because we are here, and because we have reasons, whatever they be. What reason is served in stringing together words we understand into what becomes nonsense? ("This sentence is false.") What mission were you attempting to carry out there? There is a curiosity surrounding language and logic as tools, that they evolved from intent and necessity, but then can be turned upon themselves to seemingly undo their own purpose. But to turn them so serves what? Understanding of language itself perhaps? To what end? Let's not use the tools we've made to destroy the tools we've made. Let's be engineers, applying and designing and understanding tools only for the sake of their more ready application to our purposes.

To me, Life is the ultimate pragmatic force. It seems to be wholly consisted in purpose. I strive continually to take on as my purpose what seems to me to be the nature of its purpose, mysterious as it sometimes seems. As I take on that purpose, I try to direct all my inquiries, my efforts, my faculties to that purpose. So when I find that the English language in my possession can be used to bring unity and strength to those around me, I will so apply it. Unless it fails me in my purpose, I will not attempt to dismantle it. Most often tools only need extension to be applied more usefully... then one day they'll probably be deprecated as they are replaced by better tools... on and on the cycle goes. Meanwhile we're going where life's going.

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