Follow US:

Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Intro To Philosophy 4: Truth #2

Difficulty: 0

Hi there, it's Stefan Molyneux from Freedomain Radio. I hope you're doing well.

It's time now, ladies and gentlemen, for what we in the philosophy circles call the "blinding

recap." So before we start getting into the real meat for the issue of today's topic (which

is Zeus, actually), we are going to talk about some of the stuff that we've gone over briefly

just to refresh our minds. It's been a few days since my last post, although I know you've

been staring at the YouTube screen waiting for Big Shiny Forehead (my rap-name is Big

Shiny Forehead) to come back with some new insights, but you may not have processed everything

correctly or remembered too well, so I thought I'd spend just a moment going over a couple

of the basics.

I have my handy-dandy pad of philosophy here. We started off with the possibility that there

are three types of reality external to consciousness:

None, a demon manipulates all of our thinking, Some, in the Platonic sense, that there's

some valid, physical interpretations of reality through the senses, but it's inferior to a

higher realm, or that All of reality that is external to consciousness

is valid, and nothing which we cannot perceive is there either.

That's numero uno.

Number two, then, we went with All Reality, of course, for a variety of reasons we went

into in the podcasts on metaphysics and epistemology. Then we said, well, the human mind is capable

of error, and that error is correctable through sensual evidence, the evidence of the senses,

and logic. We went through some proofs for sense evidence, then we showed how logic is

derived from the consistency and properties of matter and energy, and therefore since

all of the ideas within our mind are derived from the actions of matter in the form of

sense evidence, concepts within our mind are always subjugated and must give way to the

evidence of reality. [crumples up his paper] Nobody said philosophy wasn't messy.

Then we talked about a null hypothesisin other words, if a proposition has no proof

or disproof, then it does not stand in any category of truth, it is simply a matter of

subjective opinion, which the example was, (I think I said something like:) "I had a

dream about a sparrow last night," or I guess this would be last week now.

We also talked about the difference between true and false, and we derived "True" as either

that which conforms to the evidence of the senses, or conforms with principles that are

specifically derived from the evidence of the senses, logic based on the consistency

and universality of the behaviors of matter and energy. We did that.

Then we did probability and possibility, which was the last podcast, we did UFOs and leprechauns,

which I'm pretty sure you knew was going to be the topic, and today we're going to start

on the concept of "country."

The one thing that I'll say about concepts (and I know I've done the two-CD thing, maybe

you've seen that before); Concepts, and indeed human life and consciousness is possible because

of atoms. (laughs) I'm pretty sure I don't even need to debate that one. It must be fairly

clear to you already. But we can have concepts about the world because of atoms. There's

a fixed number of atoms and elements, and they each behave with particular properties.

The reason that I can look at a forest and categorize the vertical, thick-skinned, inside

plants as trees is because the atoms which go to make up those trees are common between

the trees. See, I mean generally, it's kinda cool about the mind and reality, that the

highest abstractions within our own mind are directly related to the base division of matter

down at the atomic (possibly, I don't know the subatomic) level. So because trees are

composed of similar atoms, they appear in a similar way to us through the evidence of

our senses. We can categorize a bunch of trees as a forest, or a group of trees, or whatever

we want to call it, because the atoms which go to make up each one of those trees is very

much in common with the atoms that go to make up other trees. The atoms that go to make

up a tangerine are similar to the atoms that go and make up an orange, and therefore we

can call them in the citrus family, etc.

When we have concepts at the highest level, really what we're fundamentally doing is,

we're organizing atoms. We're building the base properties of matter and energy and organizing

them within our own mind.

If we look at the concept "light-emitting," well we have the sun, which is currently lighting

me, we have the forehead, fairly light-emitting of course, we have lightbulbs, candles, and

what is in common? Well they're all spraying off photons. The fact is that when we talk

about light-emitting as a concept, what we're doing is aggregating and describing the behavior

of atoms or energy, etc.

When we are talking about concepts, we are talking about the organization of things which

have like properties in and of themselves. When we look at the night sky, we see all

these stars, well we can call them stars because they're all composed of (I guess) clouds of

gas, all giving off enormous amounts of energy. That is very important.

When we're talking about water, as a concept, we're talking about two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The

chemical formula, or the atomic formula H2O, represents "water." Because all water is composed

of this particular atomic constellation, we can then abstract and describe the behavior

of water as common across all material objects which are composed of this particular configuration

of atoms. Oxygen, same sort of thing, breathable air versus non-breathable air. I'm sure you

get the idea. A solid and a liquid are conceptual descriptions of behaviors of matter and energy

in the material world, transmitted to our mind through the evidence of our senses.

The reason that concepts, and indeed human beings, are possible, is because matter is

divided into specific atoms which appear in regularly-occurring constellations and have

specific properties which maintain themselves over time and can't be changed without some

sort of external force being brought to bear on them, the principle of inertia. The idea

is that we have concepts because there are atoms, and because there are universal physical

laws. We have a concept of "falling" because things that fall down, because of the existence

of gravity.

That's something I wanted to point out. The most itty-bitty, tiny, tiny little things

in the universe are directly the cause, because of their uniformity and regularity and regularly-occurring

constellations, are directly related, and the direct cause of the widest conceptual

abstractions within our own mind.

That having been said, there are concepts that are directly related to matter, and then

there are things like "a country."

We're starting to zero in on some — (laughs) I'm being delicate, I'm trying to circle around

some of the more startling conclusions that a rational, empirical, scientific philosophy

will bring to bear on things that you believe in. I'm trying to be gentle about what's coming

out of this, so we're gonna start with things that you probably have some emotional investment

in, but we'll save the biggies for a little further down the road. You know, it's important

to turn the volume up slowly when it comes to the (laughs) old "symphony of truth," so

to speak.

Let's look at something called a country. Let's take a fairly non-controversial country,

where this podcast may not be on regular rotation: Iceland. When we think of Iceland, we think

of a geographical location. Now we should be starting to get the hang of learning what

is true based on what is real through sensual evidence, and what is not.

We have a country called "Iceland." Now, "Iceland" is a description of a geographical location.

If you live near a mountain and say "Yonder mountain," then you are describing a particular

geological extrusion or buildup called a mountain, so people know what you're talking about.

The mountain exists. When you say, "yonder mountain," you're not talking about a hallucination,

you're not talking about some phantasm within your own mind, you're not talking about a

mirage (although a mirage exists, in terms of light waves, it doesn't exist in terms

of what it describes in the location where it looks like it's describing it), but when

you talk about "yonder mountain," you're talking about something that actually exists in the

real world. So that's a pretty valid thing to do, and a very valuable thing to do.

When you talk about "Iceland," you're talking about a particular location in the world.

Does that location exist? It certainly does exist. "Iceland" can be used in the same way

that we describe a mountain.

When we think of the 49th parallel, the largest, yea, the largest undefended border in the

world, between Canada and the United States, there we're starting to talk about a little

bit of a difference. If we talk about Malta or Australia, we're talking about islands

that are bounded by ocean, so where Australia ends, the sea begins. So it's fairly understandable

that when we talk about Australia we're talking about, potentially, the discrete physical

entity that has arisen from the ground and been populated by undesirables, at least historically

to a large degree. Although, I'm sure Australians are wonderful now (their Winnebagos and their


When we talk about America and Canada, though, we're talking abuot something quite different.

We're not talking about geographical regions that are divided by an objective and specific

physical occurrence. The 49th parallel doesn't exist like a cable running along the ground.

If you look at the earth, you don't see the latitude and the longitude like in huge canyons

or ropes across the earth. These are just things put on maps for the convenience of

sailors and pilots.

When we talk about Canada and the United States, then we're talking about two entities separated

by... By what? Well, they have different colors on the map, they have different governments,

they have different histories, I guess you could say (although each house has a different

history, as well, in terms of who's lived there).

So, divided by what?

Well, philosophy, of course, when you examine these kinds of things in rigorous and scientific

detail and keep going even past our own historical.. what we've been taught is important, then

we realize that Canada and the United States don't exist. Don't exist in reality. This

is very important. This is some of the radical stuff that philosophy can really help us understand.

I'm not saying it's comfortable to think about, but it's very important to, if you want to

think about how the world could be saved and improved, and how human beings can be happier

and less conflict-ridden, etc., then it's very important to understand that Canada and

the United States do not exist in reality.

Australia, as a land mass, does exist in reality and is bounded by the sea, etc. But Australia

as a country, with particular politics, governments, etc., none of that exists in reality. There

is no atomic or energy-based, sensual-based evidence for believing that any of these sorts

of things exist outside of matter and energy. Let's take a look at the United States.

What exists in the United States? Like, what exists for real? Not what's in our head, or

what we've been taught is real, but what exists for real, that can actually be objectively

measured and proven?

Well, two things fundamentally exist within America:

One is material objects: trees, roads, sno-cones, people, pets, fences, of the white picket

variety usually. Material objects exist within the United States. Matter and energy exist

in a geographical region we can called "the United States." That exists, for sure.

The other thing that exists in the United States is people's belief that the United

States exists as a country. Not just as a bunch of things you are putting an artificial

boundary around within your mind, but as a country which has a moral and almost physical

reality independent from or greater than the sum of its parts.

So when we think about a dozen eggs, to shift our metaphors a little while here, what exists?

What exists at an atomic and energy level, at a sensual level, what exists are 12 eggs.

Unless it's a baker's dozen, in which case I think you get 13. What exists are 12 discrete

shells with potential flightless birds inside. That exists as individual, discrete things.

The concept is "dozen." "Dozen" does not exist in the real world. As I mentioned in the podcast

on concept-formation, if I say:

"I'm gonna sell you a dozen eggs."

And you say, "Great! I'm gonna sell you a dozen eggs."

And I say, "Fantastic, it's gonna be $2."

And you give me $2 and I give you the dozen eggs. I give you the concept "dozen," I give

you the idea "dozen." Well, you can't fry the idea up in a pan, you can't make a Concept

McMuffin out of it, and so we all recognize that the concepts kind of exist within our

own minds, and they're useful for organizing material objects so we don't have to constantly

say, "1, 2, 3, 4... This many eggs!" We can say "a dozen," and everyone understand what

that means.

We know that each individual thing exists, but that the idea is something within our

own mind, and that the idea, since it is within our own mind, and we've already established

that all ideas within our own mind must bow to the actual facts of reality, that whenever

there's a conflict between ideas within our own mind and what actually exists in the external

world and is real, sensual evidence, measurable, etc., whenever there's a conflict between

these two things, what is within our own mind must give way as false, as erroneous, until

there is actual backup from sensual evidence in the real world.

Just psychologically, there are kind of two worlds that we inhabit as human beings:

We inhabit the physical world, of course, but we also kind of inhabit the social world.

This is a really loosey-goosey way of saying it, and I apologize for the lack of precision,

but we inhabit the social world, which means that we inhabit or we get reflected to us

through sensual evidence other people's beliefs. This is very important.

We'll get to the question of God's existence, although you may be fairly sure of where it

is we're going to head in this area, but it's a very different question if I say, "Does

God exist?" it's a very different question from saying, "Does religion exist?" These

are two fundamentally different questions. One is a question about the objective existence

of a deity, and that is a question which would be answered relative to objective, material

reality and should be able to be answered independently of asking somebody else. So

if I say, "Am I wearing a dark t-shirt at the moment (because it's not topless Fridays)?"

then you would not have to go and ask someone else, "Uh, is he wearin' a black t-shirt?"

You could directly, through the evidence of your senses, perceive that I'm wearing a dark

brown or black t-shirt. We'll see how it comes up. Dark, let's just say.

Things that you can experience directly through your sensual mechanisms, with the evidence

of your senses, you can determine their existence or non-existence on your own. If I say "Yonder

mountain is not real, it is an illusion," then if you felt like verifying, you could

go over and climb it, and put a little bit on your mouth or whatever, and view it in

the changing light, etc., and once you had climbed to the top and sifted your fingers

through it and jumped up and down on it, and tasted it, and listened to its... "mountainness"...?,

then you would be fairly sure, actually you would be positive that there's no other particular

criteria for proof than consistent and reproducible sensual evidence, then you could be sure that

that mountain existed in the real world. And you wouldn't need to ask anybody else whether

that mountain existed. You could directly perceive it yourself. And there's some gray

areas, which perhaps we'll get into a little later.

When we're talking about "Does God exist?" then direct sensual evidence, consistency

with logic... We'll get into this in a later podcast, but you can reason through these

things on your own and try to figure them out. You may make mistakes, etc., but you're

capable of doing it for yourself.

If I say, and you've never met him, "My friend Bob believes in leprechauns, is that true

or is that false?" Well, you can't reason this out. If you knew that Bob was, I don't

know, raised by a leprechaun, maybe that would be an example of how you could, but basically

when it comes to understanding other people's opinions, you kind of need their input. It's

not something that you can work out logically. These are the two types of truth statements

that we live in: things which we can independently verify according to logic, our own logic,

or the logic that we've learned from the senses, or the direct evidence of the senses.

So if I say 2+2=4 to a kid, and explain to him how to work it out, and then say, "Is

7+3=10?" the kid can work it out and doesn't need to go and ask somebody else.

In the question "Do countries exist in reality?" we can figure that out for ourselves. If you

go to the Canadian-US border, and let's just pretend that this side, south, so I'm on the

American side, then I take a step over, and then I'm on the Canadian side, I take a step

back, I'm on the US side, I look down, and there's no differentiation between these two

things in reality. As we said before, in reality we could say that Australia at least is bounded

by an ocean, and therefore when we say Australia, we are dividing between land, and water. These

have different atomic components, etc., so different sea levels, obviously. When we're

stepping back and forth between Canada and the United States, and we look down and there's

no physical differentiation between the two, then I think we can say that these two things

do not exist in reality, because there's no transition. You could say that the 49th parallel

is a transition, but that itself is a concept that doesn't exist in reality. For sure, the

difference between Canada and the United States does not exist in objective reality in the

same way that the difference between Australia the landmass and Australia the sea exists

in reality. That's one answer or way of looking at it.

The second way of trying to examine the question, and what confuses us so often when we're not

deeply versed in a rational kind of philosophy, is we say, "Well, but I mean there are stamps,

there are flags, there are government buildings, there are different colored maps, there are

treaties, there are songs, there are birthdays of the country, there are... You could go

on and on! Of course these two countries exist, look at all the evidence! That evidence is

in the senses, it comes to me... I look at a flag of Canada, I look at the flag of the

United States, they're different! I look at the map, there are borders! There are guys

with guns, if you cross the border without getting the right paperwork or having the

right permission, or having the right whatever, you're gonna get shot! Of course they believe


Well, that doesn't tell you that that exists in reality. All that tells you is that people

act as if it did exist in reality. I'm not trying to mince concepts here, or fine-slice

the onion to turn it into a kind of vapor. This is a very, very important distinction.

What exists in reality we can determine for ourselves through logic, etc. What other people

believe can't be reasoned out by ourselves. We've got to interview people, etc.

People's beliefs produce an enormous amount of evidence in the real world. So we all know

this idea or joke in psychiatric circles that some guy in the year 2006 comes into a psychiatrist's

office with a cowlick and puts his hands in his jacket and says, "Doctor, I'm Napoleon

Bonaparte." And he will maybe buy the costume, and maybe marry a woman named Marie, or whatever.

Maybe he'll go and live on Elba. But these are all things that are evidence of his belief

that he is Napoleon. This does not mean that he is Napoleon. For obvious reasons, Napoleon's

dead. This guy can't be Napoleon.

When we look at trying to divvy up true and false statements, it's very important in my

mind to really be clear about the differentiation between what exists in reality and what exists

only as a belief (and what exists is the effects of a belief).

If I say I am an American, I don't change the physical nature of my being. I currently

live in Canada, I was born in Ireland, I grew up in England, I spent a little time in South

Africa, then moved to Canada, and through all that process of being different citizens,

being in different countries, etc., my atomic nature didn't change at all. If I go for a

green card, and somebody gives me one, and I now have the right to work in the United

States, it doesn't change my atomic nature in the way that like having a sex change or

dying would change my physical construction. There are genetic differences between races,

for sure, there are genetic hormonal differences between men and women, but when you change

from a Canadian to American, you are not changing your physical structure in any way based on

this sort of change.

All that means is that now, because I have the right paperwork, I'm not going to get

aggressed against for having a job in the United States. When we look at all of the

paraphernalia that is associated with people's belief in things that don't have an objective

reality in the world, all we're doing is looking at a vast amount of detritus that is produced

by people believing that things exist when they have no actual existence in the real

world. It's a very, very important thing to figure out.

If I say, "Does my friend Bob believe in leprechauns?" you can't answer that without going to talk

to Bob, and Bob might lie, and there's all these complications. Whereas if I say "Does

this mountain exist?" you can go walk up the mountain and figure it out for yourself. You're

not dependent upon another human being's consciousness to tell you the truth, and you can figure

it out without going to talk to anyone, and all this kind of stuff.

[phone rings] I knew that was going to happen sooner or later. (laughs)

When we talk about the difference between what is real and what is not real, it's important

to look at these three categories, two of which are sensually evident, and one is not.

The first category is things which exist in the real world which are independent of your

consciousness, which are received to you directly through the evidence of your senses, etc.

The second category of things are things that exist within other people's minds, as a belief,

and which are not correlated to the existence of things in the real world. So if my friend

Bob believes in leprechauns, then he can say, "Yeah, I believe in leprechauns," and that's

something that you can believe in or not believe in, or whatever.

But then there are material things in the real world that are produced through people's belief

in things that don't really exist. This is what gets people so confused. So there are

things like a mountain. There are things that exist like an American flag. An American flag

is an honest-to-goodness, physical, material thing that exists that is produced because

people believe that a conceptual entity called "America" actually exists. Because a lot of

people believe this, you get the production of lots of patriotic this, that, and the others,

and it is used as a very fundamental moral argument, which we'll get to when we talk

about morality, for a lot of behaviors that people will put into practice that we would

never countenance from an individual, but because they are associated with a country,

we will allow that to occur.

If you're an atheist, say, and you're having a debate with a religious person, I think

that you would not accept, if you didn't believe in the existence of God, that there is a valid

argument which goes something like this:

"God exists, because there are churches."

That would be putting the cart before the horse. In philosophical terms, it's called

"begging the question." You could say that if people believe that God exist, there will

be churches. But the fact that there are churches, only proves that people build churches because

they claim to believe in God. It does not prove that God exists independently of people's

beliefs. You're simply pointing out the evidence of a belief, which does not prove the tangible,

objective existence.

So when you look at flags, songs, patriotic this that and the other, all it does is prove

that people believe in countries. It does not prove that countries exist. It's a very

important differentiation.

Given that we are at 30 minutes now, thank you so much as always. We'll get into this

a little bit more in the future, but it might be a worthwhile exercise for you to think

about things in your mind, and things in the real world, and just try and work on exposing

this dividing line between things that exist in the real world, and things that exist in

other people's minds and the things that exist in the real world that are only a product

of beliefs in other people's minds, but does not prove what they claim to believe in.

I hope that's a helpful differentiation. We are making extraordinarily rapid progress

towards developing a solid understanding of that which is real, so that we can do what

is the basic goal of philosophy, which is to make sure that the beliefs, propositions,

values, ethics, politics, everything that we put forward is based on reality and not

based on opinion, because then it wouldn't be philosophy, it would be something called..

modern politics? Or I guess politics throughout history. And we wanna be a little bit more

rigorous than that. So we are making extraordinary progress. Thank you so much for listening

and I will talk to you soon.

The Description of Intro To Philosophy 4: Truth #2