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Jean-Charles Longuet

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Telling the truth: are there limits?

Two recent talks focused on "Truth" as something good/moral. Practically, however, some information may cause havoc: the Wikileaks diplomatic data disclosure, for example, coulad have put some people at risk.

How should we manage the decision to disclose (or not) such information? Or manage the moral dilemma when telling a lie may have a positive outcome?

[update 2012/11/25] The conversation initially mixed a few things : Truth is something that is not as obvious as it seems, and Lies are more related to a deceiving/manipulative intention that to the hiding of some Truth.

Anyway, all points of views are welcome.


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    Nov 17 2012: The concept of "truth" is elusive. There is reality and there is our perception of reality. We have no way to tell the difference. Dictionary defines truth as "That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality". We never know what reality is. We only know what we perceive. "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are." To tell the truth, I don't know what "telling the truth" means. :-)

    That was theory. In practice, what matters is not whether what we say is true, but why we say it, our purpose and intention behind what we say. If we say things that hurt other people, damage relationships, cause violence - it is wrong to say them, even if we perceive things we say as true (which is only our perception - we need to remember that). There are times, however, when it is necessary to say painful truth...

    And now I'll go back to writing my report to the customers about reliability failures of the product that we sell...
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      Nov 17 2012: Isn't perception is eliminated threw science, science is the unification of perspectives tested by experimentation or and or mathematics (logic) to reach a fact or truth. And of course perception is how a singular person views the world but this is not reality, for example a man sees a something that is not there to others. So as a result of scientific observation we can deduce reality from relative perception and achieve truths.
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        Nov 17 2012: Scientific theories are perceptions of reality also. What is gravity? A force or distortion of space? What is a photon? A wave or a particle? Are you currently in motion as perceived by the webcam on your computer? As perceived by a passenger of an airplane flying above your house?

        Mathematical statements are different from statements concerning material facts. Read David Hume on the difference between "demonstrative" and "probable" reasoning. Mathematical statements can be demonstrated by logic, whereas you, generally, can not find out whether I have a dime in my pocket unless you perceive it. Pure logic, without experience or perception, does not help much in matters of fact.

        I'm not saying that science is not useful. It is useful to find out how things work and achieve desired repeatable results. As long as it can do it, it serves its purpose. That has little to do with truth, however. Most engineering problems are solved by trial and error, without understanding of the root cause.

        I honestly don't see a way to distinguish perception from reality. We can take a closer look and get a better perception, but there is only so much we can perceive. Reality will always be bigger than our perception. That's the fun of it.
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        Nov 17 2012: Things may be more complex than they look, even through the science eye. For example, there is a theory indicating that the whole universe may be an hologram with all informations within it on its surface. See http://arstechnica.com/science/2011/07/how-an-argument-with-hawking-suggested-the-universe-is-a-hologram/
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          Nov 17 2012: Complexity does not prove a scientifically attained truth cannot be derived from reality. We are simply at a level of truth that is not yet able to confront that level of reality.

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