I realize that I’ve let this project slide, but I just stumbled across an interesting post from 2012 about the nature of knowledge. I’ll just include a section that stood out to me:
“We can then expect our minds to carve the plausibility state space into a handful of groups, the same way we think of objects’ sizes: minuscule, tiny, small, slight, large, massive, colossal. We should expect that this scale only really describes notions at plausibility levels close to those that matter to humans. This is to say, those which correspond to probability levels which are relevant to our choices. It would make no real difference to you whether the weatherman said that today the chance of rain is 1/1000 or 1/10000000: you’re not bothering with the umbrella. This table illustrates how our intuitions might carve up a state space of infinitely varying values into useful bits that correspond to our implicit understanding of veracity. (and I’m calling it the Sagan Plausibility Scale).
As the index increases, the plausibility drops. Note that it expands downward infinitely without ever reaching any absolute end, just as physical sizes spiral up beyond human concern or native understanding. The scale is also logarithmic in nature, even though plausibility isn’t mathematically determinate, of course. Somewhere between 2 and 4 is the bullshit line of demarcation (LOD). When an idea has evidence or backing in reason, it gets bumped above the LOD- this is the case even if it fails to reach 1.0. Ideas that require many dubious contingencies, seem to self-contradict, to contradict existing knowledge, or face other forms of counter-evidence get pushed downward below the LOD.
Our concepts about veracity and the words we use to represent them can now be precisely defined. Words like true, right, correct, valid, truth, factual, and reality all describe words above the LOD with stronger terms for concepts further above the line. Concepts near the line are described by terms (and associated mental confidence levels) such as possible, perhaps, maybe, might, could, etc.., Finally, concepts below the LOD are nonsense, false, untrue, invalid, wrong, incorrect, nonsense, bullshit, etc.., and again concepts further away from the LOD get the stronger terms.”
[Back to me:] I’m willing to use absolute words like “truth” outside of mathematical contexts given this understanding. There is still value in saying “forget truth,” because the vast majority of people don’t think this way.