Posts tagged ‘truth’

Trust not truth

February 5th, 2006

Heinz von Foerster shares with us a beautiful riddle about trust and truth. When I wrote about it my working title was “Trust not truth”. I was thinking this title forth and back because one of my inner voices kept yelling something like “You can’t say one shall not trust the truth if Heinz von Foerster clearly shows that truth is based on trust. I mean, what else could we do but trust the truth?
Trust not truth is nonsense. Put it in your Nonsense Box.”

I did see that “trust not truth” can be read in many ways, too. One being “trust — not truth”. Yet, I eventually changed the title to “The problem is not truth” as if this was any less nonsense. But, I could always say it’s a quote of a quote of a quote :-) That’s why.

So, the problem is trust — not truth.
And this is the truth.

What? You mean there is probably more to it? You mean trust not truth? — Oh, yes, you got me on this one ’cause I am a liar.

The problem is not truth

February 2nd, 2006

There is a wonderful quote by Heinz von Foerster that I first learned about at a workshop in April 1991 in Vienna where he presented it in his opening talk:

The problem is not truth,
the problem is trust.

This is a very riddle. One can read it in many ways, and every time I look at it it’s likely to tell me another story. I am most thankful to Heinz von Foerster that he suggested 2 things for reading this riddle: Look up the words in an etymological dictionary, and … silence. He just looked into my eyes and smiled.

May I invite you to see for yourselves. Here is the quote with links to the Online Etymology Dictionary:

The problem is not truth,
the problem is trust.

In an opening address for a conference in 1990, see “ethics and second-order cybernetics“, Heinz von Foerster tells a story about the origin of the quote.

I am a liar

January 29th, 2006

I am a liar, and you are probably not. I am even a member of the Club of Liars. Are you? What does it mean if someone says “I am no liar”?

That’s a tricky question. Maybe we should ask a scientist. Science “refers to a system of acquiring knowledge (…) aimed at finding out the truth” (Wikipedia, 2006-01-16). So, scientists should know. They are telling the truth, aren’t they?

Most scientists, like other people, too, are understandably eager to make us believe that they are at least not telling lies. Let’s assume for a mere moment that scientists do not always tell the truth — in fact, there are some hints for this. How do we know? If it is possibly a lie that scientists are not telling lies, what is it they are doing?

Was Epimenides the first scientist, indeed? Rats!

What do we know anyway? Never I would dare to state that I knew everything. I do like to learn, and I am sure there is a lot I do not know. So, what do we know about what we do not know? Might that what we do not know be even more important than what we know?

These are big questions. Aren’t they? Let’s ask whether they are. Or is this one?
No, I do not have any answers. But, I am afraid, this is an answer. You might think that this is all nonsense. Go ahead, I won’t object your objection. There are puns, games of words, even riddles, and paradoxes. Language is deceiving. (I love this one.) We are used to deal with everyday paradoxical situations, unanswerable questions, and double binds. Some say the fun ends where these games are to affect people but that’s just where it started.

(Last update: 2006-05-20)