What is truth? I’d like to continue a dialogue on this subject between Elisa Freschi and myself that began in the comments to my post on performance theory. I’ll start by summarizing the debate so far (skip down a couple paragraphs if you’ve already been following these comments, or would rather click on the links to see the original debate).
We have been debating the extent to which truth can properly be understood as correspondence to reality. I think it generally can, but insisted that that reality should not just be understood as “outer” reality. Our understandings of our inner, subjective states can also be true or false in the sense of succeeding or failing to correspond to reality (as when we are incorrect about being happy).
Elisa continued this debate with a post on her own blog (as I’m now doing in return). She argued that the experience of pain is “subject-dependent,” and cannot be understood as corresponding to a reality beyond the subject’s own understanding: “No scientist could convince me that the pain I am experiencing is unbearable if I can bear it (and vice versa, different people react very differently to what seems to be the same neuronal stimulus).” I responded in the comments that we can indeed misjudge pain, like happiness; I mentioned a physiotherapist friend who gets frustrated when he asks people to rate the pain from a minor injury on a scale of 1 to 10 and they immediately say 10. Elisa replied as follows:
It is not fair to ask someone who has only experience of a feeble pain to collocate it on a scale from 1 to 10. She would, rightly, collocate her present pain on the 10th level, because the ’10’ as a level of pain sensation can only make sense in regard to the pain we have actually experienced. A child will say that 10 is the pain one experiences after a minor fall, a woman who has just given birth will describe the 10-level-pain as something different, but they are right in maintaining that the pain they are presently experiencing is the highest they have ever experienced. The physiotherapist asks them to conform to an objective scale, valid for everyone, hence his disappointment.
My response: Continue reading