Comprehending beauty: Theory of objective truth

A reader wrote…

“I get it. But what is frustrating is some of the popular books even by so called pro-Hindu writers are full of this subjective thinking. By this I mean opinions, thoughts, views of others mixed with those of authors and in short a mess that is hard to figure out.”

My Response…

The reader wrote in the context of my recent post.

I was planning to write on ‘theory of objective truth’ anyways, this note from the reader provides a good seague. BTW, the original note of the reader is long and covers many other subjects.

Theory of Objective truth (taken from ‘Conjectures & Refutations’ by Sir Karl Popper)

Theory of objective truth (represented by Tarski’s theory of truth as correspondence to the facts) does much more than presenting a rational, empirical and scientific platform.

It leads to a very different attitude than one that leads to embracing of subjective theories. The theory of objective truth allows us to makes assertions such as:

‘A theory may be true even though nobody believe it, and even though we have no reason to think that it is true; and another theory may be false even though we have comparatively good reasons for accepting it.’.

Now, these assertions would appear to be self-contradictory from the point of view of any subjective or epistemic theory of truth.  But within the objective theory, they are not only consistent, but quite obviously true.

An assertion would emerge for this theory of objective truth (with reference to theory of truth as correspondence to facts):

‘Even if we hit upon a true theory, we shall as  rule be merely guessing, and it may well be impossible to us to know that it is true.’

An assertion like this was made by Xenophanes in ancient Turkastan, some 2500 years ago, by Krishna/Vyasa in ancient India, some 7500 years ago, by composer of Nasadiya Sukta of RigVeda, many thousands of years ago (but not less than 14000 years).

Beauty of the theory of objective truth allows us to say:

“We search for truth, but may not know when we have found it; that we have no criterion of truth, but are nevertheless guided by the idea of truth as  a regulative principle; and that, though there are no general criteria by which we can recognize truth – except perhaps tautological truth – there are criteria of progress towards the truth.”

Now to answer specific concern of our reader…

While things have improved (at least in physical sciences), subjectivism is still rampant in the philosophy of science and choke-full of it when it comes to historical sciences.

It is an awkward point in all these subjectivist theories that they are irrefutable, i.e. they can too easily evade any criticism.  For it is always possible to uphold the view that everything we say about the world ( or historical event or Mahabharata), should be replaced by a belief statement.  Thus one may replace the statement ‘snow is white’ by ‘ I believe that snow is white’ or perhaps even by ‘In the light of all the available evidence I believe that it is rational to believe that snow is white’.

For good illustration of such belief statements, I reproduce summary statement for year 5561 BCE (recent blog article) by Shri Phandis. I have highlighted ‘belief statements’ in bold.

Year and Date of War.

I have written on various observations, astronomical or otherwise, from Mahabharat used by Shri. Oak rather at random. I will summarize my main points with reference to two specific claims of Shri. Oak, viz. Year of the War and First day of the war.
The year 5561 BCE and the date 16th Oct. were both first proposed by Dr. Vartak, and Shri. Oak finds them acceptable. I have a strong suspicion that 16th Oct. proposed by Dr. Vartak was a Gregorian date but Shri. Oak asserts that it was Julian. In any case Shri. Oak has proposed it as Julian date so I take it as Julian. For year 5561 BCE winter solstice is calculated on 31st Jan., Julian date, by Shri. Oak and that is correct, give or take a day. It would be same for 50 years on either side anyway. Winter Solstice date has a great importance because that is the undisputed day of Bhishma’s death.
Regarding the year of war, Shri. Oak has examined several observations from Mahabharat for corroboration. I summarize my questions and doubts as follows.
1. Position of Saturn. – In the proposed year, Saturn is not in Bhaga, not in Vishakha, nor can it be said to be afflicting Rohini as it is nowhere near it. All three are mutually exclusive so any proposed year will have the same problem. Proposed year satisfies none of the three observations.
2. Position of Jupiter – Jupiter is nowhere near Vishakha. Also Jupiter, not being anywhere near Rohini, cannot be claimed to be afflicting it. So both observations not corroborated.
3. Vakri (or Vakra) motion of Mars and Jupiter. – Explanation of ‘Vakra’ motion of Mars at Magha, (different from ‘retrograde or backwards’ as normally understood,) by Shri. Oak is novel. Crossing and Re-crossing of Ecliptic by Mars near Magha occurred before the proposed war date and final position of Mars at start of war also corroborates. Question remains, whether crossing of Ecliptic by any planet, at a very small angle, can be observed by naked eye. Retrograde motion presents no such problem. So does Vyasa mean what Shri. Oak claims? Further, in case of Vakra motion of Jupiter at Shravan, the crossing of ecliptic occurred six months and one year AFTER the claimed war date. No way Vyasa can refer to it along with Vakra motion of Mars.
4.Most other observations are likely to be equally true or untrue for the proposed year or many other years.
5. Vyasa commented on the day before war that the last Lunar Paksha was exceptionally short, of only total 13 days, (or only 12 days between the Amavasya and the Purnima), as against the normal length of 14 or 15 or even 16 days. In the proposed year, Shri. Oak has not shown any such short lunar fortnight or Paksha before war date. He gives dates of 1st Oct and 31st Oct for Purnimas and 16th Oct. for Amavasya. It should have been 29th Oct for the second Purnima to match Vyasa’s famous remark, oft quoted by all researchers as I understand.
6. I hold no brief for any other year as I am not a researcher but only a reader and critic. I however say that the proposed year cannot be claimed as well-corroborated.
I would encourage readers to study few other proposals for the timing of Mahabharata War and then compare them against the corroboration (for Saturn, Jupiter and vakri motions of Mars/Jupiter) provided by 5561 BCE (and explained by yours truly) to appreciate the beauty of corroboration but also proposal of year 5561 BCE.
Reg. comment of Shri Phadnis, “So does Vyasa mean what Shri. Oak claims?”
Our objective respond is, ‘We don’t know’, however evidence of Mahabharata text, tested against the theory of visual observations of the sky (via astronomy software) is fabulous/awesome. Theory of objective truth does not demand any more.

Reg. comment of Shri Phadnis, ” I however say that the proposed year cannot be claimed as well-corroborated.”

Our objective response would be, “By this subjective logic, theories of Kepler, Newton or Einstein, also,  can not be claimed as well-corroborated.”


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