You can't have "right" without "wrong." So if what you say is absolutely 100% certain, no doubt about it – that can't be true.
The Taoists figured this out a long time ago. Yin requires yang. Up needs down. Truth depends on falsity.
I keep coming back to this notion, because both intuitively and logically it appeals to me. Sure, something may be real, yet improvable or indescribable.
Existence, for example. "What is, is." That statement sounds marvelously correct. And it is. But it doesn't mean anything. Not really.
"The Dream Weaver," a book I'm reading now, talks about words without meaning.
Basically, when you use a word, it needs a criterion. There must be a way to use the word incorrectly. It can't be the case that everything is selfish, or that everything is natural. If that were the case, then the word would become meaningless. If everything were considered natural, what would be the point of asking, Is this thing natural? It's sort of paradoxical in a way: I create a word that means everything and, in doing so, it means nothing.
Now, I'm fine with indescribable meaninglessness. That could well be the most meaningful thing in the world. Lots of experiences just are what they are – incommunicable to anyone else, but filled with Wow! for the experiencer.
Like the Greeks, we need to distinguish Truth from Beauty. A rose is a rose is a rose. That's beauty. Water is two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen. That's truth.
A rose can't be anything other than a rose. Several molecules can be something other than water.
Similarly, much religious or metaphysical dogma can't be wrong because words are used in a way that defy falsification.
"God is everything."
"Consciousness is all."
"Whatever happens has to happen."
"A perfect guru never makes a mistake."
"Everything is destined."
"The world is illusion."
"Jesus is coming."
In each case, someone making the statement can't be pinned down if you try to show they could be wrong. They always have a way to wriggle out from skepticism because there's no "there" to what they're saying.
As I noted before, Eastern philosophies and religions are as prone to this as Western ones are. The Bible is true because it says in the Bible, "This is the word of God." The guru is perfect because his predecessor was flawless, and perfect gurus can't err when they appoint a successor.
Whenever I run up against words that can't be wrong, I start to lose interest in them – since they can't be right.
This explains why I've found myself gritting my teeth and filling the margins with question marks as I make my way through the last chapters of "Consciousness is All," a book that started off more interestingly than it is ending up for me.
In the beginning I liked how the author directed my attention to how awareness works. But when he turned to saying (over and over, in various ways) that everything is consciousness, it sounded just the same as "God is love."
Religious. Dogmatic. Meaningless.
Yet those words sound so wonderful. They explain it all! Karl Popper writes:
I found that those of my friends who were admirers of Marx, Freud, and Adler, were impressed by a number of points common to these theories, and especially by their apparent explanatory power. These theories appeared to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred. The study of any of them seemed to have the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated.
Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirming instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. This its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refused to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of their repressions which were still "un-analysed" and crying aloud for treatment.
Recently there's been quite a bit of discussion on this blog about awareness. This can be another example of a word that doesn't mean anything, yet can seem deeply meaningful.
Yes, without awareness we can't be aware of anything. And without existence, nothing exists. Nor would life be lively if we weren't alive.
These are realities – awareness, existence, life. But they're not truths, not in any sort of scientific, logical, or evidentiary sense, because there is no untruth to which they can be contrasted.
How could I be aware of unawareness, or exist as nonexistence, or live a non-life? If such were possible, then speaking of these contraries would have some purpose.
As it is, discussions of these subjects can end up sounding to me like the oft-heard quote on sports radio: "It is what it is." (frequently spoken after a devastating loss or embarrassing athletic moment)
Don't get me wrong: there's nothing more interesting to me than awareness, existence, and life. That's because I've got a huge interest in being aware of existing after I stop living my life.
It's just that when I hear talk of "awareness never ends" it strikes me as no different in kind from "Jesus saves." Namely, a belief that can't be tested. At least, not in this life – which is the only life I can be sure of.
While I have a fondness for philosophies that assure me life is just fine exactly the way it is, and I don't need to do anything about it, I'm skeptical about whether there's any meaning to these assurances beyond the warm, fuzzy feeling they produce in my often-anxious soul.
Zen tells me, "first there is a mountain; then there isn't; then there is." I also have heard that the world appears just the same to an enlightened sage as an unenlightened fool. So why not remain a fool if there's no way to tell the difference?
In the end, there could well be no beginning and no end. But so long as we're not there, isn't there a "here" as well as a "there"?
But even though I don't claim to fully understand the objections to his view, one reason seems to be that falsifying isn't what scientists really do, mostly. They set out to prove rather than disprove.
Fine. I'd be just as happy if metaphysical propositions could be proven to be true, rather than capable of being shown to be false. Sort of seems like the same difference to me, but someone more knowledgeable is free to prove me wrong.]
Update: This blogger has a nice take on falsifiability, viewing it as a necessary but not sufficient condition for a scientific hypothesis.
Which raises the question…if you hold to a metaphysical, spiritual, or religious belief, what would it take for you to admit, "I'm wrong"?
If you can't come up with an answer, that belief either is blind faith or not really anything capable of being believed (as noted above, awareness, existence, and life are outside the arena of belief, being pre-requisites for playing the game).