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Am I making too much out of this?

My son's teacher asking which is "more true"

Demaestro

8:33 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:2638

So my son came home with a test, it had something marked wrong, but the question was

Which of these statements is more true?

It then gave a list of things that all were true but they wanted the one that was "more true"

Is it just me or is this question totally out to lunch?

Something is true or it is false... there is no weighting them for percentages of truth, is there? I guess a statement can be partially true, but that would really just mean that it is a statement with a true part and a false part. If you looked at the statement as a whole and it has one false part to it that would make the statement false wouldn't it?

Maybe I missed a philosophy course where this was covered but does it make sense to call something "more true"?

I want to tell the teacher that it is a logical error to ask this, just like it would be to ask for an answer to divide by zero. (unless you are in a advanced math theory class)

It reminds me of this argument I saw once about God where this guy kept saying "It is true to me" and the other guy finally asked "How can it be true to you? It is either truth or it isn't"

What would George Boole say about all this?

Receptional Andy

8:46 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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If you have a series of statements that are not entirely true, then I'd say yes, a statement can be more true than another statement. "All sheep are black" is more true than "all sheep are green" ;)

Of course, it depends why the question is asked in the first place. Given a series of analytic or tautological statements, "which is more true?" is arguably the same as "which statement do you prefer?". It doesn't sound like that's the case here, though ;)

lawman

8:57 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:3615

Which is more true?

a) Water is a liquid.

b) Water is a solid.

c) Water is a vapor.
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Water is a liquid. Answer = "a" :)

It reminds me of this argument I saw once about God where this guy kept saying "It is true to me" and the other guy finally asked "How can it be true to you? It is either truth or it isn't"

Absolute v. Revealed Truth?

Demaestro

9:32 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:2638

Andy that isn't right....is it?

"All sheep are black".. false

"all sheep are green".. false

I mean what does "true" mean? If it means what I think then how can you give weight to truth?

I guess with the sheep example I kind of see how when in context of other statements one could be explained as having some truth to it where the other statement has no truth to it.

If you asked me which is more true.... "All sheep are black" or "all sheep are green" wouldn't the "true" answer be none of these are true.

Maybe I have been programming to long but all I see is a logical condition.

Sudo code:
if all_sheep_are_black {
This will never be true
} else {
This will always be true
}

Just to be overly anal

a) Water is a liquid. true

b) Water is a solid. false (ice is a solid)

c) Water is a gas/vapor. false (water vapor is a gas)

So really only one of these is true.

I am reminded of a bug that took me a couple days to track down... someone set a boolean value to null and there was code that said

blah = type boolean

if blah = true {
do this
}else {
do that
}

Once I found it I remember thinking how dumb it was that something that was defined as a boolean could have a value other then true or false. I kind of feel the same about this.... could just be I have spent too much time coding.

Receptional Andy

9:45 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:2534

I mean what does "true" mean?

That depends on who you ask ;)

I gave a deliberate example of two false statements - one of which is arguably more true than another, since it contains an 'element of truth' whereas the other doesn't: partial truth.

Lawman gave an example of three true statements, one of which could arguably be more true than the others - water doesn't become something else when it reaches boiling point or freezes, but then, many people's common experience of water is as a liquid: subjective truth.

IMO there's a problem of definition: does true mean exactly true and nothing else, or is it closer to correct with all the shades in between?

Demaestro

9:52 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:2638

I have come to the conclusion that I am overly anal because of my programming background.

Everyone I bring this up to looks at me like

"Why do you care?"

To me (while working) something is true or it isn't, but in the same breath I know that if I hear a statement I can say "There is some truth to that" even though programmaticly I know that you can break the statement down to the true and untrue portions but over all the statement as a whole is false.....

I wish I never started thinking about this... brain leaking out my ears as I argue both sides with myself.

Dabrowski

9:59 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:1147

I'm with you Demaestro, I get that look off people a lot.

Yes, something is either true or it is not. If it is true, it is 100% true and therefore just as true as the next true thing.

Just out of interest, what was the actual question?

a) Water is a liquid.

b) Water is a solid.

c) Water is a vapor.

Obviously the answer is A, but which of these is more true?

a) H2O is a liquid.

b) H2O is a solid.

c) H2O is a vapor.

willybfriendly

10:07 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:1834

Water is a liquid.

Ice is a solid.

Steam is a gas.

True is absolute. Truth may be relative. (An eyewitness may well give a truthful, yet inaccurate version of events.)

Had the teacher asked which statement was more accurate, there would be no heartache. But, true is not the same as accurate.

Semantics? Clarity of thought and precision of language are highly devalued in today's society. Add in a healthy dose of relativism and things can get pretty wierd pretty quick.

Arguing with a teacher will do your kid little good. Teaching your kid to think clearly and speak with precision will pay unending dividends.

Staffa

10:09 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:894

Demaestro, I'm with you on this one. Something is either true or false else it's partially true or partially false but not more true or more false.

To me, in the original question, it's the "more" that gets to me ;o)

ken_b

10:19 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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joined:Oct 5, 2001
posts:5885

Is one of these more true than the others?

Too many children die of malnutrition.

Too many children are homeless.

Too many children are abused.

LifeinAsia

10:32 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:5844

Something is either true or false else it's partially true or partially false but not more true or more false.

In logic, yes. But in the "real" world, there is more than just logic (sorry, Mr. Spock).
Example:
"Mary is a boy and Tom is a girl and Sally is a boy" and "Mary is a boy and Tom is a girl and Sally is a girl" are both false according to logic (since not all of the ANDed conditions are true). Yet the first statement contains 3 false statements, while the 2nd contains 2 false statements and 1 true statement, making it "more true" (or perhaps "less false") than the first.

Another example: "Tom is a boy" and "Tom is a boy and Mary is a girl" are both true. Yet the second could be considered "more true" because it contains 2 true statements compared to the first, which only contains 1 true statement.

Also, in real life, Tom can have a sex change operation, changing the "trueness" (or "falseness") of the above statements, showing that there is not necessarily absolute truth.

I have come to the conclusion that Demaestro may not be the only anal poster in this thread. :)

Demaestro

10:56 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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joined:Dec 15, 2003
posts:2638

willy, your distinction between true and accurate has saved me from myself.

I don't plan on calling out my son's teacher, she is great. But I do try to encourage my guy to be a free thinker, and as you have pointed out.. clarity of thought and precision of language are highly devalued in today's society... and these are things I still put great value in.

Logic error aside it is plain to my son and I that the selection he made regardless of the error in how the question was asked, was not the most "accurate" answer. But being able to use the term "accurate" there has really helped me explain this to him in a more sensible fashion.

LIA... I knew I wasn't alone, glad to see I am in good company as well though ;)

ronin

11:53 pm on Aug 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Is Einstein more dead than Elvis?

callivert

1:07 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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the first statement contains 3 false statements, while the 2nd contains 2 false statements and 1 true statement, making it "more true" (or perhaps "less false") than the first.

right, but this is still in keeping with what others are saying here... that there is "True" and "not true."
which is more true is a farcical, absurd, woolly-headed question.

I don't plan on calling out my son's teacher, she is great.

I'm afraid that the evidence suggests otherwise.

lawman

1:58 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:3615

Obviously the answer is A, but which of these is more true?

a) H2O is a liquid.
b) H2O is a solid.
c) H2O is a vapor.

Which do you believe is more true? :)

callivert

3:36 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:685

Which do you believe is more true? :)

none of them.
It's like saying which of the following is more true.
"a brick is part of a brick house"
"a brick is part of a cathedral"
"a brick is part of a medieval brick bridge"

thecoalman

8:50 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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joined:Mar 4, 2004
posts:892

If every answer is true then the question should be reserved for I.Q. type tests when the student is not be graded.

I cam e across at least two questions on standardized tests that were shown to me that I found to be absolutely ridiculous. The first one was similar to your example but the second one still has me dumbfounded, completely incomprehensible. There was 5 well educated adults with the text book in front of them that could not make heads or tails of it.

Marshall

9:42 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:2294

There is an old saying that a half truth is a whole lie.

Following that logic, is not a partial true a false?

I am with the it is either true or it isn't camp.

Marshall

lawman

10:18 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Logical truths are necessarily true. However, purported "absolute truths" don't always live up to their billing.

Receptional Andy

10:23 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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purported "absolute truths" don't always live up to their billing.

Yes - the implication being that some are more true than others ;)

Old_Honky

10:33 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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posts:125

Saying "which is more true?" is like asking which is more unique. Apart from anything else it shows poor language skills.

Something is either true or false if it can be proven by logic or fact anything that relies on opinion is incapable of being proven to be true.

i.e. "Lewis Hamilton is the most successful British Formula One Driver this year" is a true statement. "Lewis Hamilton will win the 2008 Formula one Title" is an opinion.

I would ask the teacher "Is it more true that you are a poor teacher or that you are a bad teacher"

Receptional Andy

10:41 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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"Lewis Hamilton is the most successful British Formula One Driver this year" is a true statement

Arguably that's an opinion - it requires a definition of success, and there's no guarantee that everyone shares the same definition.

Similarly, the definition of truth as an absolute is not one with total consensus. Other than statements that are true by definition, you may find most statements cannot be absolutely true or absolutely false. In fact, a common synonym of 'true' is 'accurate' and the word is widely used in that way.

callivert

11:47 am on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Similarly, the definition of truth as an absolute is not one with total consensus. Other than statements that are true by definition, you may find most statements cannot be absolutely true or absolutely false.

Here are some things that are simply true, and not just by definition or context or "in the eye of the beholder", they're just true.

1) humans cannot survive in space, deep underwater, or completely buried in sand without special equipment
2) plucking your eyeballs out will make you blind
3) if you travel to the north pole you the visible sky will not feature the southern cross or many other constellations that are visible from other parts of the earth.
4) ingesting 400 mg of cyanide will result in a painful death
5) standing still near the equator in calm weather will not result in you being spun off the earth
6) sound travels slower than light in open air.

In fact, a common synonym of 'true' is 'accurate' and the word is widely used in that way.

A very good point, and we here can appreciate it. I have less faith in teachers to understand that distinction though. My guess would be that most teachers have an even fuzzier, hokier understanding of the word "accurate" than the word "true." If they started using "more accurate" in tests, the problem would not go away, it would be worse than ever.

Old_Honky

12:31 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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"Lewis Hamilton is the most successful British Formula One Driver this year" is a true statement

Arguably that's an opinion - it requires a definition of success, and there's no guarantee that everyone shares the same definition.

I assure you it is true he has far more points in the championship which is the only measure of success.

I still don't agree that there can be degrees of truth. If something is even ever-so-sightly not true then it is in fact false.

(I think my statement on this is more true than yours :~) )

digitalghost

1:47 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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a) The barn is red
b) The side of the barn that I can see is red
c) The side of the barn that I can see reflects a color that I perceive as red

When we discussed the depths of 'truth' it was always about details. If a color-blind person were making those statements, only C might be true... Can you Grok that? ;)

Credit to Stranger In A Strange Land

Demaestro

2:26 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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ghost... <jack black speak>you just blew my mind</jack black speak>

lawman

4:57 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Which is more true:

a) ice is a solid
b) glass is a solid
C) lawman has a brain.

Marshall

5:03 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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a

bunltd

5:08 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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DG, I thought about that Heinlein reference when I read through this post, then saw your post. Fair Witness. :)

lawman

6:12 pm on Aug 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

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none of them.
It's like saying which of the following is more true.
"a brick is part of a brick house"
"a brick is part of a cathedral"
"a brick is part of a medieval brick bridge"

So you're assuming he meant the molecule and not referencing the substance.

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