On truth

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The Münchhausen trilemma

The unsolvable Münchhausen trilemma is helpful to discuss truth. Baron Müchhausen pulls himself and his horse out of a swamp by his hair. This story is true. It really happened. Although Müchausen is a fictional character. It is likely named after him because he can't lie.

The trilemma suggest that truth cannot be proven. There are three ways of proof which all can be unproven.

  • The circular argument, in which the proof of some proposition presupposes the truth of that very proposition;
  • The regressive argument, in which each proof requires a further proof, ad infinitum;
  • The dogmatic argument, which rests on accepted precepts which are merely asserted rather than defended.

A painting of Münchhausen who lifts himself and his horse out of a swamp by pulling his hair.

What about math?

Math has axioms. These things proof themselves, which is the circular argument. Math can be seen as common sense, which makes it a dogmatic argument. The regressive argument means that any proof requires more extra proof. Thus, if we know why these axioms work like they do because of "x", then we have to proof "x".

Logic is based on assumptions.

It disproofs itself

The trilemma can be seen as a truth, and then it disproofs the trilemma which claims that truth does not exist. This is not a solution though. The trilemma is itself is an assumption. The trilemma is indeed a paradox. Yet all so called "truths" can be broken apart with it.


Truth is subjective. Although some interpretations are better than others. I don't trust absolute things like truth. I like the idea of perspectivism. We should care about where sometimes leads towards, rather than only following the "truth".

You have to build up your own set of beliefs and meanings. Sorry to mess up all your beliefs in advance. Good luck on your journey!


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