Consistent and Inconsistent Systems
Philosophical Papers --- 9/26/2020
Here I am concerned with the consistency of propositions as in a subject area or belief system.
First there is internal consistency and external consistency. I define internal consistency as consistency between propositions within the system. Internal consistency means principles which are not contradictory. External consistency has to do with consistency of the propositions of the system with external facts or evidence.
Under this understanding of consistent/inconsistent systems we have the following evaluations:
Philosophical Systems == tend to be highly internally consistent, but fall down often on external consistency as evidence is usually only loosely tied to propositions in Philosophy.
Scientific Systems == these are the premier systems which are, to the extent possible, highly internally consistent and highly externally consistent (consistent with facts and evidence).
Mathematical systems are perfectly internally consistent (have to be otherwise propositions will be rejected by disproof) but have no external consistency as mathematics is not based upon evidence or facts.
Religious systems are somewhat internally consistent and somewhat internally inconsistent (I can show for example many contradictions in Christian beliefs and the Bible). These also have somewhat poor external consistency, i.e., are consistent with some historical facts but also seem to involve quite a bit of myth which doesn’t correspond to any scientific or known facts or evidence.
We also have liar systems. Consistent liar systems are sets of propositions all or most of which are false which nonetheless cohere, i.e., are consistent with each other and are internally consistent, i.e., a good lie. Inconsistent liar systems are propositions most or all of which are false which do not cohere, i.e., are not internally consistent or contain contradictions, i.e., a bad lie.These are important in law and policing. It is common practice among criminals to weave a story to police to explain away culpability. However, in doing so most criminals and their counterparts have inconsistent statements, so we know someone if not everyone is lying, and there is often little correspondence between stories and statements and evidence and facts. In fact, the police will typically do two things. They will look for consistency in a suspects own statements, consistency with that suspects statements and other suspects statements, consistency between the suspects statements and non-suspect statements (such as in establishing an alibi), and consistency between a suspects statements and the facts or evidence at the scene or collected elsewhere. These suspects liar systems hence usually have a high degree of internal and external inconsistency and are easy to break. It should also be mentioned that it is common for criminals to alter crime scenes to make the crime appear to have occurred in a way other than what actually occurred, examples are staging a burglary or staging a suicide in a homicide case. In other words, staging things or manufacturing evidence is very common among criminals. Investigators have to sift through crime scenes knowing full well that they may have been tampered with.
We have a much more serious situation in consistent liar systems. These are common in criminal or even institutional e.g. governmental coverups. In consistent liar systems, the players statements are rehearsed and all consistent. Moreover, there is often an attempt to alter or manufacture evidence to substantiate the statements with manufactured facts or evidence to give the appearance of external consistency. These are systems, liar systems, which are much harder to break. We have this for example in police brutality cases where the officers all support eachothers’ statements in giving a consistent story as to what happen which exonerates everyone of culpability, and moreover, things like editing footage of police actions in criminal situations, ie., altering, manufacturing, or erasing evidence, also goes on (as Nixon erased tapes during Watergate). These are hard liar systems to break, because they appear, without a great deal of investigation, to be internally and externally consistent.
Mechanical, electronic, and natural systems tend to be consistent as if they are not they either do not work at all or do not work properly. Thus far, above, I have been talking about logical systems, systems of propositions and statements. These are different from mechanical, electronic, and natural systems. In such systems, there is consistency but not internal propositional consistency or external consistency with facts. It is just a consistent physical system. By consistent physical system one means that the parts work together to achieve a common goal, versus the parts working not in concert, in which case, the system simply doesn’t work. If you have a car (an artificial physical system) which is a mechanical system, if most of the systems work but the cooling system heats the parts instead of cools them, your car system is going to break down. I.e., the cooling system isn’t working consistently with the rest of the mechanical system. Same for computers. I don’t think you can have an inconsistent computer hardware system, i.e., the logic gates must be logical or your system just won’t work. In software you can have a working but malfunctioning system which compiles and runs but has logic errors and hence doesn’t produce the right result. In a natural system like a human body, the subsystems like digestive and respiratory subsystems must perform their function consistently for the systems to work together and the body function. My comments about internal consistency and external consistency above really have only to do with logical propositional systems. I would have to think more about what consistency means in non-logical propositional systems.
It should be understood what is meant by “reasoning from evidence.” Reasoning from evidence is not automatically the same as being scientific. Clearly in many non-scientific realms it is equally important to reason from evidence, like the study of history. Also, if the evidence demonstrates that something is going on which is not explained by the current science, you don’t ignore it and repeat the science, you have to say, the science doesn’t explain the facts and perhaps the scientific theory needs to be modified. The only constant in a rational being is to ALWAYS REASON FROM THE EVIDENCE. Also, I should specify what is meant by reasoning from evidence, i.e., the process of finding principles that explain and account for the evidence.
I just watched Indiana Jones where “Professor Jones” says archeology is the search for facts not truth. If you want truth take Professor so-and-so's Philosophy class. Yes Philosophy, like science, is interested in truth and so is archaeology (philosophy defines truth but has competing theories as to what it is like correspondence theory of truth and coherence theory, axiomatic theory, deflationary theory, identity theory, pluralist theory, coherence theory is related to internal consistency and correspondence theory is related to external consistency). Here’s the connection. In Philosophy we say “truth is true justified belief.” There are many beliefs but most of them are not true. What makes a belief true is justification. So, what is justification? As far as I am concerned the process of justifying a belief is connecting it to facts or evidence. True justified belief is a belief connected to evidence, the evidence is its justification. If I have the belief that the person knocking on my door is my wife, my belief is false if I open the door and it is my gardener (my wife is not my gardener) but is true if the person at my door is my wife, through the evidence of my vision. There are many ways to get evidence but visual evidence is one of the most basic even in science, i.e., seeing is believing in most cases. This is just a reiteration of what I have said above. There are many religious beliefs for example but most of them are not justified i.e., connected to evidence, i.e, they have little external consistency or consistency with evidence or facts. Seeing is not always believing because sometimes the evidence “seen” has been placed or manufactured such as in tampered with crime scenes. People can frame someone as being x when that person is not x, i.e., the belief that the person is x is based upon false evidence. But in most cases, and overwhelming in science seeing is believing where in science much “seeing” is done with the aid of visual instrumentation (telescopes, radio telescopes, microscopes etc.). Belief can be justified by ratiocination as well. If we don’t know whether to believe y, but we know that x, and x implies y, then we have reason to believe y. But, the reason we know that x is probably because there is evidence for x. I.e., a true belief in something leads back to justification through evidence either directly or indirectly. What is a “fact” by the way “Professor Jones?” A fact is something that is or was the case. Historical facts, i.e., something that happened, are indisputable. We can dispute whether it happened, but if we know that it happened then we cannot claim that it is not a fact. Everything that we know has actually happened in the past is a fact. We can call this species of fact historical facts. What about present facts? If something IS the case, it is a fact. If the orange is on the table, it is a fact that the orange is on the table. We state it is a fact when we have visual evidence (or some other evidence typically sensory) that the orange is on the table. When we leave the room we know that it is a fact that the orange was on the table. It’s not always clear whether something is or isn’t the case. When it is clear that something IS the case it is a fact. We can’t really talk about future facts. What will be the case, even if we are quite sure that something will be the case, is not sure enough to call it a future fact. There are no future facts then in my reasoning. Something has to be the case or have been the case to be a fact. I think my definition is pretty good. Some definitions on the internet are something that is actual, something known to exist, something known to be true. These internet definitions beg the question of what is it for something to be known or what it is for something to be true. Actuality is somewhat good as a definition as opposed to potentiality or something imagined. So I could modify what I said as a fact is something that actually is or was the case, opposing it to something that is potentially the case or that we imagine to be the case. We can distinguish actuality from imagined by sensory evidence (not considering hallucinations here), and not something that just potentially may exist. Facts are the actual not just the possible. Of course anything actual is or was also possible (actuality is a subset of possibility).
What is emerging in my little foray into internal and external consistency is my theory of truth. It seems that I have a pluralistic theory which is a combination of coherence theory for internal consistency (lack of contradictions) and correspondence theory for external consistency (propositions which correspond to worldly evidence). And yes, I contend that for something to be truthful it needs to be internally and externally consistent. When you, in fact, look at various belief systems they are more or less truthful, i.e., have more or less internal and external consistency. Science, as I have said, has the most internal and external consistency and hence the highest degree of truthfulness. Religious have much less internal and external consistency and hence, have a lower degree of truthfulness, etc. Beliefs I contend can be evaluated as to their degree of truthfulness (how truthful the propositions in them are, or how many of the propositions are true versus false) by internal consistency or coherence and external consistency or correspondence with evidence. Among religious systems I find Deism to have the highest internal and external consistency. Atheism and Agnosticism may also have high internal and external consistencies. The major religions, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism do not have high internal and external consistency.
Let me say more about truth. It is not sufficient to present some evidence to substantiate a claim and claim that your claim is true. You have to present ALL of the evidence. Consider this. There is a man on the docks who is selling fish. He has a container of 100 fish. 90 of them are rotten and 10 are good. He tells the potential buyer the price for the “100 good fish.” The buyer smells something. He says, maybe the fish are bad. The seller pulls out a fish. It doesn’t smell and is good. The buyer insists on seeing another. The seller pulls out fish after fish, 10 of them, and they all smell good. I’ve shown you good fish after good fish, so they’re all good so why don’t you buy? The buyer buys the fish and finds out 90 are bad. Was the seller honest? Did the seller tell the truth? Well, the seller made a statement that the fish are good and presented EVIDENCE of ten good fish, so isn’t he, by our definition of external consistency being truthful? Of course not! What is the problem? The problem is that the seller picked and chose the evidence that he would present and then claimed categorically that ALL of the fish are good. The lesson here is presenting evidence is not enough for external consistency and truth. It is very clear you have to present ALL of the evidence. Not presenting ALL of the evidence is what the left wing media constantly does as well as the right wing. The problem is that what is presented isn’t true because the evidence has been hand picked to substantiate a claim from the left or right which is consistent with their rhetoric and politics which nonetheless if you looked at ALL of the evidence isn’t true. I presented the facts of an entire population. The media just picks hand picked cases that are not representative of the entire population to make their point. The right may do just the opposite and emphasize the bad fish when there are some good ones. Nobody is presenting the entire population and being honest like I am. The left is being kind and encouraging, and I understand that, but they are untruthful. Picking and choosing evidence and presenting partial truth is what the left and right do, it’s the modern game.
I am saying simply that truth is a statement or system which is internally and externally consistent.
Copyright Eric Wasiolek - 9/26/2020