different or same

Toilet: Hey Socrates?

Socrates: Uh huh?

Toilet: I had an observation lately about scientists.

Socrates: What about them?

Toilet: They look for different things. Some look to see how things are the same. Others look to see how things are different. The former may accuse the later for being too specific, blinded by details and missing the essence. The later may accuse the former for being too general, drifting away from reality, and not instructive in practice when specific problems need to be solved.

Socrates: Oh well. Not just scientists I guess! Aren’t we all like that?

Toilet: Indeed, more or less I’d say. Then Socrates, tell me which one is better. Should scientists look for what’s the same or what’s different?

Socrates: Slow down. I don’t follow you. What do you mean by ‘better’?

Toilet: Um, well, hum. What about … what is more aligned with the goal of Science?

Socrates: What is the goal of Science?

Toilet: To seek truth? I guess?

Socrates: What sets scientists apart from other truth seekers? Or do you think non-scientists do not seek truth?

Toilet: Certainly many seek truth without taking the path of Science.

Socrates: So scientists seek truth as many others do but in a particular way?

Toilet: You can say that.

Socrates: What way is that?

Toilet: Some systematic procedures has to be involved in measuring the phenomenon of interest, then the conclusions should be logically derived from the measurement, added with some assumptions. They also try to be as objective as possible with their procedures, even though absolute objectivity doesn’t seem to be achievable.

Socrates: So scientists seek systematically verifiable truth? That’s what you meant?

Toilet: Sounds legit.

Socrates: So scientists only seek some kind of truth not other kind of truth?

Toilet: Is there another kind of truth? You mean… non-verifiable truth? What kind of truth is that? What is it good for?

Socrates: Aren’t truth good for people by being true? Are all truth verifiable, which requires the one who verifies and the means of verification? Does the truthfulness of truth depend on the existence of the one who verifies and the means of verification?

Toilet: I don’t know the answer to that Socrates. We can talk about it another time. I think we’d digress too far following that line of questions. What I asked was whether it’s better for scientists to seek the same or to seek the different.

Socrates: Alright, alright. And then you clarified that being better was about being aligned with the goal of Science, which is to seek systematically verifiable truth. So let me rephrase. You are asking whether to seek systematically verifiable truth is to seek what’s the same about things, or to seek what’s different about things? Or whichever is closer than the other in pursuing that goal?

Toilet: That sounds clear. Indeed that’s what I meant to ask.

Socrates: We want to figure out whether systematically verifiable truth is more about the sameness or the difference in things.

Toilet: Sounds about right.

Socrates: I don’t know the definitive answer. But shall we look at it together slowly and see what we may find?

Toilet: Why not!

Socrates: Let’s start with a simpler question. Is what is the same in things systematically verifiable? Or say, can we use some systematic procedures to measure two things in some way such that the measurements are somewhat identical, in which sense they are the same?

Toilet: That doesn’t sound difficult. Of course we can do that.

Socrates: So what’s the same about things are systematically verifiable, so long as they are measurable and therefore fall in the domain of Science.

Toilet: … right.

Socrates: What about the difference then? Is what is different in things systematically verifiable? That is, we can use some systematic procedures to measure two things in some way such that the measurements end up somewhat different, in which sense they are different.

Toilet: That sounds right as well.

Socrates: Then we may say that both the same and the different about things are systematically verifiable.

Toilet: Yep, that sums up what we have been discussing so far.

Socrates: Can we tell which one is better based on which one is more systematically verifiable?

Toilet: Not likely. It seems to be a matter of choice.

Socrates: Then whatever can tell us about which one is better, if any, must be about truth itself or about the relation between truth and systematic verifiability.

Toilet: There doesn’t seem to be any other way right now.

Socrates: Let’s look at how truth itself relates to our question.

Toilet: Sure. Our question was whether systematically verifiable truth was about what’s the same in things or what’s different in things. Systematic verifiability does not tell us too much. Then we may ask whether what’s the same in things has more truth in it, or conversely, what’s different in things has more truth in it. If truth itself is about what is the same in things, then one shall seek the systematically verifiable truth about those things by seeking what is the same in those things. If the truth itself is about what is different in things, then one shall seek the systematically verifiable truth about those things by seeking what is different in those things.

Socrate: Well said, Toilet! So we must ask whether what’s true about things is about how they are the same or how they are different. Is that so? I’m just summarizing what you’ve said.

Toilet: That’s it.

Socrates: But which one is it?

Toilet: Hum…

Socrates: So we are asking whether truth is about sameness or difference of things.

Toilet: I know what you’re saying. But it seems that we have come to an even trickier question than what we’ve started with.

Socrates: That seems to be the case. But shall we continue?

Toilet: Of course. We’ve come this far!

Socrates: Let’s try this. To say that truth is about the sameness of things, are we saying things are truly the same?

Toilet: Of course not! We are talking about the sameness of two or many things, which is not to say that they are entirely the same. If that’s what you meant by saying “truly the same”.

Socrates: So if we say something is true, we don’t mean only part of it is true, instead we mean that it is entirely true.

Toilet: I agree.

Socrates: Then can two or many things be entirely the same?

Toilet: Entirely the same huh? Well, usually when I say something and something are the same, I mean they have something in common, in fact maybe a lot in common. But if I look hard enough then I can also find something different between them. So I cannot say if two or many things can be entirely the same.

Socrates: So if we are talking about two or many things, they cannot be entirely the same.

Toilet: I can’t see otherwise for now. If two things are entirely the same, they are in fact one thing.

Socrates: I hear you. You meant that one thing can be entirely the same with itself, but cannot be entirely the same with another thing.

Toilet: That is so. That’s what “another” means.

Socrates: Then if two things has something about them that is the same, they must also be different. Otherwise, they have to be one but not two things.

Toilet: Yep, we’ve come to that.

Socrates: If two things indeed have something that is the same in them, would that something, let me call it X, be just X itself, or is that the copy or copies of X itself partaking in those two things?

Toilet: What do you mean by copies, Socrates? Haven’t we just said that the so-called “copies” cannot be entirely the same with each other? Then they must possess some difference! Then they have something that is not the same in those two things.

Socrate: You got me. So if two things have something that is the same in them, it must be the something itself, which is entirely, or say, truly the same with itself.

Toilet: That I agree.

Socrates: Back to our question. If we say that truth is about the sameness of things, we are in fact saying that truth is about the thing that is the same in different things, and the ultimate truth would be about the thing that is the same in all things.

Toilet: Yes, if we say that truth is about how things are the same.

Socrates: Does it seem right then? In those phrases.

Toilet: I don’t know. I can’t see how it can be false.

Socrates: Shall we try examining the other side of the argument then? Meaning, whether truth is about how things are different.

Toilet: Oh we have to.

Socrates: If we say that truth is about how two things are different, do we mean that things are truly different?

Toilet: Well.. they could but they don’t have to.

Socrates: What do you mean?

Toilet: Two things can be truly different things. That is, they have nothing in them that is the same. But most things we see every day also have something in common.

Socrates: So nothing in our argument prevents them from being entirely different.

Toilet: Nothing I can think of. But consider this, we’ve asked whether scientists should seek what’s different about things.

Socrates: We’ve discussed that.

Toilet: If two things are entirely different, the truth that was sought in their difference is just the truth about those things separately by themselves. That is, if I seek how one thing is different from another thing that is entirely different, I just need to study the one thing by itself. There is no need to compare them at all. I don’t know what is to seek between them.

Socrates: I see what you are trying to say – if we say that scientists should seek how two or many things are different, it only makes sense if those things are not entirely different. Otherwise, they should simply seek how one thing is, or how each of many things is.

Toilet: Exactly.

Socrates: What happens if we do want to study things that are entirely different? Mustn’t we first find those entirely different things? Then we can study them separately by themselves. I’d still say that’s a path to the truth about them. Then truth would be how things that are entirely different are by themselves. The ultimate truth would be how everything that is entirely different than others is by itself. Wouldn’t that sum up to the entire existence itself?

Toilet: Yeah, you are right on that. But the question is how do you find two or many entirely different things? If I randomly collect two things somewhere, I can always think of something that is the same about them, then they are not entirely different.

Socrates: You just said it now.

Toilet: What did I say?

Socrates: That you can always find something that is the same in two randomly picked things.

Toilet: Yes?

Socrates: If you can find all that is the same about two things, then the rest of them that is not in the thing that contains all the sameness between them would be entirely different. Or would it?

Toilet: True. If the rest of the two things are not entirely different, then they still have something that is the same, meaning we have not found all that is the same about those two things. So if we have excluded all the sameness from those two randomly picked things, we will end up with two entirely different things.

Socrates: Yes and no.

Toilet: What is it?

Socrates: Three things we’ll have. The remains of the two randomly picked things aftering excluding the thing that contains all the sameness, and the thing that contains all the sameness itself.

Toilet: Ah I see. If the thing that contains all the sameness of the two things has something that is the same with the remain of one of the randomly picked things, that very thing must also be in the other randomly picked thing. Then we have not include all the sameness in the thing that we claim to contain all the sameness of the two things.

Socrates: If we find all that is the same in things, we also find all that is entirely different from each other. If we find everything that is entirely different from each other in those things, wouldn’t we have also found all that is the same about those things?

Toilet: Indeed.

Socrates: Now it seems that the scientists who look to see how things are the same and those scientists who look to see how things are different are doing the same thing.

Toilet: I’d say that they are both looking for the right partition of the entire existence.

Socrates: I like how you framed it. But let’s not forget, we must also acknowledge that those two types of scientists are also different, just as we have argued earlier that there would otherwise only be one type of scientist.

Toilet: I didn’t forget. But their difference seems to be helping each other to fulfill their own pursuit and reach the same truth eventually.

Socrates: However, we still have one problem.

Toilet: What is that?

Socrates: We first said that the ultimate truth is about the thing that is the same in all things. In the complementary argument, we said that the ultimate truth is about how everything that is entirely different than others is by itself, or say, how the entire existence itself is by itself. Are they the same statement? Because if not, the equivalence we just draw, that is, the sameness-seekers and the difference-seekers are reaching the same thing eventually, would be sketchy, since they do not reach the same ultimate truth.

Toilet: If they are indeed the same statement, then the thing that is the same in all things must be the entire existence its very self which contains all the things that are entirely different.

Socrates: Just as you said. But we have also said that entirely different things should not have anything that is the same in them – that is, there is not one thing that is the same in all things. Is there?

Toilet: That’s no good. “Everything” should include things that have something the same with others and things that are entirely different from others. We have a contradiction if we attempt to equate those two statements about the ultimate truth.

Socrates: Maybe we have to roll back something that we have said?

Toilet: Where was the problem, Socrates?

Socrates: I said that everything that is entirely different than others sums up to the entire existence. I could be mistaken.

Toilet: I see. If the entire existence is made of all the things that are entirely different from each other, those things cannot be entirely different because each of them partakes in existence – partaking in existence would be what is the same in all of them.

Socrate: You are exactly right. Then are there things that are entirely different from each other?

Toilet: If things are, they must partake in existence then they must have something that is the same in them. Conversely, we can say that things which are are entirely different from things which are not. Or say, being is entirely different from nonbeing. But as one of your friends said that nonbeing cannot be.

Socrate: Dear Parmenides you mean?

Toilet: That’s him.

Socrate: So where we are now? We were trying to see if the thing that is the same in all things should be the thing that contains all the things that are entirely different from each other.

Toilet: Earlier we thought that the thing that contains all the things that are entirely different from each other was the entire existence. Then we found that thing only contains being and nonbeing. But if nonbeing do not exist by definition. Then the thing is just one thing, which is being itself.

Socrates: So that the entire existence is one and the entire existence itself, which is entirely the same with itself, and also contains everything that is entirely different from itself, which is nonbeing or we usually call it – nothing.

Toilet: I heard that the empty set is a subset of any set.

Socrates: You always tell it like it is.

Toilet: Then we have come to this: the thing that is the same in all things is the entire existence itself. Isn’t that the same as what we started with?

Socrates: It seems so.

Toilet: Socrates, you are just trying to mess with me, are you not?!

Socrates: Don’t be mad at me my friend. I didn’t intend to confuse you. I was just confused myself.

Toilet: Alrighty then. After all these, I still can’t tell if one type of scientists is taking the better path than the other type. It looks like I have asked the wrong question.

Socrates: We don’t know yet. We haven’t finished the argument.

Toilet: What is it that we have not finished?

Socrates: We said that there are three places where we may find if one is better than the other.

Toilet: Remind me.

Socrates: We tried to find out whether to seek systematically verifiable truth is to seek what’s the same about things, or to seek what’s different about things.

Toilet: That is correct.

Socrates: We looked into the systematic verifiability of those two, and find them level to each other.

Toilet: Yes, we did.

Socrates: Then we looked into how they each relates to truth.

Toilet: Still one doesn’t seem to be superior than the other.

Socrates: Yes. And there is one more we haven’t looked at. That is the relation between verifiability and truth. It sends us back to the question about whether truth has to be verifiable, where you told me to shut up. But we cannot look into your question thoroughly without touching it.

Toilet: Oh another time, Socrates, another time! You have exhausted me.

Socrates: Very fine. Until next time then.

Toilet: Until next time.

Socrates flushed the toilet and they all went to rest. 


Recorded by T.S. 10/30/2016

One thought on “different or same

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