The Stopped Clock

"Even a stopped clock tells the truth twice a day."

Wrong! A stopped clock just sits there. It is stopped. The accidental position of dead clock hands says nothing about time, but it does say something about the idea of truth. To see when the dead clock is right, you must already know the time. You must think that truth is not correspondence to reality, but correspondence to what you already know.

If truth is correspondence to prior knowledge, then a stopped clock tells the truth twice a day. But that is absurd, because it means that the essential of a clock is not keeping time, which the stopped clock does not do, but telling time, which makes every radio into a clock when it tells you the time.

If truth is, instead, correspondence to reality, then any statement aspiring to be true must indicate its connection to reality. If, for example, I say, "Two plus two equals four," that is, taken literally, a meaningless statement. You need to ask, "Two what plus two what equals four what?" After all, two water drops added together and added to two more water drops will not result in four water drops, but in one puddle.

The answer is: "Two units plus two units equals four units." By convention, stating a number is taken to mean that many units. It is the idea of unit that connects the statement to reality, and makes it self-evident, meaning, "On a scale of units, four is two beyond two."

A parrot saying, "Two plus two equals four," is not thinking of units, or making a statement. It is producing sounds it has learned by imitation. That these sounds correspond to prior knowledge is meaningless for truth. Truth is cognitive correspondence to reality. The parrot sounds have no cognitive content. They have no connection to truth. They are not true sounds or false sounds, but meaningless sounds.

So is this statement: "You cannot dismiss ESP without reasons."

To see how meaningless that statement is, try to pin it down. Does "you cannot" mean that I am unable to, or that I may not, or that I ought not, or that I am being ordered not to? Does "dismiss" mean disbelieve, or ignore, or disdain, or what? Isn't "extra-sensory perception" an obvious self-canceling oxymoron? Does "without reasons" have any meaning in this meaningless context?

The statement cannot be pinned down, because it contains no reference to reality. It does not refer to anything in particular, but just sort of something in a general region. That is, the meaning is not cognitive but emotive. If you were to say, "That is not true," you would be saying, "That does not correspond to reality." But what reality? What meaning are you referring to? How can the meaning be wrong when there is no meaning?

The correct answer to an arbitrary statement is, "Huh? What is that supposed to mean?" Or: "Does that have any connection to reality?" Or: "How would that apply to me?" Or: "What has that got to do with anything?"

Since truth is correspondence to reality, a statement that contains no reference to reality is a stopped clock. It is not seeking truth, or telling truth. It has no connection to truth, so it has no connection to the idea of true or false. Like the stopped clock, it is a meaningless nullity.

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