It seems to me that the act of searching for truth, finding truth, and expressing truth is all just transformations of matter (and energy). For example, suppose I am proving some mathematical theorem. The "proving" is just molecular interactions in my brain that cause rewiring of neurons. The belief that my proof is successful is just more molecular interactions in my brain. Expressing the theorem is just talking (creating sound waves) or writing (creating patterns of ink on paper).

If all of this "proving" is just transformations of matter according to physical laws, then how is any truth being discovered? And how can any truth exist? It seems like Andrew Wiles proving Fermat's Last Theorem is fundamentally no different than a slinky walking down some stairs or an ice cube melting in the sun.

When Andrew Wiles publishes his proof of Fermat's Last Theorem and other people read it, they may feel good about what they have read and call it "truth", but again that is just because of the molecular interactions in their brains and bodies. And now that they have read the proof, all that has changed are some connections between neurons in their brains. Can one lump of matter (the brain after reading the proof) contain more "truth" than another lump of matter (the brain before reading the proof)? Does a lump of clay contain truth?

  • A physicalist will say that the truth resides in strong correlations between the brain patterns and those in its environment, and tell a story of how these are achieved ("discovered") through their interaction. A lump of clay lacks the material structure to carry such strong correlations, and therefore it is out of luck – Conifold Sep 22 '16 at 17:28

Is a book of literature the same as the ink in the bottle?

Is a statue the same as the amorphous marble?

Is a random vibration of the atmospheric pressure caused by a falling rock the same as the cry of a new born child?

Physicalism does not degrades the world in a soulless nothing. It is just a monism that puts matter or the physical world as the fundamental substance of the world and disregards other parallel forms of existence. (soul, divinity) Knowledge, feelings, truth are manifestations of the physical world, and do not have a different origin or cause.

Does a lump of clay contain truth?

A lamp of clay no. A lamp of neurons, contained in a person, living in society certainly yes.


  • 1
    Can you add some sources and a clearer exposition of your answer? – Alexander S King Sep 22 '16 at 16:42

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