Hoeflin: Theories of Truth

On CSGnet, Vincent van der Lubbe (Apr 3, 2020, 8:08 AM) responded to “the discussion on reality/Reality” by recommending R.K. Hoeflin, “Theories of truth: A comprehensive synthesis”.

He tells us that in 1988 “Hoeflin won the American Philosophical Association’s Rockefeller Prize” for this article, no doubt their appreciation for seeming to corral 12 competing theories of truth under one conceptual umbrella. (This is Hoeflin’s count in the article, the 12th being his own proposed umbrella theory.) Hoeflin is also founder of the Mega Society, “an organization whose members are selected by means of high-range intelligence tests”,<1> on whose website this paper appears. I have created a more readable PDF image of it.

I was not aware of Popper’s discussion of the purposive action of a ‘selective system’ as “the core of a metaphysical theory”. Hoeflin’s hedged suggestion that this “seems virtually equivalent to what Norbert Weiner called a cybernetic system” calls for something more substantial than the mere assertion, but discussions of negative-feedback control after the Bell Labs mathematical formulation were not a secret, certainly not after the war, and Popper very likely was exposed or engaged in these discussions in the same time period as was Weiner prior to the publication of either’s book.

From a survey article in an encyclopedia, Hoeflin abstracts four “main factors” of a purposive act, D (drives), A (anticipatory sets, tools and techniques that are anticipated as possible means of satisfying a drive), G (goals which, when attained, satisfy a drive), and Q (that satisfaction or quiescence). I map these to functions in a control loop as follows:

D: higher-level control producing a reference signal r.
A: alternative environmental feedback paths for control of p=r.
G: r as produced by D.
Q: p=r, that is, successful control of the perception that the higher level D calls for by setting reference value r for the pertinent comparators at the level below it.

Hoeflin’s subsequent discussion depends upon summations in the encyclopedia article of the several philosophers’ definitions of truth. These summations may be deceptively simplified.

A appears to begin with environmental features like crowbars but then is stretched to include also systems of formal logic devoid of material reference (Carnap) and practices of rhetorical persuasion (Strawson). Brilliant employment of logic by polemicists like Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky are revealed also to be forms of rhetorical persuasion when we enquire into their tacit or covert assumptions–garbage in garbage out as programmers say. (Logic has this peculiar Schrödinger’s cat property such that if one premise is false the conclusion of the most impeccable argument cannot be determined to be either true or false.) These abstract forms of A may be considered part of the environmental feedback function for some high-level comparator C only if all the control loops that contribute to the perceptual input of C from the level below it are taken to constitute its environment. (In this view, each level in the hierarchy ‘lives’ in the perceptual universe that is constructed by the level below, and only the Intensity level lives in the physical environment.)

From Grover’s proposal that an assertion of the truth of a sentence S is equivalent to merely asserting the sentence S, Hoeflin concludes e.g. that “the sentence ‘Snow is white’ could be regarded as a more elaborate expression for the goal object called snow.” But the sentence and perception “snow is white” together with white clothing could be A as means of controlling concealment from an adversary.

In Averroes ‘Double Truth’ “in considering such issues as “the immortality of the soul, … [t]he masses presumably tend to think in relatively concrete terms, which suggests an emphasis on goal objects, G”. Why is this not thinking in terms of satisfaction of those goals, Q? Conversely, “philosophers presumably tend to think in more abstract terms, focusing on problems in general terms, i.e., as drives to understand, D, divorced from any particular, e.g., current, situation or set of goal objects.” These philosophers abstract from those pesky lower levels of perception just as systems of formal logic do (above). But these philosophical considerations are considered among D = higher-level systems that originate r = G the goal of control whereas Carnapian logic is considered among the ‘anticipatory sets’ A = “tools and techniques by means of which one can anticipate achieving” control amid the exigencies of the present environment, conceptual as well as physical. Are philosophical considerations of, say, immortality (Hoeflin’s example) never in the conceptual environment of some other perception and possible means of controlling it? Are manipulations of mathematical logic never sources of reference values for control? Hoeflin’s DAGQD loop is is not hierarchical, its elements are not consistently defined, and from a PCT perspective a muddle results.


  1. A comparison: “Mensa is open to people who score on specific intelligence tests at or above the 98th percentile (1 in 50, which generally corresponds with an IQ score of 130). The Triple Nine Society cutoff is at the 99.9th percentile (1 in 1,000, IQ 148). The Prometheus Society cutoff is at the 99.997th percentile (1 in 30,000, IQ 162). The Mega Society is theoretically limited to 1 in 1,000,000. As a Promethean I can say that membership of any IQ society is an indicator of low achievement relative to intelligence.” Hoeflin is the author of the Mega and Titan tests.

You can find a “hierarchical” model of “truth” here:

This model takes into account the imperfect mapping process that is going on by the “truth” formation or verification process.

And relating this mapping process to cybernetics’ goal-orientation process we get what the following book is about here:

I find this “synergic power” thing to be pretty much the highest-level thing as it is about harmonizing the goals of many agents. :slight_smile:

This is just an aside, but the link given by POck (i.e., https://www.thisisnotthat.com/structural-differential/) provides an excellent introduction to a free online course on “General Semantics” dealing with the ideas of Alfred Korzybski. Highly Recommended! (Mainly because I have just looked at the course, copied the first module, found the materials to be excellent, and plan to study/audit the entire course myself since I am a Korzybski fan as indicated by pages 191-197 of my book Your Behavior.)