Basic Metaphysical Questions

This thread is sparked from a conversation between Tentative and I, on the potential of things being ‘true for me’.

Tentative, let me put a question to you- and let’s seperate it from religious concerns for the moment, those will come later.

 Suppose I draw an equilateral triangle in the dust with my finger. Then suppose I walk away, leaving the triangle utterly alone, unobserved. A version of the old 'a tree falls in the woods' thing.  So, some questions:

First, is the unobserved triangle still there? Is it still a triangle? Are all it’s sides and angles still equal?

Second, suppose after drawing this triangle, I go and tell people that what I drew was a square. I come to believe this myself, and nobody goes out to see what I drew for themselves. 

Is it still an equilateral triangle at that point?

I believe yes and yes. The triangle I created remains a triangle when unobserved, remains a triangle when people come to believe that it is a square. What do you think?

Hi Ucc.,

You would have to ask whether the dust could be effected by wind, rain or the dust of ages. If nothing has obliterated your triangle, it would be still there.

If somebody knows the difference, then yes. If, however, nobody knows what an equilateral triangle or a square is, they might believe it is a square, since you believe it yourself. However, the form you drew in the dust would still be there – whatever it is called.

This is leading somewhere … ?

Yep, I hope it’s leading somewhere, Bob. We’ll have to see.

Great question!

Despite your desire to get at the objectivity of truth, I’m sure someone here will consider the possibility that your triangle could be trodden on or messed up, or that maybe someone was lurking in the shadows and changed it’s form when you were gone. This being the case, it seems like you will never be completely sure that your triangle is still there, and you cannot discount the possibility that it has been turned into a square in your absence. Obviously, you believing it to be a square does not make it so, although maybe Tentative will disagree.

Thus, as this metaphor relates to the spiritual, I’m sure someone one could draw the conclusion that no-one can be sure about any belief or “triangles”. But I think this is incorrect because the metaphor is not an accurate (take that to mean biblical in my universe!) picture of the relationship between God and man. If I am physically distant from God and only have access to him via books and some vauge experience, then the metaphor would seem to hold - I can never be completely sure about anything. However, if the triangle is not a triangle but a person who never leaves my side then obviously it changes the possible answers.

Matthew 28
19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

The reason a Christian can be sure of objective truth is directly related to the presence of the third person of the trinity. I’m sure this wasn’t where you wanted to go with this, so feel free to ignore me and get back on track with Tentative.

Well, I’m just trying to establish and agreed-upon links between perception and reality at the moment. It someone states that we can’t be sure the triangle is there because maybe it was damaged, that’s fine, what’s important here is whether or not the triangle changes (or ceases to exist, perhaps) just on the basis of it’s not being percieved anymore.

Questions about what kind of certainty we can have will come somewhat later. I don’t think Tentative would say that the triangle becomes a square if enough people think it does (though Thirst might), but there will be implications either way.

All things are interconnected, whether we are aware of them or not.

All commentary; verbal, written or digitally transmitted; by this poster is expressly a matter of personal opinion, individual belief, personal experience, and is not intended to purport necessity of change(s), implied/perceived, to other posters; physical, mental or emotional. Any attempt to treat this post in a manner contradictory to what has been thusly stated, is erroneous, and is the fault, entirely, of the reader of said post.


No offense brother, but the question you posited is erroneous in the context of the current debate.

You are asking others to have known or unknown perception of the created.

The issue at hand is known or unknown perception of the creator, and that is where your analogy/metaphor fails.

In this instance, you are the creator, (ineffable), but you are asking others of what you have created. (manifested)

Unless your equilateral triangle suddenly gains cognisance and self-awareness, you are going to have to come up with a more useful example.