No quote but merely something I once thought (and still kind of think). It has the virtue of expressing the fundamental asymmetry of things. One could also say it expresses something some people would term the ‘directionality’ of life. But that will require some ‘teasing out’, as those same people that would use such terminology would say.
But before any of that: yes, I believe firmly that the title statement above is unequivocally true. Go on and make fun of me – as ‘the great many’ did when I uttered this proposition on the internet somewhat more than a decade ago. It is not just a matter that I believe it is true but also that I believe there is no contradiction – not even a paradox – in proporing this title sentence and believing it is true.
Never mind the ego-centrosm of this last paragraph though, let us examine what the proposition can show us who have enough of an open mind not to require of the utterer of an apparent contradictio in terminis that she is famous in order to take both the utterer and the utterance seriously:
If nothing is true than there is no such thing as perfectability of knowledge. It will never be the case that one can say, in any sensical way, that we have achieved knowledge of more than half of what can be known. It is always false to believe that we are approaching an absolute limit of knowledge (whilst we may never know everything we will always get closer to knowing everything, even if the rate of adding knowledge is getting increasingly slower). It is in fact one of the cases of something being false – and a demonstration that not only singular statements like ‘I am taller than my wife’ are false.
An interesting corrolary of the latter example of falsehood is that there is no reason to fall for a certain instinctive form of cultural pessimism that holds that we are condemned, in the future, to something like a law of diminishing returns, & that the truely grand human intellectual endeavours are of the past. In other words that the past was a time of quality – and that the future cannot but be a time of quantity, in comparison.
But things are even better than that (if we assume truth as well as non-thingness of the claim claimed in above title). As some things are false, there is not only progress but that progress is at once inevitable and always fully qualitative (and therefore also democratic; any progress is good progress given there is, per the above, no quantitative measure to how far that progress brings us to an end goal). This is the ‘directionality’ mentioned above; it is the creative force that can’t but propel is into the future and into a time in which more is known and improvements have been made. Entropy is the analogy and Bergson the origin of the idea; brute creativity and the restlessness of anything that lives (and also a sense of acceleration but not an acceleration to a maximum speed but the type of acceleration that makes you feel you do go faster than before and makes you fear you can keep on going faster; the type of acceleration that is felt in the feeling of vertigo).
But more on that later because the combination of the clauses is more than a summing up. The direction is not merely a direction to more (negative) knowledge without being a direction towards a specific or even specifiable goal but it is at the same time a direction away from the present that necessarily includes the present as only measure against which it is possible to speak of truth and falsity. In other words: for reasons of (Quinean) intelligibility one needs to respect any conceptual scheme that, presently, allows to express what is wrong and right about it. One has to respect it because it’s the only basis on which one can be creative and it is the only reason why the directionality is not haphazardly chaotic – or merely stochastic, as in a Brownian movement – but ‘memorizes’ the advances of each previous present. Not only an idea of entropy but also one of energy.
So we come to Davidson and his ‘Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme’, but with an additional twist because although we’ll be unable to positively say what is absolute, there is not just possibility but absolute necessity to what we have learned over time to be most shockingly false, such as the idea that the fittest has the right to survive.
In fact, to conclude a rambling that was meant to be an icy cold exposé of what I have gathered to be both consistent, new as well as correct in my thinking, when we utter the supposedly positive truth that all people are equal we merely are using a shorthand notation for the fact that it is bad to disallow some people a chance based on coincidence. When I say ‘bad’ here it has to be taken in its turn as shorthand for: “it is false that we will discover more falsities when we would discriminate some people’. Or still differently: there’s good and there is bad intention, the bad intention tries to oppose the directionality of progress (e.g. for personal gain) whilst the good intention tries to smooth things over for progress (without speeding so fast that things come apart and disintegrate into chaos i.e. always pragmatically).
It is also not by chance that the categorical imperative is an universal negative … but let me do you all the favour of not also dragging that into here.
[When reading this I was listening to Billie Holiday, “Lady in Satin”.]