Of proofs and truths

Tembusu senior and soon-to-be-graduate Cedric Chin wrote about Tembusu Junior Seminar ‘Proof: What’s truth got to do with it?’ on his blog, metacog. The post received several hundred likes and shares over one day. Treehouse decided to ask him some questions about his post. Do read the original post here.


1) What compelled you to write this piece?
Prof Tay’s class was really the most important class I’ve taken in NUS. I’m not sure if I managed to communicate it clearly in the essay, but I’m a lot more rigorous in my thinking now, which led to doing well in other things: it shaped how I ran the NUS Hackers, and how I performed in my internships in the subsequent summers.

It was also hard to communicate to freshmen how powerful the class was, for me, and why they should consider taking it. So I thought I’d write an explanatory essay instead.

2) What is the most interesting thing that people are saying about it?
A friend said that he thought there should be more GEMs like Proof in NUS: that is, modules that focused on ‘becoming better humans’, as opposed to ‘learning more stuff’.

3) Is it true that you used to lack appreciation for arts and humanities subjects before coming to Tembusu?
Oh yeah. Someone told me a few weeks back, at one of the farewell dinner things us Tembusu alumni-to-be were doing – that I was a lot more annoying in my first year here. I used to make fun of sociology and Derrida incessantly at dinner. Actually I still make fun of Derrida.

4) Do you recall an instance where you stopped yourself midsentence because you were reevaluating your own assumptions?
I was arguing that we needed to charge a token sum for an event or we’d have an incredibly high drop-out rate for registrations. I stopped myself mid-argument because I realise my assumptions might have changed – I was basing this off experience on events that we ran two years ago, that were also slightly different. I then decided we needed to test the assumption instead.

5) In a hypothetical scenario where your girlfriend may be cheating on you, which of the four theories of truth would you prefer to adopt: correspondence, coherence, consensus, or pragmatic?
Correspondence and coherence, probably. Correspondence (do the facts confirm the hypothesis that she’s cheating on me?) and correspondence (does this behaviour match up to what I know of her behaviour in the past?)