61 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. tony lynch,

    Excuse me for re-starting our debate in this thread. The penny has finally dropped and the joke is on me. I have realised that this must be a tongue-in-cheek test thrown out to discombobulate new students. Let us start with your text before us.

    “To say “p” and to say “p is true” must be to say the same thing. Therefore “is true” cannot have any content of its own (otherwise the two propositions would not have the same meaning). It follows that there can be no “theory of truth”, as there is nothing to theorise above and beyond ascertaining (if one can) whether or not the relevant claim (p) “say sof what is that it is, or of what is not that it is not”. (This “redundancy” account of truth owes to Aristotle and Wittgenstein).” – Tony Lynch.

    The reasoning you put forward here is clearly a logical fallacy. I will deal with it at that level.

    Let us perform a test to see if “p” ? “p is true” is universally true.
    Assume a carpenter is talking to his apprentice about house framing.
    Let “p” = “this stud”

    It is now clear that “This stud” is not identical to “This stud is true.” “True” in carpenter-speak means straight in the Euclidean straight-line sense or straight as in alignment with some other reference like another stud or a plumb-line.

    Thus formally, there are language-systems where “is true” can be set up to have no content and language-systems where “is true” can be set up to have content.

    The original formulation is a self-sealing proposition. It seals itself and its deduced consequences against refutation by ensuring that “is true” has no content. This is the condition it needs to seal itself. It is in essence a simple logical fallacy. It is a self-sealing argument.

    My longer and clumsier argument against it also stands. The substantive issue is whether a logical language statement is merely self-referentially paradoxical or self-sealing or whether it is not sealed from other logic in its formal language system or whether it is not sealed from reference to a non-language system.

  2. Greg Hunt has made a couple of good announcements with his new additional Minister for Cities role, about an urban canopy policy to increase tree cover in cities to reduce heat (this can reduce heat by 4 or 6 degrees) and considering moving towards 20 minute cities by trying to have more jobs located closer to residential areas throughout the metropolitan area.

  3. Ikonoclast,

    There is a poetry book I read as an undergraduate, called Pierce-Arrow by Susan Howe which uses some of the papers of Charles Sanders Pierce and other things. It seemed a shame not to mention this book as he was brought up. As you are interested in the idea of “truth” Howe centres this question on the mystery surrounding Pierce’s wife:

    Juliette Annette Froissy
    Pourtalai (or de Portalès
    said to be the widow of
    a Count Portalai her true
    surname is still unknown)
    What I see is the image
    or hidden correspondence
    Sometimes she claims to be
    a Hapsburg princess she
    knew Kaiser Wilhelm II
    (they were children together
    her mysterious income
    Her new first name if
    it is she is Anna Ada
    von Portalès born in
    Laasow/Niederlausitz (then
    Prussia) the first of
    seven children on table
    5 Genealogical Appendix
    But Anna died April 17
    1889 unmarried is there
    ever absolute certainty
    Peirce had no idea she
    spoke Polish among half
    a dozen other languages

  4. In relation to my topic on Monday Message Board and now here in Sandpit. It was tangentially related to my naive philosophy “home project” of attempting to develop what I called Evolutionary Physicalism. It was obvious to me that it would necessarily be a monist system. I have just discovered Charles Sanders Pierce (1839–1914). Ignorant me! Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy informs me he was (among many other things) “a developer of an evolutionary, psycho-physically monistic metaphysical system”. I am only about 110 years too late with this project! It occurs to me I can do two things if I want to continue to pursue this as a home project. I can continue and finish my own naive philosophy and then read Pierce. Or I can do the reverse. There are points for and against each approach as an autodidact.

    Finally, two questions, if anyone has suggestions.

    1. Is there a philosophy blog I can go to so that I can spare readers of this blog my “philosophical” maundering?

    2. I have a 40 year out-of-date B.A. (Literature/TV/Cinema studies) but probably no subjects which would give me exemptions for a Philosophy B.A. I never utilised my B.A. professionally; so no career in the fields stated above nor in teaching. Is it impossible or just ridiculous to contemplate a philosophy B.A. at age 60 plus? I have a horror of appearing ridiculous in person although I am obviously quite reconciled to appearing ridiculous incognito. My blogging here is proof of that.

  5. @ZM

    There is or was the Pierce-Arrow Motor Company. So what is the allusion to Arrow in Pierce-Arrow? To the motor car? To the fact that an arrow pierces? To the arrow of time? To the arrow motif through the “Pierce” on the car’s hood or marque ornament? To the ironic fact that the Pierce-Arrow automobile was for the well-heeled and Pierce ended up very poor. To all of the above? 😉

    From what I have read, Juliette Annette Froissy was a gypsy. That would kind of call into question many claims about her origins.

  6. tony lynch,

    I suspect you won’t reply now. I have had a few attempts at the difficult problem you set me. In each case, I think I made headway in my idiosyncratic way. You won’t agree with that of course if you sincerely hold to the view that your proposition or “problem” elucidated.

    I have come to the conclusion (in the absence of real feedback or debate) that what you set is essentially a type of “Russellian Paradox”. It is a particularly good one. It works by a trick which is essentially a combination of self-reference and self-sealing. It utilises both (il)logical and semantic ploys. I state baldly that I think it is logically and philosophically wrong. A part of me still doubts that you hold to the proposition seriously but rather thinks that you set it as a test.

    There is a considerable lineup of reasons why the proposition has logical errors in it.

    1. Formally, there are language-systems where “is true” can be set up to have no content and language-systems where “is true” can be set up to have content.

    2. The proposition in question is designed to set “is true” to 0 or no content.

    3. “p” ? “p” is self reference.

    4. You claim: “To say “p” and to say “p is true” must be to say the same thing.”

    5. Thus “p” ? “p is true”
    “p” ? “p” + 0
    therefore “is true” = + 0
    and we are back to “p” ? “p”.

    6. Thus we have a pure self-reference which claims to mean more than pure self-reference.

    7. From an identity alone nothing can be deduced.

    8. You claim: “Therefore “is true” cannot have any content of its own (otherwise the two propositions would not have the same meaning).”

    9. This deduced or inferred claim has no validity independent of the self-referring identity where you set it up. It is an invalid inference if it is applied to anything wider than than the self-referring identity itself.

    10. The proposition attempts to jump from internal self-referring logic to a truth claim of wider application. If it is not attempting this then it is saying nothing except that an identity is an identity, in which case the proposition has no application beyond itself.

    11. “There can be no theory of truth” IS a theoretic truth claim about theories of truth. It sets up a self-reference dilemma of its own. Employing the term “account” later is a semantic trick which fails. An “account of truth” purports to say something with content about truth.

    12. The entire proposition as you wrote it comprises a self-reference dilemma with two irreconcilable meanings. It attempts to self-seal against refutation by a logical sleight of hand followed a semantic ploy.

    Final Note: There is a trivial sense in which the entire proposition holds true. There can be no theory of truth about an isolated proposition which is merely true or not true. Then the isolated truth is as bounded as the proposition (has exactly the same bounds in fact). But in terms of systems of correlations (all to degrees of probability allowing for indeterminism), various “theories of truth” are indeed possible whether these are empirical physicalist theories, metaphysical theories or a necessary combination of the two (as necessary complementarity).

  7. @Ikonoclast

    Don’t you have a day job, Ikono ?

    Anyway, maybe you should just read A.C. Grayling’s opus ‘An Introduction to Philosophical Logic’. But I warn you, if you do, and if you make a genuine attempt to understand all (or at least most) of what Grayling is saying, you won’t have nearly as much time for waffling on blogs as you do now. For quite a while, anyway.

    But then you will appreciate the wonders of:
    p+p’=1
    p.p’=0
    and we can all get truly on with our theories of correspondence.
    (Thank you, George Boole).

  8. @GrueBleen

    Point by point. 😉

    1. I have many day jobs. Cook, cleaner, washerman, shopper, chauffeur, gardener, mower, tree-lopper, rubbish-clearer, house-painter, handyman, carer and general factotum. The formal economy does not pay me directly for many of these tasks but provides super at a rate approximately equal to the single minimum wage.

    2. I am currently injured (groin injury, probably a strain of the inguinal ligament) not fully diagnosed as yet. Anything I can’t do seated or by very gingerly walking and carrying little or no weight, remains currently undone or the slack is picked up by family members.

    3. Spare time thus exists. Nevertheless I do not agree that having a conventional day job or being a house spouse should mean giving up thinking.

    But, I waffle. Can I take it from the final comment that you subscribe to the correspondence theory of truth or some variant of it?

  9. On the lifting of sanctions against Iran, the thought occurred to me that rather than sell their oil into a ‘depressed’ market which has some commentators concerned at the exposure of US banks to shale oil ventures, Teheran could benchmark it’s re-entry with a ‘shades of ’74’ figure of say $US80 a barrel. Of course there would be no buyers which, thanks to sanctions means the status quo remains. But think of the respect the ayatollahs would reap? Real ACTION post Paris 21. Teheran takes the moral high ground. The enemy Saudis embarrassed.
    And those US banks with shaky investments in domestic shale oil ventures sending their Washington lobbyists into overdrive. Even Trumpo would have an ‘out’ as the Persians aren’t those pesky arabs.

  10. @Ikonoclast

    “I have many day jobs.”
    Oh, good to hear it – join the club, mate.

    “I am currently injured ”
    Very sorry to hear that, but it seems to happen to us older folk. I trust your recovery is both speedy and complete (though both of those things are hard to manage at our age).

    “…subscribe to the correspondence theory of truth…”
    Moi ? Well, maybe, just a little. And you ?

    And don’t forget Grayling !

  11. yet again the IMF has revided down its growth forecasts. Stating:

    The International Monetary cut its forecast for global and U.S. economic growth in 2016

    Citing weakness in the developing world, the IMF said Tuesday that the world economy will grow 3.4 percent, down from an October forecast of 3.6 percent. The international lending agency downgraded the outlook for developing economies to 4.3 percent growth from a forecast of 4.5 percent in October.

    The world economy grew 3.1 percent and developing economies 4 percent in 2015. Both figures were the weakest since the recession year 2009. China’s slowing economy and falling commodity prices have hurt countries in the developing world that export raw materials.

    So what have we got from $200 Keynesian stimulus? except a delay and a bigger crisis ahead?

  12. @Ivor IMF have recorded a growth rate of 3.4% for the last 4 years so its BAU.

    There is a compounding effect to this growth rate, not sure how it relates to per capita.

    The recent China figures, if taken at face value, do represent a reduction in growth. However, the trend GDP per capita remains remarkable, almost doubling over 10 years.

  13. Hmmm, there is to my mind a definite “Economic Triad” and OECD trend towards ever lower growth rates (secular stagnation) since about 1970.

    Over the last two decades or so, China has hauled the entire world’s economic growth after itself during its rapid industrialisation and transformation.

    These factors are both consistent with a Marxian analysis of capitalist economics.

    China is slowing now. The OECD remains sluggish. A Marxian analysis (sans Limits to Growth) would predict another large, poor nation or region to emerge soon-ish as the next growth engine, probaby India. Of course, once all the world’s workers are equally “wealthy” or equally “impoverished”, labour arbitrage ploys cease unless some sort of poverty round-robin can be organised by the capitalists. Don’t put is past them. But I think Limits to Growth is close, probably as limits to ecological damage and limits to bioservices rather than as standard resource limits.

  14. @rog

    The IMF has not recorded a growth rate of 3.4% for the last 4 years.

    The data is (constant prices)

    2012 – 3.426
    2013 – 3.308
    2014 – 3.428
    2015 – 3.123

    My point was not that.

    I said that the IMF has revised its global growth forecasts. This is very different to what you have inserted.

    Since at least 2011. the IMF always forecasts growth 2 years in the future over 4%. This is an ideological ritual. But it never comes true.

    The revision down of IMF forecasts for 2016 is;

    WEO 2011 – 4.858
    WEO 2012 – 4.510
    WEO 2013 – 4.067
    WEO 2014 – 4.040
    WEO 2015 – 3.560

    A constant stream of IMF downgrades.

    Actually the WEO – 2015 was the first time the IMF has given up pretending that 4% growth is anywhere in our future.

    WEO – 2015 forecasts for years 2016 out to 2020 are all less than 4%

    So this is the real BAU – a slow slide into the pit.

  15. @Ikonoclast

    I’m not sure what Lynch is getting at but – If ‘p’ is the kind of thing that can be true or false then its utterance means ‘p is true’ — no?. and a test of truth could be correspondence with the real world . I recommend reading Wittgensteins 2 (short) books preceded ,and followed, by some reading about him. The 2 represent 2 distinct conceptions of language . I think you like the first.

  16. @Ikonoclast
    Ikon, I started my PhD at about 60. I probably appear ridiculous to some, but I don’t care much. However you have to qualify, which means either first class or ‘good second class’ (roughly equivalent in most universities to over 75% mark) honours. If you don’t have that, you may be able to talk your way into doing an MA prelim – or you could start another undergraduate degree and major in philosophy, I should think. You will be charged HECS or whatever they call it now if you did that, but if you have a low income you may never have to pay for it – though I think they may claim it from your estate now (probably some people here will know).

    Anyway it’s worth thinking about – don’t worry about being ridiculous. Back in the 70s (remember?) life long education used to be seen as a very worthwhile thing. The point of the PhD is supposedly to make an original contribution to human knowledge.

  17. @Val

    Thank you, that is encouraging. I would be happy starting as an undergrad. I don’t consider any of my literature, cinema and TV subjects (from so long ago) will help me in philosophy. This is except for structural analysis of narrative which I think will prove very useful in considering issues of “grand narrative” in any socio-cultural field philosophy may touch on. I had some semiotics too but I have lost that through disuse. In any case, I need a full grounding in philosophy from the base up. I am not sure yet if I can take this path (in 2017 or later) but I want to explore possibilities and be ready for take-off on the project if it is possible.

    Here’s a joke my 21 year old twins told me. Definition of astonishing: A lecture where a mature age student doesn’t ask a question. I’ve made a mental note to be very quiet and not live up to the stereotype. Actually, it should be easy to remain inconspicuous. From the way my twins did uni at UQ, it appears actual attendance at lectures is a rare thing. They often cut lectures and just watched the videos on line. They did this and got GPAs over 6 (one in Psychology and one in Engineering). I would attend I think and it would be easy to find an inconspicuous corner in a half-empty theater and ask no questions.

  18. @sunshine

    I think Tony Lynch is using a specialised language and specialised terminology which I don’t understand. But he hasn’t explained it or why my attempted refutations fall short. To be fair to him, it might be the case that I need a grounding in the relevant subjects before I can make statements that make sense and it’s not Tony’s job to give me that grounding.

    I am thinking the above because, similar to what you have said, I have figured out an absurdly simple way to apparently refute his proposition. It is so simple that I must be making a fundamental and stupid mistake. It hinges on the meaning of “p”.

    I am unsure if “p” is meant to be “an existent” or a statement. If “p” can be a statement then then the whole thing is dead easy to refute.

    “David Bowie is alive” is not equal to “”David Bowie is alive” is true.”

    Whereas;

    “David Bowie is dead” is equal to “”David Bowie is dead” is true.”

    The statement’s validity is conditional on pre-cognising or assuming the truth status of the first term.

    Therefore “p” must be an existent granted truth by virtue of its already-existence (an “ontological truthiness” if I can say that.)

    But if “p” is a simple existent and this is the definition of truth (as “ontological truthiness”) then the statement just involves a tautology.

    “p” (which is true) ? “p” is true

    The only other explanation is I am not understanding the formal requirements of the logic Tony is using. I can’t find anything yet online which would unpack this for me.

    There are also arguably different kinds of truth which the proposition does not encompass. It seems to be wholly concerned with truth as isolated ontological identity. Whereas the correspondence theory of truth (which I agree with in a particular way), seems concerned with correlations in a system or rather in and between many systems. The (or my) correspondence theory of truth is not primarily concerned with absolute truth and indeed rejects that possibility in non-language systems and between language and non-language systems in favour of “reliable correlations” governed or at least described by probability functions. Within language systems (formal systems) kinds of truth other than correspondence “truths” can be set up; for example conventional truths and axiomatic truths.

    All of this illustrates that true and false are not binaries in non-language (real physical) systems. Rather, a continuum runs from “Almost certainly true to almost certainly false”.

    But all this in turn is only what I can fudge out as an untutored and stumbling autodidact. Clearly I need some formal grounding. I am getting frustrated by not having this grounding.

  19. @Ikonoclast
    Not too late. I was 57 when I did a Masters in International and Community Development and when I went to the graduation ceremony there was an 80+ year old picking up his doctorate in Philosophy. If you enjoy the subject matter why not do it?

  20. @Ikonoclast
    From a lecturer’s or tutor’s point of view Ikon, ask away. Younger students may find you annoying, but teaching staff will probably be pleased by your no doubt thoughtful questions. They like people to take an interest and remember, you’re not in for popularity with young students, you’re in it to learn.

  21. Ikonoclast,

    Maybe all of the above, I’m not sure. The factory for the Pierce Arrow car was in Susan Howe’s state. An article that discusses the title says:

    “Howe’s pierce arrow refers to a car and its innovative mechanics, but it also tacitly refers to Peirce’s logic-based scientific ideas. “The arrow” is a symbol (not unlike Zeno’s arrow) which signifies Peirce’s very complicated synthesis of logic and evolutionary theory (the progress of time). Also, Peirce’s arrow could very well refer to his innovations in logical notation—the symbol for material (not causal) implication: “If P, then Q.” Rather than write out all the words, a logician simply abbreviates the logical function with an arrow: P?Q. ”

    From the same article, Howe also uses a quote from Peirce’s review of philosopher Victoria Lady Welby: “”But we fear that she [Welby] does not realize how deep the knife would have to go into the body of speech to make it really scientific. We should have to use words like those the chemists use—if they can be called words.” Then Howe comments, “Perhaps the Word, giving rise to all pictures and graphs, is at the center of Peirce’s philosophy. There always was and always will be a secret affinity between symbolic logic and poetry.””

  22. I take a different view from Howe. Logic has its important uses but I contend we must remember that the full world is much more than language and logic. I don’t agree with philosophy which succumbs to the reification fallacy, to hypostatization where an abstraction is treated as if it were somehow concrete and a distinct reality. An idea is a reality but it is not a distinct reality. That’s the important issue in my view but I won’t belabour it here.

    As a small boy, I raided my brother’s chemistry set, took a porcelain crucible, poured vinegar into it and placed it over a gas burner. I boiled away the vinegar until nothing was left but a tiny scorched residue.

    “See,” I proudly announced to my older brother. “That is all there is in vinegar!”
    In a like manner, the logicians boil non-language and most of language away and leave nothing but a few black symbols.

    “See,” they proudly cry, “That is all there is in language and reality!”

  23. Ikonoklast, I read your post, recently, about your daughter’s academic future with some surprise as it exactly mirrors that of my own beloved daughter who has enrolled in another two years of study, with a first in history and a second in psychology, in order, on my advice, to be able to work as an independent practitioner. This gets her out of the drudgery and subservience that is the life blood of being an employee in the state health system and other parts.

    In the course of which she has found somewhere to live, south of Sydney, near a beach, with another young woman who she found online because she saw an ad for accommodation featuring the words “must be queer friendly” in the desirable qualities. Through circumstance and happenstance I met her now new flatmate who is a workin’ class delight. So strong, indeed ripped of body, with tatts, a voice that penetrates brick walls and carries over paddocks, and, above all, a radical mindset. Inclusive, friendly, determined.

    So, you raise your kids well and it turns out that the future is in good hands.

  24. @jungney

    An example. The Brisbane City Council recently advertised six jobs for library assistants. They received over 1,000 applications.

    Generically, library assistants usually:

    Compile records, sort and shelve books, and issue and receive library materials. Locate library materials for loan and replace material in shelving area, stacks, or files according to identification number and title. Register patrons to permit them to borrow books, periodicals, and other library materials.

    If my daughter applies for such jobs (neither confirming nor denying) with a 4 year UQ degree with Hons, we can be sure she will be considerably over-qualified. I don’t know but suspect that a grade 12 pass with a good English mark and basic maths ought to be easily adequate for such jobs.

    This massive shortfall of jobs, especially for young people, people is diagnostic of all that is wrong with our economy. But the movers and shakers of our economy do not care in the slightest. So long as overseas money is pouring in to push our real estate bubble ever higher our movers and shakers are happy to take their cut. An economy with little more than an RE bubble to show for itself after the mining boom is a joke economy, not a real economy.

    We set the bar very low these days. Five percent official unemployment (with under-employment much higher) is essentially regarded as full employment.

    According to ABS

    “In addition to the unemployed and the underemployed, the extended labour force underutilisation rate includes two groups of people with marginal attachment to the labour force, namely:

    – people who are actively looking for work and who could start within four weeks, but are not available to start in the reference week; and
    – discouraged job seekers”

    In August 2012, the extended labour force underutilisation rate was 13.1%. I cannot imagine it is any better now. What a huge waste of potential this is. But I mention unemployment regularly on this blog and it elicits very little interest as a topic, just as in our whole society. The whole issue is being denied.

    “Youth Unemployment Rate in Australia increased to 12.44 percent in November from 12.23 percent in October of 2015. Youth Unemployment Rate in Australia averaged 13.50 percent from 1978 until 2015, reaching an all time high of 20.22 percent in October of 1992 and a record low of 7.61 percent in August of 2008. Youth Unemployment Rate in Australia is reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.”

    So from 1978 until now, nearly 40 years, our economy has failed to deal with youth unemployment! This is systemic, endemic long-term failure of the most egregious kind. Only a joke economy and a joke economic system could produce results so bad for so long.

  25. @Ikonoclast

    Ikono:

    1. Don’t forget Grayling

    2. P?Q is equivalent to P’+Q (I know you know that, but I just like stating the bbo*)

    3. Don’t overlook Goedel’s Theorem and then ask yourself just how much of the universe is not represented as an axiom set.

    * bleedin’ bloody obvious

  26. @GrueBleen

    I won’t forget Grayling.

    And lol to Godel’s Theorem(s). I know I don’t know enough maths, logic and set theory to understand that. Could I be taught to understand it? I don’t know but I strongly suspect not.

  27. To quote from Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s “Truth – a History and a Guide for the Perplexed”:

    Many attempts have been made to refine Frege’s common calculus for logic and mathematics, but all so far have generated contradictions or entailed arbitrary assumptions: indeed it was proven impossible to circumvent arguments proposed by Gödel in1932 which suggests that contradictions are inherent in any system that purports be both complete and consistent: he found them in both logic and mathematics.

    In essence, Fernández-Armesto writes, Gödel’s perplexing assertions simply and comprehendibly state, first: “axioms are unprovable in a system on which they are based”, and second: “the system will always throw up questions which the axioms, even if admitted, are insufficient to decide”.

    Another good source to unpack Gödel in an accessible form is John L. Casti’s ‘Searching for Certainty’ in the chapter ‘Proof or Consequences’. Towards the end he lists four schools with a short description of their methods and objective reality.

    Formalism: formal systems + symbol manipulation; only symbols are real
    Logicism: logical structures + rules of inference; symbols are real
    Intuitionism: feasibility of constructions; only natural numbers are real
    Platonism: discovery of real objects by intuition and axiomatics

    Although each of them claims to be exhaustive and to hold that mathematics generates knowledge that is certain, objective and eternal, it appears mathematics is an empirical activity with it’s own believes which refute each of the above approaches. When the access to serious number crunching with contemporary computers became available Appel and Haken wrote an ingenious and lengthy program to convert the Four-Colour conjecture into Four-Colour Theorem. At first the news of the result was greeted with excitement amongst the acolytes. Though the sheer brute force of the number crunching method, quickly led to dejecting comments such as:”So it just goes to show it wasn’t a good problem after all.” Which leads Casti to say:

    Somehow mathematicians seem to long for more than just results from their proofs; they want insight. And verification of a couple of thousand special cases on a computer smelled suspiciously like the kind of ad hoc exercise that ends up leading nowhere.

    So considering Gödel’s first theorem you maybe feel trapped by the implied premise of ‘turtles all the way down’. However, you should be encouraged by the emergent questions, or insights, brought to light by the second theorem.

    Perhaps it is turtles all the way side ways, and remember the whole is more than the sum of it’s parts.

  28. I generally subscribe to the correspondence theory of truth but in an idiosyncratic way. I call it “analogical congruence” and I think it is about how systems “match up” and interact successfully. The issue is to do with transfers of matter, energy AND information with, of course, matter and energy acting as information carriers. In turn what matters after transfers of matter, energy and information is how a receiving system performs operation on and with those three factors.

    I think mathematics starts out empirically. Successful applied maths systems show analogical congruence with reality in the sense that they allow us to make successful calculations as judged by successful (goal-achieving) manipulations of objective reality. I also think objective reality exists in a complex system manner in which even so-called subjects or observers are in turn complex sub-systems in their own right and thus NOT privileged “observers” in any way.

    This points in turn to the idea that everything is objective reality even a maths systems. But that idea takes a lot of explaining or it just ends up sounding silly. Suffice it to say, I envisage a pure Physicalist Monist system and I contend this makes more sense than any other posited metaphysical system. It is more philosophically and empirically resolvable than Idealism, Dualism or More-than dualism (forget the term). But that is just my opinion of course.

  29. “”I generally subscribe to the correspondence theory of truth but in an idiosyncratic way.””

    “‘ I envisage a pure Physicalist Monist system and I contend this makes more sense than any other posited metaphysical system. “”

    So it would appear you have found what you are looking for in your quest for “truth”. Are you now trying to explain or find proof of such? Not sure where you are heading with your enterprise, more so that you are looking for consolations in philosophy, a subject which falls into to your often derided “soft sciences”.

  30. @Ootz

    Okay, so now I have to defend myself for being an amateur philosopher. 😉

    I suppose if I said I liked gardening, fishing, working at any job, lawn bowls or chess then this would be accepted and I wouldn’t be called to existentialist account about what I do with my time.

    1. I don’t say I have found what I am looking for. I am still working on my system.

    2. I am fairly sure I will not find proof. This enterprise necessarily entails both a priori justification (of some sort) and making inductions. I may at best find a convincing account. Who would be convinced by this account? I might be or I might remain unsatisfied that I have uncovered anything valid. Nobody else will be convinced because I would never get published or read. Of this I am sure.

    3. The issue is existential occupation. I could garden and nobody might ever look at the garden except me. Is the gardening thereby pointless?

    4. I have said to myself that I don’t want to die without any attempt at my own philosophy. It’s a personal goal like say going for a PB in 10 km cross-country races. One is unavoidablely a social being to some extent. Most of us talk about our hobbies from time to time.

  31. @Ikonoclast
    I’m not saying don’t do it, but creating your own personal philosophy can be risky. By risky, I mean that one risks making oneself ridiculous. For an unfortunate example, google ‘monorealism’ (Sure, the guy’s main inspiration is Ayn Rand, but still… it’s a cautionary tale for us all). 🙂

  32. @Tim Macknay

    I get your drift. But again a few points.

    1. I am not going to create my own website.
    2. I am not going to self-publish in any other way formal way – book etc.
    3. I am not a real proselytiser.
    4. I am trying (poorly) to control my outbreaks of pseudo-philosophy on this site. 😉

    5. At the same time I look at the philosophical, religious and political systems adhered to by billions on this planet and I note how ridiculous many of their beliefs are. I mean this even in comparative terms. If one set is true, all the others are false, invented or hoaxed and arguably ridiculous thereby. However, when one person is ridiculous he is just a joke. When a billion are ridiculous it is indeed terrifying… but their views are still inherently an absurd joke.

  33. @Ikonoclast

    Good (that you won’t forget Grayling). But if you should want the real autodidact’s comprehensive logic text, there is only one: ‘Introduction to Logic’ (9th, or later, edition) by Carl Cohen and Irving M Copi (including symbolic logic). Actually, Copi died in 2002 so it’s now all and only Cohen now.

    Oh, and should you want the autodidact’s very best book about science, there is only ‘What Is This Thing Called Science’ (4th edition) by Alan Chalmers. Truly.

    But despite that my only tertiary qual is in maths (a 2 year Diploma from RMIT back when RMIT was a massively jumped up Working Man’s College before it could grandiosely call itself a ‘U’), I wouldn’t claim to be a particularly good presenter of Goedel (mostly the opposite). The truth is, I just take it for granite that everybody knows about Goedel’s incompleteness/inconsistency Theorem for moderately complex axiom sets. Ootz’s input is a good start. But there’s just a few things to know:

    1. Russell and Whitehead – in Principia Mathematica’ – “attempted to show that all mathematical theory could be reduced to some collection of axioms” and largely succeeded. Russell, clever lad, devised a way of associating every possible proposition/theorem in an axiom set with an unique number (a very large number with lots of powers of 10, but that’s not important). Goedel then used Russell’s schema to show that propositions/theorems could be stated in an axiom set that could not be derived directly from the axioms (some ‘meta’ axioms would be needed … does the expression ‘infinite regress’ mean anything to you).

    So, axiom sets could not be inherently sound: they were either incomplete, or inconsistent, or both. Russell’s schema has since been ‘improved’ and hence Goedel’s Theorem has been more elegantly ‘proved’. Incidentally, the simplest way to think about Goedel’s result is that not every proposition can be ‘proved’ within its axiom set. For quite a while, I kinda hoped that Fermat’s Last Theorem might be one of the ‘unprovables’ but these days I’m pinning my hopes to Goldbach’s Conjecture (every even number can be expressed as the sum of two primes..

    Russell also did, just incidentally, a beautiful demolition job on Frege’s mathematical foundations theory (it’s all sets, mate, but not infinite classes) with his paradox of ‘the set of all sets that are not members of themselves’. Because if it is a member of itself then it can’t be, and if it isn’t a member of itself then it must be (ho ho ho).

    So now back to the proposition: “how much of the universe is not represented as an (incomplete/inconsistent) axiom set” ?

    Well, logic is an axiom set, and so are deontological moralities (hello again, Herr Kant). Any others, maybe ?

  34. @GrueBleen

    I am too ignorant of formal mathematical philosophical logic to make a comment on that. I wonder, is it generally held now that one can “do” no philosophy now unless it is done by complex mathematical philosophical logic? Is standard language (like English) now obsolete in Philosophy Departments?

    How do “ordinary men and women” arrive at a “philosophy” or a set of heuristics and algorithms by which to live their lives without knowing complex mathematical philosophical logic? Ordinary men and perform pragmatics*, for example, without complex mathematical philosophical logic just as a cricketer can catch a ball without knowing how to calculate a trajectory with classical physics equations.

    * “Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics and semiotics that studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. Pragmatics encompasses speech act theory, conversational implicature, talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, linguistics and anthropology”. – Wikipedia.

  35. @Ikonoclast

    However, when one person is ridiculous he is just a joke. When a billion are ridiculous it is indeed terrifying… but their views are still inherently an absurd joke.

    True. Although that is perhaps an even stronger argument against creating your own philosophy: It might catch on – and then who knows what your disciples will do with it… 🙂

  36. I am with you on that Tim Mackay. Considering what people do with pop psychology and all this self help stuff. On the other hand, Nietzsche would sympathetic with Ikos last comment.

    I wish we would integrate the foundation of philosophy into the curriculum at school. Essentially for everyone getting an introduction on how to engage with issues in a structured way and the tools available to do so.

    Often people have this stuffy view of what philosophy is, where as it can be applied in close quarters, as in ‘who am I’ or dealing with everyday practical problems by identifying relevant questions and analytical frameworks to address them. Or simply to expand or exercise ones mental capacity, to follow through an innate urge to ask why and how.

    The increased complexity our lives are taking on, the sheer amount of information and ‘stuff’ we have to deal with, the volume and speed of change in our cultural and social structures we are exposed to, thus there is some advantage to have some intellectual navigation points and procedures to be able to plot a coherent course in all this as well as a nimbleness to adapt such.

  37. @Ootz

    A first step might be to re-introduce Logic at high school level. Even more important, Comparative Studies would help. The basics of History, Religion and Philosophy should be taught as comparative studies. Anything too centric to our culture or any one culture gives a very narrow view of the human world.

    Although, I understand the impulse to Existential Philosophy, it is not my primary interest for now. You might find my following definition strange. But to me “Philosophy is the battle against superstition.” It is an attempt to understand the world, and how to think about the world, without myth-making. It is being careful to say as much as we can say, and only that, without invention, myth making and speculative metaphysics.

  38. @Ikonoclast

    Just to make sure we’ve reached common ground then: my contention is that since rule based schemes of morality (both utilitarian and deontological) are, essentially, axiom sets, then, by generalizing Goedel, they are inconsistent and/or incomplete. In short, we have no ‘complete’ moralities. After all, have you ever found an ethics or ‘morality’ scheme that can actually resolve the (in)famous trolley problem ?

    Otherwise, well it was in 1854 that Boole published ‘The Laws of Thought’ which contains Boolean algebra, so we’ve been mathematicising logic for over 150 years. Of course the ‘logic professionals’ have developed and extended Boole – it’s always been ‘publish or perish’, you know. Actually, I once did read the original Boole paper on Boolean Algebra – or at least I tried to – the ‘symbolic logic’ field had already been worked over to the point that Boole’s paper was, at least to me, unreadably obsolete.

    Personally, I consider that ‘philosophy’ only refers to the rules and practices of human cognition: basically logic and epistemology (Chalmer’s book is great on epistemology). A lot of what is called ‘philosophy’ is, to me, merely opinionated opinionism, not worth the effort of reading. That is particularly how i view, for instance, the French so-called philosophers (Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze etc). Not to mention a whole lot of others (eg Hegel, Nietzsche etc etc).

    But as for your ‘pragmatics’ well yes, human beings are rule internalising machines. We learn our rules from everything and everybody – how do you think we all come to learn at least one ‘native language’ starting even before we’ve developed a ‘theory of mind’ ? We even learn our rules such that the psychologists can talk about ‘theory persistence. That being a circumstance in which we react to a situation, and theorise the situation and our reaction into a ‘rule of behaviour’. Eventually (from lack of access) we ‘forget’ the situation but the ‘theory’ (ie our ‘rule of behaviour’ persists. That’s how people can happily come to hold conflicting beliefs. So it goes.

    So I don’t bother my poor, tired head about such stuff nowadays. Once upon a time I would have eagerly subscribed to the Paul Monk – Tim van Gelder set of argument processing methods and software (Google van Gelder Paul Monk if you’re interested). Nowadays, I just stick with people whose commitment to evidence and logical reasoning I respect (eg ProfQ, sometimes Nicholas Gruen on Club Troppo, Kevin Drum on Mother Jones, Paul Krugman on NY Times and a few others – including, once in a blue moon, Paul Monk) and I let them do the work for me so all I have to do is read them and then decide just how much I accept what they have produced. Which is usually most, or I’d excise them from my list.

    But yes, Ikono, if you want to enter the ‘logic’ component of the philosophy profession, then you need to be fully comfortable with at least first and second order symbolic logic, with some amount of mathematics (at least as much as Bertrand Russell managed) and go on from there, fully aware that the vast majority of the human race will not know of your existence, or if they do, will wonder why.

  39. @GrueBleen

    Analysing formal systems in isolation tells us nothing about the full world in my opinion. Only in analysing the interactions of formal systems and real systems can we hope to learn anything in ontological and epistemological terms. So I very much support your statement, “my contention is that since rule based schemes of morality (both utilitarian and deontological) are, essentially, axiom sets, then, by generalizing Goedel, they are inconsistent and/or incomplete. In short, we have no ‘complete’ moralities.” Though we would arrive at this agreement by somewhat different reasoning probably.

    This inconsistency / incompleteness of formal systems and perhaps especially of axiomatic systems is implicit in the reductionist nature of formal logic. The world (or universe) is infinitely complex and as we know now (almost for certain) not completely deterministic. No formal system will be able to render it fully. This seems very clear to me. I suspect a formal axiomatic system will especially fail if it is completely deterministic in its logic. How can a fully determined system render a world with indeterminism? In any case, I hold that a formal system is also a real system too in a strict physicalist sense. The formal system exists in physical artifacts; books and brains basically. What passes between systems are three things basically; matter, energy and information. Matter and energy, whilst being “useable” by systems in themselves, are also information carriers. It is the transport of information and the operations on it that count in terms of epistemology. But to expand on this requires far too much space for a blog.

  40. /moderation issues, hence will spread reply over several comments.

    “But to me “Philosophy is the battle against superstition.””

    Them are fighting words Ikonoclast, though it would seem you are in illustrious company in your “battle against superstition”.

  41. @Ikonoclast

    Then we are, if not in complete agreement, at least in broad general concordance. Which is about as much as can ever be reasonably expected, since we are all bound by inter-subjectivity, are we not ?

  42. @Ootz

    1. It’s not “my” battle against superstition. It’s much bigger than that.
    2. A “crusade” against superstition is an oxymoron. It is superstition which “crusades”.
    3. Superstition can function as placebo. It’s almost the definition of placebo.

    Luckily humanism rolled back christianity or we would still be burning people at the stake and performing exorcisms instead of surgeries.

  43. @Ikonoclast

    Here are some good arguments from either a devils advocate position or a latent agnostic, like myself.

    “”What seems worthwhile is to move beyond the routine attacks on ‘superstition’ that some (though not all) humanists are fond of producing. Anti-religious polemic can be acceptable in a piece-meal way, when it denounces the darker facets of religion – such as its cunning ability to disguise the ‘will-to-power’ as zealous love for God. But it becomes boring and wrongheaded when it raises its fist against religious motivations as a whole. One should be deeply suspicious of those whose life’s purpose is the eradication of superstition. This is partly because, although theistic religions have brought about inquisitions and persecutions, secular religions have wrought mass murder on a scale never dreamed of by inquisitors and mullahs. It is a reasonable hypothesis that the scale of murder perpetrated by tyrants such as Mao tse-Tung and Adolf Hitler is directly related to their disbelief in divinely ordained constraints on the treatment of other humans, and driven by the nihilism which poses as the desire to overcome traditions and superstitions. But another reason for such suspicion is that this strand of humanism is frequently blind to certain philosophical distinctions. If it is able to reconcile its atheism with an appreciation of the difference between transcendence and supernaturalism, and if it can unite its intellectual scepticism with the ‘small c’ conservatism which should be its natural ally, then it retains credibility. But in its bombast, it often overlooks these finer points. Those who are sincerely led to reject the literal claims of theistic religions (and there may well be good reason to do so) deserve something better than militant humanism as a world-view to help them make sense of their finite, transient lives.””

    I can highly recommend ‘Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius’ by Ray Monk, you appear to have a few things in common, apart from a propensity for “battles”.

    So let’s move on from truth and battles …

  44. /modertion issues again, therefor

    I will keep my rebuttal of your narrow focus and flimsy substantiation thereof on what philosophy is about to a single link, of which you should read at least the last paragraph as it reflects my moderated sentiments.

    Not only does the writer hint at a possible resolution to your central question @#42, but subtly suggests the way you go about your ‘battle’ puts you in danger to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Having said that, I admit that Wittgenstein has put your sentiment much more eloquently and pertinent.

    “”Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.””

    I can highly recommend ‘Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius’ by Ray Monk, you appear to have a few things in common, apart from a propensity for “battles”.

    So let’s move on from your previous quest of truth and battles to claim it …

  45. /let me try again, I removed my link, so you’ll have to contend with the wikipedia entry for a start. Also please consider English is my third language and i am rather stifled atm by a flare up in my chronic illness. But thanks for putting up with me exercising my brain./

    Perhaps we should consider your question @42 above and go for a rummage in philosophers tool box?

    “”How can a fully determined system render a world with indeterminism?””

    You would have come across the ‘free will’ debate, which has captured the above conundrum for a long time. Though it is also a central question which has puzzled scientists and philosophers across disciplines, particularly where complex or large systems over time or in certain circumstances are involved, from physics and biology to cosmology and so on. So it is an age old problem in philosophy and has been dealt with in various ways. Though recently with new insights in science and mathematics, particularly our new understanding of chaotic systems, we rediscovered the concept of ’emergence’, here in a particular context as it, or so I hope, fits your @42:

    “”What passes between systems are three things basically; matter, energy and information. Matter and energy, whilst being “useable” by systems in themselves, are also information carriers. It is the transport of information and the operations on it that count in terms of epistemology.””

    You may find the wikipedia entry on “emergence” more yielding. Personally, my earliest interest in the subject emerged in the ‘Ant Fugue’ of the classic ‘Gödel, Escher and Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid’ by Hofstadter. Although I more fond of his later ‘The Mind’s I’, which he wrote or rather ‘composed and arranged’ with Daniel C Dennett, by making extensive use of crucial texts by a raft of significant modern thinkers around the subject which your questions poses. In particular the ‘Reflections’ after featuring Richard Dawkins chapter on ‘Selfish Gene and
    Selfish Memes’ were very insightful for me and has led on to further exploration in that field.

  46. @Ootz

    Yes, Wittgenstein’s definition is much better than mine. I agree on that. If I could have my comment again, the more improved “me” would, I hope, write something more like Wittgenstein’s formulation. Or I might just quote him in future;

    “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.”

    To my mind, this statement carries some important implications. Philosophy is carried out in language. This does not exclude other possibilities like philosophy being carried out in acts of commission or omission (including even silence). But some philosophy at least is carried out in language. This holds out the possibility that language has at least two uses apart from standard functional uses like “pass me the salt please”. It can bewitch intelligence with falsehoods, myths, fabrications conventions passing as norms and so on or it can be used to penetrate and puncture these very illusions.

    The testable physical truth claims of religion have largely been found to be false. The testable provenance truth claims about how their own sacred texts originated, are attributed and dated and so on, have largely been found to be false. While science, especially as scientism, lacks or lacked for a long time many things including checks against its own hubris and certainty in its deterministic phase, philosophy remained to assist corrections of such views. Science indeed could also be argued to have self-corrected via later discoveries particularly those of Darwin, Einstein and Max Planck, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg to name a few. (Evolution, Relativity and Quantum theory.)

    Religion shows little of this kind of ability to self-correct error. I won’t say it has none. But in terms of objective, physical corrections it shows little or none. Morally, it can be argued there can be a self-correcting and developmental tendency in religion. The teachings attributed to Christ do show an advance over Old Testament morality. Though this Christ figure is not the only one to discover the essential logic of “The Golden Rule” and the capability of forgiveness to de-escalate the violent spiralling of hate and revenge.

    I would ask, considering all the above, why we would place any special store in religion and grant it special privileges, which our society still does. For example, why is proselytising religion state subsidised and seen as an unexceptionable activity in many quarters, yet arguing against religion or merely positing humanist values in their own right is especially singled out as all of unreasonable, confrontational, intolerant and so on? There is a double-standard at work here where fanciful fabrications and self-referential truth claims (the doctrine of revelation is proved by written claimed revelation) are accorded some special and undue respect including unearned (indeed squandered and often refuted) intellectual respectability as opposed to mere toleration which should be their only due.

    Do I have to take seriously and accord respect to every nonsensical myth the human brain is capable of concocting? Clearly, the answer is no. In turn, large, complex religio-mythic systems with many followers do demand more respect even if only in the sense that a billion deluded minds constitute a force whereas one deluded mind generally does not. According mass religion positive respect from a Humanist point of view is simply acceding to the fear of its force and influence. I accord tolerance but no respect for such belief systems exept for parts of their moral system which are congruent with my own. I respect persons from my Humanist ethics so I don’t harass or browbeat religious individuals. However, I express my views robustly in public forums like this one from time to time. I would only cease (probably but not certainly) if theocratic oppression rose again in Western society and theocrats once began executing people like me who question dogma.

    The only reason religion is now reasonable in the West is that the scientific-humanist religion forced it to be reasonable. Power (intellectual, social and political) was taken from religion. Dogma was rolled back and adopted the necessary guise of reasonableness to retain acceptance and respectability.

    In relation to the references to Germany and Russia. They were still ostensibly Christian societies. The capability of “modern” Christian societies to transmute into intolerant totalitarianism might say something about Christianity as a predisposing condition for these types of transformations or it might not. But there is also no justification for the reasoning that the abandonment of such religion was an important causative factor or facilitator. The Thirty Years War was very arguably a Christian religious war at the outset and for a considerable part of its duration. Focusing on modern totalitarian bêtes noires is standard cherry-picking. Did belief in divinely ordained constraints stop the Thirty Years war?

    ” The Thirty Years’ War was a series of wars in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. It was one of the longest, most destructive conflicts in European history.

    Initially a war between Protestant and Catholic states in the fragmenting Holy Roman Empire, it gradually developed into a more general conflict involving most of the great powers of Europe, becoming less about religion and more a continuation of the France–Habsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence.” – Wikipedia.

    Ootz, I respect you but not the cherry-picking arguments contained in your first quote. I respect neither the author’s rhetoric nor his (il)logic, nor his (lack of) knowledge of history.

  47. I apologise for leading you to a perceive inadequacy of my link.

    However, I’d like to point out that the writer’s emphasis was not on religion a such, rather than the blind or should I say absolutist position it takes akin, but opposite of fundamentalist followers of monotheistic religions. May I point out that the writer was one of the 43 scientists and philosophers who have signed and sent a letter to Tony Blair and relevant Government departments, concerning the teaching of Creationism being introduced in public schools. He also has warned about Islamophobia phobia in the New Humanist

    “”The real lesson of tolerance is that disputes should be settled by reasoned dialogue rather than abuse or violence, and that we should always accept that we may have much to learn from people whose beliefs initially appear strange. But these virtues are a far cry from the sentimental pretence that all claims to religious truth are somehow ‘equal’, or that critical scrutiny of Islam (or any belief system) is ignorant, prejudiced, or ‘phobic’. By all means let us be well-informed about Islam, but let us not assume that once we are, we shall altogether like what we find.””

    This does not sound like “”.. a lack of ability to self-correct error.””. Thus, I venture to assume you somehow missed this crucial statement in his critique

    “”.. an appreciation of the difference between transcendence and supernaturalism …””

    Let me also remind you of another religious leaders categorical statement:

    ““If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.””

    You may also want to visit Paul Davis writing in ‘The Mind of God – Science and the Search of Meaning’, which contrary to popular believe does not make substantiated case for theism or a believe in god, rather than elaborately illustrates, that particular aspects of religion or method within religious practice is akin to fundamental scientific and philosophical practices and insights. Umm yeah, hard to summarise such a profound book, but it surely does provide the reader with some fundamental concepts, which are essential for a ‘rational’ discussion in philosophy of religion.

    And let me finish with a quote from my favorited scientist Richard Feynman, a maverick and genius, who had a knack of transcending religion and science in his appreciation of the beauty and efficacy of the nature of things:

    “Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.”

    As I suggested, let’s move on from battles, truth and for that matter religion, as I am much more interested in your question which made me bring up the concept of ’emergence’ and for that matter my emphasis on the difference between transcending and superstition.

  48. @Ootz

    I take some of your points. I certainly read too hurriedly. However, there is basic ground I simply will not cede to religion. The strong form of the “faith” argument gains no credence with me. “Faith” in this sense is simply a fancy word for “blind belief”. Because people can utter a talismanic word with great passion and vehemence, they then conclude that this validates their entire argument.

    Interlocutor 1: “I have FAITH!”
    Interlocutor 2: “Oh, okay, that indicates the end of all reasoned argument. Your position is not open to examination or refutation no matter what evidence can be assembled or logic employed.”

    I am not saying you are Interlocutor 1. I am the sarcastic Interlocutor 2, of course.

    The issue of emergence is interesting. “Emergence” is a real phenomenon IMO. I am not sure even that word is strong enough. Initially Physicalist philosophy worked with the word and concept of supervenience. I have read and need to re-read a paper with the title “Emergence not Supervenience”. But as I say, even “emergence” is not strong enough. A first look suggests to me that “evolution” needs to be the word and a full philosophical definition of that word (as opposed to just a biological definition) needs to be such that it encompasses supervenience, emergence and system evolution even in non-living systems.

    How can a monist Physicalist explain Mind or Consciousness as the sine qua non of emergence or evolution? I would simply invoke a “brute fact” claim as a first maneuver.

    “In contemporary philosophy, a brute fact is something that cannot be explained. To reject the existence of brute facts is to think that everything can be explained. “Everything can be explained” is sometimes called the principle of sufficient reason.” – Wikepedia

    Theists, deists etc. invoke brute fact. God explains everything but God is unexplained, as the uncaused cause. Thus “God” is the brute fact. The King James Bible expresses it most eloquently and succinctly in “I am, Who am.” This is perhaps the simplest, yet most powerful a priori justification one can read in all of religion or philosophy. As one susceptible to poetry, it has a strong effect even on Militant Me. Yet, I remember Wittgenstein’s warning; “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.”

    There is nothing invalid about Physicalism invoking brute fact as Idealism and Dualism in full essence do it too with “God”. On the other hand, the advantage of Occam’s razor belongs to Physicalism. Physicalism invokes the simplest explanation without recourse to deus ex machina or spirit in the substance. Everything arises in and from physical substance. Physics, biology, neurology and so on keep providing new more detailed schema which explain more and more of what is going on and they do so in testable, verifiable and repeatable ways (which science also permits successful predictions). This is not to say we can discover everything. Indeed, I am of the opinion that we will not and cannot. I am of the opinion that there are or will be limits to human knowledge even with all the “instruments and helps” as Bacon called them.

    What lies beyond those limits we will ever only be able to speculate. But claims by special “knowers” or special “knowing texts” to know the unknowable should always be treated with the utmost scepticism. Many are the scheming hoaxers and grasping charlatans in this world.

  49. Sorry, I used “sine qua non” incorrectly above. I was searching for the Latin phrase which means something like “the highest expression” or “highest outcome”. Is it something like “summam perfectionem (propelli experitur)”?

  50. I used to help someone with mathematics, first year undergraduate level. A friend of hers was introduced to me, and upon hearing that there are people who do research in mathematics, she expressed surprise that there was “more” mathematics to be discovered/created. I found it interesting that someone could think of a field, mathematics in this case, as being known completely. Mathematics is an open-ended system: there is always more to find, think about, or to create. Mathematicians construct new objects out of existing ones, and so on. So, there is always more to know. Since mathematics is a subset of all possible knowledge, it follows that there is always more to know in general. I have a proof of this, but it is too large to fit in the margin…

  51. Thank you Donald, absolutely so! Gödel was just one important corner stone in that development as my above mentioned four colour theorem. Game theory would be an other one, of which many people are perhaps aware of but not know the implications thereof. But recent developments with increased specialisation and whole new interdisciplinary fields, such as cognitive science with it’s neural-networks, artificial intelligence and particularly simulation and modelling. people also have to consider that at present we double the amount of data we generate doubles approx every two years at present and expected to be doing so every day with a few years. That will take an awful lot of number crunching.

    We are basically living through the equivalent of a renaissance in terms of speed and quality of new insights. At the same time we also need a slick system to drive us out o the mess and save our beacon.

  52. @Ootz

    Good points about the increase in knowledge and data. They are not the same thing of course but your point still holds. The puzzling thing is, with all this increase in knowledge, neoliberal economics gets no nearer to solving its problems. In fact its dogma becomes more ossified every year.

  53. O ye of little faith 🙂 I recon one could put a reasonable argument together nw, that there are patters emerging which indicate a change in the tide and even possibilities of tsunamis. Old structures are crumbling everywhere and behavioural science based suggestions of cognitive ‘agility’ and ‘nudging’ are coming from the Lodge and Davos.

    But thanks for feedback Iko, good to know you get my drift. I am a volunteer with Broadband for Seniors, because I see the digital divide to be an obstacle to the tide change. In a similar way, I like to hang around insightful discussion on important issues and like to enrich or enhance these discussion, so we can have productive debate, fleshing out the issues, asking relevant and valid questions and so on. This aspects are just as important as logical or mathematical prowess for decent philosophical discussion probing deeper and deeper the ‘truth’ or as I would term it, the beast we are riding.

    One way I can participate in that is by highlighting and illustrating common cognitive traps on which an important discussion or debate can flounder. One of those has come increasingly to my attention as an obstacle to progressive thinking – false dichotomies. For example, recently I had a hell of a time to get a hearing on either side of a pretty intense water fluoridation debate online. In fact both sides assumed I was arguing against them, where as was suggesting that if they would spend the same amount of money and effort on dealing with the underlying problem it would be a win win situation, namely no need for water fluoridation and better dental health outcomes as well as reducing one of the biggest health risks and cost to our public system. I had the figures and all, but no the trap of false dichotomy had too much of a cognitive strangle hold on all. So Ikonoklast, consider this, could there be a third, or forth option for that matter, for establishing the “truth” between your “(hard) science” and “superstition”, something perhaps even more efficacious or even elegant? You don’t have to leave your comfortable “pure Physicalist Monist system” but just consider the possibility.

    I nearly added to my last sentence re our “need for a slick systems”, that we also need slick operators to drive it and don’t worry I include myself here too.

  54. Iko, how is your groin? You have my sympathy, it is frustrating being laid up with health issues. Today I feel the best for months, no pain and the cognitive fog nearly clear. My apologies for the often garbled sentences and tortured writing in my comments above. It is a symptom of my illness and I appreciate your patience and interaction on a topic I am passioned about as a fellow autodidact.

    I thought you maybe interested in this article I picked up this morning. It illustrates how recent developments in another keystone discovery in mathematics (fractals). It beautifully deals with a transcending phenomena, namely literature. It is amazing how through simple binary codes (black ink and white page) symbols, words, sentences and ultimately literature emerges. These patterns of black and white fit our innate abilities to decode and transcend to gain meaning, being touched emotionally and become an important aspect of being human.

    Hence my previous statements about the whole being more than the sum of its parts, as well as emphasis on emergence and transcending with regards to your very pertinent question

    “”How can a fully determined system render a world with indeterminism?””

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