RE: virus: maxims and ground rules

Richard Brodie (
Tue, 11 May 1999 12:03:11 -0700


Your tea-party example had me rolling on the floor.

In your example, as with any symbolic statement, the validity of the statement presupposes a number of things. Chief among them are the definitions of the symbols and the correspondence between the symbols and reality.

<<Suppose we say:
Physics:Optics:Properties of Light:(The wavelength of blue light) = (475 nm)>>

This particular statement is perhaps a poor example because it is a simple statement of definition. Blue light is defined as having that wavelength. It was defined that way by humans, and the only reason we care about it is that we have sensors in our eyes that notice that wavelength of light. There is no intrinsic meaning to that number.

<<Why does a "true statement" supposedly become a
"supposition" when removed from its "frame of reference"? Unless some of the other words in that sentence no longer carry the generally accepted English meaning. I have provided a "true statement". I have changed its reference. It does not seem to me to be a supposition.>>

I don't think the assertion was that you couldn't change ANYTHING about the frame of reference without the statement becoming a supposition, but rather that there was a PARTICULAR frame of reference (perhaps with variables such as the time and location of the observer being flexible) which was necessary for the statement to be true.

Just to throw out some examples: if by "blue light" we instead mean "any light that looks blue to the average human eye," then the wavelength of blue light might be 474 or 476 nm (I'm just making that up). If by "blue light" we mean "any light that looks blue to my friend who is blue-green colorblind," then the wavelength of blue light might be something else again. Is that clear?

<<P.S. Set theory tells us that all things are things, and all real things
have attributes. Would you call an attribute a name? Or a boundary? We also know that there are big differences between "real things" with attributes (boundaries?) and "imaginary things" (like sets of things) which need not have boundaries. Please say more to this issue.>>

Set theory is not true. It is a model and only valid within a particular frame of reference. For one thing, it is reductionist. It does nothing to explain phenomena that do not consist of nested components, for instance the execution of computer programs or interpersonal relationships.

It is not True that things have attributes. That is simply a convenient model we use that sometimes is more useful than other times. For instance, what attributes of a human being correspond to his or her potential for leadership? It's fuzzy.

<<PPS Finally, re symbolic logic. If you cannot write a "true statement" in
the format of a valid symbolic logic equation then it is not a valid proposition. The reverse is of course not necessarily true. But to rephrase your "may give us insight into operating in reality", the act of putting a statement into symbolic form often brings out the falsities of a position in ways that simple argument does not. It is a fact that any statement, true or false, can be encoded that allows us to simplify and test the structure of a statement. Where I disagree with your conclusion that "ultimately do not yield any truth about reality" is that, it should be evident that, if you discover an error of logic, or if you discover that the equation does not equate, then you have discovered that the statement cannot be true. And if the statement purported to be a statement about reality, that symbolic logic proves that your "reality" was flawed.>>

No statement is wholly true. If you find a logical contradiction, all it means is that you have a wrong assumption. Since no assumption about the physical world is ever true in all cases, you have only proved something probabilistically, which in most cases is good enough.

You seem to cherish the belief that reality can be mapped exactly. I don't think that is the case.

Richard Brodie
Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme" Free newsletter!