Re: virus: maxims and ground rules and suppositions

Eric Boyd (
Sun, 16 May 1999 00:25:58 -0400


TheHermit <> quotes from various dictionaries: <<
Wordsmythe English Dictionary:
universe: 1. all matter and space in existence, including the earth and the heavens.
The New Hamelyn:
Universe n, 1 all of space, and all the matter, energy and ideas which it contains, the cosmos.
Cassels Latin Dictionary
Univerus -a -um, the whole; the world, the universe, all things seen and unseen; {snip}
Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary Universe n. 1 The totality of known or supposed objects and phenomena throughout space; the cosmos; macrocosm.

He then writes:
I would say that WWWebsters did not reach at all.

On the contrary. Of those above, only Websters has the universe including "supposed" objects. The others are all existence based -- the latin meaning still requires that it *could* be seen, even if it's not...; and I agree that ideas exist via their representations in matter. (see below for clarification) The reference to "the heavens" is obviously dated.

My dictionaries:

Collins Concise
universe: 1) The whole of all existing matter, energy and space.

                 2) The world

Funk and Wagnalls
universe: 1) The aggregate of all existing things; the whole creation embracing all celestial bodies and all of space; the cosmos

                 2) In restricted sense, the earth
                 3) Human beings collectively; mankind
                 4) /logic/ All objects collectively, that are the
subject of consideration at once: also *universe of discourse.*
                 5) /stat/ All the instances in a given class.

(the /italics/ and *bold* emphasis are theirs)

I agree that in set theory and logic "universe" is meant as the set of all possible elements given the context (e.g. the universe all of people, in many statistical application) . It is my contention that, in general usage, the "context" of the universe is *existence*, i.e. "the universe" is generally considered to be the set of all existing things -- just as the above definitions (both yours and mine) indicate. To say that the universe includes things which do not exist is foolishness -- and I think it is Platonic Idealism in disguise.

re dishonesty, or to be gentler, misdirection: I meant that calling something which may be false (or be meaningless), "a statement of truth" is at best a misdirection but more usually an effort to bamboozle.

And how does our maxim imply that false (or meaningless) statements are "statements of truth"?

Note also that something meaningless need not have any context in which it has any "truth value". If we accept Wittgenstein's opinion, then any statement which has no utility has no "truth value" and cannot be meaningfully analysed.

I agree on the first statement -- it is a restatement of my contention that universal translators are impossible. As to the latter, I think (potential) utilty itself is a difficult property to assess, and for that reason, it makes a rather poor criteria for judging truth value. Does a statement such as

5.43645645 + 2.1229098 = 7.55936625

have an utility? It's truth value is 1 irregardless.

And how do you assess the potential utility of abstract thoughts like:

"Saints fly only in the eyes of their disciples."

Is that a useful thing to know? Does it's usefulness shead any light on it's truth value?

If your circle is a continuum of points on a eucledian plane at a fixed distance from an imaginary locus, then we are visualising the same thing. And whether it exists apart (as an idea, a description or a set of {circles}) or only in our imaginations, the definition of a "thing" (a circle) with "attributes" (a continuum of points on a eucledian plane at a fixed distance from an imaginary locus) has instantiated a class of such "things" in the Universe as defined by every dictionary I have consulted.

Actually, I was thinking further today about the fact that although any given instantiation of "circle" (be it expressed on paper or "imagined" in a mind) was likely to be different, there are several [descriptions of] [instantiations of] circles which are likely to be commonly used. You give one above. It is not a circle -- it is a *description of* a circle, and I possess the same description. Do you see how the meta-system of description (in this case English) gets around the incompleteness of the pictorial system (drawings or "imaginings") by the expedient of abstraction? There are many other such descriptions as well -- parametrizations like

for 0<=theta<=2*Pi
theta, x, and y are elements of the reals


for 0<=theta<=2*Pi
theta is an element of the reals
c is an element of the complex numbers

which also *describe* a circle without being an instantiation of one. If you wish to prove that all these possible descriptions of a circle are themselves identical (to some Platonic "circle"), you'll need a *third* system (a meta-meta-system), which by Godel will itself be incomplete (or incorrect), and so on in an ever increasing spiral.

It is my contention that one can never acheive the Platonic Ideal "circle" which you claim exists in this universe. Descriptions of it can exist -- and those descriptions are encoded in matter (existence) in such a way that an entity with the proper "frame of reference" can understand them. That last statement is the truth that the maxim we are discussing sums up:

"All statements of truth are embedded in a frame of reference."

I would say that the maxim is a consequence of the non-existence of Platonic Forms, or even a statement of that non-existence. i.e.

(Platonic Forms do not exist)

[if and only if]
(All statements of truth are embedded in a frame of reference)