Re: virus: maxims and ground rules and suppositions

Eric Boyd (
Mon, 17 May 1999 23:21:00 -0400



I found your last post rather confusing, and would like a general rethread.

Here are a couple of questions we each need to answer:

(1) Do you think "circles" exist in this universe.

(2) Do you think the-idea-of (definition of) circles exists in this universe. If so, in what form?

My answers:

(1) No. Perfect circles (where each point is equidistant from a centre) cannot exist in this universe becuase this universe is *quantum*, not continuous. The perfect circle is thus "Platonic", becuase real instances of it are but pale, imperfect shadows of the defined term "circle".

(2) The idea of circles exists via it's representations in matter/energy. These representations can only be understood by a being with the proper frame of reference. Thus, the "statement of truth" that is

"A circle is a set of points equidistant from a common centre point"

is embedded in a frame of reference -- as would be any other statement of truth about circles. The idea of a circle, thus, exists by virtue of our ability to encode *and*decode* knowledge into matter/energy, i.e. it's existence is dependent on our own. (questions about the "identity" or "sameness" of ideas across frames of reference are hereby postponed until agreement is reached on this issue)

Regarding set theory -- I have a small background stemming from my mathematical education. My own point about "the universal set" being understood in mathematical circles as refering only to the set of all related objects (e.g.: in statistical circles, the universal set is often defined as the set of all people) seems to have fallen on deaf ears. My contention is that the universe in common usage has the context of existence, i.e. the universe is the set of all existing things; which does *not* include imaginary objects. Final arbitration of this issue can only be settled by taking a hike to your nearest mall and poling the plebs. What do you think people will say?

Regarding Wittgenstein's opinion (that any statement which has no utility has no "truth value" and cannot be meaningfully analysed), I'll conceed it's usefulness, although I still have reservations about it. For instance, your statement:

the snark was a boojum

is certainly meaningless/useless to me and you, but that *could be* becuase we lack the proper frame of reference, not becuase it's inherently meaningless/useless. Jumping therefore to the conclusion that the statement "has no truth value" seems a very large jump -- and one which I certainly cannot justify. If you're willing to qualify the opinion -- so that it reads "any statement which has no utility to us has no "truth value" to us and cannot be meaningfully analysed by us", then my agreement is complete.

Regarding your syllogism:
Nothing which is not in a universe can interact with that universe (definitional antecedent).
The definition of a circle is determined by the space-time which is an attribute of that universe (logical antecedent). The definition of a circle is in a universe (consequent).

I have never advanced the theory that the *definition* of a circle is not in this universe -- I have rather argued that the *circle* itself does not exist in this universe. I agree with the conclusion of your syllogism.

However, I disagree with your logical antecedent: the definition of a circle is clearly determined by us humans. (that is merely a statement about who creates knowledge, or even about the nature of naming/language, if you will). I would rewrite the above syllogism in this form:

Interaction is a necessary and sufficient condition for existence in the universe
The definition of a circle interacts with the universe (via us) The definition of a circle therefore exists in the universe (but is dependent on us)

[ interaction <==> existence

A interacts
therefore A exists. ]

It is my contention that a circle, as such, does not exist, and therefore does not interact with the universe. (despite the fact that's it's definition does so). If you can point out a place where a *circle* (not it's definition) actually interacts with the universe, you'll have won this debate, but don't hold your breath while looking...

In an unrelated post, you say:
Why multiply entities (consciousness) unnecessarily? We've known since at least since the 12th Century that this is a major logical error.


My question to you: why do you insist that *circles* as such (and all other "imaginary" objects) exist, when we do not need them in order to explain anything? Does not your own rule cut your argument here to shreds?