Final on this from the Hermit for now was RE: virus: maxims and ground rules and suppositions

TheHermit (
Tue, 18 May 1999 04:32:29 -0500

This better be quick.. Let's see:

Where I reply "No comment" below, I am not conceding your points, simply reserving my arguments until you can follow them. I have tried persuasion in a difficult format (no graphics) to persuade you that the current metaphysical and scientific view of the universe is probably not terribly incorrect in major ways. I have stated and restated current understanding to no avail. I really do apologise, but I don't have enough time to teach you 3,500 years (at least) of developments in logics, calculii, language and set theory, or how to learn how to want to learn; so we seem to be missing a common background and are not communicating functionally. I didn't spend all this time from a love of argument - I thought I had something worthwhile I could share with you and I am really messing up here. All that our discussion seems to have led to, is that you seem to have decided that you can define metaphysics, logic, physics and mathematics via a popular vote! Not! My strong suggestion is to subscribe to an undergraduate course or two of introductory symbolic logic. Or read some books about it. I made some recommendations in my last post.

Go study. There are many good teachers in the world. Most of them will disagree with you, many will disagree with me. Find the ones you disagree with most and start learning. As long as they are rational, it will be "good" for you no matter what you are studying. I have found that this method serves to obtain the maximum benefit from study. Hopefully this thread has encouraged you and maybe a few other people to open a book or two. If it has, it was all worthwhile. I will still be here, but as I warned before being dragged into the fun that this thread has been, I don't have time to reply in the detail that is needed for your arguments. I am sorry, I was enjoying this.

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf
> Of Eric Boyd
> Sent: Monday, May 17, 1999 10:21 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: virus: maxims and ground rules and suppositions
> Hi,
> TheHermit:
> I found your last post rather confusing, and would like a general
> rethread.

Sorry, I have been up for 60+ hours. Most serious posts take 4+ hours to research and write - at a time when I have a great number of other calls on my time. I try to use English in a conventional fashion, and where I need to apply specialist (i.e. defined meanings) I carefully define the words and try to mark them as a "special usage" when necessary. You seem to have ignored these definitions - and Wittgenstein (yes, him again) says that because of that we can't communicate. Not because we don't want to, because we cannot. Our words are meaningless to each other. And you have consistently failed to provide definitions which address reality.

> Here are a couple of questions we each need to answer:
> (1) Do you think "circles" exist in this universe.
If circles means the idea of circles yes. If it means approximations to a circle, yes. If you mean some kind of platonic-prototype, no. If it means the definition of a perfect circle which can be used to measure the deviation of an actual circle then yes. If you mean in the formulae that define a circle - and can be used to test the accuracy of a circle, yes. If you mean the distance from a point on a Eucledian plane, yes. See the next answer. Nothing pale or shadowy about an absolute circle defined by as arbitrarily precise a standard as you would like to define... Nothing pale or shadowy about the implementation either. Both are, in their own ways, absolutes.

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

Yes. In the form of the definition. In the set of all circles and things with circular properties. In the tensors which describe our space time. The formulation doesn't matter. Space-time defines the ability to create a "circle", and whatever attributes that it has. For any symbols. Encoded in any fashion. When you go "Ah Ha!" here, it will be a good time to come back and try to talk some more about this. See below.

> 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".

Hint 1: You are seeing a perfect circle every time you look at the function of a circle. It is only "quantitized" in so far as you want to make it so. Our descriptive function is linear, but it functions perfectly "usefully" in the "quantitized" world. A few years ago a physical circle might have been out by a couple of angstrom. Now we move electrons on the surface of atoms. And a eucledian plane drawn through that cloud can yield a perfect circle. But there is a much more convincing if wierd proof.

If I place a point charge in a cloud of mesons - guess what shape the cloud will take... Guess what space will NOT be invaded. i.e. The Mesons cannot approach the point charge. Because of "quantitization" they will all approach a certain distance - maybe further away, but not closer, and bounce around. If they get to the internal limit of the charge field, they then "evaporate". If you increase the energy of the meson field, they disappear faster. After a suitably long time tracking mesons, guess what shape a eucledian plane through this space will take. Hint 2: You will recognise it. Hint 3: The absense of something can also be definitional. Nope, the result is not suitably statistically vague to allow it to meet your constriction. What has been defined is a perfect, linear implementation of the definition of a circle at a lepton level. It is not relatively perfect, it is absolutely perfect. That is why the mesons "evaporate" - we will absolutely know their positions... as they absolutely reach the charge field, so they have to disappear - or we could determine their spin as well, a major no-no. If we didn't know their absolute position relative to the charge, but only an approximation to the position, they would still be there. This experiment is not a thought experiment. It has been performed and the results matched the theory. You see, information is also existence. If I know the spin of a particle I cannot know the position. And vice versa. That's foundational, never mind definitional. Coming up with words which attempt to skirt the point, without enough knowledge of the subject, is just silly.

> (2) The idea of circles exists via it's representations in
> matter/energy.

Space-time is. It does not require "understanding". It does not require "proper frames of reference". Space-time just is. Space-time needs no reference. Space-time needs no reason. Space-time is the reference. Without space-time the universe would not exist. It came into being with the Universe, and enforces the "nature" of the universe. Space-time is the reason for the universe and everything in it. Including circles. Which require Eucledian planes, and the concept of distance, and more than one dimension. Which are all properties of Space-time. That's it. Finis. No more. Which makes the rest of your vapid argument shrivel like a derided morning-glory...

> 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)
To all the above; you obviously discount space-time as a frame of reference. You have a few words you are playing back and forth, and no matter how I reply, you play back the same. I am obviously doing such a lousy job you can't see what I mean. So I just quit the game.

> 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?
Nonsense. You are telling me that a large percentage of the Earth's population cannot be wrong? What a fine foundation for a logical system. Vote on it. I think I will abstain. Why are you not a Catholic or a Buddhist?

Hold your election, then go and read the work of the philosophers, physicists and mathematicians who have worked this century. After you understand their work, tell them that they are wrong. You have determined they were wrong by holding a vote which has just redefined "your universe" and they have lived and worked in vain, have been outvoted. Don't do it before you understand them or you won't realise what you are discarding. I obviously have failed to explain their work to you. Hopefully you will try and discover more. Including why I have stopped. You have a long bibliography. I suggest you start with symbolic logic and work forward. By the way, I and all those others will laugh at you. There are words for people who construct their own universi and believe that this then forces the "real universe" to bend to their will. Delusional is one that most people would think of. What do you think people will say?

What I tell you three times is true. A "set" can hold whatever you define it to hold. In "metaphysics", the "Universal set" has to be truly "universal" - as you cannot define anything that is not already in the "Universal set". By definition. Without exception. Including "Imaginary things". And the set of "Imaginary things" exists - they are defined and can be used even if you can't imagine them. For example, a "one-to-one mapping" between each "cardinal" number and a "prime" number - any mathematician in our "space-time" will reach the same conclusions about the "quality" of that relationship. It is buried in the "fabric of space-time" and the "nature of counting". "i" or "j", the square root of -2 is another. I have already given you many more. Why are what these symbols represent so important that every country that has produced mathematicians have a symbol (often different) for this value? The idea of PI appears in all the continents. If it were a function of some arbitrary "proper frame of reference" it would not have done so. But it isn't arbitrary at all. In a thing which is a "circle", the circumference has a fixed relationship to the diameter. Would you care, without discussing space-time or counting theory to explain why this should be so?

You can of course define a "limited Universal set" for the purpose of an analysis of a particular field in order to remove the need to "prove" the need for a "Universal set". If you do that, your "set theory" is only "useful" to describe "relationships" between "elements" and "sets" defined in the "Universal set" you select. This is in fact what one particular "variant" of "set-theory" does. But it is not necessary. Quantum mechanics has validated the basic form of "space-time" to a "useful" degree.

> 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.

Erm, nope, it is only meaningless to you. It isn't useless to me. (by the way, you presented a good formulation of the proposition, but you ignore time). It is from Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark an Agony, in Eight Fits." Read it at While reading, note that C.L Dodgson was a mathematician of note, and that the Snark (knot) was not irrational.

The Preface reads:

If-and the thing is wildly possible-the charge of writing nonsense were ever brought against the author of this brief but instructive poem, it would be based, I feel convinced, on the line (in Fit the Second)

"Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes."

In view of this painful possibility, I will not (as I might) appeal indignantly to my other writings as a proof that I am incapable of such a deed: I will not (as I might) point to the strong moral purpose of this poem itself, to the arithmetical principles so cautiously inculcated in it, or to its noble teachings in Natural History--I will take the more prosaic course of simply explaining how it happened.

The Bellman, who was almost morbidly sensitive about appearances, used to have the bowsprit unshipped once or twice a week to be revarnished,

Carroll’s alter ego, Charles Dodgson, was at heart an Oxford mathematician and logician, and Carroll the artist imparted an almost geometrical structure to his work. Carroll was one of the first to give literary flesh to nursery-rhyme characters like Tweedledum and ‘dee, Humpty Dumpty, or the Lion and Unicorn. But he took the basic lattice of myth for his own ends. His Hunting of the Snark lays down a series of arbitrary rules to govern the action within. The Bellman instructs his shipmates, "I have said it thrice... what I tell you three times is true." Carroll’s White and Red Knights, too, follow an absurd code. "Another Rule of Battle, that Alice noticed, seemed to be that they always fell on their heads..." Through the Looking Glass is structured as a mock-quest to cross a chess board. Looking down at the checkered board, Alice exclaims, "There ought to be some men moving about somewhere -- and so there are!" noticing that Carrollian structure is rigidly structured down even to the characters we never meet.

Carroll was the Victorian world’s first experimenter in the nonsense genre. Children’s poets like Edward Lear dabbled in random poetry, but Carroll actually imparted meaning to his non-meaning. The Red Queen tells Alice, "Speak in French when you can’t think of the English for a thing,"), but when Carroll couldn’t think of the right word, he invented a new one, like "frumious" or "brillig." Humpty Dumpty articulated this attitude: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less." Humpty advances a linguistic theory that Joyce later appropriated, explaining some of Carroll’s nonsensical words as "a portmanteau -- there are two meanings packed up into one word." In asserting his "mastery" of language, Humpty also points out the arbitrariness between signifiers in English and the ideas, or "referents," they represent. The Queen compares a hill to a valley, then defends herself against Alice’s cries of impossibility: "... I’ve heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as the dictionary!" It’s important to note that even a dictionary is by its very essence self-referential: a closed system of words. Carroll believed that "meaning is not an entity, but a relation." Using this theory, relations and objects themselves can be manipulated with simple language, as when the infant called "Pig!" transforms into a pig.

See how it applies? This is all still true today. "The dictionary" may be horribly arbitrary in your opinion, but if you manipulate its meaning to suit your whim, we cannot communicate. Even using "nonsense" words as I did, in a context where they make sense, can mean that they are not nonsense words. And that is exactly the point of the Snark. The universe provides a background for the Snark, even if it does not make sense to you. But if you read the rules, "What I tell you three times is true" then it provides itself a context and becomes completely "logical" in the strictest (definitional) sense. The universe does the same for circles. It does not need you to say that "C-I-R-C-L-E" the sound or visual picture of "C-I-R-C-L-E" means "a sequence on a euclidian plane of contiguous points bounding an area at a constant distance from an imaginary locus" or any other definition. If you follow the recipe in /i "our real space-time" /i then you will create a "circle" If you come across a thing with the attributes of a circle, in another universe, even if it is hiding under some other name, like "The Snark" then you will know that in that locality in that universe, space-time functions similarly to ours.

Regarding "utility", in Metaphysics and the sciences, it is defined as "the ability to make useful suggestions".
> 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:
Saying that the "thing with attributes", called "circle" is the "circle" takes you directly back to mysticism. Why not call it a "god" and stop asking questions altogether? The "thing" with the attributes of a "circle" is "useful" to us in our "real space-time" (it would not be "useful" in many others) and as such, we have named the "things which closely (usefully) approach or match the definition (have the attributes) of a circle", "circles". But "things with the attributes of circles" exist no matter what you call them. And if you change space-time, they will no longer be "circles". If you change the "definition", or "attributes", what you call a "circle" will no longer match the "definition" of what I call a "circle", but the "things" with the "attributes" of "circles" will continue to exist for so long as our space-time exists.

> 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...
See the example of a euclidian plane drawn through a meson cloud above... Now repeat your silly expression and I will taunt you again!

> 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.
> >>
Occam's Razor. I did not mean to say that entities in the razor are equivalent to consciousness at all, which this OOC quote seems to say. Neither (in this instance) did Ockham. I was trying to say that multiplying consciousness unnecessarily contradicted Ockhams razor.

William (of) Ockham/Occam and Ockham's Razor:

William of Ockham, also called William Ockham (Ockham also spelled " Occam") (1285-1347/49), was a medeival monk.. (a scholastic)

Ockham's razor, also spelled "Occam's razor", but also called "law of economy" or "law of parsimony", is a principle stated by William of Ockham, that entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity (non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem). This principle was, in fact, invoked before Ockham by Durand de Saint-Pourcain, a French Dominican theologian and philosopher of dubious orthodoxy, who used it to explain that abstraction is the apprehension of some real entity. Galileo did something similar by defending the simplest hypothesis of the heavens, and other later scientists stated similar simplifying laws and principles. It is called "Ockham's razor" because he mentioned the principle so frequently and employed it so sharply. For instance, he used it to dispense: with relations which he held to be nothing distinct from their foundation in things;
with efficient causality, which he tended to view merely as regular succession;
with motion, which is merely the reappearance of a thing in a different place;
with psychological powers distinct for each mode of sense; and with the presence of ideas in the mind of the Creator, which are merely the creatures themselves.

Copied from Encyclopadia Britannica, Inc., 1994

There are arguments today about exactly what he said, he was more "infamous" than "famous" as he went up against Rome in a big way and no complete codex of his work exists.

Mach, Ernst. The Science of Mechanics: A Critical and Historical Account of Its Development, (Trans. TJ McCormack (1960)) Open Court, La Salle IL. Page 577ff.
Thorburn, WM. Occam's Razor, Mind 24:287-288, 1915. Burns, C Delisle. Occam's Razor, Mind, 24:392, 1915. Thorburn, WM. The Myth of Occam's Razor, Mind, 27:345-353.

all suggest that Ockham (a) is not recorded as having, and (b) wouldn't have, said `Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem' (Don't multiply entities except by necessity). He did definitely say `Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitas' (plurality shouldn't be posited without necessity). Similar forms are found in the writings of his teacher Duns Scotus.
You can even get Aristotle in the Physics (book I, chapter vi) saying things like `for the more limited, if adequate, is always preferable'. Or in (book VIII, chapter vi) `for if the consequences are the same it is always better to assume the more limited antecedent', so the thought behind the saying has a long history.

> 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?
You really think that atoms approximate the shape they are because "blanked out"? You think that the earth approximates the shape it is because "blanked out"? You think that high pressure vessels are the shape they are because "blanked out"? You think that a point soucre charge field is the shape it is because "blanked out"? You think a star is the shape it is because "blanked out"? Galaxies?
How do you replace "blanked out"? And what reason (no, you may not use Space time) do you have for answering the way you do?


Einstein rephrased Ockham to emphasize the "by necessity" part. He said "Things should be as simple as possible. But no simpler!"

"Set theory" exists, works and has utility. Thus "reality" has to include an explanation of "set theory". Here is a take on it in semi-structured propositional english.

1 All possible universii may be included in a set or sets (axiomatic set theory: definitional antecedent).
2 No possible set can exist without being included in itself and in the "Universal set" of "universal sets" providing a "context" for that set(axiomatic set theory: definitional antecedent) 3 The "real" Universe is a possible universe (Universe: definitional antecedent)
4 Nothing which is not in a universe can interact with that universe (axiomatic set theory: definitional antecedent).

5 All possible universii are included in in the "Universal set" of "universal sets" (axiomatic set theory: logical consequent from 1 and 2) 6 The "real" Universe is included in in the "Universal set" of "universal sets" (axiomatic set theory: logical consequent B from 5 and 3) 7 The "Universal set" of "universal sets" contains (interacts with) the "real" Universe (mp 5 and 6)
8 The "real" Universe contains the "Universal set" of "universal sets" (mp 4 and 7)
9 All possible sets are included in the "Universal set" of "universal sets" (restatement of 2)
10 All possible sets are included in the "real" universe. (axiomatic restatement of 2 and imp from 8)
11 All possible universii are included in the "real" Universe. (axiomatic restatement of 1 imp from 10)

If we simplify the Universe such that it cannot contain a set, or such that it cannot be contained in a set, then we have just broken set theory, or the Universe or both. It has taken some of the brightest minds of this century most of this century, to figure these things out so far - and of course general and special relativity both depend on and provide a context for set theory. So I guess you are setting yourself a large task. But if you insist that a world without set-theory is a preferred world, I would not dream of standing in your way. Just let us know what logical system you intend to use, and how you intend to explain the good match of experimental data we have been predicting in quantum physics using set theory to perform our analysis.

This is now a seven hour response.
And I short-cutted a bit at the end.
When it got to 3 hours and 4 pages of symbolic logic, that I suspect nobody here will follow anyway, I crossed it out and restated it in structured English.
I based the English on the Symbolic Logic so it should be accurate, but as stated it is not absolutely proven (I don't see it, but I still could be burying an assumption), but while I don't think so, I really don't have the time to do it fully and I still need to be at work again in 1.5 hours time.. An exercise for the student perhaps.

TheHermit <So much for quick. Now the question is will the "Ah Ha!" factor work? >

PS If you ever deliver an article on email, please be sure to mention that the real killer for metaphysical and scientific discussion is the inability to easily draw a diagram or share a white board.

PS You would probably like William of Ockham - and he would hate special relativity (from

NOMINALISM. The great revival of philosophical and theological study which the thirteenth century witnessed was conditioned by the influence of Aristotle. The theory of the universe propounded by the Stagirite had to be reconciled with the traditional Platonic-Augustinian realism. This Thomas Aquinas undertook to do, following, Aristotle as closely as possible. Duns Scotus, on the other hand, attempted to maintain the ancient realism, while supporting it by modern or Aristotelian methods. Interests and tendencies, however, came up in his work which drove his disciples away from his position. The growth of empirical research and psychological analysis together with the new activity of the reason in the epistemological field on the one side, and the recognition of the fact that the specific and the particular was the end of nature on the other, led to results widely divergent from those of Scotus. Here was Ockham's work ready to his hand. He was the leader of the nominalists, the founder of the "modern" school. Science has to do, he maintains, only with propositions, not with things as such, since the object of science is not what is but what is known. Things, too, are always singular, while science has to do with general concepts, which as such exist only in the human mind. Scotus had deduced the objective existence of universals from the concepts originated under the operation of the objects. Ockham, on the other hand, asserts that "no universal is a substance existing outside of the mind," and proves it by a variety of keen logical reasons. He rejects even the milder forms of philosophic universalism, such as the theory that the universal is something in particulars which is distinguished from them not realiter but only formaliter. He considers the universal without qualification as an "intention" of the mind, a symbol representing conventionally several objects. In respect of the theory of cognition, where Duns Scotus had placed between the perceiving subject and the object perceived a "sensible species" and an "intelligible species," Ockham considers these as superfluous machinery. Objects call forth sense-impressions in us, which are transmuted by the active intellect into mental images. These images are thus a product of the intellect, not species which flow from the object into the intellectus possibilis. The reality of these images is thus, in the modern use of the terms, not objective but subjective. This is true not merely of the "terms of first intention" formed directly from sense-impression, but also of the "terms of second intention," i.e., the abstract terms which take note of common attributes, or universals. These latter correspond to a tendency of the human mind, which can not perceive individuals without at the same time attempting to form a general concept. A white object simultaneously suggests abstract whiteness; an extended, related, enduring object forces the conception of extension, relation, duration. The result of this line of reasoning is the absolute subjectivity of all concepts and universals and the limitation of knowledge to the mind and its concepts-although these are real entities because of their subjective existence in the mind, reproducing the actual according to the constitution of the mind. Thus Ockham is really the pioneer of modern epistemology. The mysterious universals with their species in the sense of objective realities are abolished. Objects work upon the senses of men, and out of these operations the active intellect frames its concepts, including the so-called universals, which, while they are in themselves subjective, yet correspond to objective realities. By the statement that science has nothing to do directly with things, but only with concepts of them, the theory of knowledge assumes vital import for the progress of science, and a new method of scientific cognition is made available. Of course this increases the difficulty of the task of theology. However, Ockham was essentially of a skeptical and critical temperament, of great critical acumen, but (especially in the religious province) he was by no means equally great in constructive ability. He did not have the broad general conception of religion which guided his master Scotus through his attempts to criticize the old evidences and bring up new ones. Where Ockham shows its power at all, it is usually simply borrowed from Scotus.