Log24

Monday, October 3, 2011

Realism in Plato’s Cave

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 8:08 PM

In memory of the late combinatorialist-philosopher Gian-Carlo Rota

Excerpts from the introduction to Allan Casebier's

Film and Phenomenology: Towards a Realist Theory of Cinematic Representation
(Cambridge Studies in Film, Cambridge University Press, 1991) —

Pages 1-2,  pages 3-4,  pages 5-6.

Cover illustration: Durer's 'Knight, Death, and the Devil'

Cover illustration: Knight, Death, and the Devil, by Albrecht Dürer

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Realism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 4:30 PM

From the Los Angeles Times  yesterday

"Chess player Elena Akhmilovskaya Donaldson sits
in deep concentration at the U.S. chess championship
in Seattle in 2002. (Greg Gilbert / Seattle Times / 
January 5, 2002)"

Linda Shaw, Seattle Times :

"Elena Akhmilovskaya Donaldson, who was once the world's
second-ranked women's chess player and eloped in 1988
with the captain of the U.S. chess team when they were both
playing at a tournament in Greece, has died. She was 55.

Donaldson, who earned the title of international women's
grandmaster, died Nov. 18 in her adopted hometown of Seattle…."

more »

From the Log24 post "Sermon" on the date of Donaldson's death,
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012—

"You must allow us to play every conceivable combination of chess."
— Marie-Louise von Franz in Number and Time

An October 2011 post titled  Realism in Plato's Cave displays
the following image:

Cover illustration: Durer's 'Knight, Death, and the Devil'

Cover illustration: Knight, Death, and the Devil,
by Albrecht Dürer

George Steiner and myself  in Closing the Circle, a Log24 post
of Sept. 4, 2009: 

“Allegoric associations of death with chess are perennial….”

"Yes, they are."

For related remarks on knight moves and the devil, see
today's previous two posts, Knight's Labyrinth and The Rite.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Iacta Est

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 2:30 PM

"Though realism is excellent rhetoric, maybe the best,
in a purely technical or instrumental sense,
that cannot be an adequate reason to accept it
as a serious intellectual position. In its tropes of
Death and Furniture we see a rhetoric  that refuses
to acknowledge its own existence; a politics  that
can claim a critical-radical credibility only by
the selective use of its opponents' analytic tools;
and a theology  which is deeply conservative and
seeks nothing less than the death of disruptive,
disturbing inquiry. While tedium, good taste, political
and moral sensibility will properly determine what
sorts of given realities are thought worthy of inquiry,
those considerations are no grounds for promoting
a realist ontology for social science, nor any other
science, nor for rejecting relativism. On the contrary,
relativism is social science par excellence . . . ."

Loughborough University

— Edwards, D., Ashmore, M., and Potter, J. (1995),
"Death and furniture: The rhetoric, politics and theology
of bottom line arguments against relativism," 
History of the Human Sciences , 8, 25-49.

Related material:

Platonic  realism in this journal, yesterday's post Ripples, and

Gravity's Shadow , 2004 —

Gravity's Ghost , 2010 —

See also an "Inception"-related object —

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sermon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — m759 @ 11:00 AM

The Ideas

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live….
We interpret what we see, select the most workable
of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we
are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon
disparate images, by the ‘ideas’  with which we have
learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria
which is our actual experience.”
— Joan Didion

See Didion and the I Ching  and posts tagged Plato in China .

Saturday, November 30, 2013

For Sean Connery

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 7:00 PM

On St. Andrew's Day.

A Connery adventure in Kuala Lumpur—

For another Kuala Lumpur adventure, see today's update
to "In Defense of Plato's Realism"—

The July 5, 2007, post linked to
"Plato, Pegasus, and the Evening Star."
For related drama from Kuala Lumpur, see
"Occam's Razor, Plato's Beard."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hermenautics

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 10:30 PM

University Diaries  today

"Educated people— with some exceptions, like Nader— like to explore the senses, and indeed many of your humanities courses (like the one UD ‘s teaching right now about beauty, in which we just read Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation,” with its famous concluding lines: In place of a hermeneutics, we need an erotics of art ) feature artworks and ideas that celebrate sensuality."

This suggests a review lecture on the unorthodox concept of lottery hermeneutics .

Today's New York Lottery—

http://www.log24.com/log/pix11C/111005-NYlottery-500w.jpg

A quote suggested by the UD  post

"Sainte-Beuve's Volupté  (1834) introduced the idea of idler as hero (and seeking pleasurable new sensations as the highest good), so Baudelaire indulged himself in sex and drugs."

Article on Baudelaire by Joshua Glenn in the journal Hermenaut

Some reflections suggested by Hermenaut  and by the NY evening numbers, 674 and 1834—

(Click images to enlarge.)

http://www.log24.com/log/pix11C/111005-Sainte-Beuve-P674-300w.jpg

http://www.log24.com/log/pix11C/111005-Sainte-Beuve-1834-300w.jpg

http://www.log24.com/log/pix11C/111005-Sainte-Beuve-CoolMystery-300w.jpg

Cool Mystery:

http://www.log24.com/log/pix11C/111005-PlancksCafe-CruzEnters.jpg

Detective Cruz enters Planck's Constant Café in "The Big Bang."

As for the midday numbers—

For 412, see 4/12, and for 1030, see 10/30, Devil's Night (2005).

For further background, consult Monday's Realism in Plato's Cave.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Boundary

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 11:07 AM

A comment yesterday on the New York Times  philosophy column “The Stone” quoted Karl Barth—

Man is the creature of the boundary between heaven and earth.”

See also Plato’s theory of ideas (or “forms”) and the I Ching

The eight trigrams are images not so much of objects as of states of change. This view is associated with the concept expressed in the teachings of Lao-tse, as also in those of Confucius, that every event in the visible world is the effect of an “image,” that is, of an idea in the unseen world. Accordingly, everything that happens on earth is only a reproduction, as it were, of an event in a world beyond our sense perception; as regards its occurrence in time, it is later than the suprasensible event. The holy men and sages, who are in contact with those higher spheres, have access to these ideas through direct intuition and are therefore able to intervene decisively in events in the world. Thus man is linked with heaven, the suprasensible world of ideas, and with earth, the material world of visible things, to form with these a trinity of the primal powers.

— Richard Wilhelm, Introduction to the I Ching

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Objectivity

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 12:25 PM

From math16.com

Quotations on Realism
and the Problem of Universals:

"It is said that the students of medieval Paris came to blows in the streets over the question of universals. The stakes are high, for at issue is our whole conception of our ability to describe the world truly or falsely, and the objectivity of any opinions we frame to ourselves. It is arguable that this is always the deepest, most profound problem of philosophy. It structures Plato's (realist) reaction to the sophists (nominalists). What is often called 'postmodernism' is really just nominalism, colourfully presented as the doctrine that there is nothing except texts. It is the variety of nominalism represented in many modern humanities, paralysing appeals to reason and truth."
— Simon Blackburn, Think, Oxford University Press, 1999, page 268

"You will all know that in the Middle Ages there were supposed to be various classes of angels…. these hierarchized celsitudes are but the last traces in a less philosophical age of the ideas which Plato taught his disciples existed in the spiritual world."
— Charles Williams, page 31, Chapter Two, "The Eidola and the Angeli," in The Place of the Lion (1933), reprinted in 1991 by Eerdmans Publishing

For Williams's discussion of Divine Universals (i.e., angels), see Chapter Eight of The Place of the Lion.

"People have always longed for truths about the world — not logical truths, for all their utility; or even probable truths, without which daily life would be impossible; but informative, certain truths, the only 'truths' strictly worthy of the name. Such truths I will call 'diamonds'; they are highly desirable but hard to find….The happy metaphor is Morris Kline's in Mathematics in Western Culture (Oxford, 1953), p. 430."
— Richard J. Trudeau, The Non-Euclidean Revolution, Birkhauser Boston, 1987, pages 114 and 117

"A new epistemology is emerging to replace the Diamond Theory of truth. I will call it the 'Story Theory' of truth: There are no diamonds. People make up stories about what they experience. Stories that catch on are called 'true.' The Story Theory of truth is itself a story that is catching on. It is being told and retold, with increasing frequency, by thinkers of many stripes…. My own viewpoint is the Story Theory…. I concluded long ago that each enterprise contains only stories (which the scientists call 'models of reality'). I had started by hunting diamonds; I did find dazzlingly beautiful jewels, but always of human manufacture."
— Richard J. Trudeau, The Non-Euclidean Revolution, Birkhauser Boston, 1987, pages 256 and 259

Trudeau's confusion seems to stem from the nominalism of W. V. Quine, which in turn stems from Quine's appalling ignorance of the nature of geometry. Quine thinks that the geometry of Euclid dealt with "an emphatically empirical subject matter" — "surfaces, curves, and points in real space." Quine says that Euclidean geometry lost "its old status of mathematics with a subject matter" when Einstein established that space itself, as defined by the paths of light, is non-Euclidean. Having totally misunderstood the nature of the subject, Quine concludes that after Einstein, geometry has become "uninterpreted mathematics," which is "devoid not only of empirical content but of all question of truth and falsity." (From Stimulus to Science, Harvard University Press, 1995, page 55)
— S. H. Cullinane, December 12, 2000

The correct statement of the relation between geometry and the physical universe is as follows:

"The contrast between pure and applied mathematics stands out most clearly, perhaps, in geometry. There is the science of pure geometry, in which there are many geometries: projective geometry, Euclidean geometry, non-Euclidean geometry, and so forth. Each of these geometries is a model, a pattern of ideas, and is to be judged by the interest and beauty of its particular pattern. It is a map or picture, the joint product of many hands, a partial and imperfect copy (yet exact so far as it extends) of a section of mathematical reality. But the point which is important to us now is this, that there is one thing at any rate of which pure geometries are not pictures, and that is the spatio-temporal reality of the physical world. It is obvious, surely, that they cannot be, since earthquakes and eclipses are not mathematical concepts."
— G. H. Hardy, section 23, A Mathematician's Apology, Cambridge University Press, 1940

The story of the diamond mine continues
(see Coordinated Steps and Organizing the Mine Workers)— 

From The Search for Invariants (June 20, 2011):

The conclusion of Maja Lovrenov's 
"The Role of Invariance in Cassirer’s Interpretation of the Theory of Relativity"—

"… physical theories prove to be theories of invariants
with regard to certain groups of transformations and
it is exactly the invariance that secures the objectivity
of a physical theory."

— SYNTHESIS PHILOSOPHICA 42 (2/2006), pp. 233–241

http://www.log24.com/log/pix11B/110810-MajaLovrenovBio.jpg

Related material from Sunday's New York Times  travel section—

"Exhibit A is certainly Ljubljana…."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Diamond Theory vs. Story Theory (continued)

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 5:01 PM

Some background

Richard J. Trudeau, a mathematics professor and Unitarian minister, published in 1987 a book, The Non-Euclidean Revolution , that opposes what he calls the Story Theory of truth [i.e., Quine, nominalism, postmodernism] to what he calls the traditional Diamond Theory of truth [i.e., Plato, realism, the Roman Catholic Church]. This opposition goes back to the medieval "problem of universals" debated by scholastic philosophers.

(Trudeau may never have heard of, and at any rate did not mention, an earlier 1976 monograph on geometry, "Diamond Theory," whose subject and title are relevant.)

From yesterday's Sunday morning New York Times

"Stories were the primary way our ancestors transmitted knowledge and values. Today we seek movies, novels and 'news stories' that put the events of the day in a form that our brains evolved to find compelling and memorable. Children crave bedtime stories…."

Drew Westen, professor at Emory University

From May 22, 2009

Poster for 'Diamonds' miniseries on ABC starting May 24, 2009

The above ad is by
  Diane Robertson Design—

Credit for 'Diamonds' miniseries poster: Diane Robertson Design, London

Diamond from last night’s
Log24 entry, with
four colored pencils from
Diane Robertson Design:

Diamond-shaped face of Durer's 'Melencolia I' solid, with  four colored pencils from Diane Robertson Design
 
See also
A Four-Color Theorem.

For further details, see Saturday's correspondences
and a diamond-related story from this afternoon's
online New York Times.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Search for the Basic Picture

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 5:01 PM

(Click to enlarge.)

http://www.log24.com/log/pix10B/101003-SambinBasicPictureSearch.jpg

The above is the result of a (fruitless) image search today for a current version of Giovanni Sambin's "Basic Picture: A Structure for Topology."

That search was suggested by the title of today's New York Times  op-ed essay "Found in Translation" and an occurrence of that phrase in this journal on January 5, 2007.

Further information on one of the images above—

http://www.log24.com/log/pix10B/101003-VisualThinkingSm.jpg

A search in this journal on the publication date of Giaquinto's Visual Thinking in Mathematics  yields the following—

Thursday July 5, 2007

m759 @ 7:11 PM

In defense of Plato’s realism

(vs. sophists’ nominalism– see recent entries.)

Plato cited geometry, notably in the Meno , in defense of his realism.
Consideration of the Meno 's diamond figure leads to the following:

The Eightfold Cube and its Inner Structure

For the Meno 's diamond figure in Giaquinto, see a review—

http://www.log24.com/log/pix10B/101003-VisualThinkingReview.jpg

— Review by Jeremy Avigad (preprint)

Finite geometry supplies a rather different context for Plato's  "basic picture."

In that context, the Klein four-group often cited by art theorist Rosalind Krauss appears as a group of translations in the mathematical sense. (See Kernel of Eternity and Sacerdotal Jargon at Harvard.)

The Times  op-ed essay today notes that linguistic  translation "… is not merely a job assigned to a translator expert in a foreign language, but a long, complex and even profound series of transformations that involve the writer and reader as well."

The list of four-group transformations in the mathematical  sense is neither long nor complex, but is apparently profound enough to enjoy the close attention of thinkers like Krauss.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday July 21, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 9:45 AM

Death of a Nominalist

“All our words from loose using have lost their edge.” –Ernest Hemingway

(The Hemingway quotation is from the AP’s “Today in History” on July 21, 2007; for the context, see Death in the Afternoon.)

Today seems as good a day as any for noting the death of an author previously discussed in Log24 on January 29, 2007, and January 31, 2007.

Joseph Goguen
died on July 3, 2006. (I learned of his death only after the entries of January 2007 were written. They still hold.)

Goguen’s death may be viewed in the context of the ongoing war between the realism of Plato and the nominalism of the sophists. (See, for instance, Log24 on August 10-15, 2004, and on July 3-5, 2007.)

Joseph A. Goguen, “Ontology, Society, and Ontotheology” (pdf):

“Before introducing algebraic semiotics and structural blending, it is good to be clear about their philosophical orientation. The reason for taking special care with this is that, in Western culture, mathematical formalisms are often given a status beyond what they deserve. For example, Euclid wrote, ‘The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God.’ Similarly, the ‘situations’ in the situation semantics of Barwise and Perry, which resemble conceptual spaces (but are more sophisticated– perhaps too sophisticated), are considered to be actually existing, real entities [23], even though they may include what are normally considered judgements.5 The classical semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce [24] also tends towards a Platonist view of signs. The viewpoint of this paper is that all formalisms are constructed in the course of some task, such as scientific study or engineering design, for the heuristic purpose of facilitating consideration of certain issues in that task. Under this view, all theories are situated social entities, mathematical theories no less than others; of course, this does not mean that they are not useful.”

5 The “types” of situation theory are even further removed from concrete reality.

[23] Jon Barwise and John Perry. Situations and Attitudes. MIT (Bradford), 1983.
[24] Charles Sanders Peirce. Collected Papers. Harvard, 1965. In 6 volumes; see especially Volume 2: Elements of Logic.

From Log24 on the date of Goguen’s death:

Requiem for a clown:

“At times, bullshit can only be
countered with superior bullshit.”

Norman Mailer

This same Mailer aphorism was quoted, along with an excerpt from the Goguen passage above, in Log24 this year on the date of Norman Mailer’s birth.  Also quoted on that date:

Sophia. Then these thoughts of Nature are also thoughts of God.

Alfred. Undoubtedly so, but however valuable the expression may be, I would rather that we should not make use of it till we are convinced that our investigation leads to a view of Nature, which is also the contemplation of God. We shall then feel justified by a different and more perfect knowledge to call the thoughts of Nature those of God….

Whether the above excerpt– from Hans Christian Oersted‘s The Soul in Nature (1852)– is superior to the similar remark of Goguen, the reader may decide.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Thursday July 5, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 7:11 PM

In Defense of
Plato’s Realism

(vs. sophists’ nominalism–
see recent entries.)

Plato cited geometry,
notably in the Meno,
in defense of his realism.
Consideration of the
Meno’s diamond figure
leads to the following:

The Eightfold Cube and its Inner Structure

Click on image for details.

As noted in an entry,
Plato, Pegasus, and
the Evening Star,

linked to
at the end of today’s
previous entry,
the “universals”
of Platonic realism
are exemplified by
the hexagrams of
the I Ching,
which in turn are
based on the seven
trigrams above and
on the eighth trigram,
of all yin lines,
not shown above:

Trigram of K'un, the Receptive

K’un
The Receptive

_____________________________________________

Update of Nov. 30, 2013:

From  a little-known website in Kuala Lumpur:
(Click to enlarge.)

The remarks on Platonic realism are from Wikipedia.
The eightfold cube is apparently from this post.

Thursday July 5, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 12:48 PM
Their Name is Legion

“Although it may not at first be obvious,
the substitution for real religions
 of a religion drained of particulars
is of a piece with the desire to
exorcise postmodernism.”

Stanley Fish, July 2002

The previous entry linked to an entry of June 2002 that attacked the nominalism of Stanley Fish.  Here is another such attack:

From “Stanley Fish: The Critic as Sophist,” by R.V. Young, in Modern Age, June 22, 2003:

In one of the definitive works of conservatism in the twentieth century, Richard Weaver designates the rise of nominalism as a critical turn in the emergence of the intellectual and cultural disintegration associated with liberalism, which it is the business of a reviving conservatism to contest: “The defeat of logical realism in the great medieval debate was the crucial event in the history of Western culture; from this flowed those acts which issue now in modern decadence.” It is nominalism that provides the intellectual foundation– if a paradox may be hazarded– for the attack by Fish and numerous others (their name is Legion) on the very idea of intellectual foundations:  

It was William of Occam who propounded the fateful doctrine of nominalism, which denies that universals have real existence. His triumph tended to leave universal terms mere names serving our  convenience. The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a  source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one’s view of the nature and destiny of humankind. The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses. (4)

(4). Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago and London, 1948), 3.

R.V. YOUNG is Professor of English at North Carolina State University and author of At War With the Word and Doctrine and Devotion in Seventeenth-Century Poetry (2000).


Related material:

Simon Blackburn on
Plato and sophists,
realism and nominalism
(previous entry)

and

Plato, Pegasus, and

the Evening Star

Friday, July 7, 2006

Friday July 7, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 7:00 PM

ART WARS continued
 

To the “Endgame Art” review
in today’s New York Times,
a magic-realism response:

Now

In memory of
Roderick MacLeish:

Now, we are seven.
— Yul Brynner

Related material:

Log24 for 6/6/6

  and
Plato, Pegasus, and
the Evening Star.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday June 26, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 9:29 AM

A Little Extra Reading

In memory of
Mary Martin McLaughlin,
a scholar of Heloise and Abelard.
McLaughlin died on June 8, 2006.

"Following the parade, a speech is given by Charles Williams, based on his book The Place of the Lion. Williams explains the true meaning of the word 'realism' in both philosophy and theology. His guard of honor, bayonets gleaming, is led by William of Ockham."

Midsummer Eve's Dream

A review by John D. Burlinson of Charles Williams's novel The Place of the Lion:

"… a little extra reading regarding Abelard's take on 'universals' might add a little extra spice– since Abelard is the subject of the heroine's … doctoral dissertation. I'd suggest the article 'The Medieval Problem of Universals' in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy."

Michael L. Czapkay, a student of philosophical theology at Oxford:

"The development of logic in the schools and universities of western Europe between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries constituted a significant contribution to the history of philosophy. But no less significant was the influence of this development of logic on medieval theology. It provided the necessary conceptual apparatus for the systematization of theology. Abelard, Ockham, and Thomas Aquinas are paradigm cases of the extent to which logic played an active role in the systematic formulation of Christian theology. In fact, at certain points, for instance in modal logic, logical concepts were intimately related to theological problems, such as God's knowledge of future contingent truths."

The Medieval Problem of Universals, by Fordham's Gyula Klima, 2004:

"… for Abelard, a status is an object of the divine mind, whereby God preconceives the state of his creation from eternity."

Status Symbol

(based on Weyl's Symmetry):

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix06A/060604-Roots.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

"… for then we would know

the mind of God"
Stephen Hawking, 1988

For further details,
click on the picture.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday March 31, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 12:00 PM

Women's History Month continues…
 
Ontology Alignment

"He had with him a small red book of Mao's poems, and as he talked he squared it on the table, aligned it with the table edge first vertically and then horizontally.  To understand who Michael Laski is you must have a feeling for that kind of compulsion."

— Joan Didion in the
Saturday Evening Post,
Nov. 18, 1967 (reprinted in
Slouching Towards Bethlehem)

"Or were you," I said.
He said nothing.
"Raised a Catholic," I said.
He aligned a square crystal paperweight with the edge of his desk blotter.

— Joan Didion in
The Last Thing He Wanted,
Knopf, 1996

"It was Plato who best expressed– who veritably embodied– the tension between the narrative arts and mathematics….

Plato clearly loved them both, both mathematics and poetry.  But he approved of mathematics, and heartily, if conflictedly, disapproved of poetry.  Engraved above the entrance to his Academy, the first European university, was the admonition: Oudeis ageometretos eiseto.  Let none ignorant of geometry enter.  This is an expression of high approval indeed, and the symbolism could not have been more perfect, since mathematics was, for Plato, the very gateway for all future knowledge.  Mathematics ushers one into the realm of abstraction and universality, grasped only through pure reason.  Mathematics is the threshold we cross to pass into the ideal, the truly real."

— Rebecca Goldstein,
Mathematics and
the Character of Tragedy

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Wednesday November 30, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 8:20 PM

Hobgoblin?

Brian Davies is a professor of mathematics at King’s College London.  In the December Notices of the American Mathematical Society, he claims that arithmetic may, for all we know, be inconsistent:

“Gödel taught us that it is not possible to prove that Peano arithmetic is consistent, but everyone has taken it for granted that in fact it is indeed consistent.
    Platonistically-inclined mathematicians would deny the possibility that Peano arithmetic could be flawed.  From Kronecker onwards many consider that they have a direct insight into the natural numbers, which guarantees their existence. If the natural numbers exist and Peano’s axioms describe properties that they possess then, since the axioms can be instantiated, they must be consistent.”

“It is not possible to prove that Peano arithmetic is consistent”…?!

Where did Gödel say this?  Gödel proved, in fact, according to a well-known mathematician at Princeton, that (letting PA stand for Peano Arithmetic),

“If PA is consistent, the formula expressing ‘PA is consistent’ is unprovable in PA.”

— Edward Nelson,
   Mathematics and Faith (pdf)

Remarkably, even after he has stated correctly Gödel’s result, Nelson, like Davies, concludes that

“The consistency of PA cannot be concretely demonstrated.”

I prefer the argument that the existence of a model ensures the consistency of a theory.

For instance, the Toronto philosopher William Seager writes that

“Our judgement as to the consistency of some system is not dependent upon that system’s being able to prove its own consistency (i.e. generate a formula that states, e.g. ‘0=1’ is not provable). For if that was the sole basis, how could we trust it? If the system was inconsistent, it could generate this formula as well (see Smullyan, Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems, (Oxford, 1992, p. 109)). Furthermore, [George] Boolos allows that we do know that certain systems, such as Peano Arithmetic, are consistent even though they cannot prove their own consistency. Presumably, we know this because we can see that a certain model satisfies the axioms of the system at issue, hence that they are true in that model and so must be consistent.”

Yesterday’s Algorithm:
    Penrose and the Gödel Argument

The relationship between consistency and the existence of a model is brought home by the following weblog entry that neatly summarizes a fallacious argument offered in the AMS Notices by Davies:

The following is an interesting example that I came across in the article “Whither Mathematics?” by Brian Davies in the December issue of Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

Consider the following list A1 of axioms.

(1) There is a natural number 0.
(2) Every natural number a has a successor, denoted by S(a).
(3) There is no natural number whose successor is 0.
(4) Distinct natural numbers have distinct successors: a = b if and only if S(a) = S(b).
(5) If a property is possessed by 0 and also by the successor of every natural number which possesses it, then it is possessed by all the natural numbers.

Now consider the following list A2 of axioms.

(1) G is a set of elements and these elements obey the group axioms.
(2) G is finite but not isomorphic to any known list of finite simple groups.
(3) G is simple, in other words, if N is a subset of G satisfying certain properties then N=G.

We can roughly compare A2 with A1. The second axiom in A2 can be thought of as analogous to the third axiom of A1. Also the third axiom of A2 is analogous to the fifth axiom of A1, insofar as it refers to an unspecified set with cetain properties and concludes that it is equal to G.

Now, as is generally believed by most group theorists, the system A2 is internally inconsistent and the proof its inconsistency runs for more than 10000 pages.

So who is to deny that the system A1 is also probably internally inconsistent! Particularly since Godel proved that you can not prove it is consistent (staying inside the system). May be the shortest proof of its inconsistency is one hundred million pages long!

— Posted by Krishna,
   11/29/2005 11:46:00 PM,
   at his weblog,
  “Quasi-Coherent Ruminations”

An important difference between A1 (the set of axioms of Peano arithmetic) and A2 (a set of axioms that describe a new, unknown, finite simple group) is that A1 is known to have a model (the nonnegative integers) and A2 is not known to have a model.

Therefore, according to Seager’s argument, A1 is consistent and A2 may or may not be consistent.

The degree to which Seager’s argument invokes Platonic realism is debatable.  Less debatable is the quasireligious faith in nominalism proclaimed by Davies and Nelson.  Nelson’s own account of a religious experience in 1976 at Toronto is instructive.

I must relate how I lost my faith in Pythagorean numbers. One morning at the 1976 Summer Meeting of the American Mathematical Society in Toronto, I woke early. As I lay meditating about numbers, I felt the momentary overwhelming presence of one who convicted me of arrogance for my belief in the real existence of an infinite world of numbers, leaving me like an infant in a crib reduced to counting on my fingers. Now I live in a world in which there are no numbers save those that human beings on occasion construct.

— Edward Nelson,
   Mathematics and Faith (pdf)

Nelson’s “Mathematics and Faith” was written for the Jubilee for Men and Women from the World of Learning held at the Vatican, 23-24 May 2000.  It concludes with an invocation of St. Paul:

During my first stay in Rome I used to play chess with Ernesto Buonaiuti. In his writings and in his life, Buonaiuti with passionate eloquence opposed the reification of human abstractions. I close by quoting one sentence from his Pellegrino di Roma.  “For [St. Paul] abstract truth, absolute laws, do not exist, because all of our thinking is subordinated to the construction of this holy temple of the Spirit, whose manifestations are not abstract ideas, but fruits of goodness, of peace, of charity and forgiveness.”

— Edward Nelson,
   Mathematics and Faith (pdf)

Belief in the consistency of arithmetic may or may not be foolish, and therefore an Emersonian hobgoblin of little minds, but bullshit is bullshit, whether in London, in Princeton, in Toronto, or in Rome.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Thursday November 3, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:07 AM

Bond

USA Today on last night’s White House dinner:

“In his toast, Bush said the royal visit was ‘a reminder of the unique and enduring bond’ between the two countries.”

From Log24, July 18, 2003:

The use of the word “idea” in my entries’ headlines yesterday was not accidental.  It is related to an occurrence of the word in Understanding: On Death and Truth, a set of journal entries from May 9-12.  The relevant passage on “ideas” is quoted there, within commentary by an Oberlin professor:

“That the truth we understand must be a truth we stand under is brought out nicely in C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength when Mark Studdock gradually learns what an ‘Idea’ is. While Frost attempts to give Mark a ‘training in objectivity’ that will destroy in him any natural moral sense, and while Mark tries desperately to find a way out of the moral void into which he is being drawn, he discovers what it means to under-stand.

‘He had never before known what an Idea meant: he had always thought till now that they were things inside one’s own head. But now, when his head was continually attacked and often completely filled with the clinging corruption of the training, this Idea towered up above him-something which obviously existed quite independently of himself and had hard rock surfaces which would not give, surfaces he could cling to.’

This too, I fear, is seldom communicated in the classroom, where opinion reigns supreme. But it has important implications for the way we understand argument.”

— “On Bringing One’s Life to a Point,” by Gilbert Meilaender, First Things, November 1994

The old philosophical conflict between realism and nominalism can, it seems, have life-and-death consequences.  I prefer Plato’s realism, with its “ideas,” such as the idea of seven-ness.  A reductio ad absurdum of nominalism may be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy under Realism:

“A certain kind of nominalist rejects the existence claim which the platonic realist makes: there are no abstract objects, so sentences such as ‘7 is prime’ are false….”

The claim that 7 is not prime is, regardless of its motives, dangerously stupid.

The New York Lottery evening number
for All Souls’ Day, Nov. 2, 2005, was

007.

Related material:

Entries for Nov. 1, 2005 and
the song Planned Obsolescence
by the 10,000 Maniacs

(Hope Chest:
The Fredonia Recordings)

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Tuesday November 1, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 12:00 PM

Antidote to Atiyah

In a recent talk, "The Nature of Space," Sir Michael Atiyah gave a misleading description of Plato's doctrine of "ideas," or "idealism."  Atiyah said that according to Plato, ideas reside in  "an imaginary world–  the world of the mind," and that what we see in the external world is "some pale reflection" of ideas in the mind.

An antidote to Atiyah's nonsense may be found in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"So it came to pass that the word idea in various languages took on more and more the meaning of 'representation,' 'mental image,' and the like. Hence too, there was gradually introduced the terminology which we find in the writings of Berkeley, and according to which idealism is the doctrine that ascribes reality to our ideas, i.e. our representations, but denies the reality of the physical world. This sort of idealism is just the reverse of that which was held by the philosophers of antiquity and their Christian successors; it does away with the reality of ideal principles by confining them exclusively to the thinking subject; it is a spurious idealism…."

Atiyah contrasts his mistaken view of Plato with what he calls the "realism" of Hume.  He does not mention that Plato's doctrine of ideas is also known as "realism."  For details, see, again, the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"The conciliation of the one and the many, the changing and the permanent, was a favourite problem with the Greeks; it leads to the problem of universals. The typical affirmation of Exaggerated Realism, the most outspoken ever made, appears in Plato's philosophy; the real must possess the attributes of necessity, universality, unity, and immutability which are found in our intellectual representations. And as the sensible world contains only the contingent, the particular, the unstable, it follows that the real exists outside and above the sensible world. Plato calls it eîdos, idea. The idea is absolutely stable and exists by itself (ontos on; auta kath' auta), isolated from the phenomenal world, distinct from the Divine and human intellect…. The exaggerated Realism of Plato… is the principal doctrine of his metaphysics."
 
Atiyah's misleading remarks may appeal to believers in the contemptible religion of Scientism, but they have little to do with either historical reality or authentic philosophy.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Thursday April 7, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 9:00 AM
Nine is a Vine

“Heaven is a state,
a sort of metaphysical state.”
— John O’Hara, Hope of Heaven, 1938

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/HopeOfHeaven1938.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

 “Mathematical realism holds that mathematical entities exist independently of the human mind.  Thus humans do not invent mathematics, but rather discover it, and any other intelligent beings in the universe would presumably do the same. The term Platonism is used because such a view is seen to parallel Plato’s belief in a “heaven of ideas”, an unchanging ultimate reality that the everyday world can only imperfectly approximate. Plato’s view probably derives from Pythagoras, and his followers the Pythagoreans, who believed that the world was, quite literally, built up by the numbers. This idea may have even older origins that are unknown to us.” — Wikipedia

Amen.

Related material:

In memory of Jesus of Nazareth,
the “true vine,”
who, some historians believe,
died on this date:

The Crucifixion of John O’Hara.

In memory of the Anti-Vine:

The image “http://www.log24.com/log/pix05/DayOfTheLocust.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

See Dogma and
Heaven, Hell,
and Hollywood.
 
Related material:

The Usual Suspects

and

Thursday, December 26, 2002:

Holly for Miss Quinn 

Tonight’s site music is for Stephen Dedalus
and Miss Quinn, courtesy of Eithne Ní Bhraonáin. 

Miss Quinn

Holly

Eithne

Monday, January 10, 2005

Monday January 10, 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 11:00 AM

Realism

In memory of Humphrey Carpenter:

"Aslan's last words come at the end of The Last Battle: 'There was a real railway accident […] Your father and mother and all of you are–as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands–dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.' The final paragraph of the novel, which follows these words, functions as a coda; it is full of the conventions which signal the wrapping up of a story. This direct speech is the true climax of the Chronicles. Aslan is given the last word in these quiet but emphatic lines. He is the ultimate arbiter of reality: 'There was a real railway accident.' Plato, in addition to the Christian tradition, lies behind the closing chapters of The Last Battle….

'It's all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!' "

Joy Alexander, Aslan's Speech

See also From Tate to Plato (Nov. 19, 2004), Habeas Corpus (Nov. 24, 2004), and the Log24 entries of last Friday through Sunday.




 
"There was a real railway accident."

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Sunday December 12, 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — m759 @ 7:59 PM

Ideas, Stories, Values:
Literati in Deep Confusion

Joan Didion, The White Album:

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live….

We interpret what we see, select the most workable of multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas‘ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.

Or at least we do for a while. I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself, a common condition but one I found troubling.”

Interview with Joseph Epstein:

“You can do in stories things that are above those in essays,” says Epstein.  “In essays and piecework, you are trying to make a point, whereas in stories you are not quite sure what the point is. T.S. Eliot once said of Henry James, ‘He had a mind so fine no idea could violate it,’ which, I think, is the ultimate compliment for an author. Stories are above ideas.”

Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers, Sept. 12, 2004:

“You are entering a remarkable community, the Harvard community. It is a community built on the idea of searching for truth… on the idea of respect for others….

… we practice the values we venerate. The values of seeking truth, the values of respecting others….”

Paul Redding on Hegel:

“… Hegel discusses ‘culture’ as the ‘world of self-alienated spirit.’ The idea seems to be that humans in society not only interact, but that they collectively create relatively enduring cultural products (stories, dramas, and so forth) within which they can recognise their own patterns of life reflected.”

The “phantasmagoria” of Didion seems related to the “phenomenology” of Hegel…

From Michael N. Forster,  Hegel’s Idea of a Phenomenology of Spirit:

“This whole system is conceived, on one level at least, as a defense or rational reworking of the Christian conception of God.  In particular, its three parts are an attempt to make sense of the Christian idea of a God who is three in one — the Logic depicting God as he is in himself, the Philosophy of Nature God the Son, and the Philosophy of Spirit God the Holy Spirit.”

and, indeed, to the phenomenology of narrative itself….

From Patrick Vert,
The Narrative of Acceleration:

“There are plenty of anecdotes to highlight the personal, phenomenological experience of railway passage…

… a unique study on phantasmagoria and the history of imagination. The word originates [in] light-projection, the so-called ghost-shows of the early 19th century….

… thought becomes a phantasmagorical process, a spectral, representative location for the personal imagination that had been marginalized by scientific rationalism….

Truly, ‘immediate experience is [or becomes] the phantasmagoria of the idler’ [Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project.  Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.  Page 801.]….

Thought as phantasm is a consequence of the Cartesian split, and… a further consequence to this is the broad take-over of perceptual faculty…. What better example than that of the American railway?  As a case-study it offers explanation to the ‘phantasmagoria of the idler’….

This phantasmagoria became more mediated over time…. Perception became increasingly visually oriented…. As this occurred, a narrative formed to encapsulate the phenomenology of it all….”

For such a narrative, see
the Log24.net entries of

November 5, 2002, 2:56 AM,
November 5, 2002, 6:29 AM,
January 3, 2003, 11:59 PM,
August 17, 2004, 7:29 PM,
August 18, 2004, 2:18 AM,
August 18, 2004, 3:00 AM, and
November 24, 2004, 10:00 AM.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Tuesday April 6, 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 10:00 PM

Ideas and Art, Part III

The first idea was not our own.  Adam
In Eden was the father of Descartes…

— Wallace Stevens, from
Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

“Quaedam ex his tanquam rerum imagines sunt, quibus solis proprie convenit ideae nomen: ut cùm hominem, vel Chimaeram, vel Coelum, vel Angelum, vel Deum cogito.”

Descartes, Meditationes III, 5

“Of my thoughts some are, as it were, images of things, and to these alone properly belongs the name idea; as when I think [represent to my mind] a man, a chimera, the sky, an angel or God.”

Descartes, Meditations III, 5

Begin, ephebe, by perceiving the idea
Of this invention, this invented world,
The inconceivable idea of the sun.

You must become an ignorant man again
And see the sun again with an ignorant eye
And see it clearly in the idea of it.

— Wallace Stevens, from
Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction

“… Quinimo in multis saepe magnum discrimen videor deprehendisse: ut, exempli causâ, duas diversas solis ideas apud me invenio, unam tanquam a sensibus haustam, & quae maxime inter illas quas adventitias existimo est recensenda, per quam mihi valde parvus apparet, aliam verò ex rationibus Astronomiae desumptam, hoc est ex notionibus quibusdam mihi innatis elicitam, vel quocumque alio modo a me factam, per quam aliquoties major quàm terra exhibetur; utraque profecto similis eidem soli extra me existenti esse non potest, & ratio persuadet illam ei maxime esse dissimilem, quae quàm proxime ab ipso videtur emanasse.”

Descartes, Meditationes III, 11

“… I have observed, in a number of instances, that there was a great difference between the object and its idea. Thus, for example, I find in my mind two wholly diverse ideas of the sun; the one, by which it appears to me extremely small draws its origin from the senses, and should be placed in the class of adventitious ideas; the other, by which it seems to be many times larger than the whole earth, is taken up on astronomical grounds, that is, elicited from certain notions born with me, or is framed by myself in some other manner. These two ideas cannot certainly both resemble the same sun; and reason teaches me that the one which seems to have immediately emanated from it is the most unlike.”

Descartes, Meditations III, 11

“Et quamvis forte una idea ex aliâ nasci possit, non tamen hîc datur progressus in infinitum, sed tandem ad aliquam primam debet deveniri, cujus causa sit in star archetypi, in quo omnis realitas formaliter contineatur, quae est in ideâ tantùm objective.”

Descartes, Meditationes III, 15

“And although an idea may give rise to another idea, this regress cannot, nevertheless, be infinite; we must in the end reach a first idea, the cause of which is, as it were, the archetype in which all the reality [or perfection] that is found objectively [or by representation] in these ideas is contained formally [and in act].”

Descartes, Meditations III, 15

Michael Bryson in an essay on Stevens’s “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction,”

The Quest for the Fiction of the Absolute:

“Canto nine considers the movement of the poem between the particular and the general, the immanent and the transcendent: “The poem goes from the poet’s gibberish to / The gibberish of the vulgate and back again. / Does it move to and fro or is it of both / At once?” The poet, the creator-figure, the shadowy god-figure, is elided, evading us, “as in a senseless element.”  The poet seeks to find the transcendent in the immanent, the general in the particular, trying “by a peculiar speech to speak / The peculiar potency of the general.” In playing on the senses of “peculiar” as particular and strange or uncanny, these lines play on the mystical relation of one and many, of concrete and abstract.”

Brian Cronin in Foundations of Philosophy:

“The insight is constituted precisely by ‘seeing’ the idea in the image, the intelligible in the sensible, the universal in the particular, the abstract in the concrete. We pivot back and forth between images and ideas as we search for the correct insight.”

— From Ch. 2, Identifying Direct Insights

Michael Bryson in an essay on Stevens’s “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction“:

“The fourth canto returns to the theme of opposites. ‘Two things of opposite natures seem to depend / On one another . . . . / This is the origin of change.’  Change resulting from a meeting of opposities is at the root of Taoism: ‘Tao produced the One. / The One produced the two. / The two produced the three. / And the three produced the ten thousand things’ (Tao Te Ching 42) ….”

From an entry of March 7, 2004

From the web page

Introduction to the I Ching–
By Richard Wilhelm
:

“He who has perceived the meaning of change fixes his attention no longer on transitory individual things but on the immutable, eternal law at work in all change. This law is the tao of Lao-tse, the course of things, the principle of the one in the many. That it may become manifest, a decision, a postulate, is necessary. This fundamental postulate is the ‘great primal beginning’ of all that exists, t’ai chi — in its original meaning, the ‘ridgepole.’ Later Chinese philosophers devoted much thought to this idea of a primal beginning. A still earlier beginning, wu chi, was represented by the symbol of a circle. Under this conception, t’ai chi was represented by the circle divided into the light and the dark, yang and yin,

.

This symbol has also played a significant part in India and Europe. However, speculations of a gnostic-dualistic character are foreign to the original thought of the I Ching; what it posits is simply the ridgepole, the line. With this line, which in itself represents oneness, duality comes into the world, for the line at the same time posits an above and a below, a right and left, front and back-in a word, the world of the opposites.”

The t’ai chi symbol is also illustrated on the web page Cognitive Iconology, which says that

“W.J.T. Mitchell calls ‘iconology’
a study of the ‘logos’
(the words, ideas, discourse, or ‘science’)
of ‘icons’ (images, pictures, or likenesses).
It is thus a ‘rhetoric of images’
(Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology, p. 1).”

A variation on the t’ai chi symbol appears in a log24.net entry for March 5:

The Line,
by S. H. Cullinane

See too my web page Logos and Logic, which has the following:

“The beautiful in mathematics resides in contradiction. Incommensurability, logoi alogoi, was the first splendor in mathematics.”

— Simone Weil, Oeuvres Choisies, ed. Quarto, Gallimard, 1999, p. 100

 Logos Alogos,
by S. H. Cullinane 

In the conclusion of Section 3, Canto X, of “Notes,” Stevens says

“They will get it straight one day
at the Sorbonne.
We shall return at twilight
from the lecture
Pleased that
the irrational is rational….”

This is the logoi alogoi of Simone Weil.

In “Notes toward a Supreme Fiction,”
Wallace Stevens lists three criteria
for a work of the imagination:

It Must Be Abstract

The Line,
by S.H. Cullinane 

It Must Change

 The 24,
by S. H. Cullinane

It Must Give Pleasure

Puzzle,
by S. H. Cullinane

Related material:

Logos and Logic.

 

Friday, July 25, 2003

Friday July 25, 2003

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 11:59 PM

Realism in Literature:
Under the Volcano

Mexican Volcano Blast
Scares Residents

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 11:13 p.m. EDT Friday, July 25, 2003

PUEBLA, Mexico (AP) — Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano shot glowing rock and ash high into the air Friday night, triggering a thunderous explosion that panicked some residents in nearby communities.

Here are 3 webcam views of the volcano.   Nothing to see at the moment.

Literary background:

Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano,

Plato, Pegasus, and the Evening Star,

A Mass for Lucero,

Shining Forth,

and, as background for today’s earlier entry on Platonism and Derrida,

The Shining of May 29.

Vignette

For more on Plato and Christian theology, consult the highly emotional site

Further Into the Depths of Satan:

“…in The Last Battle on page 170 [C. S.] Lewis has Digory saying, ‘It’s all in Plato, all in Plato.’ Now, Lewis calls Plato ‘an overwhelming theological genius’ (Reflections on the Psalms, p. 80)….”

The title “Further Into the Depths of Satan,” along with the volcano readings above, suggests a reading from a related site:

Gollum and the Mystery of Evil:

“Gollum here clearly represents Frodo’s hidden self. It is ‘as if we are witnessing the darkest night of the soul and one side attempting to master the other’ (Jane Chance 102). Then Frodo, whose finger has been bitten off, cries out, and Gollum holds the Ring aloft, shrieking: ‘Precious, precious, precious! My Precious! O my Precious!’ (RK, VI, 249). At this point, stepping too near the edge, he falls into the volcano, taking the Ring with him. With this, the mountain shakes.’ “

In the above two-step vignette, the part of Gollum is played by the author of “Further Into the Depths of Satan,” who called  C. S. Lewis a fool “that was and is extremely useful to his father the devil.”

See Matthew 5:22: “…whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” 

Friday, July 18, 2003

Friday July 18, 2003

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 4:09 PM

Hideous Strength

On a Report from London:

Assuming rather prematurely that the body found in Oxfordshire today is that of David Kelly, Ministry of Defence germ-warfare expert and alleged leaker of information to the press, the Financial Times has the following:

“Mr Kelly’s death has stunned all the players involved in this drama, resembling as it does a fictitious political thriller.”

Financial Times, July 18,
   2003, 19:06 London time

I feel it resembles rather a fictitious religious thriller… Namely, That Hideous Strength, by C. S. Lewis.  The use of the word “idea” in my entries’ headlines yesterday was not accidental.  It is related to an occurrence of the word in Understanding: On Death and Truth, a set of journal entries from May 9-12.  The relevant passage on “ideas” is quoted there, within commentary by an Oberlin professor:

“That the truth we understand must be a truth we stand under is brought out nicely in C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength when Mark Studdock gradually learns what an ‘Idea’ is. While Frost attempts to give Mark a ‘training in objectivity’ that will destroy in him any natural moral sense, and while Mark tries desperately to find a way out of the moral void into which he is being drawn, he discovers what it means to under-stand.

‘He had never before known what an Idea meant: he had always thought till now that they were things inside one’s own head. But now, when his head was continually attacked and often completely filled with the clinging corruption of the training, this Idea towered up above him-something which obviously existed quite independently of himself and had hard rock surfaces which would not give, surfaces he could cling to.’

This too, I fear, is seldom communicated in the classroom, where opinion reigns supreme. But it has important implications for the way we understand argument.”

— “On Bringing One’s Life to a Point,” by Gilbert Meilaender, First Things,  November 1994

The old philosophical conflict between realism and nominalism can, it seems, have life-and-death consequences.  I prefer Plato’s realism, with its “ideas,” such as the idea of seven-ness.  A reductio ad absurdum of nominalism may be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy under Realism:

“A certain kind of nominalist rejects the existence claim which the platonic realist makes: there are no abstract objects, so sentences such as ‘7 is prime’ are false….”

The claim that 7 is not prime is, regardless of its motives, dangerously stupid… A quality shared, it seems, by many in power these days.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Monday December 16, 2002

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 10:00 PM

Rebecca Goldstein
at Heaven’s Gate

This entry is in gratitude for Rebecca Goldstein’s
excellent essay
in The New York Times of December 16, 2002.

She talks about the perennial conflict between two theories of truth that Richard Trudeau called the “story theory” and the “diamond theory.” My entry of December 13, 2002, “Rhyme Scheme,” links the word “real” to an article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that contains the following:

“According to a platonist about arithmetic, the truth of the sentence ‘7 is prime’ entails the existence of an abstract object, the number 7. This object is abstract because it has no spatial or temporal location, and is causally inert. A platonic realist about arithmetic will say that the number 7 exists and instantiates the property of being prime independently of anyone’s beliefs, linguistic practices, conceptual schemes, and so on. A certain kind of nominalist rejects the existence claim which the platonic realist makes: there are no abstract objects, so sentences such as ‘7 is prime’ are false…”

This discussion of “sevenness,” along with the discussion of “eightness” in my December 14, 2002, note on Bach, suggest that I supply a transcription of a note in my paper journal from 2001 that deals with these matters.

From a paper journal note of October 5, 2001:

The 2001 Silver Cup Award
for Realism in Mathematics
goes to…
Glynis Johns, star of
The Sword and the Rose,
Shake Hands with the Devil, and
No Highway in the Sky.

Glynis Johns is 78 today.

“Seven is heaven,
Eight is a gate.”
— from
Dealing with Memory Changes
as You Grow Older
,
by Kathleen Gose and Gloria Levi

“There is no highway in the sky.”
— Quotation attributed to Albert Einstein.
(See
Gotthard Günther’s website
“Achilles and the Tortoise, Part 2”.)

“Don’t give up until you
Drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky.”
America, 1974

See also page 78 of
Realism in Mathematics
(on Gödel’s Platonism)
by Penelope Maddy,
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990
(reprinted, 2000).

Added 12/17/02: See also
the portrait of Rebecca Goldstein in
Hadassah Magazine
 Volume
78
Number 10
(June/July 1997).

For more on the Jewish propensity to
assign mystical significance to numbers, see
Rabbi Zwerin’s Kol Nidre Sermon.

For the significance of “seven” in Judaism, see
Zayin: The Woman of Valor.
For the significance of “eight” in Judaism, see
Chet: The Life Dynamic.

For the cabalistic significance of
“Seven is heaven, Eight is a gate,”
note that Zayin, Seven, signifies
“seven chambers of Paradise”
and that Chet, Eight, signifies
the “gateway to infinity.”

For the significance of the date 12.17, see
Tet: The Concealed Good.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Friday December 13, 2002

Filed under: Uncategorized — m759 @ 2:27 PM

Rhyme Scheme

"The introduction of Charge-Coupled Devices (CCDs)
has dramatically changed the methods
astronomers use to view objects."
— Santa Barbara Instrument Group, Inc.

"They should have sent a poet." 
— Jodie Foster in the film version
of Carl Sagan's Contact

star cluster

M16 Nebulous Star Cluster.
300 second Model ST-7
CCD image
taken through a
7", f/7 Astrophysics refractor
utilizing the self-guiding mode.

"Say 'Abba,'
Jesus told
his followers. 
'Our Father.'"
 

Abba!
Abba!

CCD!
CCD!

— Rhyme
Scheme,
Gerard
Manley
Hopkins

On the question of what reality is:
"Under what circumstances do we think things are
real? ….

This question speaks to a small, manageable problem
having to do with the camera and not
what it is the camera takes pictures of."

Erving Goffman,    
Frame Analysis, An Essay on
the Organization of Experience
,
Harper & Row, 1974, p. 2

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Sunday September 22, 2002

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — m759 @ 8:02 PM

Force Field of Dreams

Metaphysics and chess in today’s New York Times Magazine:

  • From “Must-See Metaphysics,” by Emily Nussbaum:

    Joss Whedon, creator of a new TV series —

    “I’m a very hard-line, angry atheist” and
    “I want to invade people’s dreams.”

  • From “Check This,” by Wm. Ferguson:

    Garry Kasparov on chess —

    “When the computer sees forced lines,
    it plays like God.”

Putting these quotations together, one is tempted to imagine God having a little game of chess with Whedon, along the lines suggested by C. S. Lewis:

As Lewis tells it the time had come for his “Adversary [as he was wont to speak of the God he had so earnestly sought to avoid] to make His final moves.” (C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., 1955, p. 216) Lewis called them “moves” because his life seemed like a chess match in which his pieces were spread all over the board in the most disadvantageous positions. The board was set for a checkmate….

For those who would like to imagine such a game (God vs. Whedon), the following may be helpful.

George Steiner has observed that

The common bond between chess, music, and mathematics may, finally, be the absence of language.

This quotation is apparently from

Fields of Force:
Fischer and Spassky at Reykjavik
. by George Steiner, Viking hardcover, June 1974.

George Steiner as quoted in a review of his book Grammars of Creation:

“I put forward the intuition, provisional and qualified, that the ‘language-animal’ we have been since ancient Greece so designated us, is undergoing mutation.”

The phrase “language-animal” is telling.  A Google search reveals that it is by no means a common phrase, and that Steiner may have taken it from Heidegger.  From another review, by Roger Kimball:

In ”Grammars of Creation,” for example, he tells us that ”the classical and Judaic ideal of man as ‘language animal,’ as uniquely defined by the dignity of speech . . . came to an end in the antilanguage of the death camps.”

This use of the Holocaust not only gives the appearance of establishing one’s credentials as a person of great moral gravity; it also stymies criticism. Who wants to risk the charge of insensitivity by objecting that the Holocaust had nothing to do with the ”ideal of man as ‘language animal’ ”?

Steiner has about as clear an idea of the difference between “classical” and “Judaic” ideals of man as did Michael Dukakis. (See my notes of September 9, 2002.)

Clearly what music, mathematics, and chess have in common is that they are activities based on pure form, not on language. Steiner is correct to that extent. The Greeks had, of course, an extremely strong sense of form, and, indeed, the foremost philosopher of the West, Plato, based his teachings on the notion of Forms. Jews, on the other hand, have based their culture mainly on stories… that is, on language rather than on form. The phrase “language-animal” sounds much more Jewish than Greek. Steiner is himself rather adept at the manipulation of language (and of people by means of language), but, while admiring form-based disciplines, is not particularly adept at them.

I would argue that developing a strong sense of form — of the sort required to, as Lewis would have it, play chess with God — does not require any “mutation,” but merely learning two very powerful non-Jewish approaches to thought and life: the Forms of Plato and the “archetypes” of Jung as exemplified by the 64 hexagrams of the 3,000-year-old Chinese classic, the I Ching.

For a picture of how these 64 Forms, or Hexagrams, might function as a chessboard,

click here.

Other relevant links:

“As you read, watch for patterns. Pay special attention to imagery that is geometric…”

and


from Shakhmatnaia goriachka

Friday, August 30, 2002

Friday August 30, 2002

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — m759 @ 2:30 AM

For Mary Shelley, on her birthday: A Chain of Links The creator of Frankenstein might appreciate the following chain of thought. Lucifer.com Lucifer Media Corporation Lucifer Media Sites The Extropy Institute: International Transhumanist Solutions Why Super-Human Intelligence Would Be Equivalent To Precognition, by Marc Geddes:

"Consider the geometry of multiple dimensions as an analogy for mental abilities… …if there is a 4th dimension of intelligence, to us ordinary humans stuck with 3 dimensional reasoning, this 4th dimension would be indistinguishable from precognition. Post-humans would appear to us ordinary humans as beings which could predict the future in ways which would be inexplicable to us. We should label post-humans as 'Pre-Cogs.'

In the Steven Speilberg [sic]  film Minority Report, we encounter genetically engineered humans with precisely the abilities described above."

Internet Movie Database page on "Minority Report"

IMDb page on "Minority Report" author Philip K. Dick

IMDb biography of Philip K. Dick, where our chain of links ends.  Here Dick says that

"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words."

On the other hand, Dick also says here that

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

These two quotations summarize, on the one hand, the cynical, relativistic nominalism of the postmodernists and, on the other hand, the hard-nosed realism of the Platonists.

What does all this have to do with "the geometry of multiple dimensions"?

Consider the famous story for adolescents, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle.   The author, a well-meaning Christian, tries, like all storytellers,  to control her readers by controlling the meaning of words.   The key word in this book is "tesseract," a term from multi-dimensional geometry.   She insists that a tesseract has mystic properties and cannot be visualized.  She is wrong (at least about the visualizing).

See The Tesseract: A look into 4-dimensional space, by Harry J. Smith.

See also the many revealing comments in Harry J. Smith's Guestbook.

One of Smith's guests remarks, apropos of Smith's comments on St. Joseph, that he has his own connection with St. Augustine.

For a adult-level discussion of Augustine, time, eternity, and Platonism, see the website Time as a Psalm in St. Augustine, by A. M. Johnston.

See also the remark headlining Maureen Dowd's New York Times column of August 28, 2002, Saint Augustine's Day:

"I'm with Dick."

Whether the realist Dick or the nominalist Dick, she does not say.

As for precognition, see my series of journal notes below, which leads up to two intriguing errors in an Amazon.com site on the "Forbidden Planet" soundtrack.   The first two audio samples from this soundtrack are (wrongly) entitled "Birdland" and "Flamingo."  See also the West Wing episode rebroadcast on Wednesday, August 28, 2002,

The Black Vera Wang

C. J. Cregg (Allison Janney), who models a black Vera Wang dress in that episode, has the Secret Service codename Flamingo.

"…that woman in black She's a mystery She's everything a woman should be Woman in black got a hold on me"

(Foreigner 4 in my August 28 note below)

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