Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

There are no non-believers

August 26, 2022

Every belief is assumed knowledge and all knowledge assumed is a belief. Why do we find it necessary to have beliefs at all?

Our behaviour and our actions are all about the future. Consciously or unconsciously we project our actions into the future. Knowledge provides a basis for such extrapolations. But where we do not know, we need to find some basis for behaviour. And so we turn to “assumed knowledge”, to beliefs. I don’t actually know that the sun will rise today. I wake up because I believe it will. Every human action is based on the belief that life will continue. It is not possible for any human mind to know everything and so it is impossible for any human mind to be devoid of belief. This is an inevitable consequence of our finite minds having a very limited capacity for “knowing”. Human minds, singly or collectively, are also finite and incapable of encompassing the incomprehensibly large amount of what is knowable. (Observe that knowledge is whatever a brain can comprehend and that incomprehensibly large is usually given the label infinite but inventing a label does not increase comprehension).

All beliefs are necessarily subjective but any belief may be shared by many minds. A Belief (B) can apply to any proposition (P) which is taken to be true but which cannot be proved. All the fundamental assumptions in science and philosophy and logic are propositions taken to be true and are beliefs. Of course, contrary to popular delusion, there are no objective truths. What is True is always subjective. Every definition of Truth is circular (truth = in accordance with fact, where fact = what is true). Circularity in definitions is a sure indicator of having reached a cognitive boundary – a limit to comprehension. Any human brain contains only a tiny fraction of what can be called accumulated human knowledge and an even tinier part of what is knowable. For that brain, all external knowledge assumed to be true is just belief. Not believing (denying or negating) a Belief about a Proposition, is a subjective negation of the Belief but not of the Proposition. A denial of a belief in a proposition is silent about the truth of the proposition itself. There is no case where the statement “I don’t believe in Belief P” is not itself a Belief Y where Y is now just the proposition that P is not true.

~B(P) is about the B and not about the (P)

~B(P) = B(Y) where Y = ~P

“I don’t believe in X” is just another belief statement saying ” I believe that X is not”.

The human mind creates (invents) and makes up plausible assumptions so that it does not get stuck and can move on. Beliefs allow us to avoid the paralysis of thought that not knowing can lead to. Science assumes causal determinism and the Laws of Nature so that all phenomena can then be deemed explainable. Of course, this assumption means that science is restricted to the knowable and cannot address the unknowable or the incomprehensible (since what is incomprehensible is not permitted to be knowledge). A label – random – is invented for that which incomprehensibly has no cause but random is just a label. The determinism assumed by science is merely a belief. Philosophy, logic – and even metaphysics – all need their assumptions. There is some debate as to what these fundamental assumptions are but only to the extent as to which assumptions are fundamental and which emerge from others. It is just an assumption of human cognition that something cannot be both true and false. Or so we believe. It is an assumption (a belief) that logic and reason must prevail. It is an assumption (a belief) that for logic and reason to prevail, contradictions in arguments are absurd and not permitted. All our fundamental assumptions are also boundary conditions.

Physics and religion both make fundamental assumptions which are always beliefs. Physics assumes causality according to assumed discoverable laws of nature in all of the universe (even though our brains and senses are finite and limited). Religions assume various versions of gods and deities with a variety of attributes regarding existence, creation and omniscience.

Physics theories are remarkably similar to God theories

The human brain is finite. Human cognition has increased as we have evolved but is limited by the size of our brains and of the senses (including extended senses) that the brain has access to. Human comprehension is circumscribed and cognition resorts to circularity when the boundaries of comprehension are reached. Reality is whatever the brain can perceive as reality. Knowledge is whatever the brain can comprehend as knowledge. Curiosity about the surrounding world is an innate part of the human cognitive state and drives the process of inquiry we call the scientific process.

We invented gods long before religions came along and hijacked the beliefs to exercise political power.

God or no-God? That is the wrong question

The fundamental reason for inventing any god was to be able to answer or explain the inexplicable. Every God ever invented was, at its core, a Theory of Explanation.

The most common form of atheism lies in denying – often with much logic and reason as justification – the beliefs of others in gods or deities, but what is usually forgotten is that this denial is merely a criticism of the beliefs of those others, but is actually silent about the propositions themselves. Famous atheists (Russell, Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, among many others) revel in ridiculing, with reason and logic and a heavy dose of sanctimony, the beliefs of others in gods and deities. But it is worth noting that when anyone denounces a belief in a God, the God must first be defined to be able to claim the non-belief. Which claim is itself a belief.

I tried to clarify my thinking a few years ago

The proposition that “God Exists” is logically meaningless until “God” is defined. This is the wrong proposition to be addressing. Most religions do not logically come to the conclusion that “God Exists”. They start with that as an assumption which – as with all such assumptions – is taken as self-evident but which cannot be proved. To ridicule this assumption is not difficult. Religions avoid the more fundamental questions by invoking their gods. But this is a method used also by physics and cosmology. The universe is assumed to be homogeneous. The four laws of nature operating in this homogeneous universe are invoked by physicists to avoid the question of why the laws exist in the first place. The Big Bang and Dark Matter and Dark Energy are invoked by cosmologists to avoid the question of why time exists and what time is and what the universe is.

Every atheist can assert a non-belief in any version of any god  – which is itself a belief.

But no atheist is a non-believer.


Numbers and mathematics are possible only because time flows

August 13, 2022

It is probably just a consequence of ageing that I am increasingly captivated (obsessed?) by the origin of things. And of these things, I find the origins of counting, numbers and mathematics (in that order) particularly fascinating. In that order because I am convinced that these developed within human cognition – and could only develop – in that order.  First counting, then numbers and then mathematics. The entire field of what is called number theory, which studies the patterns and relationships between numbers, exists because numbers are what they are. All the patterns and relationships discovered in the last c. 10,000 years all existed – were already there – as soon as the concept of numbers crystallised. Whereas counting and numbers were invented, all the wonders of the patterns and relationships that make up number theory were – and are still being – discovered. And what I find even more astonishing is that the entire edifice of numbers is built upon just one little foundation stone- the concept of identity which gives the concept of oneness.

Croutons in the soup of existence

The essence of identity lies in oneness. There can only be one of any thing once that thing has identity. Once a thing is a thing there is only one of it. Half that thing is no longer that thing. There can be many of such things but every other such thing is still something else.

Numbers are abstract and do not exist in the physical world. They are objects (“words”) within the invented language of mathematics to help us describe the physical world. They enable counting and measuring. The logical one or the philosophical one or the mathematical one all emerge from existence and identity. Neither logic nor philosophy nor mathematics can explain what one is, except that it is. Every explanation or definition attempted ends up being circular. It is what it is.

Given one (1), all other numbers follow.

Where numbers come from

Numbers start with one (1), and without a one (1) there can be no numbers. …… . Given the abstract concepts of identity (oneness, 1) and arithmetical addition (+), all natural numbers inevitably follow. With a 1 and with a +, and the concept of a set and a sum, all the natural numbers can be generated.

1 + 1 + 1 + 1 ……

…. Numbers, ultimately, rest on the concept of identity (oneness).

Equally fascinating are the questions that existence, time and causality are answers to. I am coming to the conclusion that the flow of time (whatever time is) does not emerge from existence but, in fact, enables existence.

Revising Genesis

…. What time is remains a mystery but the first act of creation is to set it flowing. Note that the flow of time does not need existence. To be, however, requires that time be flowing. Time itself, whatever it is, is a prerequisite for the flow of time and the flow of time is prerequisite for existence. ………. For even the concept of existence to be imaginable, it needs that the flow of time be ongoing. It needs to be present as a permanent moving backdrop. The potential for some particular kind of existence then appears, or is created, only when some particular rules of existence are defined and implemented. These rules of existence must therefore also be in place before the concept of things, whether abstract or material or otherwise, can be conjured up.


It is inevitable that my views have evolved and they may well evolve further but my current conclusion is that for mathematics to exist time needs to be flowing.

The bottom line:

  1. All branches of mathematics, though abstract, are existentially dependent upon the concept of numbers.
  2. Numbers depend on the concept of counting.
  3. Counting derives from the concept of oneness (1).
  4. Oneness depends upon the concept of a unique identity.
  5. The existence of a unique identity requires a begin-time.
  6. Beginnings require time to be flowing.
  7. Existence is enabled by the flow of time

Therefore

Numbers and mathematics are possible only because time flows


Revising Genesis

July 28, 2022

Either our universe is infinite or it is finite in an infinite void. Or there are an infinite number of infinite universes, each within an infinite void. Human cognition is unable to contemplate the universe without taking recourse to the infinite. Infinite is just a label. Invoking the infinite is merely acknowledging that human comprehension is finite and that some things are incomprehensible. So, all creation stories, whether based on physics or on theology, are stories by finite minds pretending to comprehend what is incomprehensible. They are all intrinsically self-contradictory in that they are all reduced to first acknowledging incomprehensibility and then explaining the incomprehensible. A scientific “infinite” is identical in incomprehensibility to a theological “divine”.

Either there was a purposeful creation event or there was purposeless happenstance. The truly random is not just without any discernible cause, it is without any possibility of there being any cause. The brute reality of our finite minds is that while our minds can rationalise and accept things without discernible cause, we cannot conceive of anything without any cause whatsoever. Invoking such an incomprehensible random, just as invoking the infinite, is an attempt to squeeze incomprehensibility into the finite box of the comprehensible. I observe that even hard determinism or quantum wave theory have their rules. Even purposeless happenstance apparently needs some rules to follow. And where there are rules there is purpose. Random, of course, is without cause or purpose and incomprehensible. Random lies in the laps of the Gods. A cosmologist relying on random events to explain the origins of the universe is no different to a priest invoking God the creator.

One might think it all begins with existence. There is a view that time and causality emerge from a randomly appearing existence. And that the capability of existing, in itself, is either the collapsing of the Great Quantum Wave Function that rules them all, or a creation of an already existing God. A self-creating God or a self-generating Quantum Wave Function are just labels for incomprehensibilities. I find both alternatives self-contradictory and unconvincing. They both assert incomprehensibilities which they then try to confine within the box of comprehensibility. I note that human comprehension, whether in attempting a scientific explanation or in describing a Divine creation, always resorts to a sequence of events. To have a sequence requires time, whatever time may be, to be flowing.

And so I make a stab at revising the Genesis sequence.

First comes the Flow of Time.

What time is remains a mystery but the first act of creation is to set it flowing. Note that the flow of time does not need existence. To be, however, requires that time be flowing. Time itself, whatever it is, is a prerequisite for the flow of time and the flow of time is prerequisite for existence.  The velocity of time flow clearly is variable, goes from zero to something, and can not be a constant. An event, of any kind, needs time to be flowing. (There is a level of unavoidable circularity here. Setting time to flow is itself an event). Things, of any kind, need the flow of time as a backdrop against which to exist.

Second comes the Capability for Existence.

For even the concept of existence to be imaginable, it needs that the flow of time be ongoing. It needs to be present as a permanent moving backdrop. The potential for some particular kind of existence then appears, or is created, only when some particular rules of existence are defined and implemented. These rules of existence must therefore also be in place before the concept of things, whether abstract or material or otherwise, can be conjured up.

Third comes the Implementation of the Rules of Existence.

It is easiest to conceive of rules governing existence in our universe as requiring a Guiding Intelligence, but it is not at all inconceivable that they emerge as a consequence of time having been set flowing. It is in these rules that causality manifests to link – and constrain – all events and things against the backdrop of flowing time. Whereas an event is defined by the flowing of time, it is the rules of existence which define the type of things (space, energy, matter, dark things, thoughts and concepts) that can exist. Invoking a Creator God or the Great Quantum Wave Function come as labels for this third step where the Rules of Existence are implemented. They are both merely labels for the incomprehensible.

Once time is flowing, rules of existence have been defined and these rules have been implemented, existence emerges. Causality rules. Things (matter, energy, fields, universes) emerge. But all these emergent characteristics do not lead inevitably to the emergence of Life. Mere Existence does not explain how Life comes to be.

Fourth comes Life.

From Life emerges finite brains and bodies and consciousness and thoughts and cognition and comprehension. And then come the self-contradictory stories about the comprehensible beginnings of the incomprehensible. 

And the rest is history.


 


What “right to life”?

July 12, 2022

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”

That all humans aspire to a long life, in liberty, to pursue their own happiness is true but obvious and rather trivial. Our individual aspirations are our hopes about an unknown, uncertain future. Achieving aspirations does not come easily. How close we come depends mainly on our own behaviour. Thus, they often guide, and sometimes dominate, our behaviour. With 7.5 billion individual aspirations it is hardly surprising that aspirations clash and come into conflict with those of others. And it is even less surprising that human behaviour, which is largely dominated by perceived self-interest, comes into conflict with, and even opposes, the behaviour of others.

However, to declaim that these aspirations are what all humans are entitled to, or that all humans are owed these things by all other humans and the universe at large is, at best, sentimental drivel. At worst, these declarations are religious dogma; imaginary and misleading.

entitlement: the state or condition of being entitled; a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract; belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

entitled: having a right to certain benefits or privileges

right: something that one may claim as due

The imaginary “right” to life is not actually about living but about an expectation, a hope, of not being killed, whether by accident or by design, by someone else. In reality, around 160,000 humans will die today in spite of their purported “right” to life. Around 2,000 will kill themselves. Of the total, around 1,000 -1,100 will be murdered today by another human. Which means, of course that the world will gain another 1,000 murderers today. Less than half of all homicides will lead to anyone being charged with murder, and less than half of those charges will lead to a conviction. Less than 2 murderers (or drug-lords or corrupt officials) are executed every day and we probably have more murderers alive today than ever before. Another 4,000 – 5,000 of the 160,000 will die due to accidents or misadventure. Less than 200 on average die per day due to natural disasters. The vast majority of deaths will be due to “natural causes”. Nature, natural causes, and natural disasters pay no deference to the purported “right” to life. The “right to life” does not flow from the laws of the universe. No murderer ever refrained from murder because of the victim’s “right” to life. The “right to life” is of no value to those 1,100 who will be murdered today. The entitlement has no value for anybody else either.

In spite of the supposed “right” to life (or more accurately the “right” to not be killed), some people are granted the “right” (the licence) to kill. Suicide is no longer considered a sin and is an assumed human “right”. Everybody has the “right” to kill another in self-defence (subject only to proportionality). In armed conflict (whether declared a war or not), military personnel may kill opposing military persons in pursuit of “legitimate” military targets. They may even kill civilians as “collateral damage” to “legitimate” military objectives as long as the “collateral damage” is not excessive. Civilians, of either side, may kill members of opposing armed forces in righteous rebellion (with consequences depending upon who is victorious). “Freedom fighters” are permitted to kill members of the “oppressors”. Executioners always kill justly. Police may kill when faced by threat from armed miscreants. Doctors may kill by incompetence or error with few consequences. In some places doctors and medical staff are granted the “right” to euthanise those elderly or infirm who wish to die. Drunken and incompetent drivers may kill others by “accident”. Faceless mobs may lynch and kill with impunity. Children and the insane (including the temporarily insane) may kill with limited consequences. The imaginary entitlement to not be killed ceases once someone is killed. Legal systems cannot enforce the entitlement and can only deal with punishments to be exacted on the perpetrator, if caught.

(“Human rights” dogma has it that only living humans can have “rights”. Living murderers have rights, their dead victims have none. On the theory that a fetus is as insignificant as a toe-nail, some 130,000 fetuses are aborted every day. There are almost as many abortions per day as there are deaths by all causes. Of course, a fetus, like any toe-nail, has no “rights”).

Do these empty declarations about the “right to life” have any value at all? Of the 160,000 who die every day, such declarations do not apply to the 2,000 daily suicides. Clearly the “right to die” trumps the “right to life”. They are applicable (as violations of the “right”) only to the 1,100 murders. The pious declarations neither deter murderers nor do they apply to those who have a licence to kill. Having an imaginary “right to not be killed” prevents no one from being killed. Whereas the fear of being caught, or the fear of a heavy punishment, such as a death sentence, may prevent some murderous behaviour, the “right” of another not to be killed has little influence, if any, on such behaviour. These pompous declarations of imaginary entitlements have no influence on, and are irrelevant to, human behaviour. The bottom line is that the imaginary “right to life” has no relevance to life.

“Human rights” are an imaginary notion. They do not flow from the natural laws of the universe and, in that sense, are unnatural. All religions are based on imaginary, artificial notions. Declarations of “rights” are also the empty dogma of a false religion. The concept of a “human right to life” is not anything which can, or does, influence human behaviour, and to pretend otherwise is misleading.

As humans we must make the most – as we see it – of living, but no human has any claim of a “right to life” on others. Or on the universe.


A square is rounder than a rectangle

July 2, 2022

Sometimes (for example after imbibing my third whiskey) I am both intrigued and frustrated by the nature of shapes. Do shapes exist at all? Except, perhaps, as a property of a thing?

Without dimensions there can be no shapes. A point has no shape. In one dimension, shape is almost, but not quite, trivial. A one-dimensional shape is just a line. Both a point and a line are abstract things and do not exist physically. We perceive three physical dimensions but we are also constrained to experience nothing but 3 dimensions. We can imagine them, but there are no 1-D or 2-D things. Even a surface, which is always two-dimensional, is abstract. We talk about circular things but the concept of a circle is also an abstraction in an abstract two dimensions. Look as much as you like in the physical world but you can never find any 2-D circles in this 3-D world. Most shapes are two-dimensional. So how, I wonder, can some 3-D thing be described in terms of a 2-D circularity. If you rotate the abstract two-dimensional object called a circle in 3 dimensions, you can generate an abstract 3-D object called a sphere. It pre-supposes, of course that 3-D space exists within which rotation can occur. But what is a sphere? How do you rotate an abstract object? A square rotated gives a cylinder – not a cuboid. A point stretched into two dimensions, or twirled in three, remains a point and still imaginary. A line rotated gives just a line.

I find the word shape is diffusely defined in dictionaries – possibly because it is itself philosophically diffuse.

shape (n):

  • the external form, contours, or outline of someone or something;
  • a geometric figure such as a square, triangle, or rectangle;
  • the graphical representation of an object or its external boundary, outline, or external surface.

Shape, it seems to me, has a connection with identity. Things without identity have no shape. All countable, physical things have shape as an attribute. But uncountable things – rain, mist, water, … – are devoid of shape. But any shape is also an abstraction which can be taken separate from the physical things. Abstract things and uncountable things can also be invested with shape as a descriptor, but this is both figurative and subjective. We can refer to the shape of an idea, or the shape of a history, or of a culture, but the meaning conveyed depends upon the physical things normally connected with such shapes. Even when we use the word shapeless we usually do not mean that it is devoid of shape but that the shape is not a standard recognised form. Shape emerges from existence though not necessarily from the existence of things. It is here that the distinction between form and substance originates. Shape needs existence but it is not difficult to imagine the concept of shapes existing in even a formless universe without substance.

In philosophy, shape is an ontological issue. There have been many attempts in philosophy to classify shapes. For example:

The shape of shapes

An important distinction to keep in mind is that between ideal, perfect and abstract geometric shapes on the one hand, and imperfect, physical or organic mind-external shapes on the other. Call the former “geometric shapes” and the latter “physical shapes” or “organic shapes”. This distinction can be understood as being parallel to types (classes, universals, general entities) and instances (individuals or particulars in the world). Geometric shapes typically have precise mathematical formalizations. Their exact physical manifestations are not, so far as I am aware, observed in mind-external reality, only approximated by entities exhibiting a similar shape. In this sense geometric shapes are idealizations or abstractions. This makes geometric shapes similar to types or universals. Their instances are inexact replicas of the shape type in question, but have similar attributes or properties in common, properties characterizing the type. By contrast, organic or physical shapes are irregular or uneven shapes of mind-external objects or things in the world. A planet is not perfectly spherical, and the branches of a tree are not perfectly cylindrical, for example. “Perfectly” is used here in the sense of coinciding with or physically manifesting the exact mathematical definitions, or precise symmetrical relations, of geometric shapes. Objects and physical phenomena in the world, rarely if ever, manifest or exhibit any concretization of geometric shapes, but this is not to say that it is not possible or that it does not obtain at times. Objects are not precisely symmetrical about a given axis, cube-shaped things do not have faces of exactly the same area, for example, and there is no concretization of a perfect sphere. ……………

With respect to the mind-external world, notice that if shapes are properties (of things), then we may have a situation in which properties have properties. At first glance this seems true because we predicate shape of objects in the world; we say that objects have a certain shape. We also describe types of shapes as having specific properties. If a shape is defined as having a particular number of sides (as with polygons), a particular curvature (as with curved shapes, such as the circle and the ellipse), specific relations between sides, or otherwise, then it should be apparent that we are describing properties of properties of things. We might be inclined to say that it is the shape that has a certain amount of angles and sides, rather than the object bearing the shape in question, but this is not entirely accurate. Shapes, conceived as objects in their own right (in geometric space), have sides, but in our spatiotemporal world, objects have sides, and surfaces, as well. When we divorce the shape from that which has the shape via abstraction, we use ‗side‘ for the former as much as we do for the latter. The distinction between geometric and physical space, between ideas and ideal or cognitive constructions and material mind-external particulars is significant.

My preferred definition of shape is:

shape is an abstract identity of form devoid of any substance

I take shapes to be forms both in two dimensions and in three. So, by this definition, I include spheres and cylinders and cuboids and pyramids to be shapes. Shape is about form – whether or not there is a thing it is attached to. We can have regular shapes where the regularity is abstract. We can have irregular shapes which cannot be described by any mathematical expression. And we can have shapeless shapes. We can compare shapes and discover the concept of similarity. We can even compare dissimilar shapes. I can conceive of the quality of form and talk about circularity or squareness or sphericality or even shapelessness.

I can have curvy shapes and I can have jagged shapes. My ping-pong ball is more spherical than my dimpled golf ball. They are both rounder than an orange but I have no doubt that an orange is rounder than a cucumber. Just as an apple is squarer than an orange. A fat person is rounder than a thin person. I know one cannot square a circle yet I have no difficulty – in my reason – to attributing and comparing levels of squareness and roundness of things. Some squashes are round and some are cylindrical. A circle squashed gives an ellipse and the shape of the earth is that of a squashed sphere. Circular logic is not a good thing. Logic is expected to be linear. A spherical logic is undefined.

And any square is rounder than a rectangle.


Gender is a classification and identity is not a choice

June 30, 2022

Identity is not a choice.

Our physical attributes are a consequence of our identity – not the determinants of identity. Being tall or short or fat or black or slant-eyed are descriptors which can be used to distinguish between humans, but they all follow, or are consequences of, identity. Our names are identifiers, but are not identity. Our professions – lawyer, teacher, murderer, thief – are descriptors of identity, not determinants. Some physical characteristics can change and be changed, but identity remains inviolate. You can eat more and become fat, or have surgery to thin your lips, but your identity remains unchanged. Physical attributes can be disguised. A white girl in California (where else) can pretend to be black to gain some perceived privileges, but identity does not change. Our behaviour – within the constraints of what is physiologically possible – is a choice. Behaviour does not, however, determine identity.

Gender is a classification. It can be used as a descriptor, but it is not identity. Among humans, gender is a binodal classification, with overlap, in a continuum. There are only two classes – male and female. But being a classification, and since the two classes overlap to some extent, there can be masculine females and feminine males. (There are only two classes with overlap. There is no 3rd class). Surgery or hormone treatment can help change a classification but identity remains untouchable. You can change your name from Kyle to Courtney or from Elliott to Ellen or from Maxine to Max, but that does nothing to identity.

I observe that some sports are now applying common sense and not allowing men, pretending to be women, to compete against women. (I also observe that there are never any women, pretending to be men, competing against men).

Identity – of anything – is not a choice in our universe. It is a consequence of existence.

Where numbers come from

To be discrete and unique give substance to identity. Existence (a Great Mystery) comes first, of course. To have identity is to have some distinguishing characteristic which enables the quality of “oneness”. Note that the quality of being identical (similar) does not disturb identity. Two, or many, things may be identical, but the identity of each remains inviolate. An atom of hydrogen here may be identical to an atom of hydrogen elsewhere, but the identity of each remains undisturbed. It is estimated that there are between 1078 to 1082 atoms existing in the observable universe. Each one distinct from all the others. Each one having identity.

We use the word identity in many contexts. In the philosophical sense, which includes the context of counting, my definition of identity is then:

identity – oneness; the distinguishing character of a thing that constitutes the objective reality of that thing

It is the discreteness and uniqueness contained in identity which gives rise to the concept of oneness as a quality of a thing which makes that thing countable. It is having the concept of oneness which allows us to define a concept of number, label it as “one” and give it a symbol (1). How the concept of identity (oneness) emerged in the species is another one of the Great Mysteries of life and consciousness.

With living things, uniqueness is conferred at the time of conception. The identity of any life-form is fixed when the existence of that life is conceived. It could be an egg or a seed or a zygote. Once fixed that identity persists till the death of that life. For humans that identity may be remembered long after its death. The identity of any living thing is never a choice.

Does life start when the egg is laid?

In the case of humans a fertilised egg is called a “zygote” until it has implanted itself (about 6 -10 days after conception) in the wall of the womb. It is then called an “embryo”. It is called a “fetus” only from 8 weeks after conception and remains a “fetus” till the birth of a “child”. Just as a “chick” only emerges after egg hatching, a human “child” only emerges after birth. But in both cases life, life has begun much earlier. By the time a hen lays an egg, the genetic identity of the embryo in the egg has already been fixed. The unique genetic identity whether for chicken or for human is actually fixed when conception occurs. ………

The time when a unique identity is established and life begins is quite simply defined and the Great Abortion Debate is actually about the ethics of terminating that life at different times during its existence. It is trying to make an ethical distinction between breaking an egg for a breakfast omelette or killing a chicken for a roast dinner. (But note also that many vegetarians eat eggs but a chicken eater is never considered a vegetarian). Abortion, infanticide, murder or euthanasia are just labels for different times at which life is to be terminated. Abortion always kills a fetus (not a child) and infanticide always kills a child (not a fetus). But whether it is a zygote which fails to implant itself, or a fetus which is aborted, or a child killed for being the wrong gender, or an aged person being assisted to die, it is the same life, the same identity, which is terminated. …..

A unique genetic identity and life are established with conception.


Related: Immortality of identity

A unique identity is recognisable first when an egg is fertilised. That identity cannot be foretold but it may be remembered long after the individual dies. It may in due course be forgotten. But whether or not it is forgotten, the fact of the creation of that identity remains. Forever. It is identity, once created, which remains unique and immortal.


Where numbers come from

June 6, 2022

Of course it all depends on what numbers are taken to be. Numbers are not real. You cannot see or touch or smell them. They are labels (words) with associated symbols (numerals). They are neither nouns nor adjectives though, in some contexts, they can be used as nouns. Philosophy calls them abstract objects. They are perceived as abstractions in the real world of existence. But they are abstractions which display relationships and patterns among themselves quite independent of the applications from which they are discerned. What lies at the source of numbers? How did they come to be? I see numbers as a means, a language, for describing the underlying patterns connecting countable things in the existing universe.

It starts with one. 

There are four abstract concepts, I suggest, which lie at the source not only of all numbers and numbering systems but of mathematics in general (beginning with arithmetic and geometry). It seems to me that these four concepts are necessary and sufficient.

    1. Oneness (1)
    2. Set
    3. Sum
    4. Arithmetical addition (+)


If there were nothing to count, we would not have numbers.

Of things that exist, even abstract things, human cognition distinguishes between countable things and uncountable things. The necessary and required conditions for things to be considered countable are, first that they exist, and second that each has a unique, discrete identity. Things that are uncountable are those perceived as being part of a continuum and therefore not discrete or unique. (The word uncountable is also used for countable things which are too numerous for the human mind to contemplate but it is not that meaning that I use here). Thus apples, oranges, grains of sand, people and atoms are all countable. Things and concepts that cannot be divided into discrete elements are uncountable. Space, sky, water, air, fire, and earth are all perceptions of continua which are uncountable. Nouns for generalisations are uncountable (furniture, music, art, ….). The distinction applies to abstract things as well. Discrete thoughts or specific ideas can be counted. But abstractions (shapes, information, news, advice, ….) which lack a discrete, unique identity are within the ranks of the uncountable. Types of emotions are countable, but emotion is not.

To be discrete and unique give substance to identity. Existence (a Great Mystery) comes first, of course. To have identity is to have some distinguishing characteristic which enables the quality of “oneness”. Note that the quality of being identical (similar) does not disturb identity. Two, or many, things may be identical, but the identity of each remains inviolate. An atom of hydrogen here may be identical to an atom of hydrogen elsewhere, but the identity of each remains undisturbed. It is estimated that there are between 1078 to 1082 atoms existing in the observable universe. Each one distinct from all the others. Each one having identity.

We use the word identity in many contexts. In the philosophical sense, which includes the context of counting, my definition of identity is then:

identityoneness; the distinguishing character of a thing that constitutes the objective reality of that thing

It is the discreteness and uniqueness contained in identity which gives rise to the concept of oneness as a quality of a thing which makes that thing countable. It is having the concept of oneness which allows us to define a concept of number, label it as “one” and give it a symbol (1). How the concept of identity (oneness) emerged in the species is another one of the Great Mysteries of life and consciousness.

But the concept of identity alone is not sufficient to generate the need to count and the invention of numbers. Having defined one (1), something else is still needed to generate a number system. A social, behavioural component is also required; It is cooperation and interaction with others which leads to the need to count. It probably emerged when humans created social groupings and things were accumulated for rainy days. The notion of addition as the accumulation of things belonging to a set is also needed. An ancient human may have gathered an apple an orange and a goat and accumulated many things but would probably not have thought of those things as belonging to the set of things. If he had gathered only apples and oranges, he may well have recognised that he had accumulated a set of things identified as fruit. And someone at sometime in our prehistory did note that his accumulation of individual goats all belonged to the set of things identified as goats. We cannot now know how our ancestors first came to a numbering system and the concept of addition with numbers, but it must certainly have been at around the same time that the need for counting emerged.

To get from just observing the accumulation of things in the real world to the concept of arithmetical addition was a major intellectual leap.  That journey also needed that the concepts of a set and of a sum were in place. We can only speculate on how that emergence and conjunction of the necessary concepts took place. It would surely have been noticed that there was a common, underlying pattern (rule) which applied with the accumulation – separately – of, say, apples and / or goats. But it would also have been noticed that the pattern did not apply when dealing with mixtures of apples and goats together. Accumulating an apple and an apple exhibits the same underlying pattern as accumulating a goat and a goat. But a goat and an apple followed the same rule only when they were considered, not as goats or apples, but as things belonging to a greater class (set) of things.

1 apple + 1 apple follows the same abstract, underlying pattern as 1 goat + 1 goat or 1 thing + 1 thing, but the rule breaks down at 1 apple + 1 goat.

A set of thingsis a multiplicity of similar countable things which together can assume a separate identity (unique and discrete)

It is likely that it was then that they realised that the accumulation of things could be represented by abstract rules (patterns) which were independent of the set of things being accumulated. The rule of arithmetical addition (+), they would have found, applied in a like manner to accumulations of members of any set, and that a common name could be given to the result (sum) of the accumulation.

Sumthe result of an accumulation

But they would also have found that the rule (pattern) of accumulation and counting broke down when dealing with mixed sets of things. Whereas one apple and one apple gave the same sum as one goat and one goat, that sum had no meaning if one apple was accumulated with one goat. However, the summation rule reasserts itself when considering the sum of things with the accumulation of one thing (apple) and one thing (goat). This general, but abstract, rule of the summation operation was arithmetical addition.

Arithmetical addition (+) the accumulation of one number to another number giving a sum as the result

Maintaining identity remained crucial. They would have noted that the abstract rule did not apply if the things being accumulated lost identity (their oneness) during the operation. One goat and one lion gave one lion. One bubble and one bubble could merge to give one bubble. But they would also have noted that uncountable things were not capable of being accumulated.

Given the abstract concepts of identity (oneness, 1) and arithmetical addition (+), all natural numbers inevitably follow. With a 1 and with a +, and the concept of a set and a sum, all the natural numbers can be generated.

1 + 1 + 1 + 1 ……

Having invented a label and a symbol for oneness (one, 1), new labels and symbols were then invented for the abstract sums. The chosen base (binary, decimal, hexagesimal, vigesimal, ….) determines the number of labels and symbols to be invented.

1 + 1 gave 2, 1+ 2 gave 3, ….. and so on

And all the natural numbers were born.

The reverse of accumulation, the giving away or lessening of things, led to the abstraction of arithmetical subtraction (-) and that gave us zero and all the negative integers. Note that oneness and one (1) must come first before the concept of zero (0) makes any sense. Zero is a very specific quality of nothingness, but zero is not nothingness. In the observed world an absence of apples (0 apples) is not quite the same thing as an absence of goats (0 goats), but the number abstraction (0) from both is the same. As a number, zero is special and does not follow all the rules discovered connecting, and applying to, the other numbers. (Zero also functions as a placeholder in our notations but that is a different matter to its properties as a number). Zero added to another number does not create a new number as every other number does. Division is allowed by any number but not by zero. Division by zero is undefined. One (1), not zero (0), is where numbers start from. Zero is merely a consequence of removing (subtracting) one (1) from one (1).

Multiplication is just recursive addition. Recursive subtraction leads to division and that generates irrational numbers. Applying numbers to shapes (geometry) led to the discovery of transcendental numbers. Number theory is about studying and discovering relationships between numbers. But all these discovered relationships exist only because numbers exist as they do. All the relationships exist as soon as the concepts of oneness (1) and addition (+) are fixed together with the concepts of a set and a sum. Discoveries of the relationships can come much later. Numbers depend on counting and number theory depends upon the numbers.

Numbers start with one (1), and without a one (1) there can be no numbers.

Numbers, ultimately, rest on the concept of identity (oneness).


When the tree falls in the forest, the sound is only due to language

May 1, 2022

The classic, cliched question goes:

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

The non-philosophical part of question is easily answered.

  • If a tree falls within an extant medium, and
  • there is consequent vibration within that medium, and
  • there is an organ which can detect such vibrations, and
  • the organ generates impulses, and
  • it sends these impulses to a brain, and
  • that brain interprets the impulses as something the brain itself labels as sound, then
  • there will be sound.

If the tree fell in a vacuum there would be no vibration of anything. No medium, no sound. No ear, no sound. No brain. no sound. In fact, if we did not have ears connected to our brains our language would be unable to come up with words for ears, hearing or sound. If we had no word for sound then there might well be vibrations when the tree fell, but there would be no sound. The non-philosophical answer then becomes that if we had no word in language for sound then there would be no sound. When a dog or a bat detects vibrations at frequencies that our ears cannot detect then such signals never reach our brains to ever be classified in our language as sound. What an animal might interpret in its brain when its ears detect signals is whatever that animal interprets it or labels it to be.  Only if we define the word sound to loosely mean what any brain may interpret on receiving signals from any ear-like organ, could we say that the animal discerns sound.

The philosophical part of the question, however, which considers perception, observation and existence is much more interesting. There are many things we cannot directly experience with our limited senses. But we can infer and/or deduce that they exist by their interactions with other things giving changes which we can observe directly. We extend our senses by creating wonderful instruments which then produce changes observable directly by our traditional senses. We “see” in the ultraviolet or the infra-red only because our cameras convert these UV or IR signals into images that do fall within our visible range.

But what of all that we cannot observe, directly or indirectly, by our limited senses and our finite brains? Is it so that if something cannot be observed, cannot be perceived, cannot be inferred to exist by any interaction it has with anything else in this universe, then it does not exist? Or is it merely that we are ignorant of its existence? Philosophy is, of course, about asking unanswerable questions. Once a question can be answered it leaves the field of philosophy.

Take bongism for example. We cannot observe it, perceive it, infer it or deduce it. It has no known interactions with anything else in this universe. But it is the imbalance in bongism which caused all existence in the first place. It is the answer to the question “Why do things exist at all?”.

Does bongism exist?

It must do, since I have a word for it.


The subjectivity of objective

April 18, 2022

Absolute objectivity is a mirage. Objectivity, in itself, is always a value judgement and always subjective. There is no observation, no experience, no proposition, no fact, no truth, no logic which has not been filtered through human cognition and all its shortcomings. Nothing is completely objective. Nothing I write can be objective. That is a truth which comes before the beginning.

Let us start there.

Objective is not a useful word in framing an insult. “You objective scoundrel” somehow elevates a “scoundrel” and detracts from the insult. I cannot think of an example where being objective is considered bad. An objective evil or an objective crime are word combinations without meaning. At worst, objective is perceived as neutral. In regard to human thoughts and actions we assume that they are either based on logic and reason or on feelings and emotion. They are not necessarily opposed but it is implicit in our language that they are different. We perceive reasoning to be more objective than emotional reactions.

We allow the ability to distinguish objective from subjective to reside only in animate things having brains. We do not even allow artificial brains that ability. We know that brains are where both logic and reason on the one hand, and feelings and emotions on the other, reside. But we connect being objective with a brain’s exercise of logic and reason and untainted by emotions. Language does not permit an emotional rationality. Being subjective is also of a brain but is a characteristic of the individuality of that brain and its attendant emotions. Subjectivity is undefined without a brain which generates both reason and emotion. The practice of science and the law thus set a high value on the thing we call objectivity, whereas we appreciate, and expect, an individualistic subjectivity from an author or a musician or a painter or a teacher or a tennis champion.

But in seeking objectivity we are chasing a mirage.

(more…)

The innate goodness of liberals justifies their being authoritarian and even fascist

February 16, 2022

The fundamental truth is that a “liberal” is a member of a higher species, homo sapiens sapiens superieur.

To be a liberal is to be an enlightened, right-thinking, superior type of human being. The superiority is a moral and intellectual superiority which derives from the certainty of thinking correctly. Thus the liberal knows, without any shadow of doubt, that any opposing views, whether expressed openly or only hiding in the sewers of someone else’s mind, are wrong. The rightness of the liberal view is absolute and must be accepted as a brute fact of our universe. To challenge this is not just immoral, but evil. The innate goodness in a liberal is such that all thoughts and actions of a liberal are, per force, “good”. It follows that liberals must rule over non-liberals for the good of the non-liberals. Non-liberals must be forbidden from thinking or doing anything that may harm their own humanity. The use of coercive force to ensure that non-liberals follow the liberal rules – for their own good – is justified and inherently “good”. If necessary, any rotten non-liberals may be cancelled by liberals. The cancellation, in the extreme case, may consist of physical extermination. But it is a “good” extermination since exterminating a non-liberal is always a “good thing”.

For a member of a superior species, as any liberal is, members of lower species are to be taken care of for their own good, just as other pets are taken care of. A liberal does not indulge in unnecessary cruelty and only uses necessary force. Non-liberals are to be well treated and well trained and only culled as a last resort, and even then with great humanity. However the liberal – by definition – always acts responsibly. In exposed spaces, non-liberals are not to be allowed to run freely or destructively. They are to be kept on a leash whenever others are around. If there is a risk that they will say wrong things, they are to be muzzled. Non-liberals may be allowed to have a say in their own future but the liberal will exercise his veto if non-liberals are not thinking correctly.

A liberal enjoys an exalted state and has a place reserved in heaven. Nothing he can do can take that away from him. Normally, a reservation in heaven would be jeopardised by cruel and coercive behaviour to others. However, authoritarianism and fascism are perfectly allowable if one is first a liberal. Coercion with necessary force is permitted when applied to a lower species, such as non-liberals or pet dogs.



%d bloggers like this: