Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

On the matter of matter (or how something came from nothing)

October 9, 2018

First you have nothing.

But let’s assume that a smooth and homogeneous “nothing” can spontaneously and inexplicably produce lumps of “something” provided it also produces equivalent amounts of “not-something”, where

something + not-something = nothing

On balance it would still be a global nothing but with local clumps of somethings and not-somethings.

This is a very handy subterfuge often used in science and mathematics. When looking for something unknown, zero can always be converted into the sum of something and not-something. So it is always possible to imagine what the something is, evoke it from zero and claim that the not-something exists but cannot be found.

0 = X + ~X

Anything can be derived from nothing provided its negative counter-part can also be tolerated (in absentia if necessary).

Nothing can be anything

We observe matter.

We haven’t a clue as to where this matter came from. So we devise the concept of matter and an equivalent amount of anti-matter at the origin of everything. But we cannot find this anti-matter in sufficient quantities to negate all the matter we observe. The global nothing is not preserved. That leads to the next subterfuge. It was all energy to begin with. Some of that energy converted itself into matter. That does not quite explain where that energy came from. Of course “nothing” might have decomposed into lumps of energy and of not-energy. The energy, it is then surmised, is that which is driving the expansion of the universe or the inflation of the universe or both. The lumps of not-energy are more elusive. Where that might be is not yet part of the next subterfuge.

It might be that matter has always existed, but in that case where did the energy moving that matter around come from? And why?

Where did all the antimatter go?

Scientists suspect that the Big Bang was a huge tear the fabric of space that ripped equal amounts of matter and antimatter into existence. But today, everything we see is made almost entirely of matter.

Physicists know that something must have happened to tip the balance in favor of matter during the formation of the universe. But the question remains, what was it? Antimatter particles are reflections of their matter counterparts. They are practically identical, except they have opposite electric charges. For instance, the antimatter twin of the negatively charged electron is the positively charged position. If an electron and positron were to meet and metaphorically ‘shake hands,’ they would annihilate each other into pure energy.

Scientists are left with this puzzle: If equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created in the Big Bang—and if matter and antimatter annihilate each other into a ball of pure energy on contact—then the universe should contain nothing but free, unorganized energy. But we exist, and therefore something must have happened to allow matter to survive and antimatter to all but disappear.

Scientists suspect that a tiny portion of matter—about one particle per billion—survived from the early universe to create all the planets, stars and galaxies we see today. And while matter and antimatter look almost identical, scientists discovered that the laws of nature do not apply to them equally.

Researchers found that some matter and antimatter particles can spontaneously transform into their matter and antimatter counterparts. They also found that matter and antimatter particles decay at slightly different rates. Scientists suspect that there is some hidden process influencing the behavior of matter and antimatter—a hidden process that could explain these puzzling observations. US scientists and our international collaborators study the subtle differences in the behavior of matter and antimatter particles at the LHC to paint a clearer picture of why our universe is matter-filled.

The bottom line is that modern physics hasn’t the faintest idea of where the matter and energy in the observable universe came from or why.

At least physics attempts to find answers. Religions brush aside the question and just assume a Creator where the question of where the Creator came from is disallowed.


 

Advertisements

The limits of science

September 25, 2018
  1. Reality is limited to what is detectable by human senses (and the instruments which extend our senses). What cannot be detected is assumed – but cannot be proven – not to exist. Science is limited to what is known to exist and what is unknown but assumed to be knowable. Science has no means to address what is unknown to be knowable.
  2. Time and causality. Science and its methods rely on causality which in turn relies on the existence of and the passage of time. But what time is and what actually passes, is unknown (being unknowable). Science cannot reach where causality does not exist.
  3. Boundary conditions. There is no branch of science (or philosophy) which does not rely on fundamental assumptions which are taken to be self-evident truths. But these assumptions cannot be proved and they cannot explain their own existence. Science and the methods of science cannot address anything outside their self-established boundary limits.
  4. Even the most fundamental and simple mathematics cannot prove its own axioms (Gödels Incompleteness Theorems). Science cannot address areas outside of the assumptions of mathematics.
  5. Value judgements are invisible to science. The appreciation of any art or music or even literature are not subject to logic or causality or any science. Even the beauty seen by some in mathematics or cosmology or biology is not amenable to scientific analysis. Moral or ethical judgements are beyond the capabilities of science.
  6. The existence of life is self-evident and inexplicable. It is a boundary condition where science has no explanation for why the boundary exists. To call the beginning of life a “random event” is a statement steeped in just as much ignorance as attributing it to a Creator.
  7. The boundaries of consciousness are neither known or understood. The perceptions of a consciousness of the surrounding universe define the universe. The perceptions form an impenetrable barrier beyond which science and the methods of science cannot reach.
  8. Fitch’s Knowability Paradox is sufficient to show the reality of the existence of the unknowable. Neither science nor philosophy or language or mathematics has the wherewithal to say anything about the unknowable. They have no light to shine in this area. An X-ray image cannot be seen in normal light.

Science is utterly dependent upon causality.

So is Determinism, where Determinism is the philosophical theory that all events, including moral choices, are completely determined by previously existing causes. Determinism can never look beyond or resolve the First Cause problem. Of course determinism falls immediately at the hurdle of infinite knowledge being knowable but proponents would counter that “unknown” does not invalidate causality. The First Cause is then merely shunted into the unknown – but knowable. Determinism would claim, by causality and the laws of the universe, that all that was unknown could potentially be known. Equally every event of the past could be traced back through causal relations and be knowable. In fact, determinism which shuns the need for religions and gods, actually claims the existence of Omniscience. More than that, determinism requires that omniscience be possible. Determinism is absurd. “There is no God but Omniscience must be possible”. Reductio ad absurdum.

Causality, determinism and science are all prisoners of, and restricted to, the knowable.


 

Knowledge is not finite and some of it is unknowable

September 23, 2018

Knowledge is not finite

Knowledge and truth are intertwined. Take knowledge to be made up of truths and of the relationships between truths which are themselves truths. Of course all truths making up human knowledge are only perceived truths. Human knowledge can then only be made up of partial, as-perceived truths (whether or not absolute truths exist) and then can only be a sub-set of all knowledge. Human knowledge consists of justified true beliefs (JTBs).

In the tripartite analysis of knowledge, a justified true belief exists when

  1. a proposition p is true,
  2. an entity S believes p
  3. S is justified in believing p

Addressing now all of knowledge, is it finite or without limits? Is there a limit to all the truths that are, that were and that will be? All of knowledge must encompass all of space, all of time and all of anything beyond space and time. Some things are then self-evident.

  1. In an infinite universe, knowledge is infinite.
  2. If time had no beginning or has no end then knowledge is infinite.
  3. If the number of universes is infinite, knowledge is infinite.

For knowledge to be finite, we would need a finite universe which had no uncertainties at any level and even at the quantum level. The universe could not be open-ended in time. Even if time is an emergent property of something else, that something else could not be open-ended. There could be no duality between particles and waves. Observations would need to be independent of the observer. Moreover, we would also need to know – as a truth – that there were no further truths beyond the finite universe. Even if causality is merely emergent, a perception and unreal, knowledge would still be infinite. Relativity or quantum mechanics or even loop quantum gravity, all require that knowledge be unbounded.

Furthermore, a universe with only a finite number of fundamental particles could still generate an infinite number of truths.

A large but finite number of nodes (junctions) can generate an infinite number of nodes and an infinite network if

  • each node is connected to every other and
  • where a new node is created whenever a connection crosses another connection

In an infinite space, it would not be necessary for connections to cross – but that would then be an infinite universe.

Even with only a finite number of fundamental particles (or waves), the sum of all knowledge would need not only that every particle be known but also that every interaction between particles be known, and also every interaction between the interactions, and so on ad infinitum. (It is somewhat analagous to the human brain where memory is stored not only at every neuron but also in every pathway between neurons, and then in the pathways generated between pathways and so on). Even a finite universe can (and probably does) give an infinite number of truths.

That all of knowledge is finite seems extremely far-fetched if not absurd.

A brain is a repository of knowledge. Clearly human knowledge is just a tiny sub-set of all knowledge and human knowledge is – most likely – finite. The knowledge of humanity will then be the sum of the knowledge of all the humans around at any given time. But the knowledge of humanity will never encompass even the knowledge of all living things with brains, let alone of all things. It may be that a single human brain could itself generate an infinite network, but all our empirical evidence suggests that the human brain is not – and can never be – infinite in its capacity or its capability.

Of course, the human brain may evolve in time into something wondrous. But it will still not reach omniscience.

Not all of knowledge is knowable.

I am persuaded by Fitch’s Paradox that the unknowable exists and is real.

The paradox of knowability is a logical result suggesting that, necessarily, if all truths are knowable in principle then all truths are in fact known. The contrapositive of the result says, necessarily, if in fact there is an unknown truth, then there is a truth that couldn’t possibly be known. More specifically, if p is a truth that is never known then it is unknowable that p is a truth that is never known. The proof has been used to argue against versions of anti-realism committed to the thesis that all truths are knowable. For clearly there are unknown truths; individually and collectively we are non-omniscient. So, by the main result, it is false that all truths are knowable. 

In my world view knowledge comes in three parts.

  1. what is known,
  2. what is unknown but knowable, and
  3. what is unknowable

The unknowable exists and is real.

Most of the past is unknowable. Past events where the repercussions of that event into the present have dwindled into the “noise” from the past are no longer detectable – by any means – as events. Such events can never be traced back as having taken place. The time it takes for the consequences of an event to dwindle into the noise of undetectable nothingness can vary from the immediate past to billions of years. Once below the threshold of detection, that event joins the unknowable. Causality and all the laws of the universe are of no use when the consequences in the present cannot be distinguished and detected. When the data is undetectable, causality is either undefined or inapplicable. For example I cannot remember some events even from this morning. When did I have my second cup of coffee? (I can remember the first). That event – the second cup – has no detectable consequences remaining in my memory or anywhere in the universe. Even omniscience – if it could exist – will not be able to dig up the knowledge of when I had my second cup of coffee. It did happen but exactly when it happened will remain for ever unknown and is now unknowable. While the existence of Genghis Khan is part of knowledge, pretty much all of the events in his life are now unknowable. Certainly his genes have been passed down through the ages but the causal path to backtrack to the “procreational” events he was involved in are now utterly undetectable and unknowable. It is said that some 110 billion humans have lived since the dawn of Anatomically Modern Humans. Most of the events of their lives are unknowable.

Most of the past is now unknowable. Some few isolated major events still can provide evidence of consequences which can be detected in the present.

There is no branch of science or philosophy or language (including mathematics) which does not begin with assumptions taken to be truths but which are not provable. These in fact are boundary conditions of human knowledge. Beyond these boundaries we enter the realm of the unknowable. Science and the methods of science do not have the means to illuminate the unknowable.


Knowledge is infinite, human knowledge is finite and the unknowable exists.


Related:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2016/01/17/physicists-must-accept-that-some-things-are-unknowable/#6d2c5834ae1a

https://ktwop.com/2018/08/21/when-the-waves-of-determinism-break-against-the-rocks-of-the-unknowable/

https://ktwop.com/2017/10/17/the-liar-paradox-can-be-resolved-by-the-unknowable/


 

Whether “denial of belief” or “lack of belief”, atheism is a non-ism

September 15, 2018

The conventional use of “atheism” is to describe a denial or a rejection of any belief in religions and gods and deities. To try and avoid the negative connotation of merely rejecting and denying the beliefs of others, some have redefined “atheism” to be the “lack of belief” in religions and gods and deities. As the American Atheists state

Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

This replacement of “denial of belief” by “lack of belief” is  merely a cosmetic change. A lack of belief cannot define what there is a lack of belief about. To have a lack of belief in something specific requires that “something” to be defined. That “something” is always gods as variously defined by the beliefs of others. To have a lack of belief in the beliefs of others is no different then to a rejection or denial of those beliefs.

Atheism is entirely reactive. It is concerned with rejecting, denying and ridiculing the belief systems of others. It offers nothing itself in answer to the fundamental questions which led to the rise of religion and their gods in the first place. It is not difficult to attack and ridicule beliefs which – by definition – cannot be proved.  Many prominent atheists in recent times have been philosophers who have criticised religions (and their gods). These include such luminaries as Bertrand Russell and more recently, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. They follow a line of thinkers who go all the way back to when religions were invented. For example, atheist schools existed to counter the Vedic religions as far back as  2,500 – 3,000 years ago. But what is striking is that “atheists” could not exist until religions existed and they had something to attack. (And note that even chimpanzees “believe” in a Sun-god). To criticise religions and their gods is not wrong and I have no time for organised religions and their gods. But that criticism is of no substance unless followed up by addressing the questions which led to the very adoption of the beliefs being torn down.

Atheism is not in itself an “ism”. It is not a belief system or a philosophy or even a practice in itself. It has nothing to defend. It avoids attack because it has no beliefs to offer as answers to the fundamental questions of the beginning of time, the universe and everything. As an “ism” it is empty of substance. (I ignore the “agnostic” which is little more than a politically correct way of avoiding being labelled an “atheist”).

Richard Dawkins prefers distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum of theistic probability—the likelihood that each assigns to the proposition “God exists”

It is only when you get to “determinism” – which incidentally includes a rejection of religions and gods – before the “ism” begins to gain some substance. “Determinism is the philosophical theory that all events, including moral choices, are completely determined by previously existing causes”(But determinism and the limits of science is another story to be discussed elsewhere). To be an atheist provides no substance. You must be something else first.

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.

The proposition which must be addressed first is “the unknowable exists”.


 

When the waves of determinism break against the rocks of the unknowable

August 21, 2018

It is physics versus philosophy.

Causal determinism states that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature.

Determinism, unlike fatalism, does not require that future events be destined to occur no matter what the past and current events are. It only states that every future event that does occur, is an inevitable consequence of what has gone before and of the natural laws. However inevitability does not mean – and does not need to mean – predictability by the human mind. It should be noted though that the existence of a specific causality does not by itself imply a general determinism extending across all space and all time. A general and absolute determinism is also not a necessary condition for applying the scientific method though it could easily be taken to be so. The scientific method does require determinism but only to the extent that causality applies within the observable range of empirical observations. But it is also therefore unavoidable that the scientific method can only discover causal connections. The scientific method, in itself, rejects the existence of, and is therefore incapable of detecting, non-causal connections.

Most physicists would claim that determinism prevails. (Some of them may concede compatibilism but that is just a subterfuge to allow determinism to coexist with free will). Determinism claims that causality is supreme; that the laws of nature (whether or not they are known to the mind of man) prevail in the universe such that whatever is occurring is caused by, and is a consequence of, what came before. And whatever will happen in the future is caused by what has occurred before and what is occurring now. Absolute determinism allows of no free will. It can not. Clearly determinism allows of no gods or magic either. For determinism to apply it does not require that all knowledge is known or that the natural laws have all been discovered. It does however require that everything is knowable. If the unknowable exists then not everything can be determined. It also requires that all natural laws be self-explanatory in themselves. For the physicist, even the uncertainty at the quantum level does not invalidate determinism because this uncertainty, they say, is not random but is probabilistic. Even the weirdness brought about by quantum loop gravity theories do not, it is thought, invalidate the concept of determinism. Here the laws of nature and time and space themselves are emergent. They emerge from deeper, underlying “laws” and emerge as what we perceive as space and time and the 4 laws of nature. Where those underlying “laws” or rules or random excitations come from, or why, are, however, undefined and – more importantly – undefinable.

The concept that the universe is a zero-sum game, when taking the universe as a whole, does not take us any further. The concept postulates that the universe – taken globally – is a big nothing. Zero energy and zero charge globally but with locally “lumpy” conditions to set off the Big Bang. Some positive energies and some energy consumption such that the total is zero.  I find this unsatisfactory in that the concepts of the universe being homogeneous and isotropic are then a function of scale (space) and of time. Allowing for local lumpiness to exist but which averages to a globally smooth zero, seems far too contrived and convenient.

The problem caused by the acceptance of determinism, and of the consequent denial of the possibility of free will, is that all events are then inevitable and a natural consequence of what happened before. Choice becomes illusory. Behaviour is pre-ordained. In fact all thought and even consciousness itself must be an inevitable consequence of what went before. There can no longer be any moral responsibility attached to any behaviour or any actions (whether by humans or inanimate matter). It is argued that morality is irrelevant for physics. They are different domains. There is no equation for morality because it is not a law of nature. It is merely an emergent thing. Morality, for the physicist, just like consciousness and thought and behaviour, merely emerge from the laws of nature. This is not incorrect in itself, I think, but they are different domains because the laws of nature – as we know them – are incomplete in that they can neither explain themselves or morality.

For the physicist the natural laws apply everywhere and everywhen. Except, they admit, at or before (if there was a before) the Big Bang Singularity. They apply across the universe except that the universe cannot be defined. It is disingenuous to merely claim that the universe expands into nothingness and both creates and defines itself. The natural laws are said to apply across all of time except that time (not to be confused with the passage of time) is not defined. The nature of time is unknown and probably unknowable. What is it that passes? Quantum loop gravity enthusiasts would claim that time is merely a perception and that causality is an illusion. All events throughout space and time, they would say, occur/have occurred simultaneously. We merely connect certain events in our perceptions such that time and causality emerge. But this is no different than invoking magic. It seems to me that the gaping hole in the determinism charter is that there is no reason (known) for the natural laws to exist. Above all, the natural laws cannot explain themselves. I would claim that this lies in the unknowable. Determinism would have us accept that all biological and neural (and therefore cognitive) processes are merely events that are caused by antecedent events and natural law. Except that while natural laws are observed and experienced empirically, they cannot (and probably never will be able to) explain themselves.

And this is where determinism crashes. The four natural laws (gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force) that we treat as being fundamental are not self-explanatory. They just are. They do not within themselves explain why they must exist. Maybe there is a Theory of Everything capable of explaining itself and everything in the world. Or maybe there isn’t. The natural laws cannot explain why there are 4 fundamental laws and not 5 or 6, or why there are just 12 (or 57) fundamental particles, or why there is a particle/wave duality or why undetectable dark energy or dark matter exist (except as fudge factors).The natural laws, as we know them today, cannot explain why life began (or why life had to begin to satisfy determinism), cannot explain what consciousness is and cannot explain why thoughts and behaviour must be inevitable consequences of antecedent events.  As a practical matter we have no inkling as to which antecedent events cause which cognitive events and following which laws. It is very likely that this is theoretically impossible as well. Some of these explanations may well lie in the realm of the unknowable. I draw the analogy with Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems:

The first incompleteness theorem states that no consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by an effective procedure (i.e., an algorithm) is capable of proving all truths about the arithmetic of the natural numbers. For any such formal system, there will always be statements about the natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system.

The second incompleteness theorem, an extension of the first, shows that the system cannot demonstrate its own consistency.

We cannot from within and as part of the universe demonstrate why the axioms used by physics must be. Empiricism gives us what we perceive to be the laws of nature. Empiricism also gives us our perceptions of consciousness and thought and free will. And these contradict one another. The resolution of the contradictions lives in the unknowable.

Empiricism can only go so far. It cannot reach the parts that empiricism cannot reach. Determinism cannot extend to places where the natural laws cannot or do not reach. If the unknowable exists then determinism cannot reach there. For the natural laws may not (or can not) apply there. It is not about whether we know all there is to be known about natural law. Determinism requires that some consistent and self-explanatory natural laws apply everywhere and at all times.

Absolute Determinism requires that Natural Laws be complete. That requires that natural laws be able to:

  1. explain their own existence, and
  2. explain all events (material and immaterial), and
  3. apply within and beyond our perception of the universe, and
  4. apply within and beyond our perception of time,

And the existence of such a set of Natural Laws is unknowable.


 

Related:

https://ktwop.com/2017/07/22/known-unknown-and-unknowable/

https://ktwop.com/2017/09/22/the-unknowable-is-neither-true-nor-false/

https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/plain-talk-about-free-will-from-a-physicist-stop-claiming-you-have-it/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determinism

http://physicsandthemind.blogspot.com/2013/10/in-defense-of-libertarian-free-will.html

http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2016/01/free-will-is-dead-lets-bury-it.html?spref=tw

http://archive.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/brainiac/2011/06/the_big_nothing.html

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/determinism-causal/


 

Language transcends its encoded signals

July 19, 2018

My phone “talks” to my desktop computer. It can also “speak” with other devices with which it is “paired” (portable speakers, my lawn mower and my house security system). Coupled devices send and receive short-wavelength UHF radio waves in the ISM band (Bluetooth) to communicate. They follow rules (a vocabulary and a grammar) which specify the “meaning” of the bursts of radio waves they send and detect. I cannot detect any of these signals with my senses. I am neither aware of the communication taking place nor can I enter the conversation except through a compatible device within my control and with which I can communicate using a system which is within the range of my sensory capabilities (touch, vision, sound).

Does the system of signals being used by the bluetooth devices for their communications constitute a language?

There is a vast discourse, starting from ancient times, on the definition and the purpose and the philosophy of language. The Encyclopedia Britannica puts it thus.

Many definitions of language have been proposed. Henry Sweet, an English phonetician and language scholar, stated: “Language is the expression of ideas by means of speech-sounds combined into words. Words are combined into sentences, this combination answering to that of ideas into thoughts.” The American linguists Bernard Bloch and George L. Trager formulated the following definition: “A language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols by means of which a social group cooperates.” Any succinct definition of language makes a number of presuppositions and begs a number of questions. The first, for example, puts excessive weight on “thought,” and the second uses “arbitrary” in a specialized, though legitimate, way.

I find that much of the discussion is homocentric and tends to equate language with speech and writing. This I think is incorrect. I have therefore come to my own characterisation of what constitutes a language:

I find it is not necessary to specify that language is confined to human brains. It is claimed that the difference between human and animal communication is that human language is unrestricted.

EB again – “Human beings are unrestricted in what they can communicate; no area of experience is accepted as necessarily incommunicable, though it may be necessary to adapt one’s language in order to cope with new discoveries or new modes of thought. Animal communication systems are by contrast very tightly circumscribed in what may be communicated”. 

But this is unsatisfactory. Human thought is not in fact unlimited. It is limited by the very finite capability of the human brain. What a brain cannot perceive it cannot think about. What it cannot think about, it cannot communicate. Furthermore, the system agreed-upon restricts the meanings that can be transmitted and received. (A communication in French is of limited value to someone who knows little French. It is the lowest common level of shared encoding in the system which sets the constraint).

I also find the debate on language and thought, and language and philosophy, to be very often circular. It may be simplistic but I observe that the logic we perceive to exist in the universe is the same logic we embed in all our languages (including mathematics). We cannot then use language to prove or disprove the logic that is within it.

As in Gödel’s Incompleteness theorems: “The first incompleteness theorem states that in any consistent formal system F within which a certain amount of arithmetic can be carried out, there are statements of the language of F which can neither be proved nor disproved in F. According to the second incompleteness theorem, such a formal system cannot prove that the system itself is consistent (assuming it is indeed consistent).”

Which I paraphrase to be that “in a language embedded with a logic, that language can neither prove or disprove the logic that lies within it”.

I observe that we have more thoughts and emotions and perceptions than we have language for. We perceive more colours than any language we invent can describe. Which convinces me that thought precedes language. Moreover, it is the logic we perceive around us that we then build into the languages we invent. It cannot be, I think, that language circumscribes thought. It is our thoughts generated by our perceptions of what is around us that circumscribes the languages we invent.

Our senses come into play first in determining the meanings we wish to communicate. They then determine the shared system of encoding meanings into signals capable of being generated and detected. Our perception of a tree (vision/brain) is encoded into a particular sound (“tree”) which is generated (vocal chords) and detected and decoded by somebody else (aural/brain) and understood – according to the shared system of encoding – to mean a tree. The choice of encoding system is arbitrary but is primarily a matter of convenience. We use vision, sound and touch as a matter of convenience. We do not use olfactory signals because we cannot – at will – generate as great a range of smells as of sound. Besides, vision and sound can transmit signals across much greater distances than smells can. Sound can be transmitted in the dark. We do not have the capability in our bodies of generating or detecting radio waves or X-rays or infra-red radiation as encoded signals of meaning except through the use of specialised, instruments manufactured for the purpose. But if we had the same organs as bats do, we could use ultrasound signals in our languages. Our senses enable a convenient encoding of meanings into signals. Equally the limitations of our senses restrict the range of signals that we can generate and/or detect.

So my bluetooth devices do communicate with each other but the range of meanings they can transmit or receive are heavily circumscribed. They have not the freedom to express meanings which have not been predefined. They cannot initiate a conversation but can follow an instruction to do so. They do not have language.

But what is clear is that while language is a shared. agreed-upon system for encoding meanings into signals for the purpose of communication, language transcends its signals. While human language is mainly manifested as speech and writing, we also use sign-language and Braille and songs and music and art and dance within our languages. Photography and video are now part of the encoding we use in our languages. If we had organs for radio transmission and reception, we would no doubt have a word for “tree” but it would be expressed as a burst of radio-waves rather than a pressure wave or an image of a tree. Language is the system of conveying meanings where speech and writing and hand-signals are just specific forms of encoding. Language is a system which transcends the encoded signals it uses.


 

Acquisition of belief

July 18, 2018

Does it matter how a belief is acquired?

Take belief to be a proposition that is acquired or adopted though it cannot be proved. “Not being proven” then means that a truth value cannot be assigned to a belief. A belief proposition needs a mind to reside in. Merely stating a proposition that cannot be proved does not make it a belief. If the mind does not take further actions on the basis of that belief proposition being true, then that proposition cannot be said to have been “adopted” as a belief.

All knowledge is first belief. All knowledge is built on belief. The most fundamental belief adopted by every living thing is, I think, that “Time exists”. From that proposition we move on to “causality exists” and thence to every field of knowledge or endeavor.

In epistemology, knowledge is sometimes defined as being “true beliefs” or “justified true beliefs” though using “truth” to qualify “belief” makes me uncomfortable.

The Analysis of Knowledge.

There are three components to the traditional (“tripartite”) analysis of knowledge. According to this analysis, justified, true belief is necessary and sufficient for knowledge. 

The Tripartite Analysis of Knowledge:
S knows that p if

  1. p is true;
  2. S believes that p;
  3. S is justified in believing that p.

The tripartite analysis of knowledge is often abbreviated as the “JTB” analysis, for “justified true belief”.

Even if a belief-proposition cannot be proven, any proposition can be justified to a greater or lesser extent. Justification takes the form of collateral “evidence” which impacts the perceived probability of the proposition being true. This probability could be said to be the validity of the belief-proposition. (But it should be remembered that the very use of probability is an admission of ignorance. What then is the probability that an improbable proposition turns out to be true?)

Is a “brainwashed belief” less valid than a “freely adopted” belief? Is an imposed belief (whether by indoctrination or by peer pressure or by political correctness) less valid than a belief which has resulted from deep study and much thought? Is a “freely adopted belief” reached without thought and only because “my friend says so”, any less valid than one reached after years of study?

At first glance it might seem so. We could rank beliefs by the level of coercion involved in the acquisition of that belief. Generally the greater the level of coercion, the less critical thinking involved in adopting a belief.

  1. Brainwashing
  2. Indoctrination as an adult
  3. Indoctrination a a child
  4. Peer pressure
  5. Political correctness
  6. Conventional wisdom
  7. Freely adopted but without thought
  8. Freely adopted after much study

The same belief may be held both by a brainwashed person and also by someone after long years of study. The same belief may be held by the indoctrinator and the indoctrinated, by the mad mullah and the gullible youth, by the parent and the unknowing child. It would seem that the method by which a belief comes to be adopted is independent of the belief itself. But this is not entirely so. The less a belief can be justified the greater will be the resistance for another mind to adopt that belief. The greater will be the coercion necessary. There is a likelihood, therefore, that the greater the coercion necessary to inculcate a belief, the less likely it is that the belief in question is justified.

After all that, my fuzzy conclusion is that a belief is not dependent upon the method of its adoption. However, a belief adopted after coercion is likely to be less valid than a belief adopted without coercion – but not always. And validity of a belief is merely a probability.

Or it could be as Calvin believes that having a belief can increase the validity of that belief – or is it just that appearing to adopt some other person’s belief is more likely to extract benefits from the other.


 

No higher purpose

July 16, 2018

(Of course the ultimate purpose of life, the universe and everything is balance – which is indistinguishable from stasis. The imbalance at the core of time, the universe and everything.

If any change – including the state of change we call life – can be said to have a purpose, it is to eliminate the imbalance which caused the change or life in the first place. It would seem then that the ultimate purpose of all change must be to return to a state of complete equilibrium where even time does not have to flow. A state of stasis.

But let us suppose that there is such a thing as purpose).

Consider the characteristics of purpose.

  1. Purpose is not confined only to conscious minds or only to all living things. Purpose, as an objective or a direction, can be attributed to anything. But the attribution and its articulation seems confined to the existence of a conscious mind.
  2. Having (or being attributed with) purpose implies the flow of time. It implies a current state and actions to reach some other desired state at a later time. A purpose can not and does not address a past state.
  3. A purpose as an objective may describe a future state outside the space of perceived causality (and therefore of an imaginary state). But observe that even an imaginary future state can provide a real direction for current actions.
  4. A consciousness does not need to have a purpose and all its actions may be merely reactive. It also follows that if a conscious mind perceives no desired direction (no purpose), then its actions are reactive and merely respond to the prevailing imbalances it experiences.
  5. When more than one conscious mind is involved, individual purposes and the actions they engender, are additive and combine as vectors giving a “net” purpose.

The purpose of purposes is to give direction to actions. If an individual perceives no “higher” group purpose, that individual’s actions are then directed by that individual’s own purposes (or lack of purpose). Even where a group purpose is discernible, it can only be effected by the actions of individuals who subordinate their own purposes to that of the group. “Higher” purpose is irrelevant unless – and until – it is adopted by the entity carrying out the action. A “higher” purpose is ineffective except as disseminated and adopted by the actors.

Ultimately there is no higher purpose than that set or adopted by an individual for himself or herself.


 

 

 

 

Imaginary realities (or why all history is imaginary)

July 12, 2018

History is causal.

Actual events in the past resulted in the present. What we think, now, about those events in the past or what stories we tell, now, about the past are of no consequence to the present (no matter how fascinating or revisionist those stories may be).

The consequences of past events reverberate into the future until their influence has reduced so as to be submerged into the background noise. Say it actually was an asteroid impact 65 million years ago which led to the mass extinction of large dinosaurs (even if some survive as birds today). The reverberations of that asteroid impact can no longer be definitively detected. It can still be inferred by other events but all direct consequences are now part of the background noise. We can imagine other alternative histories. It might have been a super-volcano eruption – the detectable impacts of which would now also be lost in the noise – which caused the decline of the dinosaurs. Large dinosaurs may have disappeared catastrophically over a very short period or dwindled gradually over a few million years. We can imagine any story we like as long as its effects are now lost within the background. The super-volcano eruption and the asteroid impact are equally real (or equally imaginary).

Is reality confined to the present?

A real event that occurred yesterday is not real now. If everything not-real is imaginary then everything in history is imaginary now. Events that did occur are imaginary in the now. But events that did not occur are also imaginary. For events from as close as yesterday there may be collateral evidence to support one particular imaginary reality that was. For recent events some imaginary reality may be more real than another. But for events from the more distant past all the supporting evidence may be buried within the background rumble from the past. Then all imaginary realities are equal on the reality scale of imaginary realities. But the “real” reality must be causally connected to the present and so must also be the realities of the future.

Clearly time has an impact on reality. Perhaps it is wrong to thing of reality by itself and we need to think instead of the space within which reality can exist and the reality time-line. The reality space is the space of causality.

Reality space

Perhaps reality has to have a time axis. From the now, past or future realities (which are imaginary in the now) are time-lines which can only exist in the reality space. The reality time-line then must be capable of being causally connected within the reality space and must pass through the now. The imaginary space is then that where events cannot be causally connected to the present.

That dinosaurs have become chickens lies within the reality space that we can discern now and is an imagined reality. That dinosaurs became tigers lies in the imaginary space but cannot be causally linked and, therefore, is not even an imaginary reality.


 

 

Atheism cannot cope with the unknowable

July 8, 2018

I take atheism to be a “lack of belief in gods”.

A lack of belief does not lie in the realm of knowledge. Neither does it lie in the realm of the unknown. A lack of belief is silent about the state of knowledge about the subject in question. A lack of belief does not imply a state of knowledge. A lack of a belief is not in itself a logical negation of that belief. Many extend this and take atheism to be a denial of the existence of gods as professed as a belief by others. I suspect that most of my acquaintances who claim to be atheists use the latter definition when they present arguments to support their denial of the existence of gods to try and negate the beliefs of others. But a denial of some belief is then an attempt to shift something unknown into the realm of knowledge. It shifts the conversation from ” I don’t myself believe in X” to “I know that your belief in X is false”.

This shift from the realm of belief to the realm of knowledge, I think, is incorrect, illogical and invalid. We are inevitably drawn into epistemology. The known, the unknown and the unknowable. The known and the unknown are realms that are self-apparent. Science is the process at the interface of these regions which leads to the growth of the region of the known. All beliefs by definition lie in the region of the unknown. Any statement and its negation ( X and not-X) must both either lie in the region of knowledge, or both in the region of the unknown. It is not possible for one to live in the realm of knowledge and its negation to live in the region of the unknown. A belief in gods lies in the unknown. A lack of belief in gods (which is atheism) is not in itself a commentary on that belief. A denial of the belief in gods cannot then be anything other than belief and cannot shift into the realm of knowledge. A denial of a belief – which by definition lies in the unknown – is to claim knowledge of an unknown thing which is self-contradictory.

Known, Unknown and Unknowable

Is some part (and maybe the major part) of the unknown then unknowable? Some scientists – and some atheists – would claim that the unknowable does not exist; that everything – eventually – can be explained. But I think they delude themselves. This trifurcation into the known, the unknown and the unknowable does not address who the observer is or the time element. “To know” requires cognition. Cognition requires a brain. Known to whom? when? for how long? What is “known” depends upon the brains alive to know. Facts which were once part of knowledge may become unknown, though they may well remain facts. I observe that most of past events are now unknowable, though they were once known. What was once known, may have first passed into the region of the unknown (but was still knowable) and then with the further passage of time may have passed into the region of the unknowable. Most of the past events in my own life are already in the region of the unknowable. The most basic questions of science that we can formulate always lead us first into the unknown and then into the unknowable.  When the unknowable is reached we use labels. Gods, The Big Bang, Dark Energy, Dark Matter, …….. . But they are all just labels for Magic.

But more fundamentally, the Great Unknowable – throughout all of space and all of time – is time and its nature. What came before time, when “before” was undefined, is unknowable. At the most basic level, our causal universe and all its laws and all our logic rely upon the existence of an inexorable and inexplicable Time Magic. (I take all events which occur but which are inexplicable to be Magic. It is my label for that which lies in the region of the unknowable). Beliefs in Gods or the Big Bang also lie in the region of the unknowable.

Atheism is about belief and does not address the nature of knowledge or confront the unknowable. An atheist’s lack of belief in gods then lies in the realm of the unknown and perhaps in the realm of the unknowable (Magic). Even an atheist believes in Time Magic (whether he acknowledges it or not).


 


%d bloggers like this: