Damn you, Tarski

I’ve been reading this totally smokin’ biography of Alfred Tarski which has made me interested in math logic again–something I said I’d never do again.

Oh well, it’s just a benign activity except for the valuable use of time, time I must marshall and conserve at my advanced age.

Published in: on January 11, 2011 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tarski and Godel

You are reading a biography of Alfred Tarski. In it there
is a photo of Tarski and Godel laughing together in Vienna in the
early 1930’s. Apparently, even the gods of logic enjoy a good

Published in: on January 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm  Leave a Comment  


Just stop thinking you have one immortal soul and enjoy all the mortal ones you already have.

Published in: on December 2, 2010 at 1:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Annals of the selves that are you

Take a book off the shelf. Read it three times through. Chances are the three readings will stir your imagination differently all three times. The text is the same, of course, but three different people have read that same text.

Read it a fourth time and it will strike you differently still. The fourth person that is part of you has now read it.

Published in: on December 2, 2010 at 1:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Shakespeare’s Philosophy

I’m reading Colin McGinn’s Shakespeare’s Philosophy along with the major plays he discusses in the book.  I’m about halfway through it.  McGinn tackles the philosophical aspects of Shakespeare’s work and shuns literary study of his work.  I’ve already gained a whole new appreciation of the philosophical content.

McGinn views Shakespeare as a skeptical philosopher who had read Montaigne and was very much in sympathy with his philosophy.  He sees Shakespeare concerned with many core philosophical problems and issues: appearance vs. reality and the limits of knowledge, the nature of personal identity and the self, other minds, the imagination as one of the four faculties, the nature of love, good, and evil and how they are influenced by our imaginations and created selves and abilities to interpret and know other minds, and the issue of creation, being, and nothingness as it relates to who we are and how we live out our life.

I’ve found his discussion of Shakespeare’s thoughts on personal identity and the self fascinating.  Like Montaigne and Hume, Shakespeare did not believe there was a stable core self that one could identify.  We create different characters for specific social needs.  We are like actors who are continually changing roles depending on circumstances.  We use our imaginations to create narratives that fit how we would have others see us.  In this process we easily dupe ourselves and others.  (You are who you think you ain’t.)  Character does not create actions, but actions create character.

I’ve always enjoyed McGinn as a prose stylist who makes difficult thought easier.  I can see Shakespeare’s Philosophy and the plays standing in as a good text for an introduction to philosophy course.

(This post written on the laptop. 🙂 )

Published in: on July 16, 2010 at 7:28 am  Comments (1)  

A little about truth

Albertine lies to our protagonist(?).  His response is this once he discovers the lie.

The truth is the most cunning of enemies.  It delivers its attacks in the point of one’s heart where one was least expecting them and where one has prepared no defence(sic).


Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 11:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Debunking and literature

Some of us read Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy for something beyond philosophy, although philosophy is in it.  We like it because it’s Russell trying to debunk prevalent philosophical myths.  And that is one of the reasons why I still admire Russell.

You testify, Bertrand.  After all these years, I’m so glad I am reading you again.

Shitfire, it’s actually literature.

Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

The immortal soul: hmm?

I’ll admit it, I find the notion of an immortal soul absurd.  In my experience, there is no evidence for it.  (In fact, the notion of the soul seems a little fuzzy to me.)  However, since I am a sceptic, I will reexamine my own beliefs and study again the matter this year by rereading what the philosophers have to say about it, beginning with Plato’s dialogue, Phaedo.  And just so you know, I’m not in the mood to take any answers regarding the question of the immortal soul on faith.

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Questions, paper, and pen(cil)

I think it prudent when traveling, even a short distance, that we take paper and pen(cil) with us.  In the course of a day, questions come to us and they should be recorded lest we forget.  The answers to the questions should be recorded also–should they be readily available.  Someday, the questions or answers might be important.

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 2:12 pm  Leave a Comment  


I spent a gorgeous afternoon playing chess at the North Avenue chess pavilion on Lake Michigan and thought about what it would be like to be omniscient–what I could infer from it,

The gorgeous spring day and those thoughts about omniscience conspired against me.   I lost six hard fought chess games and won none.

Published in: on April 15, 2010 at 6:29 pm  Comments (1)  

Pederasty, faith, and informal logic

The priest, convicted of tying up and abusing two young boys in a California church rectory, wanted to leave the ministry.

But in 1985, four years after the priest and his bishop first asked that he be defrocked, the future Pope Benedict XVI, then a top Vatican official, signed a letter saying that the case needed more time and that “the good of the Universal Church” had to be considered in the final decision, according to church documents released through lawsuits.

That decision did not come for two more years, the sort of delay that is fueling a renewed sexual abuse scandal in the church that has focused on whether the future pope moved quickly enough to remove known pedophiles from the priesthood, despite pleas from American bishops.

New York Times

Of course, some of us feel moral outrage and revulsion.  I often feel revulsion of another kind too.

I try not to be militant about my atheism unless I am provoked and drunk.  God doesn’t exist, but what’s the point of arguing with people of faith.  I sympathize with those who say their faith brings them joy and comfort.  The flip side of that coin is that faith also brings sadness and anxiety.  The words of praise for the lord are also accompanied with words of anguish.  The anguish is simply forgotten or given short shrift by most people of faith.

For me, the question of god is quite simple.  Somebody says that god exists.  I say, oh goody, can I meet him.  My interlocutor replies, yes, pray.  No, can I meet him in the flesh, I say.  God’s  not that kind of thing, the interlocutor says.

And there you have it.  God’s not that kind of thing.  All attempted proofs of god, no matter how sophisticated, have been shown to be fallacious.  Two people disagree about the existence of an entity.  One says it exists.  The other says it doesn’t.  In a logical argument, the burden of proof lies on the person who says an entity exists rather than someone who has never been shown solid evidence for the existence of that entity.

What if I called 911 and reported a unicorn cavorting in the park across the street?  Keep in mind it is against the law to make crank or frivolous calls to 911.   As the police arrest me, I say, but you must have faith.

Having faith in something that is not true, nor even any evidence for it is philosophically foolish in my opinion.  Especially when the falsehood leads to immoral and harmful events.  Such is the case with the Pope.

If I need aid and comfort, I’d rather have the here and now of people giving it to me than a belief in a being that does not exist.  I’ve almost come to believe that the belief in god is like a virus.  Benign in a lot of people, not toxic or dangerous, but in all too many others it is another cause of evil in the world.

As for the church running the state, that makes my passive atheism turn militant.

Published in: on April 10, 2010 at 6:58 am  Comments (5)  

Metaphysics, baseball, and Bouton

I’m still rereading Aristotle’s Metaphysics.  But that sounds so pretentious–even though true.  What I am doing more is rereading Jim Bouton’s Foul Ball.

I’ll let you be the judge of what is the better guide to metaphysics.

Published in: on April 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wittgenstein: the man

Was there ever a more interesting philosopher than Wittgenstein as far as his life?  He alone matches Socrates in my mind.

Then there is his philosophical legacy: philosophy scattered about in brilliant fragments.

When you read Wittgenstein, you don’t give a damn about writing books.

Published in: on March 23, 2010 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Progress in philosophy

Philosophy.  Part poetry; part ideas and arguments for them.  Of course, logic is metaphor too–just like all thinking.

Some people believe philosophy makes no progress.  I disagree.  As with any other field of knowledge, philosophy is shot completely through with metaphor.  Some philosophical metaphors are apt and they take ingenuity to be countered if countered at all.  Each new metaphor takes us to a new place where ideas defend themselves with arguments difficult to assault.  Isn’t traveling to a new place the goal of all knowledge?

Like the static position on my chessboard against a hard opponent right now, philosophy reaches those kinds of position that wait for some inspired genius to figure the next move–a new idea and argument for it that seems compelling: some new and robust metaphor.

Published in: on March 23, 2010 at 8:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Philosophy of…

I figured out philosophy of mathematics.  But how hard can that be?

Now, what remains is the philosophy of desire to be reckoned–the last thing on my list as philosophy of stuff goes.

Maybe, there is just desire and philosophy has nothing to do with it.

Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 11:22 pm  Comments (1)  

The math thing in your head

You and I are sitting together talking.  You leave and I can no longer see you.  That’s an instance of one minus one equals zero.  It has been shown that babies have some facility with and some understanding of small arithmetic even though they have not been taught arithmetic.

Beyond our ability to do very small arithmetic, I believe mathematics is a product of our imaginations.  That means we create mathematics using our abilities to create and manipulate metaphors.

One million is a concept in our heads.  We won’t find it outside our heads.  Even if you show me precisely one million grains of sand, the million part is in my head.

Good poets and good mathematicians have a lot in common.

Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 2:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

The critical sequence

At first there are the propositions and arguments for them.  Then there is a critique of the propositions and arguments.  After that, there is a critique of the critique…and so on.

Death is certainly the halting point of one’s critical activity.  One also halts when boredom with the whole matter sets in.  When confusion will not yield to clarity, frustration might halt the investigation and critical activity.

What seems for sure is that critique is an infinite sequence.  Once you’ve reached one million in the critical sequence, you still have not done very many critiques because there are still infinitely many to do.

And that might make one envious of those who are not very critical.

Published in: on December 31, 2009 at 12:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

One more demon joins the party

I shouldn’t have done it.  Started reading philosophy of mathematics stuff again, that is.  Now, an old obsession has returned to join ranks with all the other unproductive obsessions demonizing me.

Damn it, Larry.  It’s your fault.

Published in: on December 29, 2009 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Down the road

On this solitary afternoon, in a fit of madness or stupidity, I thought about taking one more run at mathematical logic and mathematical philosophy just to meditate on it in general one more time before I die–just to get a little bit farther down the road.

Published in: on December 13, 2009 at 5:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mappings in the complex plane and spirit

What is the spiritual and what is meaning in a world where there is no god?

Another more tractable question: if one maps in various ways the complex plane into the complex unit disk without boundary and centered at the origin, then what happens to the density of primes after the mapping?

Today, I like the second question best.  It comforts me more.

Maybe, just the fact that I pose the second question is all that is required to answer the first.  It’s pretty.  Meaning and spirit derives from the the asking.

Published in: on August 17, 2009 at 11:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Missed another one

It is a new idea to me.  The Meaning of Life changes and evolves.  Chance plays a role in the evolution.  How could I have missed the notion?

Published in: on August 1, 2009 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Positivism, arguments, and answers

Let’s divide questions into two classes.  Those that can be studied using statistics and those that cannot.

When I say can be studied by statistics I mean three things as taken from Langley’s Practical Statistics.

1) Defining a problem or what is to be sought,
2) Choosing a method in which the answer may be found,
3) Interpreting the meaning of the results.

Let’s distinguish between two kinds of positivism: strong positivism where one believes that all that can be studied is through statistics and scientific method, and mild positivism where one cares more about studying questions that can be answered through statistics and scientific method, and does not care much about those questions that can’t be studied thus even though one feels they are still important questions worthy of reflection on their answers.  What I’m talking about is two kinds of positivist temperament.

I would categorize myself these days as a mild positivist if I am a positivist.  Distinguishing inductively between the probable and the improbable satisfies me more than contemplating questions that, although rigorously argued philosophically, cannot be put to statistical scrutiny.

Too bad questions are not as easily categorized as I’ve laid it out.  Take condoms for instance.  I take it as scientifically shown that using condoms reduces the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases.  Those that enjoin people not to use condoms are relegated to justifiying their position by saying using a condom is a sin or some other moral or religious injunction.  However, one might consider that reducing sexually transmitted diseases carries more moral weight than a religious injunction that increases the chances of getting sexually transmitted diseases.  The moral question remains despite the scientific evidence.

One should be honest when arguing metaphysical or moral points of view.  One should declare how one is answering questions.  One should not try to subvert scientific evidence with pseudo-scientific arguments to the contrary intended to obfuscate an issue.  Those last statements are again moral injuctions of a sort, but I would think that we would have all reached a point where we agree with them.

Published in: on June 28, 2009 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  

No priorities

I was rummaging through my book closet this morning when I ran across Iris Murdoch’s Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, a book I bought and never read.  I’m going to take it for a spin now.

However, the Cubs/Sox game is coming up, so it will be a book for tonight and the weekend.

I know, I have no priorities.

Published in: on June 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Someday soon

My stepfather died this past week.  I judge him a good man overall.  Anyone who took as good care of my mother as he did with mine stands tall with me.

Now that my father, mother, and stepfather are gone, and most of my aunts and uncles, I can’t help but think about my own passing, or the passing of my generation, the next generation  designated for extinction.  I am filled with this you’re-next feeling this cold snowy Sunday morning.  The great beyond awaits me.

Sunday morning grants us time to think about what is eternal and what not.  I wish our arts, sciences, and philosophies would survive us, but I fear they too will decay and fall to ruin.  The immense forces working in the world violates everything; nothing lasts forever.

Published in: on March 1, 2009 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Forgetting and Remembering

Given enough time, we all will forget just about anything. Years later, if we want to write about it, we will be hard pressed to recall. Yet we should not wait for time to erase memories we no longer wish to have. We should immerse ourselves in things that tax the mind. Abstract problems such as we find in philosophy or mathematics come to mind and might do the trick.

Of course, there is the other way. If we have been involved in an emotional experience that we yearn to forget, we can always trade that off for another emotional experience, some intense desire, that helps us forget. I wonder though. Does the emotiional experience work as quickly and as harshly ss meditating on abstact things?

There is no god. A priori knowledge is hard to come by. We live in our little closed worlds. How much freedom we have remains the only question. Can we make ourselves forget or remember, and how?

Published in: on February 16, 2009 at 10:54 pm  Comments (2)