Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Scholarship / Synthesis /

Key words: synthesis, interdisciplinary, epistemology

In September of 1985 I began jotting notes for a book to be called Synthesis. The goal was to synthesize the most relevant insights of the various disciplines into a single generally comprehensible epistemology. Wouldn’t you know it, K. was my personalized, 1990s version of the same thing. Those notes from 1985 I now spew into this blog.

For a year or so now I’ve been planning to incorporate the original notes. Wouldn’t you know it, as of 1999 08 09, I still hadn’t. So I just read it in here, unedited. If you’ve read (and understood) a few of the modules here, especially those of my Thinking Tools / Truth section, you may be able to follow these jottings as well as I (except of course for my personalized abbreviations, which I’ll depersonalize in time). Once caught up with Meta-Oxymoron [Link to be restored] and with Meta-Information, I start translating more of this to prose.

The text is full of stylistic characteristics like change of font size and italics, much of it phomemic. I’ll come back for those editorial improvements first.

Implications of the Sorting of Logical Levels

Notes: though some of this is written out, it is in no way to be regarded as being yet composed. Sometimes the connection isn’t established. Some repetition to make sure certain things are there.

TITLES: Synthesis, Either/Or? Both, and More put somewhere here in these notes. Now, Bible means “book”; Al Qura’n is called the book, is related to the verb to read and means a gathering of the things : hence — The Gathering.

Book cover: typographical rainbow blend of PATTERNS as background.

Chicago Sun-Times’ spouse answer to:

“To understand all is to forgive all.”
“How do you know?”

A funny woman and an important answer, an important question.

Coleridge’s quote about theology as the queen of sciences.

P. B. Medawar’s quote about the accomplishments of science.

A little comparative epistemology. (Give me that old time religion, gimme that old time religion: it was good enough for grandpa, it’s good enough for me.) (On the other hand, there are limitations to verifiability. What if revelation only happens once? Then anyone who doesn’t believe the witness is missing the truth. Scientists therefore stake their claim on truth which is repeatable.) Difference between science and common sense that people commonly aren’t aware of. Common sense (both generally received views (necessarily not up to date) and ways of processing information and making decisions) has important evolutionary advantages where quick decisions have to be reached, but it is unworthy of issues we have time to take our time about. And of course, maybe we don’t have time: maybe our common sense has let us down finally or is about to. Anyway, why not know both? Cite four card test.

Bateson’s point about “multiple versions of the world.” cf. ISOMORPHISM.

Bateson’s definition of explanation expanded to definition of thinking, matching the perceived extensional for pattern against a tautology, an idea, the intensional.

Einstein quote: “It seems that the human mind has first to construct forms independently before we can find them in things … Knowledge cannot spring from experience alone but only from the comparison, the inventions of the intellect with observed facts.

“Theory of logical types. meta-whatever. Distinction between fact about extensional matter/events and meta-patterns of those events. The existence of God is not a fact and cannot be proved as a fact; it is a meta-fact, as God is a meta-pattern. They are on different logical levels. Putting ideas about God into a book, including the Bible, still does not bound God any more than Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity bounds light, its velocity, and their relationship to matter and energy. Neither is the theory the meta-pattern. The theory does exist in a book: the meta-pattern preceded it by unknown billions of years. Matters of different logical levels can’t have the same kind of proof or truth.

The esteem of knowledge. Generally held to protect survival and to promote wealth. (A “good in itself”: a meaningless phrase in my understanding.) On the other hand, every established social order fears it (rightly) as an enemy. Everyone knows about tormented knowledge, despised genius, the janitor with the Ph.D. from Harvard (the story always takes it for granted that the occupation of janitor is a sign of failure).

Our own culture (the one for which English is a common language, New York a center of business, Washington, DC a center of power, and which inherits its Greco-Roman traditions by way of England) has hooked its wagon to the illusion of economic advantage through constantly advancing technique. Therefore, computational ability and patent able invention are frequently rewarded while wisdom is routinely despised.

I am quite aware that I am far from expert in any of the disciplines which this paper will touch on: theology, philosophy, physics, organic chemistry, history, economics, etc. However, if the patterns which I observe in these pages (and which I believe correspond truly to unutterable reality) are common currency in any field I am ignorant of it.

A preeminent human accomplishment of recent times is GUTS: General Unification Theories. Albert Einstein died still dreaming of the unification of physics. GUTS is a major and a recent beginning. What about the other disciplines of human understanding? C. P. Snow earned his walking-about money warning us about a widening rift between the sciences and the humanities. Nobel laureate Medawar observes that our disciplines are becoming less specialized. Could a mere mortal dare to hope that someday the blinders could be taken off of understanding?

Story of the child who cries because she’s been told to buy “dividers” at school and she doesn’t know what they are. They’re the sheets of heavy paper with a plastic sticker that divide mathematics from biology from history from English. Those subjects aren’t the only things divided in our experience: the holy is divided from the profane; Christian from Muslim; free enterprise from social and economic planning. Can the mystic who claims that all is one justify his claim with specific references? What does philosophy have to tell us that isn’t another example of divisiveness?: ideal from real, consciousness from unconsciousness? Is the unexamined life not worth living? How about the ununified life?

Are the physicists deluding us and perhaps themselves too? They do seek experimental, i.e.. experiential, support before elevating their hypotheses to theories. What’s the record of other disciplines for doing the same?

Are we capable of a language universal for our species? Would it be worthy? That is, be capable of corresponding to reality. How about music? How about mathematics? Esperanto? What’s wrong with English?

How about the language of gesture? Charlie Chaplin’s silent popularity in a number of countries? How unifying is humor? Does it have anything to tell us?

“What if everything is illusion and nothing exists?” Woody Allen writes. “In that case I definitely paid too much for that furniture.”

Henny Youngman informs us that “the average amount of sleep required by the normal person is a few minutes more.”

Again Woody Allen: “Emily Dickinson was wrong. ‘Hope’ is not the ‘thing with feathers.’ The thing with feathers turns out to be my nephew. I must take him to a specialist in Zurich.”

A wide number of people may laugh at these — I imagine that they would translate well, even the “thing with feathers” metaphor — but their technique isn’t unification. It’s the rape of division: the anomalous juxtaposition of things that don’t belong: the mundane with the speculative, the extraordinary ordinary with a poetic image, an hilariously inappropriate literalness, the stilted diction of statistics with a vulgar truism.

Ah , but does unity require lack of distinction? Let’s go back to the physicists and their brothers, the mathematicians after this observation. Developing countries as well as developed countries demand schools with fancy audio-visual equipment and a computer center; hospitals with all the electronic paraphernalia. Business that made money with Victorian filing systems lavish funds on the newest from IBM, Xerox, and DEC. Families keep up with the Joneses and individuals wouldn’t be caught dead without the latest gimcrack. But what about our thinking equipment? Our analytical tool box? Will our doctors and our lawyers, our spiritual guides and our political leaders really take care of that for us? How can we tell unless we have a few up-to-date tools ourselves?

Most of our tools remain unsorted. our minds are a collection of space age consciousness on top of atomic consciousness on top of industrial consciousness on top of medieval consciousness on top of Stone Age thinking. We are all mixtures of totemism, taboo, religion, and science.

Epistemological consciousness is one taboo which we should struggle against. Knowing where your own ideas come from is regarded as a threat to those who don’t want to know even that there can be a basis for belief.

Once printing became available the followers of Luther and others wanted to peruse the documents of revelation for themselves. Has that spirit died and the new Church, the Church of property and national conniving, won?

The Protestant Reformation and the American and French Revolutions were supposed to be blows against entrenched hierarchy. Was hierarchy illegitimate? That is to say, not in correspondence with nature, evolution, and optimum survival?

Let’s look at some hierarchies that the scientists recognize. Keep in mind the danger of habitual associations with direction: left and right, up and down. In fact, let’s not talk about hierarchies; let’s talk about spectra. Two dimensions: 1) the range of the spectrum itself; 2) our looking at it. Up or down, left or right, in or out should have only conventional significance: we have to remember which direction is which. Beware of value associations, political or religious. Even forward and back have associations. How about reversing conventions just in hope of inspiring caution. Extensional … to intensional. Concrete … to abstract. Pattern … to meta-pattern. Microscopic … macroscopic. Let’s fill a few rungs in on that last ladder. PATTERN … data … hypothesis … theory … Theory … meta-PATTERN. Or, PATTERN … part … whole … , meta-PATTERN.

If we superimpose one hierarchy onto another, look at them as though we had a double negative or perhaps a double positive, we might find other patterns, surprises. Multiple versions of reality. Another dimension of understanding. Those surprises might relate to our sense of reality, help us to create new senses of reality, senses better in correspondence with reality than our present ones.

Contemporary physicists talk about matter/energy events, discrete quanta. These events would correspond to the extensional side of the extensional/intensional spectrum. They seek laws, regularities, patterns among these events. That pursuit corresponds to the intensional side of that spectrum. They seek “the pattern which connects.” (Bateson) The intensional side relates to meta-pattern side of the pattern/meta-pattern spectrum. Theologians discuss God. God is the mainstay of their explanatory principles, the ultimate black-box, to mix in engineers’ parlance. Let’s use our double negative technique to synthesize a new spectrum in hope of winding up with a double positive. Something true. Something corresponding to reality. Something where the opposite sides of the spectrum are related, related but opposite. Let’s start with one side being the experimentally verifiable stuff of the physicists, the extensional side: matter/energy quantum events. At the other side, the intensional side, the side of physical law, we would also find the side of meta-pattern, of metaphysics. The realm of the theologians would belong on that side.

Superimposing transparent spectra, we have QUANTA, discrete matter/energy events, Korzybski’s the unutterable. They are never, we may suppose, without pattern. Further along we find patternings not accountable by conventional physical law: we find life. Further along, more intensional explanatory principles, forces, gods, then an ur-god or super-god or consensus of gods: God. Is there any end to a spectrum? Could further along there be a meta-God “above” (which conventional direction have we chosen again?), below, then, below “God.”

Note that there is no, can be no, extensional manifestation of God, unless it is all extensional manifestations: a pantheism, a pantheism become redundant, a tautology.

Physicists are punctilious about relating (not identifying) their laws to events at the extensional end of things. There must be no exceptions or the laws must be reformulated to include the odd phenomena. How about theologians? Examining the epistemologies of religions might be a worthwhile endeavor. Could they learn anything from the mathematicians? The physicists? Any other sciences? Do they need to? Could the scientists, etc. learn anything from them? As a matter of fact, they can, and have. But how about visa-versa? Religions too should seek verifiability. Should secular societies tolerate any form of authority that disdains verifiability? Addiction: a habit without advantage for survival. Genotypic vs. phenotypic learning.

Can we find analogy among different senses of “up” or “high”? Water about to flow over a falls is higher up than the fallen water. Is God higher than a stone in the same sense? No, he’s simply in the opposite direction along the extensional/intension spectrum. Is it wrong to raise our eyes (one possible gesture), to signify our awareness of the abstract, the spiritual? (I avoid putting quotation marks around words, or I’d be putting them around most of the words here: He, God, spiritual are only a few examples.) No, it signifies a direction, a dimension that we recognize ourselves not to share in, or not to share in to the same magnitude. If anything, it’s the fourth dimension more than the third. I’ll return to God as a pattern in time later.) How about a fifth dimension, one perpendicular to all four? Does this have any meaning? In that it exceeds our understanding, no. In that it may be possible (we don’t know), yes.

No reported telescope has seen him (scientific sense of see: must be repeatable. I can’t look into the viewer, say “Yes, I see him. There He is.”, then cover the eye piece and prevent you from looking. “You’ll have to take my word for it.” My claim to authority doesn’t prove me wrong, just useless for scientific epistemology.

There is an unknown, maybe unknowable range at both ends of the extensional/intensional spectrum. We don’t observe atoms, let alone quarks, let alone know what may be beyond them. Our sense even of the extensional at its extreme is a mental construct. Ditto the other end. We run out of mind before the possibilities of construction run out.

If we make a scale and set a zero on it, the location is necessarily arbitrary. True in physics too, I suppose. Even absolute zero indicates a threshold of entropy, not an absence of energy.

But on the e/i spectrum, life may be regarded as in the middle (not dead center, there’s no such thing). Take an individual organism, for example. Take yourself, for example. From the extensional direction, you’re quarks, hadrons, and leptons making atoms, making ions, making molecules. On another conceptual branch of the extensional, you’re electro chemical interchanges, neural firings, a communications network of acids, of enzymes, of hormones. Further along, you’re colloids, protein strands, fatty tissue, keratin. A lymph system, a blood system. A structure framed on bone. You are a hollow bodied animal, a descendant of the hollow bodied worms which swam in ancient seas. You are a conference of specializing organs. You branch into specializing pairs of limbs, with a top protrusion which houses a bud of your nervous system. You have a built in safety factor with the redundancy of some organs. Such pairs also give you automatically your own multiple version of reality, built in parallax, a built in Doppler, range finders. You interact with your environment. You take in a give off so continuously that it is impossible to tell exactly where you begin and end. You can’t tell from inside and we can’t tell from outside. Your extensional elements have had intensional weavings from the beginning and we’re not done yet. You embody the learning program of your genotype to which you add phenotypic learning while your culture surrounds you with all sorts of mental constructs, learning in all stages of digestion and indigestion. You are a product of unquantifiable billions of years of life. You are likely to be typical of your culture, of your society, of your family, yet you are wholly unique: in chemistry, in face, in memories. You may share beliefs and ideas, but the precise configuration is yours alone. Yet the further we go along the spectrum in the direction of the intensional, the more you are not only yourself, but a type, a type representing your ancestors, your family, your church, your party, your peers, until we can perceive you without slander as an American, a modern, a WASP, a Christian, a male, whatever.

PATTERN Pattern Pattern Pattern Pattern

Another spectrum: digital to analogic.

“Number is of the world of pattern, gestalt, and digital computation; quantity is of the world of analogic and probabilistic computation.” Bateson

Logical types.

Individual in communication with individual: wholes never seen (aggregates of parts at best) except as built up after a series of inputs and summed as a hypothetical model. From moment to moment we are assessing ur model against new inputs. (As always there is a spectrum over which we can range in two directions: are we trying A) to improve our model, or are we B) trying to defend, to prop up our model. “Wait a minute: that’s not like Mary. > (A) Mary’s different than I thought. > (B) Mary’s not herself today.” It’s only our enemies who think (or claim) they understand us; our friends know that they don’t.

However mysterious, complex, and multi-layered a character like Hamlet, we can understand (i.e.. have a near-accurate, complex model in our minds) him to a far greater extent than we can ever understand a real individual. That is because the inputs from Hamlet are finite.

Addiction: any habit that has no survival value.

Individual in communication with an aggregate. (Can’t be the same though they can be analogous. Ditto, aggregate to aggregate.) Aggregate beast on a different logical plane than individual. (though even “individuals” are aggregates: Irish/Italian; Protestant/Jewish; Hungarian/American; southern/modern; Christian/physicist; male/sympathetic with certain “female” claims.)

One may never have direct, linear “control” over what another individual or aggregate is doing with one, how messages are being received, e.g.., but one can begin to maximize the self-definition, self-advantage, or self-protection of oneself if one strives for an accurate assessment of where on the accuracy spectrum the other is. Watch for shifts.

E.g. Andrea Jaeger’s complaints with the press. Burn out? No, I was injured. Assess capacity for and degree of “honesty” of both sides. My experience with NYS Labor board: “I am your “objective” reviewer,” he spit venemously at the plaintiff. Then proceeded to violate all rules of inquiry and evidence. Or Rev. HHI.

People misunderstand metaphors where they refer them to the wrong model. e.g.. hierarchy. to abuse of power or false hierarchy. The exercise of advantage by any organization. Feudalism, the Church, the economic power of corporations. There are natural hierarchies whose organizational power cannot be abused. They can be misrepresented. Misperceived or misunderstood. Worst is not to be represented at all. Math. Logical type. Etc. Russell. McLuhan.

Philip Hughes A Popular History of the Catholic Church. “In the second and third centuries the Church is acting in the watchful negative way. The ground is thus cleared for the positive, new construction of the definitions of the great Councils which fill the fourth and the fifth centuries, to which constructive work the Church comes unembarrassed by any temporary alliance with the instability of merely human theorizing.” Distinction between Christian reliance on “revelation” as accepted by tradition and the Gnostic reliance on inspiration, personal or elect revelation.

Abstractions are analogic; quantum components are digital.

Money is digital; wealth is analogic: for macroscopic purposes, they must be translatable back and forth: money which loses its translating power for whatever reason (the fall of the economy, the government, passage of time, discontinuity [being on a desert island] is worthless; wealth has to have some flexibility: it isn’t land and palaces I want most right now, it’s a corned beef sandwich with iced tea.

Imperfect consciousness: wrong sized net or screen for filtering what you want. Imagine one strand of DNA complaining of its neglect by the control, the selection process.

Potential vs. Kinetic.

One reason you can’t simulate reality is because reality can’t be defined: however, the structure can be traced.

Cf. Aristotelian immutability, the search for absolutes with modern sciences quest for empirical invariance, for law.

Heart/Mind dualism, summarized for example by Shakespeare, with current theories (again empiric) about the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

We are a species with a mind, a mind which is trying on different brains (governments, modes of organization: social, economic, moral: none so far very satisfactory beyond the nonce. Does anyone really want the US, the USSR, the CIA, Keynsian economics, Marxist economics, really to prevail, to endure?

1985 09 11 Any child knows that! However …

Distinguish between spectra of beliefs, conventions, etc. e.g. left and right, liberal and conservative, etc. and spectra of the cosmos. Examples cited.

Confusions of concrete and abstract. Stone god. Bathing in money. Fill a tub with legal tender and dive in. Splash jewels, coins, paper currency over yourself. Your epidermis, usually in constant and invisible contact only with liquid media, air or occasionally water, together with only several point contact with other solids, your feet on a floor, your hand on a rail, your seat and under thighs on a cushion. — Now all surfaces are bombarded with solid contacts. You could do the same with sand. The difference isn’t in the material but in the ideas we associate with it. You mind is awash in ideas — of power, leisure, luxury, purchasing power. Abstract units of abstract exchange.

You can’t buy or sell a home, only a house.

Is the idea of buying money with money of a “higher” abstraction than buying a head of lettuce?

Logic: ordinal, numeral.

Hierarchy — enemy, church

Watch our for valuational associations: higher/lower. Is “good” always the more abstract? The more concrete?

Like “strong” verbs and “pure” vowels.

Note the spelling of “intensional.” don’t confuse it with intentional, with acts of conscious volition.

In struggles for influence, the competition of meme wielding genes, the ladder of abstraction, unconscious or only fleetingly perceived by most of us, is the “thing” most and first likely to be abused. Ditto the increasing ambiguity of words as they “ascend” the ladder.

Semantics. Know where you are on the ladder. Move up and down on it with fluency and facility. Know the referents of abstractions to the extensional or know of absences. “God” has no extensional referent. Freedom. Democracy. Communism. It’s all too easy to start off by mentioning communism as an economic theory, and switch unannounced to conclusions about totalitarianism or absence of freedom.

If you want unearned influence, then do just that. Student bullshit. Political harangue.

Social hierarchies. The new can come only from the random. Families, wealth, … form attachments that decrease choice, limit access to the random. Stress. Gautama, Jesus, Shaw, Yojimbo gave up, had given up, or avoided wealth and family. Gary Cooper in High Noon — “Do not forsake me oh my darlin'” — that dreadful theme and that dreadful bride. The townies and Grace Kelley were forsaking him, but he had to forsake them in order to fight Miller.

Gambling: odds — partly knowable … personalities of participants … are all participants perceived? … timing and quantity of bet … duration of participation, when to join, when to quit — these are less knowable.

2000 01 08 The coding I did to mount this file was minimal. Now I notice tab characters: don’t work in HTML. This file needs to be styled even more than it needs to be rewritten or finished. For the moment I’ll just put in extra spaces and worry what it looks like later.

“Extensional … computation … number theory … Intensional

E … individual … (discrete quanta? continuum?) … species … I

E … life … novel … history … (split) one branch psychology (individual);          other branch sociology (group) … I

E …    brain …    mind …    I

microscopic …    macroscopic

divergent …    convergent

Is any part of the information processing/idea formation mechanism of the brain/nervous system analogic? Neuron events certainly seem to be digital. How does digital/analogic dichotomy relate to the intension/extensional dichotomy? Is it that the mechanism is digital, but the result, the mental construct, analogic?

We give wrong answers to these questions, but they are certainly the right questions.

Is the mind analogic? Brain digital/mind analogic?

Is there a possibility that a continuum beneath the quanta of matter/energy events exists?

Is there a macro-continuum? Are all continua abstractions?

(up arrow) UNITY (bottom of page with down arrow — QUANTA):

Could a mind predate, observe, understand, or even create a Big Bang? Some would say NO by definition. Would their definition be inappropriately limiting?

If the answer is no, is that an argument against the BB?

Are the quanta we observe or imagine the bottom (or top — I don’t care which direction is up) of the extensional? Does it have a bottom? Is there a top? Could there be a “final” god? Does ultimate have any non-relative meaning?

The Not Another Rubik’s Cube Book makes fun of the phenomenon without ever adding a dimension to its one joke: the cube is hard. I’ll bet it’s hard if you never see it in three let alone four dimensions. It’s hard even then. It’s a book without any algorithm but the random. (It claimed that someone solved three sides. I guess that is possible, but it doesn’t sound like it’s on the way to a solution.)

Who today would be caught not buying a Mercedes or some such if he could afford one? Or if he could finagle one? Or a Betamax? We want the newest thing, but pay little attention to the latest thought, unaware that good thinking requires a good tool box. Perhaps they think that genius is “given” like blue eyes or the ability to curl your tongue. Russell, Korzybski, Wiener, von Neumann, and Bateson, the synthesizers. These tools are learn able, though as with anything else, skill comes with practice. The capacity for skill is given but given commonly. So must be some pre-forms for ideas: Plato. Wordsworth. Chomsky.

Take some standard ideas and view them against these spectra. Like old wives tales and modern chemistry, they may partly fit.

Pre-destination imminent immanent


antinomianism heaven/hell reincarnation


“literal” interpretation: now there’s a semantic confusion if there ever was one.

First Law of Thermodynamics: expanded to:


matter energy spirit nn = ALL

How much overlap does God and law have?

People are troubled by the predisposition of English with regard to gender and/or sex. The language doesn’t fit. [Recall Shaw’s distinction among Philistines, Idealists, and Realists.] How about nouns? Squirrel, Betsy, money, democracy, God — all formable into sentences in the same way, grammatically equivalent. Great formal confusion.

Confusion that because words can form a sentence that therefore that sentence has meaning. Absence but semblance of meaning in a sentence can cause great harm. Often a majority of utterances. Idea of CORE: robin, ostrich.


Words have the same extensional value as uttered noises, once again, at the extensional side of things. Whoosh; ough; kike; Mr. President; Hail, Mary: they’re all the same.

We value forms of existence according to where we place them on the scale. god … angel … man … animals … plants … things … The Great Chain of Being. Here is where intensional can parallel intentional. If a man catches a fish with fly and line we say that it was intentional. If struggling to free his line, the man falls into the water, we don’t say that the submerged tire caught the man. We ascribe no intensional level to the tire.

Correctly assessing ourselves to exist on a high abstract plane, we despise the extensional. We attribute no intension to anything but ourselves and to a God who created us in the image of his prejudices. Go forth and dominate other creatures. How is this different from the self-maximizing tendencies of any creature in any ecology? any suitable environment?

Every species is the embodiment of an idea, a set of ideas. Every new species is the embodiment of a new idea or set of ideas. Thinking, mind, is going on, matching genetic map, formula to circumstances, perhaps altered circumstances. What’s different about us is we think as individuals and as sub groups as well as species. Mammals set a range.

Manipulating symbols for our own advantage is part of our evolutionary heritage. Manipulating them so that a good match is found between the map and the territory — truth seeking — is part of that survival enhancing heritage. Or is it? Is that sub set on a different logical plane? (don’t forget that one excellent strategy can fail in different circumstances.)

Our language(s) will no doubt continue to change and evolve. If we were ever to develop a language (Ur-language(s)?), artificially, (impossible?), consciously to be without contradictions, with our “highest” as well as with our “lowest” understanding, avoiding the forms that foster formal misunderstanding, that language would have to possess a grammar which would make logical distinction automatic, not just aspire to be an Esperanto that would be easy for speakers of Indo-European to translate to.

Advantage of formal, artificial languages, that only specialists use and care for. But the omni creature has its needs too. (Analyze one of own sentences for logical ambiguity.)

Distinction between “natural” “thought” and scientific thought, formal logics, formal methods. “The exception ‘proves’ the rule.” On the one hand, shows it to be “correct” because it is the exception; on the other, scientific hand, it flatly disproves it to be a rule, puts it to the proof, proves that it isn’t a rule.

If we had to choose between them it would probably be better to take the natural, the human. It’s more generally adapted and works quickly as well as slowly, for individuals as well as groups. Science exists only on the group level. I can write this myself, but you have to test it, to check it over, to disprove it, maybe only partly disprove it. But for attempting to sustain our species through a series of altered environments involving say climate to an altered environment that includes changes on a variety of levels: mercury in water, plastic in fish, nitrogen doctored soil, the hype of a dozen domesticated species and a few grasses over the great variety and bulk of biomass. We’ve addicted the earth itself for our hyper economy. How sensible are junkies? In this special, factitious circumstance, we need science for survival.

Could this “special” circumstance be regarded as being “natural”? The quick development and quick suicide of our kind of intelligence may be a common scenario in the cosmos. Yeast, anaerobic bacteria, …

MUSIC: often regarded as “profound,” etc. Yet inexplicable, impossible to “articulate” (build up in digitally formed blocks) into a system that relates recognizably to our human, primate, mammalian concerns. We are trained to recognize significance in the “news,” in literature, in the essay. When we “feel” significance overwhelmingly more so in music, we are at a loss for words. Our inarticulate ideas don’t do much better. We refer to meta-explanation, like instinct, artist, genius — all consciously to some extent undefined. I believe it’s because music exists hardly at all on the extensional level and so very much at the intensional level.

Action painting produced some very good paintings while wasting an incredible amount of time talking about the wrong end of the spectrum. Rhythm, balance, tension — these are all intensional terms “relating” extensional elements.

Music is a language of relationship. Form, Hierarchy, Structure.

Literature has these elements too, but what we generally seek from it is information of a different kind. Information at the lowest level that humans commonly seek or dispense it, information at a formidably high level compared to the digital, but a comparatively low level to the systematically varied relationships of music (or any art high up the intension scale).

Lenny Bernstein discusses the boldness of a message from Beethoven. E flat!
Fine, but now the family. It starts out as Abram. Maybe an impressive individual, but only an individual. By the time we come back to it, it is Abraham: the father of a multitude.

Hobbyhorse? Or true general pattern, a pattern that connects? If isomorphisms are found, if meaning is found, then it’s no hobbyhorse. Korzybski on evolution. Math and the nervous system. Hoyle on expanse of time/life/evolution.

Spectrum between “is” and “does.”

William R. Uthal: “Mind is to the nervous system as rotation is to the wheel.”

Terry Winograd: “a system’s underlying categorization of the world.”

A difference of huge significance between finite by necessity and finite in fact. Meta-levels may be endlessly buildable in theory; that does not necessitate their being infinite in fact. Hofstadter says: “This kind of decision constantly crops up: How many levels should a system have?” What’s true of AI may be true of the cosmos. Though the hierarchy of gods may be potentially endless, some top may be all that’s needed, and may be all that actually exist (unless it is necessary to add more, of course. It could conceivably be desirable to subtract one).

ISOMORPHISM: an information preserving transformation. Applies when two complex structures can be mapped onto each other, in such a way that to each part of one structure there is a corresponding part in the other structure, where “corresponding” means that the two parts play similar roles in their respective structures… . The perception of an isomorphism between two known structures is a significant advance in knowledge — and I claim that it is such perceptions of isomorphism which create meanings in the minds of people.

INTERPRETATION: correspondence between symbol and word.

MEANING: an interpretation that corresponds to reality.

Layers of time in a society. Established priorities have “proved” survival value, but always and only by the experience of a past, never a present. All a present can claim is “we’re still here.” Of course, the priorities may turn out to have duplicated.

Evaluate comparatively: being king of an old order; being a young king wresting order; being a rejected seed of a different, a more complex (or a more simple), a potentially “better” order; being a virus that will introduce random variants.

Even the word “absolute” has only relative meanings. The god who created Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, who had separated the light from the darkness and the earth from the waters (an informational god, notice) isn’t the same god who “created” “the big bang.”

Truth of pattern perception vs. truth of fact.

Thinking: the comparison between maps and territory for discrepancies.

Logical distinction between actual and possible, actual and probable. “See, I told you so,” says the life-time loser who has just staked all on a long shot and is now going to collect his winnings. He says it as though he’s making a general point. The true general point is that it was a stupid gamble even if he did happen to win that time. His whole life is evidence of how he is not right. The graveyards and the ecology as a whole is full of recycled poor players. Full of winners too, you might say. No. Winning individuals, who had their turn however short, not winning patterns. The patterns are still here. (Now, I’ve just switched logical levels — revise). Playing against the odds loses. Which doesn’t mean that long-shots shouldn’t be incorporated into the intelligent playing of a game: they must be; because the unusual happening eventually is a certainty.

1985 09 13 What if at some level the meta of the meta hooks in with the lowest level of that meta hierarchy. We meet God, we’re in awe, filled with joy, all our questions answered, all our expectations exceeded, and He drops mention of His god. What? You’re the top. No, I’m not. Then we’re in the wrong place, we’re looking for the top. What top? What are you talking about? Well, He investigates, just to show the foolishness of it. We’re watching, or at least getting regular reports. God comes back. This is curious, He says; just several levels above Me. This is unimaginable perfection. I have a feeling of deja vu . He holds in His hand a … diagram of the eightfold way of quarks, a diagram of sexual reproduction, etc… . some elemental pattern/thing. Now we have gone full cycle.

Point about shifting area of uncertainty in definition (not net gain in information) and actually increasing yield.

KORZYBSKI: p. 288. relation, order difference, variable, function, transformation, invariance.

p. 290. for justification of “higher.” In humans, the cortex is normally held above the thalamus, above the spinal cord, above the gut: the data processing organ above the affective organ, above the chemical reactors.

NOTES from Labor Day camping not incorporated before:

society >>   interface   <<   individual(s)

Too often, ID mismatch

Is God a system of taboos only? For some, yes.

inner resources

random  >>>   tested patterns

the new   <<<   ancient voices

natural law

Theology needs updating. Check map/territory correspondence.

Dr. J. says athletes’ display of their talents “should be as high as they want to get.” Isn’t it odd that being “high” should automatically be considered to be desirable? Have up and down replaced or become synonymous with good and bad? How about even? How about balanced? How about mature? I don’t think so. For someone whose map/territory experiences are in phase, “balanced” is a state that can’t be improved upon. The preference for being high in our time I believe comes from semantic and religious imbalance. A drug may “correct” some of the double binds of our culture while doing damage elsewhere. What long term druggie regards even himself as achieving satori ? They don’t even consider it to be “high” any more.

Only primitives can afford certainty. And, in fact, they can’t either. It’s all a bluff: trying to convince yourself by believing you’ve convinced the other guy.

ScienceDigest — Oct. 85: the first sentence of their big article (p36) “Sometime between the Earth’s beginning 4.6 billion years ago and the date that the oldest primitive algae and bacteria became fossilized a billion years later, our earliest ancestor was born: the first self-replicating cell.” Is anything true is this sentence? I don’t challenge the 4.6 billion years for the age of the Earth: we all understand that is not a calendar date, but an estimate and a good one. All the rest is speculation, and not particularly imaginative speculation presented as fact. “The oldest primitive algae and bacteria became fossilized a billion years later”: OK, the context is the Earth, so we’re only talking about fossils indigenous to Earth. Fine, that’s what we have the most of. But where does Susan Gilbert get “oldest”? How does she know? Is she assuming that we’ve found all the fossils there are or ever were? That we have them all?

Then “our earliest ancestor.” Can the Earth-bound context stretch that far? No, this is an Earth-centric assumption. Then “the first self-replicating cell.” Does anything in nature ever really start with one? In mythology and theology, sure: one God, first Adam, then Eve. Good old one thing at a time one God. Take any aggregate. Would it be possible to tell when and which member is the first to change state? Which is the first molecule of water to boil? With water I think the answer must be that yes one molecules is the trigger, responding to some difference in the environment, some impurity, though how it could be identified I can’t imagine. When it comes to biology I can’t imagine a first one at all. I can imagine an environment rich in pre-biotic chemicals but with no cells or one with many cells maybe all knew. OK, maybe one is first, must be first, just as with the water, though how it could be located and identified is beyond me. Maybe I just think it’s a bad image: static, misleading … Bad.

Then there’s somebody talking about Darwin and genes. “To explain the evolution of human intelligence, Darwin speculated in the nineteenth century that it appeared as the result of warfare. Smarter tribes would win skirmishes, and their genes would be passed on. I don’t recall Darwin having the concept of genes.

And then by Michael D. Lemonick: “The astrophysicists version is remarkably close to the first few lines of Genesis: In the beginning, there was nothing. No matter, no energy, no time, no space — a vacuum without shape of form. Then, for no reason, the vacuum flickered, and time began.” I find this neither in Genesis nor in cosmology. In fine, the “no reason” part is antithetical to Genesis, and I believe absent from the quantum equations. How did it find its way into Mr. Lamonick’s mind to invent such a claim? No reason?

LITERAL meaning: What does that mean, literal meaning? It means it means what it says. John walked with Susan to the store. In most contexts, that would mean John walked with Susan to the store. God talked with Moses. What does that mean literally? It doesn’t mean anything literally. It’s meaning is literary, metaphoric, mythic. Did the air in Moses ear vibrate with the words? Were there words? What language were they in? You mean they were composed of phonemes, morphemes? Did they get coloration from God’s glottis?

SUFI: On abstractions and meta-existence: The Heart: Someone went up to a madman who was weeping in the bitterest possible way. He said: “Why do you cry?” The madman answered: “I am crying to attract the pity of His heart.” The other told him: “Your words are nonsense, for He has no physical heart.” The madman answered: “It is you who are wrong, for He is the owner of all the hearts which exist. Through the heart you can make your connection with God.” Attar Nishapur.

Syn 3 Note (again, for reasons of file on disk space only)

Optical isomerism: any structure has a mirror image which bears a likeness to the original in that compound parts are similarly related within each of the structures. In the case of an asymmetric structure the mirror image has a left-to-right transformation that cannot be reproduced by any rotation of the original structure. So the original structure and its mirror image are not identical in the same way that a right hand is not identical to a left hand. L-Glycine and D-Glycine are mirror images of each other. Ditto D-Glyceraldehyde and L-Glyceraldehyde, two sugars.

All amino acids and all sugars have distinct D- and L- forms. The physical and chemical properties of the individual D- and L- forms are identical. They differ only in the direction in which they rotate the plane of a beam of plane polarized light. Hence the term optical isomer, L referring to left-handed rotation (Levo-rotary) and D referring to right-handed rotation (Dextro-rotary). Yet this apparently minor difference assumes a profound importance in biochemistry. Almost all amino acids extracted from natural proteins are of the L-form and all naturally occurring polysacharides have D-sugars. The sugar in nucleic acids is always d-Ribose. (racemus, Lt. bunch of grapes) A recemic mixture of molecules (such as found in laboratory organic soups and in the distribution of amino acids in meteorites) is optically inactive in the sense that it cannot rotate the plane of polarized light.

Hoyle quotes George Wald quoting Einstein: “They won the fight.”

R. Clausius named entropy 1850 and 1854

A. Brillouin named negentropy as alternate to “ectropy.”

from Medawar: Self-limitation of growth: if a three-dimensional body grows in size without change in shape, its surface area increases as the square of a linear dimension while its volume or mass increases as the cube.

Law of Conservation of Information: No process of logical reasoning can enlarge the information content of the axioms and premises or observation statements from which it proceeds.

Deduction merely makes explicit information that is already there.”

A lay interest in matters to do with liturgical procedure is invariably a prelude to insanity.” P. G. Wodehouse’s Sir Roderick Glossop.

What is Le Chatelier’s theorem?

S. J. Gould

“Scientists are trained to avoid such special pleading because it exerts a chilling stupefying effect upon hypotheses, by rendering them invulnerable to test and potential disproof. Doing is the soul of science and we reject hypotheses that condemn us to impotence.” What hubris. cf. Medawar on ultimate questions. Scientists shunning such situations has no bearing on the truth of the hypothesis. I’ve just heard Darwinian natural selection accused of the same untestability. That doesn’t stop Gould from hanging his career on it. Neither do better arguments or better hypotheses. It also seems to me that the degree to which familiar ultimate answers are testable is regularly misstated. Many theological explanations may not be testable but their spin-offs are. The Bible, or Koran for example, would be full of testable spin-offs.

*Science at best is an approximation. Our mathematics invites us to make simplifications and we oblige. Newton works wonderfully as long as you ignore the velocity of light (and who knows what else besides?). Relativity too is simple but allows for c (but who knows what(s) it is ignoring?). [See Asimov on Algebra] [See Korzybski on the unutterable].

McLuhan, “We Need a New Picture of Knowledge.” A structure cannot be contained. Any conceivable container is at once part of the structure, modifying the whole. ibid… . the 20th-century step beyond the method of invention (of the method of invention) which is needed for understanding the origin, the action of such forms as the wheel or the alphabet. And that step is not backtracking from product to starting point, but the following of process in isolation from product. To follow the contours of process, as in psychoanalysis, provides the only means of avoiding the product of process, namely neurosis or psychosis.

*Look up for God, not vertical, the third dimension, but vertically to the three dimensions. Vertical in time? Or/and in a dimension beyond time?

Different logical levels in terms of breadth of definition. How much time is involved, e.g..? Religious arguments, marital arguments, career arguments: definitions change with each usage. Intent upon victory, each arguer pretends not to notice. Then we turn to our audience hoping that we’ve slipped the wool over their eyes too.

Societies argue (should and must argue) for its default values. It can’t be a question of which one will be right in every case — there’s no such value — but which it puts its trust in. Doctors and hospitals, e.g., of fluctuations.

1985 09 24

TITLE: Either/Or? Both! And More

Bibliography: Whitehead. Process and Reality, London, NY

Ariel represents the cortex; Caliban embodies the thalamus

Make use of Beckett’s passage in Watt “trying to understand.”

The greater the intelligence the greater the capacity to be wrong; to be in error and to experience pathology. Lewis Thomas says, “My cat never makes a mistake.”

“Your faith in the fineness (intelligence?) of the official screening processes is touching.”

English as a profession contributes to the plethora of acronyms: OED, MLA.

Theological idea of eternity: How would one know? Even God Himself? You would have to observe for an eternity to be sure. Sureness would never survive an eternity, would never pass the test. Just as God could never be sure he was top God. In the “we” at the beginning of Genesis, he seems to be top god present, but how would any of them know that the whole divine cosmos was represented. Caesar kept good track of the Mediterranean, Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. But what would he have known of China? of the Aztecs? The idea is without meaning. The error is of the vicious-circle type: statements about “all propositions” are meaningless. E.g.. “All propositions are either true or false.”

Every individual carries the potential for other not-yet-and-perhaps-never-existent species.

Russell and Whitehead. Principia Mathematica . Cambridge, 1910. “The principle which enable us to avoid illegitimate totalities may be stated as follows: ‘Whatever involves all of a collection must not be one of the collection’; or, conversely: ‘If, provided a certain collection had a total, it would have members only definable in terms of that total, then the said collection has no total.” = The vicious-circle principle.

from A Choice of Catastrophes:

“In the search for the eternal, then — or at least for those aspects of the eternal that could be observed and were therefore part of the scientific universe — people had to reach for a more abstract level of experience. If it was not things that were eternal, perhaps it was relationships among things.”

“In 1807, an American chemist at Yale, Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864), and a colleague reported witnessing a meteorite landing. President Thomas Jefferson, on hearing the report, stated that it was easier to believe that two Yankee professors would lie than that stones would fall from heaven. Nevertheless, scientific curiosity was aroused by continuing reports, and while Jefferson was being skeptical, the French physicist Jean Baptiste Biot (1774-1862) had already, in 1803, written a report on meteorites that led to the acceptance of such falls as a true phenomenon.

“Ragnarok! Scandinavian myth. Men and women play a minor part, drama rests in the conflict between gods and giants, a conflict in which the gods seem at a perpetual disadvantage. The frost-giants (the long, cruel Scandinavian winters) are undefeatable, after all, and even within the beleaguered fortress of the gods themselves, Loki (the god of the fire that is so essential in a northern climate) is as tricky and as treacherous as fire itself is. And in the end there comes Ragnarok, which means “the fatal destiny of the gods.” It is the final decisive battle of the gods and their enemies. Behind the gods come the heroes of Valhalla who, on Earth, had died in battle. Opposed are the giants and monsters of a cruel nature led by the renegade, Loki. One by one the gods fall, though the monsters and giants — and Loki, too — also die. In the fight, the Earth and the universe perish. The sun and the moon are swallowed by the wolves who have been pursuing them since creation. The Earth catches fire and bakes and cracks in a universal holocaust. Almost as an insignificant side issue to the great battle, life and mankind are wiped out. Then a second go round is tacked on. Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) Persephone, pre-Adonis, Christ, etc. The southern, agricultural cultures influence the northern.

Saving grace of mankind is that they don’t pay attention to their “beliefs” when not convenient. Christians pay doctors to stay alive, to postpone bliss! How healthy is it to fail to have correspondence between belief and behavior? It is healthy if the beliefs aren’t healthy. Wouldn’t correspondence be healthier still?

We love eschatology, yet cling to life.

HUMOR: Rowan and Martin’s “Did you realize that there are x number of religions practicing in America?” “Yes, and they’re going to keep on practicing till they get it right.

“What is the sense of a situation in which people use the product of a technology to deny the premises which make the technology work? There’s a difference between being skeptical about science sitting around the camp fire surrounded by one’s stone tools and declaiming nonsense to a TV camera for an audience of millions. I see nothing wrong with being skeptical about science as long as one is speaking a natural language with natural acoustics. One’s body and chemistry etc. are given and there is no prerequisite for understanding: for understanding life functions or speech functions in order to live or to speak. One needn’t know logic or epistemology or rules of evidence in order to fight. There’s nothing ludicrous about a human being “arguing,” using words, in the sense of fighting: “Your mother wears army boots.” “Oh yeah? Well, drop dead.”

But there is something ludicrous about someone “arguing” in the sense of trying to “prove” something when they have no regard for what disciplined intelligence alone has learned and is learning about: regard for consistency, for example. Some notion of deduction and induction, undefined terms, definition, assumptions, facts, etc. Regard for some demonstrable correspondence with reality, in other words, for “sanity.”

What is it when they utilize the products of rationality — PA systems, radio, TV, etc. to deny science? To amplify and telemit babble is OK, but to “argue” that sense is nonsense and vice versa? Why are those who “know” willing to work for those who don’t?

What do we mean by God? A,B,C … conservatism right down to the genes, contrarily, an appeal to the random, to change, to take a chance on the new, etc.

Fundamentalists shouldn’t impress any literate person as being very expert on any work of literature, let alone a testament as complex or important as the Bible. What the hell do they mean by “literal”? Nothing rational, for sure.

Prayer, Silence: a sign from potentially any of us that we are out of our depth and we know it. Wittgenstein’s #7. “What cannot be uttered must be passed over in silence.”

A guy like Whitehead: what the hell is he talking about half the time? If philosophers ever come up with anything worthwhile, why don’t we all acknowledge their meaning and give their words a precise meaning which then becomes conventional. No one can follow an argument when every second adjective or adverb has only just been defined in a new way or worse, hasn’t been defined at all, yet there’s no conceivable way the word can mean its usual thing, if it even has one. The last chapter of Process & R suffers from Whitehead’s having been deprived of the chance to absorb his own work in math and logic for a half century. Eternal, absolute, he’s guilty of the same referenceless abstractions as the rest of them. Then he says something that I think is translatable into sense though it doesn’t make any as he said it. e.g.. “He is the unconditional actuality of conceptual feeling at the base of things; so that, by reason of this primordial actuality, there is an order in the relevance of eternal objects to the process of creation.” p. 522

1985 10 04 math: deductive proof an illusion. that doesn’t mean that we know nothing about reality and needn’t even try to deal with it. We know a great deal, just not absolutely, not certainly. And there’s no need. Newton’s theory of gravitation has been proved to be wrong. Not stupid, not useless, not futile, just wrong. So too, someday, may Einstein’s improvements. Considering that no accepted theory is older than a dozen or so decades at the most, and then only with revisions and qualifications, what’s the probability of our being justified in saying Oh, we were wrong before, but we’ve got it for sure this time.

Whitehead says that philosophy is guilty of overstatement. I’d say that the same is true of science. In fact I’d say that the same is true of theology. Scientists are continually forced to admit that they were wrong (seldom that their efforts were irrelevant, or had no useful effect). Why not churches? Because they overstated their claim to the “truth,” and now they’re stuck. They’re stuck until they become adult enough to admit that their predecessors were trying, and may have been intelligent and well-intentioned beyond serving their own group or party. But they were wrong. Look, who would have expected it, but this cosmologist has something to show us.

The Christian fundamentalists in the United States for example are quite right to see the theory of evolution as the key battleground. Their readings of the Bible and the various theories of evolution — any of them — can’t both be right. Science has evolved. It has demonstrated overwhelmingly that species have evolved, even in the sense of “improved.” Most of us who were offended by the idea (and who wasn’t?) have been man enough to say, Gee , we were wrong. We weren’t wrong to be wrong; we are only wrong to stay wrong. Though the worst wrong perhaps would be to think that we are right! I mean finally, utterly, irremediably right. This evolution, now that I begin to see it, is better. The only readings of the Bible incompatible with this understanding are wrong readings. The fundamentalists are committed to no change, no adaptation. Darwinism might as well be Armageddon. It’s do or die. Unfortunately for their hopes, we who have accepted the improvement in our understanding of things, we evolutionists, know the outcome. Not as individuals. We all die as individuals. I mean their longevity as a species of thinking, of belief, of understanding the most fundamental questions: who and what are we? where do we come from? where are we going? In other words, who and what is God? Not the god we were wrong about; the true God?

I see the virulence of the attacks as a clear sign that these people know they are doomed, their tactics are the tactics of losers. They don’t understand the world, they know that they don’t understand the world, they’re losing, and they don’t like it.

(added 1 Jan. 86: anyone who thinks that literature, even a literature written by a God turned author, can neatly be separated into the black and white of fact and fiction, myth and truth, literal and symbolic, makes a dangerous “authority.” Such a “reader” wouldn’t have much to contribute to an appreciation of anything as coordinated but complex as say a play by Shakespeare, yet they want others to be guided by illiteracy when it comes to a work like the Bible!)

Evolution from totemism and taboo to religion (still with some totemism and some taboo) to science (accepting Freud’s simple gloss) with wholesalely less. Why should a better understanding of how things work be so offensive to the primitive religious mind? What’s wrong with a supernatural explanation until we have a natural one? The wrong is in holding onto the supernatural explanation after the natural one is adequate. My response to evolution, once I’ve accepted it, is to say Gee, that’s how He did it! That’s very clever! Not Oh, He didn’t do anything after all. Or, Oh, He doesn’t exist. There’s still always a question beyond that one. I suspect that the primitive religious mind cannot accept natural explanations comfortably for anything. What’s for sure is that the great majority have semantic reactions on the subject that easily go haywire. Ken’s taking offense at the idea of any useful concept of God was as virulent and as irrational as the ranting of a fundamentalist.

Darwin was correctly accused of banishing mind from the universe (by Butler and his followers, Shaw, etc., e.g..). Darwin’s mechanism was less wrong than Lamarck’s. Nevertheless, Lamarck was perceiving something true that Darwin had no explanation for, did not even address: a sense of purpose in the change. So see Gregory Bateson. The error was in looking only at the individual. Individuals cannot transmit somatic memories genetically, but the aggregate can. Human being aggregates do this consciously on an accelerated time scale with their externally stored memories, libraries, moral codes, etc.

Notice the time references in stories that seem noble or prophetic: situations seen from the future as well as the “present.” Jesus, Socrates.

10/6 The sciences exhibit an unprecedented alacrity in discarding disproved ideas and methods. Would that theology would do the same. To switch to a new tool where you find an old one better suited to the job would be foolish. Not to know of the existence of the tool when it is before you would be extremely foolish. I wish that contemporary theologians would at least indicate an accurate awareness of the tools of thought. If they are inappropriate for their purpose, let them at least say:

We have always built our houses with stone and wood and out of sun dried grasses and clay and mud. We see these architects and engineers and constructors with steel and glass and reinforced concrete, and what they do with them on New York’s Rue de Regrette is appropriate for a culture which wishes to transform the whole of creation into inhuman, ungodly artifact, to squander the resources of the ages as rapidly, ostentatiously, and wastefully as possible. No, thank you. A little steel here perhaps, some copper wire, maybe electricity for emergencies — no, that would be too costly in regular temptation — but our houses suit us. We build them ourselves. We needn’t share the extent of your addiction to money to do so. We have other forms of social organization and cooperation. No, thank you. We see quite well how it works and what it is good for, but we reject it.

That is quite different from the local who weaves his house with grasses though concrete is available, could be home made or afforded by the culture, but simply is ignored by blindness or habit while he loses his children to fire and disease and cold and his eyesight and capacity for pleasure in the dark and dank stench.

I recognize that this alacrity to change in the behavior of science is unprecedented, is not natural or easy or yet widespread: that scientists imperfectly follow their own rules, and that politics and pecking orders exist there too. Again, it is not “right,” not infallible, not not-human, but it is the leader, that furthest and best advanced toward that famous “truth.”

Misuse of technology, the torture of animals, the appropriation of resources by governments and corporations which employ “scientists,” must not be confused with science the abstraction. I mean only the aggregate of fact gathering and truth seeking which has an Epicurean awareness of its own methods and the fallibilities of methods.

10/7 “Hey! Look at Science. Come on theology, get going.”

scene, documentary style, shadows, an inner court yard, a group of men sit talking as evening draws on. rough garments, comfortable but far from natty. long haired and full bearded, not overly concerned with their small burden of straw, chips, dust collected there. A woman at the second story window dumps water and who knows what into the courtyard. She isn’t aiming at them but isn’t too careful about where it falls. So are you bums going to talk all night too?

cut to marketplace. we recognize a group of men sauntering among the stalls. The main talker of before seems to form their nucleus. a stall keeper offers them some apples, for free. I heard you down by the lake, he says. Those are some ideas you got.

cut to the Temple of Jerusalem. A few of the chief rabbis sit over a glass of wine. This is some religion we got. The best, another agrees. Eternal I bet, says the third. Infinite. The true code from the beginning of time, from the creation of the world. A hundred hundred years it seems. Yeah, but couldn’t it use a little simplification? Now we got more laws than even the Egyptians had. We can sacrifice too. It’ll still look good in forty hundred years. What? What should look good in so long? Already the pyramids don’t look so good. We should look around for new blood. Are you kidding? It’s here. We’re it. And besides, where should you look? In the marketplace? Down by the lake? don’t kid yourself. We’re it. We’re the blood.

Sun rise suggests a static, two dimensional model. Infantile narcissism, the viewer the still center of phenomena which circle him. Dawn, at least potentially a 3+ dimensional, dynamic model. We can’t “see” complex patterns without a model of series of models. Because you see a model, are the extensional details not real?

Humor confuses or violates logical type? One regular element of Jewish humor is the leaving out of a layer of abstraction which is normally understood to be there. Sees the phenomena and not the eternal footnote which the Christian sees.

Jesus, Socrates. Absurd tendency to see great men’s greatest height as their norm. The Socrates we picture is the Socrates of the Phaedo, 70 years old, well loved (though the Athenians are about to kill him), a martyr, in the greatest command of his arguments and opinions.

Ability to see time, to follow possibility flowing through complex possibility gates. “I walked home last night with my husband.” “But you’re not married?” “Not yet, and he doesn’t know it yet, but he’s my husband.”

stochastic, non-linear, cybernetic.

10/8: If philosophy and science can be accused of overstatement, what about religion? Absolute? Infinite? Eternity? These concepts usually turn out to be quite small and provincial, with some exceptions in Hinduism where large estimates are the norm.

Korzybski on the structure of abstracting: inverse relationship of subscript between low orders and high orders; at the extensional end, Smith sub 3,168,029 of 0915 Mar 12, 1985, longitude, latitude, etc., level three. God, level n, sub 1.

Re: up and down conventions, Korzybski has his “higher” abstractions hang “down” in his structural differential.

E.G. of cybernetic feed-back loop missing from A logic and understanding: if a prophet is right (and the bad thing happens, then he was wrong, he failed, he didn’t stimulate preventative behavior); if the bad thing can’t be prevented, what use is he?; not to be confused with the non-prophet situation in which the bad thing doesn’t happen and/but wouldn’t have anyway, irrelevant threats, delusions, a non-prophet situation.

C64 second set of files: originally, Dammit Theology, Wake up … to … get it together folks, went here, followed by Research Notes. What now follows is as printed Jun. 25, 87:


Our default assumptions are determined by our grammar and by our semantics, though cybernetically, through feedback loops, our grammar and our semantics are determined by our assumptions tempered by our experience. Korzybski, Hoyle, etc. have pointed out that theory formation in science too is affected by these assumptions, by our basic faiths. I do not doubt that the progressively developed and refined laws of conservation have been so readily formulated because of our monistic desires. Much empirical experience was simultaneously challenging that faith. I do not doubt that the Second Law of Thermodynamics was accepted, bitter pill, as a mea culpa for our monism. It was of course in the Nineteenth Century that the concept of entropy as regards the depletion of usable energy was developed: the same century in which increasing numbers of brave self-castigators embraced the mindless implications they found in Darwin. As Butler said, “Darwin has banished mind from the universe.” Lammarck was a naturalist who would have kept it there, and as Gregory Bateson observes, had we followed Wallace rather than Darwin, we wouldn’t have had to wait till the cybernetics of the nineteen-forties to get it back. Of course it’s still not back in the minds of most people including most scientists. Cybernetics have no more been absorbed by 1985 than Darwin had been absorbed by the early 1900s.

Isn’t it ludicrous the inquisition-like atmosphere that has surrounded the attempts to modify the implications of Darwin’s apparent absence of mind? Case of the Midwife Toad, e.g.. A blind and seemingly desperate faith in assumptions directly counter to the orthodox faith of the West for twenty-five hundred years, and a common faith for all of mankind for all of history.

*11/24 Dammit Theology, wake up. Wach’t auf . Are you the queen of sciences or not? Coleridge said so, and anyone who wrote “water, water everywhere” should know. The other sciences keep up with each other. The benefits can be surprising. What’s the point of worshipping the true and only one God if you’ve got his name, his gender, and his nature wrong?

Mohammed looked around. He studied all the existing religions he could find before Allah saw fit to speak through him. Might it not be past due time to do it again? Might not the true guiding spirit of the cosmos, if there is one, speak to one who did his homework but with subjects worthy of modern knowledge? Isn’t it time for an update? Both Islam and Christianity, just to name two religions, claim that they’re it, the last: all future claimants are frauds. Kind of stops you from trying before you’ve started, doesn’t it? But maybe they didn’t get it quite right. How’s their track record on other predictions? The Kingdom of heaven is at hand?

Within Aristotelian logic, they can’t both be right. So maybe they got still another thing just a little bit wrong. We live in one world now, whether the churches or the nations have noticed or not. It’s time to get it together, folks.

10/22 Did I ask: can God (supposing God to exist) and his immortality (supposing immortality) antedate the Big Bang (supposing the Big Bang to have occurred)? apropos of the Phaedo . Korzybski: “We can through extensional and four dimensional methods translate the dynamic into the static and the static into the dynamic, and so establish a similarity of structure between language and facts.”

“The objective level is not words, cannot be reached by words alone.”

“In terms of the fulfillment of declared intentions, science is incomparably the most successful enterprise human beings have ever engaged upon.” P. B. Medawar in “The Limits of Science.”

Bateson: In the world of creatures, nothing can be understood until differences and distinctions are invoked.

“Is there a biological species of entropy?”

“The pattern which connects: meta-pattern.”

“similar relations between parts: never quantities, always shapes, forms, and relations.”

“Context: pattern through time”

“Nothing has meaning except it be seen as in some context.”

“Grammar: contextual shaping.”

“unify and therefore sanctify”

“The exponential rise of the Industrial Revolution, the triumph of Engineering over Mind.”

“We are unwilling to accept the necessities that follow from a clear view of the human dilemmas.”

“Those who lack all idea that it is possible to be wrong can learn nothing except know-how.”

“All perception of difference is limited by threshold.”

“Science is a method of perception.”

“What lasts longer among the ripples of the random must last longer than those ripples that last not so long. That is the theory of natural selection in a nutshell.”

“mutation: a successful raid on the random.”

“In the ideal tautology, there is no time, no unfolding, and no argument. What is implicit is there, but, of course, not located in space.”

“entropy: the plethora of uncommitted alternatives.”

“logic is an incomplete model of causality.”

A “switch” is Not except at the moments of its change of setting, and the concept “switch” has thus a special relation to Time. It is related to the notion “change” rather than to the notion “object.”

“character: the system of interpretation which we place on the context we encounter.”

“Lamarck proposed that environmental impact could directly affect the genes of the single individual. That is untrue. What is true is a proposition of next-higher logical type: that the environment does have direct impact on the gene pool of the population.”

“The processes of perception are not conscious but … its products may be conscious.”

“Relationship is always a product of double description.”

“Play? the establishment and exploration of relationship. Greeting and ritual are the affirmation of relationship.”

“The regularities or “laws” that bind ideas together — these are the “verities.” These are as close as we can get to ultimate truth.”

“A miracle is a materialist’s idea of how to escape from his materialism.”

“Difference does not have location.”

“Rigor along is paralytic death, but imagination alone is insanity.”

“Dream is a process, uncorrected by either internal rigor or external ‘reality’.”

“It is not so much ‘power’ that corrupts as the myth of ‘power.’ … He who covets a mythical abstraction must always be insatiable!”

Me again now: I don’t know of a single philosopher where it is not the case that either he is wrong or I don’t know what the hell he is talking about. Compared to philosophy, science is easy. It is always comprehensible.

Coordinates, set of measurements — p1, p2, p3, p4 — to locate an event-particle. three of space, one of time.

“We must not make the mistake of thinking that there is a space in addition to the space-time manifold.” ANW

Dimensions of extension for any aggregate of event-particles: the three “spatial” dimensions give size, something else in needed to give location, and something else to give time, (and something else to say which time?). Or can coordinates be given that have only local significance? SIZE: heighth, width, depth (3) + duration? (1); WHERE: what coordinates wouldn’t be local? It seems to me that a point is minimally four dimensional even if only local coordinates are used.

Draw analogy from astronomer’s “cone of light” to cones of reality for say different religions. The astronomers deal with a world knowable only through the electro-magnetic spectrum, and there the greatest sensitivity is only to light. Other sources of information (in this case information meaning ideas, complexes of information, irrespective of truth or falsity), what grandfather said, could also be seen as cones of reality.

Any generation of any culture has ways of purging the unorthodox from its priesthood. The establishment is always and only run by the mediocrities left behind. Exceptions if any are few: St. Thomas, Newton, … Rebels who independently become stars (since orthodoxy never remains constant) may be rehired and petted later, McLuhan, Fuller, Einstein, but when are they ever asked to run things? Einstein and Israel? Israel was hardly a fully constituted political entity by then and Einstein by then was orthodox (by then, we agreed with him).

It seems to me that when you’ve come upon a paradox, you have either come upon sloppy definition, sloppy phrasing, OR incomplete observation: you have reached a frontier of your system.

Can anything exist without mind? Untestable — or, find something without a mind and ask it.

Can anything be perceived without mind? Can inorganic creation embody mind? Can organic? Where do human minds come in? Are they the beginning and end?

11/9: feedback circuits/ authority

You want to know something, who do you ask? Politicians, elders, community leaders?: maintain their position more through feedback loops that show that they agree basically with the group than with leadership into the new; scientists, theorists, empiricists?: they also maintain their position with respect to a feedback loop that proves some degree of orthodoxy, however, they also seek feedback from the evidence. There is always some agreement between these two groups, but also always a gap (where learning is vital). They maintain different map/territory interfaces. A constantly matches opinion with opinion and that (normally) is its highest authority. B matches opinion with opinion too, but seeks more readily to match theory with fact. How brilliantly core are these game shows in which there are prizes for agreement with a group. Guess the price. What’s the first food you think of? Hollywood and Wall Street too: guess what the public wants. Still, to be on the safe side, advertise and cosmeticize the product like crazy.

Religion in part a reorganization of submission/dominance signals.

Yehudi Menuhin: “The beauty of music lies in part in its placement at a point equidistant between reality and abstraction.”

The composer “sculpts” time.

No absolutes, but there are standards.

“Human beings need beauty as much as order and meaning.”

11/24: Life is mostly missed chances.

cf. specialties and in-laws: you fall in love with the girl and you get her family. If you can tolerate her immediate family, you get more.

Fall in love with Donne and soon you’ve got to read Crashaw. Fall in love with 17th-C lit and soon you have to know the 18th & 19th centuries. Fall in love with literature in general and soon you’ll be studying linguistics, history, politics, history of art, history of ideas, etc., etc. Somewhere there is the discovery that all things are intrinsically interesting provided you know enough about them to begin to see the wonders, the mysteries. Beyond mystery and wonder is the perception of structure, of relationships, of meta-relationships.

Difference of perspective on ordinary standards and rules of behavior, justice, etc. for the two genders in their traditional and probable experiences of the last several thousand years. Tyranny and nursing go together in a closed society, i.e.. home, an impregnable country, etc. A woman, a mother will protect with her own life but insist on the power to abuse. It generally works for the best (or we couldn’t be here), but not always.

Viable social systems don’t have to be “true”, just beneficial in a sufficient number of cases, maybe an overwhelming majority of cases, but not in all cases.

cf. open society. cf. wilderness.

Any hypothesis is good: until you test it. How about postulates? Any tautology with postulates false to fact, structure, relationships simply won’t work. What danger can it be?

The penalties for not participating in the crimes of your society are very severe. Study society as a cybernetic model and then try to understand law, mores, rights, history, etc. Laws are not better than the men observing or controlling them. Their only effective meaning is what’s practiced.

laws of faith: conservation; entropy. Expand college perception of candles, to matter, to matter/energy, to all, to God.

People can hear the same sound (within some narrow threshold of difference in ear mechanism, etc., the quality of the organs, the tuning of the brain, etc. but cannot hear the same music. Music is a product of the left side of the brain interpreting, using its neurological potential and a complex set of experiences and postulates to interpret the sound shape and articulate into parts the overall sound shape that the right perceives. Now the differences exponentiate. The interplay can never duplicate. No two people bring the same experience to bear on the sorting and interdepartmental communication.

More of difference of truth between science and common sense, normal human wisdom: without science as a tool, the natural tendency is for people to look for evidence to support their generalizations; with science as a tool, one exception disproves the generalization. Not that there is not a truth lurking there somewhere, merely that it has not yet been correctly stated.

Either/Or: binary value system. binary counting. Binary common: two lungs, two eyes, two breasts, testes, ovaries, etc. Is God a natural phenomenon?

as printed 1987 06 25

1985 12 08 Synthesis

Heard on the radio as a line in a song “Sure Thing Is You”: I’ll leave it up to the gods. Who’s in control here? cf. Let it be. logic: a subset imagining it controls the set.

Semantic bullying: the search for consistency within a system unaware of its own inconsistencies, unaware even of time.

Double think: yes, the bible can’t tell the exact truth because God has kindly condescended to accommodate us in our inexact language. People generally think this is fine re: divinity;

Now, re: science, math, technology: why don’t they tell it in English?

a. because they’re lazy,

b. because they’re seldom good at English, but

c. because it can’t be done.

Not without an expansion of English to include certain vocabularies, ideas, disciplines, epistemologies. e.g.. post-revolutionary (industrial, American, French) ideas of “freedom” couldn’t be explained in Anglo-Saxon. Not without a metaphoric expansion within the language and within the listener: semantic development. The best ideas of science cannot be expressed in an unexpanded English and the expansion doesn’t involve simply saying what does that word mean? It involves knowing some part of the set of basic ideas, methods, limitation, etc. It involves having some theory of knowledge as well as some particular theory within science such as relativity or evolution. People are fussy about deprivations regarding what’s advertised on TV or in magazines. God forbid anyone should do without the latest in deodorant or telecommunications or highway dominance. At the same time people are unbelievably negligent of basic sanities and sanitations:

semantic pollution,

political lies,

degradation of the biosphere,

depletion of biomass,

ecological disruption,

the poisoning of organisms including the self.

Once we’re addicted to the poison, we put a penny in the fuse and demand more poison. Are people primitive because they think a falling leaf is alive? That kind of condescension must come from another primitivism: one of macroscopic unity. The artificial not to mention self-flattering division of existence into living and dead, intelligent and dumb, conscious and unconscious, good and evil, … To such a mind Brownian motion must come as a surprise. The lack of neatness of the actual: chlorophyll in infusoria with otherwise animal characteristics.

1985 09 09

Hofstadter Notes

… essential abilities for intelligence are certainly:

to respond to situations very flexibly;

to take advantage of fortuitous circumstances;

to make sense out of ambiguous of contradictory messages;

to recognize the relative importance of different elements of a situation;

to find similarities between situations despite differences which may separate them;

to draw distinctions between situations despite similarities which may link them;

to synthesize new concepts by taking old concepts and putting them together in new ways;

to come up with ideas which are novel.

“In short, Godel showed that probability is a weaker notion than truth no matter what axiomatic system is involved.”

ISOMORPHISM: an information preserving transformation. The word applies when two complex structures can be mapped onto each other. Perception of isomorphism between two known structures = meaning, significance.

INTERPRETATION: correspondence between symbol and word.

MEANING: an interpretation that corresponds to reality.

Top five nouns: time, people, way, water, and words.

Top twelve letters: ETAOIN SHRDLU.

Like Aunt Hilary, SHRDLU (the program) doesn’t know anything about the lower levels that make it up. Its knowledge is largely procedural.”

Despite the theoretical equivalence of data and programs, in practice the choice of one over the other has major consequences.” all p 630.

“a system’s underlying categorization of the world.” Winograd?

Whitehead Notes

Alfred North Whitehead “Process and Reality,” NY 1929.

Speculative Philosophy, organic. “brute experience”

theory of tensors * theory of matrices

False idea to start out with certainty, or with true principles; that is the goal, not the starting place.

“This doctrine of necessity in universality means that there is an essence to the universe which forbids relationships beyond itself, as a violation of its rationality.”

“If we consider philosophical controversies, we shall find that disputants tend to require coherence from their adversaries, and to grant dispensations to themselves.”

“Incoherence is the arbitrary disconnection of first principles.”

Descartes’ two kinds of substance, corporeal and mental, e.g..

The philosophy of organism abandons (Spinoza) subject-predicate forms of thought.

… “the chief error in philosophy is overstatement. The aim at generalization is sound, but the estimate of success is exaggerated. There are two main forms of such overstatement. One form is what I have termed elsewhere, the ‘fallacy of misplaced concreteness.’ This fallacy consists in neglecting the degree of abstraction involved when an actual entity is considered merely so far as it exemplifies certain categories of thought… . The other form of overstatement consists in a false estimate of logical procedure in respect to certainty, and in respect to premises. Philosophy has been haunted by the unfortunate notion that its method is dogmatically to indicate premises which are severally clear, distinct, and certain; and to erect upon those premises a deductive system of thought. But the accurate expression of the final generalities is the goal of discussion and not its origin.”

“Metaphysical categories are not dogmatic statements of the obvious; they are tentative formulations of the ultimate generalities.”

“The primary method of mathematics is deduction; the primary method of philosophy is descriptive generalization. Under the influence of mathematics, deduction has been foisted onto philosophy as its standard method, instead of taking its true place as an essential auxiliary mode of verification whereby to test the scope of generalities.”

“A new idea introduces a new alternative; and we are not less indebted to a thinker when we adopt the alternative which he discarded.”

John Stuart Mill on the Greeks: “They had great difficulty in distinguishing between things which their language confounded, or in putting mentally together things which it distinguished; and could hardly combine the objects in nature, into any classes but those which were made from them by the popular phrases of their own country; or at least could not help fancying those classes to be natural, and all other arbitrary and artificial. Accordingly, scientific investigation among the Greek school of speculation and their followers in the Middle Ages, was little more than a mere sifting and analyzing of the notions attached to common language. They thought that by determining the meaning of words they could become acquainted with facts.”

Still Wh: “Language is thoroughly indeterminate, by reason of the fact that every occurrence presupposes some systematic type of environment.”

“Metaphysics is nothing but the description of the generalities which apply to all the details of practice… . At the best such a system will remain only an approximation to the general truths which are sought. In particular, there are no precisely stated axiomatic certainties from which to start.”

“Mankind never quite knows what it is after.”

“The proper test is not that of finality, but of progress.”

“Our habitual experience is a complex of failure and success in the enterprise of interpretation.”

“Philosophy is the self-correction by consciousness of its own initial excess of subjectivity.”

“It attains its chief importance by fusing the two, namely, religion and science, into one rational scheme of thought.”

“Religion is the translation of general ideas into particular thoughts, particular emotions, and particular purposes; it is directed to the end of stretching individual interest beyond its self-defeating particularity.”

“In the higher organisms the differences of tempo between the mere emotions and the conceptual experiences produce a life-tedium, unless this supreme fusion has been effected.”

“Breadth of thought reacting with intensity of sensitive experience stands out as an ultimate claim of existence.”

THE CONCEPT OF NATURE Cambridge, 1930.

“By reason of its occupation of space matter has extension.”

“In respect to extension two events are mutually related so that either (i) one includes the other, or (ii) one overlaps the other without inclusion, or (iii) they are entirely separate.”

“Nothing in thought is ever completely new.”

“Berkeley’s polemic against matter was based on this confusion introduced by the transmission theory of light. He advocated, rightly as I think, the abandonment of the doctrine of matter in its present form. He had however nothing to put in its place except a theory of the relation of finite minds to the divine mind.”

“By saying that space and time are abstractions, I do not mean that they do not express for us real facts abut nature. What I mean is that there are no spatial facts or temporal facts apart from physical nature, namely that space and time are merely ways of expressing certain truths about the relations between events.” [ponder god in this connection]

Molecules and electrons “are not recognized in isolation. We cannot well miss Cleopatra’s Needle, if we are in its neighborhood; but no one has seen a single molecule or a single electron, yet the characters of events are only explicable to us by expressing them in terms of these scientific objects. Undoubtedly molecules and electrons are abstractions. But then so is Cleopatra’s Needle. The concrete facts are the events themselves — I have already explained to you that to be an abstraction does not mean that an entity is nothing. It merely means that its existence is only one factor of a more concrete element of nature. So an electron is abstract because you cannot wipe out the whole structure of events and yet retain the electron in existence. In the same way the grin on the cat is abstract; and the molecule is really in the event in the same sense as the grin is really on the cat’s face. Now the more ultimate sciences such as Chemistry of Physics cannot express their ultimate laws in terms of such vague objects as the sun, the earth, Cleopatra’s Needle, or a human body. Such objects more properly belong to Astronomy, to Geology, to Engineering, to Archaeology, or to Biology. Chemistry and Physics only deal with them as exhibiting statistical complexes of the effects of their more intimate laws. In a certain sense, they only enter into Physics and Chemistry as technological applications. The reason is that they are too vague. where does Cleopatra’s Needle begin and where does it end? Is the soot part of it? Is it a different object when it sheds a molecule or when its surface enters into chemical combination with the acid of a London fog? The definiteness and permanence of the Needle is nothing to the possible permanent definiteness of a molecule as conceived by science, and the permanent definiteness of a molecule in its turn yields to that of an electron. Thus science in its most ultimate formulation of law seeks objects with the most permanent definite simplicity of character and expresses its final laws in terms of them.”

“We must not make the mistake of thinking that there is a space in addition to the space-time manifold.”

extension in time and space, the bottom of the perceptible

a measure maintains congruence with itself.

Lewis Thomas Notes

Medical Lessons from History” re: our ignorance: (& cf. Korzybski on sanity, where he compares the human condition to the state of animals) “We have come a long way indeed, but just enough to become conscious of our ignorance (also cf. Newton). It is not so bad a thing to be totally ignorant; the hard thing is to be part way along toward real knowledge, far enough to be aware of being ignorant… . It is a new experience for all of us. Only two centuries ago we could explain everything about everything, out of pure reason, and now most of that elaborate and harmonious structure has come apart before our eyes. We are dumb. This is, in a certain sense, a health problem after all… . We now know that we cannot do this any longer by searching our minds, for there is not enough there to search, nor can we find the truth by guessing at it or by making up stories for ourselves… . for the hope of wisdom which our kind of culture must acquire for its survival.”

Paul Tillich Notes

Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions: religion as “a concern which qualifies all other concerns as preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question of the meaning of our life. Therefore this concern is unconditionally serious and shows a willingness to sacrifice any finite concern which is in conflict with it.” on quasi-religions (e.g.. communism, fascism, etc.: “the first effect of the technological invasion of the traditional cultures and religions is secularism and religious indifference. Indifference towards the question of the meaning of one’s existence is a transitory stage, however; it cannot last, and it never lasted longer than the one moment in which a sacred tradition has lost its meaning and a new answer has not yet appeared. This moment is so short because in the depth of technical creativity, as well as in the structure of the secular mind, there are religious elements which have come to the fore when the traditional religions have lost their power. Such elements are the desire for liberation from authoritarian bondage, passion for justice, scientific honest, striving for a more fully developed humanity, and hope in a progressive transformation of society in a positive direction.” “Such self-affirmation is, in presecular periods, consecrated and protected by sacramental rites and oaths; the group and its religion are indistinguishable.” compares rise of Islam and rise of quasi-religion, communism (esp. in Russia): “Both have attacked a static sacramental system which had failed to extend its Spirituality to social criticism, as well as to criticism of its own superstitious distortions.” “If a group-like an individual — is convinced that it possesses a truth, it implicitly denies those claims to truth which conflict with that truth.”

Tillich writes: “… why should the member of a religious group be deprived of his “civil right,” so to speak, of affirming the fundamental assertion of his group and of contradicting those who deny this assertion? It is natural and unavoidable that Christians affirm the fundamental assertion of Christianity that Jesus is the Christ and reject what denies this assertion. What is permitted to the skeptic cannot be forbidden to the Christian …”

pk: Yes only in so far as ‘opinion’ is concerned, and then it is the political ‘right’ to be wrong. Once evidence is introduced, it’s a different story. Does one have a ‘right’ to claim equal status for demonstrably wrong conclusions?

on the exclusive monotheism of the God of justice. This, of course implies that justice is a principle which transcends every particular religion and makes the exclusiveness of any particular religion conditional.” says that anti-Judaism became fanatical in the Christian Church only after encounter with Islam, a competing religion. “there is a strong desire in many Protestant groups not only to reject, but also to understand, what is going on in one-half of the inhabited world.” in Buddhist-Christian dialogue: “attempt to erect signposts pointing to ‘types’ of religions, their general characteristics, and their positions in relation to each other. The establishment of types, however is always a dubious enterprise. Types are logical ideals for the sake of a discerning understanding; they do not exist in time and space, and in reality we find only a mixture of types in every particular example.”

on Christianity’s judgment of itself: “Every important decision in the history of the church is the solution of a problem raised by conflicts in history, and a decision, once made, cuts off other possibilities. … It increases the proclivity to judge, and it decreases the willingness to accept judgment.” “But receiving external criticism means transforming it into self-criticism. If Christianity rejects the idea that it is a religion, it must fight in itself everything by which it becomes a religion.” “An existential protest against myth and cult is possible only in the power of myth and cult. All attacks against them have a religious background, which they try to conceal, but without success. We know today what a secular myth is. We know what a secular cult is. The totalitarian movements have provided us with both… . In the fight of God against religion the fighter for God is in the paradoxical situation that he has to use religion in order to fight religion. It is a testimony to present-day Christianity that it is aware of this situation… . Christianity will be a bearer of the religious answer as long as it breaks through its own particularity.”

28 September 1986

C. K. Ogden & I. A. Richards, “The Meaning of Meaning,” Harcourt, Brace, Janovich, NY, 1923.

on confusion among philosophers, psychologists, logicians, and semiologists: “In particular, by using the same term ‘meaning’ both for the ‘Goings on’ inside their heads (the images, associations, etc., which enabled them to interpret signs) and for the Referents (the things to which the sings refer) philosophers have been forced to locate Grantchester, Influenza, Queen Anne, and indeed the whole Universe equally inside their heads …

function of language for promotion of purposes as well as for symbolizing referents p 16.

“Every great advance in physics has been at the expense of some generally accepted piece of metaphysical explanation which had enshrined itself in a convenient, universally practiced, symbolic shorthand. But the confusion and obstruction due to such shorthand expressions and to the naive theories they protect and keep alive, is greater in psychology, and especially in the theory of knowledge, than elsewhere; because no problem is so infected with so-called metaphysical difficulties — due here, as always, to an approach to a question through symbols without an initial investigation of their functions.” p 14

September 1, 1994: we must distinguish between faulty models and false models. The former are the best we can do, as the symbol can never be the thing itself. The symbol can never be complete. A model can always be improved, a symbol expanded, corrected … The latter is … our mortal dishonesty. For example, evolution is a theory, necessarily faulty, always improvable. The preponderance of evidence supports it, or something congruent to it. No evidence refutes it. On the other hand, some argue that “scientific creationism” should be taught in equal time with the theory of evolution. “Scientific creationism” is purely false a model as I can think of. It certainly isn’t scientific. It certainly isn’t a theory, since no evidence supports it.

Now, humans, at least civilized ones, at least western ones, have a psychological disposition to see anything they regard as being important as an artifact, something intended and wrought by an artisan. There’s no conclusive evidence that the universe wasn’t created; we don’t know for sure how or why it formed. I suspect that those concepts how … why … created … are appropriate to the subject, the way that neither wave nor particle is adequate (or truthful) in describing light.

It’s simply false. Dishonest. Used for social control, not truth seeking. And, I firmly believe, only truth seeking, only honesty can save us. I don’t mean in heaven; I mean on earth, and in the solar system, and beyond …

Sunday’s “discussion” with Catherine on Rocco ‘s “I didn’t say nuttin'”: the familiar teacher’s argument that in a double negative the negatives cancel, and the meaning is positive. P(ublic-)academic dishonesty. Rocco’s meaning is clear: he emphatically means that he didn’t do anything. He’s not solving equations to confound himself. Is it up to the teacher what Rocco means? Or up to Rocco?

The schools teach disciplines that they’re not embarrassed to have no competence in. And we (almost) all go along with it. Social control, not knowledge. The teacher is telling us all that the legitimate society, economy, etc. will see that we dig ditches at best if we deviate from the standard. But we’re going to see to it that Rocco will have a hard time doing anything else whether or not he says ain’t .
And on second thoughts, faulty isn’t the best we’re capable of: flawed is. (But I like the contrast with false.)

@ K. 1999 (first draft 1985)


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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