20-05-09

4.112 Philosophy is (..) an activity

"4.1122 Darwin's theory has no more to do with philosophy than any other hypothesis in natural science." Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, l. Wittgenstein, Routledge Classics, 2001.

(this is the official translation, no original this time, sorry)


First off, this isn't going to be as good as it should be. Get over it! I did.

When discussing this with friends of mine, one of them suggested I argue for it on a reductio ad absurdum. I won't. It seems more fitting to the case at hand to go for a less known (and known to be merely rhetorical) argument: the one "ab absurdo", ie from the absurd. Hence (I am in a playful mood), I do apologize on beforehand: for assuming the existence of God in some parts of the below.

Shame on me to be reading the TLP only know. It is much better than it's made out to be; bordering on the juvenile from time to time but all philosophers disclaiming a large influence from it are definitely to be categorized as 'hypocrites'. But that is not the point here. The point is that I was baffled to find in these seas of abstraction an exquisitely explicit reference to Darwin. Why so? What was his gripe? How come he's penned this down, never succeeded in working it out & still decided to keep it in? I'm sure it wasn't merely to go against the fashion of his time (if it was a fashion then).

As it happens (sorry to bore you with all these prosaic details but it is important for the later I to work this out better than the present I is doing now), I was in a mood to look up a quote from Kant on the synthetic a priori and 'quought' on it and could not get to it because the above questions got in the way. And somehow - somehow, I feel like this has to go out of the way before that other thing can get started. The reason is, I think, that I have no issue with a special status for mathematics (& its mysterious origins) but that I have an issue with what is commonly believed to be the uniqueness of this specialness. The blood of everyday life has its rights too and there has to be more to those rights than an unavoidable dirtiness (or, original sin).

Ab absurdo it was:

Let's assume there is an omniscient God (you needn't force yourself more: no need for omnipresence and omnipotence) & let's assume there's no matter. He was lazy - couldn't be bothered ... only God knows. This God would surely now mathematics - & if He knows some of it, He'll know all of it. So much for the specialness of logic, 1-0.

But let's assume there is matter as well (nevermind whence it came from). Then our God will have to know physics. He doesn't need to know the physics of our world and it's natural to assume he knows all kinds of physics (one of which happens to be the one governing our material world). So you get some kind of space-time, but nothing much more bloody than that. I'd say 2-0 for mathematics. Most physicists agree, as far as I know (but there's something on the 1st/2nd law of thermodynamics I'll need to explore lateron, this post is already to thick as it stands).

And then comes the primeval soup (or whatever other sexy image that we invent to make our theories more TV-friendly). Now pure mathematical God has a problem as - "the show must go on!" (the theme of 'show' is continued in the paragraph below). Sure, it's conceivable that the primeval soup & everything else was skipped - cutting straight to humanoids. But even that moronic conception is of no avail: life is in flux - if it wouldn't be in flux it wouldn't be life. Evolution is unavoidable. Even if all of the details of all evolutionary theories can be dismissed as 'mere' hypotheses, evolution itself cannot. So our assumed God is stuck with more than mathematics - and more than He can handle (maybe there's concealed in all this a proof of atheism but let's not get too eager). So 2-1, there is some non-mathematical specialness after all; it is expressable in logic that things are in statis (in fact that's the only thing logic will allow you to express: stasis) but it isn't conceivable that you have life AND stasis.

Back to the show; enter intelligent life. Enter language. Clearly language requires an element of logic & requires matter (something to 'language' about) - it presupposes life as well but I'll not work that out. Language scores our equalizer because - clearly - there's an element of logic in there if we are to make 'sense' of each other, but as evidently there's an element of creativity in it if we are to express, for instance, new hypotheses. The creative power of language cannot just be a matter of the recursive generation of propositions and/or the postulation of new names - a language that is restricted to that is thinkable (it's the language which the TLP is about), but it just is not conceivable that that is the only language. It is a.o. not conceivable because I - and Ludwig for that matter - would not be able to talk about logic. Hence, it wouldn't be conceivable that anybody but our almost forgotten assumed God knows logic. It's not my point that it's a fact that we do speak about it (without being God); the point is that it's inconceivable that we'd speak about it logic it there would not be creativity in language beyond the mere logical element in language.

2-2, but blood wins since it was playing an away match ;-) Although I mustn't really declare victory that soon. It's just a sketch to be worked out even if I believe that it is a quite convincing sketch and one that introduces non-logical specialness without vagaries of mysticism, idiocies of vulgarizing scientism and with a passing blow to a whole lot of intelligent design-freaks and other theists.

So Wittgenstein was wrong. There are at least two points (and remember: I hope to make it 1-3 one day) where philosophy needs to talk (& cannot but talk) about non-logical matters. Both points are closely linked to Darwin - let me risk the vulgarizing terms genes and memes. Sure, you can forget about the spirit of Darwinism & make an arbitrary non-vague definition of Darwin's theory (and Adam Smith's & ...) to get out of it,  but that's not playing it fair. You also could dismiss talk of 'the spirit' of a theory like Darwin's but that would be self-defeating (just read the TLP) and exactly for the reasons highlighted above.

Evolution and creativity are of the essence in convergence. Their special status, and the other kind of special nature of logic & mathematics combine to a view which is a sustainable view that accords well with our intuition of knowledge "locked in" but not specific (logic/evolution), and knowledge that is specific but always improvable (that of empirical science).

Philosophy is indeed an activity. Logic as such is not.


Whilst writing this I was listening to Richard Muhal, George Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell, PI Recordings, "Streaming"

20:19 Gepost door Guido Nius in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: wittgenstein, convergence, dynamics, scientism, competition |  Facebook |

02-05-09

Star Trek

"To boldly go where no man has ever gone before." G. Roddenberry, Star Trek, anywhere.


Never cared too much for most of this series. Among my many weaknesses there is a certain immunity to being radically 'into' anything. Still, that line & the general gist of it mean a lot to me and should mean a lot to you. No not because of nostalgia, a passing infatuation with camp or because one has to dig at least what was popular - none of that. It has to mean a lot because it means a lot: because it's universal 'to boldly go where no man has ever gone before'. So universal it wouldn't make sense to think of intelligent creatures that wouldn't want to go there (which does not mean, alas, that all creatures are intelligent - all us humans are not intelligent, most of the time).

That's what I'm doing here: going where no man has gone before. Not trying to do - doing! No idea if I will wind up in places of any relevance whatsoever. Nor am I very sure that at least the ride itself is very enjoyable (or whether there is anybody on it at all). More, I'm going boldly because doing it prudently is just to keep within this, ot that, known territory; and for all one knows, that territory might as well be prison ('God'-prison, 'being responsible'-prison, 'hard work'-prison, 'listen to your experts'-prison, ...).

The spirit of Star Trek is the truely human spirit (and yes! - Lt Uhura & Chekhov are beasts in bed), the human spirit as it should be. And every single time I have heard the above line I have felt (albeit I have no appetite for travel & less so for even this most convenient space travel) that it was enough. Without any of us physically going anywhere we can be everyhwere (-Q!-).

It seems like the mediocrest of points one can on a corny piece of pop culture but it really isn't. It's the meaning of life, Jim, but not as we know it. We've succumbed, or all but succumbed, to the neurotic interpretation of meaning as a fixed point, that is to be discovered and henceforward used as steadfast anchor point. We're so far into this obsessive-compulsive behaviour in this 21st century that it's hard to see how we would ever be able to cut loose from the 'religious prison renamed compliance' in an as short stretch of time as is left between us and the 24th century. But precisely this mediocre point is the mental virus that will save us from our pet-genes of pettiness: it is a well known point, it is well understood, across cultures. Going boldly is fun, it's good for those coming after you, it is respectful to those that have gone before you, and it will only succeed by trying to communicate.

And on an unimportant side note: it has relevance for philisophy and for language - I don't know a clearer statement of Davidson's saying on conceptual schemes than Star Trek. I don't know a better illustration of far-reaching cultural relativity in some loose sense and the universal primacy of needing-to-understand in the strictest of senses.

Also, it always, in my memory at least, has ended well as it cannot but end well with us because there is, rationally, only the possibility for long term improvement. Such tastes as well the victory over the pessimism that is a necessary by-product of some strong & strict (neurotic) belief in cultural relativism - good to have a strong dose of psychosis once in a while, the short term being as it is rather miserabilistic.


Whilst writing this I was listening to Schoenberg (Chamber Symphony 1) & Brahms, (Piano Quartet 1), Simon Rattle: City of Birmingham Orchestra

12:31 Gepost door Guido Nius in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: optimism, boldness, pop culture, universals, tones |  Facebook |