Current Directions in My Thought

Monday January 26, 2009

Current Directions in My Thought
Working Document
2009 January 26 Monday
Aaron Schumacher

Various ideas have been bobbing in the frothy wake of my mind, tagging along, each wanting to eventually be recorded in writing. After reading Russel for several hours today, I have decided to do each equal and immediate injustice by sketching them briefly before they might be lost at sea. I invite comment.

I. The Fundamental Tautological Belief; "A implies A"
While watching the man burn at Burning Man 2008 and wondering what it was I could really, truly believe, I arrived as if by revelation at the seemingly unimportant tautology "A -> A", "A implies A", or "if A, then A". This seems to me to be the most fundamentally inarguable concept. I believe its truth must be admitted. Perhaps we can all agree. It even allows for its own untruth, as "'a !-> a' -> 'a !-> a'" is admissible. And it even allows for contradiction, whatever that might mean, as "'a -> !a' -> 'a -> !a'" is not forbidden. The question then becomes whether the tautological belief actually means anything, or what its status actually is regarding truth. I feel that it is in some way important.

IIa. Understanding the "Existence" Predicate
I feel that some things seem to exist while others seem not to do so. What is this thing, "existence"? Is it absolute? For example, a student suggested to me recently that God exists for people who believe, while simultaneously not existing for those who do not believe. This seems to be beyond the borders of the meaning I have for "existence". What can it mean "to exist"? How is existence related to our experiences? I think that existence should not be inexorably tied to any current scientific theory, but should be understood more fundamentally, i.e., existence need not mean "being made up of atoms" or any such thing. That last is rather circular anyway.

IIb. Whether Anything Exists
By the experience of first-person consciousness, it seems inarguable, in addition to [1], that at least SOMETHING exists. Not quite "I think, therefore I exist", but "I think, therefore something exists".

III. Everything that Exists
Nearly a year ago I wrote quickly about this, the idea being that whatever exists, exists (see [I]). So, if horses exist, then horses exist. If Argentina exists, then Argentina exists. If Catholic God exists, then Catholic God exists. If 27 parallel universes exist, then 27 parallel universes exist. If spoon-bending ghost dogs exist, then spoon-bending ghost dogs exist. The name I suggested for everything that exists, "the verse", is not necessarily the best name, but perhaps I will continue to use it. The verse necessarily includes everything that exists, with nothing "outside" or "beyond" it, by definition.

IV. The Horse and Unicorn Problem
By [I], we admit both of "if horses exist, then horses exist" and "if unicorns exist, then unicorns exist". These both seem fine. But I have the strong desire to be able to say that horses actually DO exist, while at best unicorns seem unlikely to exist. Is it possible to say with certainty that something exists? If not, is it possible to establish a method for attaching probabilities to certain existences, with some certainty in the method of determination? Or, in another direction, is this the point at which to abandon any certainty and establish some utilitarian/pragmatic/empirical system, perhaps with some unsupported but useful axioms? This section relates to the fallibility of the senses and considerations related to the scientific method, induction/deduction, etc.

V. Problems with Other People
1. Consciousness
Even if the senses are to be in one way or another utilized to establish that other physical beings (horses, people) exist, it may be impossible to establish whether or to what extent other beings have first-person consciousness. Do both horses and people have consciousness, with difference only in degree but not kind? Do neither horses nor other people have consciousness (the single-consciousness theory)?
2. Equality
"All men are created equal" is clearly false, but it may be worth believing anyway. To what extent, yea or nay?

VI. Problems with Communication (particularly Linguistic)
1. The Impossibility Thereof
I'm pretty sure it is impossible for people to communicate in the way that humans like to think that they communicate. I wrote about this at some mild length a while back (you can read it if you're on facebook) and thought then as I do now that it needs a better proof of some kind. A possible solution to this problem might be to see all humanity as one "organism".
2. Honesty vs. Efficacy
What do these mean? Which is more common? Which is more admirable? Would a perfectly wise man speak only the truth, or speak so as to bring about ideal results? Would these two aims eventually (or ever) coincide?

VII. Truth
What is truth? How can it be determined? How is it related to [II]? Is it important? Is it absolute?

VIII. Free Will

IX. What Should I Do With My Life?
The weather in Los Angeles is really nice.

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