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Posts Tagged ‘bertrand russell

The Love-hate of militarism: why this perpetual pre-emptive war concept?

Initial draft was written on December 14, 2007.

Militarism is a deadly system and the army is a diabolic machine designed and refined through time immemorial to squelch the individuality of the recruits and soldiers once they enter the system.

There is no need to describe the process of forming soldiers because countless movies have shown the humiliating and brutal states of going through a working day during the preliminary phases of indoctrination.

First, the recruits enter in regular columns in a vast court and in their civil clothing: the dresses show disparities in an unequal society. Then the recruits are given a unique uniform to provide the illusion of fraternity and equality and then they are ordered to chant in cadence while marching in order to prevent any kind of internal thinking.

The core objective in the design of this system is to eliminate thinking by constant chores, fatigue, sleeplessness. The collective passion of hating the drill sergeant is meant to secure unity among the recruits.

An evident objective target is to behave as a total ignorant and cursing non-stop; a drill sergeant who transformed your individual freedom and sense of dignity into a nightmare of nothingness.

The drill sergeant is obeying to a higher ranked officer, who in turn is obeying to another superior and so on to higher grades.

The higher your education the meaner the tasks and the lower your comprehension compared to the variety of stupid animals you are labeled with.

Once your hate is complete for the drill sergeant and the lower officers then you are trained to transfer your negative emotion to a complete love of your intelligent superior officer; an officer that acts as if he is attentive to your plights, who listens to your lucubration and who praises your accomplishments and education and efforts.

For the Captain the recruits and soldiers are thus ready to die because they love their new found idol and hero.

The officers in the military would argue that no society in history managed to survive without strong, solid and enduring soldiers organized to hunt large beasts, and defend the tribe from predators or enemies and to aid during catastrophic events.

In times of relative peace, (so little), soldiers are called upon to face the damages of nature, hurricanes, volcanic irruptions, bursting of dams, inundations, wild fires, pillage, and curfews.

Sure, there are always volunteers in catastrophic incidents but nothing is as efficient as ordering a whole company of soldiers to the scene and following bit-wise instructions.

A true soldier lies when he says that he detests war? That’s what this institution tries to send the message.

A true soldier loves wars not because he is fundamentally bad and thirsty of blood but simply because war offers an exclusive opportunity to reveal exasperated vitality, defiance, mystery of the next phase and we have no idea whether we will witness the ending in each act in the comedy of life.

During the fighting, our senses are more attuned to details, to nature, to human behavior and comprehending man as we never will during peace time.

We have the opportunity to study the existence even better than philosophers do, if we have the necessary intelligence.

Those categories of men who are prone to gambling and taking risks will discover that war is much more exiting and fun than hunting and tracking beasts in forests, or sitting around roulette tables because we are ultimately gambling with their lives and against imminent death.

Although soldiers are not more stupid, ignorant, or limited mentally than the average citizens, they are nevertheless considered as trained beasts waiting for excuses to exercise their aggressive tendencies.

Surely, most soldiers are recruited from the very young and they look as children and viewed as potential threats when indoctrinated to kill and manipulating fire arms and explosives.

Surely, soldiers are not officially prevented to learn and read sophisticated books or even delve into art and culture, but peer pressures within the military at that young age is certainly an insurmountable barrier for acquiring knowledge; especially, if the officers are most of the time in cohort with the rough soldiers to humiliate and discourage the bright artistic mind among the soldiers.

The discouraging tendencies to learn about arts and cultures are bluntly and consciously administered in the constant shouting and cursing and fowl wording in the orders of the superiors to their inferiors in ranks.

The officers in the lower echelons receive the same conscious disinclination to further learning from their immediate higher officers who conduct themselves in the same manners of brutal, uncultured manners.

Very few officers get beyond the rank of Colonels simply because they failed to discern what is relevant at higher ranks:  they failed to continue their education and show appreciative initiatives to learning what is relevant in civilian life so that they can deal like representatives of the higher officers among the civilians and government services.

The multitude of officers who failed to be promoted to higher ranks are those who remained adolescents in their behaviors; they never grew out of their earlier indoctrination as soldiers, and resumed their army jobs as if they were
doing the right things in obeying and following the same trends while in the lower ranks.

When these low achievers among the officers are dismissed or forced to early retirement, they realize that they actually have Not much to offer to the civilian community to earn a living or be leaders: they spend their retirements boasting of events that grew out of their imaginations and indulge in low active mental endeavors.

We hear again and again that war is an extension to diplomacy; that is utter lie.

The basic cause for an offensive war was never against real external enemies or because of the accumulation of evidences that an enemy is preparing for war.

War for the colonial powers has always been an exercise to shift the fight from providing solutions to internal stagnation (a depressive attitude among the people); the impotence and unimaginative solutions to internal apathy, indolence and a sense that something is rotten in the society.

War is an alternative to get rid of the irreducible among the adolescents and controlling those that can be controlled to fit within the social norms and customs.

War is an outlet to postpone changes, to distance ourselves from the hard chores of comprehending “le mal” of the period, what is making the adolescents restless, hateful, and uncompromising.

War is an emulation of ancient razzias against caravans and other tribes because new generations were not happy with their lot and wanted easy and quick money for their ephemeral vitality and imaginations.

War is the results of internal youth dissatisfaction and thus, the politicians and moral clerics start collecting excuses and devising plans for potential external enemies to relieve the internal pressures and open the valve for exporting the exuberance of rage and vitality outside the frontiers.

Potential wars are more common than actually declared wars:  once the adolescents are recruited into the army then, very often temporary malaise in societies, are mostly solved or blunted.

Consequently, the process that new recruits go through explains the real reason why they have been asked to join the military: control of the new vitality and rage and providing an outlet by physical constant useless tasks and hardships.

If society had the resources and imagination to put youth to fruitful paying jobs it wouldn’t relegate its youth into the hand of the military in the first place.

No sane mind would undergo the humiliating process of the military if he was not promised potential active wars, internally or externally, to relieve his anxieties from the daily decisions for survival and boasting about his male potentials and the longing for travel and seeing the world.

Actually, the single major factor in building a “nation”, superimposed the concept of Fatherland on the population, was war.

Frequent wars among the European monarchs, the flood of blood shed and shared miseries against targeted enemies and millions under the flags, which united the people under a unique banner, have opened the gate for colonialism and subsequent change and renewals.

Bertrand Russell was not far off when he pointed out that our military aggressiveness is an extension to our ancestral genetic development.

As young specie, modern human is grappling with scientific achievements that accrued much faster than his spiritual and moral development: the recurring wars are natural tendencies to how we behaved and struggled for many centuries against nature, beast and hungry rivals.

The United Nation is a cornerstone to clarifying the code of conducts and establishing laws for human rights and responsibilities toward other populations.

I am for adolescents, males and females, undergoing military training for six months just to get exposed to discipline, endurance and skills for handling catastrophic events.

For the life of me, I cannot comprehend why military training should allow cursing, humiliation and the subjugation of
individuality.

Any sane society should keep a core of trained soldiers and officers, but a large standing army is tantamount to expressing a complete impotence for providing jobs to adolescents and a structure to assimilating them usefully in society.

Anyway, a career in the military that extend beyond 7 years is robbing the soldiers and officers the potential for  integrating society as productive civilians and recreating a second life that may satisfy their longing and dreams as imaginative and creative individuals.

Keeping the trained soldiers and officers on reserve when the Nation demands their expertise and discipline is a much better alternative than locking them in barracks for pittance and encouraging indolence and sapping any initiatives and taking daily decisions to caring for their families and kids and themselves.

There is no doubt in my mind that our instinct to hate is much more powerful than to love; our instinct for jealousy much more lethal than friendship, and in general, our negative tendencies much easier to express than our positive attitudes that need to be sculpted and refined.

The ancient civilizations have found a better alternative to atone for their negative sentiments; they used to sacrifice a first born son or the most beautiful virgin in the community at a major festival in the year so that they may comprehend the cruelty of their behavior.

Unless we discover what is of the highest value to us to sacrifice, every now and then, war and killing for ridiculous excuses would be the rule of the game.

What could be of the utmost value for modern man, as specie, that its sacrifice would atone for our hateful instincts?

Would it be disintegrating a ton of pure gold?

Sacrificing a Nobel peace laureate?

Destroying the highest tower in the world?

Burning the most prized painting?

Pulverizing the most valued original manuscripts?

Killing the most powerful man in the world?

Stoning the most saint person?

Crucifying the highest priests of the major religions?

Hanging the highest ranking Generals in the G8 States?

Investing the budget of an average developed State in the poorest State each year?

Imploding the Holy Cities and sites of pilgrimage?

I am running out of ideas.  What is of the utmost value for us that need to be sacrificed once a year that would prevent our specie to advance to war?

Let us think of a basket of precious values that would satisfy the idiosyncrasies of the major civilizations.

This is a sermon.  If you deign to reply then let your passion flow.  I am interested to learn clearly where you stand currently on this subject.

The Guy Quote – Bertrand Russell

Posted on June 21, 2011 in Dysonology

“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.”

Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872 – 1970), was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. He was born in Wales, into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in Britain.

His work has had a considerable influence on logic, mathematics, set theory, linguistics, computer science, and philosophy, especially philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics.

At various points in his life, he imagined himself: he turned a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things, in any profound sense.

Russell led the British “revolt against idealism” in the early 1900s. He is considered one of the founders of analytic philosophy along with his predecessor Gottlob Frege and his protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein, and is widely held to be one of the 20th century’s premier logicians.

He co-authored, with A. N. Whitehead, Principia Mathematica, an attempt to ground mathematics on logic.

His philosophical essay “On Denoting” has been considered a “paradigm of philosophy.”

Russell was a prominent anti-war activist; he championed free trade and anti-imperialism.

Russell went to prison for his pacifism during World War I. Later, he campaigned against Adolf Hitler, then criticised Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked the United States of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament.

One of his last acts was to issue a statement which condemned Israeli aggression in the Middle East.

In 1950, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.” (this edited from and more on him at Wikipedia – there’s also a good bio of him and foray into some of his thought in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy)

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.

To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already 3-parts dead.

I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it.

If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.

The origin of myths is explained in this way. The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

War doesn’t decide who is right, war decides who is left. (Mostly crippled, physically, emotionally and mentally)

In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying.

It’s easy to fall in love. The hard part is finding someone to catch you. (These extended hands are hardly found without some kind of chemistry?)

It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this. (No evidence will ever be forthcoming: we are governed by emotions)

It is a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won’t go.

Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.

Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death…. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit.

Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid.

Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it makes a better soup.

Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man.

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes.

But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.

If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness

Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favour of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man.

Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position.

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.

Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagination.

Patriots always talk of dying for their country but never of killing for their country.

There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.

The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.

As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is Not a God.

On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is Not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence. (Meaning of a good reflective mind?)

There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways.

The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy – I mean that if you are happy you will be good.

The main things which seem to me important on their own account, and not merely as means to other things, are knowledge, art, instinctive happiness, and relations of friendship or affection.

Bertrand Russell on Immortality.

Why Religion Exists, and

What “The Good Life” Means

“There are forces making for happiness, and forces making for misery.

We do not know which will prevail, but to act wisely we must be aware of both.”

Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) is one of humanity’s most grounding yet elevating thinkers, his writing at once lucid and luminous.

There is something almost prophetic in the way he bridges timelessness and timeliness in contemplating ideas urgently relevant to modern life a century earlier — from how boredom makes happiness possible to why science is the key to democracy.

But nowhere does his genius shine more brilliantly than in What I Believe (public library).

Published in 1925, the book is a kind of catalog of hopes — a counterpoint to Russell’s Icarus, a catalog of fears released the previous year — exploring our place in the universe and our “possibilities in the way of achieving the good life.”

Russell writes in the preface:

In human affairs, we can see that there are forces making for happiness, and forces making for misery. We do not know which will prevail, but to act wisely we must be aware of both.

One of Russell’s most central points deals with our civilizational allergy to uncertainty, which we try to alleviate in ways that don’t serve the human spirit.

Nearly a century before astrophysicist Marcelo Gleiser’s magnificent manifesto for mystery in the age of knowledge — and many decades before “wireless” came to mean what it means today, making the metaphor all the more prescient and apt — Russell writes:

It is difficult to imagine anything less interesting or more different from the passionate delights of incomplete discovery.

It is like climbing a high mountain and finding nothing at the top except a restaurant where they sell ginger beer, surrounded by fog but equipped with wireless.

Long before modern neuroscience even existed, let alone knew what it now knows about why we have the thoughts we do —

the subject of an excellent recent episode of the NPR’s Invisibilia — Russell points to the physical origins of what we often perceive as metaphysical reality:

What we call our “thoughts” seem to depend upon the organization of tracks in the brain in the same sort of way in which journeys depend upon roads and railways.

The energy used in thinking seems to have a chemical origin; for instance, a deficiency of iodine will turn a clever man into an idiot.

Mental phenomena seem to be bound up with material structure.

 

Nowheredo our thought-fictions stand in starker contrast with physical reality than in religious mythology —

and particularly in our longing for immortality which, despite a universe whose very nature contradicts the possibility,

all major religions address with some version of a promise for eternal life.

With his characteristic combination of cool lucidity and warm compassion for the human experience, Russell writes:

God and immortality … find no support in science… No doubt people will continue to entertain these beliefs, because they are pleasant, just as it is pleasant to think ourselves virtuous and our enemies wicked. But for my part I cannot see any ground for either.

And yet, noting that the existence or nonexistence of a god cannot be proven for it lies “outside the region of even probable knowledge,” he considers the special case of personal immortality, which “stands on a somewhat different footing” and in which “evidence either way is possible”:

Persons are part of the everyday world with which science is concerned, and the conditions which determine their existence are discoverable.

A drop of water is not immortal; it can be resolved into oxygen and hydrogen. If, therefore, a drop of water were to maintain that it had a quality of aqueousness which would survive its dissolution we should be inclined to be skeptical.

In like manner we know that the brain is not immortal, and that the organized energy of a living body becomes, as it were, demobilized at death, and therefore not available for collective action.

All the evidence goes to show that what we regard as our mental life is bound up with brain structure and organized bodily energy.

Therefore it is rational to suppose that mental life ceases when bodily life ceases. The argument is only one of probability, but it is as strong as those upon which most scientific conclusions are based.

 

But evidence, Russell points out, has little bearing on what we actually believe.

(In the decades since, pioneering psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman has demonstrated that the confidence we have in our beliefs is no measure of their accuracy.) Noting that we simply desire to believe in immortality, Russell writes:

Believers in immortality will object to physiological arguments [against personal immortality] on the ground that soul and body are totally disparate, and that the soul is something quite other than its empirical manifestations through our bodily organs.

I believe this to be a metaphysical superstition. Mind and matter alike are for certain purposes convenient terms, but are not ultimate realities.

Electrons and protons, like the soul, are logical fictions; each is really a history, a series of events, not a single persistent entity.

In the case of the soul, this is obvious from the facts of growth. Whoever considers conception, gestation, and infancy cannot seriously believe that the soul in any indivisible something, perfect and complete throughout this process.

It is evident that it grows like the body, and that it derives both from the spermatozoon and from the ovum, so that it cannot be indivisible.

Long before the term “reductionism” would come to dismiss material answers to spiritual questions, Russell offers an elegant disclaimer:

This is not materialism: it is merely the

recognition that everything interesting is a matter of organization, not of primal substance.

Our obsession with immortality, Russell contends, is rooted in our fear of death — a fear that, as Alan Watts has eloquently argued, is rather misplaced if we are to truly accept our participation in the cosmos. Russell writes:

Fear is the basis of religious dogma, as of so much else in human life. Fear of human beings, individually or collectively, dominates much of our social life, but it is fear of nature that gives rise to religion.

The antithesis of mind and matter is … more or less illusory; but there is another antithesis which is more important

that, namely, between things that can be affected by our desires and things that cannot be so affected.

The line between the two is neither sharp nor immutable — as science advances, more and more things are brought under human control.

Nevertheless there remain things definitely on the other side. Among these are all the large facts of our world, the sort of facts that are dealt with by astronomy.

It is only facts on or near the surface of the earth that we can, to some extent, mould to suit our desires. And even on the surface of the earth our powers are very limited. Above all, we cannot prevent death, although we can often delay it.

Religion is an attempt to overcome this antithesis.

If the world is controlled by God, and God can be moved by prayer, we acquire a share in omnipotence…

Belief in God serves to humanize the world of nature, and to make men feel that physical forces are really their allies.

In like manner immortality removes the terror from death. People who believe that when they die they will inherit eternal bliss may be expected to view death without horror, though, fortunately for medical men, this does not invariably happen.

It does, however, soothe men’s fears somewhat even when it cannot allay them wholly.

In a sentiment of chilling prescience in the context of recent religiously-motivated atrocities, Russell adds:

Religion, since it has its source in terror, has dignified certain kinds of fear, and made people think them not disgraceful.

In this it has done mankind a great disservice: all fear is bad.

Science, Russell suggests, offers the antidote to such terror — even if its findings are at first frightening as they challenge our existing beliefs, the way Galileo did.

He captures this necessary discomfort beautifully:

Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own.

But Russell’s most enduring point has to do with our beliefs about the nature of the universe in relation to us.

More than eight decades before legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser’s exquisite proclamation —

“If you perceive the universe as being a universe of abundance, then it will be. If you think of the universe as one of scarcity, then it will be.” — Russell writes:

Optimism and pessimism, as cosmic philosophies, show the same naïve humanism; the great world, so far as we know it from the philosophy of nature, is neither good nor bad, and is not concerned to make us happy or unhappy.

All such philosophies spring from self-importance, and are best corrected by a little astronomy.

He admonishes against confusing “the philosophy of nature,” in which such neutrality is necessary, with “the philosophy of value,” which beckons us to create meaning by conferring human values upon the world:

Nature is only a part of what we can imagine; everything, real or imagined, can be appraised by us, and there is no outside standard to show that our valuation is wrong.

We are ourselves the ultimate and irrefutable arbiters of value, and in the world of value Nature is only a part. Thus in this world we are greater than Nature.

In the world of values, Nature in itself is neutral, neither good nor bad, deserving of neither admiration nor censure.

It is we who create value and our desires which confer value… It is for us to determine the good life, not for Nature — not even for Nature personified as God.

Russell’s definition of that “good life” remains the simplest and most heartening one I’ve ever encountered:

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.

Knowledge and love are both indefinitely extensible; therefore, however good a life may be, a better life can be imagined.

Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life.

What I Believe is a remarkably prescient and rewarding read in its entirety —

Russell goes on to explore the nature of the good life, what salvation means in a secular sense for the individual and for society,

the relationship between science and happiness, and more.

Complement it with Russell on human nature, the necessary capacity for “fruitful monotony,” and his

ten commandments of teaching and learning, then revisit Alan Lightman on why we long for immortality.

One thing we know is that life reinforces the hypothesis that the world is infinitely complex and most of its phenomena will remain incomprehensible, meaning unexplained.  For example, no theory of life evolution was able to predict the next phase in evolution and the route taken to the next phase.  We don’t know if laws in biology will exist in the same meaning of laws of physics or natural phenomena.

For example, is the universe simple or complex, finite or infinite? The mathematician Chaitin answered: “This question will remain without any resolution, simply because we need an external observer outside our system of reference, preferably non-human, to corroborate our theoretical perception.”  (A few of my readers will say: “This smack of philosophy” and they hate philosophy or the rational logic deducted from reduced propositions that cannot rationally be proven)

So many scholars wanted to believe that “God does not play dice” (Einstein) or that chaos is within the predictive laws of God and nature (Leibniz), or that the universe can be explained by simple, restricted set of axioms, non-redundant rules (Stephen Hawking).

Modern mathematical theories and physical observations are demonstrating that most phenomena are basically behaving haphazardly.  For example, quantum physics reveals that hazard is the fundamental principle in the universe of the very tiny particles:  Individual behaviors of small particles in the atomic nucleus are unpredictable; thus, there is no way of measuring accurately speed, location, and direction of a particle simultaneously; all that physics can do is assigning probability numbers.

Apparently, hazard plays a role even in mathematics.  For example, many mathematical “true” statesmans cannot be demonstrated, they are logically irreducible and incomprehensible.  Mathematicians know that there exists an infinity of “twin” prime numbers (odd number followed by even number) but this knowledge cannot be proven mathematically. Thus, many mathematicians would suggest to add these true “propositions” but non demonstrable theories to the basic set of axioms.  Axioms are a set of the bare minimum of “given propositions” that we think we know to be true, but the reason is unable to approach them adequately, using the logical processes.

Einstein said: “What is amazing is that the eternally incomprehensible in nature is comprehensible”; meaning that we always think that we can extend an explanation to a phenomenon without being able to proving its working behaviors.  Einstein wrote that to comprehend means to rationally explain by compressing the basic axioms so that our mind can understand the facts; even if we are never sure how the phenomenon behaves.

For example, Platon said that the universe is comprehensible simply because it looks structured by the beauty of geometric constructs, the regularity of the tonality in string instruments, and steady movement of planets… Steven Weinberg admits that “If we manage to explain the universal phenomenon of nature it will not be feasible by just simple laws.”

Many facts can be comprehended when they are explained by a restricted set of theoretical affirmations:  This is called the Occam Razor theory which says: “The best theory or explanation is the simplest.”  The mathematician Herman Weyl explained: “We first need to confirm that nature is regulated by simple mathematical laws.  Then, the fundamental relationships become simpler the further we fine-tune the elements, and the better the explication of facts is more exact.”

So what is theory?  Informatics extended another perspective for defining theory: “a theory is a computer program designed to taking account of observed facts by computation.  Thus, the program is designed to predict observations.  If we say that we comprehend a phenomenon then, we should be able to program its behavior.  The smaller the program (more elegant) the better the theory is comprehended.”

When we say “I can explain” we mean that “I compressed a complex phenomenon into simple programs that “I can comprehend”, that human mind can comprehend.  Basically, explaining and comprehending is of an anthropic nature, within the dimension of human mental capabilities.

The father of information theory, John von Neumann wrote: “Theoretical physics mainly categorizes phenomena and tries to find links among the categories; it does not explain phenomena.”

In 1931, mathematician Kurt Godel adopted a mental operation consisting of indexing lists of all kinds of assertions.  His formal mathematical method demonstrated that there are true propositions that cannot be demonstrated, called “logically incomplete problems”  The significance of Godel’s theory is that it is impossible to account for elemental arithmetic operations (addition or multiplication) by reducing its results from a few basic axioms.  With any given set of logical rules, except for the most simple, there will always be statements that are undecidable, meaning that they cannot be proven or disproven due to the inevitable self-reference nature of any logical systems.

The theorem indicates that there is no grand mathematical system capable of proving or disproving all statements.  An undecidable statement can be thought of as a mathematical form of a statement like “What I just said is a lie”:  The statement makes reference to the language being used to describe it, it cannot be known whether the statement is true or not. However, an undecidable statement does not need to be explicitly self-reference to be undecidable. The main conclusion of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems is that all logical systems will have statements that cannot be proven or disproven; therefore, all logical systems must be “incomplete.”

The philosophical implications of these theorems are widespread. The set suggests that in physics, a “theory of everything” may be impossible, as no set of rules can explain every possible event or outcome. It also indicates that logically, “proof” is a weaker concept than “true”.  Such a concept is unsettling for scientists because it means there will always be things that, despite being true, cannot be proven to be true. Since this set of theorems also applies to computers, it also means that our own minds are incomplete and that there are some ideas we can never know, including whether our own minds are consistent (i.e. our reasoning contains no incorrect contradictions).

The second of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems states that no consistent system can prove its own consistency, meaning that no sane mind can prove its own sanity. Also, since that same law states that any system able to prove its consistency to itself must be inconsistent, any mind that believes it can prove its own sanity is, therefore, insane.

Alan Turing used a deeper twist to Godel’s results.  In 1936, Turing indexed lists of programs designed to compute real numbers from zero to 1 (think probability real numbers).  Turing demonstrated mathematically that no infallible computational procedures (algorithms) exist that permit to deciding whether a mathematical theorem is true or false.  In a sense, there can be no algorithm able to know if a computer program will even stop.  Consequently, no computer program can predict that another program will ever stop computing.  All that can be done is allocating a probability number that the program might stop.  Thus, you can play around with all kinds of axioms, but no sets can deduce that a program will end.  Turing proved the existence of non computable numbers.

Note 1: Chaitin considered the set of all possible programs; he played dice for each bit in the program (0 or 1, true or false) and allocated a probability number for each program that it might end.  The probability that a program will end in a finite number of steps is called Omega.  The succession of numbers comprising Omega are haphazard and thus, no simple set of axioms can deduce the exact number.  Thus, while Omega is defined mathematically, the succession of the numbers in Omega has absolutely no structure.  For example we can write algorithm to computing Pi but never for Omega.

Note 2:  Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) tried to rediscover the founding blocks of mathematics “the royal highway to truth”  He was disappointed and wrote: “Mathematics is infected of non proven postulates and infested with cyclic definitions.  The beauty and the terror of mathematics is that a proof must be found; even if it proves that a theory cannot e be proven”

Note 3:  The French mathematician Poincaré got a price for supposedly having discovered chaos.  The article was officially published when Poincaré realized that he made a serious error that disproved his original contention.  Poincaré had to pay for all the published articles and for destroying them.  A single copy was saved and found at the Mittag-Leffler Institute in Stockholm.

How mind acquired knowledge? (Nov. 25, 2009)

Berkeley, the British philosopher of the 19th century, insists that we cannot directly comprehend objects with just our senses: our senses are causally linked to phenomena that are affected by the objects. In this case, the “existence of objects” becomes problematic if we try to insert a third transmission factor between the subject and the object to account for our comprehension.

Hume, another British philosopher, claimed that causal relations, among other concepts considered essential, cannot be understood from matters that are offered to our senses.  According to Hume, the sensed brute matter is our only source of knowledge and thus, it modifies our understanding but it should never leads us to formulating laws: “empirical knowledge is never certain”.

Hume warned against indulging into metaphysical concept (as the true opposite to objectivity). This word “metaphysics” aroused this erroneous fear that got the subsequent contemporary philosophers rattled and wrote thousand of obscure pages just to sound objective.

This anxious fear of extending metaphysical notions prompted philosophers into describing objects as equivalent to their qualities or characteristics, thus, evaluating relations is equivalent to evaluating qualities.

Consequently, contemporary philosophers reached this understanding that sure and stable knowledge has to be founded on reasoning such as it is done in geometry and the principle of causality.

The paradox, said Einstein, is that we learned that most reasoning systems do not necessarily generate certainty in any field of science or that they are intimately necessary for our knowledge development.

The traditional reflection that we need a speculative concept-based system of thinking to mediate between object and subject has been disrupted by physical sciences.

By the by, the conviction that transformations of our senses lead to comprehending brute matters relied on a double proof:

First, the impossibility of acquiring knowledge by the sole speculative thinking and

Second, empirical research enhanced our knowledge base.

Bertrand Russell in his “Inquiry into meaning and truth” stated:

“We all start with the realism that objects are what they appear: grass is green, snow is cold, and stone is hard. Then physics teaches us that color, heat, or hardness are different in quality or characteristics of what we might have experienced.

The observer is in fact registering the impressions of the grass, snow, or stone. When science attempts to be objective it sinks, against its will, into subjectivity.

Thus, naïf realism leads to physics, physics then demonstrates that realism is false. Logically false, and thus false.”

To avoid their concepts of being labeled “metaphysical” the scientists have been formulating boundaries or axioms to their concepts.

For example, in order for a concept not to degenerate into metaphysics first, enough numbers of propositions must be linked to the sensed world. And second, the conceptual system must have essential functions of re-arranging, organizing, and synthesizing the sensed “reality”.

A system expresses a game of logical symbols ruled by logical arbitrary given propositions.

Einstein is not bothered at all by the term metaphysics: he does not mind accepting an object as an independent concept in spatial-temporal structures. As he views it, it is unavoidable bypassing metaphysical concepts and thus, there should be no need to be apprehensive of a concept being considered metaphysical.

Einstein thinks that concepts are logical creations of the mind, that it cannot be due to inductive reasoning from the sensed experiences.

For example, prime numbers are considered invention of the mind. That concepts are extracted from the sensed brute matters is a reasonable contention, but what is wrong is to exclude all concepts not considered to be related to the sensed world as metaphysical concepts.

What is so fishy about contemporary philosophy is that they avoid dwelling on the processes of hundreds of thousands of years that was necessary for human brain to acquire the necessary associations and images of objects and expressions, of metaphors, and abstract analogies.

It is my contention that reasoning methods of induction, deduction, and logical systems of rules are but organizations and descriptions of mental processes of the brain and memories for retrieving and recalling stored information.

I believe that the neo-cortex has been undergoing specialized connected areas for expert specialized and restricted disciplines for work or labor divisions.

General knowledge is going down the drain and I believe restricting knowledge to specialization will result in man destruction and moral oblivion.

Frontiers: costly illusions in lives and economy (December 12, 2008)

The World is divided by 250,000 kms of frontiers among the recognized States.

Since 1991, more than 26,000 kms of new international frontiers have been instituted; a total of 42,000 kms have been delimited by makeshift barriers, electronic fences and the like.

Almost all wars had frontiers as excuses,  when in fact the causes were basically cultural myths and expansionist policies.

Thousands of frontiers are imaginary lines drawn in deserts (in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere) by the colonial powers of the last century and these colonial powers expect the newly created under-developed States will monitor thousands of imaginary lines.

There are many hot spots in the World using frontiers as excuses; this is an interesting topic for another article.

There are tiny and stupid States that invested billions of dollars to set up fictive barriers on the sand.  For examples:

Kuwait had spent $30 billion for 217 kms barriers over sand with Iraq.

Saudi Arabia spent over $100 billions on barriers over sand to delimit frontiers with Iraq.

The stupidest barrier (over 8 meter high and 800 km long) ever erected is built by the State of Israel to separate the Jews from the Palestinians.

The Ashkenazi Jews (Jews who immigrated from Central and Eastern Europe) are the ones who came with the idea during Sharon tenure.  The Ashkenazi Jews lived in ghettos in Europe and their psychic feels comfortable in a ghetto setting  They don’t care for open horizons or open skies; they need claustrophobic enclosures.

I ask the Sephardic Jews (Jews who emigrated from the Middle East and North African States) to tear down that wall of shame; I tell them “you are not from the same breed or same culture of the warp minded Ashkenazi”.   

The thinker and philosopher Bertrand Russell stated morosely “Peace will return when Earth would be incapable of feeding life


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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