Spencer-Brown: Cataphatist

George Spencer-Brown (GSB) did some wonderful work for a system of logic that has us consistently painting ourselves into a corner. That’s the problem. His work contributes to a system of reasoning that is consistent but incomplete.
What he doesn’t see (and few who I’ve encountered who understand his work) is that he is stuck within a cataphatic mode of thought. When he says “Let us take the form of distinction for the form.” he effectively merges the boundary between things with one of the spaces that boundary ‘encloses’.
So he takes ‘the mark’ as being indicative of what it encloses. This is wrong – or maybe it’s better that I say it’s ‘too eager’. Continue reading “Spencer-Brown: Cataphatist”

The Deep Symbolism of the Mobius Strip

The Mobius Strip

If ever there was something which merited the name “God” in my eyes, it would be the Mobius Strip. But I don’t believe in a personal, let-alone sentient, god. I’d be far more inclined to call it “Tao” instead. Buddhists might call it “Om” (or “Aum”). Mathematicians should call it “i” (the square root of negative one), but there are even more examples in Mathematics (the involution, the half-rotation, inconsistency, contradiction, “not” or the symbol ¬). Electronics circuits represent it as the inverter whose ouput feeds back into its input. Philosophers might call it “contradiction” or more formally the “paradox of self-reference” epitomized in the Liar Paradox:

“This statement is False.”
Continue reading “The Deep Symbolism of the Mobius Strip”

Strange and relative thinking: two examples


On Infinity and Boundaries:

You have to understand that if you have an infinite “expanse” of sameness that is unchanging, and that you (I say ‘you’, but I mean ‘it’ or ‘unknown’ for the time being) cause a Thing to exist from that sameness, if it is to ‘exist’, then it must necessarily be perfectly bounded; and if it is perfectly bounded, then, reciprocally, so too is the ‘infinite’ sameness (which is now clearly not infinite).
Continue reading “Strange and relative thinking: two examples”

Time and Change

Stop. Stop every single thing. Freeze. Freeze Time itself.

For us, as humans, we wouldn’t be able to see anything because the photons have stopped and therefore aren’t reaching our retinas, but even more, our own neurons have stopped.

That doesn’t mean nothing exists absolutely – Everything still is, just frozen – but it does mean that nothing ‘intelligibly’ exists – i.e. we can’t say that anything exists.

This illustrates the distinction between static difference (existence) and dynamic difference. The latter I playfully renamed ‘persistence’ to “per-existence”, intending to load the word with two meanings: ‘per’ as in ‘miles per gallon’, here meaning ‘change per change’; and ‘per’ as shortened ‘persistence’, thus meaning ‘persistent existence’.

But let’s stay in this static existence for just a bit. We’ve only been here for one ten-umptillionths of a microsecond. Oh, wait, my mistake. We’ve actually been frozen like this for seventy-eight gazillion millennia!

This illustrates the following: Without ‘change-per-change’ our reality ceases.

But what about ‘Real’ reality – the one that exists regardless of consciousness? Surely there must be something that remains, no?

Well, boundaries still exist, just as the boundaries between colours in a static painting, and those boundaries are still transformations. Or are they?

“Static” functions – one-shot transformations are absolutely meaningless! f(x)=x2, for example, has an input, ‘x’, and an output ‘f(x)’.  f is absolutely meaningless in an absolutely static state because it’s truly either-or: either we have the input, (‘before’ the transformation, in which case there is no transformation because it has not yet ‘been’) or we have the output (‘after’ the transformation – a concept that is only relevant because we have memory of ‘before’, which is clearly impossible in the absolute static instant – so again there is no transformation because it has already ‘been’).

But, and I don’t want to seem glib here, it is a simple fact that stasis means no-change, and change means transformation, and so, stasis – absolute and total stasis – means absolute and objective (i.e. independent of whether there is a conscious ‘observer’ or not) non-existence. Nothing exists Statically (in both senses: “Nothingness” is Static, and “No Thing exists in stasis”).

Since we exist, and since there is change, then there is no absolute stasis. This means that the only stasis possible is relative stasis: i.e. either repetitive change or self-cancelling change -> a dynamic ‘not-not’.

Strangely, this also means there is no static, one-shot difference – only continuous difference. Something is different only ‘so long as’ it is – and then it is not, unless it is ‘differently different’ – different in another way.

As an aside:

This ties back to my thoughts on the Real Projected Line (I hate that name!):

A is ‘not’ nothing. B is ‘not’ A and ‘not’ nothing. Here, B is ‘differently different’ to A because if it was simply ‘not different’ to A, then it would be A.

Also, this means that there was no ‘static’ before-big-bang, and there will be no static ‘heat-death’ at the end.

This means that a state of absolute annihilation (the Dynamic not-not of the entire Universe) will have the lowest possible entropy (i.e. the entire system has only one configuration where it can be considered the same) and yet will also have the highest possible entropy because every configuration of the Universe leads to the same state.

This mind-blowing ‘truth’ is HUGE: “Energy is neither created nor destroyed”

This states that energy is eternal (has no beginning and no end) – it always has been and always will be – which means that Absolute Static Non-Existence has never been nor ever will be. Non-Existence is absolutely impossible! Absolute Stasis is impossible.

Transformations exist because they always have and always will – Energy is(are) transformation(s).

 

So let us consider Total Continuous Annihilation -> the only (the Truest Possible) True Zero. This, if all transformations were vectors, could be a state where all vectors were paired-off with their opposite, resulting in continuous no-change.

We have a conflict here: how can continuous no-change be considered in any way different from Absolute Static (that thing we’ve just established is impossible)? No Change is the definition of Absolute Static.

If the ‘output’ of a function is the same as the ‘input’, can we really consider there to have been a function at all? I think not. There neither ‘was’ nor ‘will be’ since the input and the output are the same.

Let us now investigate the Dynamic: Let us consider a transformation so absolute that no matter how fast you ‘query’ it, the result will always be wrong – it will always be ‘not’ what you think it is, it is immeasurable. Absolute Dynamic change is Absolutely ‘Not’ itself. This transformation’s output is Absolutely Undeterminable, which means its input is also Absolutely Undeterminable.

Here again we seem to be faced with no-change where the input and the output are the same – (except that it’s not).

Well, I will leave you with this thought: What if the entirety of Reality is the self-Reflection, “Not”, whereby locally everything is continuously changing so that at no ‘point’ can Reality-as-a-whole be ‘frozen’ and ‘said to be x or y or z‘ – i.e. that it is immeasurably different at every instant? And what if, at its smallest core, Reality was composed of “Not-Not”s -> the ‘atoms’ of Reality. To split one of these (i.e. all of existence stretched-out and ‘exhausted’ at the end of the Universe) would re-start a new Big Bang (or two?). Chew on that, and I’ll continue to work on this new topic of scale – how to distinguish between Reality-as-a-whole and Reality-as-an-atom. Leave me your thoughts!

One Life…

Excerpt from this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wU0PYcCsL6o

“So then, let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream you wanted to dream. And that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time, or any length of time you wanted to have. And you would naturally as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes, you would have every kind of pleasure you could perceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each you would say, “Well that was pretty great, but now let’s have a surprise! Lets have a dream which isn’t under control! Where something is going to happen to me that I don’t know what it’s gonna be”. And you would dig that and come out of that and say, “Wow that was a close shave wasn’t it!”.

Then you would get more and more adventurous and you would make further and further-out gambles as to what you would dream. And finally you would dream where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today; that would be within the infinite multiplicity of choices you would have, of playing that you weren’t god. Because the whole nature of the god head, according to this idea, is to play that he’s not. So in this idea then, everybody is fundamentally the ultimate reality. Not god in a politically kingly sense but god in the sense of being the self; the deep down basic whatever there is. And you’re all that! Only you’re pretending you’re not.”

I find this concept compelling – not the part of us being the ultimate reality (because I don’t agree) – but for the core concept of boredom. Changing Alan Watts’s version for one, not of dreams, but of immortality or reincarnation (not that different), you would have to agree that, given a vast amount of years to live (or lives), you would eventually get bored. The ‘risks’ you would take would be greater and greater, to the point where you would embark upon a ‘life’ from which you could not wake up – one where the end is definitive. That is the ultimate thrill. Death is obsessively fascinating!

Many people find the idea that we have but this one life absolutely terrifying. This is why there are so many invented stories of an afterlife or reincarnation or something more. Even buddhists and zen masters can’t find peace in this and have had to invent stories of Sacred Wheels and Nirvana and enlightenment (or are these inventions only for those who aren’t ready for the truth yet?).

Given the above, I don’t understand why so many people need something more. The above thought-experiment makes it seem to me perfectly reasonable to have but one life and be grateful that we do. I personally am relieved that I have but one. Sure, I’m also terrified! But I don’t need anything more. I feel sadness for all my past mistakes, immense sadness that I’ve caused so much pain to loved-ones through my own mistakes – but it’s not because I think “After I die I will be no more” that I don’t care. I am acutely aware that my own life has had millions upon millions of repercussions to the world around me – the one that will survive me – and it is my participation in the advancement of Life on this planet that makes me so remorseful of my mistakes.

But because I have but one life, I will not waste it commiserating that fact. I will enjoy it, experience it, live it. This harkens back to the pithy aphorism (not sure if it is Buddhist): “The journey is the destination.”

So much purpose can be derived from this truth – not least of them is that, given the intrinsic and unique value of the journey, it is my responisibility to make everyone else’s journey as free from suffering as possible – or at the very least I must not be the cause of their journey’s end (i.e. murder = BAD!). Another purpose that can be derived from this truth is to assure the harmonious perennity of Humanity as a whole – to maintain balance and harmony so that Humanity’s journey persists (Humanity’s duration far out-lasting an individual life). From there I realize it is my responsibility to keep our planet clean and hospitable to human life – or encourage our governments to pull together and start our great migration towards other planets. Humanity must continue and spread, in harmony with all other life.

I am born with a gift of compassion and love and it is my responsibility to use that gift within the tiny duration of my own life to assist the lives of others, and keep us all moving forward. Pretty simple reasoning isn’t it? That is why I think that consciously choosing to believe that there is no afterlife (whether or not it ultimately is true) is important and the mature thing to do. It’s bloody difficult, but you know what they say about worthwhile things being difficult…

The Incredible Persistence of Life

persistence_of_nature_cropped

I saw a long tangle (several meters) of creeper vines outside that have grown along the ground and begun to spread over a large expanse of sheet metal. And it got me thinking: left alone for twenty or thirty years, and this sheet of metal will be completely hidden by vegetation. First the tangled vines will trap and accumulate dead leaves (preventing them from being washed elsewhere in the rains), dust and all sorts of organic material. This will form a kind of ‘mud’ or soil within which future seeds can grow – from dandelion seeds to seeds dropped in bird poop or whatever. These seeds will grow and their roots will spread across the sheet of metal, thickening and holding the soil ‘mat’ together even more. The metal underneath will keep this living biomass separate from the rest of the Earth so that we could hypothetically lift it off years later.

Life is the truly impressive, perpetually changing, form of ex-sistence as I’ve been looking at it. Persistence – genuine persistence, not apparent persistence – it seems to me, is made possible by perpetual ‘difference’ or change, so that Life is somehow more persistent (“per ex-sistence”) than the rest. Of course, it could be argued quite rightly that the metal sheet is just as persistent as the biomass, but it does seem somehow of a ‘lower order’ don’t you think? Like repetitive change being less impressive that non-repeating change. The atoms vibrate back and forth within the crystalline structure of the metal – a repetitive process and quite boring. But the organic matter has vibrating atoms, surely, but also moving atoms, bouncing atoms, and an exchange of atoms, incessantly!

Being persistent does not make it unstoppable. If it stops here, on planet Earth, I am fairly certain that there will be Life elsewhere, and perpetually (or at the very least until the end of the Universe). But that being said, our Life is precious to us because it is the only life we will encounter within our lifetime – hopefully we’ll explore other planets, but I certainly won’t live to see it – and so we have a responsibility to encourage its growth, nurture its variety and maintain its balanced environment.

What do you think? Does living matter somehow have more je-ne-sais-quoi than non-living matter?