Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Epistemic Oddity: "I know, but I might be wrong."

Let p be the proposition, "I will see a sparrow tomorrow." Suppose someone in Seattle, Mr. S, were to say, "I know p, but I might be wrong." This sounds very strange!

If S were to say "I believe p, but I might be wrong," then there would be little contention. Maybe S would see a sparrow, maybe not. Both states of affairs have occurred in the past with some regularity: sometimes S saw sparrows on some days, and sometimes S didn't see sparrows on some days. There is no contradiction on the one hand in believing something will occur, but on the other hand in being wrong about that occurrence. (This is how bets are won or lost.)

Consider Mr. S saying, "I am a bachelor, but I might be married." This too sounds strange, but the reason is quickly identifiable. All bachelors are unmarried by definition of the term 'bachelor' in the same way that all triangles are three-sided by definition of the word 'triangle'. However, consider carefully how these definition types subtly vary.

This pair, < bachelor, triangle >, is not quite related to this pair, < unmarried, three-sided >, by an identical relationship. The < unmarried, three-sided >, pair contains in its first position a negative attribute, what a term excludes in meaning; while the second position contains a positive attribute, what a term includes in meaning.

This pairwise difference indicates that one might have to be vigilant in deciding whether to define knowledge with positive or negative attributes. Take a uninstantiated definitional schema pair for 'know':

s1: < know, X > < wrong, Y >

If (s1) is a negative type definitional schema, then X will be defined by at least one concept it excludes--namely, Y. And If (s1) is a positive type definitional schema, then X will be defined by at least one concept it includes--again, Y.

If we substitute 'triangle' for 'X' and 'three-sided' for Y, then part of what defines the concept of 'know' is in terms of what it includes. What, therefore, does 'wrong' include? It might be that S (allegedly) know something, but it includes what's false. Alas, here's a contradiction, and why S's utterance seems so strange. It would be irrational on the one hand to claim that I'm wrong about p, that it's false; but on the other hand to claim I know p. This is not how the word 'know' is used in natural language in common contexts. (Compare: suppose I decide to hold a person's feet to the fire to obtain terrorist information. You say I should not torture. I say that this action isn't torture. Question: Who has the precedent here for how the word 'torture' is used? Answer: how the word is used by the statistically significant community of discourse. One might be tempted to worry that a dictionary decides the issue. But if you or the interrogator buy a company that prints dictionaries with your own definitions, this hardly resolves the issue.)

But there is another way to read the definition of knowledge which does not make S's utterance a contradiction, and which doesn't make it seem so strange.

If we substitute 'bachelor' for 'X' and 'unmarried' for Y, then part of what defines the concept of knowledge is in terms of what it excludes. What, therefore, does 'wrong' exclude? It might be that S knows something, but S excludes his justification being guaranteed adequate. So there is no contradiction in this interpretation of S's utterance. S still knows something, but it's possible S knows it for reasons unrelated to what S takes to be it's grounding. Of course, p must still be true, and S must still believe p. It's just that S is willing to make no claims to infallibility for his justification. Here it looks like in making a claim to knowledge, one prioritizes the truth of a claim over its justification. This seems right, since the practical affairs of choosing among reasons are what guide actors. (Question: Is being factually correct about where a predictor is in nature more important to survival and reproduction than having justification? Answer: for the individual, yes. For the social group with teaching/learning outcomes that affect group survival? Maybe not.)


[image] Kingston Field Naturalists (Accessed Jan 27, 2009).

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

A few calmly considered thoughts about evidence and ethics

One must separate the motivations of people's good behaviors from the logic which entails those behaviors. If one wishes those good behaviors to continue - and here I am using 'good' in the ethical sense - then a reinforcement of those motivating reasons itself is good, no matter the evidential value of those reasons.

Doing the right thing for the wrong reason -- and here I am using 'wrong' in the evidential sense of 'bad reasoning' - is by far the normal activity of people everywhere across this world and thru its history. Indeed, this is the essence of Religion.

Certain kinds of people want others to do the right thing for the right reason (the former 'right' being ethical, the latter 'right' being evidential), but these people live in a fantasy world of idealistic optimism (perhaps a kind of religion in itself); consequently, they are continually disappointed with those around them. Although introducing better evidence and teaching critical thinking skills is desirable when appropriate, a realist about human nature recognizes the social prudence of reinforcing motivations which allow such good behaviors to continue unabated. This is the essence of Pragmatism.


[image] Max Oppenheimer Die Schachpartie 1885-1954

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Friday, January 23, 2009

On Going Grey

I'll admit I'm seeing a bit of winter sneak in, even though it's but around July 15th for my metaphorical year of aging. Always good to know my odds, however:
"Basically, people gray as they grow older," said osteopath Tyler Cymet, vice president of medical education at the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine who practices at Northwest Hospital outside Baltimore. [...] The average white male goes about 30 percent gray at the age of 34, "give or take nine years," Cymet told ABCNews.com. African-Americans hit the 30 percent gray mark at 44 years old, plus or minus 10 years. After the head turns 30 percent gray, it is another two to seven years until a person is fully gray. About 50 percent of all people are graying by 50.
I learned such life-changing facts upon reading an article evaluating Obama's noticeable new shade. Apparently he is three years away from that magic age of 50.

The color of your hair is determined by the amount of distribution of the pigment known as Melanin. When one ages, the body produces less Melanin so hair gradually becomes gray or white. As one manufactures less Melanin -- Alas! -- one acquires more gray hair.

I suppose I should count myself lucky, since baldness doesn't seem to run in my family -- at least if baldness is considered less attractive, which is controversial. But my father was luckier. Not only did he not have any baldness to speak of, he had a kind of silver-steel colored hair that gave him a natural camouflage from acquired graying. I had a fourth-grade social studies teacher that had silver hair also. No telling how old that guy was. I guess the life-long silver haired people appear older earlier, but appear (relatively) younger longer. I wonder if that's a bug or a feature in their genome?



[image] Ming Chen "Scanning Electron Microscope Pictures" University of Alberta Website (Accessed Jan 19, 2009)

[1] "Age or Stress? The Graying of Barack Obama" ABC News Jan. 19, 2009.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Justification: of me or of my belief?

Suppose the year is 1350AD, and I go to several medicine men in friendly tribes in order to get an explanation for my skin element, a multi-colored, unsymmetrical patch of skin that has a raised center and has been growing larger lately, although slowly.[1] With some variation, they tell me that sometimes the yellow jacket bee and the ant will fight[2], and if one has recently touched an ant after such a fight, the anger of the ant can remain in me. The general agreement is that an ant probably crawled over my arm sometime in the past, and this was the cause of my ailment. Consider, then, the statement --

p: "An angry ant which touched me caused my skin condition."

There are two ways to think about the justification of p. First, one might be saying that I, the person, am justified in holding p. And second one might be saying that p itself, the proposition, is justified. Put more tersely, is it the believer or the belief which is supposed to be justified?

In my 1350AD existence, no one could say I was somehow gullible or irresponsible in my belief, since I sought the best authoritative sources available for me, and since I had no better explanation to offer. (After all, the germ explanation for disease lies 500 years in the future.) Furthermore, ants and bees are known to cause painful skin marks in other ways, so there's a certain analogy of experience to my skin ailment. Suppose, as is highly likely, I come to believe the explanation of the medicine men. Someone might be tempted to think I am indeed justified.

But I think this is the wrong way to think of justification, since it seems to say that my lack of negligence or due diligence is what justifies a belief. The cold reality of the matter is this: my belief that p is wrong. The correct explanation is actually at the cellular level, with cancer cells multiplying and the rest. But it's 1350AD, so I have no clue about such things. Neither does anyone else. p is believed on defective and misleading evidence.

I think this is one problem with many religious beliefs. People think they (the religious beliefs) are justified because they (the religious believers) exercise due diligence in their inquiry, just as the 1350AD person did for the skin ailment. But that's not enough for justification of beliefs. Whether the believers are justified is a different kind of issue. There are two different targets here: Epistemic justification must be carefully distinguished from Ethical justification.



[image] A.J. Isbister "The Critics"

[1] These are classic signs for skin cancer

[2] "The Yellow Jacket and the Ant" Native American Lore Index (Accessed Jan. 17, 2008)

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Commitments to knowledge and defaults to knowledge

I've been reading in epistemology lately, and shall be doing so regularly for a while yet. I've seen a couple of moves which strike me as puzzling.

First, it's claimed by some writers that knowledge has a normative element. Apparently, when I assert a claim to knowledge, I am making a "commitment" to truth, that (on the basis of evidence) I am "entitled" to this commitment, and that I have a "right" to believe it. Such strange talk! When I claim to "know" something, I certainly feel I'm correct, that the world is a certain way, but I don't feel like I'm making an ethical claim. Can one make an ethical claim and not be aware of doing it? Suppose I'm saying to the janitor, in the act of handing her the object in question, "The trash can is here," which I would claim to know. Am I making a commitment, or feeling entitled or asserting a right to my belief that the trash can is at a certain place? I think not. I am disposed to think a certain way about the world when I make a knowledge claim, but that I'm committed, entitled, asserting a right, etc. -- that would be a very odd way of talking about what I'm doing in making a knowledge claim. Odd because I'm not doing that. I somehow think others are not doing it either. Why is it that people so quickly want to artificially inject ethics into everything?

Second, I've seen it claimed that, lacking any other contextual cues, any assertion I make is tacitly defaulted to a knowledge claim. Really? In the normal course of my daily utterances, anything I say is a claim to knowledge? Automatically unless shown otherwise? Now that's a strong claim! I think it's fair to say I'm asserting a belief in what I say, and that I've a certain level of psychological attachment to what I say. "Yes, Pat, I think the trash can is right behind the filing cabinet." Do I claim to know that? Often, I don't even consider the epistemic status of what I say. After the fact I might say I was psychologically assured of my statement to Pat, and that I indeed believed it. But to claim that I knew something or that I was asserting a knowledge claim at that instant is way over-stated. I can't see why some writers in epistemology want to make such assured claims about people's utterances. What surveys or psychological studies show that this is the default way that people view their utterances? I sure don't see them giving any citations to this effect.


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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Compassion and Emptiness

"Listen," She said, as if resigned that I wouldn't get it, "Listen. There are many universes, of which we inhabit only one. But in each universe, the goal of Being, the goal of capital 'B'-Being is compassion. That's it, pure and simple. It's the fundamental, spiritual orientation of things.

"When you look out even into this universe, there are 100, maybe 200 billion stars in just our galaxy alone, but it's just emptiness between this and yet another star-filled galaxy. The insight into emptiness is enshrined right out there, in the very structure of the universe itself. Just emptiness. Plain emptiness. That's all there is to real wisdom. Acting with compassion, and recognizing emptiness. Nothing else. No metaphysics, no deep doctrines, all logically connected into some semantic super-structure. Just those two things: compassion and emptiness."

I looked at the woman beside her, thinking she might have some comment to kick-in. She didn't. Until now, she hadn't spoken the whole time.

"Who's that?" I asked.

"She's best thought of as my sister," the woman began, "though that's about all you could make sense of. The real truth is worrisome, is complicated--." She trailed off. The talking had stopped now, and she was staring ahead, seemingly not waiting for anything, much less a reply from me.

"So, why are you two here today? I mean -- do you regularly pray at this time or what?" I was trying to keep the conversation going. This lady seemed interesting, different than I'd expected. "And your, uh, sister comes regularly with you, I take it?"

"It's not that she's regularly with me, it's that she never leaves."

"Okay," I slowly said, drawing it out. I found myself thinking I was standing a bit closer to this woman than I probably should be.

"If I move, she moves. If I'm still, she is still. when I am meditating, it should be on her. So in meditating or acting, she should be my focus. She has come to teach me compassion."

The pseudo-sister, or whatever she was, didn't seem bothered by our talking about her, she just smiled, perhaps as if thinking of some happy but insignificant moment in her private past.

"Some time ago, she presented herself, and without any words I knew what her role was -- that when I died, she would also die. I had no reason to live, I was alone. I didn't have things badly, but I was just in the habit of rising each day because I was in the habit of eating, and tilling my garden, and then of going to sleep, and of living my regular life -- again, by pure repetition without exception. I had no reason for being, nor did I chose to 'be', I just 'was', going on day after day thru the same kind of life."

She watched me. Perhaps she was assessing me, evaluating whether it was worth going on. Well, that's how I took it, anyway. So I tried to relax. And I tried to simply show that I was giving her my attention, all of it. It's rare to pay attention to somebody, and not just for later evaluation, or just for a break to get some words back in as soon as possible. Or just to summarize what somebody else has said in order to satisfying them that you really did listen. So I simply gave her my attention. That was enough. She went on.

"Now I live out of compassion -- compassion for her. My life may or may not be worth anything. But how can I say of her, that her life isn't worth anything? My life is worth at least hers, that much I'll say. So I take care of myself. And not because I seek a long life, but because I seek her long life, and my life is now her life. Before she presented herself, I had emptiness but no compassion. But now I have both emptiness and compassion. This is the sole meaning a person will find in this universe."

The women stayed-on a bit longer at the temple, but eventually a smile and a silent nod indicated that they would both be taking their leave. And soon enough, both emptiness and compassion were again found outside the temple.



[image] focajonathan "Women praying in front of the Jokang temple" Flickr Oct. 8 2006 (Accessed 12/22/2008)

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Curved Space

It is known that we live in curved space. But what if there was a world just like ours, but where space was far more curved, and what if everything in that world was bilaterally symmetrical to ours? It is more than just easy to imagine such a world: to observe an excellent representation of it requires merely looking into this mirror.



mcost "Microblogging Session" Sept. 4, 2008 Flickr (Accessed Jan. 11, 2009)

[ * ] This photograph strongly reminds me of the sorts of things that enchanted M. C. Escher -- particularly his well known "Hand with reflecting sphere". Here is an homage to that Escher litho, but done with modern color photography.

[ * ] The planet Mercury, recently in the news due to some nice satellite photos, brought the issue of curved space from mathematics into physics. That planet was just a bit uncooperative in how it moved around the sun, given what Newton's physics predicted.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

The Multiverse is speculative and wasteful

Sometimes I can't help but ponder this whole multiple universe issue. Maybe it's because I'm a philosopher that I'm attracted to this juicy piece of Science bait -- if talk of multiple universes really is Science, which has been at some controversy. There are two things that I often wonder about. The first is the role that multiverses are suppose to play in cosmological theories, which seems problematic to me. The second is the too-explosive range of universes that supposedly spring into subsistence when available quantum states are utilized as ways of mapping the possibilities from the immediate moment forward.


At first glance, it seems that were there a multiverse, it would not be observable, since any such other components of the multiverse are being created outside of our big bang light sphere. Indeed, every other component universe of the multiverse would have the same problem, that of not being able to observe anything outside it's own big bang light sphere.

"Look," someone might counter, "direct observation is not needed to establish or give evidence for the multiverse, for there are other, indirect ways to justify it. This theory has survived falsification and there are no other contenders for anything better." The idea here is that if some physics theory predicts an observational consequence of a multiverse, and we don't see that consequence, then the multiverse theory (or that particular type of multiverse theory) would be defeated.

Put differently, with a bit more detail, suppose somebody claims, that some observation set (+O1) entails a theory of an unobservable multiverse (-T2) And this theory of an unobservable multiverse, entails some other set of observational evidence (+O3). We then note that +O1 should always entail an observational correlation to +O3. So the scientific matter would stand as follows:

+O1 --> -T2
-T2 --> +O3
+O1 --> +O3

If one noted the presence of +O1, but the absence of +O3, then that would be good Popperian[1] defeating evidence for -T2. But the harder problem is where we are now: Where we have +O1 and +O3 kinds of phenomena (from quantum theory, apparently) but the status of darling theory -T2 (the multiverse claim) is worrisome.

Suppose there is some other kind of unobservable theory, maybe of another kind of multiverse with vibrating strings, or maybe of super-powerful beings, or even of a supernatural being which holds the order of space and time together in the way we observe it. Indeed, perhaps there are several of these types of theories floating around. Call any one of them -Tn . (By analogy, suppose you had a jar of colored marbles, M. You close your eyes and pull out one of a certain color, which your near-by friend notes to himself as '+M_red'. But for your part, you can only say, '-M_n' to represent a marble whose color you don't know about.)

So the scientific matter would stand as follows:

+O1 --> -Tn
-Tn --> +O3
+O1 --> +O3

If such a theory did not, up to the most recent testing, show any exception of correlation of +O1 to +O3, does that make it a good theory? There are an infinite number of -Tn -type of theories one could posit that are consistent with the noted observations. That's very worrisome. It looks like one is using speculative, metaphysical linkage to build a cosmological, scientific theory. But if intelligent design posits in biology have taught us anything, this all seems the wrong way to go, for whether the linkage is of a personal metaphysical object (God) or an impersonal metaphysical object (a non-observable super-structure), one leaves the realm of science as it's been practiced since Galileo.

Admittedly, I do think advocates of a multiverse theory can get around the above complaint; since posited, apparently unobservable entities sometimes turn out to be observable after all, as the history of the concept of 'gene' has shown. So my real problem is that cosmological positions about about a multiverse are derived from previously held commitments in quantum theory, and quantum theory is probably the most intensely tested, most reliable scientific theory known to science. Thus, what really tempts me to multiverse belief comes from the bottom-up issues of quantum theory, not from the top-down issues of cosmology. So let me now turn to this side of the issue.


The first step that seems to draw me in is what has drawn many in: the unrivaled empirical success of quantum mechanics. Many scientists intimately involved in quantum mechanics think it's more than just a handy mathematical model for organizing data; instead, they have the gaul to say it's "true", even if they often admit they don't understand what it all means. As Michio Kaku writes, “It is often stated that of all the theories proposed in this century, the silliest is quantum theory. In fact, some say that the only thing that quantum theory has going for it is that it is unquestionably correct.”

The second step that makes me muse all metaphysical about multiverse claims is the on-going engineering attempts at quantum computing. Whole governments and academic institutions are pumping big dollars into a form of computation that can use peculiar quantum mechanical phenomena like superposition and entanglement as a way of manipulating data, first by representing the data in parallel ways, and then by operating on all of those representations. But to harken back to the first step above, there are quantum mechanical phenomena, because the world itself has a real structure -- namely, a quantum structure. Quantum computing harness a lot of stuff going on in parallel, specifically bit storage and bit operations. But these parallel activities are supposedly not going on "here" -- so just where are they going on?

The third step which pulls at me is where I make a simple deduction from the first two temptations. We talk about our 'Universe', which is supposed to be the One, the Everything. And these quantum phenomena used in quantum computation are happening at some particular place, in somebody's lab. But these computations, beyond the observed phenomenon, are taking account of several different states which are "not" representative of some local lab's state of affairs. So they represent states of affairs that are not local, but removed from the local. What is the ontological status, the nature of the reality of this non-local place?

And now the mind-thrust begins. Apparently, the states represented by these quantum representations are states of 'possibilia', affairs that are possible in terms of what's happening now, but gain something extra -- call it 'subsistence' -- upon being stored as data. This is akin to the celebrated Schrödinger's cat issue, where the cat has no actual status until one looks at it, or until some arbitrary event collapses the cat's dual-subsistence into some non-arbitrary state of affairs plucked from the set of 'possibilia' --i.e., the cat, as both alive and dead, moves from subsistence into existence. So, just as there is an actual cat that enters a non-actual, dual-subsistence cat state for a bit; likewise, there are quantum phenomena that enter a non-actual state for a bit, and then -- well, it's just more than I really want to think about; but, I can't seem to avoid such thoughts. People are always writing about it, bringing it up in conversations, occasionally outright asking me about it -- even though I really wish they wouldn't.

Anyway, to summarize -- there's the way things are, and the way things might be, and the "might be's" are somehow accessible from the way things are in quantum computing. But a moment's thought makes one realize that there are an infinity of the way things 'might be' from the way things 'are.' At this moment I could utter, by voice, any given number. I might say "One!" at the top of my voice. Or I might whisper "Two-thousand eight -hundred and fifty-two to the 39th power." Short of having to just take the few moments to utter the very sounds it takes to identify the arbitrary number in question, there are an infinity of numbers I can select from. I could even partition my arbitrary utterances into a structure: I could resolve beforehand to utter only odd numbers, or only even numbers, or only numbers divisible by five --- it doesn't matter! I still get an infinity of choices within whatever pet basis criteria for utterance I happen to choose beforehand. This must mean that there are an infinity of parallel states of affairs that either could spring off, or do spring off from this very moment, from this tiny choice of what I may utter. Add all the other utterers available, and the possibilities loom ghastly large. What am I supposed to think of this? How am I supposed to think of this?

Maybe the latter question is at least tractable. Take a slightly different angle: why utter elements from infinite, structured sets of numbers? 'Too dang many chickens in that coop! Instead, in order to narrow things down, I could utter collections of formula from algebra: "1< y < 20", "x < y*3 < z." Hell, that's some pretty talk right there! I like this game! Again, how about this one: "Let z=x and x<7; and, x is either 2, 3 or 4; moreover, stipulate that x is not 4." Now I've thrown in some logic operations as well! Call this 'f' for fancy formula utterance. And for good measure let's call the set of answers for f (if there are any answers) by the capital letter 'Z'.

Behold -- my utterance f hangs in the air, held temporarily by my (and by any hearer's) short term memory, or maybe it would hang a bit longer if written on a chalkboard, or stored in a computer, or chiseled in granite -- whatever; it's stored someplace in some physical medium, where I, or somebody, can later retrieve it.

Certain strange ideas can arise here. Suppose you ask me how much I'm going to spend on coffee this morning. On the one hand, I could say, "Why, only as much as I have in my wallet!" But there is an exact amount in my wallet, I just happen to be ignorant of how much that amount is. On the other hand, and here's where the strangeness begins, I could say, "Why, f!" (And then I'd jump up and write the formula for f on the chalkboard so you're not clueless.) You'll grant me that there are different equivalent ways to write f on the chalkboard.

I could write the original locution:

f: "Let z=x and x<7; and, x is either 2, 3 or 4; moreover, stipulate that x is not 4."

Or, maybe this:

f1: "Let z=x+0 and x<7; and, x is either 2, 3 or 4; moreover, stipulate that x is not 4."

Or, though odd and extraneous, this:

f2: " Let z=x+1-1 and x+1-1<7; and, x+1-1 is either 2, 3 or 4; moreover, stipulate that x+1-1 is not 4."

The first, second, and third versions all have different information in them, a different collection of symbols, but they all yield the same list of answers in Z -- namely, { 2 , 3 }. (So, it's turned out that the variable z could be a legitimate answer for f in more than one way. So that's why we need not just 'z', but 'Z' to track the list of all legitimate answers.) When you ask me the coffee question, formula f is somehow identified as the answer, even if (chatty guy that I am) I answer your question in two or three different, but synonymous ways, likeunto f1 and f2 above.

Alas, now I'm forced to introduce yet another capital letter, 'F', to account for all the ways that I could synonymously utter (e.g., speak, or maybe chalk-down) f as an answer to your coffee question. A moment's thought shows there's an infinite number of elements in the set F. (I could also add zero, or two zeros, or three; or, I could add one, and then subtract it, or two, and then subtract it, or three...)

And now for further weirdness. As earlier, the states represented by Z are states of possibilia, affairs that are possible in terms of what's happening now (I might pay $2; I might pay $3 for coffee), but these 'possibilia' have gained subsistence upon being stored as data, the job that f is doing in our conversation. Restated, there's the way things are, and the way things might be, Z, and the "might be's" { 2, 3 } are somehow accessible from the way things are at the moment of conversation. So too are the states represented by F, and its "might be's", affairs that are possible in terms of what's happening now (I might restate f one way, another way, etc.), but these "might be's" { f, f1, f2, f3, ... fn } have likewise gained their own subsistence at the moment of conversation.

But now there's yet a further explosion on the already ghastly number of multiverse possibilia branching out from the moment of conversation. Granted, by uttering any synonymous phrase f within F, I've constrained my money commitment to only one of two expenditures, $2, or $3; but, that does not mean there is only two possibilia branching out in the multiverse. Why? Well, since there are an infinity of ways of communicating f (an infinite number of elements in F), there are a concomitant infinite number of subsisting possibilia too. An infinite number of me's, and an infinite number of you's out there waiting with baited breath for me to grab onto the horn of which dollar commitment I'll take as regards to coffee expenditures. Yet this infinity arises not because there are an infinite number of dollar options, but because there's an infinite number of ways of stating even a limited number of dollar options. Afterall, even if I'd just said "I'll spend two dollars," where Z has now only a single element { 2 }, F would still have it's infinite number of elements.

There's nothing in the laws of physical possibility, much less logical possibility, which constrain me to state f in one way rather than another. But this means there is this infinity of duplicate universes, this grand waste of me's and you's where there would be only a single, syntactic shuffle, a trade-off of a couple of extraneous +1's/-1's for a couple of extraneous +2's/-2's within F that separates whole branches or collections of branches within the multiverse. What's the lesson of that?

I will tell you. The multiverse is wasteful. Occam's razor counsels us not to multiply entities beyond necessity; but Quantum's razor provides us with the ugliest possible corollary to that claim: beyond entities there's the necessity of multiplication.



[Image] Nature.com (Accessed 1/2/2009)

[1] A quick over-view of Karl Popper's falsification procedure can be found by Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr., "Popper's Philosophy of Science" (Accessed 1/2/2009)

[ * ] I thought my first post of 2009 should be something both philosophically and scientifically oriented, since that's what the blog is supposed to be about. Yes, I'll admit I wander from that ideal now and then. And I can't believe I'm still piling time into this (so-called) little side venture of going on four years. The problem is that Google tells me that people from all over the world drop in on this blog, and about a third of them are returning visitors, so it always feels worth it to write something that people are going to read (or listen to).

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