September 9, 2012

From the Notebooks of MM



This is a copy from the orginal to NOTEBOOK. I insert the copy here for ease of reference - the idea being that Nederlog 1012 continues after August with NOTEBOOK, which is easier to maintain for me, because of the problems with my eyes that started in May 2012.


Since 1970 I must have written at least 100 MB - at least 30-50 average Penguin Classics if printed in that format - of mostly philosophical notes in what I call notebooks, sometimes many a day, and for decades rarely a day without at least one or two notes.

Before I got a computer and wrote with that, starting 1986, I wrote them by hand, sometimes, or by typewriter, usually. A few have been copied in Nederlog of 2012, but hardly any have ever been published in any format.

The following are my notes from the last two days, that I copied today from handwritten notes, since I do not have a typewriter anymore - which, incidentally, is a sore lack in this day, age and "civilization", if only because in case the electricity were to fail, which does not seem to me very unlikely, in the tottering "civilization" I live in, all writing would have to happen by hand.

Anyway.... here are some philosophical and logical notes. I make no excuses for things I presuppose (or say), but such terms and notations as I do use tend to be explained in my Philosophical Dictionary, while the internet will generally provide you with references to writers or books I mention.

As it happens, the following notes are fairly typical for what is in my Notebooks, in style and content, though indeed the real thing ranges far and widely, although usually limited for what I take to be philosophy (which is analytical/logical scientific realism, for me) and logic (generally formal and philosophical, rather than informal or strictly mathematical).


7.ix.2012: The advantage of religion

is that it gives a moral direction & justification of earthly life: Do as God wants - as told by religious leaders & prophets - and you will be rewarded in the next life. Also, it is based on wishfui thinking and following authorities, and requires no knowledge: All that is required is to follow leaders & have faith in the after life, when all will be explianed and all will be rewarded and punished.

7.ix.2012: Ordinary men need religion

or at least a political ideology to similar effect: Ordinary life is so disappointing, difficult & painful that ordinary men need reasons they can accept and comprehend to live their lives as socially required.

Since ordinary thinking is wishful thinking, since that is what allows purposive action, which is required for survival, and since it does not take knowledge or rationality but only faith, that is within anyone's intellectual capacity, being religious is what ordinary men need and want.

Indeed, if ordinary men do not have a religion, they must make one up, either from sport or from advertisement (both of which lack a future life, and so will loose as soon as life gets hard).

8.ix.2012: Value and probablity

This  seems a decent schema, with a=action, b=outcome, v=value, c=costs (also a type of value), and conditional probabilties written in Keynes' notation, while V(a)=the value of doing a:

Rules for values (and costs):
    I.   v(a) >0 IFF v(~a) <0
    II.  Use idealized values all the way, e.g. in <+1000,-1000>

That is: No monetary values but one's own assesments of these.

[(b|a).v(b)] - c(a)         = s1  } V(a)=s1+s2        DO a if V(a) > V(~a)
[(~b|a).v(~b)] - c(a)     = s2  }                         DO ~a if V(~a) > V(a)

[(b|~a).v(b)] - c(~a)     = s3  } V(~a)=s3+s4

[(~b|~a).v(~b)] - c(~a) = s4  }

Values and costs are best taken on an idealized scale, say <+1000,-1000> intuitively estimated relative to one's needs, means and assets, whiie the probabilities are subjective and the basic points are (1) that all is subjective & imprecize (and almost never can be anything else!) and (ii) what matters most & is feasible with a computer is to have a survey of - the values and outcomes of - various alternatives.

NB: I never read a decent theory of this kind, but the above at least makes basic sense.

8.ix.2012: Existence and quantification

The simplest schema is with a predicate of existence E! that does not logically depend on other predicates and satisfies:

(1) (Ex)(E!x) & (Ex)(~E!x)         : some things exist, some do not
(2) |x: E!x pinc |x: x=x             : what exists is properly included in all

This also allows for or invites two empty classes:

(3) NOUGHT = N1 = |x: ~Ex     : contingent non-existence
  NULL = N2 = |x: ~E!x         : logical non-existence
(5) |- (x)(E!x --> x=x)              : from (x)(x=x)

(6) NULL pinc NOUGHT             : from (2)

(7) (Ex)(~E!x & x=x) & 
(Ex)(~E!x & x=x) : from (1)    : fr0
(8) ~(Ex)(~E!x & ~(x=x)) & 
~(Ex)(~E!x & ~(x=x)) : from ~(x)(x=x)

Apart from empirical data that determines what is and is not E! there is no knowledge of what is E!: The truth-values for E! are external to the calculus.

8.ix.2012: Doublespeak

In Montefiore's "Stalin" there is the phrase - e.g. p. 227 - "Bolshevist doublespeak", which is fair enough, and refers to the feature of terms meaning something else than they conventionally mean in the dictionary, namely depending on a code that needs learning (beyond mere irony), but it should be noted that much of the propaganda of Western political parties, and Western advertising, is very similar in saying on purpose what is known not to be so (by those who say it), combined - as in modern advertising - with "good advice" and other prose - "good cheer" - meant to trick the potential buyers into feeling good about the product or its makers, mostly on the pattern of "we wish you well, so we must be meaning well", while in fact one is wished well because the wellwishers mean ill: They want your money or support, and don't mind lying to you if that is the way to get it.

Also, both the ads and the political prose - the modern Western one - are completely shameless and utterly false: The addressees are addressed as if they are complete morons, that can be taken in by the crudest most palpable falsities and lies - as indeed is the case, on average, for else it would not be done, or be less blatant.

In either case, the basic trick is to suggest a personal relation with the audience that is completely non-existent while verbally or visually layed on with a trowel as if it were self-evident.

8.ix.2012: On (not) making a career: People do not rise by merit

One of the things I failed to see when younger: Careers are not based on merit, but on social contacts. This is also the case for geniuses, even if these are harder to avoid giving a job to. Persons like Isaac Barrow, who vacated his chair in mathematics for Newton, are extremely rare - and Barrow could and did get a chair in Greek, which he may have liked better anyway. The main reason why careers are made by social contacts is that it is feared that non-friends or non-protegees will oust one's friends and protegees. In brief: People do not rise by merit but by having friends in high places.

8.ix.2012: Nearly all human belief is faith

namely because almost everyone lacks the knowledge or the abilities (most usually lack both) to provide anything like a rational foundation for one's beliefs.

This also means:

8.ix.2012: Nearly all human belief is from authorities

People believe things - if they cannot or do not experience them - nearly always because they believe some authority, that they usually believe they have some personal relation to: "My father, mother, boss, priest, party leader said so, therefore it is so" - because saying (or thinking) it is not so or saying (or thinking) one doubts it, is socially and personally felt to be disrespectful and constitutes loss of face of those mightier men, and very easily leads to social difficulties.

Mark well that this also holds for intellectuals, academics, medical doctors etc. They also follow authorities, and do not know, but believe they know on faith, because the authorities - e.g. authors of textbooks, or professors in lectures - said so, and are socially excepted in their groups as authorities.

Note also this has a very good practical reason: Even the best minds cannot check more than a very small fraction of the beliefs they meet, in a rational or empirical fashion. One is forced to believe or disbelieve most one hears or reads on the basis of prejudice or rules of thumb.

8.ix.2012: Clifford's dictum is not practical

namely because one does not have the time, intellect or knowledge to apply it: One cannot believe or disbelieve most things one hears or reads on the basis of evidence one has, and one cannot gather the evidence, most often, again for lack of time, intellect or knowledge.

What one does do, if one is sufficiently intelligent, unbiased and unemotional, is to know that one does not know. Even so, often one will have to make up one's mind somehow, and believe or disbelieve, knowing one does not know, if one is sufficiently rational & reasonable, and knowing one's belief or disbelief is based on one's specific ignorance, prejudice or application of rules of thumb.

See: Clifford's dictum and "The Ethics of Belief"


8.ix.2012: On - intellectual - rules of thumb

The reason to interpose "- intellectual -" is that one judges persons in other ways than one judges ideas. For the ideas the main rules are
    - by analogy to cases one (believes one) knows
    - by supporting or opposing beliefs one has
    - by some sort of probability, often believed frequencies
    - by supporting or opposing common sense
    - by source: Look who says it is (not) so: Can you trust them?

Logic seems rarely used: Rules of thumb are used by fit, that is, by being like some judgment one does believe (more than not). They are mostly applied by a sort of cognitive feeling - and note that in this note I am speaking of intellectual judgments, not of personal, social, moral or esthetical ones.

8.ix.2012: On judging persons one does (not) know

Judgments of persons one does know may be quite complicated but tend to depend on (lack of) sympathy; judgments of persons one does not know generally, if not mostly based on sexual interest or charm, are in terms of likeness to persons one knows: He or she seems like so-and-so and therefore.... that is: One judges by analogy and the rule that like cases are (further) alike, is the rule, if there is no further (counter-)evidence.

8.ix.2012: Groupthinking & personal belief

Most people believe as the people in their group believe because believing otherwise is - felt or supposed to be - disloyal or disrespectful: One believes as one does because one's fellows believe it.

Thus generally social loyalties trump intellectual reasoning.


Maarten Maartensz

P.S. My eye problems

                  PS: Any necessary corrections have to be made later.