Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last of 2011

I don't know about you, but for me, the first couple of days on the moon would be O.K.   But after a while, I'd get bored.

The world of Generica

A writer or speaker will draw us out of the dull listless world of fuzzy beings, a country I'll call Generica, by combining different generics to create a picture.  Take the lyrics to "Penny Lane". "At Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs. Of every head he's had the pleasure to have known. And all the people that come and go. Stop and say hello."  We begin with a generic picture of a barber. For me, that is a vague and fuzzy picture of a man dressed in white, perhaps with white hair and a pair of scissors.  But then something is added to that picture.  He is showing photographs.  What initially comes to mind may be some vague black and white photographs.   So no longer do we have just a generic barber.  But perhaps a cheerful barber showing people photographs of everyone he has had the pleasure of knowing.  And then added to this picture is a picture of vague and fuzzy people stopping and saying hello as he is out showing photographs. Outside? Inside? In any event, we find ourselves moving from the dull listless country of Generica.  The world of sameness, of fuzzy generic people and things.  And by combining generics, the writer or speaker draws the listener out of this world and into the world of particulars.  In the case of "Penny Lane", we see subsequent vignettes of children laughing in pursuit of a banker who is driving in his car without a raincoat, a fireman with an hourglass, and the barber giving a customer a shave while the banker waits for a trim.  The fireman then comes rushing in.  We are still left with these fuzzy generic pictures; the banker is still a fuzzy banker, as are the fireman and barber.  But these fuzzy  pictures are being combined in a certain way to draw us out out of the country of Generica.

What would a world composed solely of particulars, with no fuzzy essences, no generics, look like?  Would every item one sees be so shockingly different, so particular, as to make the viewer recoil in fear? Or would every object seems so devoid of shape, so devoid of essence as to escape meaning? A barren moon where each rock escapes notice?


This post is only about color in a metaphorical sense.  Often, when we think, we think in terms of generics, or what some may call essences.  For example, when reading the word "man", a fuzzy undifferentiated picture of a man pops into view.  Not a particular man, just slightly more than a shadow of a man.  What if the world were made solely of such undifferentiated men, undifferentiated trees, cars, children etc?  A world of fuzzy essences.  Every man looking exactly the same but so indeterminate...
But when we look at those we pass by on the street every day, when we look closely, we see individuated men.  And how different each is from the other!! How different every child is from every other child!!! It seems like such a revelation!!!  Such color!!! How wonderful!! Thank God for the "or"!!!
Yes, the "and" is necessary.  It is necessary that we be able to group all males into the category "man" or "men" so that we can converse and function.  Certainly we need to understand what makes us all the same.  But what a dreary world it would be.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

ch ch changes

I want to take a break from our and/or discussion to talk about change.  Change is something we can always write about on various levels.  But let me begin with a phenomenological/existential examination and seque from there into a logical analysis.
Since I live in a fairly well populated city, New York, let us start from my daily walk to work.  A block into my walk, I pass a person I have never seen before.  A half a block later, I may pass a person I have seen before, but have never seen at this spot or at this time of day.  The cars I pass are parked in different spots.  Today, by chance, I didn't have to stop at the traffic light at Atlantic Avenue, whereas yesterday I did.  Let us assign a letter to each of these events.  For example, A = seeing Joe a block from my house. B = seeing Mary a block and a half from my house etc.  The alphabet is quickly exhausted, and we have to start assigning double and triple and quadruple letters to each event, such as AA equaling seeing a fume belching truck at Pacific street.   Many of these events are new.  In other words, change, in its own way, is constant.  But most of it passes by unnoticed.
We can call the above events, micro events.  And they are subsets of larger events; i.e. going to work each day, arriving by a certain time etc.  These larger events, which can also be assigned letters, (we can use bold faced or underlined letters), are the events in which there is relatively little variability.   And when these macro events change, such as when we change jobs, move, etc., we notice.   A person may notice, and if he/she is relatively strong or resilient, change will not change that person.  There are times, of course, when a change in one's personality or being that comes as a result of external change, may be beneficial, and not a sign of weakness at all.
But I digress, because I must relate my phenomenology of the study of change to the study of andorian reality.   For in our examination of micro-events, seeing Joe at Sackett Street, Sally at Kane Street, we see the presence of the "or", the newness of being, which we by and large close our eyes to but is nevertheless there.
In the continuity of macro events, i.e. working at this employer etc., we see the "and".   And, as always, the continuity and presence of the "and" gives birth to the "or."   These micro events would not take place without the continuity of the "and", i.e. going to work each day etc.  The continuity of the "and" also puts these micro events into context, i.e. I see Joe while walking to work at my job at..., I see Sally while walking to my job at etc.  The "and" both gives birth to and connects these micro events, in which we see the "or".
  Intense  and sometimes transformative change, occurs when the continuity of the "and" is broken, and replaced, for a moment, by the "or".  Sometimes it is one of these micro events  or these "or" events, that causes this break in continuity.  For instance, I may be hit by a truck on my way to work.  During my work day, I may have handled something in a way that caused me to get fired.
Thus, we typically see this sequence:  The continuity of the "and" giving birth to the micro events of the "or".  The "or" or one of these micro-events causing a break in the continuity of the "and".  And, ironically, the resulting "or", gives birth to a new "and".   For example, after I get fired from my job, there is a new routine created by unemployment, such as looking for jobs in various ways, online for example, visiting the unemployment office, etc.  And then, hopefully, one of these micro events becomes significant, seeing such a job online leading to a break in the continuity of unemployment, a new "or" giving birth to a new "and".
So what came first, the "and" or the "or"?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Quantum reality

The "and" and the "or"  underlie quantum reality as well.  Such a lovably fuzzy creature that quantum reality is!!! Take our famous friend the electron.  We can't say it's here.  We can't say it's there.  We can say there is a 45% chance it is here, 10% chance it is there etc.  In a way, it is almost here, there and almost everywhere at the same time.   Thus, the "and" underlies its essence, or more accurately, it struggles to underlie its essence.  That it may not seem to be at one place at any time is the wavelike nature of the electron's reality, and the "and" underlies this wavelike being.
However, the great quantum physicists said that the act of observing a particle fixes its location, providing the particle-like aspect of its being.   It is no longer here and there; Rather, it is somewhere determinate.  It is here and not there. The act of observation draws it out of its indeterminate location, differentiating it from the ether, giving it its "orness".  It is here or there, but it is not both.
There is this interplay between the "and" and the "or" that is constantly at work in quantum reality.  The "and" and the "or" are everywhere in this world. Its pretty intense.

I think I know why the universe is expanding

Of course, our utter powerlessness and lack of knowledge are still quite stunning. According to Hawking, if the earth were a grain of sand, it would take a bowl of sand 8 miles long to fill the universe.  And now astronomers are positing the existence of dark matter and dark energy to explain phenomena they don't understand.
It is true, though, that in some ways, the "or" appears out of control.  But the "and" may also be operating at a deeper level.
  Consider for a moment the theory of relativity, at least from the standpoint of someone who is not a physicist.  The faster an object, say a spaceship, moves, the slower time travels for people inside that spaceship, relative to the passage of time on earth.   There is an inverse relationship between space covered and time covered.  In this way, space and time and connected.  Speed is what connects the two; visually, it is the vortex at which the two come together.  Speed functions as the "and", and physicists speak of units of space time. During the course of our everyday lives in the Newtonian universe, space  and time are separate entities or measures.  But in the universe of speeding objects, or the universe that physicists now say more accurately describes the reality, the "and" is operative.
   The theory of special relativity establishes a further level of connectivity.   For now we see that gravity affects the space-time fabric.    Massive objects slow down the passage of time.  A hermit living on earth ages at a slower pace than a hermit floating in outer space (assume for the the moment that the latter has an adequate supply of oxygen, food and water to sustain him.)  Like a medicine ball placed upon a mattress, gravity appears to expand space covered, while contracting time covered.   In sum, mass and speed function as the "and".
 So we see these different "ands" that underlie reality.  But can we penetrate deeper?  Is there a pure "and" underlying these "ands"? From which these "ands" derive sustenance?   In which these "ands" participate?
Perhaps there is.  And perhaps it is so deeply entrenched that the "or", to achieve balance with the "and", is pushing galaxies further apart.  For we have said that a healthy individual and a healthy society are  ones whose "or" and "and" are in balance.
Thus, the expansion of the universe may not be such a bad thing.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A cosmic emergency

It is said that the universe is expanding at an expanding pace.  Galaxies, stars and particles are being pushed farther and farther apart.  The "or" has gone wild.  And that is not good. The diversity that resulted from the luxurious interplay of the "and" and the "or" is under threat.  And if history is the result of particles, objects etc interacting with each other, history is coming to an end.  And, of course, if time is also measured by these interactions, time is coming to an end as well.  It would thus appear that a worthy cause over the next 20 or so years would be to devise a plan to halt the expansion of the universe.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

More on the "I"

And thus the ego, this "and", is reflective of the connectedness we find in nature.   There is nothing unnatural or unhealthy about it.  Rather, it is a beautiful thing.
Perhaps it can be said that to have too strong an ego is to fail to achieve the proper balance between the "and" and the "or".  But that should be no more than a cautionary note.  The ego is something to be celebrated, not negated.  He (or she) who has an ego is someone who seeks to replicate the beauty found in nature.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The "and" is the "I"

And thus we learn that the brain is a cacaphony of various sensations (visual, auditory, sensual etc), drives and processes.  And there are various levels of awareness at any one time.   Currently, my focus is on this train of thought, but I am also, at other levels, aware of the screen, the sound of my fingers tapping the keyboard, the sensation of them hitting the keyboard, the light in the room, the sound of my cat's breathing etc., and I would notice it if suddenly I could no longer hear the sound created by my tapping fingers.

But the left side of our brain is responsible for creating a narrative, for connecting the disparate sensations, for creating a timeline, for creating my timeline, and for creating who I am, or who I see myself as being.  For I am the being who inherits this body, who has had these experiences and has performed these actions. The various  sensations I am having at this moment; tapping the keyboard, feeling it, watching the letters appear, are connected by the immediate project I am engaged in; making this entry, the larger project of keeping a slightly original blog in which I attempt to explicate some of the principles that underlie reality, and an overall grasp of my purpose in life, which to an extent is to make some sense of where I am and what I am experiencing during this very brief life.   And we are always connecting things and giving meaning to them.  I may be watching two men wielding objects that hit a ball between them.  But I can construct the narrative that those objects they are wielding are tennis rackets, that they are in fact playing a sport which has certain rules, that the game will eventually end with a winner, that the men are Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal, two of the greatest players, that they have a rivalry and this is but the latest chapter etc., that tennis is something I enjoy watching, a leisure activity, that leisure is an important aspect of my existence, of who I am, as is work...   We are always making connections and creating a story.  And this making connections, the "and", apparently resides on the left side of hour brains.  This creating a narrative, a sense of who I am, the "and",  is the "I", and it could use a rest.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


A brief digression is in order on the subject of movement.   We have said that the "and" and the "or" underlie all physical history based upon the primacy of movement.  Human movement, of course, involves an interplay of the "and" and the "or".  When we walk, we dig our feet into the ground, attempt in a sense to push the ground back, and use that force to propel us forward.   The pressure that our feet experience is in fact caused by the repulsive force between the electrons on the ground and those on our feet (two negatively charged particles repelling each other).  It is, in fact, the repulsive force of these electrons that prevent us from falling into the earth, and literally becoming one with the earth.  In any event, we see the presence of the "and" as we dig our feet into the ground, trying to achieve unity with it, and the presence of the "or", as we use the pressure and the repulsive force of these similarly charged particles to draw ourselves away from where we were and towards a new place.  As we continue walking,  we will continue to come into contact and draw away from the earth to which we are anchored.   During this process, we also come into contact with air molecules (this coming to to contact with is the  "and"), they bounce off us (the or) and we continue moving until we reach our destination.
Movement in general, it seems, is very fundamental to who we are.  During the first 80 to 90% of our history we were nomadic hunter gatherers, and the incorporation of the "and" and the "or" into our daily lives undoubtedly put us in greater touch with our environment.   It has only been during the last 5000 or so years that we have attempted to become permanently routed to an address, perhaps denying the "or" of our nature and nature in general.  Our cats and dogs and virtually all animals are wanderers at heart.  In our quest to deny this fundamental aspect of who we are, we have leveled forests and built cities.  What is tragic is that in our quixotic quest to extinguish our nomadic nature, we have extinguished the diversity that nature took billions of years to create.   Which of course is not to say that it is unnatural to have a home. Birds have nests. Snails have shells (and look how far that has got them!!).   But building permanent settlements or homes is a relatively recent development.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chemical reactions

A chemical reaction can often be described as an elaborate and/or dance.   The number of each type of atom (whether it be oxygen atoms, carbon atoms etc.) remains the same before and after the reaction occurs.  However, the atoms pull apart from each other and realign with each other in new ways, forming new alliances.   Take the simple reaction of wood being combined with oxygen to form fire.  Wood consists largely of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms, and it is combined with oxygen gas to produce fire, which in this case is a combination of carbon dioxide gas and water vapor.  The number of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms in the fire is the same as the number of said atoms in the wood and oxygen gas.  However, they are aligned differently.   Thus, the carbon atom in the molecule of wood has broken away (the "or") from the hydrogen and oxygen atoms and combined (the and) with what was formerly the oxygen gas to form carbon dioxide gas. Similarly, the hydrogen atom in what had formerly been the wood molecule aligns with other oxygen atoms to form the water vapor.   Most reactions are far more complex and contain a far more intricate and in some cases spectacular interplay of the "and" and the "or".   There are some reactions that principally feature the "or", causing sets of previously combined atoms to be broken apart, and some that principally feature the "and".  In any case, the number of atoms for each element remains the same before and after the reaction.  Only their alliances have changed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Back to the "and" and the "or" in chemistry

That the "and" is present in the different types of bonding between elements is self evident. To continue our phenomenological description of these types of bonding, we have already described how in ionic bonding,  an electron on the outer shell of an atom pull away from this shell (the "or" in action), travels to  the outer shell of an adjacent  atom and joins the community of electrons there (the "and").   The attractive forces of the differently charged atoms binds them together.
In metallic bonding (which results in pieces of metal), we again see the "or" when an electron leaves the outer shell of an atom. Electrons leave the outer shells of other atoms, resulting in a sea of electrons outside the atoms (the "and" again).  This sea causes the different atoms to cluster together (another case of the "and") and also prevents them from moving.
 In covalent bonding, we see a compromise between the "and" and the "or". The electron doesn't quite leave the outer shell of one atom or join that of another.  Rather, the outer shells of different atoms share varying numbers of electrons with each other.  These shared electrons act as the glue that holds the atoms together.
As we've said, these differing types of bonding work to the benefit of the "and".  However, they also promote diversity (the "or") by enabling a seemingly infinite variety of combinations to be formed.


We have already discussed how various ethical commandments, laws and mores are an example for the "and" imposing restrictions upon the "or" for the benefit of both.  Thus, the above post was largely an argument that the benefit of both is good.  It could be argued that the human race is destroying diversity, and antisocial behavior, or a descent into anarchy, as has occurred in such places as Somalia, would be good in the long run, as it would result in more starvation and death, the end of the human race, and ultimately the protection of diversity.   While this may have some surface appeal, antisocial behavior in general includes a disregard for all life, both human and nonhuman, the plundering of the environment and the promotion of famine.   What seems more sensible is that we include in the definition of ethical behavior behavior that both inures to the benefit of society and the benefit of the planet.  Commandments against murder and theft are not inconsistent with this definition if we have the confidence that human society is capable of thriving without destroying the planet.  Certainly, the exercise of measures to protect against overpopulation, such as the use of birth control, and the development of green technologies would seem to suggest human society has this potential.
We must also acknowledge that promotion of diversity among life forms has not been linear.  There were mass extinctions, from which both the "or" and the "and" recovered.  Thus, it is possible that human society can thrive at the temporary expense of the "and" and the "or".
 In the end, while we can say that the human represents the "and" and the "or"'s crowning achievement, and that it is beautiful, and destroying this beauty is bad (as we said in the last post), we cannot allow its crowning achievement to result in the destruction of the planet, and the death of diversity.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Andorian Philosophy

I must digress from my discussion of chemistry to name my philosophy. I will call it Andorianism for reasons that should be evident.  I have tried to begin sketching Andorian metaphysics (the basis for physics and in fact all science), Andorian epistemology (a theory of knowledge), Andorianism as a basis for language, Andorian sociology, and a few other things.  
And now I may as well begin to sketch Andorianism as a basis for morality or ethics. For how, it may be asked, can science, or something that favors a scientific approach, constitute a foundation for ethics?  For some, my answer may appear unsatisfactory.  It may appear quasi-religious in a Platonic sense. (Plato spoke of a form of the Good, which some assert is God.)
 What we can say is that is that simplicity begets diversity, and when we can view this, when we see the diversity burgeoning before our eyes and see how it occurs, we encounter beauty.  We are awestruck. And this diversity is the closest thing to God, if it is not God.  And it is this that we can worship simply by seeing with no need for stories or fables.
And there is nothing that has benefited diversity more than the appearance of life.  Prior to the appearance of life, there may have been thousands or types of molecules.  From these thousands of types of  molecules have sprouted billions or trillions of life forms.  Thus, doing something that benefits the diversity of life is good.  While killing in order to eat and survive is essential, killing or needlessly causing pain is not.  And we generally view most killing of humans as heinous, as the human, so far as we know, is diversity's crowning achievement.  We are among the more complex life forms, and it is thought that only the human can grasp the experience diversity in all its splendor.   Thus, I add this to other arguments about the human ability to suffer, and his/her unique awareness of suffering.  So there you have it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

some more thoughts on the "and" and "or" in chemical reactions

That reality consists of movement may, in some senses, sound counterintuitive.  But science tells us that even the most static objects, such as rocks, consist of clusters of atoms, each with orbiting electrons.  To the extent that an electron is a wave, it does not appear to move. However, to the extent it is a particle, it rotates around the nucleus trillions of times per second.
In any event, we digress, for it is not the rotational status of electrons that excites interest.  Rather, it is their seeming instability.  For virtually all "chemical" reactions occur when atoms lose or acquire electrons.  By chemical reactions, we mean the formation of molecules, in which two or elements combine.  Thus, table salt is the dramatic result of the union of sodium and chloride.  Thus, in all chemical reactions, the "and" appears predominant.  And thus we see how the "and" underlies all physical things.
However, we cannot underestimate the role of the "or", or the harmony in which the "and" and the "or" live.  For many molecular combinations (called ionic bonding) seem to occur when one atom sheds an electron (in which we see the "or" separating the electron from the outer orbit of the atom - this is called ionization) and another acquires that electron (a case of the "and" being actualized).  Thus, we see an "or/and" cycle, or an "and/or" cycle.  The ionization itself (the or in action) may be induced by energy being directed at, or in a sense combining with electrons in the atom.
We cannot deny that each element has its own nature.  Based upon the number of electrons in their outer shells, some elements are more anxious to acquire than to shed electrons.   Those with only one or two electrons in their outer shell can easily shed electrons, or be "or'd".  Those with seven in their outer shells are anxious to acquire the final electron to make their shell complete (it can have eight.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Proof that the "and" and the "or" underlie all that is

This proof will be based upon several premises, but hopefully they are premises upon which most would agree.

First, we note a priori that there is more than one thing, whether it be a person, atom, planet, ocean, sun etc.

Second, we must observe that all events, whether historical, biological, planetary or molecular, involve movement.  When speaking about historical events we can say that people go places and do things, whether to other people or other beings.  As for planetary events, there seems to be little doubt that planets, solar systems, asteroids, galaxies and constellations of galaxies are constantly in motion.  As for biological events, advances in biology have demonstrated that at any one time, thousands of processes are taking place within a cell; enzymes are transporting, digesting and expelling various substances; cells are multiplying, dividing etc., as we have already discussed in past posts.  Similarly, on an atomic level, electrons, other subatomic particles and atoms themselves are constantly in motion, often very rapid motion. Atoms of different elements are constantly binding together to form molecules, or separating from one another when exposed to energy.

Thus, there are things, and they are moving.  Under what conditions would the "and" and "or" not underlie all movement? Under what conditions would movement not consist of a  "moving toward each other" and coming together of two entities (the and), or the separation or "moving away from each other" of entities?

 One such condition would be if everything was moving together, in one group, in one direction and at the same speed.  Empirical observation establishes that this is not the case.

Another condition under which the "and" and the "or" would not underlie all events would be if all movement consisted primarily of perfectly circular orbital movement.  Orbital movement exists, but it certainly doesn't predominate.  Even most orbital movement does not consist of perfectly circular orbital movement, in which the distance of one thing from another remains the same throughout time.   The earth's orbit around the sun, and most other orbits, are elliptical.   Thus, planets inch closer to the sun, and further away from it at different times.   Accordingly, the "and" and the "or" is present in differing degrees in most orbital movement.  Furthermore, orbital movement is relatively uncommon on a planetary level.  Planets may orbit around the sun, but they certainly don't orbit around each other.  They are in different positions in relation to each other, and different distances from each other, at different times.  Moreover, the orbital movement that does exist is relatively short lived in universal time.  Solar systems come into being upon the birth of a sun, and likely drift out of existence upon the sun's demise.

"Mr. Philosopher !!" you may remonstrate.  "Isn't the movement of electrons around the nucleus orbital?" Well, not really.  Quantum physics shows that electrons are not perfectly determinate substances whose movements can be precisely traced.  They are quasi-particles/waves, and the precise position and momentum of an electron at any given time can never be known (The Heisenberg uncertaintly principle).   They do not orbit the nucleus in the same way a planet orbits the sun.  Their precise positions can't be known.  Only the probability that they are in any place is knowable, and their orbit of probability need not be circular.  Finally, even if we concede that the orbit of electrons is circular, most history, at least on an atomic level, occurs when electrons leave their orbit.  They may jump to another orbit, when excited by energy, they may actually orbit another nucleus, as occurs in some types of bonding, or they may, in some cases, stop orbiting nuclei all together, as when electricity flows through a wire.

In any event,  empirical observation seems to confirm that most movement is not perfectly circular orbital movement.

In sum, we have:

1) The world is composed of things or objects.

2) All history, whether human, biological, planetary or atomic,  consists of the movement of these objects.

3)  These objects don't all move in unison, in the same direction and at the same speed.

4) Most of this movement is not perfectly circular orbital movement.

If propositions 3 and 4 are true, then it would appear that things move either further apart or closer together.  Thus, the "and" and the "or" underlie most events.

When the "and" is fully actualized, formerly separate things coalesce into sets.  Sets can be homogenous or heterogenous.  Many if not most sets are heterogenous, but are composed of homogenous subsets.  For instance, amino acids consist of clusters of atoms of a few different elements.  Overall, the set that makes one amino acid is heterogenous, but it has more than one atom or each of the different elements of which it is composed, thus the homogenous subsets.

Monday, July 18, 2011


So we pass through a tunnel of others to become ourselves.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

ones and zeroes

The ascension of the computer constitutes the crudest proof of the methodology by which the "or" uses the "and" to create complexity.  For all computer language, in its most basic form, consists of zeroes and ones. Eight bits (Eight zeroes and ones) equals one byte, and the number of combinations of Os and 1s that can make up a byte is two raised to the power of eight, or 256.  This is more than the number of combinations needed to form the letters of the alphabet and the 10 numbers (0 to 9) upon which the western numerical system is based.  Thus, from these zeroes and ones we can construct letters, and from these letters we can construct words, and from these words we can construct sentences and so on.  All from combinations of zeroes and ones.  All from the repetition of zero and one.  The "and".

   Of course, the "and" is given a little boost from the "or" in this process, for we start from two different entities, zero and one.  We could conceivably base a language on just one entity using repetition.  One "1" could constitute the letter "A", two "1"s could constitute the letter B and so on.  But it would seem to be less efficient, using more space.  Also, something would be needed to separate every letter from every other letter, and that, it would seem, would be a zero.   Thus, it would seem difficult to get around the need for at least two entitites.

Of course, even before the advent of computers, the "or" made use of the "and".  There are only 26 letters in our alphabet, but through combining them in various ways, we have constructed thousands of words, sentences, verse, books.  The number of combinations is infinite.  Similarly, with only 10 numbers we can construct the symbols for an infinite number of numbers.

A thought: The use of zeros and ones at least seems to require a good deal of space, but this is because electrical switches, at least in the non quantum world, have two states, on and off.  But in the quantum world, things do not have easily definable values. We can't know the position and momentum of an electron at the same time (Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Unfortunately, Heisenberg was a Nazi.) Values, Heisenberg's included, become fuzzier in the quantum world.   I don't know how many values there are.  But if there were, say, 26 values, we could take advantage of this so that we would not need such long strings and sets of strings of ones and zeros.  Can we take advantage of the quantum world to create vastly more efficient computerized systems? I'm sure that some are working on it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Role of the "and" in the development of the individual

In the next to last post, we spoke of the indispensable role of the "and" in the generation of language, concepts and ideas.   We can say that human consciousness largely is what it is because of the role of the "and".  For we think largely through the use of words, concepts, ideas and a "point of view".   And the absence of the "and" results, in large part, in the inability or, at the very least, extreme difficulty in learning language and developing social strategies.  It has been said that to a very large extent, thinking consists of "talking to oneself", or the creation of an imaginary other, so entrenched is the existence of the "and".

  So while the "and" plays a vital role in the development of consciousness, it also, in a best case scenario, nourishes the "or" in terms of the development of individual identity.  At a point that is in large part a result of the natural development of consciousness, and to an extent the result of differing social customs, the child and then the teenager developes to the point that he is ready to leave the nest.  It is worth pausing at this point to consider, in some more depth,  the role of the "and" in the development of individuation.  For the development of individuation is to a large extent, contingent upon the child's ties to his parents, teachers and peers.  And this mixture is unique in each case as is the product that results therefrom.  While there is no doubt genetics plays a role in the development of individual personality traits, the role of the "and" and the unique mixture of relations that each person lives through is no doubt paramount.   Many of us say,  "I get certain personality traits from my father and certain personality traits from my mother."

It has been said that biologically, the mixing and matching of genes from each parent ensures the development of the ability to adapt to predators or other threats.  This to some extent random mixing and matching provides for the creation of a brand new individual, different from its parents.  The mixing and matching of personality traits, acquired through the "and", from parents and from ties to other figures also ensures that none of us will be exactly like our parents or like our friends etc.  And there is freedom in this; since we are different that we are not constrained to follow in their footsteps and not doomed to repeat their mistakes.  We will make our own mistakes, encounter our own challenges and create our own albatrosses.  But we are free.
In the next to last post, we spoke of the indispensable role of the "and" in the generation of language, concepts and ideas.   We can say that human consciousness largely is what it is because of the role of the "and".  For we think largely through the use of words, concepts, ideas and a "point of view".   And the absence of the "and" results, in large part, in the inability or, at the very least, extreme difficulty in learning language.  It has been said that to a very large extent, thinking consists of "talking to oneself", or the creation of an imaginary other, so entrenched is the existence of the "and".   So while the "and" plays a vital role in the development of consciousness, it also, in a best case scenario, nourishes the "or" in terms of the development of individual identity.  At a point that is in large part a result of the natural development of consciousness, and to an extent the result of differing social customs, the child and then the teenager developes to the point that he is ready to leave the nest.  It is worth pausing at this point to consider, in some more depth,  the role of the "and" in the development of individuation.  For the development of individuation is to a large extent, contingent upon the child's ties to his parents, teachers and peers.  And this mixture is unique in each case as is the product that results therefrom.  While there is no doubt genetics plays a role in the development of individual personality traits, the role of the "and" and the unique mixture of relations that each person lives through is no doubt paramount.   Many of us say,  "I get certain personality traits from my father and certain personality traits from my mother."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

References to the collective

It is worth thinking about how often the "and", the collective, creeps into virtually all speech.  In political speech we speak about "the economy", which is a collection of all economic activity; income earned, money spent etc. within a given area; politics (a collection of leadership issues within a given area), "society", "the press", "the direction of the country".  There is always some collective entity out there; i.e, "the country", "the city", "spare change", "my family", "the workplace".  All subjects, such as "science", "nature", "plants", flowers, mathematics, geometry and language refer to various types of collections.  When we talk about a person, and how we feel about that person, we are, in effect, collecting our memories or knowledge of different things that person has done and trying to reach a conclusion or judgment regarding that collection.  Similarly, when we judge or speak of ourselves, we are collecting evidence, judging, trying to reach conclusions.  It could be worth speaking to someone for 15 minutes, and after 15 minutes has passed, attempting to set forth all the references to collective entities that were made during that period.  And, as we've said, all  language (another collection), is learned through collection (the and) and differentiation (the or).  The definition of the word "table" is arrived at through collecting images or conceptions of "table", somehow, with the help of others, arriving at an "essence" or definition, and differentiating that thing from other types of things.

Monday, July 4, 2011

More on the development of ideas, vocabulary etc.

   Thus we have seen, at least in part, how the "and" and the "or" work together in the formation of language and conceptualization of ideas.  But this, of course, is but a very thin slice of the picture.  Words, numbers, etc., at least in the abstract, don't exist "out there" in the same sense that this keyboard that I am currently tapping exists.  Plato and many of his successors proposed the existence of an immaterial world of ideas.  It is difficult to think of something "existing", unless it is "out there" and thus is material.  But if we concede that an immaterial world is possible, we can see the "and" functioning when a word is spoken, a number is written or a thought is thought.  For, assuming such a world exists, the "and" links a portion of this immaterial world to the users brain when the speaking, writing or thinking is taking place.  It is impossible, or nearly impossible, to debunk the existence of an immaterial world, for it is impossible to destroy something that can't be seen or touched. Many great philosophers have attempted to eviscerate this theory without success.
  What is possibly more effective is to propose an alternative or to just run with other thoughts without dealing with the validity of the theory of forms.   Without reaching whether ideas, words, numbers etc. objectively exist out there,  we have seen from the last post how the "and" and the "or" play a role in idea formation.  For all language, concepts etc. are taught.  All, or at least 98% of them are learned. (We won't deal for now with the remaining 2%)   And to be taught or learned, social connections are necessary.  We can only learn ideas, words etc. from other people.  An autistic person learns relatively little because of his or her difficulty in forming social connections.  Thus, the "and" or the social "and" is a prerequisite for the formation of ideas, the learning of language and all learning.   One person is able to communicate to another what that other people should be seeing or learning.  If we combine this idea with that set forth in our last post, one person helps the other person map the word "chair" to a number of different chairs, until that person, through the use of the "or", is able to separate the idea of "chair" from, say, the idea of "table".   It goes without saying that for one person to be able to communicate these ideas to another person, their brains, i.e. human brains, must be remarkably similar.   This similarity in brain structure probably explains why two persons' idea of the concept "chair" are essentially the same more accurately  than the idea of each person, through the "and", participating in the same nonmaterial world of ideas, in which each speaker, at the moment of utterance, links to the same idea of the word "chair".

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Conceptualization of Objects, verbs, language in general.

It is clear that the "and" and the "or" are the primary drivers of the human conceptualization of objects.  Take the object "table" or the object "chair".   As a result of experience, the human brain begins gathering all things that match the word "table".   While the "and" is gathering objects that match this word, the "or" is separating these objects from objects that match other words, such as "chair".  Thus, these beloved forces are behind the development of human vocabulary, or at least nouns.   It would seem similar with verbs.  The mind matches actions that fit the word "throw", using the "or" to separate them from actions that match other action words.  We can say the same with the other elements of human language.  It is all synthesis and dissection.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More on mores and laws

But laws and mores are also designed for the benefit of the "or". For what many if not most of them protect are individual rights; the right of the individual to live(thou shalt not kill), individual property rights (thou shalt not steal) etc.  Thus, social cohesion (the and) is thought to result from the protection of individual rights, the right of the individual to function with a certain amount of autonomy (the or).  It might be asked, "Did the "and" use the "or" to its benefit?"  Or did the "or" hold the "and" hostage, telling the "and" that if it wanted cohesion, it must first preserve the individual(s)? Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that here, as well as elsewhere, the two exist in a symbiotic relationship.  And we know that the erosion of individual rights (the or) often leads to the disintegration of the "and" or social cohesion.
Of course, we can't take this too far.  Laws that enshrine individual rights without recognizing any obligation to the collective may please Ayn Rand and various tea partiers but result in a society that is coming to resemble modern day America, where a select few control most of the wealth.  Rather, as in other cases, the "and" and "or" must work in harmony, and strike a balance, as set forth in my April 17 post on societal extremes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

laws and mores

Thus, an incredibly manipulative relationship exists between the religious leader and the congregant.  Which is not necessarily to say that every religious leader is evil.  But the structure of the relationship is inherently unhealthy.
We have said that the function of the religious leader, in part, is to enunciate rules or mores.  More can be said on mores.   Mores, commandments and laws are among the means by which the "and" holds human society together.   As we have said before, there is strength in numbers.  It is thought that at some point, the earliest single celled creatures banded together for protection and divided the labor to form multicelled creatures.  So it is with human society.  A society with a police force and an army can ward off individual thiefs or small sets of invaders.  An anarchistic society cannot.   And as society has grown,  as the division of labor has grown and as relationships have become increasingly complex, it has eventually come to be recognized that a formalistic set of mores and laws, set forth in writing, is needed to define and interpret what can and can't be done and how to handle disputes.   Thus, religious tracts have been written and codified, and secular laws have been enacted.  In a theocracy, the definition, enforcement and interpretation of laws has been left to the clergy.  In a secular society, it is left to legislators, executives and lawyers.
Legal disputes can be defined as a clash of differing sets of "ands".  They thus bear a resemblance to war, and it is not uncommon for lawyers and litigants taking cases to trial to say they are going to war.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


But there is, the more I think of it, one thing like nationalism: religion.  Both are tools that the one or the few use to control the many.  Both are prime examples of both the "and" and the "or".  In both cases, these elements are used to bring people together and to create a sense of exclusivity among them.  And both, throughout history, have been means to horrible ends.  Religion, of course, is a much more powerful tool, for while nationalism appeals to pride, religion relies largely upon fear, a feeling of powerlessness, and the lack of any objective marker (other than a priest, imam or rabbi) upon which the individual can rely to tell whether he or she is on the right path.  For God is someone who can't be seen or heard.  And one who can't be seen cannot be destroyed.  And unless one can experience him through  visions or auditory hallucinations, one can't be sure how one should behave or believe.  And the fear, the fear of death and of harm, is a fear all biological beings are programmed to have.  And the sense that one "should" behave a certain way is a feeling all social units have programmed into us in order to propagate their survival. (More on this later.)  Thus, the religious leader(s) takes advantage of this fear, this uncertainty, by providing a "way". By thus doing, he resolves the terror of death and harm,  relieves the the uncertainty and exercises his grip upon the many.  And when one or some of the many protest that the evidence mitigates against the existence of a just God or a practitioner of miracles, the religious leader  chastises them,  saying this evidence, and the ability to close one's eyes, is a test of faith.
In religion, of course, we see other relationships.  Each practitioner is led to believe he or she is in a personal relationship with God.  However, when that individual reaches out to God, he or she neither sees nor hears anything concrete.  Which leads the practitioner to reach out for the religious leader for guidance on what he or she should be feeling.  In essence, the "and" reaches out for something that isn't there, and thus reaches out for the leader and the written word with "burning questions".  That leader becomes an incarnation of God,  answering those questions and assuring fidelity.  In sum, we see that religion functions in a similar manner to nationalism in acting as an agent of the "and" (providing for social cohesion among the followers) and the "or", in acting as an agent of their exclusivity.   However, for the reasons stated above,  "and" between the religious leader and his/her flock is infinitely stronger than the "and" between the nationalist leader and his countrymen.  The religious leader takes advantaget of the feeling of powerlessness and poverty of his followers, promising that in another world, all past wrongs will be remedied.  He thus appeals to their craving for justice.  He appeals to their fear, even terror of death.  He appeals to the human belief in a "should", in rules and the desire to know what those rules so, so one can be a "good" person.  He appeals to the uncertainty and confusion that results when the follower reaches out to God and finds no one there. All these bonds, when considered cumulatively, are almost impossible to break.
   It is also likely that the "and" between the members of a congregation or considerably stronger than the "and" between countrymen under the sway of a nationalist leader.  At most, the countrymen are headed towards world dominance.  The flames of nationalism can be extinguished, at least temporarily, by defeat.  Something as concrete as defeat is not a possibility for those who believe.
In sum, given the reality of the "and" and the or, the development of religion seems almost inevitable.  For it is the strongest manifestation of these two forces.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

War and Nationalism

Almost invariably, war is in large part motivated by nationalism.  Nationalism fuels the desire for conquest, and nationalism fuels the the thirst for independence.  And this sense that there is something that distinguishes one's "own" people from others can almost be said to be an expression of the "or" in its excess.  While self esteem is essential to good health, the self esteem that nationalism confers is of little value.  For it confers this esteem not based upon any actions the individual may take, or values he/she may harbor, but self esteem based upon something entirely external to the self.  Nationalism also fuels acts of courage and foolhardiness and, unfortunately, the tourist trade.  (And soccer riots, TV ratings and steroid use)
While nationalism is, in large part, an expression of the "or", it also fuels the "and".  More appropriately, it might be said that the "and" uses nationalism to bring people together, largely so they can kill each other.  Thus, nationalism represents an excess of both the "and" and the "or."   There is nothing like nationalism.

Monday, June 13, 2011

thoughts on war, killing, life, history and death

War can be defined as the clash of two "ands". Each "and", a collection of people, nominally controls certain territory.  The clash may not be over the territory itself, although it usually is, at least unconsciously.  In any event, the result of this clash is usually that one "and" is absorbed by the other, or at the very least, rendered inoperable.  How does this occur?  The connections, or "ands", within the "and" that is absorbed are themselves ruptured.
The connections are invariably ruptured through killing, so it is worth taking a look at what killing involves.  Killing can be defined as the extinguishing of one individual by another.    As discussed earlier, each individual person is a collection of "and" and "or" processes, which occur at various levels, including a cellular level.  It is generally agreed that one distinguishes a living thing from a nonliving thing is that the living thing has the ability to derive and generate energy from the environment and the ability, with a little help, to reproduce.  Among the properties shared by all living things, whether plants or animals, is the property of respiration.  Respiration consists of inhalation and exhalation. During inhalation, molecules of one type, oxygen in the case of humans, are breathed in, or brought into the individual so that they can combine with other molecules and provide some type of nourishment.  Thus, inhalation is a case of the "and" in action.  Exhalation, in which molecules of another type are expelled, is a case of the "or" in action.  Thus, respiration can be defined as a process of the" and" followed by the "or."   Various "ands" and "ors" and taking place within a living individual at any time, including some of the cellular processes we discussed earlier.   An individual animal or person, of course, is not just some random collection of these and and or processes.  Rather, it is a collection, that seems, at least visually, to function as a distinct unit that to some extent functions independent of the environment, or "or"ally (pun).   Killing involves the extinguishing of all these or and and processes, including the generation of energy from the environment, reproduction and respiration.  As earlier noted, for killing to occur, one individual has to kill another.  And when killing occurs, these two individuals come together for a period of time before one extinguishes or neutralizes the other.   Thus, killing involves the and.  However, unlike eating, in which one individual absorbs the other, killing itself does not involve absorption.  After the brief union, the extinguished individual stops functioning and in essence drops off, or is "ored" from the other.  Killing is sometimes followed by eating.
When war is over land, it is largely analagous to the acts of killing followed by eating.  The communicative processes within the obliterated foe are neutralized (i.e. the foe is killed.) Then the foe is absorbed by the victor.   The "and" prevails.  Thus, the act of conquest is a victory of the "and".  
While this is true, it must be acknowledged that world conquest has never occurred.  The Romans may have harbored the illusion of world conquest, the the reality was far different.
  Rather, world history has largely consisted of acts of division; division of land into countries, cities etc., and ever shifting borders.   Thus, the "or" has held steady.  What empires have existed have been short lived.  We may even conclude that history can be seen as a series of and/or progressions.  Conquests followed by divisions followed by conquests.  Mapping this out can be left to the historian.  However, it is almost entirely self evident that history would have to be thus.  World conquest is chimerical because the "or" is real and cannot be obliterated.   Anarchy and libertarianism are no more than dreams that some misguided souls harbor because the "and" is such an essential part of human society.
Some last thoughts on war, which as we've found requires a rupturing of the "and" within the vanquished, which in turn requires killing and death.  We must briefly return to a discussion of what death is.  
 While a living individual is a collection of "and" and "or" processes, living itself involves both the "and" in terms of ones relation to the environment, and the or, in terms of one's existence as a seemingly distinct unit.  When one dies, the "and" stops functioning in the sense that one is no longer absorbing energy from the environment.  However, it functions anew in the sense that the environment now absorbs energy from the dead individual.  The dead person, animal or plant fertilizes the soil etc.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Clownification is the process by which philosophers become clowns.  They become so enamored of their ideas that they attribute to them a reality that has no basis in fact.  Take for instance Aristotle's metaphysics, in particular their emphasis on form and matter.  All things consist of matter (the physical stuff things are made of) and form (their shape).  Brilliant ideas and also attempts to correct Plato's overemphasis on forms, which become a world of ideas.  As I recall, Aristotle believed in the primacy of the particular; i.e. forms did not have any independent existence outside of physical things.  In any event, Aristotle became so enamored of his metaphysics (metaphysics is supposedly the foundation for physics) that he attempted to apply these ideas to biology.   He asserted that during reproduction, the male provided the form while the female provided the matter.  Way off!!
Kierkegaard leveled similar criticism at Hegel.  While Hegel's descriptions of spirit were inventive and obviously insightful, when he asserted that spirit was real, he became a clown.   Similar criticisms can be leveled at Marx, the logical atomists, early Wittgenstein, many existentialists and probably most philosophers.
And of course it can be leveled at my attempt to apply the "and" and "or" to all that is.  Certainly, there is a naiviety to my descriptions of early man, and his supposedly ideal relationship with nature.  Early man's preoccupation was with food and shelter.  He probably spent a great deal of time thinking about how he would get his next meal and devising schemes to extract it from the world around him, rather than worshipping the trees.  No doubt he probably did have a more intimate relationship to the natural world than most of us.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A couple more thoughts on the development of human society

Thus we see that as human society evolved, the "and" was stretched out, thinned almost to the point of nonexistence.  But in another sense, both the "and" and the "or" thrived as never before.  Think of the thousand of people who worked together to build the great pyramids.  Think of the multinational corporations, the vast government bureacracies.   Granted, these connections were superficial and temporary when compared to the connections found in hunter gatherer socieities.  However, their scope was and is monumental.

The "or" has grown on a comparable level as the division of labor keeps expanding.  The expansion of the "or', of course, contains the seeds of its own destruction.  As man developes more and more specialties, he developes tools, and now robots and computers, that will one day render the division of labor a nullity.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Agriculture; means to an end

So what was the impact of agriculture upon the "and" in human relations?  Well, for one, it separated people, in the same way it separated plots of land.  Fences were built.  People were expected to stay clear of each other's property.  Whereas, the men and women of hunter gatherer societies functioned in a cooperative relations, where men would work together while hunting, and tribes would gather around the campfire, agriculture gave rise to competitive relationships. Thus, we can say that the development of agriculture resulted in the augmentation of the "or", without any substantial benefit to the "and".  To some extent, the "or" largely drained and stretched the "and", as will be described below.

 Property arguably became the prism through which family members were viewed.  It has been speculated by some that in certain "primitive" socieities, men and women were not fully conscious of the fact that the sexual act was responsible for procreation.  Clelarly, agriculture, specifically the breeding of animals, dispelled any doubt in this regard.  It is thought that prior to the advent of agriculture, socieities were largely matriarchal, and children would remain part of the mother's clan.  The awareness of the man's role in reproduction also bred the realization that a man's children were his.  And since everyone knows how labor intensive agriculture is, the children, and the wife were needed to work the property.  Thus, and to assure that the children in a household were truly the husband's, the wife and children came be be seen as property rather than as partners.

To a very limited extent, the "and" benefited, as agricultural socieity made room for more people, and more relationships. Since people were no longer hunter gatherers, there was a need for more stable structures.  Which meant more builders, more tools, and more advanced tools.  And a need for people who would perform services for those who worked the land; more trades, a division of labor.  This division of labor, of course, also strengthened the "or".  To the extent these socieities included more  T people, and a greater web of relationships, the "and" benefited.  But these relationships were by and large superficial, based solely upon commerce or citizenship.

With the division of labor, and the creation of new tools,  man's relationship to nature became even more attenuated, as his relationship became focused on extracting a tool, or a garment from nature.  Nature, again, was simply a means to an end. When we work with tools, we do not focus on their shape, smell, beauty etc.  Rather, as Heidegger said, they are experienced as simply "ready at hand".  Thus, over the years, as people became lost in their activities, their relationship with nature suffered.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

even more on agriculture

Agriculture changed our relationship with the land, and with each other, on several other levels.  For one, it accelerated the development of the concept of private property.   Thus, land became valued more as a means to an end rather than as an entity in itself. No longer did man worship the forest and its mystery. Rather, it simply became a means for growing food.  This is analogous to the contrast between a genuine loving relationship, in which one loves the whole person, and a purely sexual relationship, in which the other merely a means to a temporary sexual satisifaction.   Thus, the "and" between man and nature was weakened.   Similarly, much like some sexual relationships, it acquired an addictive quality.  For as population grows, the farmer is contantly seeking ways to increase crop yeilds.  As we've already said, farming in itself largely results in a decrease in biodersity.  And it can't be said that even the healthiest soil on a farm is as healthy as the soil in a peat forest.  Nonetheless, during the earlier days of agriculture, it was possible to increase crop yeilds to adequate levels without harming the soil.  However, as with the case of a sex addict, the increase in crop yeilds was never enough, and now the use of artificial fertizilers has been deemed necessary.  And there does not appear to be any genuine dispute that the overuse of said fertizers damages the long term health of the soil.   Thus, the "and" between man and nature has been weakened both on a psychological level and a more concrete level.
As noted above, the development of agriculture accelerated the development of the concept of property.  In such a case, the earth is no longer one with me, but is something which, or at least something some of which, is mine.   Thus, the relationship between man and nature becomes attenuated on yet another level.  Finally, property is finite.  And we all want property.  Thus, at some point, it becomes necessary to divide land into separate lots.  Thus, when viewing the land itself, the "and", or the connectedness of the entire forest and nature itself, is further dissipated, and on a superficial level, the "or" is strengthened in the guise of separate lots of property.  As we've already said, in reality, the biodversity of the "or" is being destroyed.
Agriculture's affect on social relationships will be discussed in our next post.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Connectedness in nature ("the and")

Of course, the world of nature is a world of connectedness. Soil (along with sunlight and water) nurtures plants and trees, animals eat plants and each other, their droppings in turn nurture the soil, and in death they further nurture the soil and the bacteria that reside there.  In that small way, we continue to live after death, continuing to nurture and participate in the process of life.  Similarly, in a manner of speaking, our current place in the world is simply a continuation of evolutionary processes that began millions of years ago, beginning with the birth of single celled creatures, and continuing through the development of intelligent animals, our parents and voila.  We are simply participants in something that began long long ago and will continue long after we are gone.  In that very limited sense,  the Indian belief in reincarnation can be said to have a scientific basis.
In sum, we are connected, both physically and temporally, to the world around us, to the world that was and the world that will be.  The "and" is ever present in all its glory.
The process of analytical thinking consists, in large part, in breaking things down into their component parts and examining these components.   Thus, analytical thinking, and possibly all thinking, involves a destruction of the connectedness that exists in nature.   We destroy them so we can see them.  As the most wonderful part of being human is having the ability to see.  In school, unfortunately, it is easy to lose sight of this big picture. It takes a great teacher to bring it into focus.

More on agriculture

  Thus, man is the only sentient being that engages in agriculture, and agriculture necessarily involves the destruction of some species to favor others.  As earlier noted, animals and plants constantly work together.  Sometimes they will destroy each other for food, but none besides man will destroy other species solely to make way for a favored plant or animal, as the farmer does when he clears fields, or the gardener does when he pulls weeds.   Thus, in agriculture, man has attempted to usurp the natural design of the world, and to remake it in the design he favored.  The agricultural act is an attempt to redesign the world, or to play the role of God.
  In sum, the destruction of the diversity found in nature (the "or") had its roots not in the industrial revolution or some other modern event but in the development of of agriculture some 15,000 years ago.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ideas on love in the context of the "and" and the "or"

Interesting piece today by Jonathan Franzen in the Times.  If, like most politicians, you are consumed by a desire to be liked, rather than be loved, you change your behavior in an attempt to meet the expectations of those you wish to be liked by. (dangling part?) Since you are not true to your core self, you lose any sense of self, or your "orness".  And in your attempts, usually successful, to manipulate the feelings of those you wish to be liked by, you develop contempt for them.  This behavior, paradoxically, leads to a diminution of both the "and" (your bond with others) and the "or".  If, on the other hand, you become involved in a loving relationship, all of you, both the good and the bad, is on display.  Your sense of self, the "or", is strengthened, as is the "and", as you view the loved one as more than one who can be manipulated.  You love the whole person, every inch of him or her.  Both the "or" and the "and" are actualized.  Not that I would know anything about that.

Evolution again

Biologist will remind you that the study of evolution is not just the study of competition between species, but the study of cooperation.  Thus, the "and" is always at work in evolutionary development.  It is thought be some that multi-celled creatures evolved from single celled creatures when single celled creatures huddled together, possibly to hide from predators or for protection.  There were obviously various types of atomic bonding involved here.   However, they began to act as multicelled units, and different sets of cells divided the labor between them.  Thus, to a certain extent, the single celled units sacrificed their autonomy in order to survive.  It can be said that through the "and", the "or" sacrificed itself.  However, the eventual result was greater diversity, as we have already seen that units of limited types (say 20 types of amino acids) are combined through the "and" into various sets of combinations, the diversity is infinite.  Thus, the "or" was ingeniously farsighted, temporarily sacrificing itself for its own benefit, or rather that of its decendants.
As earlier noted, the "and" is constantly at work throughout nature.  Bees pollinate flowers.  Birds eat berries, defecating their seeds. Alliances abound.  And yes of course humans domesticate plants and animals, trying to choose winners and losers.  As Michael Pollan points out, prior to the advent of factory farming, this may have worked to the benefit of the animals being domesticated, who were given food and shelter.  Of course, the human act of domestication is also, in several ways a destructive act.  Farmers, and gardeners for that matter, eradicate weeds.  Farmers, in the act of clearing land for their farms, clear millions of other species vying for a place in the world.  The act of domestication inevitably involves the destruction of the "or" for the benefit of the "and", in contrast to the relatively voluntary act of self sacrifice that occurred when single celled animals evolved into multi-celled creatures, the human destruction of the "or" has had disastrous consequences...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

agriculture et al

We have explained how, in reproduction, the power of the "and" is utilized to the benefit of the "or".  The  "and" temporarily bonds two individuals, a male and a female, to create a third. And this third is different from the two from which it came as he or she has inherited a combination of genes coming from the two parents, to the benefit of the "or."
However, humans appear to the the only species to appropriate the "and" found in nature in order to replicate other species, whether they be plants or animals.  More recently, they have been utilizing the power of the "and" found in nature to create proteins and vaccines through biotechnology.  They may insert the genes that make the proteins into e-coli bacteria and use the power of the "and" to breed the bacteria.  The act of inserting the genes, or splicing genes or plasmids together is a purely human exercise of the "and", which is followed by harnessing the "and" found in nature, allowing the bacteria to reproduce.  A similar harnessing of the "and" is involved in the production of vaccine.
In any event, by harnessing the power of the "and" found in nature, man has undoubtedly benefited himself in the short run.  But the result of factory farming and the monopolistic use of genetically modified crops has been less biodiversity.   In other words, by appropriating the power of the "and" found in nature, and using that power to breed animals, plants et. al, man has diminished the "or".  The "and" and the "or" are out of balance.  And that cannot be good for the planet.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


It must be said, though, that the appropriation of fire was not, in itself, the creation of a tool. It is possible that the first use of fire involved the repeated use of hot embers, from fires that had occurred naturally.  Nonetheless, it is clear that the "and" had its hand in the lighting of subsequent fires, as wood would be added to these hot embers.  And the more sophisticated creation of fire that followed, from the combination of flint and steel, was a human invention in the strictest sense. It required the combination of things that did not naturally occur in nature.  In this, as in other tools, described in the last post, we see the application of the "and" to create new things, or to increase the diversity of the "or".  And fire was an important social tool.  In all primitive cultures, tribes would gather around the fire, to cook food or partake of its warmth.  Thus, fire was a crucial element of social cohesion.  Thus, we see the beginnings of another "and/or" cycle.  The combination of elements (flint and steel, embers and additional wood) leads to additional tools, or the perpetuation of the "or".  The perpetuation of the "or" creates additional social cohesion, perpetuating the "and".  This, in turn, perpetuated the development of language skills and more sophisticated brains, which were capable of developing new tools.  It can be said that all tools involve the social perpetuation of the "and", as all tools are meant to be used by other people, or to make life easier for the whole group.
At the same time, the development of tools led to more specialization, or a greater division of labor, in other words, the perpetuation of the "or".  And in the end, it led to less social cohesion, as smaller and smaller groups of people, families, single people, were now able to get by on their own.  And we have already seen that the perpetuation of the synthetic "or", led to the destruction of nonhuman species, or the destruction of the natural "or".  Cycles, cycles.


So, what of the use of invention?  For humans are to a large extent distinguished from other animals in their ability to use tools.  To be sure, some monkeys strip the bark from sticks and dip them into ant or termite nests, and otters use stones to crack shells.  But the human use of tools involves a change of form not present in that of other species.  A stick is still a stick, and sticks are often stripped of their bark naturally. Human tools involve a change of form not found in nature.  Their departure from nature has become more and more progressed as man has advanced over the years.  First we had wooden spears, probably not extraordinarily different from sticks found in nature.  Rocks were chipped or broken, but rocks are chipped and broken in the course of natural events.  But tools, over the years, have become less and less natural.  We can say that by creating new forms, adding to the forms that already exist, man has, to a large extent, sought to appropriate the individuation of the "or", to play the role of God.  Most tool making involves putting things together in ways not found in nature, whether metal, stones, wood and twine (bows and arrows), gasoline and numerous metal, rubber and plastic parts (cars and trucks), or the combination of entirely new molecules (plastics, various medications).  Thus, in a way not too dissimilar to that found in nature (which we have discussed in earlier posts) man has appropriated the "and", gathering things together, to increase the diversity of the "or".  Of course, what has happened over the years, is that as he has increased the diversity of a synthetic "or", he has decreased that of the natural "or" but destroying forests and causing the extinction of thousands of species.  The pace of human invention has increased exponentially during our lifetimes.  So has the death of the planet.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Maintaining a healthy "or"

It has long been known that the ability to adapt, to seemingly assume more than one identity, or the maintenance of a healthy "or" is necessary for a healthy existence on various levels.  On a cellular level, we see this accomplished in numerous ways.
We saw in an earlier post how diversity can result from relative simplicity by simply changing the sequence of various pieces  (i.e ABC can be changed to ACB and the like).  The cell can seemingly change the order of certain genes when the situation calls for it.  For example, when a certain gene needs to be deactivated, a flippase gene can make an enzyme which inverts the order of genes.  The flippase gene can then seemingly be inserted between the gene that needs to be deactivated and that genes promoter.
Some types of adaptation do not involve a change in the order of genes but simply the temporary movement of sections of DNA.  For example, "repressors", which normally repress a gene which may encode the sequence for an enzyme which digests a certain type of molecule, can themselves seemingly jump away from the DNA when they (the repressors) need to be deactivated.   Thus, a repressor for a gene encoding the enzyme that digests lactose will, in the presence of lactose, seem to jump away from the DNA sequence and cling to the lactose molecule.  This allows the RNA polymerase to slip through, read the DNA, produce messenger RNA and thus begin the sequence of enzyme production (amino acids bind to transfer RNA, and ribosomes then assemble the enzymes out of the amino acids.)
The diversity of the "or"  is necessary for, and expresses itself in the production of antibodies.  According to Gonnick, certain cells have toolkits containing hundreds of pieces of DNA.  When a foreign invader, such as the cold I am getting over, rears its ugly head, the cell can assemble the pieces of DNA in millions of ways to make the appropriate antibody.  Thus, we have yet another example of the "or" taking advantage of the "and" to make millions of different things from a few hundred pieces.
Humans have recently begun to appropriate the "or" to splice together different genes, also known as recombinant DNA technology.  Of course, the human mind has always sought to appropriate the diversity of the "or" to make things that don't exist in nature.   Whether they can truly appropriate something that they don't own, and the effect of these efforts will require another post.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mitosos and meiosis: the "and" and "or" in action

We see the "and" and the "or" at work in the process of both mitosis and meiosis.

Firstly, it might be worth noting that the "and" places a limit, not significant, the the degree of diversity that may appear through the imposition of rules.  Among these rules is that the nucleotide base "C" may only pair with "G" and the base "A" may only pair with "T".   DNA, as we know, consists of sequences of these pairs, millions or billions of pairs long.

In mitosis, each member of the pair, in essence, pulls away from each other.  In this pulling away and differentiation, we see an expression of the "or".  However, at the same time each base is pulling away from its partner, it is pairing up with another base, its complementary base, which is essentially the same base as its former partner.  Thus, with regard to the pair "CG", the "C" will pull away from its partner, "G" (the or), but partner with another G (the "and" in action).  Similarly, the "G" in the original pair pulls away from its initial partner (a "C") and will pair up with another "C" (the "and" in action once again.)  The new sequences of pairs fold around each other just as the old sequences.  Thus, in the creation of new sets of DNA, (and new cells which we won't describe), we see a predominance of the "and".

In the process of meiosis, gametes, which as I understand are eggs and sperm, are formed.  Each gamete, a single celled creature,  has half the number of chromosomes that the mother and father had.  In meiosis, as I understand, through a similar interaction of the "and" and "or" to that which occurs in mitosis, the chromosomes double and thicken. Then each pair of chromosones pair up with an essentially identical pair of chromosomes, called a homologous pair.  Then these cells are divided or pulled part into new cells not once but twice.   Thus, we see the operation of the "or" on two occasions.  A total of four gametes are made, each with half the number of chromosomes of the original cell.  Thus, in meioses, we see the predominance of the "or".

Of course, in sexual reproduction, two gametes come together to make a new cell with the original number of chromosomes, only a new assortment.  Thus, though in meiosis we see the predominance of the "or", in the combination of of gametes, we see a victory of both the "and" and the "or", in the form of greater diversity.  After the new cell is formed, it repeatedly reproduces, and the new cells are differentiated according to function (i.e. skin cells, blood cells etc.)  At this point we see an explosion of both the "and" and the "or", not dissimilar to that which took place at the time of the big bang.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More on the "and" and the "or" at a cellular level

From our last post, we see how the repetition of relatively few elements into various sequences can result in incredible diversity.  The study of cellular DNA also reveals that cells have various lengthy sequences of nucleotide bases, and these sequences repeat themselves thousands of times.  It is not currently known what funcion, if any, these sequences have.   However, it is known that the "or" limits the degree of repetition somewhat when transcribing DNA to make proteins.   Apparently, after messenger RNA is formed, before it can be read, spliceasomes splice up this RNA, cutting out various portions thereof and then putting it back together.   T-RNA then attaches itself to this mRNA, and to the end of this t-rna, an amino acid is attached.  It seems that these amino acids are able to slip outside the nucleus of the cell, and a ribosme takes these amino acids and constructs a protein.  Why all these steps are necessary is not clear. It is possible that some of the useless DNA was deposited by viruses.  Retroviruses themselves take advantage of the "and" to replicate and insert their DNA into chromosomes.   The "or", namely the transcription process, then splices away some of these sequences, or so it seems.

While the "or" takes advantage of the repetition of the "and" to create diversity, in the form of thousands of genes, proteins, enzymes and the like, the "and" also prospers when cells reproduce.  We see the "and"'s expressions on a macro level when we note that virtually every cell has the same DNA, the same endless sequences of nucleotide bases.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Through the creation of life, the "and" imposed order upon the chaos of the "or".  This earth was was set upon by swirling clouds of poisonous gas, and violent streams of boiling plasma erupting without provocation.  According to one theory, somewhere, some of this much hardened into a lipid like substance, shielding the chemicals inside from the fury of the world, and within these lipids the chemical reactions necessary for the existence of life began to take hold.  The order imposed by the "or" was initially tyrannical.  Diversity was an afterthought.  Somewhere along the line, these single celled creatures discovered chlorophyl, which they used to convert water, carbon dioxide and sunlight (which is energy), into food. These algae conquered the earth.  But they made the mistake of emitting oxygen.  And this oxygen made the earth a more hospital place for animals like us, in part by converting methane and ammonia to carbon dioxide and nitrogen.  The "and" had vanquished the chaos of the unrestrained "or" by itself becoming a tyrant, something that happens all to often in the human world.   However, by creating the prosperity of an oxygen rich environment, the "and" created the conditions for the "or" to assume its rightful place.  Creatures that breathed oxygen and ate algae were formed, and later creatures that ate these creatures came into being.   The diversity of the "or" began to take hold.

Friday, April 29, 2011

At the beginning

It is commonly believed that the universe began with the big bang.  And prior to the big bang, the multiplicity of the "and" and the "or" did not exist.   Rather, the universe grew out of one infinitely small, infinitely energetic super atom.  The various components of modern atoms, such as electrons, had not come into being.  Thus, the big bang grew out of the repression of the "and" and the "or".   But the "and" and the "or" would not be supressed.  Rather, multiplicity exploded, and expressed itself at an exponential rate over the first billion or so years of the universe. Hydrogen and helium were supposedly the first elements to be formed, but more soon followed.  Gases coalesced into clusters of stars, and in these stellar furnaces, heavier elements were formed, and after the first stars grew old, they exploded into supernovas, which formed even heavier elements.
  There is a desire to reduce the universe to one element, to one fundamental thing that underlies all things.  But this desire to completely repress the "or" fails.  We find more and and more types of subatomic particles. (I've read that the number is now around 200.)  Some physicists and mathematicians have attempted to overcome the "or" through the development of string theory, which holds that everything is reducible to pulsating strings.  But these attempts are bound to fail, for the "or" is real, and it pervades all matter and all thought.
   While the number of elements is said to be relatively small, the diversity of matter is not.  How does the "or" prevail?  The finite number of elements find a way to combine into a seemingly infinite number of molecules, both organic and inorganic.  Genes, similarly, seem reducible at first to to sugary strings of four bases, C (cytosine), G (guanine), A (adenine) and T (thymine). On each strand of DNA, these bases are repeated in various sequences millions of times .  in the case of genes, the "or" uses the repetition of the "and", to form thousands, hundreds of thousands, or more genes out of these four bases.  And from "reading" these sequences of C, G, A and T, the cell creates 20 or so amino acids, still a seemingly small number.  But once again, the "or" takes advantage of the repetition of the "and", to find a seemingly infinite number of ways to combine these 20 amino acids to form an even greater number of proteins and enzymes which in turn break up and put together an even greater number of organic molecules.
    While all organic matter appears to be reducible to six elements (hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfer, carbon, oxygen and phospherous), the "or" once again use the repetition of the "and" to create thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of types of organic molecules.
      The lesson?  The "or" is not to be repressed.  It uses the repetition of the "and" to create millions of different things.
      To see how this works on a logical level, assume there are four elements: a, b, c and d.  And assume there are one million "a"s, one million "b"s and so on.  The "or" can use the repetition of the "and" to form millions of distinct (different) sets of various sizes.  One set may be "aaab".  Another may be "abbbbdc" etc.
    Thus, we can say that the "or" uses the repetition of the "and" to propagate its own existence.   More than that...the "or" thrives on the repetition of the "and".  The two love each other.  A wonderful marriage.   We begin to see, through set theory, how diversity can spring from the lack thereof.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The inverse law of matter/Survival of the smallest

When dealing with units of matter, it seems, there appears to be an inverse relationship between the size of the unit and its abundance.  For example, there are more electrons than atoms, more atoms than molecules, more molecules than solar systems, more stars than galaxies, more galaxies than universes.  Now, we are only dealing with categories, not specific named entities.  For example, there is only one Peter Margolies, a specific named entity.   There may also be exceptions to this rule.  For example, there may be some subatomic particles that are very rare.  However, for the most part, the rule appears to hold...It is easy to see, mathematically, why this law would hold, at least where larger units of matter are composed of smaller units of matter.  Molecules, for example are composed for several atoms.  Thus, if M stands for molecules, and A stands for atoms, M + XA where X is greater than one.  Thus, there must be X times as many atoms as molecules.  The planet earth is composed of trillions and trillions of molecules, and thus X trillions and trillions of atoms.  As for survival of the smallest, it is clearly easier to break a clump of molecules, say a glass jar, than the molecules themselves, and even more difficult to destroy the atom.  Which is not to say it is impossible, take nuclear fission or fusion.
As for living things, the inverse relationship between size and number usually holds?  Why you might ask? Because big things generally eat smaller things.  And thus smaller things have to reproduce at a greater rate to avoid extinction.  Thus, if a cow needs to eat one billion blades of grass per month to stay alive, each blade must reproduce at a rate greater than a billion per month if the grass is to avoid extinction.  Granted, individual blades don't reproduce on their own, and factory farmed cows are generally fed a diet of corn for most of their lives, but you know what I mean. If a cats must eat 20 mice per year to survive, mice must reproduce at a greater rate than cats to remain on this earth.  Once again, we feed most cats factory farmed chicken, corn and other animal byproducts, but you know what I mean.   Of course, there are countless exceptions to this general rule, many caused by the hubris of the human race. We have pushed many animals smaller than us to the brink of extinction.  However, it is usually harder to kill a germ, which we can't see, than a chicken.  There is lysol, which kills germs, but it took thousands of years for humans to evolve to the point that they could produce lysol.  It is generally agreed that life evolved from tiny single celled or multicelled creatures, and such creatures have been found surviving in high pressure or extraordinarily hot conditions that would melt the hardiest among us. It appears reasonable to conclude that bacteria would be the last to perish due to a cataclysmic event, such as a meteor impact.  As for atoms, it is generally agreed that most survive in tact for billions of years.  The heavier atoms are "cooked" stars.  It is indeed quite fascinating that all that we touch and see comes from stars, and if we could trace the life of a given atom through the eons, it would be quite an adventure.  Too bad they don't realize what wonderful existences they lead.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Societal extremes

It would seem that on a societal level, some kind of balance between the "and" and the "or" is most conducive to the public good.   An extreme manifestation of the "and", to the exclusion of the "or", was evident in Soviet society.  There, the selfish individualism of capitalism was decried as all supposedly labored for the common good.  Of course, it is part of the human condition that every man (and woman) wishes to excel, to stand out, whether materially or otherwise.  The wish to excel, whether it is through gaining material wishes, being a good wife, winning the approval of one's peers, is part of the human condition.  Thus, the "or" cannot be suppressed, even in a collective society.  In Soviet society, one of its few outlets was through rising within the communist party.   However, as we have all seen, the suppression of the "or" resulted in a listless impoverished society, not only in the Soviet Union, but throughout much of Eastern Europe. And the attempted suppression of individual motivation instead resulted in individual anger, in the form of anger towards the state.  For in the end, the "or" could not be suppressed, and there were few if any individuals ready to defend the state.  Thus, suprisingly, "communism" died a peaceful death.
The other extreme appears to be the Ayn Rand selfish individualism described by Maureen Dowd in her column today.  There, the "or" is predominant, or at least appears to be, as every man is out for himself, feeling no responsibility for the welfare of his fellow human beings. But the "and" cannot be suppressed.   For in order to rise above others, one must observe what others are doing.  And when one observes a peer making a killing in the stock market, for example, the selfish one decides he wants a piece of the action.  This kind of herd mentality, as Keynes observed, is part of the human condition, and leads to the creation of bubbles and the eventual impoverishment, at least on a material level, of society.  The bubbles burst, investors and the millions captivated by their magic lose their wealth, and a new ethos, a crying out for social responsibility, for a curbing of man's hedonistic impulses, briefly captures the day.  Thus, the predominance of the "or", like that of the "and", collapses under its own weight.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Some more thoughts on numbers

We have already seen how quantity, the "&" and the "or", is a precondition for the existence of mathematical operations.  But quantity, multiplicity, is a vague concept.  Many things exist, but how many? And how do you define a thing? Is it a molecule, an atom, a subatomic particle etc.?  No doubt the act of defining "a thing" determines the quantity, and how we define a thing is up to us.  And according to logical atomism, we define things by assigning names to objects.  It is thus clear that language, the ability to map names to objects, is a precondition for the counting of objects, and mathematical operations in general. And mathematics, the manipulation of numbers, involves one additional marvelous operation.  That of abstraction.   No longer is it necessary to think of an object or a group of objects linked to a name.  The number nine, for instance, may have been born by the act of counting of nine cats.  However, when performing the operation "9 + 3" it is no longer necessary to attach cats to the number nine.  And the result of that operation, "9 + 3" is the same whether we are talking about cats, hedge hogs or asterisks. Thus, the number 9 can be mapped to trillions of different things, so long as we are talking about nine of them.  And the results of these operations appear to be the same throughout the universe.  Thus, numbers themselves appear to have been born by the mapping of names to objects, and the subsequent abstraction of these objects.  And the mapping of names to objects requires reasonably sophisticated linguistic abilities, abilities that only humans seem to possess (though there are probably life forms in other parts of the universe that have such abilities.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Healthy thought

Thinking, of course, depends on language.  For human thought, to a large extent, consists of speaking to oneself.   Man is a social animal, and when others are not available (and sometimes when they are available) he creates an externalized other, to whom he speaks (or thinks). In that limited sense, thinking requires multiplicity, or the creation of one other.
But, returning to the relationship between thought and language, healthy thought, and to a large extent mental health.  As is the case with clear expository writing, healthy thinking requires a diversity of thought (the or), but a certain connectivity between thoughts (the and). Disjointed thinking can take the form of mania.  However, a lack of sufficient diversity of thought, or thinking one thing over and over again, takes the form of obsessive thinking, something I know quite well.  Thus, mania is a predominance of the "or" while obsession is the predominance of the "and".  Or at least that's a start.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


And it would seem that human language itself presupposes multiplicity, or at least multiple words.  And by multiple words, I mean words that are different from each other.  You can't form a sentence by stringing together multiple copies of the same word. "Hat hat hat hat hat" is not a sentence.  It would seem that at a minimum we need a noun and a verb, as in "I run."  Maybe not.  Is that a sentence?  Is the command, "Run!" a sentence? Or are we dealing with semantics here?
In any event, I believe we can say that effective language requires multiple words.  And that may be what distinguishes human language from that of animals.  Generally, when I hear one of my pets vocalizing, he or she seems to be stringing together multiple copies of the same word.  When we speak, we string together different words, and when we do so, we do so according to grammatical rules that vary from language to language.  
However, the stringing together of different words appears to be a prerequisite.  Thus, we see the "and" and "or" at work here once again.  The "or" is at work in the differentiation between different words, the fact that they must be different in order to form a sentence.  The "and" is at work in the sense that these words must work together or cooperate in order to form a sentence.
And effective writing requires a high degree of connectivity between different sentences.  Sentences that do not relate to each other are disjointed, and disjointed writing is difficult to absorb.  This cooperation must be at work on a macro level as well.  Paragraphs should be connected by transitions.  If you are writing an essay or a legal brief, you will generally establish a road map exhibiting your plan, your ideas and the connection between them, and you will then seek to expand upon upon them.  A book may have a table of contents, and a preface or introduction telling a reader what to expect.  It will have a high degree of cohesiveness.
Thus, effective expository writing, like everything else, requires a balance between the "and", this cohesiveness and connectivity, and the "or", the use of different words.  If the "and" is overdone, the writing becomes repetitive, and the reader loses patience.
In creative writing or poetry, the writer may test these linguistic boundaries.  A novelist may play with the temporal order we are accustomed to.  He may attempt to surprise the reader with sentences, words or paragraphs that come out of the blue, or a novel and wonderful use of words.
A poet, on the other hand, may not even follow the rules of grammar.  Different lines, stanzas and images may appear disconnected.  It is left to the reader to connect these disparate elements, or just to experience them, and this effort will hopefully prove enriching.
Thus, expository writing requires a greater use of the "and".  Creative writing relies more heavily on the "or" and leaves it to the reader to supply the "and.
Thus, effective expository writing