Thursday, March 31, 2011

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

So we can start to assign various elements in the world around us various levels of ontological reality.  At the top, in terms of ontological status, have to be what Aristotle called substance; the stuff the makes up the universe, and "andness" and "orness".  As noted earlier, the "and" and the "or" is what makes multiplicity possible.   When you have multiplicity, various things, it becomes possible to combine them, through the "and" or separate them, through the "or".   Combining, through the "and" is the foundation of the mathematical operation of addition.   And addition, as is commonly known, is the foundation of multiplication.  The "or", on the other hand, serves as the foundation for the mathematical operation of subtraction.  And subtraction, as is only slightly less obvious, serves as the basis for division.   For example, 42 divided by 7 is essentially asking how many times can I subtract 7 from 42?  The answer, of course is 6.
Virtually all activities, both of humanity and the universe, involve the "and" and the "or".  For example, conquest can be defined as adding land to the terrain you currently occupy.  Eating involves adding food to your body.  Defecation involves separating waste products from your body.  Similar combinations and separations can be described in the acts of making love.  Certainly all commerce involves combinations or additions and separations.  Virtually all social activity, whether it is getting together with family, speaking or listening in some way involves these elements.   Finally, virtually all physical and chemical reactions involve combination or separation.  When different atoms combine (through various types of atomic bonds, such as covalent bonds etc) the "and" is involved.  The four forces at work: gravity, electromagnetic, strong and weak all involve the and and or.  Gravitational attraction involves two bodies, and this attraction increases exponentially the closer the bodies are to each other.  The strong force which holds the nucleus of the atom together, and the weak force, through which portions of the nucleus disintegrates, can be said to involve a fundamental tension between the "and" and the "or".  Of course, planet formation, which is said to involve massive amounts of dust swirling around a sun, until the dust hardens into a planet, of course involves the "and".  Nuclear fission and nuclear fusion both involve various combinations and juxtapositions of the "and" and the "or".   In fission, if I recall correctly, neutrons are shot into the nucleus of an atom, thereby dividing it and releasing more neutrons; addition and subtraction.  Nuclear fusion, which takes place in suns, involves the combination and compression of various elements, which causes energy to be released, or separated or subtracted.  Virtually all energy, when generated, causes atoms and molecules to move, to smash together and bounce off each other.  Sound results in, or is, the disturbance of molecules which bounce off the ear drum, if I am correct.  The "and" the "or" is all around us, all the time.
The universe is continually so vibrant on so many levels.  There are continually radio waves all around us, which we can only pick up with a receiver tuned in to the correct frequencies.
And yet we sleep.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On orness

And now we must move to the equally important word "or".  Like its compatriot "and" it implies multiplicity.  Because "or", like "and" is a separator. "A or B" can roughly be translated to "A (but not B)" or "B (but not A)".  Similarly, "A or B or C" translates into "A (but not B and not C)" or "B (but not A and not C)" or "C (but not A and not B").   Thus, unlike "and", "or" carries with itself a multiplicity of possibilities.  It further carries uncertainty.  It implies that there is something, we have an idea of what it is, but we are not sure.  While "and" involves harmony, "or" produces disharmony and tension.  When we say "A or B", we are, in effect saying that A and B cannot be together.  It has to be one or the other.  Finally, like "and", "or" makes possible the existence of many things.   Consider a world without these crucial separators.  All would be jumbled together.  Multiple elements "A", "B" and "C" would be just one element, "ABC" (or ACB or BAC or BCA or CBA or CAB).   A world without "or" would be a world devoid of multiple possibilities.   And a world without possibilities is a world without freedom.  Let "A" and "B" constitute different states of being in the world.   For example, let A be a happy and healthy mode of being, and B be an unhealthy and unhappy mode of being.  If A and B are both available future possibilities, but I must be one or the other, there exists the possibility that I am free to shape my own destiny.  But if they are not future possibilities, or there is only one possibility available to me, I am not free to shape my own destiny.   Thus, "orness" and "andness" in addition to constituting the foundation of a universe with multiple objects, are the foundation for human freedom.  How important.  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On the "and"

                                              On Andness
The inspiration for this paper came from some cogitation regarding the three relational terms in the English language, "and, or and but"  This particular essay will be about "and" and its significance.  I will title the subject "andism".  I'll also write about "orism" and "butism". Once these essays are done, we should know much about our wonderful English language and ourselves.

We can start off from the logical atomist premise that the world is composed of "objects." which can be people, things, animals, substances, molecules etc.  These objects have various relationships with each other. Andism, orism and butism fundamentally describe these relationships.

To understand these relationships, it will occasionally be useful to use symbols. Thus, we can briefly contrast (A & B) to (A or B).   We can take it further, (A & B & C) versus (A or B or C).  The use of "or" rather than "and" results in considerably more ambiguity in the last example.  With  (A & B & C) we have only one result: A & B & C. With the use of the word "or", on the other hand, we have three different possible results.   Thus, with "and" there is a great deal more certainty, a more definitive outcome.

Let's look at (A & B & C) a little more.  Since we are using three different names, A, B and C, we are assuming they stand for three different objects.  Thus, the use of the word "and" unifies different objects.  It allows them to maintain their separateness while unifying them.   And this describes, to a large extent, what we often do in various contexts.  For instance, with a sports team, we group together various individual players.   This would not be possible without the use of the word "and".  When we make things, we group things together.  For instance, when we make a chair, we gather wood, and group together its legs, seat, backrest and armrest in a certain way.  Making virtually anything involves a gathering together of molecules of a certain kind and eventually combining them in a certain way.  Again, none of this would be possible without the word "and".   Thus, atoms combine into molecules, which we in turn gather together to make things.  These things are gathered together to make larger units.  Chairs, other furniture,  a ceiling and floor make up a room, and a number of different rooms make an apartment.  (Kitchen & livingroom & bathroom and bedroom = apartment.)  Apartments are gathered together into a building, which are in turn gathered together into a city block, which are gathered together to make neighborhoods, gathered together to make cities (or towns) which are gathered together to make states.  We then get countries, the world. Planets and suns gathered into solar systems which are gathered together into galaxies.  All this gathering together of different things, this "andness" underlies everything that is.  As long as there is more than one object in the universe, the "and" must exist.  Thus, the "and" underlies all.  It is an essential substance of all.

The same holds, of course, with regard to human relationships and societal relationships.  Could you have Jack and Jill without "and"? Or how about "Peter, Paul and Mary"? The "and" is a central component of all families, and a dysfunctional family can be said to be lacking in sufficient "andness".  A cohesive society has sufficient "andness".  A person who is isolated is in need of "andness".

Similar conclusions can of course be drawn for all living things.  The "and" is a central component of forests, which have numerous trees, plants and various creatures.  It is also a central component of colonies of ants and bees.

In sum, the universe is composed of objects. As long as there is more than one object, there is "andness".  The "and "  is a central component of the universe.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


What is truth?
Truth is the essence behind what people strive for when they believe and say they are right.  When two people, litigants, politicians or regular citizens argue over  which one of them is right, they are both claiming to have a lock on the truth, to be closer to the truth than the other side.  When a person really believes his or her version of reality, and tries to convince others that his or her reality is supreme, that person is motivated by his or her version of the truth, his or her version of what is right, what is best. The belief in the superiority of truth often motivates acts of kindness and charity.  However, it also motivates conflict, war and suffering. Similarly, the quest for  knowledge is a quest for truth.  Thus, truth is what motivates all learning, all conflict, all senses of righteousness, all that is good and a lot of what is bad.  
Thus, what is truth?  It is the essence underlying a great deal of human behavior.   It is an ideal. It may cause the pursuit of an illusory position.
But it also, at times, has an objective existence.   There are mathematical truths, which are knowable by logic, but need not have any objective existence out there.  Generally, there is no room for doubt as to the validity of these truths which are largely axiomatic.  Partly because of this, Platonists placed the value of these truths, and their pursuit, on a higher level than the pursuit of other types of truths.  There are scientific facts (and let us assume that there is a physical reality and that there are laws of nature, something that some philosophical skeptics were unwilling to do in the past.)  Of course, scientific models are always changing.  But it is generally agreed that these models continually edge closer to reality. Thus, there is a scientific and probably objective truth.  Aristotleans placed the pursuit of scientific truths on the highest level, probably higher than that of mathematical truths, because it is based on what is actually out there.  Thus, it has a more objective basis. There are value laden truths, which are less provable, or unprovable, such as different political or judicial philosophies, or different economic theories.  These do have an objective basis; they are based on certain objective facts.  However, the weight given to different facts differs according to the views held by the pursuer, whether he or she is a Marxist, monetarist, liberal, conservative etc.  Further we have literary truths.  These are based upon imaginary facts, memoirs aside. The imaginary facts are generally based upon the author's objective experience.  And from the imaginary facts, the author attempts to convey a message about how we experience the world.  If there is a hero or a protagonist, the author will attempt to convey an inspiring message about how we can and should experience the world. Then we have religious truths, which have the least basis in cold hard facts and are almost completely dependent upon how much weight the believer ascribes to them.
Thus we have mathematical: no doubt, abstract, not objective.
Scientific: some doubt, objective but a certain but ever decreasing portion of objective reality remains undiscovered
Economic, political sociological: Some objective basis but dependent upon the weight different facts are given by the individual.
Literary: Imaginary facts based upon writer's subjective experience of objective facts. Deeper meaning, inspirational. How we should live.  When a person reads, besides passing time, the reader is trying to experience the truth the writer hopes to convey.
Religious: Almost wholly dependent upon weight given to certain facts, inspirational. How we should live.
Musical: Based upon subjective synthesis of objective sounds. How I feel. Have the listener feel the way I feel.   
Thus, the pursuer or dabbler in each of these activities is motivated, in different ways, by the pursuit of truth.  It is important that I use the word dabbler, because at different times of the day we are engaging in many of these activities.
And all of us, all the time, when we argue or disagree about anything, are motivated by the pursuit of truth.
Thus, is truth a meaningless word, the problem underlying all philosophy, as a logical positivist would say?  Is it an illusion I (and others) am creating by synthesizing what I want to synthesize?  Is it one thing, or many things? Well, at least we can say it's one word.