Saturday, June 6, 2015

Andorian sketch of commerce and inequality

We will begin with a brief examination of what physically occurs when a financial transaction takes place.  We will suppose this exchange occurs at a hardware store, before the widespread use of credit and debit cards.  The customer takes a ball of string from the shelf, carries it over to the cashier, who we will assume is also the owner of the store, and hands over $3.40 so he can take ownership of the string.  The "and" and "or" are operative on a number of levels.  Without dissecting each movement in painstaking detail, we can say that the "or" is being actualized when the dollar bills and coins are separated from the purchaser, and the "and" is working in tandem with the "or" when the seller takes possession of them.  Similarly, the "or" and "and" are working in tandem when the seller relinquishes possession of the string, and the purchaser assumes ownership of it.   The employment relationship is a similar set of and/or transactions.  The purchaser or employer takes temporary possession of the seller (employee) or that part of the seller that has a service to offer and relinquishes funds in return.

Commerce in general is a web of such or/and transactions. Overall, although it generates some degree of conflict, it brings people together and forces them to engage, however superficially.  In its own limited way, it decreases isolation, resulting in a more cohesive society.  Seller and buyer become acquainted, maybe even friends,  Thus, I would argue that the "and" and "or" work in tandem to increase the cohesiveness of society and strengthen the "and".

We can also see the destructive effect that extreme inequality can have upon this cohesiveness, this web or fabric that holds us together.   For when wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, there are fewer transactions.  There will be dramatically fewer strands holding this web together.  It is possible that some of these strands, those spun by the few in whose hands wealth is concentrated, may seem powerful, but there is a great deal of space between these strands.  Fewer flies, or less nourishment can be absorbed from the surrounding environment.  The connections that can be built by those who are indigent are weaker.  The web can withstand fewer shocks.  Social unrest bubbles on the surface and financial calamity is a heartbeat away.

 It goes without saying that societies with a large middle class and less concentrated wealth are both more cohesive and more resilient. More can participate in the financial transactions that strengthen social bonds. The web is thick, more like a fabric.  More can take their friends out to dinner. More can develop relations with the business owner, restauranteur or real estate broker.  Since more money is spent (as it is well established that the very rich are more likely to save), more nourishment is imbibed from the environment that surrounds us.  Since wealth is distributed throughout, when financial calamity is experienced by a few, it is less likely to bring down society with it.     

In sum, society is healthiest when the and/or is functioning vigorously, when the and/or is diversified, and when the cohesion (and) that it thus creates is sufficient to withstand any conflict that inevitably when financial transactions do not proceed in accordance with expectations.   

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Everyday experience of time

Time is experienced linearly, and the "and" and the "or" appear to be operative in equal measure in our everyday experience of time from past to present to future.    That the "or" is at work seems beyond question.   For if that were not the case, and the present did not separate itself from the past, the present would be the past, and , time would either be frozen in the past, or it would jump from the past to the future with no present in between.  If I were frozen in the past, I would not be here now, typing this sentence.  Thus, direct experience is evidence that the "or" is operative in separating the present from the past.  Similarly, the "or" is at work in separating the future from the present.  If it were not, the future would be the present, and there would be no future.  We would be frozen in the present.  And clearly, again, I would not be typing this sentence and you would not be reading it. Of course, the "and" also expresses itself through the present, which connects the past to the future.  A number of similar arguments, moving backward in time, can also prove the existence of the "or".  If the present did not separate itself from the future, it would be the future, and since the future does not exist, and the past no longer exists, nothing would exist, not even Cartesian consciousness.  Experience tells us this is not the case.  And if the past did not, though the or, separate itself from the present, then there would be no past, and we would have sprung up out of nowhere and nothing, like magic. 

But I say the "and" is operative in equal measure.  For if the "or" predominated, there would be no connections between different events and between different periods in time.  I would be five years old one second, and 20 years old the next.  And biology tells us it is impossible to make the leap from childhood to adulthood without experiencing puberty in between. 

Thus, as is the case in so many other fields, the "and" and the "or" operate in equal balance when acting on everyday time.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Some thoughts on freedom

If you are not free to change, then you are not free.  Freedom, thus by necessity incorporates change.  But a rock can change.  It may be worn down by water or split in two by a harder rock.  And no one would say that a rock is free.  Thus, we can say that freedom presupposes life, and that freedom presupposes choice.  Thus, to be free you must be alive, be able to change, and be able to change because you choose to change.  The choosing to change can involve choosing to direct one's thoughts in a certain way, choosing to move somewhere or to do something or any combination thereof.  However, it seems clear that the change involves movement of some kind.  Directing one's thought towards certain things involves movement in a sense, as does moving itself.    And we have already said that movement is always towards something or away from something and that it involves the "and" and the "or".  Thus, freedom cannot exist without the "and" and the "or".  But a pebble moves when swept by a current, and a pebble can hardly be said to be free.  For a person to be free, he must be able to choose to direct himself, to move, in a certain way.   Thus, freedom would seem to involve being able to draw from one's own personal reservoir of the "and" and the "or" to determine his own relationship with other beings and ideas, drawing from the "and" as one sees fit and drawing from the "or" as one sees fit, choosing which to draw from and when.  This personal reservoir, I would posit, is always there, but when one is not free, one is not able to draw from it.  Something or someone or preventing one from accessing this reservoir.  And when this is the case, and "and" and the "or" are not actualized but only exist in potential form. In the same way that the conservation of energy provides that total energy, i.e. potential energy plus actual energy, doesn't change (potential energy and actual energy change proportionately to each other, but there total remains the same), I would say that the size of the "and"/"or" reservoir does not change.  The potential "and/or" and the actual "and/or" may change in proportion to each other but the total remains the same.  In other words, the potential to be free is always there, at least for humans.  There may be something blocking this potential, whether it be socioeconomic straits or mental illness, but the possibility that these obstacles can be removed, however remote, is always there.  And that is why freedom is something we can aspire to, and why not being free results in anger, frustration and often rebellion.  It is because the potential to be free is generally within view.  

This and/or reservoir such not be confused with a reservoir of possibilities.  Rather, it is the possibility of acting on these possibilities.    It is the reservoir of the "and" and the "or" that each person has which either exists in potential form or is actualized. 

It might be said that each of us has a personal and/or reservoir, but collectively, those within a collective, whether it be a state or a country, have a collective and/or reservoir.   And when they can't act collectively to decide their future, i.e. when the "and/or? reservoir exists only in its potential form, the seeds of rebellion are sowed. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Boundaries and Form

Thus, the "or" breaks boundaries, but it also sets boundaries, it separates one being, one form from another.  Thus, the "or" is largely responsible for the creation of form.  What adheres together and works together within form (the and), such as the organs of the human body, is also inseparable from form. The "and" holds form or shape together.  But we're talking about the "or" now, establishing boundaries as it tries to break them.  Like a man trying to conquer or expand his horizons in someway, or a philosopher  eating. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015


The "or" makes the two dimensional want to become three dimensional.  It makes straight lines jagged. It is responsible for thinking outside the box.   But the "and" is what keeps this thinking grounded.   It was what prevents creativity from becoming fantasy.  It is what connected the propositions that became the Theory of Relativity and put them into a logical sequence.  Thus, the "and" and the "or" must work in tandem for creative thought to become meaningful, for it to become anything more than manic ruminations. In sum, the "or" may be responsible for that initial burst, that escape from the confines of conventional thought, the severing of existing connections.  But as long as there is genuine creativity, the "and" is there, trying to keep it real.

(Of course, the "and" in one creative endeavor, say painting, may differ in character from the "and" in another, such as an innovative mathematical or scientific theory.  In the latter, the "and" may consist of logical connections, while in the former, it may consist of an idea, or in the case of a novel, a plot)


Saturday, January 3, 2015

More musings on language

Languages are collections of words, along with rules for combining them, that enable us to describe the world (in the broadest sense) to each other, and assist us in manipulating it.  If we took all the languages combined, we'd perhaps have hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of words.  The "and" and "or" gathers certain words and rules together, and separates them from other words and rules, thus forming separate languages.  OK, we know this is not how language is formed in empirical reality.  But the "and" and the "or" do play an important role both in the historical formation of language and its use. 

To the extent that geographical separation and human migration play a role in language, the "and" and "or" are present.   Groups of people gather together (the and) and, through migration, separate from other groups (the or), and different groups develop their own words and rules for combining them.  While the development of language may have an accidental or arbitrary quality, differences in language may aid the cohesiveness of (the and of) different groups, providing them with a sense of identity (the or), and also providing a means of protection.  If a member of a different group cannot understand your language, he or she cannot hurt you.  By requiring that person to learn your language, you co-opt him, set the terms for the relationship, forcing him or her to join the group on your terms.

Turning to the rules of different languages, or their grammar(s), we may say that the "or" is operative.  For the rules are largely restrictions on how words are to be combined.  Words may not be combined in certain ways.  Arguably, the "and" is also operative, as the rules may enable words to combined in certain ways, but I would argue that the "or" predominates.  These rules also help distinguish the speakers of a language from outsiders who have not mastered it, who often find themselves the object of ridicule for their inability to follow, or their lack of knowledge of, such rules.     

Moving somewhat deeper into the actual functioning of language, we can say that the "and" maps words to objects in the world.   In addition, a word itself functions as the "and", connecting objects to the user.  Or the "and" uses words and language to connect people to the world. The "or" is largely responsible for the diversity of words, for different words having different meanings and being connected to different objects.