Friday, October 28, 2011

An Inquiry into the meaning and truth: A Thought Experiment

According to Bertrand Russell (The Open Society and its Enemies: Vol II, Popper, K. ; 1945) there are three types of propositions, namely True, False and Meaningless or pseudo proposition. Now Popper (1945), if I understood him correctly, was against the idea of equating true proposition with proposition of natural science (Wittgenstein’s idea) as such a step would remove false hypothesis from the realm of science. And since we cannot know if a hypothesis is true or not, by definition, it becomes part of metaphysics and as such meaningless. Now let us take popper’s side and assume that there is a class of propositions (Y) which state that certain proposition, X, cannot be tested (i.e. proven or disproven). Now if (Y) is true then falsification theory cannot be applied to X but one can very well apply it to Y itself. Then Y becomes a testable hypothesis, which can be true false or meaningless.

Now we can construct a thought experiment, whereby we can state under what condition we can state Y is true or false. And so we can state if the result is Z1, then Y is true and if it is ‘not Z1’ then Y is false. Based on falsification paradigm, we should be looking for ‘not Z1’ and until we find it we can say Y is provisionally true. If the result is ‘not Z1’ then Y is false and X is indeed testable. If the result is Z1 then Y is provisionally true and X cannot be tested. But this in turn means X cannot be proven or disproven and therefore cannot be true or false and therefore is meaningless. Now what characteristic must ‘not Z1’ have is the important question, since upon it depend all outcomes; A proposition can be false in many ways and therefore Not Z1 includes all possible outcome other than Z1.

‘Not Z1’ implies X is testable; therefore if we can construct a hypothetical situation where we can state X is true or false then we have already proven Y is false (which is obvious). It seems the truth value of Y cannot be determined without trying to determine the truth value of X. If is either true or false then Y is false but if X is meaningless then Y is true. Thus if we fail to construct such a situation whereby we can state under this condition we can test X then Y is provisionally true and X is indeed meaningless.

Let us take the hypothetical proposition “the statement ‘there is a God’ cannot be tested’, where ‘there is a God’ is X. Create a thought experiment which can prove or disprove X or simply take the situation (to help you visualize): Under what condition would a theist believe there is no God or vice versa an Atheist would believe there is a God. I could not find any condition which could satisfy or answer this question. Therefore X is meaningless and Y is true. And since Y is true it is part of the totality of true propositions (Wittgenstein) while X is not. The result does seem a bit trivial, much ado about nothing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Interpretation of Dream

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
W.B. Yeats (1865–1939)

Interpreting poetry is not my fortes, far from it. For years I have tried to improve my poetry comprehension skill but I must confess to no avail. While I get some of them and may even appreciate a few, I have yet to really ‘feel’ something within me after reading one, until I read Yeat’s Dream; It really struck a chord with me. Something deep within me was jolted by this poem, which is all the more surprising as the poem initially looked rather patently harmless; I will try my best to convey the emotion I felt after reading this, ergo it is definitely not the authentic interpretation but merely the musing of an idle mind.   

The image that came to my mind after reading the poem was that of a devoted lover tortured and tormented and yet ever so devoted to his love. He is tortured for he has already offered what is most cherished and valuable to him , and thus has played all his cards. It is out there in the open, vulnerable, pitiable, an act of desperation. He is tormented, for the person whom he worships so much has to be offered something in the first place. His action alone is a testament to the fact that his strength of devotion is stronger and his love greater than that of his lover. The realization is agonizing for him, he understands the wretched condition he is in and yet finds himself powerless against his better judgement. It is even more tragic for the fact that even after so much devotion and love, his object of worship retains the power to crush and trample down his love at whim. And it is a possibility as for this reason he states, nay pleads, not to crush his dream under her feet. The relationship is not between equals but rather between a master and her slave, one having complete control over the other.

It will be wrong, I believe, to assume that our hero or the protagonist is a weakling. As matter of fact it is my opinion that it is precisely the opposite. He is likely to be a well respected successful person and it is precisely this contrast in his positions that pangs him and turns him in to a tragic character. If he were a person of feeble strength and constitution, this master slave arrangement won’t have been an issue. It is his realization that under her spell he is powerless that is the source of all such lamentation. Additionally the poem is structured in a way which makes one feel that his lover is aware of her power over him and is amused by it. And yet he is overwhelmed by his infatuation or rather obsession and gives away all that is precious to him so that she might take pity in him.

In terms of how I picture this poetry or rather how it is being delivered, being a amateur classicist, the first image that came to my mind was that of a charming poet kneeling in front of a youthful fair maiden with skin white as snow draped in white muslin attire, precocious and attentive, a real Aphrodite. Our poet completely powerless under her spell while the she amuses herself and cruelly tortures him with the control she has over him, making him understand at every moment who is the master and yet without uttering a single word. Her intoxication lies with the power she wields against such a man rather than true love. It will be equally unjust to assign malevolence on the part of our Aphrodite; she is but a young nymphet drunk in the attention she is receiving and the absolute power she has been given. She would play her part best if she deludes herself in to believing that she is not playing with a tormented heart but is truly in love. 

The house of card will falter and is bound to collapse. An obsessive love is never sustainable; it transforms our love one in to a tyrant, for absolute power corrupts absolutely, even goddesses. I believe our hero is well aware of how it will end and can foresee the impending doom, and yet cannot avoid his fate. His very devotion will be the death of him, and his dreams will be trampled. It could have been a poem recited by some Humbert to his Lolita.             

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Little Night Rigmarole

It was night and I was reading Cervantes or rather his book Don Quixote. Suddenly I felt an urge to write and so I fell to ponder for a little while. In the end I reached the conclusion, which is bound to happen in the end rather than beginning as it is after all a conclusion, that I had no idea what to write! So I fell to ponder for a little while again and I was about to give up and get back to Quixote that I realized that maybe I can write about anything I want to, without bothering about whether it is important consistent or even mildly entertaining. So I left my book (marked it though) and started rambling, what you see below is a product of that rambling. This introduction that you have just read was written after the following piece was written and so you can be sure that I tell you the truth that this is indeed a complete rigmarole, any attempt to find logical consistencies will be patently irrational on your part.  

Life at times may seem queer and there is a good reason for it because it is so. What is queer if one were to ask, well in simple term it means perplexing or unexpected; then isn’t every part of our life perplexing and unexpected or potentially so. If you are a person who has an eye for detail or follows routine meticulously, isn’t a small deviation from normal pattern queer? You get out of your house move towards the main road and see a bus departing, now that’s queer, what are the chances of that happening. Or take a glass of water that slips and ruins your shirt just before the meeting, now that is surely queer and bit aggravating too. At times you wonder if the big guy up there is actually looking after you or rather may be too intensely looking after you, both feelings might be discomfiting. We human beings, or rather most of us (let’s not generalize), are allergic to both spotlight and complete obscurity. We like the middle road where we can oscillate between the two, too much attention and then we want solitude but give us complete solitude we will cry for friendship and society. What we want is essentially the ability to choose and be in control, nothing rocket science about it but just simple truth. It is the fudginess, for lack of a better word, that we enjoy or rather live for. Fixation is something we abhor, continuous monotonous thing revolt us or does it.

Factory work looks pretty dull, how come they survive. Probably because most factory workers are not writers and if they are not then who will write about them? Surely there have been writers who wrote about their boring dull tireless repetitive work. Engels, Marx Gorky to some of the management guru’s like Fredric Taylor and others have written about them but can they actually know. I mean can you actually vicariously know how they feel. If you are writer and a successful one at that then you are exactly that, a writer! Once you become that you cease to be a worker or whatever you were before that. So even if by fluke chance you were a worker who became a writer afterwards then you weren’t a worker to begin with. Now I am not being judgemental by stating a worker can never be a writer but what I wish to posit is this, if we are talking about the worker who has a dull monotonous existence then by definition he cannot be the writer as the writer must have had something different in him which made him more than a worker. His very liberation from the worker-hood makes him incapable of relating to the class of worker we are lamenting about. Then could it not be that these workers, have a lower level of fudginess. For all we know they might draw great joy out of deciding which shirt to wear to work, come to think I usually spend in an inordinate amount of time doing exactly that. The point is our fudgi-ness scale differs. But how does it differ, why so and more importantly does it really matter?

Disregarding the last question first in order to continue with this inane verbose, since the answer is obviously in the negative, let us focus on the other two questions. It seems most famous people craved attention and solitude spasmodically, celebrities aside they don’t really count. It is difficult to comprehend that they created ideas, innovation or whatever they did solely for that purpose and not for gaining some public attention by windfall or is it too difficult for us to ascertain this precisely because we are not of that temperament. I guess Michelangelo wasn’t looking for accolades when he was painting but then again how do we know what he wanted, surely we are not Michelangelo. We have play acted before haven’t we, said something that we didn’t mean, or said something with the hope that it will create the opposite result “ Oh my writing is so poor, I am not at all lucid”, “oh no but you are, you are so eloquent”, why should famous people be absolved of such frailty. I mean just because they were great at something doesn’t necessarily mean they were more than human, Nietzsche or no Nietzsche.

It seems to me the more experience you have and the richer they are, which is another way of saying varied but just trying to make it sound nicer or may be some of you may think they are different in which case use both, the fudgier you are. You are willing to move further away from your straight-line imaginary routine path of life. Cant we view our life as a sum total of experience, surely we can philosophers have done it before. Surely we judge our experiences as good or bad. May be family initially gives us that straight unyielding thick line, the black line that divides the good experience from the bad once or at least tells us what should be considered good and bad experience. But as we begin to grow may be a tug of war starts between the line and the experiences. In one sense the line determines what kind of experience you will expose yourself to and that limits your space. In other sense random experience might confront you and might alter your line. Aha but your family might give you a tacit approval in the sense that some degree of fudginess will always be tolerated. This they have to because too rigid a line, greater the probability that random events will confront you and that might make you deviate from line quickly; kinda like brittle iron breaks, easily to make it strong you need to make it malleable.

After all what are random events, those that weren’t predicted by your model straight-line of experience. A model by definition is a replica of reality and not reality itself. If you are an economist then you know that with increasing beauty of a model comes increasing divergence with reality. A model cannot capture the patchy blotted reality not all of its complexity or color. So the more rigid your experience line is, greater likelihood that you will be exposed to “events” which your model line cannot predict. But too relaxed a line makes it useless and then you are left with no guidance. Sooner or later your line is bound to deviate from the externally imposed one but your family hopes that it won’t deviate much.

But in a world where you are bound to interact with others such lines will deviate. The private experience line, imposed by family, deviates and get closer to the public experience line, imposed by culture. It is only through greater integration and communication that we can expect to come together. Exposing ourselves to different experiences as much as possible might make us more open and acceptable to greater deviation from what we think what ought to be. It might just make our life less queer and hence more beautiful.