There is no Death! There is no Life either! (A child, a brain map and a coincidence? – Part II)

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Some days ago Harmonia Philosophica posted an article about how a Truth Puzzle filled in by a child was amazingly enough indicating something that could be of importance for philosophy (check the “There is no Death! (A child, a brain map and a coincidence?) article”).

Now a new twist was added to the plot.

Some days after the Truth Puzzle was filled in the way it was (missing ‘Death’ as one can read in the above-mentioned article) the same child struck again.

During a discussion about life and what life means, the child simply asked the obvious…

‘How do you know you are alive?’

(silence)

‘But I can eat!’ I answered back.

‘So? You are not alive!” said the child and giggled.

(laughter)

To cut the long story short, to whatever I said the child continued to answer back that there is no proof I am alive. And this discussion brought into my mind the previous Truth Puzzle instance and the lessons learned from that. For the same lesson should be learned from this story as well.

Of course the child was playing. Yet, within that funny game of denying the obvious (that I am alive), it showed something very serious and important: Why should we take for granted anything? Our knowledge about metaphysical questions regarding existence and being is zero. We do not know what the cosmos is, we do not even know what our consciousness is, if such thing even exists. The greatest philosophers and scientists have tried to answer such questions regarding the nature of our life and failed miserably.

So who are we to claim that we are alive?

Is it because we feel something? But what does that mean and how can we interpret it with zero knowledge about the meaning of all this ‘something’ that we feel? How can we even know what we see and sense is real without any objective definition of the the infamous ‘Reality’ to begin with? How can we say that someone ‘is’ alive if we have not even reached a consensus on what ‘Is’ is?

It reminds me of the story with the captive Vietnam general who once told his American interrogator that the Vietnamese did not believe they would win the war. The Americans were so much leased with the answer that did not even bother to check out the rest of the interrogation transcript. Because if they did they would see that the same general, when asked if he thought the Americans could win the war, he also answered No…

Question the obvious we must.

And the most obvious thing is our self.

Are alive?

Are we dead?

(Does it matter?)

All I can hear…

Is laughter…

There is no Death! (A child, a brain map and a coincidence?)

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‘No death’ brain map

Harmonia Philosophica has already published articles for the use of brain maps to solve the great philosophical problems of humankind. Check the relative article here.

In summary, the ‘Truth Puzzles’ in Harmonia Philosophica are nothing more than simple brain maps with all the major elements of philosophy (life, death, existence, being, God, truth, phenomena, faith, self, others, knowledge, thinking, consciousness, nothingness, One). Every once in a while we try to draw one new Truth Puzzle (brain map) with all these elements and put random connections between them to indicate the relationship between them. For example an arrow drawn from God to Existence could indicate that God is the source of existence. The connections could be without arrows or with bi-directional arrows as well. There are no rules.

But how are the Truth Puzzles filled in? Based on what thought? Based on what principles?

That is the beauty of it!

The connections in the brain maps are filled in randomly as the writer of the brain map sees fit!

There are no principles!

No thinking!

But could such a random process produce any meaningful result? one might ask…

Sure it can!

Why shouldn’t it?

We know so little about life, death, existence and all the other elements of philosophy, that thinking has not managed to bring us any inch closer to the truth, if such thing ever exists. Our best shot in finding the ‘solution’ to the great philosophical problems of humankind is to just start drawing lines in random based on our instinct or just based on… nothing! Who knows? One of those Truth Puzzles could hold the answer we have been searching for since Plato. And if non-thinking sounds weird to you, read related articles in Harmonia Philosophica about non-thinking (with the tag ‘against thinking’ or ‘non-thinking’) and you will understand what we are talking about here. In short, structured thinking is as good as the principles on which it is based upon. And our thinking about the abovementioned elements of philosophy is based on pure ignorance.

But let us go back to the point at hand.

One day I asked from a child to fill in a brain map. I had entered all the elements and just asked from the child to fill in the relationships between ALL the elements of the Truth Puzzle with whatever way it saw fit.

The child liked the game and started filling in the brain map relationships.

When it finished, it gave the brain map back to me.

To my amazement, this is what it had handed over…

‘No death’ brain map (Truth Puzzle)

The child had put relationships (arrowless relationships to be exact – but having arrows was never a requirement) between all elements of the Truth Puzzle.

Except for one.

The element of ‘Death’ was omitted from the relationships!

After discussing we found out that this was done because the left hand of the child was on top of the ‘Death’ word while filling in the puzzle, something that by itself does not reduce the importance or the amazement element of the coincidence (I would rather say that it increases it, if we see this as a more fundamental way in which the ‘Death’ element was hidden completely from the eyesight of the child). A coincidence that it could alone be the topic of a separate dedicated article. I am sure Jung would be very much interested in such a coincidence had he came upon such.

Yet, I am not talking about the coincidence of omitting only the ‘Death’ element from the Truth Puzzle. What I am talking about is something much more fundamental: The child did not use all the elements in the brain map even though it was told to do so! This might sound mundane to you, but it not. We constantly make assumptions in our thought and based on these assumptions we produce more thoughts. We deduce conclusions, we derive theorems, we build science and cultivate philosophy. However we keep on forgetting that our assumptions are here only to be questioned and replaced by new ones at our own free will!

In the Truth Puzzles I created I made the assumption that all these great words (Truth, Death, Life, Existence, …) should all somehow be connected with each other.

A random (and beautiful) coincidence reminded me of the need to be more vigilant of my own dogmatism. I should never take for granted rules that I myself invented.

This applies to me, to you, to all philosophers, to all scientists, to all thinkers, to all humans. We should constantly question the obvious and make irrational thoughts. Only the irrational is free enough to actually produce valid results without the need for unfounded assumptions.

At the end, I am not certain whether there Death does not exist.

But from now on, I will also keep in mind that I do not know whether Death exists either…

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Gödel’s incompleteness theorem: The non-Cretan way out…

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Gödel’s incompleteness theorem is well known for proving that the dream of most mathematicians to formulate foundations for a complete and self-consistent theory of mathematics is a futile exercise.

Gödel proved that any set of axioms you could posit as a possible foundation for math will inevitably be incomplete; there will always be true facts about numbers that cannot be proved by those axioms. He also showed that no candidate set of axioms can ever prove its own consistency (1).

In essence, the incompleteness syllogism by Gödel starts from talking abour logical propositions (or mathematical propositions if you like) and ends up with a proposition that talks about the validity of… itself. This proposition which we might as well call reads something like “I cannot be proved”.

This leads to a dead-end.

If it can be proved, then it means that it cannot.

And vice versa.

So it is essentially a logically true proposition (since indeed it cannot be proved) but which cannot actually be proved within the axiomatic system at hand.

Hence, the incompleteness.

Essentially this is something the ancient Greeks have thought of thousands of years ago; something which they formulated in the famous Epimenides paradox. Epimenides was a man from Crete who said the following simple thing: “All Cretana are liars”.

Well, this ends up in the same dead-end as the proposition mentioned above. If Epimenides is truthful, then he is a liar since he is Cretan and all Cretes are liars. If he is a liar, then he is telling the truth! And, thus, he is a liar!

A self-reference paradox which essentially destroys the hope of mathematicians around the world for a consistent and full way to formulate mathematics. It is weird, but also important to mention here, that self-reference is the basis of our existence. Consciousness, our ability to speak about our self and our own existence and being, is the foundation of our essence as human beings. Without that, we would be nothing than complex machines.

But how can this dead-end be surpassed or perhaps by-passed?

Well, it cannot actually.

Unless…

You ctu right through it.

I was in a discussion the other day about the above topics and when the Epimenides paradox was mentioned, one immediate reaction that I got was the simple “So the solution is that he is not from Crete” (!)

What?! I answered. But I told you he was a Cretan.

Sure. He was.

But…

What is he wasn’t?

Then there wouldn’t be any paradox!

In the same sense…

What if the logical proposition…

“I am false”

is not a… proposition?

Then all problems would be solved!

But if it is not a logical or mathematical proposition then what is it? Well, as I said above, self-reference is not mathematics per se. It is more of a metaphysical reference to existence and being. A proposition talking about… itself is no more a proposition but an attempt to speak with the abyss. It is more God talking to humans than humans trying to talk with God. Such a thing could be many things, but ‘simply’ a logical (mathematical) proposition not.

But this is gibberish, one might counter-argue.

Sure, it can be.

(Gibberish like the Russel way out of his paradox?)

If you really think a Cretan would ever call himself a liar.

Sure, it can be.

If you accept that a proposion can ever referto itself.

But it cannot.

In a cosmos where only humans can talk for themselves.

Gibberish.

In a cosmos where mathematics cannot prove themselves.

Gibberish.

In a world where endless-loop paradoxes exist.

Paradoxes.

In a life which is full with nothing but them.

Paradoxes were the end of the hopes of mathematicians. They alone can be the ones which will instil hope in the once again.

Look around Cretan.

Tell me.

If you cannot prove that there is a sea…

Will you ever lie that you are swimming?

Dogmas, science, assumptions and the need for Philosophy!

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Horgan: What’s your opinion of the recent philosophy-bashing by Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson?

Rovelli: Seriously: I think they are stupid in this. I have admiration for them in other things, but here they have gone really wrong. Look: Einstein, Heisenberg, Newton, Bohr…. and many many others of the greatest scientists of all times, much greater than the names you mention, of course, read philosophy, learned from philosophy, and could have never done the great science they did without the input they got from philosophy, as they claimed repeatedly. You see: the scientists that talk philosophy down are simply superficial: they have a philosophy (usually some ill-digested mixture of Popper and Kuhn) and think that this is the “true” philosophy, and do not realize that this has limitations.

Here is an example: theoretical physics has not done great in the last decades. Why? Well, one of the reasons, I think, is that it got trapped in a wrong philosophy: the idea that you can make progress by guessing new theory and disregarding the qualitative content of previous theories. This is the physics of the “why not?” Why not studying this theory, or the other? Why not another dimension, another field, another universe? Science has never advanced in this manner in the past. Science does not advance by guessing. It advances by new data or by a deep investigation of the content and the apparent contradictions of previous empirically successful theories. Quite remarkably, the best piece of physics done by the three people you mention is Hawking’s black-hole radiation, which is exactly this. But most of current theoretical physics is not of this sort. Why? Largely because of the philosophical superficiality of the current bunch of scientists. (1)

Couldn’t say it more eloquently

Modern science is a science with no compass. Or even worse to be exact: A science which does not accept it has a compass EVEN THOUGH it has one!

A science which has specific philosophical dogmas as foundations (e.g. materialism, atheism, nihilism) but does not even acknowledge it!

Be aware of the hidden assumptions on which you base your thought.

They are there. No matter how hard you try not to accept it.

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