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I guess this is a bit late to mention too... but I mainly mention it now just for the general surrealness of it. Folk singer Tom Brosseau (http://www.tombrosseau.com/) flew in from Seattle today to give a concert at my house. I meant to mention this a week ago but forgot. Anyway, it's at 143 Hollywood Ave, starts at 7pm (an hour from now), $12 at the door if you're interested.

I really had nothing to do with this, other than donating the space for a friend... who's one of his biggest fans and convinced him over email to come down here and give a concert. They are currently setting up, tables, chairs, wine, decorations... nothing this classy has ever transpired here before! Feels weird.

[And for the physics geeks...]
Today I skimmed the entire book "Spacetime and Geometry" by Sean Carroll... even though I won't get a chance to take GR till the spring, I think I understand it well enough from today's skimming to compute the holonomy along the closest approach of the geodesics approaching the particular Big Crunch scenario I'm working on. Which is my next assignment now that we've proved that the bounce has too much instability for the current Cyclic Universe models put forth by Steinhardt & Turok. The goal is to show that black holes start forming once it gets close enough to the singularity and there is too much energy concentrated in one place... seems kind of obvious when I say it like that, but I need to actually verify it for sure. I'm sure I'll need to look at the book a lot more, but it doesn't seem too horribly complicated. Not nearly as bad as QFT. Looking forward to this as I've been thinking about the same things for too many weeks in a row now... glad to be moving on to something else!


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 6th, 2005 09:56 am (UTC)

Truly, you and numnesofthebeast are preaching a gospel that's falling on deaf ears.

It's very frustrating for me, because whenever I try to argue something they pull out the "you're a physicist not a philosopher, so you don't know what you're talking about" card. I refrained from mentioning that I'm actually TA'ing for the philosophy department because it encourages their whole credential-based mentality. Anyway, I was kind of wondering if you could clue me in on a few things. In particular, am I missing something in the definitions of "a prori" and "necessary"? They say I'm making a complete fool out of myself on this one and that no philosopher anywhere would agree... so I want the opinion of someone not biased by their anti-empiricist views. The specific claim I made they are making fun of is that if something is a priori true then it must be a necessary truth. The definitions I'm using for these are:

a priori = knowing something is true without having to look at the real world at all
necessary = true in all possible worlds

So my argument goes that if you know p is true without looking at the world, it cannot be a contingent truth because then you would have no way of knowing whether you are in the world where p is true or the world where p is false. Therefore, if you know it's true a priori then it must be true in all possible worlds. Do you see any problem with this argument? What am I missing? Or are they just being asses?

Regarding hydrinos, they're total bs from what I've heard. I have never read about his theory in depth but it's come up now and then over the past 5 years or so... and so far every professor who has mentioned it without exception has told me they think it's garbage. The problem is, he is claiming something so radical that if it were true you'd have throw away most of quantum mechanics itself and replace it with something else... although he hasn't anything to replace it with, just a few speculations on what he'd like to be true to get himself a ton of energy. Basically, he's a good enough hand-waver to convince a lot of business men to give him money, and maybe a few engineers here and there, but very few physicists pay him any attention.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 6th, 2005 10:25 pm (UTC)

All a priori truths are necessary, but not all necessary truths are a priori.

Thank you... this is exactly what I told them, and they said that no philosopher would ever say that "a priori" logically entails "necessary"... at least 3 of them denied this in a row, which made me think that maybe there was something I was missing. Your descriptions precisely confirm my understanding of what those words meant... which reassures my suspicion that these guys were just either not reading what I was saying, or trying to find any excuse to bash an empiricist. To be fair, I guess I did come in with "guns a blazing" which probably triggered their defense mechanisms instead of their ability to comprehend what I was saying and respond "rationally" (no pun intended!)

Regarding Kant's belief that space is a priori... I remember getting into this argument a while ago with apperception; I think that, like anything else, "object" only requires space if you define object to be something with a location. I would not use object in that narrow of a sense... to me, there are plenty of objects which do not exist within space or time because they don't have the property of "location"... for instance the integers, an icon, file, or folder, a piece of music, etc.) and yet we're perfectly capable of perceiving them. If you do define object to only apply to those objects which have a location and a time then it becomes an analytic truth... so either way I don't find it a justification for believing in the a proiri synthetic.
Nov. 6th, 2005 10:27 pm (UTC)

and yet we're perfectly capable of perceiving them.

That was a slip of sorts... I meant to write here "perfectly capable of conceiving of them".
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 7th, 2005 03:47 am (UTC)

I'm going to have to write a piece for die_erkenntnis about a priority.

I was thinking of writing one on analytic/synthetic, a priori / a posteriori, necessary/contingent soon and posting it to real_philosophy, but after the way they've been acting I think maybe I should just post it to my journal. To post it to theirs would indicate I'm looking for some kind of input from them... when in reality I would just be saying "look guys, here's the way it is.." Then again, that's what some of them do anyway all the time so it wouldn't be much different.

There has been a whole shit ton of work done in the area, and I'm partial to Michael Friedman's work in what he and the logical positivists called the "relativized a priori."

Interesting... I wonder if that corresponds to the notion of "a priori" I have. To me, all truths are a posteriori in the absolute sense, except that some of them are a priori relative to certain axioms you pick. Similarly, any synthetic statement can be made analytic if you define enough axioms to guarantee it's true... at which point it becomes a priori, but not in an absolute sense since the axioms still need to be checked empirically. Does this have anything to do with Friedman's "relativized a priori"?

Kant's argument here is that we can't REPRESENT to ourselves objects without a space for them to be in.

Again, I think it depends on what he means by an object. There are a good many things in the world which can be represented without seeing them in a space (I think music is the best example here... I conceive of musical patterns by the sound of them not by some visual representation of it). There is plenty of "structure" in music, and yet you don't have to represent it visual (spacially) in order to understand it and conceive of it. As to whether you want to call a song an "object" or not, well that's debatable. But I don't think there's anything fundamentally different between non-spacial concepts and spacial concepts... both of them are abstractions, it's just that some of our concepts involve the property of location and others do not. It's also important to keep in mind that any objects, whether they be chairs and tables, or websites or programs, are abstractions. There is no such thing as a chair or table that is distinct from the particles and fields we exclude from that concept... the object is entirely in our heads. As are all objects. This was, incidentally, the insight I had years ago which caused me to originally pick the name "spoonless".
Nov. 7th, 2005 04:05 am (UTC)

Things like integers or other abstract objects aren't physical objects (and hence not subject to the a priority of space) because we don't need to represent them spatially in order to understand them.

Incidentally, I think this is almost exactly backwards. [I don't like the word physical here, so I'm going to use the term "non-mental"...] Chairs and tables are only mental abstractions... and I suspect it might be that all objects are mental abstractions. But there are a few objects, such as the integers, that I've recently been starting to think might actually be non-mental... in other words, they might be an example of real distinct objects that actually do exist outside of our heads. I've been moving more and more towards this view, but I still hold onto the idea that perhaps the integers are not exactly what we think we're representing when we are trying to axiomatize them. In other words, maybe there is some way in which the true integer-like things out there are continuously connected to everything else which exists in reality... hence destroying the need for non-mental objects. [I've been using non-mental and mental here to distinguish it from "physical" which has the unfortunate alternate definition of "something you can touch" which I don't think is a very relevant or important distinction in epistemology or metaphysics.
Nov. 6th, 2005 11:14 pm (UTC)
Once again, I'm amazed by your ability to wade into these philosophical debates without throwing your hands up in disgust. And I'm amazed, but with the opposite sign, at how people can take some of the stances they do.

To slightly abuse terminology, I think it's a priori clear that rationalism is untenable. If people innately have some concepts (like space), it must be that we evolved these things because they proved useful in dealing with the world. This need not have been true in some other world, if it makes sense to speculate on other worlds. So, sure, we don't individually work out everything we know empirically. I won't deny that people are born with some basic mental tools (I would say that this has been empirically established, in fact). But rationalism seems to distort that idea into something completely absurd.

I guess my attitude is some species of pragmatism?
Nov. 7th, 2005 01:03 am (UTC)
I completely agree... there are some builtin intuitions we have as a result of evolutionary advantage, but they should not be trusted in any absolute sense, and many of them break down in the face of new experiences our ancestors were not capable of having (because of lack of technology). They should be treated as hunches that require empirical confirmation to be sure of.

I guess my attitude is some species of pragmatism?

I don't know, I would just call this empiricism but that's me.

Once again, I'm amazed by your ability to wade into these philosophical debates without throwing your hands up in disgust.

Well, I did eventually throw my hands up in disgust once someone claimed that "classical mechanics + God" was an alternative explanation for quantum phenomena... and worse yet, that this makes quantum mechanics not empirically based :) I find it less and less worth my time to go back there and debate them each time I go... once upon a time I felt like I was learning some things from them, but I think I've reached a point where I know enough philosophy to explain (and be sure of) what I think, and too many of their beliefs are based on a misinformed, distorted view of reality to be of use to me. *sigh*... I'll have to just start chatting with the philosophy profs here if I want something better than livejournal.
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