23 July 2013

Up at 5:45 AM: 150 lowrise steps in about 7 minutes and freestyle weights from the supine position in about 8 minutes. Later in the morning I was asked to do physio: but the staff had tightened the resistance on the arm movement cables and at about 14 minutes the left cable’s handle broke. I will therefore treat this snafu, commencing at 5:45 but including 14 minutes on the rackety rowing machine as a 20.4 minute workout. Too bad about the left cable. Altho my friends on the staff including “Uncle” Man will doubtlessly repair it it looks like I might not get the arm workout that I was enjoying today.

Later today was laboring over several things but nodding out and finally gave in, enjoying a most refreshing 2 hour nap.

Kant Study

Reading Michael Rohlf on “The Ideas of Pure Reason” in the Cambridge Companion. “Pure reason” sounds like something Kant would support all the way but reflection shows that this is not the case, especially in the Antinomies:

1. Assume A (one or more of: a bound to the universe, the end of time or the beginning of time): already we see trouble, whether in the form of inexpensive or free bleachers beyond the end of the universe or viewing time after its end or before its beginning, viewing where the gerund implies that our viewing takes up time, either the same time as before, or a super time containing “time”. The paradox (antinomy) is apparent.

2. A -> B -> ~A where B might be x is in space outside space or in time after the end of time, or before its beginning

3. And ~A -> ~B -> A which means we’re in a loop

This is an incredibly sophisticated argument for its time as it mirrors Turing’s argument for the existence of “Turing Machines” that never halt and Godel’s argument for the existence of either inconsistency or incompleteness in mathematics: in all three, a “vicious” (as opposed to benign) circle is proven.

The later chapter in Kant on “The Ideas of Pure Reason” isn’t in awe of Reason, for Kant demonstrates that Reason is just part of the story and when given autonomy tends to come to paradox and ends in tears…as Kant had seen for himself when Kant discovered the Antinomies.

We rarely want to say that a philosopher “discovers” something although Charles Hartshorne was so impressed by his own impressive discovery that he could overcome Kant’s refutation of St Anselm’s ontological proof of the existence of God by refurbishing St Anselm’s proof that Hartshorne called the refurbished ontological proof “Anselm’s Discovery”.

Kant certainly deserves here to be credited with the discovery of the necessary bounds to Reason, before the thinkers of the 19th century could, by discovering prototypical forms of 20th century paradoxes and objections. On p 613 of Guyer and Wood’s Cambridge translation, for example, there is a Whopper of a long sentence, approximately 150 words in German and about 180 words in English. Such Whoppers are usually passed over in silence and soporific awe since without a detailed linguistic analysis (a Chomsky syntax diagram or one of my sentence diagrams) they are incomprehensible.

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 7.29.12 PM

But when the sentence in question is fully analyzed one makes a rather moving discovery, that Kant, in what appears to be some anguish, is trying to show how a finished infinity (such as God) could not be contemplated as such, as a complete, finished Platonic ideal but does exist as the rule for the creation and evolution of such a being. Kant, at this point, does not know a central claim of “intuitionist” mathematics as developed by Brouwer, Heyting et al. based on Kant’s own thought: that one may not argue on the basis of the non-contradictory contemplation of a finished (wtf? finished?) infinity, but one may argue on the basis of the rule for generating an infinity.

Mathematicians using “mathematical induction” do this all the time but it also occurs in theology and ordinary life. The alcoholic argues that he can’t believe in God as an all-powerful and oh-so Perfect being nailing his drunk ass on the Judgement Day but his sponsor for AA then says “all you need is a power greater than yourself” … whose generating rule is that this Power has always the drop on you and has been there before, and now precedes you into the wilderness. “What is God were one of us?” What if God is a recovering alcoholic or simply an evolving and as such suffering God.

You find you can pursue this Power with faith through the wilderness.

There’s a twentieth century “intuitionist” religion and math because we know more about what we cannot know. Indeed in many ways Kant was the first “modern” philosopher in this regard, the first to use unknowability in this way. “Modern” in the history of philosophy means “Descartes or later” but in most other fields such as physics “modern” starts in the 20th century (physics starts in 1905 with Einstein’s first publication). The twentieth century modern strain in Kant is this strangely fecund Cloud of Unknowing.

Free or Lower Cost Access to Academic Journals!

Oxford University Press has free content through its Oxford Open Initiative.

But many journal articles and nearly all books remain locked away. I decided to have a look at the following article, in Oxford’s Journal of Legal Analysis: Unconstitutional Conditions Questions Everywhere: The Implications of Exit and Sorting for Constitutional Law and Theory.

The article is incredibly specialized and arcane, which is a good joke, for decoding such complexity is what I need to do to avoid boredom as I sit in the hospital with, I suppose, a fatal disease. I did read in comparative constitutional law a couple of years ago to find that one can only understand one constitution only if one compares it with all other constitutions, since the absence of a pre-existing Rawlsian or contractual justice means that constitutions are only verbal structures with no grounding in Justice, only a position on a topoi or map.

Looks interesting. But instead of legal theory, let’s look at an arcane part of mathematics.

In Britain, people being kicked around (here, by the extraordinary rise in prices of academic journal subscriptions and articles) get collectively angry more often than people in the USA. In Britain, with non-profit support and simple bloody-mindedness, scholars including mathematicians specializing in “topology”, an especially arcane branch of a highly generalized geometry, asked why they should have to pay prices equivalent to first class air travel to get journals they needed for their field. In America, people could “care less” as we Americans so cheerfully (and incorrectly) say.

Using eleemosynary funding from the academic community and the posh, the entire editorial staff of the overpriced journal Topology, apparently not allowed by their corporate owners to extend discounts, simply set up a new journal called The Journal of Topology, down the street a bit. All of the Topology readers followed the Journal, of course, and Topology itself had to be discontinued, an ideological victim of Stalinist free market ideology; but no worry for the Journal can now carry with ease all developments for the topology community.

Topology is just topology and will equate a “geometric set of order 1” ( a coffee cup with a handle that stands for, is, a hole) with any other such set such as a donut (that is NOT one of my “long johns” of past posts) that has a hole no matter what. It deals with blobs of various dimensions which are infinite but bounded sets of points so that it’s meaningful to speak of “the topmost set of points”, etc. This is politically neutral.

But the egg hits the fan in social sciences such as history where ideology is unavoidable. Here, cutbacks in research are convenient to Free Market Stalinists and their vulgar, half-educated, and obese sponsors like the “Koch Brothers” and other filthy swine.

Why? Because the smartest ideologues on the Right knew that in general, the story told by progressives is true. Their deepest wound is the high level of academic support for justified true beliefs including:

The right to belong to a labor union

The right to control one’s body and to be able to choose from the standpoint of reproduction and abortion

The now known scientific fact that economic activity has caused global warming

It burns their ass. We have “justified true belief” (knowledge) that the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory is correct and that for no x>2 does m**x + n**x = p**x (Fermat) by way of the (collective!) agreement among learned people with social grace.

Likewise, because of the consensus of many learned women, men, and communities formed by them, we know that ordinary working people do better when Democrats hold power. We know that the American Civil War was over slavery and that the settlement of the English Civil War, while economically progressive and for that reason somewhat good for the ordinary slob, betrayed the hopes of Catholics and men without land for many centuries.

We also know that guns aren’t a guaranty of freedom in the USA given that the context of the Second Amendment was that of disciplined militias and armories where weapons were stored, not that of fat men who feel betrayed by their wives, their employers, or the entire world.

We also know that Paul Krugman, a Princeton professor, is right about most everything in his field and that his opponents aren’t…such as Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. As many know, the latter two “proved” that “deficits over 90% of GDP slow growth” using a spreadsheet with a bug and by eliminating societies experiencing fast growth with deficits in excess of 90%, those being postwar Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In fine, every day we know more and more stuff thanks to a professoriate just doing their adjunct, untenured, or tenured six figured job.

Come now the Free Market Stalinists. These thugs want us to selectively “do” history, remembering only those parts of the past that profit somebody, usually them, by telling a story that makes all markets look good. Which has in recent years created great patches of ignorance…the cashier who in England confused 1415 and 1066 (the dates of Agincourt and Hastings) in front of historian Norman Davies…the waiter who, without the concept of “history” as “justified true beliefs about the past written down readably”, asked me if the book I was reading (which happened to be Norman Davies’ history of Britain, The Isles), was a fantasy novel; the waiter simply didn’t have the mental category of “justified true beliefs, that is knowledge, about the past”, that is, das ist, das ist, for the love of Mike, History.

Hopefully Oxford’s open initiative will help to stop the decline caused by academic publishers described by some as feral.


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