Lady Chaterly Episode Two By Ian Beardsley Copyright © 2011 by Ian Beardsley

Lady Chaterly: Episode Two Lady Chaterly is at the house of the writer. The Writer: Today we are going to review the basic tenets of philosophy. We will begin with reason. Reason is the process by which we demonstrate a truth through a logical process. Now, Lady Chaterly, pay close attention, there are two processes by which we can use reason: induction and deduction. An example of induction is: The sun rose three days ago, it then rose two days ago and it rose yesterday, therefore by this experience we can say it will rise tomorrow. However, this is not strong evidence that it will rise tomorrow, something that we are not aware of could happen to the sun, that would cause it to not rise tomorrow. That is why the other mechanism, deduction, provides for a much stronger certainty in the truth. Deduction is where we start with one principle, and proceed by logical argument based on it to a new statement until we arrive at the conclusion. For example, we know that the earth spins, and when we are on the side facing away from the sun, it is night. Based on the knowledge that it spins, we can argue that its spin will carry us around until we face the sun. We know that as we come around to face the sun, it will appear to rise. Thus, we conclude the sun will rise every day, barring natural catastrophe. You see, that was the big mistake of the Church in the time of Galileo, they insisted the sun was moving around the earth, and that was why it rose each day. Lady Chaterly: Key point to make here. With deduction you said we start with a statement, upon which all others are derived. How do you know that the first statement is true? I mean, like, how real is that? The Writer: Ah, but you are forgetting your Borges, he wrote: “Reality, alas, is real. I, alas, am Borges.” You see, the first statement is self-evident. It is called a proposition. Everything that follows from it is proved by argument, and is thus true. It is self evident in the sense that if two triangles are the same in shape to a third, they are the same in shape to one another. The proved statement is called a theorem. With several theorems and propositions, we can solve any problem that presents itself. Such a body of knowledge is called a formal system. But, if you want to enter a more modern interpretation of mathematics, it is only fair I tell of the theorem of Gödel. He developed a mathematics wherein he could convert a phrase into a mathematical statement. He chose the statement by a famous Cretian – and Cretians had a reputation at the time for being liars – that was: “All Cretians

are liars’. If he was Cretian, he was lying, which means the statement was false, in which case they tell the truth, but if they tell the truth, it is true that they are liars, in which case, they tell the truth, and around and around it goes, something that Douglas Hoftstadter called a strange loop. By using his mathematics, and putting that statement into a mathematical expression, Gödel was able to show that all formal systems have at least one proposition that cannot be proved. It was called his Incompleteness Theorem. Lady Chaterly: I see the problem right away, with the theorem. He used a formal system to show that formal systems are incomplete. The Writer: That which you fail to understand, is that science is not the truth, but is the best truth for the moment. It is, as Carl Sagan, said, selfcorrecting. It is not stagnant. While most dogma insists one truth from antiquity to hold for all time, science revises as new data comes in. It is more of a language, than anything else. That is, if a theoretician calculates -within a formal system where a foot is agreed to be the length of a rod at the bureau of standards in England -- a part for a spaceship needs to be that length, then if an engineer makes the part according to that rod, the ship will fly. You see that is progress. That is survival. We have always done poorly, and not succeeded when magic was the way. Lady Chaterly: I can agree to that, but it would seem, from what you are saying, we cannot arrive at the truth of reality. I mean with things like this, I cannot even conclude if when I see the moon I can know it actually exists. The Writer: Whether or not we can know reality objectively or only subjectively, is an ongoing debate that has been going on for more than two thousand years. Just know whether reality is real or we are living in a dream, reason has always served humanity for its best. Lady Chaterly: Okay, I can live with that.

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