Author Topic: Raymond Smullyan  (Read 5165 times)

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Raymond Smullyan
« on: December 30, 2008, 03:35:50 pm »
I got a new book case from my brother for Xmas, which means that I've been going through the arduous process of sorting, organizing, labelling, and putting all of my mountainous piles of books into their respective places. In so doing, I came across some of my old Raymond Smullyan books, which I think might be a pretty interesting read for some of you, if you've never read him.

For a quick background: Smullyan is a professor of mathematics and logic at Indiana University. He describes himself as a "Taoist," although his life philosophy seems to me to be more like Zen, especially the absurdist aspects in some parts of it.

Most of his works are philosophical or logical essays, puzzles, and dialogue papers, and they're almost always fun to read, despite being sort of rudimentary. Most of his philosophical and logical arguments are aimed against dogmatic persons, moralists, fundamentalists and the like, so some of what he says will be old hat to anyone used to "thinking outside the box," but still . . . good writing. Back when I was a fundie, his essays helped to break me out of the mindnumbing traps, so I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for them.

Anywho, here are some links to some of the essays that I like by him. They are from his books titled "The Tao is Silent," "5000 B.C. and Other Philosophical Fantasies," and "This Book Needs No Title: A Budget of Living Paradoxes," all of which are really good:

http://www.skepticfiles.org/mys5/taomoral.htm
From "The Tao is Silent," Ch. 21: "Taoism vs. Morality". This one reminds me of the ethics bit from the PD.

http://www.mit.edu/people/dpolicar/writing/prose/text/godTaoist.html
From "The Tao is Silent," an essay called "Is God a Taoist?". This is a really good anti-fundie essay.

http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/refutation.htm
A short excerpt from "5000 B.C. and Other Philosophical Fantasies"

http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/smullyan.html
From "This Book Needs No Title: A Budget of Living Paradoxes," a short story entitled "The Planet Without Laughter."
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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2008, 04:12:32 pm »
Thanks Manta!
- I don't see race. I just see cars going around in a circle.

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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2008, 04:19:29 pm »
Thanks Manta!

You're welcome, Rat.  :)
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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2008, 06:22:03 pm »
I've read Smullyan before! Was suprised to recognize the name and then I remembered my old copy of The Tao is Silent.

Good stuff.
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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2008, 06:31:53 pm »
Wow, just finished reading those links and HOLISHI!  that's some powerful stuff.  In fact, in the conversation between the mortal and God I found the most clear explanation of the issue I have with considering biological constraints as part of our BiP:

Quote
Mortal:
   Anyway, it is reassuring to know that my natural intuition about having free will is correct. Sometimes I have been worried that determinists are correct.

God:
   They are correct.

Mortal:
   Wait a minute now, do I have free will or don't I?

God:
   I already told you you do. But that does not mean that determinism is incorrect.

Mortal:
   Well, are my acts determined by the laws of nature or aren't they?

God:
   The word determined here is subtly but powerfully misleading and has contributed so much to the confusions of the free will versus determinism controversies. Your acts are certainly in accordance with the laws of nature, but to say they are determined by the laws of nature creates a totally misleading psychological image which is that your will could somehow be in conflict with the laws of nature and that the latter is somehow more powerful than you, and could "determine" your acts whether you liked it or not. But it is simply impossible for your will to ever conflict with natural law. You and natural law are really one and the same.

Mortal:
   What do you mean that I cannot conflict with nature? Suppose I were to become very stubborn, and I determined not to obey the laws of nature. What could stop me? If I became sufficiently stubborn even you could not stop me!

God:
   You are absolutely right! I certainly could not stop you. Nothing could stop you. But there is no need to stop you, because you could not even start! As Goethe very beautifully expressed it, "In trying to oppose Nature, we are, in the very process of doing so, acting according to the laws of nature!" Don't you see that the so-called "laws of nature" are nothing more than a description of how in fact you and other beings do act? They are merely a description of how you act, not a prescription of of how you should act, not a power or force which compels or determines your acts. To be valid a law of nature must take into account how in fact you do act, or, if you like, how you choose to act.

Mortal:
   So you really claim that I am incapable of determining to act against natural law?

God:
   It is interesting that you have twice now used the phrase "determined to act" instead of "chosen to act." This identification is quite common. Often one uses the statement "I am determined to do this" synonymously with "I have chosen to do this." This very psychological identification should reveal that determinism and choice are much closer than they might appear. Of course, you might well say that the doctrine of free will says that it is you who are doing the determining, whereas the doctrine of determinism appears to say that your acts are determined by something apparently outside you. But the confusion is largely caused by your bifurcation of reality into the "you" and the "not you." Really now, just where do you leave off and the rest of the universe begin? Or where does the rest of the universe leave off and you begin? Once you can see the so-called "you" and the so-called "nature" as a continuous whole, then you can never again be bothered by such questions as whether it is you who are controlling nature or nature who is controlling you. Thus the muddle of free will versus determinism will vanish. If I may use a crude analogy, imagine two bodies moving toward each other by virtue of gravitational attraction. Each body, if sentient, might wonder whether it is he or the other fellow who is exerting the "force." In a way it is both, in a way it is neither. It is best to say that it is the configuration of the two which is crucial.



Bloody brilliant.
- I don't see race. I just see cars going around in a circle.

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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2008, 02:37:54 am »
I actually thought the conversations were the most bloody boring parts of the book back then. heh
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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2009, 07:43:34 pm »
though that one is pretty good.

especially in the sense that it gives a convincing solution to the free will problem, that's very different from my own personal solution (which is based on Emergence, as you would expect).

it gives a kinda funky feeling in the head having two very different solutions to the same problem. and for Rat, i mean that in a different way than model agnosticism multiplicity, differing models are (IMO) more like very different descriptions/interpretations of the same solution to a problem (like magick vs sociology+psychology vs headology are, very roughly).
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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2009, 08:17:31 pm »
though that one is pretty good.

especially in the sense that it gives a convincing solution to the free will problem, that's very different from my own personal solution (which is based on Emergence, as you would expect).

it gives a kinda funky feeling in the head having two very different solutions to the same problem. and for Rat, i mean that in a different way than model agnosticism multiplicity, differing models are (IMO) more like very different descriptions/interpretations of the same solution to a problem (like magick vs sociology+psychology vs headology are, very roughly).

I have noticed that a lot of people seem to make that distinction (Soft Model Agnosticism vs. Hard Model Agnosticism? ;-) )... though I'm not sure why. Model Agnosticism, in my opinion, has a lot more to do with grokking multiple (potentially conflicting or unrelated) models wherein some or all of them may be capable of explaining some of all of an experienced phenomenon.

Those two positions, perhaps aren't necessarily in conflict, are they? Consciousness may only exist as an emergent property of complex systems, but wouldn't that indicate precisely that it is an emergent property based on the 'natural laws' or whatever laws allowed the complex system to form and spawn the emergent property?

Or maybe they are irreconcilable, and what is the problem with that? After all, they may both, ultimately, be wrong (or they both, may be right... in some sense ;-) )
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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2009, 09:11:36 pm »
(first off, i had to de-e-prime that in my head to make it more readable. i think i'd rather even read "sombunall" than "some or all" for readability :) anyway, besides the point)

par 1) it's a distinction. nothing wrong with making it right? okay if you say that Model Agnosticism is both "more different solutions for one problem" and "more descriptions/interpretations of the same solution for one problem", applied to any arbitrary problem. i'll go with that, you're the expert on MA :) I was under the impression that MA was just the first of those two.

par 2) yes, they are not in conflict. but they are still two distinct approaches and solutions to the same problem. not just one solution dressed up in two different ways. you understand the distinction from psychology/magick being of the other category, i was making, right?

see, one solution dressed up in different ways, you see all over the place. just look at all the correspondences in religions and philosophy, even if they came from different roots. as far as MA goes, that idea is nothing new to me. I just happen to pick a loosely sciency based way of dressing up my solutions, learn about other models as much as possible, but always so that i can redress their solutions and find the isomorphisms with my internal sciency ways [i know you're different, but this is what i do and I haven't been able to exercise another way--yet?].
In a similar way, in mathematics there are different proofs and approaches to proving the same theory. They can be radically different, but if you get right down to it, they can always be made isomorphic (*this hasn't been proven i think, and is probably impossible to do for certain classes of problems, but ignore those degenerate cases please, they're so far removed from reality, they have other problems*).

what we have here, what gave me the funky feeling in the head, is that so far i've seen they may be both true (let's assume they are), but they may be irreconcilable as well. this is, as far as i've encountered, a much rarer situation. which is why I made the distinction in the first place.
these kinds of different but irreconcilable approaches may be part of MA as well, it's not the point. Just for the fact that they seem to be much rarer is a good justification for making the distinction. Cause I think these cases are interesting. what do you think?

par 3) no problem at all. but see the justification for the distinction above. that's what i was getting at :)
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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2009, 10:13:39 pm »
(first off, i had to de-e-prime that in my head to make it more readable. i think i'd rather even read "sombunall" than "some or all" for readability :) anyway, besides the point)

par 1) it's a distinction. nothing wrong with making it right? okay if you say that Model Agnosticism is both "more different solutions for one problem" and "more descriptions/interpretations of the same solution for one problem", applied to any arbitrary problem. i'll go with that, you're the expert on MA :) I was under the impression that MA was just the first of those two.


Bob says that the three of them arrived by driving up State Route 3.
Ivan says that the three of them arrived by driving up Westerville Rd.
Clyde says that the three of them arrived by driving up the 3 C Highway.

This sort of Model Agnosticism (They're all correct by the way... those are all acceptable names for a road here in Columbus) is often the most widely accepted and that makes sense, because we can easily correlate the semantic differences with what we perceive in real life. (Bob says "Collective Unconscious", Ivan says "Egrigore", Clyde says "Memetic Entity").

However, I think the second view is really the meat of model agnosticism. Not only are there semantic differences in models... but models may provide explanations for phenomena that are equally possible/plausible... yet may not agree with each other at all. Panspermia vs. Oceanic Soup for example, could both explain how life came to be on the earth. Yet, only one (or neither) of them might be right.

In Cosmic Trigger, RAW discusses his experiences with the Sirius Star and the 'communication' he was involved in. He lays it out as a series of AND/OR positions:

Either: Observer Created Universe AND/OR Human Beings with Highly evolved Psychic Powers AND/OR the Illuminati AND/OR Higher Intelligences from Outer Space AND/OR some sort of superhuman entity that lives on this planet AND/OR we are evolving new neurological circuits that we currently perceive as one of these other options AND/OR something I haven't mentioned.

So I think being able to say "Consciousness is Either: Emergent Property AND/OR Laws of Nature AND/OR A Causal Feedback Loop where external data is internalized in a decision making matrix AND/OR something else." seems like an appropriate application of MA. I think.

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Quote
par 2) yes, they are not in conflict. but they are still two distinct approaches and solutions to the same problem. not just one solution dressed up in two different ways. you understand the distinction from psychology/magick being of the other category, i was making, right?

see, one solution dressed up in different ways, you see all over the place. just look at all the correspondences in religions and philosophy, even if they came from different roots. as far as MA goes, that idea is nothing new to me. I just happen to pick a loosely sciency based way of dressing up my solutions, learn about other models as much as possible, but always so that i can redress their solutions and find the isomorphisms with my internal sciency ways [i know you're different, but this is what i do and I haven't been able to exercise another way--yet?].
In a similar way, in mathematics there are different proofs and approaches to proving the same theory. They can be radically different, but if you get right down to it, they can always be made isomorphic (*this hasn't been proven i think, and is probably impossible to do for certain classes of problems, but ignore those degenerate cases please, they're so far removed from reality, they have other problems*).

Yep, that makes sense.

Quote
what we have here, what gave me the funky feeling in the head, is that so far i've seen they may be both true (let's assume they are), but they may be irreconcilable as well. this is, as far as i've encountered, a much rarer situation. which is why I made the distinction in the first place.
these kinds of different but irreconcilable approaches may be part of MA as well, it's not the point. Just for the fact that they seem to be much rarer is a good justification for making the distinction. Cause I think these cases are interesting. what do you think?

Very much so... in fact, the stark difference was why I think I grokked this aspect of MA before I grokked the more subtle one.

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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2009, 10:44:41 pm »
I'm busy in Quantum Psychology, haven't gotten around to Cosmic Trigger yet. guess I'll go for that next. regardless of what everybody says, RAWs writing style seems to resonate with me. even though I think :cn: every now and then.

So I think being able to say "Consciousness is Either: Emergent Property AND/OR Laws of Nature AND/OR A Causal Feedback Loop where external data is internalized in a decision making matrix AND/OR something else." seems like an appropriate application of MA. I think.

yes, but I can form an isomorphism between Emergent Property and Causal Feedback Loop (in fact, my solution was Causal Feedback Loop before i learned about Emergence). The Laws of Nature idea posted above is of an entirely different nature.

So far, I'm going to put the lack of (apparent) isomorphism up to a (very) slight difference in definition of Free Will. Which removes the MA application, cause it's no longer the same problem.
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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2009, 02:38:44 pm »
One aspect that tends to get lost in the MA explanations is that you don't just have multiple models just for shits and giggles, you have multiple models to BEST EXPLAIN a particular question or problem that you encounter.

Let's say you want to understand a person's behavior.  Sometimes, the 8-circuit model seems to have the best explanation.  Sometimes, it might be better understood using the Primate Behavior model.  Sometimes, Myers-Briggs fits best.

The point is, if you don't have a grasp of as many different models as possible, or you don't have the ability to create a new model on the fly, you'll try to cram every problem you encounter into a single, inflexible model that doesn't always work quite right.


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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2009, 03:07:39 pm »
This is the correct "see the problem from as many angles as possible".

One of the great failings of IR has been that people seperated off into little "camps", got some funding, and then tried to apply their incomplete ideas to the world as they thought it worked.

Fortunately, I was part of the generation where lecturers said "here is a bunch of theories.  Get to know and love them, but don't get too attached to any of them."  Then, a year later they'd turn up again and say "here are some problems.  Suggest some solutions."  And we'd apply theories in conjunction with each other to either try and explain what was going on, or else come up with an actual solution (much more rare than the former).

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Re: Raymond Smullyan
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2009, 04:39:34 pm »
I'm busy in Quantum Psychology, haven't gotten around to Cosmic Trigger yet. guess I'll go for that next. regardless of what everybody says, RAWs writing style seems to resonate with me. even though I think :cn: every now and then.

I think he did that on purpose. ;-)

Quote
So I think being able to say "Consciousness is Either: Emergent Property AND/OR Laws of Nature AND/OR A Causal Feedback Loop where external data is internalized in a decision making matrix AND/OR something else." seems like an appropriate application of MA. I think.

yes, but I can form an isomorphism between Emergent Property and Causal Feedback Loop (in fact, my solution was Causal Feedback Loop before i learned about Emergence). The Laws of Nature idea posted above is of an entirely different nature.

So far, I'm going to put the lack of (apparent) isomorphism up to a (very) slight difference in definition of Free Will. Which removes the MA application, cause it's no longer the same problem.

Well, this is a very interesting point. Are we discussing usable models of Free Will as defined by X or are we discussing usable models of 'Free Will' the thing that people experience? If the former, then sure... Emergent Property and Casual Feedback are two models and the third doesn't fit. If, however, we're trying to model the phenomena that humans experience which gets commonly called 'Free Will', then the third model fits as well. :)

I think of it sort of like maps of the city. If we're defining the city as its streets and houses, then city planner maps and Delorme Street maps and Google Maps all work as useful models. If we're looking for maps of the city, overall though... we could use those plus a topo map, plus a census map etc.

This is kinda interesting and I hadn't really considered this subtle but important difference. Thanks for the insight Trip :)

Also, I think LMNO and Cain both made very useful comments here. MA seems to be especially helpful if the individuals tries seeing the world through as many 'reality tunnels' as possible... not particularly to believe one or any of them, but rather to be able to look at the territory through that map, since we'll never see the territory itself.  This brings up some other interesting thing that wandered into my head right this second.

Model Agnosticism seems to perform two different functions. First, it promotes the comparison/contrast of similar models to find ones that most closely match the experience of the individual. Second, it promotes the consideration of any model, irrespective of how it may compare/contrast with other models or with the previous experiences of the individual.

Thoughts?

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