Tag Archives: thinking

The Evolution on Concepts

6 Apr

The concept of a claw hammer did not just pop into the human mind from out of non-existence.

First was the concept of a rock.

Somewhere someone realized you could pound with a rock. Perhaps this person broke nuts open with a rock.
The first stage of the concept of a hammer was born.

Somewhere someone threw a rock at something. Perhaps it was a nut in a tree. Trying to knock it down.
The first stage of the concept of a rocket was born.

Somewhere someone used a stick. Perhaps it was to dig beetles out of the ground.
The first stages of the concept of a fork and a spear were born.

Somewhere someone put a rock on the end of a stick.
The second stage of the concept of a hammer was born.

Just as humanity evolved as a species so did humanities concepts.

And here is a crucial fact:
Every concept humanity has ever developed has survival value.
I have never found a single concept that did not have survival value at the time it was conceived. Some of those concepts have had counter survival value when circumstances changed and select humans refused to revise their concepts. But every human concept has survival value in the right circumstances.

I state that concepts evolve.
This is easily demonstrated. Scientific concepts show a clear path of evolution.

Other creatures also have concepts.
Look at dogs and cats. They both have a concept of what is food and what is not food. They share a concept of humanity as a source of food and shelter.
Obviously there was a time when humans were not sources of food and shelter for either dogs or cats. At that time dogs and cats would not have this concept of humans. This concept had to grow over time.
This simple demonstration shows not only that animals do have concepts but also shows that their concepts also evolve.
In this we are not alone.

We can look at a bug as having a concept of what food is. Of what a predator is. In the case of ants and bees they must have some concept of home and community. Perhaps nothing like we humans have, but something that suffices.

It can be said that certain plants, those that turn their leaves or flowers toward the sun as it passes, have some rudimentary concept of pleasure if nothing else. It might be nothing more than warmth.

Each creature has exactly the number, or set (if you will) of concepts that it needs to survive.

The Concept Line™ starts at the vaguest sensory awareness.
A plant has, through warmth, light, or some other means, a sensory awareness of the sun. We know this because so many plants visibly react to the sun.
Whether the plant has any sensory memory of the sun when it is not present is something we cannot determine with any current or proposed technology I am aware of. However it has been demonstrated that plants discharge measurable energy when in the presence of someone who has abused them, say torn off their limbs.
Thus we can contend that plants have a rudimentary concept of pain and pleasure.

Moving along the concept line we can show that insects have a rudimentary concept of food and predator.
We know this simply because any bug will go after that which it considers food, be it a leaf or another bug, and will avoid, and or fight, those things that will in turn eat them.

Many fish live in schools. Some insects live in hives. This indicates a rudimentary sense of community.
Primates go so far as to show complex social structure and even politics.

Humanities concepts have not only evolved, but can be traced through anthropology.

Even more interestingly the human evolution of concepts can be demonstrated in its children. A baby has the most minimum concepts possible for a human being to have. As the child develops physical abilities and experience more concepts develop. For example babies are not born with depth perception, it develops later, and even then it takes time and experience for a child to judge exactly how far away an object is. Then even more time to judge how much time it will take the object, say a car, to reach them at a given speed.

However having a concept is not sufficient.

In fact having a concept, in and of itself, is only a survival mechanism only up to a point in the evolutionary ladder.
At some point what is done with concepts is more important than having concepts.

Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
I say the unexamined concept is not worth having.

So at the far end of our Concept Line™ , not at the very end, we mark a point at which concepts are not simply held, they are manipulated.



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Why Would YOU Think Like Aristotle?

26 Oct

So why would anyone, you, I, or the person down the street, the big shot in the office, the bag person pushing a shopping cart  — Why would they, or anyone else, think like, or want to think like Aristotle?

The reason is simple: Because we are human.

Aristotle no doubt believed he came up with a higher form of reasoning. His followers, even to this day, tend to believe that Aristotlean Logic is a higher form of reasoning, largely due to the complex nature of its exceptions.  Fallacies, they are called.

So what is a Fallacy?

Its simplest definition is an error in reasoning: On the surface the argument looks as though it is reasonable and logical, but when compared to empirical data the answer simply does not fit.

The easiest fallacy to uncover results from not closely defining the terms being used. Often these are accidental. If you don’t realize that bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeast, and protozoa, are all called germs: If you don’t realize that some of these are good for you, then you are prone to making fallacies about them yourself or to accepting fallacies about them from others.

This is where questions come in. Even when you know that germs are a category, not things themselves, and even when you know that some are good for you and some are bad for you and some are indifferent — it does not hurt to ask yourself, or the person you are talking too, “Exactly what do we mean by that?”

Why Logic is so difficult to master is because there are so many potential fallacies that have been identified. The lowest number of known fallacies I have ever heard is ninety-nine.  The largest number is over a thousand.

In order to be a logician you need to not only recognize a fallacy, you need to be able to implement it; that is find it and correct it.

The reason why there are so many exceptions in Logic; the reason why there are so many fallacies is not because Logic is complex, but because it is simplistic. It way over simplifies so that our minds, which are incapable of handling the full extent of reality, can deal with, manipulate, and understand reality.

Once we understand that Logic is simplified reasoning, one that is not in any way connected too, or representative of reality, then we can use it to good effect. We take a tiny piece of our insanely complex universe, make it bite size so our brain can deal with it, and then discuss it as though it were real. We can refine our definition to the point where it can be understood and manipulated. We can discuss specific bacteria strains, or domestic cats, without constantly worrying that this small segment of reality is not representative of all reality, even though we are aware of the fact.

Once that is done we can use Logic.

Basically Logic is a system of drawing lines around the various parts of the universe and declaring “This is This and That is That”.

It is important to realize that neither This nor That really exist in and of themselves.

A dog is NOT a dog. There is a self animated fur-bearing thing out there in reality that we call a dog. Dogs share DNA with cats and humans. When we talk about dogs we often do not even realize we are discussing domestic dogs and much of what we say does not apply to their wild cousins. So we can discuss German Shepherds or Border Collies as opposed to Tea Cup Poodles or Chihuahuas.

I am aware I am beating a point in the head here, but it needs to be absorbed.

When we are using Logic we are not talking about “Things” we are talking about our definitions of “Things”. The things themselves do not exist independently or out of context with any of the other things the universe is composed of. The fact things can be treated as though they are separate entities allows humans the ability “Think” about them: To manipulate ideas about them: To, as far as humanly possible, understand them.

We never really know, no can we ever know, exactly what we are talking about. But we can arrange our definitions is such a way that we can discuss them as though we did know.

The problems of reasoning happen when we forget that Logic, Things, or Events, and our understanding of them, are all artificial constructs that allow us as humans to function within a universe we cannot fully comprehend.

© 2013 All Rights Reserved.

Aristotle was an idiot (part 2)

25 May

The law of non contradiction.

This is often written in the following dumb format:

Not (A and not A)

This takes a simple statement in English, inverts it, and then expresses it in math form. Nice way to complicate the issue for people who are not math informed.

This works great with Americans whose schooling has somehow taught them, “I’m no good at math.”

How an entire nation of people can be programmed into that five word sentence by so many teachers spending eight hours a day five days a week for twelve years would be easier to understand if most math weren’t relatively simple and if the job of teachers weren’t expected to educate the public.

Of course the same teacher will quickly point out that the above sentence fails grammatically even though its communication is clear.

Someday I will write a Map Thinker’s Guide to Grammar™. But not today.

So let’s make it simple English and simple math.

Either A exists or A does not exist.

It cannot be both at once.

There is a problem with this.

The Law of the Excluded Middle, which we will deal with next makes that statement.

Either (A or not A)

They make the same basic statement but they mean different things. That is why they are expressed differently. Seen as neither one makes much sense to a Map Thinker™ it doesn’t really matter but we will go over the distinction just because.

Not (A or Not A) means that a thing cannot both exist and not exist at the same time in the same way. Or you can say a statement cannot be both true and false at the same time.

I used the word “way” while most translations I have read say “respect”. I doubt if either one carries the exact meaning of the original. Even if you speak modern Greek I am not convinced you would be certain exactly what the same word meant 2,300 years ago.

Today we know, from quantum physics that some pretty large particles can in fact exist in more than one place at the same time in the same way. The largest I have heard of is a drumstick. The kind made of wood you play a drum with, not the kind from chicken you eat.

But lets take something larger.

Two things I love. Water and Trees.

A tree on a knoll either exists there or it does not. It (at present knowledge) cannot both be there and not be there at the same time. It may not be there tomorrow, it may be cut down, or zapped by lightning.

Unless of course you subscribe to the Quantum concept of parallel universes in which case there will be a universe where the tree is on the knoll and another where it does not exist there. How about the one where the knoll itself does not exist there.

But lets call that reaching.

The question arises, “Does the tree exist at all?”

In point of reality it does not.

The tree is a product of Emergence. That is the tree is built of simple building blocks that are built of even simpler building blocks that are composed of non-particles that are also non-waves.


That may sound confusing.

It is.

It is a combination of my understanding of particle physics and complexity theory.

The tree itself is an expression of a combination of relationships that exist in reality in such a way as to produce a species we call “tree” and this is a particular member of that species.

So the tree is really a figment of our imaginations. We aren’t completely sure what is out there. We are sure that this particular combination of universal building blocks is identifiable as both a species and an individual and we call them trees.

So no matter how you look at a tree using modern knowledge it both exists and does not exist at the same time.

And we are talking about something we can cut down to build houses, handcuff ourselves to so others cannot cut them down to build houses, climb, kick, or hug.

In reality the tree does not really exist.

But we can treat it as though it exists in the same way as Aristotle conceived of it.

Things do not get easier when we tackle concepts instead of objects we can touch, hear, taste, hold, smell, see, kiss, or rub on.

A thing can only be true or false if it is narrowly defined. If the parameters are sufficiently delineated. The problem is that once a term is so narrowly defined that it can be true or false it must be agreed upon by two or more people.

In Aristotelean logic most arguments happen because those involved did not agree on their terms, their definitions.

Thus if we agree that Aristotle was the wisest man in history there is little we have to argue about.

There is little point in any discussion between us.

If we agree that Socrates was the wisest man in history then we also have little to disagree about.

There is little point in any discussion between us.

If you believe Aristotle was the wisest man in history and I believe Socrates was the wisest man in history then we disagree about everything.

There is little point in any discussion between us.

Aristotle wanted answers.

Aristotle constructed methods that would force agreements between people who disagreed. If you followed his rules only one truth could exist and the winner of the argument was the one who had demonstrated his was the true argument.

Socrates realized that what people believe to be true is seldom true and that what people believe they know to be real very seldom is. Socrates realized that what is considered knowledge is, like the tree discussed above, a fiction. It does not really exist.

Aristotle represents certainty.

Socrates represents chaos.

Aristotle, like any good preacher, gave the people what they wanted. A feeling of superiority over all lesser beings. These included animals, foreigners, women, and deaf people. He provided simple, easy to master, rules that reinforced this feeling.

Socrates, like any good scientist, sought to find the boundaries of what is known. You cannot explore any concept until you know where the limit of that concept is.

Here we have the basis of logic, both as a workable system of thought, and logic as a failure of reason.

If you believe Aristotle was God’s human gift to Reason, then I am an idiot and there is no point in your paying any attention to anything I have to say.

Your belief is your truth.

If you believe, as I do, that Aristotle did little or nothing to advance humanity and stifled human progress with lousy reasoning, then you must recognize Socrates as a martyr.

Our belief is our truth.

What matters is not that our truth is different.

What matters is that neither of us has the right to force the other to change our truth.

There is no truth.

There is only belief.

And our beliefs are maps.

The maps are not the territories.

Our maps, no matter how useful, are in some way wrong.

If we ask the right questions we may discover where our maps have gone awry.

The law of non-contradiction makes no sense.



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