Saturday, July 31, 2010

Another Reason Not to Write

I was just looking at an excerpt from a book on Godel. It contained the following statement: "Since Immanuel Kant we have known that no proof of a personal God is possible." (p. 88). I am not sure what that statement means, or how it could even be possible. Aside from the question "What do you mean, we?" How is it possible to know that "no proof of a personal God is possible?" Kant must have written something which I must now find. But as far I can tell the most we can say is that there is a hypothesis that that no proof of a personal God is possible. Maybe they are referring to a narrow version of "proof".
Ah well, on to induction and some problems with the problem of induction, as in, wait there are an infinite number of universal statements whose truth we know inductively. Or maybe not.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Is This A Wild Goose Chase?

I don't mean the search for non-cliche titles for blogposts, but the search for truth about the world. I refuse to admit it is not possible for a human being, every human being, to find out the truth about the world. Granted it may never have been done, but it is an inductivist fallacy to assume that because something hasn't been done in the past, that it won't be done in the future. So giving up the search would of course be simply giving up. No need to coat it in words of alleged wisdom about what can be known and what can't. On the other hand all I really want to do is write about and perform music, maybe even just perform music now that I think of it. But something got me hooked on this deep search for the very nature of existence. It really sucks. Who wants to hear about this crap? No one I know...But onward goeth the philosophic analyzer thinking about propensities, probabilities, and possibilities, because that's where this screwy muse seems to lead. If I find the meaning of life, perhaps it will help my music criticism. There's a thought.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How Shall Artists Make Their Way Monetarily?

There Are Six Billion People or so in the world. One millionth of that is 6000. Therefore, if you can get one out of every million people to pay to hear your music and they are willing to expend enough to net you $10 a year per person, then you can earn 60K a year, just on your music.

Phase III of the Liar's Paradox

At last, probably because it is linked to these postings, the original posting comes up but although it didn't come up as a hit on July 14 the google cache says: It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Jul 10, 2010 16:26:04 GMT, which is before the cache date and time of the later posting (see below), but it didn't come up until now. What's up with that?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Phase II of the Liars Paradox

Thc crawler reached the post! According to the Google Cache:

"It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Jul 12, 2010 18:47:23 GMT."

What this means I can only guess. There are now two hits, where once there were none and yet neither is a hit on the original posting. Thus thatphrase still gets no hits on google. And the second posting does get a hit, so that is now false, but the first is still true, and if we stick to just the proposition maybe it was always false once the first pick up of those words in that order made it to google. On the other hand it occurs to me that if we limit "this phrase" to the very phrase being written at the time, i.e. it is self referential only in the actual particular use, then I can keep writing the phrase and have it true until the crawler catches it. How this maps on to actual reality I have no idea.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The American Wolf and Music History

Eric Wolfson is a force to be reckoned with meaning I would not dare without a lot of prep work criticize conclusions of the type set forth in this posting and yet the irony is that it is Wolfson's own music that led me to investigate and question certain critical aspects of how we judge music. I was speaking with someone at the Sidewalk Cafe and asked if they were going to stay and listen to Wolfson, and they replied something to the effect well if I want to hear that type of music I'll just go home and put on Bringing It All Back Home. State Street Rambler was if I recall an interview by Wolfson quite self consciously produced with a Bringing It All Back Home feel but suddenly it occurred to me, that we wouldn't even be having this conversation unless there were recording technology with massive distribution. That led to my article OMFUG

I think Wolfson should be read and listened to. My problem is this: Talking about music in the historical terms that Wolfson does may be akin to talking about kings and queens and countries and empires of the past. As it all gets fragmented will the history of music post say 2000 be possible to write at all? Will CD's that may be so good that they would end up on an essential listening list if they were heard by enough people be lost? Wolfson has been pulling out of the dustbin of history (for most people) some gems like the Carter Family and the like. That is essential work, for the Carter Family's influence is deep and wide. But that's a historical fact very closely connected with the twentieth century's centralized model of recording.

When I came on to this scene a few years ago I learned that one album that seemed to have influenced many people is one that I had never heard of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea I mentioned this to my daughter who informed me that this album was one she realized from first hearing was going to be a keeper. Indeed King of Carrot Flowers was played by a guitar violin duet as the prelude to the procession at her wedding this year.

Upon listening to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea I too was convinced. This album is so powerful I have to limit my listening.

The fact that In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is such a powerful album, that it influenced a number of people musically whose own music and songwriting I consider estremely important, leads me to believe that it should be one of the essential rock and roll albums. Chronologically it falls a little late to make it on Wolfson's list, but my point is not to disagree with Wolfson which would be foolhardy on my part, but to raise the question of what rock and roll historians do, or will be doing. We can discuss up to a certain point in time (maybe Kurt Cobain's death) history on a larger scale, sort of like the relations between nation states or the acts of humans in powerful and influential positions who have changed history on a massive scale. But lately it seems that history will have to start be writ smaller. Rock may no longer be a massive cultural and economic force, but it is a more spread out force. It's like we will be chronicling various small tribes descended from once great empires. But can those of us brought up on the massive wall of sound that was the Rock and Roll Music Industry live with writing small journal pieces about outlying cultures.

But see where this leads. Wolfson has me thinking about these questions. Questions which will take me years to sort through.

Poets and Songwriters: Are We Stretching the Categories of Thought?

One of the key facts in the analysis of thought via our language seem to be 1) usages that are agreed to be correct but are in fact meaningless or impossible and 2)usages that seem to be forbidden or at least sound funny to the ear. In the first category we may place Chomsky's famous: Colorless green tides sleep furiously. In the latter category we have constructions that Pinker discusses in The Stuff of Thought like "Tex nailed the board with posters" or "The thunder is crying the baby." It occurs to me that both these categories seem to generate really excellent poetic lines, so much so that Pinker's examples which are supposed to sound odd to native ears actually begin to sound pleasing to me from a writer's perspective.

But there is something more here maybe. Putting a string of words together in a syntactically correct but perhaps meaningless way as in Colorless Green Tides, can just be nonsense. How much I like it as poetry would be determined by the images linked together. As for stretching proper construction given the semantics something different seems to be at play. To say the thunder is crying the baby is semantically meaningful, it is arising out the same facts as "the thunder made the baby cry" but somehow heightening what is happening and making it odd as well as setting out a different view of causality and life.

As for Tex nailing the board with posters, that sounds like an angry and excessive thing to do.

I think this needs to be seriously looked at. I need to find actual examples of poetry and song that do these things, rather than noting examples that seem poetic.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Extraordinary Claims

I am working my way through The Stuff of Thought and I find a statement that I have read many variations of: "Extraordinary claims...deserve extraordinary evidence."

What does that even mean?

"Think this through with me, let me know your mind."

From a scientific point of view it it first seemed to me that the alleged extraordinary nature of a claim is it seems to me subjective and irrelevant. There are claims and there is evidence. Now as I reflect on Pinker's use of the phrase, it occurs to me that I need to make a distinction, which saves the statement for some purposes although not necessarily for Pinker's. This is a blog. I haven't read much beyond that statement. It is a rendition of what I am thinking as I read, having put the book down for a bit.

Pinker at the moment (well actually sometime in the past, but reading gives me the impression that what he writes is being said contemporaneously with my reading) is criticizing a particular theory. Now a theory can be refuted or ignored. It can be refuted by showing that the claims and predictions it makes don't fit with actual world. It can also be ignored. It simply may not interest us. This latter is extremely important in my view and it leads to an analysis of what we are doing when we think and when we speak and write about stuff and what causes us to react to a claim in a fashion that makes us demand "extraordinary evidence."

One thing it might reveal (putting emotional stuff aside) is being wed to an inductivist view of the world. It is criticizing a theory on the basis of what gave rise to the theory. It assumes there is a sort of inductivist method by which theories are properly constructed out of individual pieces of evidence and if that method is not followed the theory is defective. In particular it assumes that particular kind of theories require particular kinds of evidence, and if they are formed without such types of evidence then the theory is defective.

Another thing to note is that any claim of fact which is not predicted or which contradicts the predictions of the accepted theory or paradigm is almost by definition extraordinary. If a person makes a claim as to having observed such a fact how is it possible to demand evidence of that fact, which doesn't come down to the person merely saying I saw it? We ask that it be reproducible perhaps or look for similar anomalies elsewhere. But that's just run of the mill science. It's theory, observation, test, etc etc...

Anyway the theory that Pinker criticizes is one that says that we have approximately 50,000 innate concepts wired into us. Maybe the problem is that such a statement may not be testable. But certainly tests of some sort can be devised. For instance by combining that statement with other theories or accepted facts about the brain, we might determine that for the brain to hold an innate concept it requires x number of neurons linked in a certain way. 50,000 innate concepts would then predict 50,000 times this number of neurons and particular links. If that number is bigger than the observed number in the human brain then it would seem to have been falsified.

Strangely with the brain being what it is I don't necessarily see 50,000 innate concepts being an extraordinary claim. It may be false, but really it's just a claim. Can we test it? If not well just let it go. If yes well do we want to? If so then test it. If not, don't. What's extraordinary here?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thoughts on the Liar's Paradox

I recently was looking at The Liar: An Essay on Truth and Circularity by Jon Barwise and John Etchemendy.

The Liar refers to the famous "paradox" of saying "This statement (meaning this very sentence) is false." If it is true then it is false, but if it is false it must be true. There are other very similar paradoxes out there. One is the Russell paradox which apparently crushed Gottlob Frege's hopes of axiomatizing mathematics. Russell's paradox was that some sets are members of themselves and some are not. For instance the set of forks is not a fork and therefore not a member of itself. On the other hand the set of ways in which to group things is also a way in which to group things and therefore a member of itself. But what of the set of those sets which are not members of themselves. If that set is not a member of itself, why then it is a member of itself, but if it is a member of itself it is no longer the set of sets which are not members of themselves.

It seems if I am correct that Barwise and Etchemendy attack these notions of self-reference and circularity from a number of directions, but that in some fashion they conclude that the alleged paradoxes do not occur if we are attentive to the particular in which situation a statement is made. They also do some work with hypersets that I did not look at to closely.

In any event after reading Popper's account of Tarski's correspondence theory of truth I was reminded of something I did almost four years ago. I googled the phrase "this phrase gets no hits on google." As recorded almost contemporaneously here I got no hits. But I assumed that my blogging about it would result in my later getting when I googled the phrase, thus creating as sort of paradox.

A comment made by Stolen Brown Evergreen seems to indicate that he got a hit, but I just recently googled the phrase and got a hit, but not my original blog entry rather I got this single result:

The Bible is Word of God! - Page 6 - JREF Forum
There is no "law from the birth of life" which is why this phrase gets no hits on Google. Quote: and law from information (increasing of information by ...

It occurred to me that if we, in line with the prevailing culture perhaps, substitute "gets a hit on google" for "is true" about a given statement, even this self referential statement, sometimes it is true and sometimes it is not depending on the situation. For originally it was true-- the phrase didn't get a hit on google. I attempted to make this a self-referential paradox by blogging it. This failed but google's crawlers which are the eyes for most of us about the cyber world came upon the phrase in another context which had been posted on 3rd June 2006, 08:32 A but was not picked up when I googled the phrase on November 14, 2006. Meanwhile the paradox producing blog entry has not been found. (Will this entry fare better. Perhaps I will put the phrase in the tags)

So if truth of a statement is like getting a hit with google, meaning it corresponds to something in the world, then how does this play out? That sometimes the statement "This statement is false" is false when there is no set of facts to which it corresponds, and sometimes it is true when there is a set of facts to which it corresponds. All of which sounds like there is something going on, but I can't quite figure it out. I think it may have to do with the alleged eternity of statements and logic. Maybe it says something about intersubjectivity. Thus the Liar becomes "this statement as I say it does not correspond to anything anyone sees or knows about, but I am putting it out there in such a fashion that it may, or maybe something out there will correspond to it once it is discovered."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It Is My Understanding that Steven Pinker Misunderstands Me Although I May Misunderstand What He Wrote About What I Wrote and He Does Understand Me

I just discovered that a letter of mine which was published in Science a few years ago was quoted almost in full by Steven Pinker in The Stuff of Thought. He lumps me in with Linguistic Determinists, perhaps understandably. I must now go get the book to see if his criticisms are just. Actually in the excerpt I have read he basically expresses amazement that Science would publish such a letter as mine. Granted I get lumped in with Wittgenstein and Barthes and all these people which to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, if it weren't for the honor of thing I would have just as soon been clearer in my phrasing, but then if I wasn't so unclear I might have been simply ignored.
In my defense I will note that I was not espousing linguistic determinism but rather citing the problem of habits of thought as a result of one's language, which was why I mentioned Kuhn, because it's not about being trapped by language at all, it's about not thinking outside the box of our habitual language, which we are perfectly capable of doing, but which we might not even think about if not for other people with other habits and other languages. Or some such thing. It therefore falls outside of linguistic determinism as I think Pinker would define it. However I haven't read the book. I will get back to you when I do.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

One Never Knows, Does One?

I am reading the the autobiography of Karl Popperbut John Popper is now being interviewed by Pete Fornatale on FUV and has just revealed that Karl Popper is his distant uncle. He also confirms some things about the Popper heritage I recall from Wittgenstein's Poker

Friday, July 2, 2010

Will someone save this stuff

I've been glancing through Major Matt's antifolk memories, I'm looking at some of the threads on O.J. and I keep thinking of something Brook Pridemore said to me about things on this scene being so ephemeral. History is not made by the the victors, history is made by the people who keep the information and happen to put it together in such a fashion that it enters the normal background of discourse.

Reading Major Matt it could easily be the memories of anybody on any scene that later produced I don't know pick an artist Springsteen, The Clash etc. It all just takes on a certain cachet by being written up in appropriate fashion.

This corroborates for me, not that this scene will ever be big, but that there is no intellectually consistent standard that can tell me why writing about Dylan or Leonard Cohen is a better option than writing about Dan Penta or the Phoebe Kreutz.

And yet I keep running up against people unwilling to credit music and song because it has not made the radio or movie soundtracks or whatever. The notion of fame is so ingrained it is crazy.

And yet it is the passing of the great centralized distribution machine known as the recording industry that means that we may begin to lack a common musical reference. After all these artists I love were influenced greatly by that established industry. They may even want to be recognized by it, or benefit from its patronage. Whatever.

I fall into despair once again for this whole damn project.