Tag Archives: Philosophy

Doorbells, Rubies, Shell Games, And Implication: An Example That Makes Treating Implication As An Information-That Relation Attractive

The Problem:  What Does Relevance Consist In?  Following Relevant Logic, we can avoid Classical Logic’s paradoxes (or at least weirdnesses) of Material Implication, according to which the following statements are true…

1) If Cliff lives in Houston, Texas, then the earth has just one moon

2) If Cliff lives in Orange County, California, then Paris, Texas is the capital of France

…by insisting that the antecedent p be relevant to the consequent q.

Two questions immediately becomes pressing:  first:  what does ‘relevance’ mean?  Second, what is it that makes p relevant to q?

First Question:  What Does ‘Relevance’ Mean?  As I intend to use the term, ‘relevance’ in general is a relation/connection that exists between one situation/state of affairs and another and is important to our concerns.  In the case of relevant implication, the aforementioned relation is important to us because it underwrites a guarantee that we can infer q from p. That we can legitimately make inferences is one of our concerns.

Implication is a relation between propositions.  One infers one proposition from another. Following Roderick Chisholm, I will be identifying propositions with states of affairs.  For example, the proposition that this cat, Felix, is sitting on this Persian mat with MAT_ID 1123581321 is identical with the state of affairs consisting in Felix sitting on the Persian mat with MAT_ID 1123581321.  So I will alternate between referring to p and q as propositions and as states of affairs.

By ‘situation’ I mean, roughly, ‘a site comprising one or more connected states of affairs which are available from a possible perspective.  A perspective is always limited and therefore does not have available to it other states of affairs.   The room in which I am typing this constitutes one situation.  In this situation the doorbell’s ringing, when it occurs, is available to me.  The button which, when pushed, causes the doorbell to ring is on the wall outside.  This state of affairs is hidden from me in my current situation.  The immediate vicinity of a person who is about to press the doorbell button outside is another situation.  The states of affairs comprised by the room inside are not available to this person.

Second Question:  What Is It That Makes p Relevant To q?  One at least initially attractive answer to the second question is the following:  p is relevant to q when p is information that q.

Here is one issue that I want to bring out into the open from the very start.  The careful reader will notice, as they go along, that I am vulnerable to the charge of circularity.  I will be analyzing implication in terms of  information and information in terms of situations, which in turn I analyze in terms of perspectives.  But it would seem that perspectives need to be analyzed in terms of information.  You, my gentle reader, my fearsomely implacable  judge, will decide later whether I am successful in defending myself against the circularity charge.

In what follows, I will first state what makes treating relevance that way attractive.  After dealing with a counter-example that, at first sight, seems completely devastating, I will argue that the INFORMATION THAT relation remains the basis for understanding relevance as it pertains to implication — at least for the examples that I present or link to in this post.

To state the matter a bit abstractly at first, p is information that q when a channel exists through which information flows from a source site, an at least partially-obscured situation s0 (which includes the state of affairs that q), to a reception site, a situation s2 (which includes the state of affairs that p), making the information that q available in s2. Such a channel exists when some state of affairs that c in a situation s1 renders the conditional probability that q given p 11.

The channel may open up between s0 and s1 because s1 is a physical situation comprising states of affairs whose obtaining during a certain stretch of time makes it impossible without violating physical laws for that p to obtain without that q‘s obtaining.

To bring up an example into which I am about to go into much greater detail shortly, during the time that the wiring to a doorbell is in a certain physical condition, it would be impossible for the doorbell to ring without the button outside getting pushed by someone or something.  Suppose (as is surely the case) that the doorbell could ring without the button’s getting pushed only if a defective physical condition of the wiring, given the physical laws of the universe, could allow for events x, y, or z occurring (for example, an unwanted electrical pulse caused by a short the wiring).  Currently, the wiring is not in this defective condition and will not be so for a stretch of time.  (Nothing, for example, could cause a short, given the physical laws of the universe.)  Given this current condition of the wiring, the doorbell could ring without the button outside getting pushed only were the physical laws of the universe violated.

In the case of the doorbell, the channel is opened up by the physical condition of the wiring, a condition that functions as a constraint disallowing any doorbell ringing occurring without the proper cause — the button’s getting pushed.  This physical constraint underwrites, so to speak, a guarantee that the doorbell will never ring without the button outside getting pushed.

This is a physical, causal constraint.  There may be other constraints as well.  [Including knowledge, perhaps?]

Another factor that will turn out to be pertinent to p’s being information that q is one’s state of knowledge cum ignorance regarding q.  I will be asking later whether this factor poses a problem for regarding p‘s being information that q as the relation that makes p relevant to q by making the truth of an IF THEN statement relative to one’s knowledge.

 

Initially, the following doorbell example, taken from Fred Dretske’s KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION2 made this account of p‘s relevance to q highly attractive to me.  Warning:  what follows will be a veritable operatic doorbell aria.  Those who are not fans of operatic arias are advised to go elsewhere.

The Doorbell Aria:  You are in a room (s2 ) in which you are able to hear the doorbell.  The wiring of the doorbell comprises situation s1The state of affairs c regarding this wiring is such that in all possible worlds in which the laws of physics of this actual world hold, the doorbell will never ring without someone or something depressing the button outside.  (Situation s0  is the ‘outside’, including the button.)  This never happens, ever, no matter how much time goes by.

The doorbell’s ringing guarantees that someone or something is depressing the button.  There are no poltergeists inside the wiring, no sudden bursts of electrical energy ultimately caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon, or anything like that, that will cause the doorbell to ring without the button outside getting depressed.  If one takes each occasion on which the doorbell rings, rolls back the clock, then lets the clock roll forward again, but this time with just one tiny change in the world they find themselves in (say, the butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon has an orange dot on its wings rather than a maroon dot), and if they repeat this exercise for each possible world whose physics is the same as our actual world, someone or something will be depressing the button outside each time.  Rinse and repeat for each time the doorbell rings.  100% each time.

100% of the time, when the doorbell rings, the button outside is getting depressed by someone or something. Given the doorbell’s ringing, the conditional probability that the button outside is getting depressed is 1.

The wiring is burdened by a defect, however, that results in the doorbell’s occasionally failing to ring even when the button outside is getting depressed.  Let’s say that this failure to ring occurs in 0.001 percent of all the possible worlds in which the laws of physics are identical with those of this actual world.  Suppose that each time the button outside gets depressed the clock gets rolled back, then rolled forward again, but into a another possible world whose physics is the same as our actual world but has just one tiny change (for example, in the color of the spot on the wings of the butterfly in the Amazon).  In 0.001 percent of these possible worlds, the doorbell fails to ring.  Rinse and repeat for each time the button gets pushed.  0.001 percent each time.

0.001% of the time, the doorbell fails to ring when someone or something depresses the button outside.  The conditional probability that the doorbell will fail to ring even when the button outside is getting depressed is 0.001.   The button’s getting depressed does not guarantee that the doorbell will ring.

If we follow Dretske’s definition of informational content, we will see that the doorbell’s ringing is information that the button outside is getting depressed.  We will also see that the button’s getting depressed is not information that the doorbell is ringing inside. This (to anticipate) mirrors the situation in which 3) is true, and 4) is false.

3) IF the doorbell is ringing, THEN someone or something is depressing the button outside.

4) IF someone or something is depressing the button outside, THEN the doorbell is ringing.

Back to Dretske’s definition of informational content:

Informational content:  A signal r carries the information that s is F = The conditional probability of s‘s being F, given r (and k), is 1 (but, given k alone, less than 1)

Fred Dretske, KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION, Stanford, CSLI Publications, 1999, p. 65

Let me linger a bit on “but given k alone, less than 1”.  k must be your knowledge cum ignorance of the source situation s0 outside.  At the moment, the doorbell is not ringing.  You have zero knowledge of how things stand out there with regard to the doorbell’s getting pushed.  The value of k is therefore zero.  With just this “knowledge” aka ignorance, and in the absence of a signal that the doorbell is getting pushed, the conditional probability that this is happening will be the probability that the doorbell is getting depressed at any given time of the day multiplied by 0.001.  This figure, whatever it is, will be considerably less than 1.

Now the doorbell is ringing.  All of a sudden, the conditional probability that the button outside is getting pushed has leapt to 1.  The doorbell’s ringing is therefore information that the button outside is getting pushed by someone or something.

Correlatively, when I am pushing the button, my knowledge of what is happening inside is zero, provided I am not able to hear the doorbell ringing in any case.  Given this knowledge alone, the probability that the doorbell is ringing is 0.999.  Given my knowledge plus the button’s getting pushed, that knowledge stays 0.999.  Therefore, according to Dretske’s definition of informational content, my pushing the button in this case is not information that the doorbell inside is ringing.

If the INFORMATION THAT relation is what makes for the relevance of p to q in true IF p THEN q statements, then 3) is true because this relation exists between p and q, and 4) is false because this relation does not exist.  Likewise, 1) is false because ‘Cliff lives in Houston’ is not information that the earth has just one moon, and 2) is false because even if Cliff moved to Orange County, California, that item would still not be information that Paris, Texas is the capital of France.  1), 2), and 4) are all false because in each statement the antecedent is not relevant to the consequent.

— “Wait a second!” I hear someone objecting.  “You mean that ‘someone or something is depressing the button outside’ is not relevant to ‘the doorbell is ringing?”  I do think that the notion of degrees of relevance — a relevance spectrum — needs to be introduced here.  The truth of ‘Cliff lives in Houston, Texas’ presumably adds exactly 0 to the probability that the earth has a single moon.  The truth of ‘I am pushing the button outside’ adds 0.999 to the probability that the doorbell is ringing inside.  The truth of the former statement lacks any relevance at all to its consequent.  The truth of the latter statement … well, it is not exactly completely irrelevant to its consequent.  But I do think this is a matter of ‘close, but no cigar’.  The truth of ‘I am pushing this button outside’ is not relevant enough to ‘the doorbell is ringing inside’ to make 4) a true statement.

Assume that an INFORMATION THAT relation exists between p and q in the following truth table except, of course, when the truth value of q makes it impossible for such a relation to exist.  (When this happens, of course, the IF THEN statement is also false.)  In that case, we would get a truth table for implication that is exactly like the one set forth by proponents of Classical Logic.  Except now the truth table makes intuitive sense — even the last row.  This is the row in Classical Logic’s truth table for implication that seems absolutely counter-intuitive to anyone sane.

Truth Table For Implication
p q IF p THEN q
T T T
T F F
F T T
F F T

 

Let’s consider the rows one by one:

  1.  ‘Doorbell is ringing’ is true, as is ‘the button outside is getting pushed’  IF p THEN q is obviously true in this case provided that p really is information that q.
  2. ‘Doorbell is ringing’ is true, while ‘the button outside is getting pushed’ is false. That q is false while p true guarantees that p is in fact not information that q, so IF p THEN q is guaranteed to be false.
  3. The doorbell is not ringing even though the button outside is getting pushed.  p remains information that q when that p is the case, so IF p THEN q is true.
  4. The doorbell is not ringing, and the button outside is not  being pushed.  Nonetheless, p would be information that q should that p obtain.  So IF p THEN q is true because the INFORMATION THAT relation still exists between p and q.

In short, provided this treatment of relevance is correct (which it is not quite — but I will get to that later), IF p THEN q is true if and only if p is information that q.  When (on this treatment of relevance) p is not information that q, then IF p THEN q is false no matter what the truth values of p and q are. This means of course that IF p THEN q cannot be treated in relevant logic as equivalent to NOT p OR q, as it is in Classical Logic.

This, then, is what makes treating relevance as consisting in INFORMATION THAT initially so attractive. First, the INFORMATION THAT relation at work in the doorbell example mirrors in a satisfyingly intuitive way the truth of 3) and the falsity of 4). Second, this treatment provides an intuitive explanation for the fourth row of the truth table for implication given above.  Proponents of Classical Logic are notorious for coming up with nothing more satisfying in this regard than ‘If you believe a false statement, you will believe anything’.

As side note, I would like to add that what I discussed in this post is the INFORMATION THAT relation as stemming from physical laws.  Here (but this needs to be re-worked) I discuss the INFORMATION THAT relation as stemming from what at first looks like logical principles but which, I think, may be more aptly described as the laws of probability.  I do want, after all, to base logic ultimately on something similar to INFORMATION THAT in a non-circular way.

[To sum up:  the relevance of p to q is a relation — a connection — between the state of affairs p and the state of affairs q which is important to us because it underwrites inference by guaranteeing q given p.]

Incidentally, the shell-game example discussed in the post just linked to clearly shows that the relevance-making relation cannot be the causal relation, at least not in all cases.  Turning over shell #3 to reveal a peanut is a signal carrying information that the peanut is under shell #4, but this action does not cause the peanut to be under shell #4.

However, there is a fly in the intuitive ointment. How is one to deal with statements like the following:

5) IF there is a ruby exactly 2 kilometers underneath my feet, THEN there is a ruby exactly 2 kilometers underneath my feet

or, more generally, with:

6) IF p THEN p

?

It would be a bit strange to suggest that a channel exists between the situation s0 (the way things stand exactly two kilometers underneath my feet) and the exact same situation s0.  It would seem, then, the relevant-making relation cannot be identical with the INFORMATION THAT relation after all.3  Although an identity relation clearly exists “between” s0 and s0, it would seem there is never an INFORMATION THAT relation between “them”.

However, while there are clearly cases in which no INFORMATION THAT relation exists between s0 and s0, adopting Roderick Chisholm’s notions of direct evidence and self-presenting states of affairs suggests that, in some other cases, we can treat that p as information that p.  I won’t be implying that Chisholm is correct in thinking that there is such things as direct evidence and self-presenting states of affairs.  If there is such a thing, however, it would suggest that sometimes INFORMATION THAT is not always a three-place relation(source, channel, receiver), but sometimes a one-place relation.

Let’s look at Chisholm’s (simpler) statement of what direct evidence consists in:

What justifies me in thinking I know that a is F is simply the fact that a is F. 

Roderick Chisholm, THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE, SECOND EDITION, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, Inc., p. 21.  Henceforth TOK. 

For example, when I suffer a sharp pain in my shoulder to which I point and say ‘here’, what justifies me in thinking I know I am suffering a sharp pain here is simply the fact that I am suffering a sharp pain here.

Likewise, if someone asked me the (somewhat strange) question ‘how can you tell there you are suffering a sharp pain there?” I could only answer:

7)  I can tell I am suffering a sharp pain here because I am suffering a sharp pain here.

But information consists in what one can tell.  It follows, then, that:

8)  My suffering a sharp pain here is by itself information that I am suffering a sharp pain here.

A knock at the door (to use something other than the doorbell example for once) announces that someone or something outside is impacting the door.  Something not identical with this person or thing does the announcing.  The pain, by contrast, is self-announcing.  The information in this case doesn’t travel or flow from a source site to a reception site because the source and reception sites are identical.

If one insists that information has to travel from a source site to a reception site, so that self-announcing information cannot really be information, we still have something that is very much like information.  For to have information, or at least something that is like information, it suffices that one be able to tell something (that someone or something is depressing the button outside, that the peanut is under shell #4, that I feel pain here). One is able to tell something in all these cases, including the self-announcing case.

This gives another twist to:

9)  IF I suffer a sharp pain here, THEN I suffer a sharp pain here.

Here p is relevant to q because q (alternatively p) is a self-announcing state of affairs that is either a case of INFORMATION THAT, or is something very much like INFORMATION THAT.

….

Let me turn now back those cases in which s0 clearly is not information that s0. ….

I argue, however, that 5) (and, to generalize, 6) are true because, were a ruby to exist exactly two kilometers underneath my feet, the conditional probability that there is a ruby exactly two kilometers underneath my feet would be 1.

Compare with:  were the doorbell to ring (given c described above), the conditional probability that the button outside is getting pushed is 1.  The doorbell example describes a case of a signal carrying information that because two distinct situations are in play, a source situation that is at least partially concealed from those inhabiting a reception situation.  The (at least partial) concealment of a source situation from the perspective of a reception situation concomitant with the (at least partial) ignorance that is inherent in k is required for an INFORMATION THAT relation to exist.  Without this, any signal arising from s would be “old information”, that is to say, not information at all.

So I would like to revise Dretske’s definition of informational content to the following:

Informational content:  A signal r in reception situation s2 carries the information that t in source situation s0 is F = Because c is G in situation s1, the conditional probability of t‘s being F, given r (and k in s2), is 1 (but, given k alone, less than 1)

This guarantees the truth of IF p THEN q when p is information that q. When there is only a single situation, s0, knowledge (ignorance) k drops out of the picture because there is no longer any situation s2 from whose perspective one has (at least partial) ignorance of what is happening in s0. The signal r also drops out of the picture because we are no longer talking about INFORMATION THAT. What remains, however, is:

The conditional probability of t‘s being F in situation s0 is, given t‘s being F in situation s0, 1.

I think it requires only a moderately keen grasp of the obvious to grasp this point.

So what is common to both the doorbell and the ruby examples is a conditional probability of 1.  You get the ‘conditional probability is 1’ feature of the ruby IF p THEN p example by removing features from the INFORMATION THAT relation existing in the doorbell IF p THEN q (where p and q are about states of affairs in distinct situations).

I submit, then, that the two-place relation4 that makes p relevant to p in the statement IF p THEN p is a derivativedegenerate case of the INFORMATION THAT relation.  It is what you get by removing features from the IF THEN relation in order to accommodate the drastic simplification of a richer, complex situation s comprising s0, s1, s2 (and k in s2 ) into a more impoverished, simple situation s comprising just s0. This relation is degenerate enough to no longer count as INFORMATION THAT; all that remains of the INFORMATION THAT relation is the ‘conditional probability is 1’ feature;  nonetheless, INFORMATION THAT remains the touchstone for understanding all the cases of implication presented or linked to so far — the doorbell case, the shell-game case, and the ruby case.

Or so I am thinking at this moment.  We will see if this conclusion will survive consideration of further examples of implication.

 

 

 

 

1 I think this is identical with the theory of relevance developed by Jon Barwise and later by Greg Restall, as presented in Edwin D. Mares, RELEVANT LOGIC A Philosophical Interpretation, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press 2004, pp. 54-55. Henceforth RELEVANT LOGIC.  

I mention situations because I have in mind the Routley-Meyer truth condition for implication, to wit:

AB‘ is true at a situation s if and only if for all situations x and y if Rsxy and ‘A‘ is true at x, then ‘B‘ is true at y. (RELEVANT LOGIC, p. 28.)

What I, at least, am calling a situation is what comprises one or more states of affairs available to one (or more, if the situation is shared) sentient creatures whose limitations prevent them from having direct access (in the absence of a signal) to other states of affairs.  The room inside which a person is able to hear the doorbell ringing is situation s2 — the reception situation.  The area immediately outside, where another person may be pressing the doorbell, is situation S0. — the source situation.   The wiring to the doorbell, which perhaps a gremlin or poltergeist is inhabiting, is situation s1 — the channel situation.

Of course, the fact I am bringing both situations and possible worlds into the discussion is probably a signal, that is to say, a dead-giveaway that I do not yet sufficiently understand the distinction between situations and possible worlds. Keep in mind that this post is an exercise in writing to learn.  So I want to issue a warning to non-experts in the field:  I probably know less about this stuff than may at first seem to be the case.  Needless to say, the actual experts, won’t be fooled.

2 Fred Dretske, KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION, Stanford, CSLI Publications, 1999, pp. 54-55.

3 cf RELEVANT LOGIC, p. 55.

4 — “Wait”, you say. “This is a two-place relation? Isn’t p identical with p?  So why isn’t this a one-place relation?” Yes, p is identical with p.  But the relation in question is a two-place relation because p is getting stated twice.

****************************

Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM is Channing Tatum, who is welcome to fix my pickup truck anytime. (In fact, I think I will buy a pickup truck just so that I can invite him to fix it.)

To distort Plato’s SYMPOSIUM just a little bit, pining after Channing Tatum is the first step on the ladder of Beauty that leads shortly thereafter to appreciation of the beauty of Classical Logic and Relevant Logic, and then, finally, to the form of Beauty — Beauty itself. Of course, my enemies say that I should avoid logic altogether and stick to pining after Channing Tatum.

Advertisements

Shells And Peanuts Again (And Again…And Again…In A Never-Ending GROUNDHOG DAY)

peanutshell_03

So one more time — but this time with feeling:  following Relevant Logic, we can avoid Classical Logic’s paradoxes of Material Implication, according to which the following statements are true…

1) If Cliff lives in Houston, Texas, then the earth has just one moon

2) If Cliff lives in Orange County, California, then Paris, Texas is the capital of France

…by insisting that the antecedent p be relevant to the consequent q.  The question of course now is:  what is the relation that makes p relevant to q?  In my previous post, one can, if they are sufficiently drunk, just barely make out the answer:  ‘whatever condition c along with (in the case of subjective probability) knowledge k makes the conditional probability of q equal to 1 given p is what makes p relevant to q.   Sometimes this ‘whatever’ is identical with an INFORMATION THAT relation (p is information that q); sometimes it is not.

( When the relation is identical with the INFORMATION THAT relation, c is the channel of information that allows p to be information that q. When the relation is not identical with the INFORMATION THAT relation, c consists in background conditions, especially causal laws, which, just as in the channel-of-information case, make the conditional probability of q given p 1. My current claim is that even when the relation is not identical with an INFORMATION THAT relation, it has a structure in common with the INFORMATION THAT relation.)

What I propose to do now in the next several posts is go through the> various examples I’ve mentioned previously (shell games, children with measles, wormy red apples, the ringing of defective doorbells, and so on) and a) work out when, in the example, the IF-THEN relation is identical with an INFORMATION-THAT relation and when it is not, and b) see what strange conclusions arise from this account of the relevance-making relation.  Maybe some of these will be so awful that one would prefer Classical Logic’s paradoxes of Material Implication.

In this post I propose to work through Dretske’s famous shell game example.  In that example, one will remember, a peanut is hidden under one of four shells.  I know from whatever reliable means that there is a peanut under 1 of the shells.  This knowledge reduces the probability that (a | the ) peanut is under shell #4 from 1 in whatever billions to just 1 in 4. Maybe my waffling here between ‘a’ and ‘the’ opens up a can of worms; I am unsure. I turn over shell #1.  There is no peanut under that shell.  The conditional probability that the peanut is under any given one of the remaining shells is now 1 in 3.  I turn over shell #2.  Empty.  The conditional probability that the peanut is under any given one of the remaining shells is now 1 in 2.  I say:

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

And what I say is surely true!  True, true, twue!!!!!  For if shell #3 turns out to be empty, then the conditional probability that the peanut is under shell #4 is 1.  The condition c that makes this conditional probability 1 given p is the characteristic that objects have — at least those objects large enough to be immune to whatever quantum weirdness — of persisting in one place unless molested.  The electron (at least according my remembered ((and almost certainly garbled in my memory)) pronouncement of a chemistry TA I had as an undergraduate) one finds orbiting this or that particular atom could have been on the nose of the Mona Lisa before getting observed, and might be there again a moment later.  But the peanut is not going to jump around like that, leaping to shell #1 one moment while unobserved, and onto the nose of the Mona Lisa the next moment.  It is going to stay placidly and inertially where it is — under shell #4 — while one turns over shell #3 and observes it to be empty.  Given this background fact about objects the size of peanuts, shell #3’s proving to be empty rules out the possibility that the peanut is not under shell #4.

Here the relevance-making factor — what makes the IF-THEN statement I uttered true — is also that factor that would make shell #3’s turning out to be empty INFORMATION THAT the peanut is located under shell #4.

But let’s turn back the clock.  I am now back at the point at which I am turning over shell #1.  Empty.  If I now jumped the gun and said (as if this were the movie GROUNDHOG DAY ((which I have not seen, by the way)), in which one atrocious day gets repeated again and again so that…”The phrase “Groundhog Day” has entered common use as a reference to an unpleasant situation that continually repeats, or seems to.”):

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

what I say would surely be false. Or at least it must be false if what I said in my first paragraph is true.  For were I to turn over shell #3 and discover it to be empty, the conditional probability that the peanut is located under shell #4 would not be 1, but 1/2.  So the same IF-THEN statement would be true at one time, and false at another.  And it would be true relative to my knowledge k at one time (I know that shells #1 and #2 are empty), and false relative to my lack of that same knowledge at a different time.

Not coincidentally, the (possible) emptiness of shell #3 being information that the peanut is located under shell #4 is something that is true at some times and false at other times, and is relative to one’s knowledge (or lack thereof) in exactly the same way.  In this particular case, what makes the If p Then q statement true is identical with what makes p information that q.

Now turn back the clock yet one more time (I warned you that this is another iteration of GROUNDHOG DAY).  This time I already know from a reliable source of information, even before I have turned over any shells, that the peanut is located under shell #4.  I turn over shell’s #1 and #2 as before.  Both are empty, as before.

But now, shell #3’s proving to be empty upon turning it over would no longer be INFORMATION THAT the peanut is located under shell #4.  This is so for at least two reasons.  First, according to Information Theory, “old information” is an oxymoron.  It is not information at all.  Shell #3’s turning out to be empty is not going to tell me, inform me, show me, that the peanut is under shell #4 because I already have this information.

Second, to generate information is to effect a reduction in possibilities.  In Dretske’s example of an employee selected by a succession of coin flippings to perform an unpleasant task, the eventual selection of Herman out of 8 possible choices reduced the number of possibilities from 8 to 1.  The selection of Herman generates INFORMATION THAT Herman was selected because of this reduction in possibilities.  But in my situation, already knowing that the peanut is located under shell #4, the number of possibilities regarding where the peanut is located is already just 1.  Turning over shell #3 to prove that it is empty does not reduce the number of possibilities from 2 to 1 — that number was 1 in the first place.  So in my situation shell #3’s proving to be empty does not generate, is not information that, the peanut is located under shell #4.

That the number of possibilities is in my situation just 1, not 2 means of course that the conditional probability that the peanut is located under shell #4 is not 1/2, but 1.  This means that shell #3’s proving to be empty does not make the conditional probability that the peanut is located under shell #4 equal to 1.  For that conditional probability was already equal to 1.  We are supposing that I already know that the peanut is located under shell #4, but I would not know this if the conditional probability were not already 1.  The very strange conditions that would have to obtain to make the conditional probability say, 1 in 2 would rule out this knowledge.  The peanut would have to exist under both shell #3 and shell #4 at the same time while unobserved, then “collapse” to a single location under one of the shells upon turning over the other shell and observing its empty condition.  So to say that I already know the location of the shell is to say that the conditional probability the peanut is at that location equals 1.

Now in the first paragraph of this screed I said (maybe ‘pontificated’ is the better word):

…whatever condition c along with (in the case of subjective probability) knowledge k makes the conditional probability of q equal to 1 given p is what makes p relevant to q.

Here my knowledge k (the peanut is located under shell #4) presupposes certain conditions c (the peanut does not exist in a kind of locational smear when unobserved, only to collapse to a single location when an observation is made).  Here p (shell #3 proves to be empty) along with k and the presupposed c definitely does not make the conditional probability of q equal to 1.  This conditional probability was, given k and its presupposed c, already 1.  So in my situation, p is not relevant to q.

So were I, in my situation of already knowing that the peanut is located under shell #4, to  utter GROUNDHOG-DAY-wise:

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

My statement would be false for exactly the same reason that the following is false:

If Cliff lives in Houston, Texas, then the earth has just one moon

In both cases, the antecedent is irrelevant to the consequent by failing to make the conditional probability of the consequent 1, rendering the corresponding IF-THEN statement false.  The antecedent “If shell #3 is empty” is in my situation irrelevant to the consequent “the peanut is located under shell #4” in exactly the same way that “Cliff lives in Houston” is irrelevant to “the earth has just one moon.” (In exactly the same way?  Yes, at least according to the perhaps narrow definition of relevance I postulated above.  But does this narrowness weaken my claim?  Might the emptiness of shell #3 be relevant to the peanut’s being located under shell #4 in some ((perhaps)) vague way even given my knowledge k?)

To re-iterate (this is a GROUNDHOG DAY post after all), the shell statement is false in my situation for exactly the same reason that “shell #3 is empty” fails to be information that “the peanut is located under shell #4.”  In this particular case, the relevance-making condition which is lacking is identical with an INFORMATION THAT relation.

If so, however, one is faced with a consequence that may strike some as at least equally unappealing as the paradoxes of Material Implication.  (Warning:  I am about to wallow in more GROUNDHOG DAY iterations.)  For when I utter:

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

the statement I utter is false, but when you hear:

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

and your situation is such that you have seen both shells #1 and #2 are empty and you do not know that the peanut is located under shell #4, the statement you hear is true!  The same statement is both true and false at the same time, given different situations.  Put another way, what is true or false (at least for a certain class of IF-THEN statements) is not the statement, but the statement as it shows up in a particular situation.

At least in the case of subjective probability, then, truth is relative in much the same way that Galilean motion is relative.

On a purely autobiographical note, I am not sure this relativity bothers me any more than Galilean relativity (there is the possibility of an ultimate reference frame) or for that matter Einsteinian relativity (there is no ultimate reference frame which would assign a single value to the speed of a moving object) does.  The idea that a person walking inside a flying jet is moving at a speed of 1 mile per hour relative to the reference frame of the jet but at a speed of 501 miles per hour relative to the reference frame of the earth (suppose the jet’s speed is 500 miles per hour) is perfectly intuitive even though it means a contradiction is true (the person is both moving at a speed of 1 mile per hour and is not moving at a speed of 1 mile per hour).

Likewise, the contradiction of claiming that (GROUNDHOG DAY alert):

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

Is both true and false at the same time seems to me to be intuitive if one casts it as a matter in which a conclusion’s following (not following) from its premise hinges upon what other knowledge or evidence one has (does not have).  But I do suspect that some would prefer to this relativity of truth and the attendant tolerance of contradiction the weirdness of Classical Logic’s Material Implication which arises from treating Implication as purely truth functional.

shell_02

This statement (GROUNDHOG DAY alert):

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

is variously true or false — even at the same time — depending upon the already-existing knowledge (or lack of it) of the person uttering or hearing the statement.  By contrast, the following statement is true regardless of what anyone knows, and true in any situation:

If the peanut is located under shell #4, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

In other words:

If p Then p

That the peanut is located under shell #4 clearly suffices to make the conditional probability that the peanut is located under shell #4 1.  So according to my account of what makes p relevant to q, p is relevant to p. p is relevant to itself.  p is in a relation to itself.  I am of course beginning to sound very weird (or maybe weirder) and very Hegelian…and I am beginning to wonder if I can get out of this weirdness by talking about 1-place relations, which are perfectly respectable mathematically.  (Not just 1-place relations!  0-place relations are also quite respectable mathematically!  What is more, Chris Date’s Relational Algebra recognizes two 0-place relations, TABLE DEE which is identical with the that weird proposition in logic TRUE, and TABLE DUM, which is identical with the equally weird proposition in logic FALSE!!!!!!!)

In this section of my post, I will decide that I am Relational-Algebra-weird by treating “If p Then p” as a 1-place INFORMATION THAT relation.  This in turn is part of my larger project to go through each example of IF-THEN statements I’ve adduced in previous posts and decide whether the relevance-making RELATION is in that particular case an INFORMATION-THAT relation or not.

Remember that to generate information is to reduce the number of possibilities to one.  When Herman is selected through 3 successive coin flips out of 8 candidates to perform the unpleasant task, the number of possibilities is reduced from 8 to 1.  The probability of Herman’s getting selected was initially 1 in 8, then became 1.  Whenever any event occurs, some states of affairs comes to obtain, some thing acquiring some property, the probability of that occurrence goes from 1 in (some usually gargantuan number) to just 1.  So any occurrence of p (Herman’s getting selected, shell #3 proving to be empty, a ruby having formed through whatever geological processes exactly one mile underneath where I happen to be sitting now typing this disreputable screed into a WordPress blog, the doorbell’s ringing) generates information.  Sometimes the occurrence of p generates information that q (that the peanut is under shell #4…that someone or something is depressing the button outside….).  But whatever else the occurrence of p generates information about, it generates at the very least the information that p.  Herman’s selection generated the information that Herman was selected, whether or not this information gets transmitted from the source situation in which the selection occurred (the room where the employees performed 3 coin flips) to the situation which is waiting for the information (the room where the boss is sitting).  When the information does get transmitted from source to receiver, the INFORMATION THAT relation is a 2-place relation comprising two situations, source and receiver.  When the information does not get transmitted, but stays where it is in the source, the INFORMATION THAT relation is a 1-place relation, comprising simply the source situation.

When the relevance-making relation that makes If p Then q true is an INFORMATION THAT relation, the occurrence (obtaining, existence) of p generates the information that q.  We have just seen that the occurrence (obtaining, existence) of p generates the information that p. So we get:

If p Then p

as a 1-place INFORMATION THAT relation.  Rather than saying, rather weirdly and rather Hegelianishly, that p is related to itself by virtue of being relevant to itself, we simply say that there exists a 1-place relation comprising the source at which the information that p was generated, and only that source.  This remains an INFORMATION THAT relation even though nothing ever tells me, informs me, shows me that, for example, a ruby exists exactly 1 mile beneath where I am now sitting, typing this disreputable screed into WordPress, or that the peanut is in fact underneath shell #4.  It is just a 1-place, not a 2-place relation, and an INFORMATION THAT relation to boot.

So in all of the following,

If a ruby exists exactly 1 mile underneath where I am now sitting, Then a ruby exists exactly 1 mile underneath where I am now sitting

If the peanut is located underneath shell #4, Then the peanut is located underneath shell #4

If Herman was selected to perform the unpleasant task, Then Herman was selected to perform the unpleasant task

the general relevance-making relation, i.e., the occurrence (obtaining, existence) of p making the conditional probability that p equal to 1, is identical with an INFORMATION THAT relation.  (My ((probably non-existent)) reader will remember that the relevance-making relation is not always an INFORMATION THAT relation.)

And this (after having brought in a ruby example and a Herman’s getting selected example) concludes my working through of most of the peanut-under-a-shell examples.  I still have one more peanut and shell example to work through, namely,

If I turn over shell #4, I will see the peanut

which I will work through in a future post.

SmallShell

Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM is Channing Tatum, who has recently appeared in MAGIC MIKE II.

ChanningTatum_02png

Channing Tatum is the very walking, talking, breathing, living definition of the words ‘age 35 and beautiful and sexy.’  One of these days I will get around to contemplating Plato’s Form of Beauty itself.  For now, though, I will rest content just contemplating the form of Channing Tatum.

SmallShell

July 18, 2015:  extensive revisions made in probably futile attempt to hide the vastness of the extent of my confusion.

July 21, 2015:  made one more revision in order to try to hide the lack of control I have over the subject matter.

August 02, 2015:  made yet another revision for the same dubious reasons as listed above.

Continue reading


My Attempt To Identify The IF-THEN Relation With The INFORMATION-THAT Relation Ignominiously Bites The Dust

Here is yet another challenge to the idea that ‘If p Then q’ is true when the occurrence of p is information that q.  Unfortunately, I think this challenge nails the matter. Consider Dretske’s shell game example.  The peanut is under shell #4.  So the following statement is true (given that my visual faculties are in sufficiently good working order, and that I am looking in the proper direction with my eyes open):

If I turn shell #4 over now (t0), I will see a peanut at time t1

(t1 being one millisecond or whatever later than t0.)  Is my turning shell #4 over at time t0 information that I see a peanut at t1? Certainly the situation largely fits Dretske’s definition of ‘information that’:

Informational content:  A signal r carries the information that s is F = The conditional probability of s‘s being F, given r (and k), is 1 (but, given k alone, less than 1)

Fred Dretske, KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION, Stanford, CSLI Publications, 1999, p. 65

(k represents what the receiver already knows about the source.)  The conditional probability of my seeing the peanut at t1 is certainly 1 given my turning the shell over at t0 (and given the other conditions mentioned).  So the IF-THEN statement above certainly fits that part of the definition of informational content.

But is my turning the shell over at time t0 a signal that at time t1 that I see the peanut?  A signal is  “…any event, condition, or state of affairs the existence (occurrence) of which may depend on s‘s being F.”  (Dretske, p. 65.)  Does my turning the shell over now depend upon my seeing the peanut one millisecond in the future?  How can a present event depend upon a future event?  Clearly not.

A signal cannot occur before the event or thing or state of affairs the occurrence (existence, obtaining) of which it signals.  The smoke does not occur before the fire (or the smoldering).  The doorbell does not ring before the button is pushed.  The deer tracks in the snow do not appear before the deer show up.  Were the watchman in Aeschylus’ play AGAMEMNON in the ORESTEIA trilogy to light his fire before he spots Agamemnon’s ships, his fire would not be a signal informing Clytemnestra of the appearance of those ships on the scene:  Clytemnestra would be receiving false information.  Something cannot be announced before it occurs (exists, obtains).

“But the dark clouds signal the rain that is about to fall; the sports official signals the race that is about to start in one millisecond by firing the pistol into the air.”  Someone may object in this way to my (seemingly obvious) claim that a signal cannot occur before the thing it signals.  Yet, although we can doubtlessly “round up” the dark clouds and the firing of the pistol to the status of signals, they are not so in the very strictest sense of ‘signal’ that I intend to use here.  For the conditional probability that, given the dark clouds, rain will fall is perhaps only 99%, while the probability that the race actually will start given the firing of the pistol is perhaps only 99.9999999999% (the supernova that will hit us eventually may choose that exact millisecond to intervene by making its presence glaringly, searingly obvious, or a huge earthquake might strike at that very moment….).

A signal is  “…any event, condition, or state of affairs the existence (occurrence) of which may depend on s‘s being F” and therefore cannot occur before the occurrence (existence, obtaining) of s‘s coming to be F.   The examples I’ve just given are not signals because they occur after what they “signal”, and — surely not coincidentally — they do not depend upon what they “signal.”  Let me dwell a moment, perhaps a bit obsessively/compulsively, on this notion of dependence.  Let me say that an event, object, or state of affairs p depends upon an event, object, or state of affairs q when, given a condition c,  p would occur (exists, obtain) only because q occurs (exists, obtains).

Consider, for example, a doorbell whose wiring is defective in such a way that, 99% of the time when the button outside is getting depressed by someone or something, the doorbell rings.  But 1% of the time the doorbell does not ring when the button outside is getting depressed. (I state the example this way to make it mirror the fact that p does not follow from If p Then q; q.)  Also, there is no poltergeist inside the wiring that sometimes generates the ringing sound even when no one or nothing is pressing the button outside; likewise, there is never, ever any freak burst of electricity ultimately caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon that generates a buttonless ringing sound.  Nor (somewhat more plausibly) is there any defect in the wiring that would ever cause a buttonless ringing sound to occur. Let c be the condition of the defective wiring as just described (including the absence of ring-generating poltergeists).  Given c (which I will call the non-poltergeist condition), the doorbell would ring only because the button outside is getting depressed (even though the button’s getting depressed does not necessarily result in the doorbell’s ringing)*.  Given c, the doorbell’s ringing depends upon someone or something’s depressing the button outside and is therefore a signal.  (A signal, moreover, carrying the information that someone or something is depressing the button outside, because the conditional probability of this is 1 given the doorbell’s ringing under condition c.  Another way to put this is to make the perhaps obvious/tautologous point that to be a signal is to carry information.)

Consider another example, one which is perhaps belongs more to the realm of probability than to causality.  One has turned over shells #1 and # 2 and verified that both are empty. They have information that the peanut is located in one of the four shells.  So c is now the condition that either the peanut is located under shell #3 or under shell #4.  Given c, shell #3 would be empty only because it is shell #4 that is covering the peanut.  It is, in fact, difficult to come up with any clear idea of anything else that could be the reason why shell #3 is empty.  Shell #3’s being empty therefore depends upon the peanut’s being located under shell #4, and the former would be a signal carrying information that the latter.  (Conversely, given that there is only 1 peanut at play in the game and given the rest of c, shell #4’s turning out to have the peanut would be a signal carrying information that shell #3 is empty.  Shell #4 would have the peanut only because shell #3 is empty. )

Now consider again the turning over shell #4 example given above as an instance of an event, object, or state of affairs that very definitely is not a signal carrying information.  It would be difficult to give any meaning to the assertion:

my turning shell #4 over at time toccurs only because I will see a peanut at time t1

Such an assertion would not, I submit, make any clear sense, since the dependency aka only because relationship is a vector traveling forward (to speak metaphorically) in time.

Also consider yet one more doorbell example:  suppose that the doorbell’s wiring is screwy in such a way that every now and then little bursts of electricity get generated which produce the ringing sound even when no one or no thing is depressing the button outside.  (Or, if you prefer, there is a poltergeist residing inside the wiring that every now and then gets agitated by a freak burst of air pressure inside the contraption that is ultimately caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon….)  Nonetheless, the condition of the wiring is such that the doorbell always rings when the button is getting pushed.  100 percent of the time the doorbell rings when the button outside gets pushed, but 1% of the time the doorbell is ringing buttonlessly. (I state the example this way to make it mirror the fact that q does not follow from If q Then p; p.  And I am making it mirror this because, of course, the whole point of these interminable disquisitions is to dig into the nature of IF-THEN statements.)  Let me call this condition of the wiring c, as usual.  (In a moment I will be calling it the ‘poltergeist condition.>)  Given c, it would be difficult to give any sense to the following assertion:

My pressing the button outside occurs only because the doorbell is ringing.

Clearly, my pressing the button outside does not depend upon, and is not a signal for, the doorbell’s ringing.  Again, the pressing of the button does not depend upon the doorbell ringing because the dependency aka only because relationship is a vector traveling forward, not backward, in time.

“Feel free to come to the point when you finally have one,” my (possibly non-existent) reader may want to say.  Well, the point of all of the above is the following.  Given their respective condition c’s, each of the following IF-THEN statements is true:

1) If I turn shell #4 over now (t0), then I will see a peanut at time t1

2) If I press the button outside [given the poltergeist condition], then the doorbell will ring.

3) If shell #3 is empty, then the peanut is located under shell #4.

4) If the doorbell is ringing [given the non-poltergeist condition], then someone or something is depressing the button outside.

Although the antecedent p is a signal carrying the information that q in the last two examples, it is not such a signal in the first two examples.

These examples, I think, nail it:  IF-THEN statements cannot be identified with an information relation.  My attempt to identify the IF-THEN relation with the INFORMATION-THAT relation has ignominiously bitten the dust.  (Sob, sob.) Does this mean, then, that we are stuck after all with Classical Logic’s paradoxes of Material Implication, whereby both of the following statements are true?

If Cliff lives in Houston, Texas, then the earth has just one moon.

If Cliff lives in Orange County, California, then Paris, Texas is the capital of France.

(Please God, please God, please don’t let these statements be true.)  Well, maybe we aren’t forced to accept these horribly ugly statements as true after all.  For in each of the 4 numbered examples given above, the conditional probability of the consequent (given the antecedent plus the relevant condition c ((plus the relevant knowledge k))) remains 1.  It is just that in the first two examples the antecedent does not depend upon the consequent, and therefore is not a signal carrying the information that the consequent.  It is not a p only because q relationship.  Perhaps, then, we can identify the IF-THEN relation with a different (but similar) relation, which I will call ‘the conditional probability is 1‘ relation. If so, it would remain true that in examples 3 and 4 above, the antecedent p is a signal carrying information that q.  So whenever p does depend upon q in such a way as to be a signal for q the corresponding IF-THEN statements would, possibly, have the (at least to me) weird properties mentioned in a previous post:

Third, the informational relation is both intentional and relative, as described by Fred Dretske in his KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION.  Treating If p Then q as an information relation would make implication both intentional and relative.  The very same If p Then q statement would be true inside some frameworks and false inside others.  Rather than accept this, some would perhaps rather accept Classical Logic’s paradoxes of Material Implication.

(Sidenote:  Dretske’s measles example displays the intentional character of information.  By pure chance, all of Herman’s children happen to have the measles; moreover, one does not know this.  So when one discovers that a particular person is a child of Herman’s, they do not have information that this person has the measles.) Or are we truly stuck with this weirdness? Can we find a way to make implication non-relative and non-intentional even in those cases in which p happens to be a signal carrying the information that q?

Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM is this gorgeous young Asian Man: GorgeousAsianGuy

It is hard to understand how anyone can get any work done at all with Beauty like this walking the earth, but somehow we do. How sleek all those black, white, and gray tones are!

Post Updated on June 27, 2015 to make the temporal vector nature of the dependency/only because relation clearer. (Or, if my reader is particularly suspicious, they are free to think I made the update in order to cover up some totally obvious mistakes, not simply to make a somewhat muddy post slightly clearer.)


The Red And The Yellow: Pinning Down Some Intuitions

I want to pin down the following intuitions. (Maybe this is a bit like pinning down some bizarre insects in a collection done for a biology class.)  The intuitions have been … provoked, if that is the word…by my reading in Fred Dretske’s classic work Knowledge And The Flow Of Information, and are motivated by some claims I want to make (hopefully in a later post) regarding Relevant Logic (as opposed to Classical Logic).

Suppose that someone has thrown together a pile of apples in an orchard.  (I am picturing my maternal grandfather’s orchard in Iowa, near Council Bluffs.)  The pile comprises some red apples and some yellow apples.  By pure chance, all of the red apples happen to be wormy, while at least some of the yellow apples happen not to be wormy.  I pick up an apple from the pile.  The apple happens to be red.

Now I have the strong intuition that in this situation the following statement is true:

If the apple I have picked up from this pile is red, that apple is wormy.

The statement is true, at least for a particular stretch of time, because any apple I pick up from the pile will be wormy should it happen to be red.  During that stretch of time, the apple from that particular pile will be wormy if it is red. Maybe later someone will throw in a non-wormy red apple, in which case the If-Then statement above will cease to be true.  But for this moment, the statement is true.

Now let’s back up and change the example.  The pile still comprises both red and yellow apples, but now both the yellow apples and the red apples are all wormy.  In this case…well, perhaps saying I have the intuition is too strong…nonetheless, I am strongly tempted to claim that in this other situation the statement under discussion is false:

If the apple I have picked up from this pile is red, that apple is wormy.

Classical Logic thinks the statement is true because both the antecedent and the consequent are (in our thought experiment) true.  Nonetheless, I am at the moment of this writing willing (perhaps foolishly) to stick my head out and say the statement is false because, in this situation, the apple’s being red is no more relevant to its being wormy than any other accidental feature of the apple — say, its still having a leafed twig attached to it.  In this particular situation, neither the apple’s being red nor its still having a twig and leaf attached to it excludes the possibility that it is not wormy.  What does exclude that possibility (for a while, at least) is the apple’s coming from this particular pile.  So the above statement is no more true than this statement (suppose I happen to be driving down Highway 66 at the moment):

If I am driving down Highway 66, then the earth has just one moon.

Classical Logic thinks this statement is true because both the antecedent and the consequent are true; Relevant Logic thinks the statement is false because the fact that I happen to be driving down Highway 66 at the moment is not relevant to the earth’s having just one moon.

I would like to add that the statement remains false even though, 100 percent of the time when I drive down Highway 66, the earth still has just one moon.  (I hope to motivate this claim a bit later.)  In spite of this ‘100 percent of the time’, this reliability, my driving down Highway 66 is not a factor that excludes the possibility that the earth has more than one moon.

Today my homage to Plato’s Symposium will be the singer Von Smith. (According to Plato, one ascends a ladder that starts with the beauty of gorgeous young men, and leads up to the beauty of things like Classical and Relevant Logic.)

Von_Smith

How can anyone get anything done with beauty like this walking the earth?  Especially beauty like this walking the earth and singing.


Paul Vincent Spade On Motivating The Mediaeval Problem Of Universals

“It is well known that the problem of universals was widely discussed in mediaeval philosophy — indeed, some would say it was discussed then with a level of insight and rigor it has never enjoyed since.” What follows is an extremely good motivation of the medieval problem of universals, offered by Paul Vincent Spade in the introduction to FIVE TEXTS ON THE MEDIAEVAL PROBLEM OF UNIVERSALS.

“It is easy to motivate the problem of universals. Consider these two capital letters: A A. Ignore everything else about them and for now observe only that they are of the same color: they are both black.

As you look at the two letters, how many colors do you see?  Two different answers are plausible.  You may want to say  you see only one color here, blackness.  You see it twice, once in each of the two capitals, but it is the same color in both cases.  After all, did I not just say the two letters were “of the same color“?  Isn’t that obvious by just looking at them?  This single blackness is the kind of entity that is repeatable, found intact in both letters at the same time; it is what philosophers call a “universal.”  If this is your answer, then you believe in the reality of at least one universal, and are in that sense a “realist” on the question.

But now reset your mental apparatus and look at the two letters again.  On second glance, isn’t it obvious that you see two colors here, two blacknesses:  the blackness of the first A, this blackness, and then the blackness of the second A, that blackness?  The two colors look exactly alike, yes, but aren’t they visually as distinct as the two letters themselves?  If this is your answer, then you do not believe in the reality of universals (at least not in this case) and are a “nominalist” on the question.  The problem of universals is in effect the problem of deciding between these answers. ”

Of course, my eros for the mediaeval problem of universals is just a stepping stone on the path to eros for the platonic form BEAUTY.  And the stepping stone previous to eros for the mediaeval problem of universals is, in the grand tradition of platonic philosophy, eros for gorgeous young men such as this one, who is today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM.

most_beautiful_men_04

If Plato can include a bad boy like Alkibiades in his SYMPOSIUM, I can include a bad boy like Josh in my post.