Archive for the ‘Meta’ Category

Going Meta Here, There & Everywhere

April 19, 2016

Samantha Power is one of the great “leaders” of this world, so, endowed with quasi-supernatural powers, she powerfully zooms around in jets and armored motorcades. Such is our world: some think they can “lead” it, and it means they are above the law. So her motorcade zooms in Cameroon; at one hundred kilometer per hour on a dirt road. And runs over a seven-year old. Power was there to power up about security. A world led by such power monsters is not secure. This is what a powerful meta-conceptual analysis shows. (The rest of the day, the motorcade from hell slowed down to a crawl, momentarily chastised, because of bad PR…)

If one thinks carefully about it, one realizes that all and every progress in understanding were obtained by enlarging the scope of one’s inquiry. Typically factors not considered before get integrated, and they add logical dimensions to the logic. Another way of expressing this is by “going meta” (“meta” meaning beyond).

Just as there is metalogic and metamathematics, there is metaphilosophy (arguably metabiology has also arrived, with changes not just in genes, but in the bases of DNA). Plain mathematicians, or logicians do not like the “meta” version of their disciplines (nor do they like each other… except for those tremendous enough to transcend the differences). Indeed, at least once, metalogic studies invalidated a part of analysis.

Number of Books Mentioning Category Theory. For Decades, Most Mathematicians Have Feared And Despised Category Theory. CT Is Itself An Example Of Going “META”.

Number of Books Mentioning Category Theory. For Decades, Most Mathematicians Have Feared And Despised Category Theory. CT Is Itself An Example Of Going “META”.

Category Theory can be used to formulate “Meta”. Fascinatingly, the power of Category Theory is to go “meta” by forgetting all the details, and chasing (literally!) the big picture. One does not know why this is so, except, philosophically speaking, that the bark in your face tends to block sight of the forest beyond. To go meta, forget the bark, turn your head.

The incompleteness theorems are just one example of meta. earlier examples were equations, analytic geometry, euclidean versus non-simply-euclidean geometries, topology (generalizing metric spaces).

When one is  a baby it’s obvious that mom (= the Virgin Mary) and dad (= Zeus, Deus, Allah, etc.) created the universe. It’s a simple, deeply satisfying explanation, which helps provide all what one needs. However, when the baby goes meta, baby discovers there are other powers out there, other factors to take into account, from gravity, to getting air out of one’s stomach.

The rest of life is a long gathering of wisdom, by broadening and deepening one’s understanding, in a succession of conceptual mutations.

Some mathematicians (such as Alain Connes) have also complained that non-standard numbers were beyond their own understanding. Well, boys, I have bad news for you all: I invalidate all and any recourse to infinity as if it were another number. That still leave open the usage of “potential infinity”. But it demolishes… potentially, a large part of mathematics (what gets invalidated, or not, would, itself become a branch of mathematics).

Philosophy is the ultimate questioning of all the bases. “Metaphilosophy” should be a redundant notion. Part of metamathematics, such as Category Theory, have become workhorses of the mainstream… even in theoretical physics. Category Theory started as the ultimate pragmatism: forget about the foundations of the objects at hand, just worry about the rules the morphisms relating these objects can satisfy.

Thus one can safely say that fundamental differences between philosophy, mathematics, science and logic are all illusory. Category Theory provides with an example: it was started with a philosophical point of view on mathematics, and is now a must in some areas of physics.

So why does philosophy have a Public Relation problem? Because philosophy attacks the established order, always, and the new orders brutes always try to impose.

The other day the German Chancellor decided to prosecute a comic who had made (gentle) fun of Erdogan, the Turkish Sultan (aka “Turkish president”). It sounds like something straight out of more than a century ago (the Kaiser was allied to the Sultan). The healthy reaction from the philosopher Massimo Pigliucci was: Massimo Pigliucci‏@mpigliucci Apr 15

“Really Germany? Fuck you, Erdogan. “Germany Turkey: Merkel allows inquiry into comic’s Erdogan insult”

That’s excellent. It is excellent, because it is very wise. This is at the core of what the best philosophers have always done: scold infamy. In another tweet of Massimo, and it was a surprise to me, Hillary Clinton was revealed to have 27 million in income (in 2014, it was 24 million). Sanders had just $205,000 (less than 1% of Hillary’s income).

Philosophy, well done, brings revolutions, all over, not just consolation. Philosophy also brings consolation, yes. Boethius, president of the Roman Senate, wrote the “Consolation of Philosophy”, while waiting for his execution by bludgeoning from the local Erdogan. In the Sixth Century. (Islam did not yet exist, but, with examples like that, it could learn from the worst.)

The elites, lest they want revolution(s), can only view philosophy as a self-defeating endeavor. Elites are rarely for revolutions (although Louis XVI of France was for the American Revolution, in spite of strident critiques from his brother and members of his cabinet, that he was creating a Republic).

The fear and contempt elites have for revolution is the main source of the Public Relation problem of philosophy.

Meantime, humanity will keep on going meta, going beyond what was established before. That’s the genius of the genus Homo.

Patrice Ayme’