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Monday, December 13, 2010

Do Numbers and Mathematics exist outside of Psyche?

This piece started as a response to one of those Facebook questions that asked: "Do Numbers and Mathematics exist outside of Psyche?

Where do the boundaries, and limits of intelligence and life exist? How might one distinguish that which lives from that which is supports life? A cow cannot live without grass, and fish cannot live outside water (some exceptions I realize exist).

Closed circles cannot be drawn around life, with labels that proclaim the balance 'dead' or inert. Consciousness, must be free roaming, or everywhere all at once, a force that life taps into.

Human beings are only one manifestations.

Would we recognize a more developed life form if one presented itself, and if not, does this mean we might be ignoring other aspects of the physical world that are living, alive, right now, that in our anthropocentric brains we currently assume are dead?

The question invites a re-evaluation of these categories. Please indulge me as I explore how this topic relates to Numbers and Psyche.
[I have written some other essays that deal with similar ideas, "Why the Fibrolatti Cut the Tail off a Squirrel", "The Perimeter of Consciousness", and "Conversation with Jeff Rosnik", and "Where is Consciousness?"]

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Numbers do not exist outside of Psyche, but, Psyche is everywhere. Even stones possess it.

What? Do you think me crazy?

Grant me a moment.

Without trying to exhaustively define what Psyche IS, if we might settle upon the notion that Psyche is a man-made concept used to describe phenomena exhibited by living creatures at the very least. Might we also agree that only a living entity can possesses Psyche (regardless of whether one believes only humans can can exhibit Psyche), then we may proceed to some other questions:

Regardless of whether we insist that psyche is solely a human quality, or restricted in some way to higher mammals, or present to a degree in all life forms, I think we might also agree amongst ourselves that numbers, counting, and mathematics are abstractions devised by language forming intelligence at some level since like Psyche they represent abstractions that are not connected. A set of two anything requires imagination, intelligence, hence a bowl of two oranges or two letters in a box cannot know of the intelligent being that is imagining them for illustrative purposes.

Numbers are signs, requiring a degree of intelligence to maintain them as as notions symbolic of, but separate from physical reality.

So I repeat: numbers cannot exist outside of Psyche, yet Psyche is everywhere. Even stones possess it.

First some grammar: I'll use Psyche, capitalized, to mean the word and construct for what psyche (un-capitalized) might be in an ontological sense.

In other words I'll capitalize the linguistic usage, and let the general usage stand.

Most mathematicians believe that an alien intelligence, even one that might think and act perhaps with greater dimensionality than human beings, must ultimately possess a mathematics that closely resembles our own.

This is because for our mathematics to work at all we must accept the precondition that 1+1=2. We must accept the notion of a 'set'. There are ideas fundamental to Western thought that rely upon a mathematics that builds through a historicity of hypothesis, and proof.

I'll state that I agree with the findings of Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell (Principia Mathematica), within the following frame of reference: an Earth-bound intelligence consigned to a three-dimensional space, perceiving, but not able to sense accurately, a fourth dimension, time, but having no access (other than psychic access) to any other dimensionality.

My broad-based disagreement is not what I'm presenting here.  All I request is that you agree, mathematics is a symbolic language, of signs and statements that may be employed in the physical world, but that as a language, is separate, abstract, and distinct from it. The physical world cannot have direct meaningful access to language except through a language-devising intelligence such as ourselves.

This means that if one is to argue, that fire or stones, or water, possess the same qualities that we define as living, or intelligent, we must admit that in some fundamental way they employ a kind of mathematics that is parallel to the physical. Just as we do.

No matter what happens to a building or a bridge, or a rocket engine, mathematics will not be affected directly by any of these entities, except by humans who might re-evaluate some of the applied math that was used to construct them. The physics of everyday life rarely yeilds measureable results that correspond exactly to a mathematical construct.

Yet as the forms of nature observed are smaller, and simpler, such as molecules of water, or a perfect gas, or the behavior of fire or liquids, the mathematical models more closely approximate the reality at hand.

Except when the level of experimentation is minutely small. Beneath the computational level of a single molecule. It is well known that photons may react even before a 'cause' that will cause one to fire off of a nucleus.The correspondence between the real world and the abstract world of symbolic language, is an active process requiring a manipulative intelligence. That manipulation is language, and languages are usually specific to those that devise them.

Clearly at a subatomic level, reality and language are much the same, as if all reality in fact was constructed BY language, and OF language.

Why should mathematics or physics be different than spoken languages? Yes the spoken languages may seem far more complex, but in reality we understand them far more easily than the subtle language that governs the interactions of all matter.

Even discoveries in particle physics may not be related back into the advanced theoretical physics and mathematics that led to these discoveries without the intervention of mind. The world of matter and energy has it's reality, and intelligence spends some of that energy to keep alive a language that describes that reality. One of those languages is mathematics, and a system of numbers.

As mindful creators we are also the keepers of the language of mathematics, and of Psyche as well.

Psyche, is originally a Greek word, . . .

"pronounced /ˈsaɪkiː/; etymology: Greek ψυχή psykhe "soul, mind, breath, life", refers to the forces in an individual that influence thought, behavior and personality."  [Wikipedia]

Thank-you Wikipedia. Notice how the definition refers to 'forces in an individual'. Here immediately we notice the inability of our language to penetrate the soul; it resorts to metaphor even in a definition. Here is Wiki's own definition of force:

"Force is what causes mass to accelerate or become deformed."  [Wikipedia]

Statements in mathematics and psychology may only bear a resemblance to physical reality, a resemblance that is not pictorial, or descriptive, but rather predictive.

That is, the language of mathematics enables us to make manipulations that are useful. A prisoner counting footsteps outside his cell, may know if there's a guard in the hall. A farmer counting days since sowing his crop has a fair idea of his harvest. If math weren't useful, we wouldn't use it.

If I have six oranges on a table, I may also say that I have two oranges, or five oranges. But I cannot say truthfully that I have only two oranges on a table where six exist. The statement would be false. Yet whatever I say, since I could easily look at six oranges and say that I have nine elephants, and whatever conclusion I drew, true or false, requires a symbolic intelligence outside of the existence of the oranges themselves. The oranges exist, with or without the statement about them.

Do we agree so far? That statements about oranges or elephants on tables are fictions, creations of a language-possessing intelligence. That these statements can be true or false, but only we can determine whether they are true or false using the terms and conditions of that language itself. The oranges will never decide on their number for us.

So with Psyche. As inventors of the notion of Psyche and Number, we humans are comfortable with both as abstractions convenient for use by our symbolic minds for purposes of manipulation, thought and reflection.

But beneath the notion of Number, and also beneath the notion of Psyche there is also some thing 'real'. There IS number-ness.

Numbers are first and foremost signs, quantifiers assigning an aspect to a situation that a) must be perceivable or demonstrable, b) must be verifiable within the self-enclosed grammar of mathematics itself, and c) may be inherently independent of reality itself. The number sign enters the language of mathematics and is there used.

If '2' also meant '200' but without some kind of grammar to know when it meant two hundred instead of two, then the sign '2' would be useless.

The usefulness of language is maintained until it fails in purpose. When it fails, it evolves, by meeting the challenges offered by a new reality, or else some other more useful language is used in its place.

Astrology, until the time of Kepler's revolutionary work describing the motions of planets, was a predictive and interpretive language, considered in its day a subtle way to make predictions. Kepler himself, excelled as a graduate student with a brilliant prediction of a nobleman's death, using the 'science'/'art'/'practice', of astrology.

Yet that language, was not accurate enough for a species beginning to develop technologies, which required the precision of a new mathematics.

Since Kepler, astrology has been considered a back-room affair by most scientists, something amusing at best, but never to be relied upon.

I will not debate here, because my point is only that languages exist where languages are needed. Predictions about one's health, or success in war, were not as necessary then as predictions of tides, of where cannon shells would land, or of the physics of early engines.

The economic payoff, of a more precise, but less soulful language, was too great. History was led by the development of new languages, and old, very powerful languages, were trashed. This is history.

One mathematics gave way to another. Astronomy replaced astrology, Newtons's calculus replaced numerology. This is a gross simplification of a historical transformation that took place in man and have been taking place regularly with every advance in our abilities to wield consciousness, as truncheon, tool, or telescope (my three T's of conscious-nese)

Back to Psyche.

Indeed, Psyche takes it's place with-in a self-enclosed and self-reflecting language, and a grammar of character, of the human soul and spirit. It's a concept, not something we can lay our hands on. Yet it it describes something that is there. Using our concept, we know of it, through Pyche, within the language of Psyche, to describe it.

Psyche has been extraordinarily useful as a concept in the development of modern psychology.

Is Psyche the psyche? No. And here we come to the great mystery. The construct, the abstraction, only points in the direction of, the mystery. Psyche is a sign, the thing the sign refers to is . . .

     "If you read this here don't go this way,
      I know that she is there.
      I left this sign then went her way
      I'm no more, but I don't care."

The language is clearly defined, and makes careful use of definitions to show how various schools of thought disagree on certain points, and agree on others. The work through Freud, Jung, modern neuroscience, is carefully constructed. All theories are doggedly followed by an army of experimenters, seeking verification.

Our languages are maintained like systems of hedges, a classical garden in some parts, romantic in others. By far the greater part of the garden is wild, and not understood. We like to pretend that most of the garden is manicured, well described, managed, and sensible. But it isn't. We haven't got a clue. Man will begin to see once he realizes the thoughts he has are not in short supply.

Posted: Higher intelligence needed to appreciate greatest intelligence in Universe.

Furthermore, unlike precise experimental verification of mathematical concepts in physics and chemistry, data about the soul is problematic. The soul is not easily measured. Language about it must be complex, and metaphoric.

Show me a piece of 'psyche'. You can't.

This we also realize, but the wildness of the psyche must be explored. Theories will be offered for what is there, and why. And the language about it will perforce, continue to evolve.

So again with Mathematics. It has a boundary, of what is 'known' and accepted, and also recognizes huge regions for further exploration. Paradigm shifts occur, that may upset some of the previously agreed upon statements, but most doubt that it would ever be possible to unseat a statement such as 1+1=2. (More on that in a different essay.)

No matter what statistics we possess, statistics themselves are not the products of the reality they supposedly represent. Statistics, numbers, and mathematics are products of MIND.

So Psyche, and psychology, mythology, all of it. . . is a product of mind. They're languages. We use them all as a sets of symbolic tools to manipulate and try to understand the complex creatures that we are, and the complex universe that's around us, with varying degrees of success.

The scientific method also looks for results, that will confirm or unseat a hypothesis, and 'move on' as if life were a game, where previously discovered truths can't change.

That's child's logic!

Science also does this within categories laid out ahead of time, which are seldom questioned. A mouse is considered alive or dead, but it can't be both. A rock is dead, whereas you and I are alive. These categories are ubiquitous throughout all our systems of language. They are so pervasive as to be part of the myth that drives us, makes us who we are, and yet that we cannot see.

All that we've invented to conform to these initial starting conditions may break down at a later date. I'll present thought experiments later which will break them, but for now, what of mind.

What is mind? Again, it's a abstraction, referring to something we don't fully understand.

Might we agree that mind is only present where intelligence exists? That only intelligent entities possess mind?

We might be racing too fast in making this assumption. If we agree that intelligence has 'mind', might that intelligence be thought of as mindful, and conversely a complete lack of intelligence be thought of as having no mind, or being mindless?

Again we're just trimming the hedges of language, but this is necessary if I'm to open a gate to the wild areas beyond the garden.

If we agree here, then we come to the crux of the matter - what is intelligence?

For this I turn to any test that one can muster to determine if an entity is intelligent. Does water in its cascade from the tops of mountains 'forget' it's true nature and err in its calculation of how to pursue gravity? Never. Does it ever 'forget' its essence in the way that it flows, evaporates, boils, or seethes? Never. Doesn't it most intelligently, and massively, calculate the most efficient way to remove itself from a high spot to one that is lower, to boil, to freeze, or crystallize?

Water is always true to its inner nature, and so may be thought of as perfectly mindful. There is total mind in water. And so also in stones.

So when I say that stones possess psyche, I mean it absolutely. Stones are completely logical in their behavior. They yield to the grinding down of time. They obey the laws of physics, they react with light, chemical erosion, and other stones. They share photons with other atoms, with total mindfulness. It would take a quadrillion of our primitive computers to model the slow decay that occurs to a stone.

When worn down completely stones bond back together as sedimentary rock and become the foundations of the earth all over again. Mountains and sand are part of the same being. They exhibit a consistent inner nature - each atom within a stone interacts with it's neighbor according to a set of immutable laws of relationships between matter and energy.

Humans have quite naturally made the error of thinking mind and intelligence was theirs alone, as do children, since this is the prerequisite for any developing language. Begin speaking it. If no one else talks to you, assume you are alone.

The perfect behavior of water, stones, air, and fire are illustrative of a small point. Stones behave as stones should. Stones on earth are part of the earth, even though some are separated from the earth by erosion. They are products of energy, time, and evolution.

Here my detractors would argue, that humans do not always behave as humans should, and that it is next to impossible to accurately predict human behavior, and that this unpredictability is part of what makes us human.

I would comment back that while humans are difficult for humans to predict, chickens are easy. But this crude way of measuring intelligent 'contents' means very little. Try as we have, Homo sapiens has been forever been outsmarted by cold viruses since we evolved.

It's quite natural that find it easier to predict the actions of our pets than our parents. But 'prediction' is only a linguistic result. A series of observations taken within a linguistic context, allowing for measurement of a process.

Enter a game of tag with a crow, let's make that a hawk. You have a gun and can shoot the hawk whenever you like. (The hawk is already gun-shy). All the hawk has to do to win is touch the top of your head.

Who wins? The hawk, every time. Take your idea of intelligence and tear it up. It's meaningless. The human 'fire', our 'flame', is a language power that we've discovered. We've mistaken it for smarts. Language, intelligence and psyche, are all different, are not welded at the hip. Intelligence, even predictive intelligence, may evolve without a linguistic facility. Abstract thinking may exist without systems for setting it in language, hence manipulating independently of real action.

In fact there is every indication that language has the opposite effect. The burden of language is very great, and can have a paralyzing effect on intelligent action. Hesitation is a by product of a linguistic mind.

The so called laws governing interactions of matter and energy are a symbolic shorthand designed to approximate what we we are able to observe and know of nature. These 'laws' are forever being changed to fit the increasingly complex set of facts we uncover.

Homo sapiens, the language animal.

We can therefor agree at very least that there is no set of physical laws on this planet that have created humans that have not also created stones. An atom of iron, if it oxidizes, behaves perfectly in it's relationship with oxygen.

It breathes photons, and air. As do we.

If humanity was created, solely and uniquely out of a set of elements, principles and physics that are not earthly, or not bound by the same laws of chemistry and decay that the rest of our planet is bound by, then I could assert that the thoughts I am having are uniquely mine. But I cannot.

So I must conclude that I am no different than a temporary flame flicking from the surface of this cooling planet. No different than a rolling stone. What comes from me comes from it.

And my Psyche is but a symbol for characterizing, well, my character. My inner nature. Sometimes easier to predict than a rolling stone, sometimes not.

Psyche is an awareness, a phenomena that has no boundary. Our Psyche is as much made by iron (Mars) as it is by gold (Sun) and silver (Moon). We are Fire Air Earth and Water according to the Ancients, and by today's science we are a huge complex table of elements, and organic molecules each with intricate behaviors. We are DNA and Artemis, protein and Zeus. We are Id, and Ego, the Anima and Animus. We are as many languages that we can muster.

We are what we are... but what we think with and about ourselves are abstractions. Mind and Psyche are separate.

And remember that word help. Because in the end that psyche deep inside, is the thing that made the whole show happen, the thing that needs to be there to see everything else.

So who's to say water and stones don't have it? They have in excess.

We are indistinguishable from that of which we are made. So let me introduce you to the psyche of a stone - called planet Earth. We all carry within us Earth psyche.

Else where do we get our Psyche FROM?

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