Monthly Archives: November 2019

Innate ideas

Think about the innate idea of the iPhone. If we take innate ideas on face value, then the innate idea of the iPhone should have existed during Plato’s lifetime (or eternally according to the theory).

If this is true, then why didn’t we have the iPhone then, or even mention of it somewhere? Clearly this is nonsense. Innate ideas do not exist. We only have things as they come into existence and then known when experienced.


Imagine pure space without a single object in it. Not even you, the observer, but nonetheless for some reason you are still able to “observe” this space.

In what way can you differentiate one dimensionless point in this space to another dimensionless point? By what means can you understand the distance these two dimensionless points? How do you discover the size of this space? Or else does this space have a size at all? And how do you differentiate between a point and space, when there is no way to differentiate between the two?

Democritus and Leucippus called this void, but only when compared or contrasted to atoms. In other words, void is defined by the things, or the absence thereof, not by any positive means.

Parmenides found this troubling. For then void cannot be truly void. Nothing must be “something”. He drew the conclusion that all is one, and that change as observed in the world is an illusion.

Einstein described with the equation E=mc2 the world as mass, space, time, and energy. For any one of these elements to have a value would mean the entirety is zero, nothing or void. But nothing seems to have zero energy. Atoms brought to near zero Kelvin slows motion but can never stop it. Everything is in flux as Heraclitus had concluded. So space is energy, and not empty void as such.

Space is likely a thing, but because of its nature as a “homogenous” thing it cannot be observed directly but only by indirect means or inferred through the relationship of things.

Out to lunch

There was a knock.

It was Gabriel. He doesn’t usually come at this time, thought God.

“What is it?”

“The English are asking for Your help.”

It was the French yesterday. Today, the English. They are at war with each other. What a dilemma, He thought.

“Which side do you think I should take, Gabriel?”

“Well, You always take the right side, do You not? I’m sure whichever choice You make You’ll be fine. Besides, You always win.”

Gabriel had a point. He was God after all.

“Very well. Give them my blessing.”

“Which side, Sir?”

“Whichever you feel like Gabriel. I will win either way. No?”

Gabriel rolled his eyes, turned around, walked out and closed the beautifully decorated awe-inspiring Door behind him.

God was glad the telephone hotline had been removed in His room. Peace and quiet, especially on Sundays. But He paused for a moment. Why it is a phone anyway? There were no phones in the days of this war. He decided not to think about this contradiction. It was safer. The thought might drive Him crazy, He thought.

The Door abruptly open and Gabriel rushed back into the room with a look of satisfaction. [So soon! Time had never meant much to Him.]

“We won!” he said.

“Well, that was to be expected. I have never lost, have I?”

Gabriel shook his head in half disappointment.

“Congratulate them for Me.”

Gabriel did as he was told. On his way back he ran into those Chosen People. They needed God’s help. So he went back to tell God. But He wasn’t in. A sign hung on the doorknob. “Out to lunch,” it read.

Gabriel waited and waited, but God never came back.

Differance and the metaphysics of presence

A is a because it is not b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, or z.

B is b because it is not a, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, or z.

C is c because it is not a, b, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, or z.

And so on until z.

A does not have an inherent meaning, only meaning because it differs to the other symbols.  And by not having an inherent meaning it defers meaning. This is what Derrida had meant by differance. The choice of a different letter but identical pronunciation was to highlight differing, deferring and difference. The implication is that nothing has meaning present unto itself, only meaning via absence. He terms the mistake to think otherwise metaphysics to presence.

Metaphors we live by

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s important work Metaphors We Live By pointed out an aspect of conceptualisation and language – that we must resort literal physical meanings and relationships in order to talk about the abstract.

The employment of metaphors of the real is the only way we can talk about unreal.

Consider these sentences.

  1. He is in the kitchen.
  2. The concert starts in three hours.
  3. She is in the choir.
  4. They are in love.

All sentences employ spatial relation “in” to describe the concepts.

But only 1 is literal or real. Both “he” and “the kitchen” are real things. The person is located in a space. In 2 uses space to talk about time. And 3, and 4 use space to talk about membership and emotional state. While it can be argued that one can use non-space to describe things, it is neither easy, economical, nor natural. In other words, abstract or unreal concepts simply cannot be mentally, psychologically or conceptually manipulated without recourse to the real literal world.

Type and token things

There are things. Let us call each thing a token. Let us begin with the smallest unit – the atom.

There are unfathomable, countless multitude of atoms in the universe. Yet, as we look at each atom carefully we see similarities and differences between them. Let us call one a and another b. a and b are dissimilar, in fact, so dissimilar that we will continue to call them a and b.

We look at another atom but this one is similar to a and different to b. So maybe we shall call it a1. After a while we have a whole bunch of grouped together. Here, they can be called A to represent all of the tokens called a. This big A we shall call type that which is a general representation of all tokens.

This A, of course, does not exist in the world, only as a classification or categorisation within the mind of the thinker. It is a concept that becomes a thing by virtue of being the actual letter A. It is in the sign that we mistake it for being real. The concept until being turned into a sign had no reality other than being a process within the mind/brain. The sign makes it “materialise” so to speak.

Furthermore, the person who speaks has not seen all the tokens of a but generalises this to all the a. A is thus a “rough estimate” of any a mentioned. Even if we are talking about a specific instance of a we cannot help but be drawn into the estimation that is A.

This is the quality of language that is continually (dis)missed, in all language use, ordinary, philosophical, or otherwise.

A piece of paper

I hold up a piece of paper in front of you.

Question: you see the front of the paper but does the back not exist because you do not see it?

I flip the paper.

Question: does the back (now front) exist but the front (now back) cease to exist?