Oh, for the Love of Wisdom…

In a previous post, I wrote about the term philosophy (love of wisdom) and emphasized the word love, but spent most of the post describing the conceptions of wisdom, knowledge and other such incomplete mini-models about the human action of thinking.

In that post I did introduce “value hierarchy” fairly early, and ended up scattering some value-preference indicating phrases indicating what I valued more or less (in at least a partially ordered sense). I wrote about what I liked; and I wrote about what I didn’t love.

I like science in a very general sense. I am rubbish at lab-work.

I like understanding basic principles. I’ll skip physics, though I have read into relativistic physics and quantum mechanics enough to know the limits of the physical universe are absolute zero, the speed of light, and the plank scale. Relativity and the quantized nature of physical phenomena limit what we can achieve and know from a reference continuum of observation and action. But within those limits we have practically boundless potential to observe and build knowledge. We may not be able to plumbs the “infinitely minute” details of the universe, or cosmologically see beyond the event horizon of the universe, but there’s a lot of play between those bounds.

I like understanding how chemical reaction and interactivity work largely on very basic electrodynamic principles in combination based on configuration in relative molecular spaces. The fact that those principles work on physics (which we have limits on probing) hasn’t kept chemistry from being a multi-headed “discipline” including solid-state, organic, molecular bio-chemistry, etc.

I like being able to read about how complex bio-organic molecules operate from very basic chemical principles, and how they form what appear to us to be “natural” systems optimizing for continued self-replication and the generation and replication of support systems to carry genetic patterns. I am fascinated on how the variety of genetic replication scenarios can favor such a wide variety of genetic replication strategies: including those that seem optimized to hijack the replication mechanisms of other structures.

I am equally interested in how the minds of individuals form knowledge systems, value hierarchies, and choose what they love or despise. Humans individuals seem naturally predisposed to form conclusions. I like to think of humans as knowledge integration machines.

Human animals are social animals. At some point during their life they are dependent on others, even if it’s just the immediate family members. To survive (as a nominally successful species), members must have some predisposition to form interdependent relationships.

The social environment of the individual can provide access, or limit, the raw cultural material one can use to integrate knowledge. At the moment we live in an age when it is possible to sample (in theory) broader swaths of information and knowledge webs than ever before. So much so, that many people are incapable of disconnecting from the apparent demands of the social orders they see flowing around them and available “online”.

But what kinds of societies are best? I’m not sure there is an answer to that. How can you measure best? If you want a “perfect” society, you are trying to decide what’s “best” for other people, even the ones who don’t agree with the knowledge you have built up and have justified. If you find intransigent people that disturb what you consider the perfect social order, what do you do with them? And shouldn’t you do that to them before they do that to you?

The “truth” is, people decide what’s best for themselves based on the value-systems they have created through the acquisition of knowledge available in their relative cultural sphere of accessibility. They act through those value-systems and feel strong emotions like love and hate, anger and despair, joy and sorrow, empowerment and helplessness based on what limits and possibilities they see themselves capable of acting through.

There’s nothing wrong with negative emotions, they helps us see what we understand. But we get to choose what we value and what we know.

Emotions like love, joy and empowerment are what should predominate in any long-term viable society of people; they are the ones that pull people together. The alternative is to base societies on the negative, and those are hard to keep together, as they keep looking for enemies even after they’ve purged all the easy ones they thought they could identify.

Pursuing Knowledge

The term philosophy, from its Greek roots, it is the love of wisdom.

Since I often ponder with a little decompositional analysis, philosophy stands on two legs. The first, that usually (probably?) gets the most attention is wisdom. The second, that usually gets the short end of the semantic relationship, is love; and how “love” can be applied to wisdom.

In the value hierarchies of thinking and knowledge, wisdom usually get the top spot, indicating a person has a broadly comprehensive, fully integrated world-view that is largely conformant with whatever situation the person happens to be in, or whatever topic area that person is wise in. Knowledge often seems to indicate holding exacting details of topic areas (which may itself be quite broad), with specific incidents, memorial facts, and historical references; and the ability to observe and identify things that conform to that topic area, and possibly make causal inferences (either on what caused the current situations, or what the current state will cause in the future).

In that loose schema, other “brilliant” qualities, like observant, cleverness, or inventiveness, are usually secondary, and relate to the person’s characteristic disposition to other people and events; but are largely informed by the person’s knowledge base and funneled through the person’s interests and enterprising drive (and perhaps mental[?] stamina). It’s hard to be observant when you aren’t knowledgeable about what you are observing, It’s difficult to be clever if you don’t have detailed models of what your outcomes could be.

While it may seem I place wisdom and knowledge in some linear dimension polarized by broad (wisdom) and narrow (knowledge) scopes, I prefer to use some type of “system model scaling” and consider these not as ends of a pole, or magnitudes, but parts of a self-referential model of how a field of discourse (or action) is justified, how one operates on concepts and ideas within its bounds, and how it can be applied to other fields of discourse (or action).

I am less interested in how people build systems of knowledge, than in how people build systems that explain the systems of knowledge they do build. I didn’t love that kind of technical articulation within a set of assumptions. I liked to discover and test assumptions, then see what happened when I built things (ideas, concepts, processes or software applications) to challenge them. I liked practical application and verification; sort of a 19th century natural-sciences approach to philosophy (as opposed to say, a 19th century approach to philosophy proper).

This type of free-wheeling maverick approach to philosophy isn’t necessarily appreciated in academia which necessarily embraces institutionalization of paradigms; nor is it necessarily welcomed to the technically oriented world of specialization of knowledge that wants to put everyone in a place in an organization for a purpose; where the organization acts, and the individual is (effectively merely) a functionary.

Pushing boundaries is not socially or materially easy; staying the course, getting with the program would be far “easier” to the individual simply trying to remove a felt unease and maintain some semblance of static equilibrium.

Naive about Set Theory

A few months back I started putting together a page about systems to provide some foundations (framing, schema?) to communicate further expressions about value-systems, their nature, and evaluating their efficacy and ultimately “value” across a variety of value-assessing criteria (and as one might guess, explain criteria for evaluating any criteria making up an identifiable value system). In other words, what is the value of having a value-system, and how can value-systems be evaluated…and why they must be…

But that’s not directly germane to my topic title here. Instead, while trying to articulate the definition of a system (using the definition of a thermodynamic system as a starting point) I came up to the point describing systems as having boundaries. I found myself started trying to “justify” the definition, and explaining why systems had to have boundaries.

None of what I was writing seemed to click with me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but felt I was dancing around something. Eventually for reasons that I find murky now, I started down a path that led me to read about set theory (I think I was trying to get to a point where I could read John von Neumann), and ultimately naive set theory (which is a predecessor or sorts to NBG set theory). While reading about set theory, I think I came across what I was having a problem with: a strong understanding about the nature and use of axioms in conceptual structure building.

Generally, axioms are those things in a theoretical structure that are taken as a given; effectively a truth onto which things must get anchored to have any hope of being considered truthful in the structure of the field of study under question.

What I needed to go forward with my writing about “systems” was to understand, assert (even if only implicitly to myself) the axiomatic nature of the terms I was putting forth, and move on from there. I found that slightly unrewarding, as like many people I seek to “get to the bottom” or ultimate justifiability of a position I take. Axioms are like bedrock, but I want to know what makes up the bedrock. Why is it bedrock? That’s for another entry also: the Axiomatic Axioms.

Why I was having a problem was because axioms are effectively the boundaries of the “systems” of theoretical topics; they have to be accepted (as valuable) within the topic area. There is no reason a person could state that a system doesn’t need to have a boundary, but then the system would be “everything”. A large part of my interest on systems is why and where the boundaries are drawn is largely dependent on the value-systems that identify or construct the systems.

Anyway, I’m sort of reading through Mary Tiles book on the Philosophy of Set Theory, mainly because Naive Set Theory by Paul R. Hamos was starting to get away from me. I could sort of follow it, but it was written to support an academic classroom mindset, so it presents thing and expects the instructor to assist in the understanding. This means it packs concepts in pretty quick and high if you just read the book.

The Philosophy of Set Theory is a bit easier for me as it delves more into the epistemological history of the considerations of the various infinities and infinitesimals that led to modern set theory. It also has some diagrams.

Pursuing Value

I’ve owned this domain for quite some time, intending to use it to project myself in the way I want to express myself. I’ve never really found the time to plan and develop what that means. I don’t want to really “go public” and collect followers while doing those things that bloggers do; whatever that actually is.

This is probably more for me, to make sure what and how I think (they are really almost the same thing) is up to the standards I want them to be. If it helps anyone else, that’s a bonus for them. The reason I pursue this value is for me; if anyone else finds value in it, then kudos to them.

I suppose it’s a bit of a self-serving initial post, but, see the appropriate warnings above. At any point, you are free to pursue anything else of value to you on the internet, in your world, or in you mind. Don’t let me hold you back.