Nous

As far as a term being untranslatable, to me this does not seem so miraculous a phenomenon, such as would differentiate it from other matters of the intellect as they relate to the rest of nature and our perception of reality.

Just as the intellect carves out of the universe a discrete set of atoms, which I vaguely understand to form the pen I am holding, the room around me and the body of water I happen to be laying in. So too does the intellect carve out for me vague concepts such as: mind, understanding, thought and of intellect itself.

There is, or should I say there was a term that described this operation of the intellect. Moreover it endeavoured to describe the extra-physical stuff, the essence of being which transcended substance and the presence of which differentiated the living from the dead – namely ‘nous’.

The term ‘nous’, is an ancient philosophical concept. One that through the process of contemporary thought we cannot understand directly, but only through indirect analogy.
We do this through the concatenation of terms which we imagine to be similar. Hence we describe ‘nous’ as a term not the same as, but not dissimilar from: mind, understanding, thought, intellect or soul.
The term ‘nous’ is not interchangeable with any particular term, although through this string of terms we hope to mingle their vagueness and glimpse the shadow of a dead concept, brought fractionally to life, hardly remembered, unparseable by the intellect and only partly implied by context.

I imagine that there is a great war of concepts that rages on a plain, of which we form only a passive part. They are fighting and striving for dominance in our thoughts and survival through our exchanges. A struggle which is impelled by means beyond conception, but a struggle no less mirrored in us and the rest of nature.

No longer can ‘nous’ through the operation of the intellect become real – it is unintelligible, as a result so too is in untranslatable.

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The Mathematics, Metaphysics & Logic of Absence

I want to know if a number exists when there is no one around to count it. Furthermore does thinking about a number, conceiving of it, imply that it exists? Or is a number that is not associated to a set of actual objects just a chimera, where we concatenate distinct and separate impressions. Like piecing together a mystical animal out of the body parts of animals that actually exist. So if we say that we believe that a number exists when not associated with an actual object, our statement is equivalent to stating that we believe a unicorn is real simply because you can conceive of it?
If that is the case, well then I suppose that would imply that numbers are more than just linguistic, symbolic structures. It would also mean that we live in a world inhabited by unicorns and fairies.
I’m no mathematician, but I look around me and something tells me that the implications of our previous assertions don’t appear to have much bearing on reality.

To be honest, I have never understood mathematics. I can use a trivial amount of it, but I hardly understand it. In truth I think that some of the fundamental axioms that underpin mathematics smack of the meta-physical and the mystical. But I assume there is just an awful lot I don’t understand. So humour me while I try and figure out the basics on my own here:

If we enumerate 1 and then 1 then we get 2, correct? But what is that 2 supposed to be representing, two real world objects or two numbers? Are the symbols referring to two chickens or are the numbers referring to themselves? The later proposition doesn’t mean anything as far as I can tell, because 1 apple explains something. We have placed on that apple the attribute of being 1 of something generally described as an apple. But 1 number 1, explains nothing; how could a number explain anything when it is just referring to itself.
So unless a number is an extension of an object then it is basically a self-referential statement, which has no value beyond it being a linguistic construction. Meaning the purely abstract number 1 is essentially an empty set ({}) with the potential to hold and be attributed to 1 object, 111 to one hundred and eleven objects and so on.

I feel like I am probably mixing up different fields of mathematics, but I don’t see a problem as of yet. Sets are groups or numbers which represent objects, so that {Apple1,Apple2,Apple3} represents the number 3 or the statement, ‘I count three apples’. That seems to make sense, but what if we start filling sets with purely abstract numbers. Numbers we have already decided represent empty sets when not attributed to and thus holding instances of objects, so that: The number 3 can be represented by { {},{},{} }, which is a set of three potential objects. This number 3 could then be simplified by just indicating the absence of objects in a set by saying {}. But we already said that the number 1 or any other purely abstract number can be represented by {}.

What does that all mean? Well I don’t know honestly, as I said I am just trying to figure it out as I go along. I am sure there are children out there with a better grasp on this stuff than me, but let’s just keep going and see what conclusions are drawn.

I suppose that the most obvious implication of this logic would be to say that, any number that is not an attribute of an object or set of objects, is essentially representative of the absence of value and meaning. Represented by {}, which is essentially a placeholder for absence as true absence is beyond our comprehension.

That would mean that unless there are an infinite number of objects in the universe, then there cannot be a meaningful use for numeric infinities. As once the last object has been accounted for in the universal set, once you add an empty set of 1 to that, you lose all meaning and you end up with a rather large number representative of nothing, which can again be represented as {}, or if we want to be more accurate we just wouldn’t refer to it with a symbol at all.
Essentially, you can’t just add one to the highest number you can think of, because unless that number is representative of distinct and unique objects or collections of objects, then it is meaningless and thus represents absence.

Another result of this logic would be that all distinction of objects as unique and definable as atomic instances of a certain type, namely an ‘apple’, is completely arbitrary. As ‘Apple1’ and ‘Apple2’ could be different sizes, density and more than likely have more or less atoms in one or another of the two apples. Yet we put them in the same set of objects, {Apple1, Apple2}, and represent that with the number 2. Not a particularly accurate measurement and furthermore, we have just shown that counting is merely a mental construct, wherein we generalise and group objects together. My point being that if there is no entity around to do the counting, then numbers don’t exist independent of thought. It seems that numerical infinities are contingent on the existence of an entity capable of counting for an infinite length of time. So even if an infinite number of objects do exist then numerical infinities are still in doubt.

I agree that something doesn’t sound right here. But common sense is a biological constraint and it would be foolish to image that the universe should be consistent with what seems ‘right’ to the human race.

A Universal Introduction

When anyone begins to talk about who they are, they inadvertently end up giving a summary of who they were. They might say ‘I’m the kind of person who needs to travel’, ‘to think about things long and hard before I act’. Or worse still they might just start listing past event, like ‘I went parachuting once’ or ‘I once punched a horse’. That’s great, but without the tangled mess of subjective associations and impressions that accompany those thoughts residing within your own mind, they are pretty meaningless to everyone else.

So where does that leave us and more to the point where does that leave my introduction?
For some reason the image of taciturn satellites crossing paths and burbling geographical facts at one another springs to mind.

This is the best introduction I think I could muster. Perhaps it seems like a reasonably good introduction after all. But I can assure you that every inference you make and every impression you take from this is most likely wrong. Every meeting and exchange, any attempt to comprehend the ideas of another, generates in us an imperfect simulacrum of those ideas.
Before proceeding it must be understood that we cannot understand anything of one another, and that what we perceive as understanding, is in truth the process of generating a continuous thread of fiction that forms the narrative of our lives.

The Great Chain of Dreams a.k.a. Consciousness

Just because our experience of reality appears to consist of a series on continuous instances. Is not to say that the continuity of those instances need to follow one another in an unbroken chain.
For all we know, between the blink of an eye a near infinity of time has passed.
The only way to rule this possibility out entirely is to deny the existence of a linking agent between two instances set apart in time, as well as an extra-physical substance with which these linked instances might act upon (a soul).

However this linking agent could be extra dimensional. An entity that looks in on our dimension as we look in on a 1st or 2nd dimension, but which we cannot perceive directly, just as we cannot perceive a 5th or 6th dimension.
Our experience is made up of our perception of multiple dimensions, this is a fact and appears to support the idea that extra dimensional beings could exist. Though my supposition is that we are those/that extra dimensional being(s) perceiving either itself or other such beings through the medium of extra dimensional space. Even though existence may transcend those dimensions.

Unless we were to say that an instance simply experiences itself, removing the difficulty of having to rationalise anything like a ‘soul’. And an instance of consciousness simply waits for the next instance that follows on from the previous to a satisfactory degree in a mechanical fashion, before going on to accept that instance as a part of reality.

In a cosmos where the arrangement of matter is infinitely diverse over an infinite periods of time, there does seem to be an allowance for this. For the random creation of an instance of consciousness, which is primed with the experiences of prior extent randomly generated instances of conciousness. The fact that these instances appear to have some kind of continuity, really being down to chance playing out over infinite space and time.

Both of these concepts are so intractable as to transcend the meaninglessness of metaphysics. They almost need a new category within which they can continue to not exist, without consequence and without implication.

The Triune Brain Model of Video Game Categorisation

The Art & Folly of Categorisation

Inherent in any act of categorisation is a fallacy. A fallacy best articulated by Karl Popper as follows (Popper, 2002):

 ‘If we wish to study a thing, we are bound to select certain aspects of it. It is not possible for us to observe or to describe a whole piece of the world, or a whole piece of nature; in fact, not even the smallest whole piece may be so described, since all description is necessarily selective.’

Heinrich Gomperz exemplifies for us Poppers argument (Popper, 2002):

‘…point out that a piece of the world, such as a sparrow nervously fluttering about, may be described by the following  widely different propositions, each corresponding to a different aspect of it: ‘This bird is flying!’ – ‘There goes a sparrow!’ – ‘Look, here is an animal!’ – ‘Something is moving here.’ – ‘Energy is being transformed here!’ – ‘This is no case of perpetual motion.’ – ‘The poor thing is frightened!’ It is clear that it can never be the task of science to attempt the compilation of such a list, which is necessarily infinite.’

Video games do not exist in isolation from the rest of the natural world. This fact can be illustrated by describing the attributes of a video game: The game is broadly classified as an action game. It does however contain elements of adventure and fantasy in equal parts. Furthermore it is historically accurate and as such educational. As you proceed through the game strong elements of strategy and simulation are introduced. Users are also given the option to play in first or third person views. There are strong stylistic influences from other forms of media. Not only that, but the user may choose to interact with the game in a massively multiplayer online environment or on their own and offline. What we have illustrated here, is the beginning of one of Gomperz’s infinite lists.
Now if we are asked to place a game into an appropriate genre, we are faced with making what is evidently an arbitrary decision. The number of attributes we can choose is finite and yet the available attributes from which we might choose is infinite.

As we have shown that the definition of any genera can never be entirely logically consistent, we are faced with an interesting question: Why, if games cannot be categorised, do they all seem to fit so nicely into traditional categories?
The slightly glib answer to that question is that, video games are designed to fit into the categories and not the other way around. Traditional categories were largely inherited from the publishing industry and designed by marketing teams to help target consumers and differentiate products to increase consumption. Those same marketing teams now work within game companies, where they help target consumers and differentiate products to increase consumption.

Traditional genres along with other forms of classification are useful for video games as an industry. But for those who are concerned with video games as a medium, they are meaningless.

A New System

In my view, the arbitrary categorisation of any part of nature is an attempted vivisection of a changing state. The sentiment of this outlook having been expressed viscerally by Jean Baudrillard as he paraphrases James Elkins (Baudrillard, 2009):

‘The symbol of a living dispersion, the ideal spider, which spins its web and is simultaneously spun by its web. Or better still, I am not the spider who weaves the web. I am the web itself, streaming off in all directions with no centre and no self that I can call my own.’

The goal of my ideal system is to reconcile this holistic sentiment with a salient fact: The fact that, for most people, the experience of playing a video game is so subjective that no two people can share the same experience in detail.
As such, playing a video game can be likened to a child building a sandcastle. They fill their little red bucket up with sand, pack it down with a spade, then turn it over and plant it into the ground.  Tap once, tap twice and one last time while whispering the secret word. Off comes the little red bucket and there stands a sandcastle.
A construct destined to degrade into a pile of sand through the incomprehensible mix and rush of nature. Perhaps one day, given an infinite period of time, those grains of sand will be collected again and placed into a little red bucket by another child, who might tap three times, say the same secret word and imagine that they too have built a castle in the sand.

But a system of that type would need to encompass the whole of existence. As such, if I was to show it to you here, neither you nor I would be able to distinguish a single attribute of it. The system I wanted to build for you is by virtue of its being truly comprehensive, completely insoluble.

So instead I have decided to design a system for categorising video games based on a quote by one of the forefathers of Holism, Arthur Koestler. As he references McLean on the Triune Brain Model (TBM) of evolutionary development (Koestler, 1978):

‘Man finds himself in the predicament that Nature has endowed him essentially with three brains which, despite great differences in structure, must function together and communicate with one another. The oldest of these brains is basically reptilian. The second has been inherited from lower mammals, and the third is a late mammalian development, which … has made man peculiarly man. Speaking allegorically of these three brains within a brain, we might imagine that when the psychiatrist bids the patient to lie on the couch, he is asking him to stretch out alongside a horse and a crocodile.’

Perhaps it seems like a slightly strange premise for a system of video game classification, truth be told it probably is. But all things considered, my system can be no stranger than any other system ever conceived or likely to be conceived, given the flux of nature and everything that we cannot know.

The Rationale & Anatomy of the TBM System

According to Koestler and McLean, if we are to understand anything of a person’s subjective experience, we must first acknowledge that humans have evolved progressively from irrational animals to semi-rational ones. This progression is symbolised within McLean’s evolutionary model by the Reptilian, Paleomammalian and Neomammalian brains.

So let us begin by categorizing attributes belonging to the three sub-wholes that make up a human brain, as they will form our three TBM game genres:

crit

Figure 1

Now if we look at a video game such Titanfall (Titanfall, 2014), we can attempt to ascertain, to what extent each of the three brains will be stimulated by the play experience. For the sake of an example, we will make a rough assessment of the TBM ratios associate with this game:
The game is violent, promotes aggression and territoriality. Dominance is the primary objective in Titanfalls’ multiplayer arenas. Though to achieve that dominance, players must utilise planning and abstraction in small parts and have highly developed ‘twitch’ reflexes. Hence, a rough TBM rating for Titanfall may be: 90% Reptile (R), 0% Paleomammalian (P) and 10% Neomammalian (N).

titanrat

Figure 2: (Electronic Arts, 2014)

These results indicate that this game can be broadly categorised under the genre ‘Reptilian’. Should I play it, I would expect my experience to be one involving aggression, dominance and a reliance on rapid instinctual reactions to stimulus.

For the measurement of these ratios to be consistent and accurate, a standardised test has been developed, known as the TBM Rating Questionnaire (See Appendix A). This questionnaire must be completed by people who have experienced the game and the results should be an accurate reflection of the play experience.

One thing you may note regarding our initial results is that they give no indication as to how enjoyable the play experience was for any given person. So the TBM Rating Questionnaire contains a single question designed to measure this binary metric:

qs

Figure 3: (See Appendix A)

This question is an unqualified final verdict on the play experience. It does not leave room for equivocation or excuses. It does not take into account the graphics, sound or lasting appeal. A game can be a text adventure or a fully realised 3D virtual reality simulation. But when it comes down to it, you either enjoyed the game, didn’t enjoy it, or you have never played it.

Why Use the TBM System

The TBM system of game classification has a number of characteristic that set it apart from other systems. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this would be to compare it directly to a system such a Jérôme Cukier’s (Cukier, 2006) adversarial approach.

Cukier proposes five distinct criterions for categorising video games into genres, all of which are false dichotomies. We are asked to decide if a game is synchronous or not, single player or not, session based or not, realistic or not and repetitive or not. Cukier’s system does not take into account that a game may be at once composed of equal parts of every single one of his criterion. Once such a game is produced, his system will collapse.
In contrast the TBM system is a holistic one, designed specifically to address the blurred and arbitrary lines of any genre. A game may be in equal part any one of the three TBM genres and the system will remain logically consistent.

Cukier also fails to provide an accurate method of measuring the applicability of any video game to any one of his categories. He provides a very general description of the characteristics of that genre, but categorisation is a system of measurement. If you make no effort at all to refine your measurement then you have failed to acknowledge the subjectivity of human experience.

The TBM system, through use of the TBM Rating Questionnaire, has made an effort to provide a formal measurement tool. This tool endeavours to provide some structure and consistency in the approach to measuring user’s subject game experience.

One common aspect of the two systems is that neither are commercial systems. A commercial system is designed to be broad enough to differentiate the majority of games, without any true reference to the game’s play experience; The reason for this obfuscation being, that a commercial system wants you to buy the game first, then find out about what kind of game it is later.

Another common aspect of the two systems is that they are both designed to give the user a real conception of what the play experience will be. Cukier has not relied on traditional genres. Instead, he has attempted to forge his categories out of a selection of game mechanics. Unfortunately, Cukier’s criterion proves to be too specific.

Should we analyse a game using Cukier’s system, one that his system classifies as ‘asynchronous’, there is no indication as to what extent the play experience will be asynchronous. There is no explanation as to how a game that is asynchronous, abstract and repetitive should be differentiated from one that is only abstract. In this respect, Cukier’s categories are atomic, in that they exist as irreducible units. Irreducible units which, when brought into apposition, destroy one another and show Cukier’s system to be one reaching out beyond the bounds of logical consistency.

In contrast to Cukier’s system, TBM does not focus on game mechanics. Instead it is focused on the mind of the player, the stage on which the video game experience will play out. As such, TBM is future proof, whereas Cukier’s system will be outmoded by new game mechanics and technological innovation. The TBM system will be relevant for as long as humans remain human.

Appendix A

TBM Rating Questionnaire

This questionnaire is designed to give any video game a rating using the Triune Brain Model video game categorization methodology.

  1. Please note that this questionnaire should only be completed by people who have played the game for at least 5 hours.
  2. Please answer true or false to each of the following questions:
# Question Answer R P N
 1 Do you feel territorial when playing the game?
 2 Do you repeat actions or strategies when playing the game?
 3 Do you have rituals within the game?
 4 Do you rely mainly on your instincts within the game?
 5 Do weapons feature highly in this game?
 6 Are ‘twitch’ reflexes essential to game play?
 7 Are you aggressive within the game?
 8 Is fighting and armed conflict a feature of the game?
 9 Are you obliged to kill or harm other entities in the game?
 10 Are you expected to protect or invade territory with force?
 11 Is the game competitive?
 12 Do you feel the game appeals to your base instincts?
 13 Is the game addictive?
 14 Is the game repetitive?
 15 Would you describe the play experience as ‘mindless’?
 16 Does the game get your adrenaline pumping?
 17 Does the game try and invoke a sense of fear?
 18 Does the game involve personalization?
 19 Are you encouraged to create your own homes or spaces?
 20 Are you expected to feed or care for other game entities?
 21 Does the game appeal to your emotions?
 22 Do you have children, friends or pets within the game?
 23 Are you required to gather resources within the game?
 24 Do you design structures or fortifications within the game?
 25 Does the game involve managing other game entities?
 26 Do you have to manage resources within the game?
 27 Is pattern recognition required within the game?
 28 Does the game involve complex social interaction?
 29 Does the game contain a ‘deep’ story or atmosphere?
 30 Are you obliged to think before you act in the game?
 31 Does the game require verbal or text input or interaction between entities within the game?
 32 Are you required to use your own imagination within the game?
 33 Is the game thought provoking?
 34 Does the game require you to place yourself in the perspective of other game entities?
 35 Does the game encourage you to exploit others weaknesses?
 36 Are you required to formulate strategies to kill or harm other game entities?
 37 Does the story involve children or family members?
 38 Is there a high level of skill required to play the game?
 39 Are you required to formulate strategies within this game?
 40 Are you required to solve complex puzzles within the game?
 41 Are you required to perceive subtle social interactions and subtext?
 42 Do you get satisfaction from dominating others in this game?
 43 Did you enjoy playing the game?

 

Please collate your results into the table below using the following instructions:

  1. Questions 1-4: For any question where your answer was true, place a 1 in the ‘R’ column. Any question where your answer was false, please place a 1 in the ‘N’ column.
  2. Questions 5-12: For any question where your answer was true, place a 1 in the ‘R’ column.
  3. Questions 13-17: For any question where your answer was true, place a 1 in the ‘R’ and ‘P’ columns.
  4. Questions 18-23: For any question where your answer was true, place a 1 in the ‘P’ column.
  5. Questions 24-29: For any question where your answer was true, place a 1 in the ‘P’ and ‘N’ columns.
  6. Questions 30-34: For any question where your answer was true, place a 1 in the ‘N’ column.
  7. Questions 35-36: For any question where your answer was true, place a 1 in the ‘R’ and ‘N’ columns.
  8. Question 37: If you answered true, place a 1 in the ‘P’ column.
  9. Question 38: If you answered false, place a 1 in the ‘P’ column.
  10. Questions 39-41: For any question where your answer was true, place a 1 in the ‘N’ column.
  11. Question 42: If your answer to this question was true, place a 1 in the ‘R’. Any question where your answer was false, please place a 1 in the ‘P’ column.
  12. Question 43: If you answered true to this question, place true in the ‘Enjoyable’ column of the results table.
  13. Finally: Please place the sum of each of the columns ‘R’, ‘P’ and ‘N’. Calculate the ratio of each column given maximum score of 20 for each. Place these ratios into the correlating columns of the results table.

 

TBM Results        
Game Name Enjoyable R% P% N%
 

 

Appendix B

TBM Rating Examples

I have selected a variety of games from the early 1950s to the present day. I have then answered a TBM Rating Questionnaire for each of them (excluding question 43). The results of which can be seen below:

abtFigure 4: (Sega, 1988)

 

lgt
Figure 5: (Infocom, 1986)

 

mit
Figure 6: (LucasArts, 1991)

 

llt
Figure 7: (Jim Store, 1970)

 

wct
Figure 8: (Blizzard, 1995)

 

oxt
Figure 9: (A.S.Douglas, 1980)

 

st
Figure 10: (Steam, 2009)

 

sim
Figure 11: (Electronic Arts, 2012)

 

pf
Figure 12: (Activision, 1999)

 

fa
Figure 13: (Black Isle Studio, 1998)

 

ds
Figure 14: (Namco Bandai, 2011)

 

d2
Figure 15: (Blizzard, 2001)

 

cc
Figure 16: (King, 2012)

 

la
Figure 17: (Rockstar Games, 2011)

 

ac
 Figure 18: (Ubisoft, 2012)

 

mo
Figure 19: (Sintex, 1996)

 

ftl
Figure 20: (Subset Games, 2014)

 

sperc
Figure 21: (Supercell, 2013)

 

gt5
Figure 22: (Sony Computer Entertainment, 2010)

 

dc
Figure 23: (MTV Games, 2010)

 

gh
Figure 24: (Activision, 2007)

 

dh
Figure 25: (Nintendo, 1984)

 

3
Figure 26: (Electronic Arts, 2009)

 

bs
Figure 27: (Activision, 2012)

 

nba
Figure 28: (Midway, 1994)

 

shg2
Figure 29: (Sega, 2011)

 

sst
Figure 30: (London Studio, 2004)

 

pkr
Figure 31: (Pipeworks, 2013)

 

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The Art of Wild Speculation a.k.a. Metaphysics

I can’t think of a better way of beginning an exercise in Cartesian doubt than with the sentiments of the René Descartes himself:

‘I am alone and, at long last, I will devote myself seriously and freely to this general overturning of my beliefs’

It seems to me that a reasonable place to begin an enquiry of this nature would be where the constructive portion of Descartes enquiry ended – That being with an examination of the notion of ‘truth’.

Truth

When I consider the term ‘truth’, I am left with the impression that there is no such thing as a half-truth. ‘Truth’ is of itself an absolute term and any mitigation or addition of qualifiers a mere equivocation! However when I refer to this or that as being ‘true’ or ‘false’, tacitly what I am saying is that X contains more or less of what I conceive to be right or wrong as regards my own conception of X.

It seems that ‘truth’ is a term that requires further definition. So let the term Absolute-truth represent the general understanding of the term ‘truth’. While Tacit-truth will represent the concept of ‘truth’ as is practically applied by me.

Tacit-truth as already describes, is simply a subjective measure of the relative degree of truth that exists in X given the information at hand. If X was previously considered to be ‘false’, should more information form part of ones conception of X, it may now be considered ‘true’. Furthermore, additional information may again show that X was indeed false. This process can, with the continuous input of information, continue ad infinitum.
Tacit-truth seems to be at all times in a state of duality. A thing may be true now or then, but that is no reason to expect it to be true in five minutes time.

Absolute-truth as opposed to Tacit-truth appears to be binary in nature. A thing may be either ‘true’ or ‘1’, alternatively it may be ‘false’ or ‘0’. And when we consider that anything that exists must be to some extent true, we are simply describing a state of existence and non-existence. If X is found to be ‘true’, then there is no possible dataset that could change X so as to be ‘false’.
As a result of this need to consider existence as whole, so as to ascertain the truth of any matter, Absolute-truth is intractable in nature. This characteristic is an interesting one and the implications as regards our analysis are worth examining.
It comes down to a question of computing power. If we were able to take a supposition, place it into a computer with infinite computing power and then program it to derive an absolute answer. That computer would, if information is limitless in quantity and variance, never return an answer; or if information is limited, the computer would become trapped in an infinite loop wherein:
The computer (I.C.) solves for Absolute-truth (A.T.), then must again solve for A.T. taking into account the new data created as a result of the I.C.’s attempt to solve for A.T. at the previous datum, ad infinitum.

fig b

This might be a good time to summarise the characteristics of these two terms:

Tacit-truth Absolute-truth
  • Is practical; and
  • contains at all times the potential for two states; and
  • it’s state alternates with a variance in information; and
  • it is the tacit application of the general concept of ‘truth’; and finally
  • it’s origin seems to biological.
  • Is speculative; and
  • remains constant regardless of quantity/variance of data; and
  • it is intractable in nature; and
  • represents our common perception of truth; and finally
  • has a social, philosophical and theological origin.

With the table above in mind, I look at the world around me for a moment. I can see the interior of a train. There is an empty Woodstock can rolling around on the carriage floor. To one side of me I can see a mature aged couple dressed up for the horse races. To the other side I can see two young kids fondling one another and kissing, the boy has mousy brown hair and the girl’s hair is red. In this scene I see no application or necessity for the concept of Absolute-truth. It may be true or false that this scene is playing out, but there is no way of knowing this or anything else in absolute terms. The absolute-truth of the situation can have no effect on this situation, nor any other and is in this sense merely a definition.

Though as I sit here with my leg quietly falling asleep and an empty can of bourbon now resting against my boot. One possible application for Absolute-truth remains. There is one mode of enquiry that could save this notion from being relegated to the position of a mere tautology. One that examines the propagation of infinite regresses.

An infinite thread

It must be accepted that with sufficient computing power, virtual reality will become indistinguishable reality. This technology should also have the ability to run simulations within these virtual environments. It must also be granted that should any man be in a position where he may play God; there is no reason to imagine that he would not.
Given this, there is a possibility that I and everything around me is part of a simulation, taking place in a reality, the qualities of which have been obfuscated from me. There is no reason why this supra reality could not itself be nested within another greater reality, the characteristics of which it too is obfuscated ad infinitum.

fig c

What we have described here is an infinite regress. Not at all dissimilar to the infinite regress that shatters the heart of most metaphysical discourse. As can be seen, if we are to find ourselves in ‘Simulation 3’, there is no way for us to perceive any characteristics of the simulation in which we are nested within, namely ‘Simulation 2’. Nor can any other simulation layer perceive anything of any other strata, except that for which it is the direct creator of.
We as mere components of that simulation, may have been designed by the creator in ‘Simulation 2’, not capable of perceiving any aspect of a supra simulation. But all simulations may too be equally blind to some form of ultimate reality which has instantiated this infinite set. The only commonality being a thread which reaches down from that ultimate reality. That being the expanse of infinity, within which all of these simulations do extend.

The sentiment of this view of reality are expressed by Jean Baudrillard as he paraphrases James Elkins,

‘The symbol of a living dispersion, the ideal spider, which spins its web and is simultaneously spun by its web. Or better still, I am not the spider who weaves the web. I am the web itself, streaming off in all directions with no centre and no self that I can call my own.’

May another thread from that ultimate reality, which reaches down through that infinite regress be Absolute-truth? In that reality which defies all cognition, could there be such things as I know not? Surely that must be assumed to be so. Could infinity be in that place more than just a precept, but a pragmatic device, by which they have loosed this web of existence through a mechanism not at all exotic to them? Or are they all blind giants, which drift in a void and on occasion collide, we being the result of such fiery conflagrations.

Now we see the limits of our perceptions and our understanding. Beyond which we must rely on the art of wild speculation and decent into one or another hyperbolic spiral. Here Absolute-truth is shattered and though it may exist somewhere, perhaps amidst the drifting giants, it cannot be said to exist as anything more than a definition here.



David Deutsch, 2012. Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World (Penguin Press Science). Edition. Penguin Books.
David Deutsch, 1998. The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes–and Its Implications. First Edition Edition. Penguin Books.
Jean Baudrillard, 2009. Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? (SB-The French List). Edition. Seagull Books.
Rene Descartes, 1999. Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings (Penguin Classics). Edition. Penguin Classics.

Regarding the representation of Forms & Ideas.

This is a little article intended as an appendices to a report relating to a large process diagram. It was never used, but I still feel it is interesting as a standalone piece. Enjoy !

Process Map SLR

These notes, which I purposely include here only as an appendices to the primary article. Will I hope be an aid to anyone who, not finding the prospect of reading a page or four of explanatory notes too offensive. Would like to gain some insight beyond that attainable by a mere glance at the attached diagram.

The concepts of thought employed in the creation of this diagram are here expressed in two parts. The first part relates to common misapprehensions, derived from the unconscious application of outmoded methods of thought. The second part relates to the application of a quasi-holistic methodology in my representation of processes.

First Part: A Common Misapprehension.

If with our first step we are to succeed in setting the rhythm for a full enquiry, it must be taken without misapprehension. With a full awareness that in constructing these static mechanical systems, we actively disregard the social nature of all human activity systems. Meaning that our systems, once set into being are bound to become socially animated. Indeed we should imagine that the individual elements of any diagram such as this are already crawling–seemingly at will across the paper; at all times interacting with one another; transmitting information; setting off chemical reactions; exchanging material; consuming one another; attracting and repelling one another.
My goal here is not to take a biological analogy too far, but rather to make clear that for any system that contains a sociological element, these kinds of interactions are ineradicable. Not only are they ineradicable, but to human cognition they largely intractable. This fact playing one part in the formation of what is commonly referred to as our subjective point of view. Or as expressed far more clearly by Marx,

‘It is not the consciousness of man that determines his existence–rather, it is his social existence that determines his consciousness’.

This constant motion, degradation and change (flux), a phenomena not limited to the sociological sphere of enquiry, has been from time immemorial a source of intense consternation. The first to articulate the concept being Heraclitus, famous for his remark that,

‘Everything is an exchange for fire, and fire for everything’.

Since that time, men such as Plato and Aristotle endeavoured to not only curb this constant change, but to halt it completely. Plato’s extreme views in this regard can be seen expressed in his Laws,

‘Any change whatever except the change of an evil thing, is the greatest of all treacherous dangers that can befall a thing – wether it is a change of season, or of wind… or of the character of the soul’.

We cannot for one moment doubt the influence of men like Plato on contemporary society. Platonic idealism, specifically the methodological essentialist portion of his doctrine, has unbeknownst to many, become an intuitive part of the way we think. This has come about due simply to the fact that, it was and is, for many of the architects of our society, their intellectual bedrock (remember our quote from Marx just a moment ago).

Through the flux of nature, the incomprehensible mix and rush of atoms that form ‘us’ and in turn, our own natures, our social systems, our notions, institutions and processes. We are faced, like Heraclitus and Plato, with a question as to how we should make sense of the resulting Forms and Ideas. These constructs, which have for whatever reason, coalesce from this ‘exchange of fire for fire’. The classical method of understanding these phenomena is through the mostly tacit application of Platonic methodological essentialism. The modern method as employed by me through my creation of the attached diagram, involves perceiving phenomena not as procession of derivative forms – as do essentialists. But rather as parts of a stratified holarchy of sub-wholes.

fig a

In discussing methodological essentialism I will briefly set out its main tenants, before describing how my diagram, in being an idealised form cannot be a true representation of reality. I will then conclude by explaining how when we disregard the reverse logic of essentialism, this really shouldn’t matter at all.

The Platonic view of Forms and Ideas can be summed up briefly by way of a simple analogy, phrased rather nicely by Karl Popper,

‘As a child may look upon his father, seeing in him an ideal, a unique model, a god-like personification of his own aspiration; the embodiment of perfection, of wisdom, of stability, glory and virtue; the power which created him before his world began; which now preserves and sustains him and in ‘virtue’ of which he exists; so Plato looks upon the Forms and Ideas’.

Plato believed that those things in flux, those things found to be in nature, must be the children of some perfect form. His ultimate expression of this idea is his Republic. An attempt to stabilize the world he lived in and create a static island, a ‘state’, within a world set on fire by unremittent change. This attempt was largely a failure, but has as a result of the influence of Oligarchies such as the one to which Plato belonged, remained a motive force within the circles of social engineers and politicians ever since.

You may by now be questioning how this relates at all to the boardroom. Or how it relates to the way modern people think or indeed to my diagram. The link is a simple one and can be illustrated with the aid of a well-known idiomatic phrase: ‘a camel is a horse designed by committee’.
At this point you may very well be raising an eyebrow or two, but let’s first analyse the root of this common saying. The implication is that, there exists in the mind of the speaker an a priori essence of what constitutes a horse. This essence is then used to judge the level of deviation from the ideal horse as is manifest in the derivative form of a camel. I assume at this point your eyebrow(s) should be lowering and your brow furrowing, as you grapple with that apparent tautology. What we are seeing here is that the speaker has tacitly expressed themselves in the manor of a platonic idealist. They have implied a duality between the ideal form of a horse and the lesser form (as assumedly fits the purposes of the committee) of a camel. This kind of thought process is also the root of the concept that our ideas are more perfect than any actual form they may eventually take. The inherent negativity of this manner of thinking should be clear.
The second law of thermodynamic may declare that entropy must increase, but it does not state that the resulting forms are in anyway better or worse than those that precede them. This is ‘meaning’ that we have superimposed over nature and it is an entirely negative outlook, with no practical use.

In relation to the attached diagram I have heard numerous people remark that, ‘yes, this is the way it should be, but it in reality it isn’t like that’. Here we see the same Platonic mode of thought expressed in slightly different terms. This is unfortunately due to a misunderstanding of my method. I have not set out to create an idealized form in a platonic sense – but if that is the way you choose to look at it, that is exactly what it is. I have instead attempted to take from the holarchy a cross-sectional sample, which although only a representation can then be used to diagnose, to rearrange, restructure or analyse the underlying systems. This process is a form of piecemeal analysis. And as a result of its piecemeal nature, is completely neutral in outlook and entirely amenable to a scientific outlook.
So those people who view diagrams like these as mere representations of ideal forms are technically incorrect. They are in fact representations of subsystem, presented in a level of detail that is restricted by the limits of our perception and level of interest; by the upper and lower bounds, beyond which irreducible complexity bares in upon us.

fig b

As promised I will now explain why my representation of dynamic processes in a static form remains valid. In doing so we will have embarked upon our second step, where we should I hope, be marching to the same rhythm if not in the same direction.

Second Part: A Quasi-holistic Methodology .

Sir Karl Popper described the fallacy inherent in holistic thought as follows:

‘If we wish to study a thing, we are bound to select certain aspects of it. It is not possible for us to observe or to describe a whole piece of the world, or a whole piece of nature; in fact, not even the smallest whole piece may be so described, since all description is necessarily selective.’

Heinrich Gomperz exemplifies for us Poppers criticism:

‘…point out that a piece of the world, such as a sparrow nervously fluttering about, may be described by the following  widely different propositions, each corresponding to a different aspect of it: ‘This bird is flying!’ – ‘There goes a sparrow!’ – ‘Look, here is an animal!’ – ‘Something is moving here.’ – ‘Energy is being transformed here!’ – ‘This is no case of perpetual motion.’ – ‘The poor thing is frightened!’ It is clear that it can never be the task of science to attempt the compilation of such a list, which is necessarily infinite.’

With that said it may not be clear how any analyst can give just-cause for contriving recommendations derived from  holistic thought. Poppers destruction of holism seems at first glance to remove all pretence for the analysis of a system  as a whole. In reality this criticism simply defines for us the limits within which holistic thought can be utilized, while still remaining logically consistent. Any methodology that fails to give due credence to the intractable nature of the  concept ‘whole’, is destroyed by poppers criticism. But a methodology that does acknowledge the difficulties expressed  therein must abandon any allusion toward being truly holistic.

The above expresses for me, a warning which should be kept in mind whenever we attempt to aggregate or to generalize systems in a holistic fashion. The method I have described above is no exception to this rule and should it err, would consequently be destroyed by the statements of Gomperz and Popper. But as I shall show and indeed have already shown, my approach to representing forms and ideas does give due credence to the intractable nature of the concept whole, as does it abandon any allusion toward being ‘truly holistic’.

Firstly, we have acknowledged that, it is merely for practical reasons that we are forced to generalize in our representations. When looking at them, we should do so with an understanding that, as Mill once said;

and ‘the Laws of the phenomena of society are, and can be, nothing but the laws of the actions and passions of human beings’, that is to say, ‘the laws of individual human nature. Men are not, when brought together, converted into any other substance…’.

It is important that the sentiments of this statement be born in mind during the analysis of any system that contains a sociological element. And as such applies just as much to a robotic production-line as it does an office environment; it does not however currently apply to physical phenomena such as stars or nebula, though the footprints of our passions can still be seen on the Moon, Venus, Mars and beyond the limits of our solar system. So with luck it may be just a matter of time. An rational outlook does tend towards the universal, a negative outlook to the colloquial.

Secondly and in conclusion – when we address a problem, or we analyse a system in a piecemeal fashion, the holistic nature of reality is a secondary issue. Holism may or may not be an acceptable method of looking at reality; it may or may not have shaken off the cobwebs of essentials or Hegel. It does however provide a practical method for modelling systems that are, when viewed as a whole, incomprehensible. But when they are examined in the manner in which I have demonstrated here, they become extremely practicable.
Our aims should not be that of methodological essentialism; to reduce these enormous constellations to their essences. What practical purpose should that serve? Instead we should attempt to describe how the system behaves in a given context. By doing this we make informed decisions when attempting to achieve our desires.
With the word ‘desire’, we see here that sociology remains the catalyst to all forms of enquiry. We omit it in our static representations for practical reasons, but we should not forget it’s influence. If we do, we risk making fools of ourselves when we inevitably ask the question, where did we go wrong, why did we fail.


Bertrand Russell, 1967. A History of Western Philosophy.  Edition. Simon & Schuster/Touchstone.
Karl Sir Popper, 2011. The Open Society and Its Enemies (Routledge Classics).  Edition. Routledge.
Karl Sir Popper, 2002. The Poverty of Historicism (Routledge Classics).  Edition. Routledge.