Words and thinking

I have taken a huge deep dive into some fundamental physics, found what looked like some pretty interesting stuff, and started a research project that is still ongoing. But I got way too focused away from the original goal of this journal–this is supposed to be a thinking journal, not a science project. So, I’m coming up for air. The physics paper is published on scribd, and after an initial bout of interest, nobody reads it anymore. I’ll continue with the physics project, but it’s time to get back to fundamental thinking.

On a philosophical level, I’ve done a little reading and a lot of thinking. I have a book called History of Philosophy (Julian Marias) that summarises what people have thought about throughout history. While I’m not done with it yet, one thing that really annoys me is how worthless many of the arguments are, because while the arguments seem to be about real issues, the actual problem is that the words used do not accurately define the question. Most of the discussed philosophical questions revolve around how to define a concept. For example, what is “truth”? What is “good” or “bad”? What does it mean to “exist”? What is the difference between an idea and reality”? What does it mean to be “alive”? What is the “meaning of life”? I’ve discussed some of these earlier in this journal, but every one of these questions is simply a matter of definition, of words. It’s annoying to see great mental effort expended on answering questions that aren’t worth asking or thinking about because the answer depends entirely on how the words are defined.

So, here is a question–what questions are NOT a matter of how words are defined? In a rather bizarre recursive way, I’m pretty sure THAT last question is one such question!! Can we define a set of questions that raises an issue that is isolated from the less interesting matter of how words are defined? I started this journal with a bunch of assumptions and rules on how I was going to proceed, and from there headed down a number of paths, all the while being careful to avoid semantic questions. Why are semantic questions so worthless? Because the answer simply lies in how we choose to define a word, and you’ll get different conclusions depending on different definitions. That’s not to say that some of my fundamental questions above “what is truth”, etc, don’t have an interesting issue at their core, but the way the question is asked hides the interesting part.

Here’s probably the most interesting one to me right now: the question of the difference between reality and an idea. I’ve talked a lot about this previously in this journal, but let’s revisit it, because most of the other concepts are built on this. The first thing we need to do is get semantics out of the way. The definition of these two words requires assumptions about reality, and as I discussed long ago, I can envision a universe in God’s mind where reality is just a consistent sequencing of God’s thoughts. It should be easy to see that there is not necessarily any difference between an idea and reality, and we need to start from here if we are actually going to do any useful thinking about these concepts.

Let’s save that for another post…

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