Monday, April 24, 2006

Axiomatic Permanence

Science works by assuming permanence. When a single obseration is made, it is assumed that the system remains stable and unchanging. Upon further observation, when change is noted, the nature of that change is assumed to be constant. When the nature of that change is itself modified, we must assume another, deeper permanence. Consider a ball: at first glance, we might guess the ball always sits there. Until we tilt the surface and it starts moving — at which point we might assume its movement is constant with respect to the incline of the plane. Until we see that it moves faster over time, and we discover acceleration. In a sense, we assume our present knowledge is constant until we are required to take the derivative: from position, to velocity, to acceleration. But the example doesn't stop here — if we travel high enough above the Earth, we'll note a difference in the acceleration. The question is: how deep does this rabbit hole go?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Favorite Colors

In Philosophy of Mind there's a big problem with unambiguously communicating subjective experiences and qualia. Most people wonder — at some point — "What if the color I call blue is the same thing you see when you say 'green'?" What if everyone has a genetic coin toss at conception that determines whether they are an "invertoid" — seeing every color the as the opposite of what everyone else sees? Or worse, what if we're all "baselined" at some random point on the color wheel? We'd be like compasses, each reporting a different magnetic north, but still equally useful for navigation.

Depending on how passionately philosophical I feel in the moment, sometimes I'll hang my head, sigh, and move on from this problem, other times I'll keep speculating. Yesterday I kept speculating, and imagined a pleasant possibility: maybe we all do see colors differently, and though we all claim to have different favorites, what if we really like the same color, just by different names?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Argument from Tap Water

Homeopathy has two primary tenets:

  • The Law of Similars, or Likes Cure Likes: use remedies based on substances that cause similar symptoms in large doses.
  • The Theory of Infitesimals: the further a remedy is diluted, the more it is enhanced.
A straighforward reductio against these principles came to me yesterday. Chances are you consume tap water on a regular basis; yet tap water is full of pretty much everything, nearly infinitely diluted. For example, I'm sure there are trace amounts of mercury in tap water — mercury, in large amounts, can cause dementia. By the claims of homeopathy, then, no one who drinks tap water should ever go insane. Yet there are plenty of people who go insane — and believe things like homepathy. Maybe they're all drinking bottled water? Or would that have even stronger curative powers?