Frederic Janssens on Tue, 15 Oct 2019 17:51:58 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Some open questions.. some leading questions

Thanks for asking!    

I have been thinking about these topics for many years, but have not published anything yet.

As I am a very slow writer, I will start by replying just to the philosophical/epistemological questions. They provide the proper tools and perspective to answer the other questions.

"Are these problems simply (as analytic philosophers might argue) problems of language, logic or perception"

Yes and no :
They are problems of language, logic or perception.
But not as analytic philosophers argue them.

Our use of language and our perceptions have been distorted by an ill concieved use of logic.
This is a primordial, and until now constitutive, "bug" in western thought. The origin of the bug is in ancient Greece, between Thales and Aristoteles, who formalised it.
The bug is to consider that the use of language should ideally be governed by the use of binary logic. Binary logic is based on the concept of Binary Truth :
A linguistic _expression_ is either True or False, there is not third (possibility) : "Tertium non datur". (

Why is this a bug?
It is an error on the domain of validity of the concept of Binary Truth.
The emergence of the concept of Binary Truth is linked with the developpment of geometry, and the concept of proof.
In modern mathematical terms geometry is a formal system.

My point is :

Formal systems are the domain of validity of binary logic.
Reality, and Language, are not formal systems and are not legitimate parts of the domain of validity of binary logic.

Expressed in a less formal way : Language and formal systems are representational tools, "Maps", of reality.
"The map is not the territory"

But Plato introduced the Idea : the territry is an approximation of the map.
It is crazy, but that craziness has been very productive :
Modern technoscience has covered many parts of reality where the number of significant factors are few enough that a formal system provides a very good representation of reality.

But many other parts of reality do have too many significant factors to be, at least as yet, well represented by a formal system.
To manage those parts of reality we can only use language.
But the implicit idea that language is just another formal system, by refering to binary logic, leads us to think, and do, crazy things.

To cut the chase short : I propose a relatively simple alternative to binary logic in the regulation of use of language :

A linguistic _expression_ can be an adequate approximation of reality for a specified context and a specified purpose.

Imposing the notion of binary truth on an _expression_ is then seen as imposing it to either be an adequate approximation of reality for any context and any purpose, or of none.

Which is clearly nonsense if you think of it. But that is the thing : the notion of binary truth as valid in the use of language imposes on us a burden of continuously avoiding the crazy things it induces us to think.
In relatively concrete or familiar contexts we usually manage.
But in more abstract or unfamiliar contexts we often fail

And, most importantly in the context of your text, it is an obstacle to the use of language for unterstanding, and thus meaninfully communicate, with people whith whom we do not have a lot of
context overlap.

One specific example of the insiduous and perverse consequences of binary logic on the use of language :
The most frequent use of "logic" in discussions is what I call "reverse syllogistic reasoning" :
In order to disqualify an opinion you do not like, the easiest way is to treat it as the conclusion of a syllogism and then invalidate one of the premisses to your satisfaction.
It only "works" (for you) because of the reference to binary Truth : if it is not True in all contexts for all purposes, then is False. So you do not need to try to understand the opinion you do not like.

This "magic" disqualification does not work if you use my concept of "adequate approximation of reality for a specified context and a specified purpose" : if you aim to have a real discussion,  you must do the work of comparing the contexts and purposes, and the adequateness, of your and the other's opinions.

So my prescription is : for any public document make it mandatory to include the context and purpose for which validity is claimed.

I will try to answer the other questions, but they are mostly consequences of this.

On Mon, 14 Oct 2019 at 13:31, David Garcia <> wrote:
- What Would a Knowledge Democracy Look Like -
 hoping for some some thoughts to be dropped in the “bowl". 

* Are these problems simply (as analytic philosophers might argue) problems of language, logic or perception 
or has the nature of how we discover (or construct) facts and truth claims fundamentally changed ? 


David Garcia


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