Rest isn’t as easy as it seems

In my dissertation I make the case for rest.

“Shapiro uses an example called the “forced march” to display the power of his theory to handle vagueness with “competent speakers.” The forced march is done by a group of such speakers who examine the hair on the heads of 2000 men arrayed from entirely bald and progressing gradually to Jerry Garcia. They must reach a consensus each time, and Shapiro is concerned with the eventuality that, starting with Jerry Garcia, and inferring that a a small tuft of hair less on the next man preserves hairiness, the inference will break down and the competent speakers, one by one, will be filled with conflict until they decide that one of the men is bald (well before they get to the entirely bald man at the other end of this continuation). Shapiro argues that on breaking the inference with a particular man (lets call this man B(a)), classical logic requires that this break spreads to the men near B(a), so they are now also “bald” even though some of them were only a moment before considered “not bald.” Interestingly where exactly this spread of baldness around B(a) ends, and end it must before Jerry Garcia, is unknown, or deferred to further investigation. Needless to say, the deliberation of competent speakers on which men are bald and which men are not is neverending. Instead of admitting that logic is wrong, we are directed to work and deliberate on the problem forever, and if we ever throw up our hands and stop working, the consistency of classical logic would be questionable. (Nightingale 2018, pg 12)”

Rest, and “the rest”, is an ultimate concept upheld in the dissertation, and it has serious consequences for logic as we know it, and seems to stand in opposition to pragmatism. Rest, however, is not as easy as it sounds. Buddhist monks do quite a lot of work for the sake of rest. As I got older I learned that rest is hard, because you have so many people around you and before you, working and having worked so hard. If you don’t wear the orange robe of a monk, people will look down on you for, not just resting, but striving to uphold rest as a concept that is defensible.
Ultimately we work for the sake of rest. We want to “have done” something so that we can kick up our feet and relax with some entertainment. Of course it is also true that we rest for the sake of work, but “rest” seems to have fallen as a concept and “work” was in the ascendant.
I practice meditation 3-4 hours a day, and I have discovered that to meditate successfully one must also practice ‘sila’ or virtue, such as the 8 precepts in Buddhism. Not lying, taking care not to hurt little critters, help your concentration inside and outside meditation. As Buddhist monks propose, it must be realized that “striving for peace” can only be truly successful if such striving is also restful. To have rest be a means as well as an end, requires ‘sila,’ at least the 8 precepts, Here is a good explanation of the 8 precepts, which means you have to give up that entertainment you were looking forward to after work. All of the 8 precepts are a matter of ‘abstaining’ from certain actions and speech. There is nothing to do. You have to spend your restful hours striving for true rest.


“Only disobedience can threaten authoritarians”

“Only disobedience can threaten authoritarians”</span></div></div&gt;

Personally I think culture defends people against authority too. Trump owes some of his success to appearing to defend American culture. Hence MAGA and white male supremacy, but that doesn’t make culture a bad thing to be used against authority. Just because Trump misuses white culture to divide Americans doesn’t mean white culture, and culture in general is a bad thing. What I see in Thailand is a strong sense of culture that makes people agree on issues and behave in ways that unite and protect, regardless of what the “authorities” say. In a sense that amounts to disobedience, but Thai people barely feel that they are being disobedient when they disobey a political leader or policeman, they are just being obedient to their culture. What to do in America with so many cultures and religions? In a sense the divisions in America are very real, not merely caricatures created by a fascist leader.

Feyerabend is my favorite philosopher of science. He says that he wrote his book arguing that science uses no method because he was faced with teaching philosophy of science to people of distant cultures such as Native Americans. He recognized that western science is a product of Western culture. Maybe “science as culture,” or better “science as practice,” is the way to unite the USA. The way to do that is for people who support science to stop pretending its universal, stop making it “above” any discourse with other belief systems. Science has to make peace with religion and culture through dialogue. This means that the ultimate concepts of Difference and Work found in science need to be softened (not to mention the Continuum, which, as Heidegger noticed, replaced all models for struggle, political between the right and left, or otherwise). Being different, or an individual, or working really hard to “make a difference” are not as great as they are touted to be. Dialogue about difference, love based on difference (like between male and female), and faith in difference are easy to allow into this “science as culture.” But also things like friendship and culture, things that really unite people have to be allowed into science as well. “Science as practice” may be the dominant way science unites the USA, and that means using social media, “phones” if thats what they are anymore, and voting machines (not to mention the legal apparatus that elections follow, which owes its authority to its machine-like appearance). Unfortunately mathematical algorithms that are supposed to make the flow of social capital “fair” is too easily manipulated.

In my dissertation, instead of saying “farewell to reason” as Feyerabend did, I try to soften the main ways that science tries to make itself above social, political, cultural, religious discourse. The main ways science tries to do this is through a claim to being logical or reasonable. The other authority claim science makes: that of being empirically based, is not divisive, except that for some reason the empirical basis pretends to exclude accounts of people (except other scientists) and appear to be based on… what? Chomsky reports that science has no clear agreement on what the “Physical” is anymore, so “Nature”? “Difference”? “Work”?. However, classical logic has as a foundational axiom the LEM: that differences between A and not-A, for any A, are absolute and universal. Calling probability a theory and not a logic allows mathematical logic to take its seat as the One True Logic, with its universal and absolute law of Difference, or so it is made to appear in mathematics curriculum that I have seen as a mathematics teacher. My dissertation is meant to argue that the LEM is not acceptable, with the important result that without the LEM, science is able to take on the important role of uniting the USA in “science as culture”.

Science as culture involves adopting other normative values. It would no longer make the pretense of being a neutral descriptor of… again what? not the Physical… Ethical considerations, such as how much work is too much, how much interrogation of the earth is probing too deep, or is too dangerous to the environment, or to our humanity. The atomic bomb, atomic waste, and excessive carbon pollution, and plastic and other pollution, pandemics, and other side effects of a scientific community should render their causes  unscientific.

I am not sure where this outpouring leads. I feel sympathetic to the plight of Americans in the US. Make no mistake: our actions, our beliefs, our inclusions and exclusions, reverberate across the world. But our institutions are more powerful than our individuality. They must be disobeyed. We should be ruled by people, not law, be it scientific law or otherwise.

Proof of substance

The proof of substance shows that the universe is not entirely empty. Some people will think this goes against what the Buddha taught, but the Buddha chose to be neutral on the issue of whether anything was endowed with substance, or a “self.” And by self he meant identity. As in his example, even a cart, when examining its parts, the substance of the cart cannot be found, or no part of the cart is the cart itself, and since the cart is made of parts, none of which is the cart itself, the cart has no substance, it is only an amalgamation of parts. So the argument goes.

Now my proof of substance does not go against what the Buddha taught, because it is merely a proof that substance exists. And this proof doesn’t matter much, because a Buddhist should strive to notice emptiness, especially in oneself. This striving can be successful, and we will see how substance is fundamentally connected with ignorance. And how the existence of substance is merely the existence of ignorance, and ultimately results in the first noble truth: the existence of suffering.

1 The first step of the proof is asking: “Is this a question?”

It is like asking if ignorance exists. We cannot decide if it is or isn’t, because deciding would resolve its ignorance, but resolve it in the opposite way we decided: if we decide that it is a question, whether it is a question is no longer in question. After all, how can this question be, if its being were not in question?

2  The next step of the proof is asserting that “is this a question?” while it is undecidable on whether it is a question, is still a tangible thought.

What kind of thought we have when we ask “Is this a question?” is not known. This leads to the third step of the proof:

3 Because “Is this a question?” cannot fit in any form, and it exists, the only option for it is to be substance.

“Is this a question?” cannot necessarily be a question. If it isn’t then what is it? It seems that there isn’t any other kind of “what” it could be, and so it lies outside a what question, even though we know that it is. This is the fundamental ignorance.  As you can see, it is fruitless to argue over whether it exists or not, which is what the Buddha said of the doctrine of self (by which he meant substance). Asserting “is this a question?” is a question yields a paradox, so it may be best to let this question remain in question. In either case, it may be going too far to assert that it is something. After all, a thing is a “what” and this ignorance cannot be categorized or partitioned. Yet it persists.



Fund Me: Barnhurst News

One project that has been knocking around in my mind for many years (12+) is a news filter that is publicly filtered. By publicly filtered I mean that people are in charge of how a search yields news results, not a mathematical algorithm, not elite editors. I am sure this idea has been thought of before and the reason I think it isn’t already out there is there are powerful people in America who don’t want people to be able to consciously filter their news for themselves. So, I will probably need to hire a lawyer at some stage during this project.

The main innovation is that the program will have more than just a simple “like” way to vote on news. The facebook system is still one-dimensional even though you can choose “laugh” “cry”, etc. For this news filter you can react to a news article more than once using the following dimensions (at first)

Scales (instead of binaries) on the following: “about people vs about institutions” “Democratic vs Republican vs(?Anarchism?)etc” “asks a lot of questions of the reader or tells them statements” “How factual vs how interpretive” (and a separate discussions of the facts and the interpretations available for comment) Also just a rating of how much they liked/disliked the news article. Perhaps you could add the conventional classifications “world, local, science, etc” In addition, I’d like to have people offer and vote on other classifications. Also they can vote on news outlets and filter according to that as well, and the votes could be revealed publicly, so people actually know where most others are getting their news, or like getting news.

There will be two settings: an entry setting that allows you to vote on any news article online, and the other setting is the search setting, that allows people to search based on these votes putting in the search criteria (the same criteria that is voted upon in the entry setting).

Here is a very preliminary sketch. Depending on the amount of donations I can make this much better or hire to work on it.

This is where you come in. I am putting a donation button below, donations will let me know how much time I should devote to this project, and how easily I can argue with my wife that time should be devoted to it. I promise to do this project, and that it will remain 100% free to use. However how pretty, how streamlined, and how much time it takes to finish this project depends on the donations I receive. Thank you

click the link and type in zweihanderdawg at gmail dot com to donate to my paypal. Thank you.


and the most expensive, in that it takes the largest bite out of your donation, is a gofundme:

Using terms inconsistently

So, I feel the need to defend the uses of of “=” and “Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM“. Mainly because I am differentiating uses of Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM but not differentiating uses of “=”. If I differentiated, say the identity “A=A” from the identity “B=B” it would mean not that these were different identities, but that there were two kinds of identity. That is a can of worms I am not ready to open yet. But the choice makes more sense if you think of the concept of equals, including identity, as being the opposite of making distinctions, which is what identifying kinds of identity is. This is what makes equals universal, while not-equals is always special, even though I am aware that this undermines the concept of difference, making (allowable) inconsistencies in my previous post.

We can say, for example that 1+2=3 and 2+3 = 5 and then that 1+2 Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM 2+3 which in effect means that the two equals signs are for different equalities. No problem there, and the difference is kept with the symbol Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM, which is the way it should be. But how can I defend that there shouldn’t be different kinds of identity, where there should be different kinds of distinctions? Well, is the way that “A=A” any different from the way “B=B”? I would say no. And, again appealing to the intuition: There is a big difference between the way a question is different from a neutron star and the way an lemon is different from a lime. So I am committed to the idea that there are different kinds of differences, but there is only one kind of sameness.

Mathematical Relationship between Logical Pluralism and Vagueness

There can be a pluralism of logics because Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.55.59 PM.png whereScreen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.57.58 PM is classical negation. This can be justified because  “1 Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM 2″ and “1 is not 2” are basically the same statement. However “not 2” has different meanings in different logics, so 1 Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM 2 means something different in paraconsistent logic (We’ll use DeCosta’s C1), we mark this difference with 1 Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.58.22 PM 2, and claim that the difference between classical negation (Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.57.58 PM) and paraconsistent negation (Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.58.22 PM) is  marked Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.58.10 PM. Hence Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.55.59 PM.png.

I mentioned in a previous post that we cannot generalize this statement into Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.02 PMbecause it is a contradiction. Nevertheless, a sense in which Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.02 PMis true is the sense Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.55.59 PM.png.

Now, vagueness is the situation where it is not clear if 1 Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM 2. To illustrate, take this curve: graph_avg_weight1

here is vagueness on whether we have two or one “heaps”. This thing could be 2 or it could be 1 and so in a sense 2=1. How is this handled by logical pluralism? Paraconsistent logic would allow that A: “1 is not 2” and ~A: “1 is 2” has a sense in which it is true, while classical logic would explode. The reason for this is entirely based on the difference in negation. C1 creates a new sense each time a true possibility is negated, making the negation of a possibly true row in the truth-table have two senses, one in which the negation is true, another in which the negation is false.

(A Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.57.58 PM ~A) Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.58.10 PM (A Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.58.22 PM ~A)

The point is that how you handle negation changes how vagueness is handled (or not handled). A difference in negation also gives rise to an entirely different logic. Vagueness can be described completely as a failed distinction/negation, so that even though we want “1 is not 2” vagueness makes this distinction fail. A different negation yields a different way distinction fails, but no logic “solves” vagueness completely. This is the mathematical relationship between vagueness and logical pluralism.

This may be made clearer with another example. Vagueness is the situation when a distinction fails, which can be described by the failure to distinguish = from Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM, so Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.30.38 PM.

Now for classical logic if vagueness renders 1 = 2 we can prove Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.30.38 PM, likewise in paraconsistent logic there is no problem having Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.30.38 PM as another non-explosive contradiction. this means in particular that Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.57.58 PMScreen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.34.47 PM and Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.58.22 PMScreen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.34.47 PM. Substituting, we get that things can get so vague we can’t tell the difference between Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.57.58 PM and Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.58.22 PM, in other words Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.57.58 PM = Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.58.22 PM. and from our previous statement Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.55.59 PM.png we have Screen Shot 2017-09-23 at 10.58.10 PMScreen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.34.47 PM and vagueness is now mathematically related to logical pluralism.

The symmetry between Completeness and Vagueness

The (Problem of the) Heap of Sand is the classical representation of vagueness, where you create an inference: if you take away a grain from the heap then it remains a heap. This is a good inference for a long time, but eventually breaks down due to the vagueness of what a heap is (eventually you will have taken so many grains away that it wont resemble a heap anymore). And you can’t even tell when the inference will break down, exactly. So, as you can see, vagueness has a very precise and non-vague formulation, something similar to this strange property of vagueness (that it is a clear and distinct concept, even though it is a concept about indistinctness) is common for mathematical concepts. That is, mathematical concepts are chosen and defined so that they contain the terms necessary to get round their own difficulties—their faults or cracks, as all concepts are imperfect. Example: “Completeness”.

The difference between vagueness and completeness, is:

1) that the term completeness is in direct opposition to the claim that every concept has a “fault” or “crack”, in this it is a “perfect” term. The definition of completeness, however, must be vague, because the terms used to define completeness all have cracks.

2) The definition of vagueness, by contrast, is perfect, but the term refers to an essential fault of all terms, and is always perceived. (perception is always vague) Vagueness is defined as how the if, then fails— The “heart of logic” (the paragon of precision) and the most reliable way to preserve truth. It is clear and distinct in its description of how the if, then fails. Since each of the terms in the definition of vagueness have cracks, the definition is precise.

The term vagueness refers perfectly to its referent because it is well defined as an indistinctness, the definition of completeness is vague because the term refers to something that can’t be perceived, a perfect whole.

Stuff, and Higher-Order Vagueness

At the heart of real analysis and the study of real numbers is a confusion between points and “stuff,” or how points can perfectly describe distance/space/extension. Put the other way around, how can extension be reduced to points? Or how can we know the extension (with points) of a length/width of an object?

This question is caught up in measurement, and the relationship between word and object. I have seen people give (real) number a privileged position between word and object, but I would argue that number suffers from the same flaws that language suffers from, including vagueness. One reason is there is vagueness in what to call “one” (see the classical “heap of sand” in a previous post), further there is vagueness in when something is countable or uncountable. Electron cloud size to water or human height is uncountable, but what about popcorn or puffed rice? These could be counted, but should we be counting the grains? Should we count water molecules? Should we go back to a particle model for electrons so we can count them? This should comes more pointed when we consider the ancient belief that counting/taking measurements about humans directly endangers them (Feyerabend 1999). Why was it believed that being unsure which side of the microscope you are on endangers?

Vagueness runs right through these issues from the finer points of graduate school mathematics to the ethical issue raised above. And of course it does, since we would like number to draw a clear line between word and object, point and “stuff”. Strangely, insight into these distinctions can be garnered by understanding just how troubling (and what) vagueness is.

Enter higher-order vagueness. Now the question has been put to me “Well the vagueness between, say, “high up” and “not high up”, (this can easily be pictured on a cartesian graph with a line gradually going down from left to right) can be dealt with by adding and third “uncertain” value/region. And the trouble here is, as is well known, that adding a region uncertain only adds two new borderline cases between “high up” and “uncertain”, and another borderline case between “uncertain” and “not-high up”, so that new “higher order” uncertainty regions have to be added for these borderline cases. And now we have introduced new sources of vagueness, etc. Ultimately the pursuit of conquering higher-order vagueness by exchanging borderlines(points) with intervals(stuff/extension) is a vagueness between points and intervals.

As that sinks in, realize that a vagueness between points and intervals is a general problem reproducible anytime vagueness rears its ugly head. If we draw the connections from points to words and from intervals to the “stuff” of objects, we find that the line between words and objects is vague, which is also well known. What is new here is that we found this well known vagueness by investigating vagueness itself in a general way.

To summarize I would say that the vagueness between word and object is an essential or “stock” vagueness that crops up anytime we are in vague territory, and is the heart of analysis of “real” numbers. In this sense, vagueness is an important ultimate concept for mathematics, and it ought to be mentioned in analysis text books that vagueness is what the book is about.



—The following is a tribute to my father, Kevin Barnhurst, who passed a year ago this month–

I decided to make this post a tribute to him.

Dad and I were working on this essay ( when he died.

Dad was a flawed human being, but one comfort is that I almost exclusively remember good things about him, and feel pleasure in remembering him. I know thats good for both of us. We were at odds a lot when I was a kid. I went through a different kind of school system engineered to dumb down the American population, and entered college a logical positivist by default, but underneath all that wash, I was deeply skeptical of my “education”. For dad his family didn’t trust his decision to enter college, and the situation was reversed. For him school was how to become educated, for me what education I have was a result of conversation (with him and many others). I probably would not have gone to college at all if dad hadn’t pushed me hard to apply. That was one of the strange things about dad, he was very forceful, and only made me more stubborn, but he softened later in life and knew how to make his force felt in a strangely soft way.

We kept a long tradition of holding protracted conversations in the evenings and into the night. I owe my intellectual development primarily to him, and it is strange how long it took me, all the way to the last few years of his life, to realize what a gift that was and to reach an understanding that allows respect his for work.

Magical Thinking in Mathematics

The goal for today is to prove that magical thinking is rampant in mathematics. First of all lets define magical thinking. I would say that magical thinking is a kind of metaphorical thinking, as in the metaphor “My heart is the sun” only with the added idea that writing these words/making the metaphor exerts towards making the metaphor true to some degree or in some sense. Magical thinking is the claim that saying “My heart is the sun” actually warms my heart.

Now the way that mathematics uses magical thinking is to start with a metaphorical idea of difference. For example, the difference between a “raven” (1) and a “writing desk” (2) metaphorically (not actually) is the difference between the “north star” (3) and the “form of thinking called questioning” (4). It is fairly intuitive that the difference between (1) and (2) is different from the difference between (3) and (4), but mathematics amalgamates all differences together into one concept with metaphor. And it is a particular kind of metaphor that asserts that difference actually works that way.

Even though 3 and 5 are less different (2) than 3 and 9, (6), these differences are not taken into account in the traditional mathematical symbol for difference, the Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM.  Traditionally 3 Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM 5 just as much as 3 Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.33.44 PM 9, so the identity of difference, Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.35.11 PM, is enforced.

Mathematics asserts an ultimate concept “Difference” that is universal—it works for any situation where there is difference, making any difference “complete” and it does so by metaphorically joining disparate differences. Hence, it falls under my definition of magical thinking.

I am doing the opposite of what Derrida did with his Différance. Derrida added senses to difference allowing it a history and to belong to language, I am suggesting that we subtract, or better divide utterly Difference into differences.

The rest of the sciences follow suit, of course, since mathematics is the language of the sciences. My advisor for my M.S. in mathematics once said “mathematics is the poetry of the sciences.”