Hi Rex Allen  

How could mathematics be fiction ?
If so, then we could simply say that 2+2=5 because it's saturday.



Roger Clough, rclo...@verizon.net 
9/22/2012  
"Forever is a long time, especially near the end." -Woody Allen 


----- Receiving the following content -----  
From: Rex Allen  
Receiver: everything-list  
Time: 2012-09-21, 09:20:41 
Subject: Re: Prime Numbers 


Just to avoid confusion, this sentence: 


I would say that mathematics is just very tightly plotted fiction where so many 
details of the story are known up front that the plot can only progress in very 
specific ways if it is to remain consistent and believable to the "reader".? 


Should probably be: 


I would say that mathematics is just very tightly plotted fiction where so many 
details of the back-story are known up front that the plot can only progress in 
very specific ways if it is to remain consistent and believable to the 
"reader".? 






On Fri, Sep 21, 2012 at 8:40 AM, Rex Allen  wrote: 

On Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 11:50 PM, Terren Suydam  wrote: 

On Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 10:19 PM, Rex Allen  wrote: 
> 
> On Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 1:36 PM, Terren Suydam  
> wrote: 
>> 
>> Rex, 
>> 
>> Do you have a non-platonist explanation for the "discovery" of the 
>> Mandelbrot set and the infinite complexity therein? 
> 
> 
> I find fictionalism to be the most plausible view of mathematics, with all 
> that implies for the Mandelbrot set. 


I'm curious about what a plausible "fictionalist" account of the 
Mandelbrot set could be. Is fictionalism the same as constructivism, 
or the idea that knowledge doesn't exist outside of a mind? 



I lean towards a strong form of fictionalism - which says that there are few 
important differences between mathematics and literary fiction. 


So - I could give a detailed answer - but I think I'd rather give a sketchy 
answer at this point. 


I would say that mathematics is just very tightly plotted fiction where so many 
details of the story are known up front that the plot can only progress in very 
specific ways if it is to remain consistent and believable to the "reader". 


Mathematics is a kind of world building. ?n the?maginative?ense. 




? 

> But ;et me turn the question around on you, if I can: 
> 
> Do you have an explanation for how we "discover" mathematical objects and 
> otherwise interact with the Platonic realm? 
> 
> How is it that we are able to reliably know things about Platonia? 


I think just doing logic and math - starting from axioms and proving 
things from them - is interacting with the Platonic realm. 


But how is it that we humans do that? ?his is my main question. ?hat exactly 
are we doing when we start from axioms and prove things from them? ?here does 
this ability come from? ?hat does it consist of? 






> I would have thought that quarks and electrons from which we appear to be 
> constituted would be indifferent to truth. 
> 
> Which would fit with the fact that I seem to make a lot of mistakes. 
> 
> But you think otherwise? 


I didn't understand the above... what do quarks and electrons have to 
do with arithmetical platonism? 



Are we not composed from quarks and electrons? ?f so - then how do "mere" 
collections of quarks and electrons connect with platonic truths? 


By chance? ?re we just fortunate that the initial conditions and causal laws of 
the universe are such that our quarks and electrons take forms that mirror 
Platonic Truths? 


? 

>> 
>> How can you make 
>> sense of that in terms of the constructivist point of view that you 
>> are (I think) compelled to take if you argue against arithmetical 
>> platonism? ?t seems obvious that all possible intelligences would 
>> discover the same forms of the Mandelbrot so long as they iterated on 
>> z' = z^2 + c, but maybe I am missing the point of your argument. 
> 
> I will agree with you that all intelligences that start from the same 
> premises as you, and follow the same rules as inference as you, will also 
> draw the same conclusions about the Mandelbrot set as you do. 
> 
> However - I do not agree with you that this amenable group exhausts the set 
> of all *possible* intelligences. 


I only meant that all possible intelligences that start from a 
mathematics that includes addition, multiplication, and complex 
numbers will find that if they iterate the function z' = z^2 + c, they 
will find that some orbits become periodic or settle on a point, and 
some escape to infinity. If they draw a graph of which orbits don't 
escape, they will draw the Mandelbrot Set. All possible intelligences 
that undertake that procedure will draw the same shape... and this 
seems like discovery, not creation. 



It seems like a tautology to me. ?f you do what I do and believe what I believe 
then you will be a lot like me...? 


Is there anything to mathematics other than belief? 


What are beliefs? ?hy do we have the beliefs that we have? ?ow do we form 
beliefs - what lies behind belief? 


Can *our* mathematical abilities be reduced to something that is indifferent to 
mathematical truth? 




? 

> Could there be intelligences who start from vastly difference premises, and 
> use vastly different rules of inference, and draw vastly different 
> conclusions? 


Of course, but then what they are doing doesn't relate to the Mandelbrot Set. 



However - they might *believe* their creations to be just as significant and 
universal as you consider the Mandelbrot Set to be - mightened they? 


What would make them wrong in their belief but you right in yours? ? 






> 
> What are the limits of belief, do you think? ?s there any belief that is so 
> preposterous that even the maddest of the mad could not believe such a 
> thing? 


I don't think so... based on my understanding of how mad "maddest of 
the mad" can get. 


> And if there is no such belief - then is it conceivable that quarks and 
> electrons could configure themselves in such a way as to *cause* a being who 
> holds such beliefs to come into existence? 


I'm guessing you meant to say "and if there is such a belief...". ?'m 
having a tough time understanding where you're going with this... it 
seems like an interesting line of questions, but I have no idea how it 
relates to what we were discussing. 



So - you spotted the ambiguity in that sentence. ?hat kind of reasoning did you 
use to do that? ?id you use your Platonic Truth Sense? ?r some more ordinary, 
more "animal" reasoning? 


The sentence was?arbled, I admit. ?hat I was trying to get at is: if all 
beliefs are possible, then can all beliefs, even the most bizarre and alien, be 
represented using collections of quarks and electrons whose states change over 
time in accordance with the laws of physics? 


Put a slightly different way: ?re all possible beliefs possible in our universe 
using our physics? ?r would some beliefs require some other representational 
substrate capable of state changes requiring some more alien physics? 


This sort of opens up the question of exactly what is involved in 
"representation".? 


Rex 


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