The truth lies elsewhere

Epimenides-poetIn philosophy and logic, the liar paradox or liar’s paradox … is the statement “this sentence is false.” Trying to assign to this statement a classical binary truth value leads to a contradiction … (Wikipedia)

The Epimenides paradox (circa 600 BC) has been suggested as an example of the liar paradox, but they are not logically equivalent. The semi-mythical seer Epimenides, a Cretan, reportedly stated that “The Cretans are always liars.” (ibid)

St Paul, writing to Titus in Crete, reminds him: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” (Titus 1:12, KJV)

St Jerome, in a Homily on Psalm 115 (in protestant versions, Psalm 116), further compounds the issue:

I said in my alarm, “Every man is a liar!” [Psalm 116:11] The Hebrew text varies a little: I said in my alarm, “Every man is a lie!” for the meaning of the word ZECAM is lie. … There is no truth in our substance; there is only shadow and in a certain sense a lie – | I mean in our corporeal being, not in the soul. (The Homilies of Saint Jerome, Volume 1, pp293-4)

It is one thing to devise sentences that illustrate mathematical or logical principles. But “classical binary truth values” do not provide a complete understanding of the way things work – and that’s something a writer needs to learn.

Our lives are based on what is reasonable and common sense; truth is apt to be neither. (Christmas Humphreys)

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there. (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī)

Nothing but lies comes out of my mouth. There I’ve done it again. (I keep saying it’s a Zen saying, but I’ve not managed to find it anywhere since I first found it, many years ago.)

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Signs of the times

caution wet floor sign

caution wet floor sign

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Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. (Ambrose Bierce)

A couple of days ago, I went into a Burger King outlet. The winter sun was shining and I fancied a soft-serve ice cream. Between the entrance and the counter, there were two yellow signs … and not a drop of water anywhere I could see.

Since the day I observed customers (several years ago, and at another Burger King outlet) tripping over a similar sign, I have developed a bit of an attitude to these ubiquitous objects.

At the counter, I handed the young man a one dollar coin and launched into something of a tirade. “Nothing personal,” I assured the BK staff member, eventually. “Now I’d like an ice cream, please.”

“I’m sorry, sir, the machine is off for maintenance,” said he, handing me back my cash.

Although, as Ambrose Bierce points out, I will regret my angry outburst until the moon turns to blood, the unfortunate truth is that it was far from my best speech.

What did I learn? I learned that my upset about this matter goes way deeper than I’d recognised – so deep, in fact, that I was unable to articulate my grievance cogently. There may be a connection with a life-threatening childhood accident … but I’m not going into that right now.

Yes, I think these are, literally, signs of the times – memes, if you like – that utilise ready-made templates within which we are invited/expected to formulate our communications.

I do not believe such signs signify that companies care about my welfare; it seem more likely that they are seeking to minimise their exposure to litigation.

PS: I hope nobody gets hurt tripping over one of the signs.

Nothing more than useful nonsense

Ludwig Wittgenstein by Ben Richards (1947)

Ludwig Wittgenstein by Ben Richards (1947)

Thus, even the philosophical achievements of the Tractatus itself are nothing more than useful nonsense; once appreciated, they are themselves to be discarded. The book concludes with the lone statement: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” (Tractatus 7) This is a stark message indeed, for it renders literally unspeakable so much of human life. As Wittgenstein’s friend and colleague Frank Ramsey put it, “What we can’t say we can’t say, and we can’t whistle it either.” It was this carefully-delineated sense of what a logical language can properly express that influenced members of the Vienna Circle in their formulation of the principles of logical positivism. Wittgenstein himself supposed that there was nothing left for philosophers to do. True to this conviction, he abandoned the discipline for nearly a decade. (Garth Kemerling

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The “spam queue” for this blog usually contains a high percentage of nonsense – including insincere and irrelevant compliments (often couched in broken English), or handfuls of disjunct excerpts nefariously grabbed from unrelated and unacknowledged sources – and including links to sites offering goods and services of no interest or value to me. 

Once in a while, I find the material interesting – such as this excerpt from what turned out to be (thank-you, Google) an essay by Garth Kemerling dealing with Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus on a site calling itself Philosophy Pages

Try to create a personal thing

Neil Gaiman by Michael Cavna

Neil Gaiman by Michael Cavna

“I thought, I better give them the kind of information I wish I had had when starting out. … It was the weird thing you discover as a writer where, if you’re trying to create a universal thing, you will fail. But if you try to create a personal thing, you sometimes find the universal that resonates with everybody.” (Neil Gaimanon his arts-school commencement address in Philadelphia that went viral

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From The Washington Post : Best Quotes of 2012

Ex nihilo omnia fiunt – everything from nothing

ensō

ensō

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Everything is nothing with a twist. (Kurt Vonnegut, in Slaughterhouse Five)

On the surface, Kurt Vonnegut’s tricky little aphorism seems simple.

Mapping “zero” onto the “ensō” of Zen, the possibilities are endless.

I’m a fan of ex nihilo omnia fiunt … and I love this juicy brush-stroke.

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PS: I’ve no idea whose it is – the ensō, I mean. 

PPS: Using Google Images, I found the following link: http://www.jingshen.co.uk/index.html , but it doesn’t attribute the image. 

Happy happy joy joy

Happiness is the light shining on the water. The water is cold and dark and deep … (William Keepers Maxwell, Jr, in Over by the River and Other Stories (1977)).

Joy (cover)

Joy (cover)

If you read my post, “Happiness is …” (07 Nov 2012), you might recall that I’d intended to write about the novel to which Maxwell’s words were a foreword/pre-text – but had been unable to find which book I’d copied it out of.

Back in the Wellington City Library again a day or two ago, my gaze lit on the cover pictured here … and at once I knew that was it.

The truth is, I hadn’t got very far into the book before it was due to be returned … Need I say more?

Reviewing Joy for The Observer (17 June 2012), Alexander Larman suggests that “Jonathan Lee’s highly accomplished second novel might be called Joy, but real happiness is lacking from the lives of its characters.”

Amazon.com describes Joy as “a hugely inventive, ambitious and absorbing novel about pleasure, love, loss, and work by ‘a major new voice in British fiction’ (Guardian).”

There’s already a pile of library books beside the table at home, so I didn’t get Joy out again … but I’m likely to give it another go again soon.