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Posted by Harvey on September 30, 2002 03:53:08 UTC

Hi Dick,

***The issue is that I can label things which I think you are referring to without having the slightest idea what they are.***

Understood. I realize that if we are talking about things, then you can label them as numbers without having the slightest idea what they are. I am, of course, talking about all 'things' which is where we seem to have some disagreement.

***That they can be referred to makes them part of "things which can be labeled with numbers". Anything which can be referred to can be labeled with a number because the reference itself may be converted to a number.***

I am talking about that which we cannot exactly refer to. Perhaps our being able to refer to 'them' is merely a human approximation.

***H: Why does it seem that you are trying to preclude the possibility of unidentifiables as existing? D: It probably seems so to you because you have not taken the time to consider all the possibilities. It is exactly because I do not want to exclude any possibility that I use the term "things which can be referred to". I very much hate to exclude anything and I only exclude those "things which cannot be referred to" because I cannot conceive of any way to refer to them. Note that the category "things which cannot be referred to" can be labeled and/or referred to; it is only the things actually being referred to which "cannot be referred to" and that could very well be an empty set though I don't know that I could prove it.***

This appears to be where we are miscommunicating. Let's discuss the definition of 'things' again. In your post Sep/13 ("One More Step!") you said the following:

"First, I contend that, without making any commitment at all as to what they are, I can conceptually divide the 'things' referred to into two very different categories. The first category consists of those 'things' which exist (those things which constitute elements of 'Ultimate Reality') and the second category consists of those 'things' which do not exist in 'Ultimate Reality' but are only believed to exist by the person referred to in point #4."

Notice that 'things' can be placed into two categories which I can accept. The second category [those 'things' which do not exist in 'Ultimate Reality' but are only believed to exist by the person referred to in point (4)] falls within the domain of (6), and I have no quarrel at all about (6) being valid for this second category.

The first category [those 'things' which exist - i.e., constitute elements of 'Ultimate Reality'] cannot be assumed to be things that can be referred to - even with the caveat that we don't have the slightest idea what they are. The reason is that we don't have any idea whether 'Ultimate Reality' contains 'things' that can be referred to even in principle. How do you know that you can make this assumption?

***H: Such a 'dead horse' is not something that your version of (6) properly handles. D: I have no idea at all of what was going on in your head when you wrote that! I have made no comment concerning any "proper" method of labeling things with numbers; all I have said is, "It is possible to label all of these "things" with numbers".***

As a means to make my point simpler, I would like to define a 'dead horse' as category 1 [those 'things' which exist - i.e., constitute elements of 'Ultimate Reality'] which happen to be non-referring. If such 'things' exist, then for simplicity let's call them 'dead horses'. Now, I don't know if 'dead horses' exist or not, what I am saying is that we cannot assume they don't exist (which your (6) subtly makes this mistake). Now, how can you be so sure that a 'dead horse' (if they exist) can be numbered if they cannot be referred to, even in principle, since this is contrary to the definition of 'dead horses' (again, I am not saying 'dead horses' exist or not - we just can't assume they don't exist)?

***That paragraph is just chock full of misunderstandings and distortions of what I am saying. It is you who are trying to exclude "things" from "things which can be labeled with numbers".***

No, I am not precluding the existence of 'dead horses' whereas you are with your (6). Why must you preclude the existence of 'dead horses'? What if 'Ultimate Reality' is more generous than you and happens to have 'dead horses'?

***As I said earlier, I have no desire to exclude anything; that is why I use the term "can be referred to" and not "can be identified".***

I don't see how this helps your cause. If some 'thing' can be referred to, then obviously it has identity (although, the converse is not necessarily true). On the other hand, if a 'thing' cannot exactly be referred to as an object (i.e., 'dead horse'), then how can you possibly accurately number that 'thing' since it belongs to category 1?

***It is also the reason I make no specification as to how this numbering is to be accomplished.***

It has nothing to do with whether you specify or don't specify a method, 'dead horses' are defined as 'things' existing without being able to be referred to. It seems to me that you cannot accept category 1 types that lack the property of reference (or potential of reference). Why?

***Language consists of a collection of symbols which are used to communicate ideas; it is the abstract concept of language itself which is being represented by these numbers. I have chosen numbers because, under ordinary circumstances, no particular meaning need be attached: i.e., it is fairly simple to conceive of a set of labels (or symbols if you prefer) to be represented by a set of numbers without inadvertently attaching some meaning to those labels/symbols.***

It is fairly simple for category 2 items. We have no direct experience of category 1 items, so we cannot say if this paragraph is valid for all 'things' in category 1 (i.e., with regard to 'dead horses').

***It is the avoidance of meaning which is critical to my argument. Any attachment of meaning constrains what is being represented and I want no such constraints on my considerations.***

Again, I understand what you are saying. I think it is quite possible that 'Ultimate Reality' has 'things' which can be referred to without an understanding of those 'things' (and hence we can label anyway of our choosing). I'm talking about the possibility that 'Ultimate Reality' is not so simple as that. What if 'Ultimate Reality' admits the 'dead horses' as the 'things' of category 1? In that case (a possibility that we must allow), we must say that (6) is invalid.

***If you are to counter my statement, you must either find something which you cannot refer to which you can prove exists or something you can refer to where the reference you use cannot be represented with a number.***

Ha! Dick, you miss my central point. Whatever I, Harv, can imagine - all I can say is that those things are at least category 2 stuff. I have no idea what things I can imagine are category 1 'stuff'. And, I especially cannot say that what I can imagine restricts category 1 'stuff'.

Here, let me reword your comment:

"If you are to counter my statement, you must either find some 'thing' in category 1 which you cannot refer to which you can prove exists or some 'thing' in category 1 that you can refer to where the reference you use cannot be represented with a number".

Now, consider that we don't know if we have identified or referenced a real category 1 'thing'. We know we have imagined a set of category 2 things, but category 1? We have no idea. Even trying to imagine what category 1 is like, does not tell us anything about category 1.

***I am making no constraints whatsoever on the scheme used to produce these numbers nor on the meaningfulness of any particular assignment! All I am saying is that "It is possible to label all of these "things" with numbers". In fact, putting the label "1" on each and every "thing" is entirely satisfactory: i.e., that is one of the possibilities referred to in the statement "It is possible to label all of these "things" with numbers". If you can show conclusively that that it is impossible to assign the number "one" to each and every "thing" which exists or can be thought to exist, then you have defeated point #6.***

You've given me the impossible task! If I can imagine such a category 1 'thing', then I have made it a category 2 thing by my mental effort of referencing such a thing. In which case, it can be placed firmly as part of (6). However, we are not talking about my imagination being correct, this is the heart of the problem. There is no way to know that my imagination is even closely correct at identifying a real category 1 'things. For all we know, our imagination might never refer to a category 1 'thing' simply because category 1 'things' are 'dead horses'. In such a case, your (6) would fail. We can delude ourselves by our imagination, and say "because we cannot imagine it otherwise, it must be so." But, such thoughts are self-deluding since we have no way of knowing if our imagination is correct. Heck, our imagination may only be a pragmatic tool used for our survival. It may not correctly depict 'dead horses' in any way, it might be good only for keeping us alive and functional.

***Can you comprehend what idea I am trying to refer to in point #6? Can you understand what I mean by "It is possible to label all of these "things" with numbers"? If you cannot comprehend that, then there is no purpose to going on. By the way, speaking of "fast ones", I get the distinct feeling you are searching very hard for a fast exit so that you need not consider what I am saying. Please assure me I am wrong.***

I'm sure it might seem that way since I am 'inventing' a notion such as a 'dead horse'. But, in this case, it is you who cannot comprehend the concept of a 'dead horse'. You seem to think that because we cannot imagine what a 'dead horse' is like therefore they cannot exist. I don't know why you put this kind of constraint on 'Ultimate Reality'. It might be that your imagination has served you so well throughout your life, that the only world you can imagine is one where 'dead horses' cannot possibly exist (i.e., unless someone can reference one to you - which would contradict their definition!). I'm guessing that you are so eager to understand 'Ultimate Reality' that 'dead horses' are not only ridiculous - but that you outright refuse to even consider the possibility of them existing. If so, then perhaps you are one horse that cannot be made to drink even though I brought you to the water.

Warm regards, Harv

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