humans and logic

Alex Martelli aleaxit at
Tue Jun 12 12:48:11 EDT 2001

"thinkit" <thinkit8 at> wrote in message
news:9g5d3p0f0p at
> humans should use a power of 2 as a base.  this is more logical because it
> synchs with binary, which is at the very heart of logic--true and false.
it is
> more natural perhaps, to use decimal--

Perhaps.  It seems to have been used by most cultures throughout
the world, though far from all.  Octal was used by some American
tribes, and some linguists believe they find decisive traces in
Indo-European and Japanese to show that their common root (so-
called Nostratic) used octal.  Vigesimal was clearly popular
recently enough that French still says "seventy" as "sixty and
ten", "eighty" as "four twenties", "ninety" as "four twenties
and ten".  Sexagesimal, used by Sumer and Babylonian astronomers
(they used decimal for most computation), has left indelible
traces in our time-measurement (60 seconds to a minute, 60
minutes to an hour) and angle-measurement (ditto).

> but logic should, and will, win out.

Perhaps.  It never did, so far, but it sure seemed to for LONG
times.  For example, Parmenides used logic to prove ZERO was
unusable nonsense (his disciple Zeno, not to be confused with
the founder of Stoicism of course, bult beautiful paradoxes to
illustrate his master's thesis), and thus did logic manage to
make arithmetic almost unusable for 1,500 years in the West.

Fortunately, in the end, the Eastern mystics won out, putting
logic in its place and celebrating the Abra Kad' Abra ("air void
of air" -- aren't these Sanskrit words STILL the ones that
come to mind most readily when thinking of a spell of mystical
incantation?-), Non-Being, the Void at the Core of All, etc,
etc.  At long last, the illogic and absurd Zero got into the
number system -- eventually, since Practicality Beats Purity,
its use became universal.  Nowadays, of course, the adorers
of Logic try to sweep THIS little tidbit of the history of
science and mathematics under the carpet...:-).

I highly recommend in-depth study and comparison of the
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (a genius in his twenties
trying to fix precisely the conditions in which Logic will
let us speak) and the Philosophical Investigations (the
same genius, 30 years later, explaining WHY logic will
never work as the One True Way of human discourse...).

As eminently NON-logical William Blake had written, "If
the fool would but persist in his folly, he would become
wise" -- few logical fools have shown the same persistence
and greatness as Ludwig von Wittgenstein, to enable them
to reach the wisdom of mysticism by dint of inflexibly
consistent application of Logic...:-).


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