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Alon Amit's answer to Why is there no formal definition for a set in math? How can we make any statement about sets (and therefore all of math) if we don’t even know what it is? - Quora
In the realm of mathematics, an object is what it does (I keep quoting Tim Gowers with this phrase, and I will likely do so many more times). The only thing that matters about points, lines, real numbers, sets, functions, groups and tempered distributions is the properties and features and rules they obey. What they “are” is of no concern.

I've seen this idea in a lot of different places
q-n-a  qra  math  lens  abstraction  essence-existence  analytical-holistic  forms-instances  big-picture  aphorism  axioms  definition  characterization  zooming 
july 2019 by nhaliday
Lessons from 6 software rewrite stories – Herb Caudill – Medium
Almost two decades ago, Joel Spolsky excoriated Netscape for rewriting their codebase in his landmark essay Things You Should Never Do.
cadt  software.development  axioms  received.wisdom  programming  software  history  rewrite.from.scratch  post.mortem 
february 2019 by po
Logic, Explainability and the Future of Understanding
A long, wide-ranging article by Stephen Wolfram. Ostensibly about developing computer-assisted proofs by enumeration. But riffs into philosophical discussions around the nature of doing science, mathematics, and proofs. In particular, the explainability and understandability of proofs by humans. A long deep read.
wolfram  mathematica  logic  theorems  proofs  axioms  science  philosophy  mathematics  understandability  explainability  abstraction  knowledge 
november 2018 by drmeme
Imagine there’s no Congress - The Washington Post
- Adrian Vermeule

In the spirit of John Lennon, let’s imagine, all starry-eyed, that there’s no U.S. Congress. In this thought experiment, the presidency and the Supreme Court would be the only federal institutions, along with whatever subordinate agencies the president chose to create. The court would hold judicial power, while the president would make and execute laws. The president would be bound by elections and individual constitutional rights, but there would be no separation of legislative from executive power.

Would such a system be better or worse than our current system? How different would it be, anyway?
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Finders, keepers - Wikipedia
Finders, keepers is an English adage with the premise that when something is unowned or abandoned, whoever finds it first can claim it. This idiom relates to an ancient Roman law of similar meaning and has been expressed in various ways over the centuries.[1] Of particular difficulty is how best to define when exactly something is unowned or abandoned, which can lead to legal or ethical disputes.


In the field of social simulation, Rosaria Conte and Cristiano Castelfranchi have used "finders, keepers" as a case study for simulating the evolution of norms in simple societies.[2]
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Mistakes happen for a reason | Bloody shovel
Which leads me to this article by Scott Alexander. He elaborates on an idea by one of his ingroup about their being two ways of looking at things, “mistake theory” and “conflict theory”. Mistake theory claims that political opposition comes from a different understanding of issues: if people had the same amount of knowledge and proper theories to explain it, they would necessarily agree. Conflict theory states that people disagree because their interests conflict, the conflict is zero-sum so there’s no reason to agree, the only question is how to resolve the conflict.

I was speechless. I am quite used to Mr. Alexander and his crowd missing the point on purpose, but this was just too much. Mistake theory and Conflict theory are not parallel things. “Mistake theory” is just the natural, tribalist way of thinking. It assumes an ingroup, it assumes the ingroup has a codified way of thinking about things, and it interprets all disagreement as a lack of understanding of the obviously objective and universal truths of the ingroup religion. There is a reason why liberals call “ignorant” all those who disagree with them. Christians used to be rather more charitable on this front and asked for “faith”, which they also assumed was difficult to achieve.

Conflict theory is one of the great achievements of the human intellect; it is an objective, useful and predictively powerful way of analyzing human disagreement. There is a reason why Marxist historiography revolutionized the world and is still with us: Marx made a strong point that human history was based on conflict. Which is true. It is tautologically true. If you understand evolution it stands to reason that all social life is about conflict. The fight for genetical survival is ultimately zero-sum, and even in those short periods of abundance when it is not, the fight for mating supremacy is very much zero-sum, and we are all very much aware of that today. Marx focused on class struggle for political reasons, which is wrong, but his focus on conflict was a gust of fresh air for those who enjoy objective analysis.

Incidentally the early Chinese thinkers understood conflict theory very well, which is why Chinese civilization is still around, the oldest on earth. A proper understanding of conflict does not come without its drawbacks, though. Mistakes happen for a reason. Pat Buchanan actually does understand why USG open the doors to trade with China. Yes, Whig history was part of it, but that’s just the rhetoric used to justify the idea. The actual motivation to trade with China was making money short term. Lots of money. Many in the Western elite have made huge amounts of money with the China trade. Money that conveniently was funneled to whichever political channels it had to do in order to keep the China trade going. Even without Whig history, even without the clueless idea that China would never become a political great power, the short-term profits to be made were big enough to capture the political process in the West and push for it. Countries don’t have interests: people do.

That is true, and should be obvious, but there are dangers to the realization. There’s a reason why people dislike cynics. People don’t want to know the truth. It’s hard to coordinate around the truth, especially when the truth is that humans are selfish assholes constantly in conflict. Mistakes happen because people find it convenient to hide the truth; and “mistake theory” happens because policing the ingroup patterns of thought, limiting the capability of people of knowing too much, is politically useful. The early Chinese kingdoms developed a very sophisticated way of analyzing objective reality. The early kingdoms were also full of constant warfare, rebellions and elite betrayals; all of which went on until the introduction in the 13th century of a state ideology (neoconfucianism) based on complete humbug and a massively unrealistic theory on human nature. Roman literature is refreshingly objective and to the point. Romans were also murderous bastards who assassinated each other all the time. It took the massive pile of nonsense which we call the Christian canon to get Europeans to cooperate in a semi-stable basis.

But guess what? Conflict theory also exists for a reason. And the reason is to extricate oneself from the ingroup, to see things how they actually are, and to undermine the state religion from the outside. Marxists came up with conflict theory because they knew they had little to expect from fighting from within the system. Those low-status workers who still regarded their mainstream society as being the ingroup they very sharply called “alienated”, and by using conflict theory they showed what the ingroup ideology was actually made of. Pat Buchanan and his cuck friends should take the message and stop assuming that the elite is playing for the same team as they are. The global elite, of America and its vassals, is not mistaken. They are playing for themselves: to raise their status above yours, to drop their potential rivals into eternal misery and to rule forever over them. China, Syria, and everything else, is about that.
Heh heh. It’s a lost art. The Greeks and Romans were realists about it (except Cicero, that idealistic bastard). They knew language, being the birthright of man, was just another way (and a damn powerful one) to gain status, make war, and steal each other’s women. Better be good at wielding it.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Uniformitarianism - Wikipedia
Uniformitarianism, also known as the Doctrine of Uniformity,[1] is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere.[2][3] It refers to invariance in the principles underpinning science, such as the constancy of causality, or causation, throughout time,[4] but it has also been used to describe invariance of physical laws through time and space.[5] Though an unprovable postulate that cannot be verified using the scientific method, uniformitarianism has been a key first principle of virtually all fields of science.[6]

In geology, uniformitarianism has included the gradualistic concept that "the present is the key to the past" (that events occur at the same rate now as they have always done); many geologists now, however, no longer hold to a strict theory of gradualism.[7] Coined by William Whewell, the word was proposed in contrast to catastrophism[8] by British naturalists in the late 18th century, starting with the work of the geologist James Hutton. Hutton's work was later refined by scientist John Playfair and popularised by geologist Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology in 1830.[9] Today, Earth's history is considered to have been a slow, gradual process, punctuated by occasional natural catastrophic events.
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january 2018 by nhaliday

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