But Is It Logical?

Monday night is free apps night at Sunset Grill & Tap in Allston. So the Yale Beer Society (formerly the Harvard Beer society) gathered who it could for a meeting. Among us were a student astrophysicist, physicist, mathematician, and recently graduated intellectual philospher. [I’m told that the intellectual part isn’t simply arrogance, but actually designates a particular type of philosopher. Or, I could be making this entire story up. Given what follows, it’s not clear even to me.]

Mistake number one: the appetizers are free on Monday’s, but not until after midnight. We got there at 8pm. With about one hundred twenty beers on tap and just over three hundred in total, we had no problem waiting around. We are YBS, after all.

Mistake number two: someone, maybe a few someones, ordered two flights of mead. For those who haven’t been, a flight is a standard unit of measurement. It is equivalent to four beers. In fact, it is four beers. This is not to be confused with a yard of beer, which is also four beers tall. The yard comes in a long, silly cylinder. The flight is served on a mat and in four glasses.

But the point is not the quantity, but rather, the contents. Mead is about the most vile stuff known to man. [Not true.] It definitely gives me some insight into viking culture. In no time flat, we were screaming on the top of our lungs at one another.

But what were we screaming? Well, the astrophysicist was Ian. And the student mathematician; ah, well that’s me. It’s not hard to guess just what were were screaming about. What is the nature of the universe; where does math exist; are virtual possibilities physically manifest; is there a God; can nothing exist; does its non-existence necessitate the full existence of physically viable possibilities? It went on. And on. And on.

By the end of the night, the bar had cleared out. Except for us, of course. Having missed the rain and the last bus home, we walked. Continuing our philosophy.

Dan, the philosopher, and I maintained our distance from the physicists. We had paired off into loud sides in the restaurant and had no intention of letting things go. He and I had accidentally reconstructed William James’ arguments about the noumenal and phenomenal, communities of inquiry, and problems with bivalent vs multivalent logic. When we ordered the two flights of mead I thought that this was one of those non-standard college moments. Now I was sure that wasn’t especially normal.

By the time we reached Kirkland, Dan’s destination, we hadn’t finished. We had only really just begun. But Dan didn’t have a light for his cigarette, so we had to stop, at least for that. There were some kids hanging in front of the entrace to the House. They were nearly scared away as they heard discussing, no longer arguing, first and higher order logic. “No school talk,” one of them demanded. I’m not sure why I didn’t tell them that this was just our fun drunk talk.

We thanked them for the light and across the diagonal of the MAC quad toward Leverett. Then, at about 3:30am, we promised to exchange reading lists. A few hours later we did. Right now I have lecture notes from when James’ taught Philosophy 9: Metaphysics and 20c: Metaphysical Seminary. Dan has a review article on axioms and belief systems in math from the Journal of Symbolic Logic.

Check out Penelope Maddy: “Believing in Axioms, I,” Journal of Symbolic Logic 53 2 (1988) pp. 481-511, if you have the chance.

[There’s a follow up on determinancy, which an axiom that is not consistent with the axiom of choice. “Believing in Axioms, II” 53 3 (1988) pp. 736-764.]

In other news, Bush is single handedly trying to ruin science in this nation for at least a generation. Earlier this week, Bush said in a press conference that:

“Both sides [evolution and intelligent design] ought to be properly taught…so people can understand what the debate is about,” he said, according to an official transcript of the session. Bush added, ”Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. . . . You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.”

These comments drew sharp criticism yesterday from liberals, who said there is no scientific evidence to support the intelligent design theory and no educational basis for teaching it.

I’d like to point out that not only liberals but scientists, too, cannot find any evidence for intelligent design. According to what my fifth grade science text said about the scientific method, no untestable theory qualifies as a scientific theory. That’s the whole point about scientific inquiry, experiments. We don’t go around voting on what we think the truth is. Every once in a while, we do poll for opinion, though.

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