Pattern Recognition

Someone I knew once argued to me that a single dose of LSD should be enough to convince anyone that the mind is a physical and physiological process.  I responded that a cup of moderately-strong coffee would be sufficient; if that wasn’t enough, no amount of mind-altering drugs would suffice.

Being able to derive probable conclusions from very little data is something quite valuable – deriving certain and necessary conclusions, even more so.

I remember a time when I had yet to learn the rudiments of Tic-Tac-Toe.  It’s a trivially-obvious game that is obvious only because we’ve already mastered the forms and levels of thinking involved; for a young child, recognizing that the center square was critical was an accomplishment, and each win a victory.  It’s something that I often remembered while learning geometry.  Trivial theorems were trivial only because we had the mental resources to quickly and easily produce them from the basic premises – the demonstrations that we worked so hard to produce, the proofs that we struggled to derive, were non-trivial only because we weren’t smart enough to see that they were obvious.  ALL of the statements logically derivable from a set of premises are necessary and inevitable; the only difference between them was whether we individuals had the capacity to grasp them with effort, or without.

Looking at a diagram of two vectors meeting in an analytic geometry textbook, it struck me that it alone is sufficient to deduce that there was no transcendent god or pantheon, that causality-violating time travel was impossible, that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, that existence can only be defined in terms of relative interaction, and that the universe was the set closed under interaction.

What’s the minimum data required to determine that a philosophical position is necessary?  When we struggle for years to accept certain conclusions, do we do so because the truth of the matter is obscured, or because we’re just too dumb to recognize what’s been right in front of us the entire time?


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