A Better Way Than Mere Opinions for Guidance in Government
A Better Way Than Mere Opinions for Guidance in Government
By Norm Hirst
In December of 2001 I wrote:
“It is shocking to realize that the future of human kind, whether we will live in peace or perish in a holocaust, depends on the opinions of whomever happens to be in power. Opinions may be right or wrong, leading edge or backwards, enlightened or unenlightened. Whatever they are they guide the actions taken by world leaders for better or worse. Our lives hang by fallible opinions! There must be a better way.”
Current events involving Iraq amply demonstrate what I had in mind! A small group of people known as neoconservatives, or neocons, has gained tremendous power in the Bush administration. (For a short summary of the neocon’s opinions, see below p9). I dare say that most Americans would not be happy with these opinions. They make a mockery of the Constitution and, I believe, the values guiding our country. Yet it does seem as if the Bush administration is operating consistently with some of these principles. For example I began seeing articles about Bush’s pursuit of pax Americana, an American empire enforcing our values on the world. I found it hard to believe so I went to the White House website. There I found, and downloaded, a document on our National Security Strategy. President George W. Bush signed the document. It left no doubt that we were going to engage in pre-emptive strikes and empire building to control the world.
Francisco Varela, a cofounder of autopoiesis, said “To survive with dignity, we need a new mind.” How to get a new mind is what I am proposing in order to get beyond mere opinions. There are three parts
- Frontier sciences and new discoveries
- The power of formalisms to promote new thinking
- The logic of organisms that shows such philosophies as Thomas Hobbes, that humans are evil, are a tragic misinterpretation.
Frontier Sciences – New Discoveries: Now new discoveries are developing Frontier Sciences. Frontier Sciences are new sciences teaching us very different lessons from established main stream sciences. While main stream sciences have enabled remarkable progress in technologies that change the conditions of life they are now seen as being quite out of place when dealing with life itself.
It was 1992 when we formed the Autognomics Institute to find a better way. I said then that understanding values would be critical in the future. Also, we did not understand values because they only functioned in living processes. I made our first goal understanding living processes. It seemed logical to look to biology for insights.
To my amazement biophysicists are making very dramatic new biological discoveries. In the past biologists had no way to understand living organisms except to cut them up and guess how they functioned by examining the pieces. (How many frogs have given their lives?)
Now there is technology that allows observation of living organisms non-invasively as they go on living. For example, “ultra-sound” and “interference polarized light”. The latter revealed the liquid crystalline nature of living organisms that accounts for many of their rather surprising abilities.
Also improvements in more conventional instruments, such as microscopes with finer focus than ever, are overthrowing old theories. The recent book “Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life” by Gerald Pollack overthrows the current theories of cell functions. I wasn’t aware of all this in 1992. Then, based on work I had done since the mid 1950’s, I was aware that to understand life we needed to develop some new ways of thinking. I was aware of:
- the need to embrace process philosophy (Alfred North Whitehead)
- partially scientific foundations for value theory or axiology (Robert Hartman)
- a new definition of living, i.e., autopoiesis (Varela and Maturana)
- the importance of a theory of signs as in Peircian semiotics (Eugene Pendergraft)
- emerging new logics such as combinators. (Haskell Curry)
We, at the Institute, have made a great deal of progress toward understanding these five disciplines and how they will function together to help provide additional foundations for understanding the new biology. With regard to the biophysics I should like to mention and credit:
- Robert Rosen: During his life he was Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University. He is the author of “Life Itself”, “Essays on Life Itself”, “Fundamentals of Measurement”, “Anticipatory Systems” and seven volumes of “Progress in Theoretical Biology”.
- Mae Wan Ho: Mae Wan is a biochemist who researches and taught the physics of organisms and sustainable systems for 27 year at the Open University, UK. She has over one hundred and fifty publications in many disciplines and six books including “Bioelectrodynamics and Biocommunication” (1994), “Bioenergetics” (1995) and “The Rainbow and the Worm: the Physics of Organisms” (1998).
From the biophysics we learn that life is full of surprises and seeming paradoxes. Our icon for life is a flower growing out of a crack in cement. If we had a survey of the consequences of government actions we would find that all too often they accomplish the exact opposite of what was intended. Why? The answer is humans don’t function the way we think they do. In fact, no living organism does.
When I speak of how organisms function I am not talking about observed behavior. I am concerned with how they are equipped by their biology to learn and act. Organisms function from inside out. They have a unique driving identity that shapes their reality and actions. It is the source of meaning in their lives.
Once upon a time human functioning was compared to clockworks. When I was young the brain was compared to a telephone exchange. Now it is popular to think of the brain as a computer. We are discovering that the computer analogy is as wrong as clockworks and telephone exchanges.
Mae Wan Ho, after 27 years of laboratory observation of organisms as they live, describes a human as a society of 70 trillion cells functioning in a pure democracy. Unlike computers, there are no controllers or set points. It might be described as a super orchestra including instruments as small as 10-9 meters to as large as 1 meter and performing in 72 octaves. But “orchestra” is somewhat misleading since it conveys images of written music for each player. A better analogy is a super jazz band where the musicians are maximally free subjected only to coherence conditions.
I am struck by this statement since it defies everything that Western knowledge enables us to understand. It suggests that life and living organisms are not understood. In fact, they are profoundly misunderstood. Our scientific concepts provide descriptions of reality that profoundly mismatch the quality of authentic experience. For authentic experience we substitute a flat literal simulacrum given in the language of science.
A living organism is a locus of “wholing”. Contrarily, Medical Science builds specialties by viewing the body as a collection of parts. The heart pumps, the liver cleans, the central nervous system controls, etc. If there is a problem with the heart’s rhythm it is assumed caused by a heart defect to be treated by a cardiologist. Yet in some Oriental systems the cause could be the liver burdening the heart or one of the energy flows. The body is a singular whole.
Current research shows single organs do not carry out the functions necessary for life. They are carried out by the organization of the body and may involve several organs. A characteristic of organisms is that every cell is related to every other cell to form a whole, every function is related to every other function. How do we learn to understand the implications of that? Needed is a new form of scientific inquiry along with new formalisms to support the inquiry. That is the specific purpose of our research.
Formalisms: Formal languages and natural languages, such as English, communicate in different ways. A natural language statement is descriptive. A formal language statement is injunctive, i.e., a command to do something. Thus formal languages strike closer to where humans naturally learn. Further, by controlling acts explicitly rather than simply implied collections of acts, as in descriptions, formal languages establish what might be called thought recipes. This is what makes scientific inquiry so powerful. In the domain of formal languages the possibilities for misunderstanding are minimized. And, formal languages are well suited to communicating ideas that are totally opaque in natural languages. What can not be said in English can be said in mathematics.
Having said it in formal language can force us to recognize aspects of reality for the first time. There are many examples going back to Pythagoras in 600 B.C. Pythagoras was forced to recognize irrational numbers, i.e., non-terminating decimals. Since they did not represent ratios they were called irrational. But they just did not make sense at first and today we use “irrational” for something that does not make sense.
As an example of how formalisms can force recognition of new elements consider the square root of -1 (√ -1). Working with equations such as x2 + c = 0 can seem pretty innocent. But if c is set to one the equation becomes x2 + 1 = 0 which reduces to x2 = -1. Then x = √-1. But there is no ordinary number that can be squared to produce –1. Thus mathematicians invented an imaginary number called i where i2 = -1. Does it have any practical significance? Yes, it does. It plays a major role in electromagnetic theory, electronic circuit theory, cybernetics, etc.
Euclid developed his geometry circa 300 BC His geometry had a fifth postulate, i.e., that parallel lines will never meet. It worried mathematicians. More practical men may have scoffed at their concern since nothing could be more intuitively obvious than the idea that parallel lines will never meet. Euclidean geometry was accepted as the geometry of the world. Then around 1840 mathematicians found a way to test the fifth postulate. In testing they discovered new forms of geometry, non-Euclidean geometry.
People still went on believing that reality was Euclidean. Then along came Einstein and relativity. As a result of non-Euclidean geometries a lot of new mathematics had been developed providing Einstein with the tools he needed to express relativity. Without the new tools there would have been nothing he could have done. Suddenly, in the 20th.century reality became non-Euclidean.
This is a little appreciated fact, major breakthroughs in science are often preceded by new formalisms that give scientists the tools to understand, look for and find hitherto unknown aspects of reality.
I used to speak of needing new logics but the ideas of logic are so burdened with old notions that the term does not apply. I now speak of formalisms. Logics, and there are many, are formalisms. But they are formalisms representing old habits such as truth preservation, classification schemes, and subject-predicate forms. Research on formalisms has taken us beyond known logical forms. It offers entirely new forms that enable us to think in different and hitherto unknown ways. These new forms will be act oriented
Science: One of the most disheartening aspects of our working towards a new science is the fact that so few people have any idea what science is. I base my view of science on physics and the philosophy of science. From this view very little of what is called science passes muster as a science. Most so-called science should really be called “empirical philosophy”. I have no power to legislate how people will use the word “science”.
Now I want to talk about what I mean by science and reveal how it can lead us to new understanding.
There is a discipline called “the philosophy of science”. This is a branch of philosophy dedicated to understanding what science is, and isn’t. It deals with such issues as what is scientific proof. In answer, there is no such thing. More on this below.
I studied physics to gain experience with an actual science. I studied the philosophy of science to help me understand science in general. I studied mathematics to understand the driving force behind scientific inquiry. I studied the theory of logic to understand the limitations of mathematics. I then discovered the limitations of logic itself. I then studied the most modern theory of formalisms and discovered that logic is simply one amongst many possibilities for doing meaningful thought. What people today believe is rational is simply one unfortunate choice. Way down deep where the processes of knowing begin we are committed to life destroying limitations.
No catalogue of facts can make a science. No catalogue of beliefs, opinions or ideas can make a science. Science is something different, something which most people have never experienced. I am going to try to create a picture.
Looking at the statements made in science they are not made in any language and they are not about facts. Scientific statements are made using the elements of a sign system and they are about principles.
The sign system for physics is mathematics. Actually, mathematics is a symbol system. Symbols are degenerate signs.
Scientific statements are about the organizing principles of processes.
The difference between scientific knowledge and other kinds of knowledge is the difference between how and what. Facts are what statements. I consider who questions as being the same as what questions. Come to think of it, “who, what, when, where” are simply facts. Suppose I can name, in order, all the presidents of the United States. That might get me a good grade on a test. Beyond that – so what?
Way down deep we have committed ourselves to thing metaphysics. The world is made of things. So we talk about things. What can you say about things beyond “who, what, when and where”? Who did it? When? Where? All good questions. Why? Bloody Hell! How would I know!
Actually we do not live in a world of things. We live in a world of process. If we cannot deal with how and why questions we have no effective understanding of the world. We are the victims of processes we do not understand. Blame it on God! We never see that we, ourselves, set in motion the processes that ultimately did us harm. As philosophers might say, “ God’s mills are exceedingly slow but they grind exceedingly fine.”
Ordinary knowledge statements are descriptive. Scientific knowledge statements are injunctive. So maybe I won’t blame God. I will blame our schools instead for not telling us that.
George Washington was our first president. Understand it? Of course you do.
F = d(mV)/dt Understand it? Of course you don’t. It is an injunctive statement. It is giving you commands. If you do them you will understand the statement.
To know that the statement is giving commands you need to know the infinitesimal calculus. Specifically you need to know how to carry out the calculus’ commands. They don’t tell us in school that the way to learn mathematics is the same as the way you learn to play the piano. Practice, practice, practice. You can memorize the equations in the book until the end of time and still not understand them well enough to work with them. Thus you flunk math. Schools convince you that you can not do math. We should have a class action suit against our schools.
The above equation is Newton’s law of motion. You might get it in school as f = ma; a scientifically useless algebraic expression.
In the correct expression I have used both capital and small letters. This is to distinguish between vectors and scalars. F and V are both vectors, i.e., magnitudes with directions; m and t are simply magnitudes. The expression d/dt means the derivative of. The equation is a differential equation. It is solved by integrating it.
I want to provide a little example of how science works. Newton discovered the law of gravity. Now forget about falling apples. Newton was working with Tycho Brahe’s recorded observations of planetary orbits. The orbits revealed an anomaly named the “equal area law”. Newton wanted to plug a force into his law of motion that would explain it. He discovered an inverse square law works.
kmem/R2 = d(mV)/dt
On the left of the equal sign is the inverse square law of gravity. Note that me refers to the mass of the earth while m refers to the mass of the body orbiting the earth. Note that m appears on both sides of the equal sign. Thus it cancels out. That is why heavy bodies and light bodies fall at the same speed.
Mathematically one can prove that solutions to the equation must be conic sections. That is the resulting orbit must be a circle, an ellipse, an hyperbola or parabola. Now we are getting to what science really is. A single observation of a non-conic section orbit would falsify an inverse square law.
What scientists really do is not proving this or that or the other thing. What they are looking for in their observations, laboratory or not, is a falsifying instance. Verification of a theory leads to nothing new. Falsification would lead to a Nobel Prize.
Pity poor Newton. Falsification was swift in coming. The orbit of Mars is an ellipse – almost! The orbit doesn’t quite close on itself. Thus it is almost an ellipse but it rotates in space. This is described by the fancy term “precession of the perihelion”. Newton was wrong! But, damn, he was not all wrong. He was more right than wrong. What are we to do about this?
The inverse square law is actually very useful. It works for practically everything but the Martian orbit. So we use it even though we know there is a glitch. Someday we will fix it.
One proposal for fixing it was to change the 2 in the inverse square law to 2.000000000001. That is a very small change. It fixes the problem! But wait! Now conservation of energy in the gravitational field doesn’t work. We have replaced a glitch with a disaster. Better we keep the 2. I believe relativity fixed the glitch. Speaking of relativity raises an interesting observation. The derivative d(mV)/dt under the rules of the calculus really splits in two
d(mV)/dt → dm/dtV + m dV/dt.
Until relativity physicists believed in conservation of mass, dm/dt = 0. Thus that term had no effect. But now we know Einstein showed that e = mc2. It is interesting that Newton’s law, as he proposed it, turns out to be relativistically correct.
A second point that intrigues me is the proof requiring conic sections is a reductio ad absurdum proof, i.e., it ends in a contradiction. More recent research on formalisms shows that may not be harmful as we previously thought. There is something to think about here.
I am trying to portray a condition of science. All the laws have to fit together in a coherent whole. The scientific formalism displays the connectedness and the coherence. Working with the formalism can, and often does, reveal new laws. A dramatic case follows.
Around 1860 Maxwell pulled together all that was known about electricity and magnetism based on single experiments. He produced four equations known today as Maxwell’s equations. These four equations interactively relate currents and voltages. Maxwell soon realized that they formed a basis for wave equations. Now I need trumpets and drum rolls. In 1860 electromagnetic waves had never been heard of. Based on Maxwell they were produced. Now we know that light is electromagnetic waves in a certain frequency range. They are the waves that make many technologies possible such as x-rays, radio, television , pagers, cells phones, microwave ovens, satellite navigation, and on and on.
Around 1840 something happened illustrating the idea that revolutionary advances in science often require prior revolutionary advances in the formalism. We have all heard of Euclid’s geometry. Euclid put forth his geometry around 300 BC. 2140 years later Euclidean geometry was the only geometry; it was the geometry of the world. But the parallel postulate worried mathematicians for reasons that practical men would most likely consider foolishness. Nevertheless, mathematicians wanted a proof. I believe they had wanted a proof for a long time. Now they realized that they could prove the parallel postulate by assuming it false and producing a contradiction; again a reductio ad absurdum proof. But the contradiction never came. Instead they derived curved geometries.
Of course it was still thought for a long time that Euclidean geometry was the real geometry. Then Einstein came along with relativity based on curved geometry. Note that if curved geometry had not been well developed between 1840 and Einstein relativity would have been impossible.
What we can discover depends on what we can think. Newton’s law, as given above, can also be expressed in English. “Force equals rate of change of momentum”. Swell! What can you do with that? As philosophers we could debate it. Different schools of philosophers could probably find different meanings for every word. Also, as philosophical contemporaries of Newton we could have easily demonstrated its absurdity. (As Einstein is quoted on my Amazon Cup, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.) In Newton’s time any oxcart driver could have vouched for its absurdity.
Newton was not the only one trying to formulate a law of motion. Other efforts, such as Descartes’, tried to equate force and speed. The harder you push, the faster it goes. Nothing worked until Newton. What he did was an amazing act of genius. His law implies that a body in motion will remain in motion unless something acts on it to change its motion. Tell that to an oxcart driver. If true, he should only have to give the cart a shove to get it going. But of course, there are all sorts of forces working on his cart. For example, gravity, friction, little bumps in the road for the wheels to climb over, etc. Newton’s genius was to see the body in motion outside of normal experience. There, in outer mental space one can imagine that something has to act on the body to change its state of motion. But he went beyond that even. He saw that it would take some force such as a push, but pushes would vary in force and direction. That would mean a vector. Also, the body might be moving with a certain speed and that too would be in some direction. Thus he had to equate two vectors. The equating element became rate of change, how fast is the force vector changing the velocity vector. And, of course; the more massive the moving body is the greater the force required. Thus Newton succeeded where more practical men failed by stepping aside from normal experience. At this time of crisis may God deliver us from practical men.
Thirty years after publication of Newton’s Principia the philosopher John Locke argued that in spite of Newton’s accomplishments he had good reason to predict that there could be a science of man but never a science of nature. Man could understand himself but nature was created by the mind of God and surpassed human understanding. Today the argument is reversed. Since was have a science of nature we suggest that it is because nature is simpler. In English Newton’s law is useless. In mathematics Newton’s law overcomes its apparent absurdity to be accepted as the foundation of physics. Why is that? There is a profound difference between natural language concepts and scientific concepts. We see that in the difference between the English and the Calculus versions of Newton’s law. Scientific concepts come with instructions for thought acts. I call them thought recipes.
Here I am indebted to Laws of Form by G. Spencer-Brown (Cf. Note for Chapter 2) “* * It may be helpful … to realize that the primary form of mathematical communication is not description, but injunction. In this respect it is comparable with practical art forms like cookery, in which the taste of a cake, although literally indescribable, can be conveyed to a reader in the form of a set of injunctions called a recipe. Music is a similar art form, the composer does not even attempt to describe the set of sounds he has in mind, much less the set of feelings occasioned through them, but writes down a set of commands which, if they are obeyed by the reader, can result in a reproduction, to the reader, of the composer’s original experience.”
What do you get if you obey the commands of a scientific statement? Scientific statements are organizing principles expressing the organizing habits of what we will find to be a living universe. The world we live in is not chaos as it would be if there were no organizing habits. As principles of organization scientific laws never say what is. Rather, they tell us the conditions of coherence that have to be met by whatever is. For example, the law of motion is silent about what motion is occurring. It says nothing about whether you or I ought to travel or drive safely or chase a fly ball. On the other hand it does enable us to calculate how much horsepower is required to accelerate an automobile of certain mass from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds or how much energy is required to escape the earth’s gravitational field. In short, science gives us recipes to accomplish what we desire in so far as what we desire is within a domain of organization that science has developed.
This will be an important point. Biophysicists are observing living organisms in ways that have never before been possible. The technologies created by physical science, such as ultrasound, enable them to view the inner workings of organisms as they go on living. Such observations are revealing an order, organization, of life itself that is very different from the order of traditional science or traditional wisdom.
An Application: For the laws of nature (as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and, in sum, doing to others as we woud be done to) of themselves, without the terror of some power, to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge and the like.
Here is a brief summary of the general understanding of what neocons believe as provided by Congressman Ron Paul:
- They agree with Trotsky on permanent revolution, violent as well as intellectual.
- They are for redrawing the map of the Middle East and are willing to use force to do so.
- They believe in preemptive war to achieve desired ends.
- They accept the notion that the ends justify the means – that hard-ball politics is a moral necessity.
- They express no opposition to the welfare state.
- They are not bashful about an American empire; instead they strongly endorse it.
- They believe lying is necessary for the state to survive.
- They believe a powerful federal government is a benefit.
- They believe pertinent facts about how a society should be run should be held by the elite and withheld from those who do not have the courage to deal with it.
- They believe neutrality in foreign affairs is ill-advised.
- They hold Leo Strauss in high esteem.
- They believe imperialism, if progressive in nature, is appropriate.
- Using American might to force American ideals on others is acceptable. Force should not be limited to the defense of our country.
- 9-11 resulted from the lack of foreign entanglements, not from too many.
- They dislike and despise libertarians (therefore, the same applies to all strict constitutionalists.)
- They endorse attacks on civil liberties, such as those found in the Patriot Act, as being necessary.
- They unconditionally support Israel and have a close alliance with the Likud Party.
Consider the following to illustrate how what we are proposing will help. In setting policy dealing with life, say foreign affairs or the justice system, what is the proper role of force? In common wisdom one hears expressions such as, “Grab them by the "?" and they will follow!” Also, “Those people only understand force!” Are these sentiments correct?
Humans, as with all living organisms, are self-referential. Formalizing that condition leads to consequences that invalidate traditional thinking. As an overly simple illustration consider the sentence, “This sentence is false”. The sentence is self-referential in that it refers to itself. If the sentence is false then it is true. If the sentence is true then it is false. This condition is often called vicious self-reference and has been, traditionally, blocked from logic and all that might be considered rational.
Recent developments in formalisms do not block self-reference. Self-reference leads to re-entrant forms. (Cf. Laws of Form by G. Spencer-Brown or Principles of Biological Autonomy by Francisco Varela.) Re-entrant forms oscillate leading to the vibratory nature of life. We come to appreciate the saying, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds”.
As vibratory systems we each have to march to our own drummer, to be metaphorical. In other words we are autonomous. “Autonomous” means self-law. Thus, contrary to prevailing opinion we cannot have inputs
Now we need to rid ourselves of our computer delusions. Computers are input-output machines. Living organisms are not. The brain is not a computer in the head. Prevailing theories of perception, that the senses pick up inputs that are sent to the brain to calculate an output response, are wrong. For me the idea that humans have no inputs was a shock.
What do we think creates our reality?
We begin with the requirement for living organisms to be autonomous. Autonomous derives from ‘auto’ and ‘nomic’. It means self-law. This contrasts with machines that are allonomic. Allonomic means other law. Other law means that the machine’s builder specifies the laws by which a machine operates. Laws refer to the causal connections within the machine. When you turn on the ignition in your car it connects the battery to the starter and cranks the engine. From the way it is built that is all it can do.
Turning to living organisms – their behavior in response to given inputs cannot be specified in advance for all time. The world evolves. An effective response to today’s environmental inputs may be totally ineffective tomorrow. By “effective” I mean produces the intended result. To survive over time in a changing environment living organisms need adaptive intelligence.
Now, in fact, there cannot be inputs. The notion of inputs comes from machines. Since a builder has to specify how a machine operates the builder has to specify under what conditions the machine operates. For example, providing an ignition switch.
The reason machines can be successful under other law is that the potential variety of a machines environment is controlled by an operator. As long as an automobile is being driven along a smooth road it will function. Off the road it may fail altogether.
There is no operator to control the variety of a living organism’s environment. Even if it could be preprogrammed for every potential circumstance known today it might not work tomorrow. And, of course, it can be easily shown that today’s potential circumstances present an unthinkable variety. By unthinkable I mean quantities such as 1077, i.e., 1 followed by 77 zeroes.
Of course no living organisms is going to encounter a variety of 1077 in its lifetime. But that is the size of the field it would have to be prepared for since there is no telling in advance what it will encounter. Thus, a living organism requires adaptive intelligence. The question is how does it work?
A living organism is a society of cells. For a human about 70 x 1012, i.e., 70 trillion, cells. These cells function in a democracy. There is no command hierarchy and no bosses. Each cell has a maximum degree of freedom subject only to coherence conditions. (Cancer cells seem to lose awareness of coherence conditions.)
With today’s technology biologists are able to view the workings of a living organism while it is living and without cutting it up. This has led to a new discovery. The connective tissue of all living organisms is liquid crystalline. The liquid crystal properties spread conditions throughout the entire body instantly as opposed to requiring, say, half a second for nerve conduction. Thus the entire organism can respond as a single unity. There is body awareness before there is brain or nervous system awareness.
Now consider a newly born organism. Its number one priority is to learn effective acts. To do this it must act. It must experiment with acts. Thus it acts. Perhaps randomly at first. Over time it learns the acts that produce desired results. At this early stage language plays no role. Ultimately it will begin to associate language with its acts.
In Western society, such as the United States, we think of words as symbols standing for things. Such symbols are called nouns. It is also possible to have languages in which the words stand for acts, e.g., verbs. In either case I suggest that we should think of words as signs rather than symbols.
A symbol is a dyadic relationship between an icon and what it stands for. In language words are icons.
A sign is a triadic relationship between an icon, what it stands for and what it means. The theory of signs is called semiotics.
Now I am prepared to say how reality is created. The organism acts and having acted it checks the results. If the act is effective it becomes part of the organisms processes of inquiry. Otherwise the act constitutes a perturbation. Reality for the organism depends on the history of its acts. Different organisms, you and me for example, may live in entirely different worlds. That creates communication difficulties but also has survival value.
I am saying that the organism creates its reality by its own internal processes. Can we understand those processes? Should we? To answer I will now change the subject at bit.
What is logic and who cares?
Traditionally logic has been thought of as the laws of thought. It can be said that logic as it has been known represents laws of thought, but it is not thought in general. For my purposes I want to focus on formal language as opposed to natural language.
Natural languages are those spoken languages, such as English, that are used for everyday social communication. Meaning in a natural language depends on each person’s reality since meaning is conveyed by the assumed meaning of words. There is no way to know that two different people attach the same meaning to any given word. It reminds me of agreeing with another person that we are both looking at blue and having no way of knowing whether or not blue looks the same to both. Therefore, communication in natural language is a negotiation process. No one can tell anyone anything. The best that can happen is a mutual process of negotiation leading to some mutual understanding. The more similar their backgrounds the easier it is.
In formal languages the form conveys the meaning, not the elements of the form. For example, consider a mathematical expression such as x2 + 2x + 6. Assuming a background by which one knows the meaning of ‘square’ and ‘+’ and ‘2’ and ‘6’ the form tells us what to do with them applied to some number x. One might object that instead of knowing the meaning of words you still have to know the meaning of the elements. Yes, but the meanings of the elements are acts explicitly learned. Before we are presented such an equation we have learned how to add and that the sign ‘+’ means do what we have learned.