Ming the Mechanic:
Infinite valued logic

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Infinite valued logic2003-12-09 10:18
by Flemming Funch

One could say that there are several different kinds of logic, which are differentiated by the number of possibilities one is considering at any one time.

You know, of course, two-valued logic. That is black and white thinking. It is when one considers that there are only two options, and one needs to choose between them. You're either for or against. You either support freedom, or you're a terrorist. You're either a christian or a heathen. You're either for or against abortion. A person who uses two-valued logic does merely need to decide whether to pick the 'good' option or the 'bad' option, and the only other thinking involved is to try to match the options with previously known 'good' or 'bad' labels. "Aha, he uses bad words, so what he's saying is of course bad".

There can also be three-valued logic. That's when there is Yes, No and Maybe. That is, the answer is either a clear Yes (good), a clear No (bad), or we just don't have enough information to decide yet, which is a Maybe. That can of course be considered a little more advanced than two-valued logic, as everything doesn't just get categorized at first glance. But not much better.

More simple than either of those is one-valued logic. That is when there's not even any need for or faculty for evaluating things. Things are just the way they are, usually because The Big Book says so, or The Big Guru, or The Big Government. And if they didn't mention it, it of course doesn't exist. Generally it is if you consider yourself so powerless that you just have to accept whatever comes along, from the only direction you're looking in. Like, if you've latched on to a literal interpretation of some kind of religion, and you believe that the decision making process is entirely out of your hands. Oh, nothing wrong in believing in bigger things, but here we're talking about whether you think or not.

If you predominantly use any of those three approaches in your life, you're somewhat less than sane. Or, more kindly, you are likely to make decisions that don't work very well for you, and you might not be able to figure out why.

Another, undeniably more effective, kind of thinking is what we can call infinite valued logic. Essentially that means that any situation, any problem, consists of many different factors. And each of those factors might be pegged on a scale with an infinite number of gradations, in relation to some particular measure or outcome. And to make a good decision, you'd need to relate and weight all these factors together.

Infinite valued logic will maybe appear less slick and convenient and forceful at first. Essentially it implies that the answer is "It depends" until you've examined all the factors involved. Including who do they apply to, and what are the exact circumstances.

Is smoking bad for me? Is extra-marital sex wrong? What is the Republican Party good for? Should I become a buddhist? Should I eat less cheese?

If you had the answer ready for any of those, without having to think about it, chances are you didn't really examine the factors involved in the questions, and you probably didn't look at how these questions related to me and my particular circumstances.

Take smoking. There are certain negative health influences. And there are certain positive things smoking might do for a person. Both of those are different for different people. What exactly are they, specifically for this person? And how much smoking are we talking about? A cigar every evening, or 3 packs of unfiltered cigarettes per day? And who are we talking about? A soldier in war who's being shot at every day, or an accountant sitting by a desk? What would he replace smoking with if he didn't have that? And what else does that person consume on a daily basis? Is he happy about it or not? All of those are factors that have a whole range of possible answers. Some of them will support the person's decision to smoke, and some represent reasons not to. You'd have to add all of it up to make the most rational decision.

You could do that very mechanically. Write down all the factors involved and peg each one on a scale between 0 and 10, or between -10 and +10, in relation to a particular outcome. And then you add the numbers up and see what you get. However, it doesn't at all have to be done that way. It doesn't even have to be done terribly explicitly. Good decision makers naturally do this internally. They are conscious of most of the factors involved, they rule out their own preconceived biases, they pay attention to the exact circumstances, and they might come up with an answer that just seems or feels or sounds right, without necessarily having articulated exactly why.

In brief, it is about avoiding categorizing things in advance. Avoiding making decisions based on abstract generalizations one carries around. It is about noticing what is actually going on right here and now, what the actual components and influences are, and responding rationally to what is in front of you.

For more on infinite-valued logic, check out Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics. See, for example, here, here, or here

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9 Dec 2003 @ 16:25 by ming : Logic
Thank you for that clarification, Bruce! Yeah, a limited case, which always is unsatisfactory when we're talking about processes. Glad good old Count Alfred can clear it up.  

9 Dec 2003 @ 17:41 by bkodish : 'Logic(s)'
"... all statements which, by necessity, represent higher order abstractions, must only represent probable statements."

As far as I know...8-)  

9 Dec 2003 @ 23:06 by Ashanti @ : Either-Or
Excellent reminder, thanks for posting. Funny that Hubbard built the black-white, right/wrong prong into his system of Scientology. There are "social" and "anti-social" personalities; up-stat or down-stat; the Black Hats, and the White Hats, in ethics, people had to decide which side and then "strike an effective blow to the enemy" - it was a fatal flaw. But a really perfect system of thought for the America of today. American foreign policy actions in general reflect the acceptance of infinite valued logic. Actually, this trait is implicit in all totalitarian systems throughout history. Mao. Stalin. Hitler. Verwoed. Demonization of the Other. The start-point of facism.

-Btw, have always wanted to get hold of a copy of General Semantics - any idea where a person can get hold of one?  

10 Dec 2003 @ 01:40 by jstarrs : Here's an addition from
buddhist logic :

"Buddhist anticipations of "meaning as exclusion". It might be noted that long before truth tables, formal propositional logic, or the diagrams shown above existed, Hindu and Buddhist philosophers were debating the nature of language. Their debates over the nature of universals ("cow" and "red" would be examples of universals - as opposed to particulars) predate Christian Europe's Nominalist controversies by 800 years. The Buddhist philosopher and logician Dignaaga (A.D. 480-540) proposed the principle of exclusion ("Apoha" in Sanskrit) as an explanation of how universals work. Quickly said, the theory is that a "cow" is recognized by excluding all the things that are not cows, based on the rules set by a "cow"'s intrinsic characteristics. (Arguably Naagaarjuna's earlier assertion of the non-existence of intrinsic characteristics makes even this view of Dignaaga's too concrete, too ontologically complex.) Such a denial of the existence of abstract entities (to put it in terms of the much later debate between Berkeley and Locke) avoids speculation about the "essence" of cows, or humans; which is consistent with the central Buddhist concept of anatta - the denial of an essence or soul to individual human beings that extends beyond a mere collection of circumstance and causation. Put more traditionally: "everything originates in dependence and thus lacks self-nature" (a position referred to as "svabhaavas'uunya"). Some scholars believe that this theory of universals has been blown up out of misunderstandings of comments by Dignaaga and does not represent his own views. In any case, the principle of exclusion was not extended to individual statements, or the nature of language in general."

and this :

"The concept of svabhaavahetu is a major contribution of Dharmakiirti to Buddhist and Indian logic. In the case of a svabhaavahetu the invariable relation of pervasion between the probans and probandum is based on identity (or nondifference). This implies, according to our interpretation, the thesis that some general statements are true by virtue of meaning. Although such statements are true by virtue of meaning, they are not contentless. This is in disagreement with the view of a large number of recent philosophers who have held that statements true by virtue of meaning must be contentless. Besides giving an exposition of the svabhaavahetu, we have also explained its threefold classification, to which little attention has been paid by recent scholars."

btw, one of the first toying logic games in buddhist logic is around "Is the white horse white?"  

10 Dec 2003 @ 06:23 by ming : Buddhist Logic
Cool. Yeah, I knew buddhism would have something good to say there too.  

10 Dec 2003 @ 06:24 by istvan : Thank you for the links.
Out of them it is at present almst impossible to chose an outstanding gem.
Out of the past philosophy of NCN, that i will post and discuss vhatewer i feel like posting and vhenewer i feel like posting it, we as an arbitrary cyber group of people have somewhat grown in skills of effective communication, hovewer not yet reached the tools necessary for creative networging toward anything beyond personal, at times rather constricted ideas of what and how would the expressed (within most of the profiles of our members) desires for a new civilisation are on the way to flowering.
I feel eventually to be able to progress beyond where we are now, would be OK to adopt certain, but still open ended guidelines that would invite more people who have gone byond desires for mere chatting, and able to proceed on to wholistic action/sopport of genuine progress.
Perhaps we need to find ways to ecourage non participating members to put more energy to flow within this network.
This from the links may express what i am trying to say clearer than i can.

" Adapted from
Dynamics of Unity Within Science, Religion & Society

By Anna Lemkow

"...an inquiry into the dynamics of wholeness as an all-pervasive principle, by its nature... will demand obtaining as synoptic and inclusive a perspective as possible. one that comprehends to some measure the multi-formed and multi-dimensional nature of existence.

As I see it, we, the human denizens of our planet, are involved in a whole concatenation of mutually-reinforcing developments,. with far-reaching implications for all life on earth as well as for human consciousness. One of these is the unprecedented global interdependendcy of peoples or nations. brought about through modern mass industry, commerce, communications and transpoirt -- developments that were in turn made impossible by modern science and technology. New technology now making its appearence will further intensify societal interconnections. The change that has already been brought is momentous, and its most extraordinay feature is that all the different aspects of societal existence, taken singly and together (including politico-socio-economic conditions, human rights, the quality of the environment, international security and peace), are virtually indivisible. It makes of us our brothers keepers, whether we are ready to be or not.

This globality illustrates remarkably a fundamental proposition of the perennial philosophy. namely that the different dimensions of existence, including the spiritual and moral. the mental, emotional and physical. are inextricably and dynamically interrelated.

As yet the interdependence seem to exacerbate discord, competiveness and conflict among the groups and nations concerned more often than not. Nevertheless. this ubiguitous condition is preceptibly influencing the thinking and behavoir of nations in a positive way as well, if only out of sheer self-interest. The different nations and peoples are increasingly compelled and motivated to support the entire collectivity. In the longer run. unless we annihilate ourselves, the imperatives in our sharing one small planet will serve powerfully, especially in combination with certain other profound trends, to promote and foster a tolerant, broader, more inclusive perspective -- eventually a planetary consciousness...

The other extraordinary and interrelated developments I have in mind are:

+ the present reorientation of science revolving about the probles of wholes and wholeness, whereby science is, for instance increasingly substituting organic models for mechanical models. and shifting from structure-orientated to process-orientated thinking;

+ the way our burgeoning knowledge tends increasingly to coalese;

+ the advent of synoptic studies of world symbology, mythology and religious traditions -- studied that strikingly reveal the transcendent universality of human thought;

+and, in virtue of these various developments the growing perception that religion, philosophy, science, and the arts are mutually harmonious and complementary.

Walt Whitman sang of the Ensemble, not just of the parts, and he sung of all days, not just of a day. In his time, he embraced the Whole -- in his intimitable poet's way -- and looking thus at the objects of the Universe. he found no particle of any but had reference to the soul.

The cosmic process is impartible and mind-prevaded. In our day, science has uncovered this truth ---in its inimitable way. From the cosmos --- the dynamic matrix, the "mind stuff" -- issue alike infinitesimal "particles" and human beings, all capable of intercommunicating, not only locally but also, instantaneously, beyond space/time.

Emanating from and prevaded by boundless Reality, the manifested universe is all of a wholeness, life within life, interpenetrating, impartible. Yet each life is specific and special -- at once unique and reflective of myriad lives.

This is true even here on our tiny planet Earth, swimming in the vastness of space. What are the size and distance when every point of entry can lead to the center here all knowing coverges, where the inner is the outer, and the outer the inner?

Each of us is both unique and a microcosm of the Whole: each is a once scientist/artist/mystic. Hence, each is equipped both to contribute something of value to the co-creation and to unite and be one with the Whole.

Today's emergent but still sorely divided global society obviously stands in urgent need of a common ethic. a universally acceptable ideal and vision by which to live, one that might effectivily foster unity beyond all differences. I believe wholeness is the very idea which fulfills these strigent reuirements -=- that it constitutes the global ethic par excellence. More than that, the notion of wholeness insistently beckons to us, so to speak, from all sides. And inasmuch as wholeness is neither a dogma nor ideology but a living, dynamic, all-prevasive principle, it can be accepted by everyone. That is to say, whereas creeds and ideologies are inherantly controversial, a living principle can never be that; wholeness could not raise objections or offend anyone -- either believers of nonbelievers, scientists are mystics, philosophers or artists. Yet,...this principle-process is profoundly sound on scientific, psychological, moral, philosophical, aesthetic, and spiritual grounds.
Send e-mail to issstopics-L@newciv.org"
Let me know if i am wrong, and how.  

10 Dec 2003 @ 06:26 by ming : General Semantics
Ashanti, well, the best place to start with General Semantics would actually be to order Bruce's book "Driving yourself Sane", which you can get directly from him. It is a simple, but rather complete, introduction. Korzybski's main book is "Science and Sanity", which is a huge tome, filled with gold nuggets, but very hard to read. I bought my copy from a used book store, but it is available as new also.  

10 Dec 2003 @ 13:06 by Sellitman @ : Science and Sanity
No offense to Bruce Kodish, and let’s not forget {link:http://www.driveyourselfsane.com/aboutsandb.html|Susan Kodish} who co-authored the book -— I think it’s truly a blessing to have people out there proactively promoting the ideas of Korzybski — but I usually find it best (for myself) whenever possible, to try to go first to the original texts before going to secondary sources.

Many different formulations interrelate to form the system of General Semantics as it applies nowadays and many schools offering information and/or training in that system have sprung up {link:http://www.general-semantics.org/Institute/index.shtml#sites|here and there}. As it is often the case, a certain degree of divergences, and sometimes some squabbling, is to be expected in such things. As it goes, I’d have no doubt that Bruce’s is as clear a voice as any in the field — other than some criticisms of his latest book, {link:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0970066473/ref=cm_rev_all_1/103-0346214-4941431?v=glance&s=books&n=507846&vi=customer-reviews|Dare to Inquire: Sanity and Survival for the 21st Century and Beyond} which some say is politically tainted. But I suppose it does come with the territory — what’s important is to remain aware that the map is not the territory, right?  

10 Dec 2003 @ 14:05 by ming : Wholeness
Jewel, yeah, pretty much anything that adds up to a category is not the real thing. It is all a vast, dynamic, connected *something*, that can't be adequately described with labels and boundaries and categories. Certainly isn't black and white. Life is so much more. Infinite in an infinite number of directions. In all the colors of the rainbow, at the same time. And it is *alive*, not dead boxes.  

11 Dec 2003 @ 06:20 by Ashanti @ : Ming:
Thanks. Will follow up.  

11 Dec 2003 @ 06:23 by Ashanti @ : Original sources
Yep, prefer to start with the originals myself. Reading tomes not a problem, can usually get through them easily. I had thought the originals were out of print, but if not, then we are sorted.  

Other stories in
2014-11-07 23:12: Welcome to the 5th dimension
2011-11-07 17:22: Notice the incidental
2010-07-14 13:35: Consciousness of Pattern
2010-06-28 00:03: Pump up the synchronicity
2009-10-29 14:03: Convergent or Divergent
2007-08-05 23:45: Perverse incentives
2007-06-22 22:18: Elementary magic
2007-03-21 14:20: Cymatics and group formation
2007-03-15 01:06: Structural holes
2007-02-27 23:50: Leverage

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