Think of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it?
But here is the bombshell: you weren’t there.
Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place … Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you.
Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made.
If that doesn’t make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is important.
The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned [from Crete] had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
In the theory of forms, Plato posits that there were these things called "forms," and a form is basically an abstract concept that represents some sort of object that exists. Then these objects were basically some sort of particular thing that has form-ness of some kind. So you can almost think of this as like a class and an instance basically, where you have the general definition and then the specific one. And then those objects also have attributes, which is some sort of quality.
Whenever I'm teaching programming... I think about how to teach the concepts that we take for granted to new people who don't know anything about the topic. So when you're trying to explain object-oriented programming to someone, we always bring up the concept of a chair.
So you're all sitting on chairs right now. So what is it that makes that chair a chair? We have other chairs that are around that aren't the exact same as the ones you're sitting on. How do you know that something is a chair or is not a chair?
Plato theorized that there was this abstract form called "chairness" and that it had certain fundamental attributes that were required for it to be a chair. So for example, if we were doing a sort of naive working through this problem, maybe a chair has a seat or some place to sit on and maybe a back. So anything with those fundamental essential attributes contain the essence of chairness and therefore is a chair.
So by the same token, if we're writing a web app to deal with chairs, we would write down, "I would like for people to be able to reserve chairs at Wazaa. I want a web app for people to reserve seats." And so I would actually end up just writing "class chair
So what kind of things to chairs have? So you write "atter_accessor:seat". So this is now our essential attributes. Every chair must contain some kind of seat. And maybe we have optional ones or some kinds of constraints on them. So maybe we say it's not a chair if the seat is really tiny, it has to be big enough for someone to sit on. But when we do this thing, we have a form, we have attributes, and we can actually make objects. So "c = chair.new()" is creating a new instance of a chair which is like an object, that's the word we use to talk about these things. It's the same as the philosophical concept of an object.
And this is why people say object-oriented programming allows us to model the real world. Because we are able to build these abstract notions about what things are. In one sense what I'm telling you is that the tradition that we've done with object oriented programming goes back thousands of years and people have actually thought about this problem and how to model stuff for thousands of years. Basic words like essense, and attribute, and object have become a core part of our terminology. How many times do you say the word essential everyday?
The problem is philosophy is a conversation over thousands of years, and just because he has a pretty good idea of what's going on doesn't mean it's actually accurate. So what I think about is it's possible that the same holes in Plato's theory of forms are also the same holes of why it's so hard to create your domain model and to create your domain objects. We argue and think about this and are on the internet and discussing it all the time. And I see that as a philosophical conversation about the nature of actual reality. How do we construct these things? What are we doing?
As we move from the "low" level to the "high", say from the domain of machine code all the way up to, for instance, a rich, expressive Ruby DSL, the question arises, as it does for all language: have we acquired a surplus of content that cannot be simply reduced to core rules? At this point things get less Wittgensteinian and a little more late-Heideggerian, i.e., less analytic and more eidetic/phenomenological.
To remove the fuzziness from this notion, think of how, for instance, a first-person shooter creates the illusion of a smooth, analog reality from a rigid, frame-by-frame progression (as cinema does as well -- and this question has been explored at length in that world). As humans interacting with the result of the code, we infer content between the frames -- we make up the difference and experience the virtual world presented to our senses as continuous analogical rather than chopped-up and merely logical. Code never exists in a vacuum -- it is experienced by humans and humans bring meaning to it, as much as it brings meaning to them.
There's a similar phenomena in OOP, where the meaning of the code is not merely the sum of its final binary product ("true" or "false") in the world of machine instructions, but in the metaphor it presents as a model of an object or event in the world. This code is constantly changing (literally) as it intends towards richer analogies with the world, and we as coders (and users) make up the difference by bringing real-world experience to it when we "read" the code. In other words, code is never "true" or "false" as a function of its binary reduction, but is a constantly-changing artifact of some human being's attempt to analogize the world, read by other human beings attempting to understand and refine that analogy.
Laughing Man: Who knew that copies could still be produced despite the absence of the original? If you had to give a name to this phenomenon, what would you label it?
Motoko: It would be "Stand Alone Complex"
Laughing Man: Yes, it's the stand alone complex. From the start the very nature of our current social system has contained the mechanisms to trigger such an amazing occurrence. Personally however, I feel this marks the beginning of a new era of despair. What's your opinion?
Motoko: I don't know, it's impossible for me to say. Although I have found one thing that is capable of restoring your individuality after all your information has been syncronised.
Laughing Man: Oh really, and what's that?
Motoko: Everyday human curiosity.
The transition from the epoch we have been considering to that which follows, has been distinguished by three extraordinary personages, Bacon, Galileo, and Descartes. Bacon has revealed the true method of studying nature, by employing the three instruments with which she has furnished us for the discovery of her secrets, observation, experiment and calculation. He was desirous that the philosopher, placed in the midst of the universe, should, as a first and necessary step in his career, renounce every creed he had received, and even every notion he had formed, in order to create, as it were, for himself, a new understanding, in which no idea should be admitted but what was precise, no opinion but what was just, no truth of which the degree of certainty or probability had not been scrupulously weighed. But Bacon, though possessing in a most eminent degree the genius of philosophy, added not thereto the genius of the sciences; and these methods for the discovery of truth, of which he furnished no example, were admired by the learned, but produced no change in the march of the sciences.
Galileo had enriched them with the most useful and brilliant discoveries; he had taught by his own example the means of arriving at the knowledge of the laws of nature in a way sure and productive, in which men were not obliged to sacrifice the hope of success to the fear of being misled. He founded the first school in which the sciences have been taught without a mixture of superstition, prejudice, or authority; in which every other means than experiment and calculation have been rigorously proscribed; but confining himself exclusively to the mathematical and physical sciences, he was unable to communicate to the general mind that impulsion which it seemed to want.
This honour was reserved for the daring and ingenious Descartes. Endowed with a master genius for the sciences, he joined example to precept, in exhibiting the method of finding and ascertaining truth. This method he applied to the discovery of the laws of dioptrics, of the collision of bodies, and finally of a new branch of mathematical science, calculated to extend and enlarge the bounds of all the other branches.
He wished to extend his method to every object of human intelligence; God, man, the universe, were in turn the subject of his meditations. If, in the physical sciences, his march be less sure than that of Galileo, if his philosophy be less wary than that of Bacon, if he may be accused of not having sufficiently availed himself of the lessons of the one, and the example of the other, to distrust his imagination, to interrogate nature by experiment alone, to have no faith but in calculation, to observe the universe, instead of instructing it, to study man instead of trusting to vague conjectures for a knowledge of his nature; yet the very boldness of his errors was instrumental to the progress of the human species. He gave activity to minds which the circumspection of his rivals could not awake from their lethargy. He called upon men to throw off the yoke of authority, to acknowledge no influence but what reason should avow: and he was obeyed, because he subjected by his daring, and fascinated by his enthusiasm.
In the midst of the decline of Greece, Athens, which, in the days of its power, had honoured philosophy and letters, owed to them, in its turn, the preserving for a longer period some remains of its ancient splendour. In its tribune, indeed, the destinies of Greece and Asia were no longer decided; it was, however, in the schools of Athens that the Romans acquired the secrets of eloquence; and it was at the feet of Demosthenes’ lamp that the first of their orators was formed.
The academy, the lyceum, the portico, the gardens of Epicurus, were the nursery and principal school of the four sects that disputed the empire of philosophy.
It was taught in the academy, that every thing is doubtful; that man can attain, as to any object, neither absolute certainty nor a true comprehension; in fine, and it was difficult to go farther, that he could not be sure of this very impossibility of knowing any thing, and that it was proper to doubt even of the necessity of doubting.
The opinions of different philosophers, were explained, defended and opposed in this school, but merely as hypotheses calculated to exercise the mind and illustrate more fully, by the uncertainty which accompanied these disputes, the vanity of human knowledge and absurdity of the dogmatical confidence of the other sects.
This doctrine, if it go no farther than to discountenance reasoning upon words to which we can affix no clear and precise ideas; than to proportion our belief in any proposition to the degree of probability it bears; than to ascertain, as to every species of knowledge, the bounds of certainty we are able to acquire,—this scepticism is then rational; but when it extends to demonstrated truths; when it attacks the principles of morality, it becomes either weakness or insanity; and such is the extreme into which the sophists have fallen, who succeeded in the academy the first disciples of Plato.
We shall follow the steps of these sceptics, and exhibit the cause of their errors. We shall examine what, in the extravagance of their doctrine, is to be ascribed to the passion, so prevalent, of distinguishing themselves by whimsical opinions; and shall shew, that, though sufficiently refuted by the instinct of other men, by the instinct which directed these sophists themselves in the ordinary conduct of life, they were neither properly refuted, nor even understood, by the philosophers of the day.
Meanwhile this sceptical mania did not possess the whole sect of academics; and the doctrine of an eternal idea, just, comely, honest, independent of the interests and conventions of men, and even of their existence, an idea that, imprinted on the soul, becomes the principle of duty and the law of our actions, this doctrine, derived from the Dialogues of Plato, was still inculcated in his school, and constituted the basis of moral instruction.
Aristotle was no better skilled than his master in the art of analysing ideas; that is, of ascending step by step to the most simple ideas that have entered into their combination, of observing the formation of these simple ideas themselves, of following in these operations the regular procedure of the mind, and developement of its faculties.
His metaphysics, like those of the other philosophers, consisted of a vague doctrine, founded sometimes upon an abuse of words, and sometimes upon mere hypotheses.
To him, however, we owe that important truth, that first step in the science of the human mind, that our ideas, even such as are most abstract, most strictly intellectual, so to speak, have their origin in our sensations. But this truth he failed to support by any demonstration. It was rather the intuitive perception of a man of genius, than the result of a series of observations accurately analysed, and systematically combined, in order to derive from them some general truth. Accordingly, this germ, cast in an ungrateful soil, produced no useful fruit till after a period of more than twenty centuries.
Aristotle, in his dialectics, having reduced all demonstrations to a train of arguments drawn up in a syllogistical form, and then divided all imaginable propositions under four heads, teaches us to discover, among the possible combinations of propositions of these four classes in collections of three and three, those which answer to the nature of conclusive syllogisms, and may be admitted without apprehension. In this way we may judge of the cogency or weakness of an argument, merely by knowing to what class it belongs: and thus the art of right reasoning is subjected in some measure to technical rules.
This ingenious idea has hitherto remained useless; but perhaps it may one day become the leading steps toward a perfection which the art of reasoning and discussion seems still to expect.
The burning of the Pythagorean school had already signalized the war, not less ancient, not less eager, of the oppressors of mankind against philosophy. The one and the other will continue to be waged as long as there shall exist priests or kings upon the earth; and these wars will occupy a conspicuous place in the picture that we have still to delineate.
Priests saw with grief the appearance of men, who, cultivating the powers of reason, ascending to first principles, could not but discover all the absurdity of their dogmas, all the extravagance of their ceremonies, all the delusion and fraud of their oracles and prodigies. This discovery they were afraid these philosophers would communicate to the disciples that frequented their schools; from whom it might pass to all those who, to obtain authority or credit, were obliged to pay attention to the improvement of their minds; and thus the priestly empire be reduced to the most ignorant class of the people, which might at last be itself also undeceived.
Hypocrisy, alarmed and terrified, hastened to bring accusations, against the philosophers, of impiety to the Gods, that they might not have time to teach the people that those Gods were the work of their priests. The philosophers thought to escape persecution by adopting, in imitation of the priests themselves, the practice of a double doctrine, and they confided to such of their disciples only whose sidelity had been proved, doctrines that too openly offended vulgar prejudices.
But the priests represented to the people the most simple truths of natural philosophy as blasphemies; and Anaxagoras was prosecuted for having dared to assert, that the sun was larger than Peloponnesus.
Socrates could not escape their fury. There was in Athens no longer a Pericles to watch over the safety of genius and of virtue. Besides, Socrates was still more culpable. His enmity to the sophists, and his zeal to bring back the attention of misguided philosophy to the most useful objects, announced to the priests that truth alone was the end he had in view; that he did not wish to enforce upon men a new system, and subject their imagination to his; but that he was desirous of teaching them to made use of their own reason: and of all crimes this is what sacerdotal pride knows least how to pardon.
It was at the very foot of the tomb of Socrates that Plato directed the lessons which he had received from his master.
THOSE who have treated of natural pilosophy, may be nearly reduced to three classes. Of these some have been attributed to the several species of things, specific and occult qualities; on which, in a manner unknown, they make the operations of the several bodies to depend. The sum of the doctrine of the Schools derived from Aristotle and the Peripatetics is herein contained. They affirm that the several effects of the bodies arise from the particular natures of those bodies ariſe from the particular natures of thoſe bodies. But whence it is that bodies derive thoſe natures they don't tell us; and therefore they tell us no thing. And being entirely employed in giving names to things, and not in ſearching into things themſelves, we may lay that they have invented a philoſophical way of ſpeaking, but not that they have made known to us true philoſophy.
Others therefore by laying aſide that uſeleſs heap of words. thought to employ their pains to better purpoſe. Theſe ſuppoſed all matter homogeneous, and that the variety of forms which is ſeen in bodies arifes from ſome very plain and ſimple affections of the component particles. And by going on from ſimple things to thoſe which are more compounded they certainly proceed right; if they attribute no other properties to thoſe primary affections of the particles than Nature has done. But when they take a liberty of imagining at pleaſure unknown figures and magnitudes, and uncertain ſituations and motion of the parts; and moreover of ſuppoſing occult, freely pervading the pores of bodies, endued with an all-performing fubtilty, and agitated, with occult motions; they now run out into dreams and chimera's, and neglect the true conſtitution of things; which certainly is not to be expected from fallacious conjectures, when we can ſcarce reach it by the moſt certain obſervations. Thoſe who fetch from by hypotheſes the foundation on which they build their ſpeculations, may form indeed an ingenious romance, but a romance it will ſtill be.
There is left then the third claſs, which proſeſs experimental philoſophy. Theſe indeed derive the cauſes of all things from the moſt ſimple principles possible; but then they assume nothing as a principle, that is not proved by phenomena. They frame no hypotheses, nor receive them into philosophy otherwise than as queftions whose truth may be disputed. They proceed therefore in a two-fold method, fynthetical and analytical. From some select phænomena they deduce by analysis the forces of nature, and the more simple laws of forces; and from thence by fynthelis shew the constitution of the rest. This is that incomparably best way of philosophizing, which our renowned author most justly embraced before the rest; and thought alone worthy to be cultivated and adorned by his excellent labours. Of this he has given us a most illustrious example. by the explication of the System of the World, most happily deduced from the Theory of Gravity. That the virtue of gravity was found in all bodies, others suspected, or imagined before him; but he was the only and the first philosopher that could demonstrate it from appearances, and make it a solid foundation to the most noble speculations.
We are to admit no more causes of natural things, than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.
To this purpose the philosophers say, that Nature does nothing in vain, and more is in vain, when less will serve; for Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.
Therefore to the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes.
As to respiration in a man, and in a beast; the descent of stones in Europe and in America; the light of`our culinary fire and of the sun; the reflection of light in the earth, and in the planets
The qualities of bodies, which admit neither intension nor remission of degrees, and which are found to belong to all bodies within reach of our experiments, are to be esteemed the universal qualities of all bodies whatsoever.
For since the qualities of bodies are only known to us by experiments, we are to hold for universal, all such as universally agree with experiments; and such as are not liable to diminution, can never be quite taken away. We are certainly not to relinquish the evidence of experiments for the sake of dreams and vain fictions of our own devising; nor are we to recede from the analogy of Nature, which is wont to be simple, and always consonant to itself. We no other way know the extension of bodies, than by our senses, nor do these reach it in all bodies; but because we perceive extension in all that are sensible, therefore we ascribe it universally to all others, also. That abundance of bodies are hard we learn by experience. And because the hardness of the whole arises from the hardness of the parts, we therefore justly infer the hardness of the undivided particles not only of the bodies we feel but of all others. That all bodies are impenetrable we gather not from reason, but from sensation. The bodies which we handle we find impenetrables and thence conclude impenetrability to be a universal property of all bodies whatsoever. That all bodies are moveable, and endowed with certain powers (which we call the forces of inertia) or persevering in their motion or in their rest, we only infer from the like properties observed in the bodies which we have seen. The extension, hardness, impenetrability, mobility, and force of inertia of the whole result from the extension, hardness, impenetrability, mobility, and forces of inertia of the parts: and thence we conclude that the least particles of all bodies to be also all extended, and hard, and impenetrable, and moveable, and endowed with their proper forces of inertia. And this is the foundation of all philosophy. Moreover, that the divided but contiguous particles of bodies may be separated from one another, is a matter of observation; and, in the particles that remain undivided, our minds are able to distinguish yet lesser parts, as is mathematically demonstrated. But whether the parts so distinguished, and not yet divided, may, by the powers of nature, be actually divided and separated from one another, we cannot certainly determine. Yet had we the proof of but one experiment, that any undivided particle, in breaking a hard and solid body, suffered a division, we might by virtue of this rule, conclude, that the undivided as well as the divided particles, may be divided and actually separated into infinity.
Lastly, if it universally appears, by experiments and astronomical observations, that all bodies about the earth, gravitate toward the earth; and that in proportion to the quantity of matter which they severally contain; that the moon likewise, according to the quantity of its matter, gravitates toward the earth; that on the other hand our sea gravitates toward the moon; and all the planets mutually one toward another; and the comets in like manner towards the sun; we must, in consequence of this rule, universally allow, that all bodies whatsoever are endowed with a principle of mutual gravitation. For the argument from the appearances concludes with more force for the universal gravitation of all bodies, than for their impenetrability, of which among those in the celestial regions, we have no experiments, nor any manner of observation. Not that I affirm gravity to be essential to all bodies. By their inherent force I mean nothing but their force of` inertia. This is immutable. Their gravity is diminished as they recede from the earth.
In experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions collected by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined, till such time as other phenomena occur, by which they may either be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions.
This rule we must follow that the argument of induction may not be evaded by hypotheses.