Thursday, January 17, 2013

In defense of "Shape"

This article can be found within the documents of the Rational Science group on facebook and was written by Bill Gaede...

What is shape?

I.         Introduction

Fiesta is an individual who has lodged objections against the ‘shape’ notion of ‘object’. This file is created to document his objections and to provide counter-arguments to his objections. This file will be updated as the need arises.

II.        “object is that which has concept”

Let’s synthesize fiesta’s argument to see where he’s coming from. If ‘object’ is ‘that which has shape’ and ‘shape’ is a concept, it follows that an object is that which has a concept, which makes the definition of ‘object’ contingent upon concepts. Since a concept, in turn, is defined as ‘a word that invokes two objects or locations’, these two definitions taken together become circular.

III.      Context of fiesta's objections

fiesta is an extreme devil’s advocate who is entirely unconcerned about defining words rigorously, but bent instead on destroying rational arguments and definitions simply because they threaten his religion. fiesta wants to preserve Mathematical Physics (GR, QM, ST) at all costs. It is this fervor for religion that leads him to attack rationality. He wants to show that it is impossible to define words rigorously in Science. If he achieves this end, he is free to fall back on Mathematics’ imperfect
definitions and continue as if nothing. In other words, his strategy will not be to defend Mathematical 'physics', but to show that any attack against Math 'phyz' from a semantic perspective bogs down in quicksand and this gives him and the mathematicians a green light to continue with irrationality.

In fiesta's view, words are defined using other words which in turn rely on other words and so on ad infinitum. If we can't define every word in the dictionary without relying upon another one, we ultimately have a circular definition no matter what. If, like in the instant case, the word object is defined by invoking a concept and the notion of concept itself is predicated on there being two objects, we have patently obvious circularity.

IV.       Objections to fiesta’s arguments

a. By destroying the possibility that words can be defined rigorously, the extreme devil’s advocate is tacitly conceding that Mathematical ‘physics’ does NOT have rational definitions. This summarily debunks the long held, unjustified claim that Mathematics is founded upon rigorous definitions.

b. A scientist does NOT define every word in the dictionary.

c. A scientist does NOT define every word he is going to use in his presentation. He defines only those words that make or break his theory. There has to be a need to define a term. We don't define words to please the devil's advocate.

d. In the definition, ‘object: that which has shape’, there are four words: that, which, has, and shape. Why does the devil’s advocate ask you to define the word ‘shape’ and not any of the others? Is it perchance any easier to define the word ‘that’ or ‘has’ than the word ‘shape’? Can he tell us what these words mean before we move on to ‘shape’? Why pick on shape? Would a 10-year-old understand what the word ‘shape’ alludes to? Would the same kid understand what ‘that’ means?

e. A devil’s advocate (or any skeptic for that matter) is an individual who already has an alternative theory or definition whether he is aware of it or not. There is no such thing as a skeptic that doesn’t have an alternative proposal.

So what are the alternative proposals?

They include the notions of touch, see, mass, volume, and motion. Do we need to define the word 'touch' or the word 'motion' unambiguously in order to come up with a definition of the strategic category 'objects' or are we merely trying to establish a criterion?

We hold here that the word 'shape' does NOT have to be defined, at least not more than any of these others. What we are doing is selecting a criterion for the word ‘object’. Is an object going to be defined on the basis of our ability to touch it? Are we going to run an experiment to ‘prove’ the definition of ‘object’? Don’t we need another object to do the touching? Doesn’t this render the definition circular (i.e., by requiring the word ‘object’ to be defined on the basis of a test where another object touches it)?

For their part, mass, volume, and motion are all dynamic concepts. Objects precede motion. We’re done!

Therefore, the question is NOT, “What is the super duper, precise definition of the word ‘shape’?” The issue before us is, “Which of the following criteria are we going to choose to define the strategic word ‘object’ for the purposes of Physics: touch, see, mass, volume, motion, shape?” We don’t need to know what touch or see or shape means exactly in order to choose between these alternatives. The common notions of ordinary speech will do.

f. Is shape a concept?

Of course it is! So is the word ‘object’, the word ‘concept’, and any word you find in the dictionary!

G. Is shape itself a concept?

Again, the answer is yes. Shape invokes TWO objects or locations: it is a closed-loop line or boundary or perimeter that distinguishes what’s on the inside from what’s on the outside. We TACITLY treat the inside and the outside as objects or mediums.

Shape is a PROPERTY of an object, specifically, the ONLY property that all objects have. Not all objects have location or are 3D or have mass or have volume or move or can be touched. All objects have shape. It is the only property or characteristic that distinguishes objects such as tables and rocks from concepts such as energy and love.

h. So how is it that an object such as a rock can have a concept such as shape? What sense can such a proposal have?

Again, shape is a property. All objects have some kind of property. Some objects even have behaviors. But where’s the catch?

The catch is the verb ‘have’. We have only one verb to allude to possession: to have. Having a coin in your pocket is not the same thing as having a headache. We use the verb ‘have’ in ordinary speech to allude to both: to the possession of an object AS WELL AS to the ‘possession’ of a concept. What fiesta is doing in a very subtle manner is asking, “How is it possible for a table to ‘have’ a concept?”... when he actually insinuates that... “An object can ‘have’ an object, but not a concept! I can ‘have’ a hat on my head and skin on my bones, but not ‘have’ feelings or shape. Not in Physics." By saying that you ‘have’ shape, fiesta is insinuating that we are treating ‘shape’ as a separate entity that automatically converts the object into a relation between the object on the one hand and its shape on the other.

The key, again, is that we have no other verb to designate possession. We do not distinguish between having an object and having a concept IN ORDINARY SPEECH! To have shape means that “shape is the only universal property of an object” and NOT that “an object ‘has’ a ‘thing’ called shape... like a boy has a yo-yo in his hand” We could just as well have said that an object ‘has’ mass or motion or volume. We are clearly not treating these properties as stand alone objects separate from the object itself. Nevertheless, it should be clear that it is in ordinary speech where we say that an object ‘has’ mass or ‘has’ motion. In Science, we say respectively that the object is made of smaller constituents or has moved.

However, since shape is not a dynamic property, we cannot apply the same logic or grammar to shape that we apply to mass and motion. There is no way (in English at least) to interpret the verb ‘have’ in any other manner. We can say that an object contains or is made of so much matter (‘has’ mass) or that an object moves (to ‘have’ motion). We cannot put the phrase ‘to have shape’ in the same boat. We must simply come to terms with the fact that ‘to have shape’ means that the object ‘has’ this unique property that distinguishes it from concepts.

The extreme devil’s advocate may at this point argue that then this entire exercise reduces to a tautology.

And we reply that ‘shape’ is not equal to ‘object’. Shape is a property. Shape is what the rock ‘has’. The rock can have properties such as shape and volume and mass and it can also be said to move for the purposes of Physics. Shape does not move, and a round shape or a square shape is not a property of shape itself, but of the object. If all objects in the Universe were round, we would not need terms such as square, triangular or cylindrical. The specific shape an object takes is a property of the object that we compare and contrast against the same structural property or characteristic of other objects.

So no. We don't have a tautology. Shape is not equal to an object. Shape is one of the properties that an object 'has', yet it is the only one that is universal.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm. Perhaps we should use "shaped" instead. Since it cannot be a verb; we're not going TO shape an object. And it can't be a noun: "a" shape, separate from an object itself (true noun). So 'shape' must be an adjective.

    Object: that which is shaped.

    I.e. That object IS shapED by virtue of its surroundings. It is identified by its particular shape; but it does not HAVE shape the way a butcher HAS a knife (in his possession/proximity).

    We DISCOVER shaped objects and ascribe OUR conceptualisation (process of discovery and identity) exclusively to said objects via a given "property" of shape.

    So, we only "give" the object a concept of shape because we already discovered and reasoned out that all objects share this one common irreducible attribute.

    Something like this... [/brainstorm]