Howard Bloom: "A Does Not Equal A"

I've previously recommended Howard Bloom's new book, The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates. It is an intellectual feast. Bloom's central question is how the cosmos creates without a creator. Even if you disagree with his thesis there are startling insights and gems for thought that will probably stun you. For everyone interested in such a question on both sides of our debates this is sure to be essential reading. Let me tease you with something that might be stunning from chapter 2.

He offers intriguing arguments for "heresies" (as he calls them) that:

1) A does not equal A.
2) One plus one does not equal two.
3. The second law of thermodynamics, that all things tend toward disorder, that all things tend toward entropy, is wrong.
4) The concept of randomness is a mistake.

Let me just relate what he says about the first of these heresies.

Utilizing the puzzles of identity that Terence Parsons wrote about in his book, Indeterminate Identity: Metaphysics and Semantics, Bloom argues that we abstract language from reality, but our abstractions do not completely represent reality. They are useful and even necessary, but they do not represent the whole truth, and they are usually wrong. Bloom says:
A = A is false. It is sometimes a good approximation. But in the end, it's not 100 percent true Why?...Opposites can be true simultaneously. In fact, they usually are." (p. 33).
Now in order to see this you must take a step back from the abstractions of mathematics and logic, since they deal with abstract numbers and concepts, and as such, so long as the necessary definitions are accepted, then A = A.

But reality is not like this at all. In the real world, A never equals A.

There are no two identical frogs, or twins, or clones, or protons, or atoms. There are no two identical letters. No two identical letter a's. Take a line from Shakespeare's sonnet 29:
When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
There are several a's here and most of them are pronounced differently. They are not identical.

Terence Parsons argued from the many puzzles of "A = A" that they "lack answers because of the way the world is (or because of the way the world is not). He claims that there is genuine indeterminacy of identity in the world. He articulates such a view in detail and defends it from a host of criticisms." (from the book description on Amazon). Why are two identical letters, numbers, clones, or protons not the same? Bloom argues that "identicals" are not the same because of "Location, location, location. Location in time. Location in space. Location in the big picture." (p. 29) "A does not equal A because of location." (p. 33). You can see it this way: This A does not equal this A because they are in two different places on this blog post. People can understand this quite easily if they understand Einstein.

Bloom concludes that "A=A is a generalization. It is not precise. It is a half truth. The whole truth? A is A. But each A is different." (p. 37). As such A = A "is a simplification, one so radical that it sometimes utterly distorts reality. It skins reality alive. Is A = A useful? Does logic come in handy? Is math a magnificent symbolic system with which to comprehend what's around us? And is math based on A = A? Yes. Absolutely. But math and logic are just that--very, very simplified representations. Symbolic systems that sometimes do enormous injustice to the richness of that which they attempt to represent. Symbol systems that sometimes do enormous injustice to science's greatest mystery, cosmic creativity." (p. 38)

For the other heresies I think you should get this book and read it yourself. As I said, this book is an intellectual feast. Even if you disagree with his thesis there are startling insights and gems for thought that will probably stun you. I'm not kidding. And I'm only in the early stages of reading the book.

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