Everything you know is wrong

Or How to completely miss the significance of “I think, therefore I am”

Foundation 1

You know you exist. You just do. It doesn’t need to be proven. There is no way for someone to prove you don’t exist. You exist.

You have a sense of Agency. You can act and be aware of your actions.

You know that Sensory Data exists. You know that you can distinguish your own actions from not-self.

And that is it.

Foundation 2

The universe works. It just does. You can’t take a piece out of the universe and explain some other piece of universe. It is just the universe pointing at itself.

You can’t ask for a warranty replacement on a burnt out piece of universe.

It doesn’t matter how you think the universe works. It does, in fact, work. Your existence is proof of the existence of the universe.

There is no degree of self scrutiny here.

You literally cannot answer what makes the universe work… It just does.

It doesn’t matter how simple or complicated you think it is. The universe works. You can’t ask “but what if it didn’t work”. It does work. The universe working is the whole purpose and point of the universe.

The foundation of whatever argument you want to make is that you exist.

You exist.

Introduction

You know you exist. This is the only thing you will ever be completely certain about (Solipsism).

Your existence includes everything you experience. Everything you experience exists. This (everything) is part of the only thing you will ever be completely certain about.

The universe (whatever it is) supports and allows your existence (Anthropic Principle).

The universe is not wrong. The universe is not inconsistent. The universe is not badly formed.

Anything and everything you can say regarding the universe is an actual piece of the universe. It is not possible (meaningful) to prove that some piece of the universe doesn’t work (Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem).

You know that you exist. Other people cannot do your knowing for you. You understand, you experience, you act. You are the alpha and the omega of your existence. This is the only thing you are completely certain of – but it encompasses everything that you are and everything that you experience.

This is your foundation. This is the universe you inhabit. This defines what you can know and say.

Intro Part 2

Logic is, arguably, the standard bearer of modern thought.

Logic has no place here.

You know you exist. There are no words that can prove (or disprove) your own existence to you.

This is not an argument in the classical sense.

This is a discussion on the significance of your existence.

Your existence is far more significant than… well… pretty much everything else.

Of special interest is language. Our assumptions about language impact the way we use and understand language. Changing those assumptions while using the tool (language) that is immersed in those assumptions should prove interesting.

It should be noted that everything that currently works will continue to work. We are not changing the universe, we are changing our assumptions about the universe.

Imagine riding a bike. It works. You are riding the bike. It takes you where you want to go.

Now imagine that somebody points out that the bike has gears and explains how gears work. The bike is the same. The bike always had gears, you just didn’t know what they were for or how they work.

Now you find going up hills much easier. Riding along the flats is so much faster. Understanding all the features of the bike allows you to use the bike much more efficiently.

Likewise, once we understand mathematics and physics, language and philosophy; we can use our tools much more efficiently. You may be surprised at just how much easier so many things become when not working at cross purposes.

“Cogito Ergo Sum” – René Descartes. “I think, therefore I am.”

We’re going to be expanding on the work of Descartes and Solipsism.

This section is a very brief introduction to Solipsism and a generalisation of how it is commonly interpreted (aka a straw-man).

The gist of Solipsism is that our senses can be fooled. In principle, what we sense could be distorted or changed such that we cannot ever be sure what we are sensing. There is no independent way to verify our senses other than our senses. As such we cannot know anything with complete certainty. It is always possible (however unlikely) that what we experience is something other than it seems.

The only exception is our own existence. You know you exist, as evidenced by your own thoughts. I know I exist as evidenced by my own thoughts.

The only thing you can be completely certain of is your own existence.

Unfortunately, everyone else appears to you through fallible Sensory Data. It is possible that everyone else is an illusion – that the Sensory Data creates the impression of other people without there actually being other people.

It is possible that you are the only real person; everyone else is a figment of your imagination (or something).

This is where most people stop. The idea of Solipsism (only you exist) is briefly interesting in a nihilistic fashion but not very constructive.

It is technically true that mathematical proofs aren’t actually proofs. Nothing is completely certain (beyond your own existence). However, everyone who wants to actually get something done generally ignores that tiny bit of uncertainty and accepts that the evidence of our senses is good enough most of the time.

You exist

This is standard Solipsism. You know you exist. “Cogito Ergo Sum”: “I think, therefore I am”. Your existence is self evident to you.

Despite the existence of ‘therefore’ (‘Ergo’) in the above phrase, your existence has nothing to do with logic. It is just as fair to say: “I feel I exist”. There is no need to invent a system of logic in order to realise that you exist.

Your existence is the foundation of… well… everything.

Don’t let me rail-road you into existing. Your existence doesn’t depend on anyone else telling you that you do (or don’t) exist.

You may be a little hazy on exactly what existence entails, but the actual existence part is what you are completely certain about.

Your experiences exist

Your experience includes everything you ever experience (including your experience of existence).

Your experience’s existence isn’t distinct from your existence. Your experiences and yourself are the same thing.

You wouldn’t be you if you had no experiences. Fortunately you do experience your own existence, you do know you exist, and you do know your experiences exists.

The above applies no matter how finely you categorise your experiences. You could categories experiences into thoughts, dreams, taste, touch, sight, experiences of your left leg and your right leg, experiences that you think are delusions, experiences you don’t understand, experiences you hated and experiences you loved. For all of these and every other experience of every type that you experience: they exist.

No matter what you think your experiences are, you know they exist because you are right there experiencing them.

This might be a slight hurdle (it might not – I can’t read your thoughts). The idea that, that delusions exist, that dreams exist and that their existence is inextricably a part of your own existence might be a different way of thinking about things than you are familiar with.

However, there are not, in fact, two sides to an argument here. You experience what you experience. You know you have experienced what you experience because you experienced it.

A brief diversion into tautologies

A tautology is a statement that is true by definition (true thing is true).

While a tautology itself isn’t a fallacy, it is a close enough neighbour to fallacies to raise suspicion among people trained in standard modern thought (nearly everyone).

We are changing your world view. The validity of something isn’t based on how pretty you think the words are. I am not persuading you of anything.

Your awareness of your own existence isn’t something I’m trying to prove. I can’t prove it. I can’t disprove it.

You either know you exist, or you don’t (you definitely do).

Your experience is no different. You know your experiences exist because you experience them. Classically this is a tautology but here it is simply setting up a mode of thought based on your own, personal, direct experience. There is going to be quite a bit of this.

There is no logic to disprove. Logic is redundant when our foundation is complete, unambiguous certainty. ‘You exist’ is not amenable to logic. ‘You exist’ just is.

Everything we build on this foundation benefits from the certainty of the foundation. If you experience it – then you experience it.

Foundations (sort of)

In the classic approach to Solipsism, your existence is a tiny, nearly insignificant mote while all the important things are Sensory Data (Sensory Data is just another name for what you experience). Sensory Data can be fooled, so pretty much everything lacks certainty.

We’ve turned that on its head. Everything that you experience exists. Sensory Data might still be distorted, but you are definitely experiencing it.

You might have serious questions about what it is you are experiencing but there is no question that you are experiencing it, whatever it is.

You Exist. This is your foundation.

This foundation isn’t quite like other foundations. This foundation already consists of everything (that you experience).

Think of a painting. Your existence is the whole painting, the all encompassing view. Each facet of your existence is part of the painting. The stream running past the little cabin in the painting isn’t an extension of the painting – it is just a part of the painting we are now focusing on. Similarly, when looking at the stream by the cabin, the rest of the painting is still there.

Your existence is everything (to you). When you focus on one element of your existence, the big picture is still there. A given experience is part of your whole existence.

This is not like logic.

Logic assumes the existence of a much more literal foundation that provides a set of tools to build on that foundation. Logic is the process of building something larger upon a foundation of rules.

Existence is just existence. No part of existence has to be proven. You do exist. You just do.

The universe just works

A defining characteristic of your experiences is that you experience them. And, again, logic plays no part. There is no experience that vanishes in a puff of logic because it is badly formed or inconsistent.

Whatever your experiences are, you do, in fact, experience them.

Given that the universe allows/supports your existence; the universe works.

You cannot point to an instance of the universe not working.

Language is part of your experience. Language is part of the universe. Anything you say, write or think is an actual piece of the universe (and/or an actual experience). The universe does not disappear in a puff of logic every time time you prove that up is down and black is white.

Any model you create is an actual piece of the universe. You aren’t modelling something like the universe, your model is the universe.

It doesn’t matter how you think the universe works; it does work.

You can’t give an example of the universe working differently; all your examples are of the universe working as it does.

There is no part of the universe (or your experience) that can be falsified. The universe is never inconsistent or badly formed.

The universe is.

That is it

There are many fascinating ways to obfuscate and deflect this. But, once you know what to look at, this is incredibly simple.

You exist. Your existence encompasses everything that is part of your existence (Tautology – remember that this is true because you experience it is true – the words point at where to look but there is no persuasion – you know you exist).

The proof of the existence of… everything… is its existence.

You cannot meaningfully point to some words or symbols that are part of the universe and claim those words and symbols prove that what you just read cannot exist.

Sensory Data (Experiences) cannot be totally arbitrary

An aspect of Solipsism is that Sensory Data (Experiences) cannot be fully trusted.

Some or all or your senses could be mistaken, distorted or outright fabricated.

Your experiences still have to exist, fabricated or not. You can see your experiences directly. You know that they exist.

You know quite a lot about your experiences, in fact.

For example, you can distinguish between experiences. You see differences and similarities. You know (to a degree) how much of an experience is due to your own Agency (you can move your arm and know that it was you that moved your arm).

Even if you are a brain in a jar being fed computer simulated experiences – those experiences incorporate your own Agency. Your environment responds to your actions.

Down the rabbit hole

Everything you experience exists. If you experience differences in Sensory Data then Differences in Sensory Data exist.

If you experience unicorns then unicorns exist.

Hmm…

The first thing to note about language is that you are the one that reads and hears and understands words.

A word means precisely what you think it means (to you).

Even if there were some universal standard language, you are still the one that interprets that language. Your experiences determine how you interpret future experiences. Reading is an experience and the way it affects you depends on you. No other person will have an identical experience even when reading the same words as you.

Communication

The universe works. It just does.

Everything within the universe is an example of the universe doing its thing.

There are no instances of not-universe you can experience.

You cannot show an instance of the universe malfunctioning.

Every model and description you make is an actual piece of the universe.

Everything you do, say and think is an instance of the universe.

You are a part of the universe you find yourself in. Your constraints are the universe’s constraints. The universe’s constraints are your constraints.

You exist. Your experiences exist. Whatever is needed for you to exist – that exists… as demonstrated by your existence. It cannot be otherwise. You do exist, whatever your existence requires, whatever your experience require; that exists.

This applies to everything you experience.

Non-existence is outside your experience. You do not currently experience non-existence and have no means of describing non-existence.

As such, language works because our existence clearly includes language.

Or, language works because the universe works.

Or, language is an example of how the universe works.

Example

You perceive dimensions. Up, down, left, right, forward, back.

Your existence (the universe) clearly enables you to perceive dimensions.

Everything you can say about dimensions is based on your experience of dimensions.

What are dimensions? They are this particular type of experience.

What do dimensions do? They lead to this particular type of experience.

We’re not confused about the existence of dimensions. We experience them – they exist. However, their existence is our experience of them.

Without logic

So… we throw away logic. Then what?

First, all the things that used to work still work. The universe hasn’t changed. Your car works despite you thinking that little centaurs in the wheels make it go.

Second, you have already glimpsed the efficiency of the alternative. Your existence is the only thing you know for certain. Fortunately, that one tiny thing that you know for certain encompasses everything that you can ever experience. And just like that we can see the flaws in logic. Logic says part of our experience doesn’t exist? Logic is confused. You do exist.

You can do what you can do. You cannot do what you cannot do.

“Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

If you persist in trying to do the impossible (e.g. prove a theorem) then you are wasting your effort. Understanding what is not possible allows you to focus your efforts on what you can do.

You cannot model the universe. No equation, formula, theory or model is anything except an example of the universe doing its thing. Trying to falsify the universe is futile.

On the other hand, everything you say, do and think is an actual piece of the universe. You can’t not change the universe. You change the universe.

Your every action, your merest thought, your existence, is changing the universe. This is what you can do. This is what you can communicate.

If you stop trying to do impossible feats, you stand a chance of getting really, really good at changing the universe.

Change

I’m going to arbitrarily say that the universe changes.

This is just a label. Like Dark Matter and Dark Energy, labelling it doesn’t mean that anyone knows what it is.

We’re going to be looking at what we can and can’t do with language with an eye to understanding the role of language in the absence of logic.

Our starting point is, as always, the fact that the universe exists (You exist. Your experience of the universe exists. Don’t worry if you feel that the language is a little loose – remember that we are not using logic – everything is based on your experience. We don’t need to prove the universe exists – you just need to think that the universe exists. Yes – this is really how we are doing things now).

We also observe that language exists.

Language

Experience is a process. When you read a word, you incorporate that word into yourself. The significance of that word, to you, depends on you. Meaning is something that you experience.

No other person will ever have exactly the same experience as you. Your experience is what you experience, not what other people experience.

Words do not have meaning. You experience meaning when you experience words. You understand words in accordance with your experience of those words.

Of particular note is that language is not distinct from the rest of the universe. Writing is creating squiggles in the universe. Reading is an experience with similarities to other experiences.

Suppose that our aim is to get good at universing. Whatever it is that the universe is/does, we want to participate with maximum effectiveness.

Change

Your meaning

It is you that understands.

You perceive meaning in your experiences.

You change in response to your experiences. These changes affect how future experiences change you.

You are you. You are not anybody or everybody else. You learned to walk. You learned to speak. You learned what distance feels like. You experience a sense of time.

Words do not have meaning. Words have meaning to you.

There is no mechanism for forcing two people to have the exact same experience when reading a given word. Your entire life (your entire existence) informs how you perceive the next word you read.

A note regarding mathematics

There are existing bodies of work regarding knowledge, meaning and communication.

Mathematics is a particularly useful example in that it goes to considerable effort to make any assumptions explicit. Mathematics is intentionally easier to critique than some other forms of argument.

There are a variety of fields of study within mathematics with varying degrees of overlap. The core of modern mathematics is axiomatic mathematics.

Axiomatic mathematics is the branch of mathematics that provides all mathematical ‘proofs’. One of the branches of axiomatic mathematics is First Order Logic.

It is quite difficult to pin down “all of modern thought” and make specific statements about such a nebulous idea. Axiomatic mathematics provides a reasonably (ish) defined target and is representative of modern thought (they share common (mistaken) assumptions).

No specific knowledge of existing mathematics is required. Indeed, the less exposure to those aforementioned mistaken assumptions, the easier it may be to move past them.

On the other hand, this paper is not an abstract piece of philosophy. The world view presented replaces the world view of axiomatic mathematics (and related thinking).

Of particular note is that mathematicians have known that there are problems with the existing approach to axiomatic mathematics for well over a hundred years.

Ignoring Descartes own pronouncements on certainty; there is a body of work called The Foundational Crises in Mathematics that observes the issues.

Which is to say, it is already know that the existing approach to mathematics (and by extension related modes of modern thought) is flawed. What hasn’t previously been known is what the alternative might be.

World view

We are at the cross-roads of two world views right now.

One view (as championed by modern mathematics) holds that words have inherent meaning. That a word would have meaning even if there were no people to see that word*. (*implicit rather than explicit – but inherently part of that world view)

The other view says that meaning only arises for you when you read/hear/think or otherwise process a word.

These two views do not play nicely with one another.

Additionally, these views have a direct implication for how language works. For example, the mathematical idea of ‘proof’ is directly tied to the idea of words having a single, objective meaning independent of any given observer.

This change in world view does not change how anything works. The universe doesn’t care how you think it works – it just works.

The actual function of understanding, meaning and language are independent of any explanation. Re-aligning our world view to match the function of the world is like driving along at 80km/h and shifting from first gear to fifth gear. The car still works in the same way – it is just much more efficient when we use it appropriately instead of at cross purposes.

As to how one chooses the right world view – there isn’t anything to choose. There is no proof involved. Descartes showed that proof wasn’t a thing back in the seventeenth century. Nothing has changed since then.

If you are the one who experiences your experiences then they are your experiences (yay tautologies).

Now that you know what to look for, you cannot come up with a plausible way to describe how words have meaning outside your experience.

The idea that words have inherent meaning has been hammered into your head implicitly and explicitly for most of your life. There was no great conspiracy. Everyone around you genuinely believed that words had their own, unique, objective meaning. And there was just enough agreement between people to keep the illusion going.

If two people (roughly) agree on the meaning of a word it is plausible to think it is the word that posses the meaning.

Given an explanation that (mostly) works, why look any deeper.

Logic vs existence

Logic says that some sequences of words are wrong.

  • x & !x
  • thing and not-thing at the same time
  • True and False
  • Contradiction
  • Inconsistent

The above statements are all equivalent within mathematics and they all mean that the argument presented is bad, no-good, useless.

  • The universe works
  • There is no part of the universe that doesn’t work
  • Everything you experience exists (for you)
  • There is nothing you experience that you don’t experience
  • Language cannot be inconsistent, contradictory, badly formed or otherwise prove the words you just read don’t actually exist.

The above statements are all equivalent and they all mean that everything you do and everything you experience is an example of the universe doing its thing.

Language cannot prove that you don’t exist. Language cannot prove that your experiences don’t exist. Language cannot prove that language doesn’t exist.

You do exist. Your experiences do exist. Language does exist.

Every description you make using any language is an actual part of the universe. Every model, theory and theorem; every statement of any kind is an actual piece of the universe (an actual piece of your experience).

If you have a statement that you are claiming is wrong, you are claiming that an actual, existing piece of the universe is wrong. If you disprove a statement you are disproving a piece of the universe.

On the other hand, if every statement is true (exists) then there are no wrong statements. Everything that axiomatic mathematics says is true (exists).

Changing world view

Logic need not apply. Logic is a myth. It never existed.

Or, since every statement exists (is true) if someone thinks logic exists, then logic exists.

I’m sorry. I’m teasing you a little, but with good reason.

Your existence is completely certain. You know this simply by knowing this. There is nothing to be confused about with regard to your existence.

We are not arguing about what to believe. I’m not persuading you of anything. There is no logic to be deciphered. You do exist. Your existence is not dependent on me telling you that you exist.

Everything that you think exists does, in fact, exist (for you).

That “(for you)” qualification I’m throwing in is making explicit something that is always true – your experiences are your experiences. Meaning (for you) is exactly and precisely whatever you think it is at any given moment.

If you think photons exist, then photons exist (for you). If you think up is down, black is white and true is false, then up is down, black is white and true is false (for you).

Your thoughts exist. Whatever you think and everything that you think exists.

Even if you think you can disprove your existence using words, that thought exists and is true (unless you think your thought is false – in which case it is false).

It just works

You exist. Your experiences exist. The universe exists.

Anything and everything you do demonstrates existence. You are aware of your own existence because your existence allows you to be aware of your own existence. You can talk because your existence includes the ability to talk. Every thought you have is part of your existence because it is part of your existence.

There is nothing you can do that shows that your experiences don’t exist. No argument will prove that the universe doesn’t exist.

Any words you write down, any sonnets that you sing, are actual, existing, pieces of the universe and demonstrate nothing more nor less than the existence of the universe.

There are no models of the universe. Anything you create within the universe is the actual universe.

There are no theories about the universe. Whatever words or diagrams you offer are the universe.

Anything you point at, reference or think about is the universe.

What can you do

You can observe the fact of your existence. That is it. There isn’t anything else. You participate in your existence.

On the plus side, your existence is everything (to you). You aren’t losing out on anything. You were never able to do anything that it is impossible to do. You have always been able to do all the things you can do.

You can do what you can do and you can’t do what you can’t do.

Even with that talk about tautologies further up, I imagine this comes across as less than profound.

However, consider trying to do the impossible. Imagine investing enormous effort into achieving something that is eternally beyond your grasp.

If you are sat there trying to prove that bits of the universe are inconsistent then learning that it is an impossible task is a huge leap forward.

Language is part of the universe. Language cannot do impossible things like making bits of the universe vanish in a puff of logic.

Everything you do

  • Everything you are and experience exists.
  • You can only do what it is possible to do. You cannot do anything that is impossible.
  • If you experience the impossible then that experience exists.
  • Wait… what?

More on mathematics

This section is for those who

A successful critique of axiomatic mathematics is a big deal. An enormous amount of brain power has been invested into the field and the principles of mathematics inform a great deal of modern thought (remember that logic is a form of axiomatic mathematics).

Overturning axiomatic mathematics entails an enormous overhaul of all kinds of modern thinking and (perhaps more significantly) is terribly embarrassing for all the mathematicians who forgot to check their assumptions.

Which is to say, I anticipate a butt load of push back in defence of the status quo. As such, I feel the impulse to make some pre-emptive statements.

You exist

The evidence is your existence. You exist. You know you exist. There is zero speculation here. There is no argument to critique. You exist.

Logic will not avail you here

I’m not trying to prevent you thinking about this. Please think about this. Thinking about this will help you understand it. But this isn’t an issue of word games – there is no argument to attack. Formal logic will not avail you here.

I know (I have a vague sense of) how you feel about tossing out formal logic.

There is no question that you were doing something when you thought you were applying logic. I’m in no way invalidating your actions. I’m simply observing that you were not doing things that you cannot do.

There has only ever been one system

One of the things you cannot do is to break yourself up into distinct, unconnected pieces.

As noted with The Foundational Crises in Mathematics, a fundamental flaw of axiomatic mathematics is that it doesn’t have a foundation. The foundation you are looking for is your existence. This foundation is rock solid; beyond question.

There are elements of mathematics that are useful. The justification for mathematics is that it is useful. The justification for axiomatic mathematics doesn’t hold.

Your meaning

You exist. Probably.

You determine what words mean for you. Maybe “you exist” means “you run down the street naked” to you.

No-one can make words mean something specific to you. Maybe you are confused because I keep telling you that you are running naked in the street.

Each person perceiving each word to have a meaning specific to that person does lead to confusion. However, this is a feature, not a bug.

Conventional mathematics misses the point in trying to establish unambiguous, objective, certain truths.

Everything you experience exists

You exist. You experience your experiences.

Some Statements

  • The universe works. The universe never doesn’t work.
  • Words have no meaning.
  • Meaning is a function of your experience. You perceive meaning when you process language.

That is the foundation

Everything you experience exists. Everything you don’t experience is irrelevant.

From this everything slots neatly into place. We’ll explore a few examples but your ground, your foundation, the single facet that justifies everything else is your existence.

Everything is true

Everything is true. Everything exists.

All your definitions are based on your experience. There simply isn’t anything else to base them upon. You can choose different words to describe your experience, but it is your experience that provides your meaning. The words are just a label.

A functional description of existence

Sensory Data exists.

Agency Exists. (Agency is your ability to change Sensory Data and know what aspect of Sensory Data you have changed. e.g. you can move your arm and know you have moved your arm).

Your function is to change Sensory Data through the exercise of your Agency.

Given that non-Sensory-Data is an oxymoron and the only thing you can do with Sensory Data is change it, changing Sensory Data is the whole of what you do.

A functional description of language

Language is Sensory Data. The constraints of Sensory Data are the constraints of language and vice versa.

Communication is the process of changing Sensory Data (because everything is the process of changing Sensory Data). Language is only distinct insofar as the target of the change in Sensory Data is generally human shaped sensory data.

A desirable use of language is to increase the efficiency or effectiveness of changing Sensory Data.

The value of a given change in Sensory Data is dependent on the observer.

A change in Sensory Data by itself is just a change in Sensory Data. It is just the universe doing its thing.

You are the arbiter of meaning. Only you can decide what you have experienced.

Shapes

We are heading for brain melty territory. This is not what they taught you in school:

You exist. Everything you experience exists. Everything you think exists, exists. Everything you say exists.

There is no way to show that something doesn’t exist. You can’t be uncertain about existence if you wanted to be.

Suppose you think there is something that you call a universe. That universe exists. You know it exists because you perceive it to exist. You cannot show that it doesn’t exist. You cannot change it in a way that causes it not to exist.

No matter how complicated or how simple you think the universe is, it exists.

Any model you create isn’t a model of the universe – it is the universe. Any statement about the universe is the universe.

Reflection

We are at a fairly central point of what I would like to convey. I’m sat here trying to think up convincing arguments that will make my point… and then I remember that is the obsolete way of thinking.

Then I write the next bit and feel it isn’t convincing enough, I’ve got to overcome years of false assumptions

The above comments apply to anything you perceive.

So… Language works. It just does. You can imagine* an incredibly complex mechanism or an incredibly simple mechanism but either way language works.

Sensory Data exists. You know this because you sense it.

Your ability to interact with Sensory Data exists. You know this because you can move your arm and sense that you have moved your arm.

Structure within Sensory Data exists. You know this because you can distinguish between moving your arm and moving your leg.

Everything that you can perceive by any mechanism exists. You know this because… you perceive it.

In short, the only thing you know with complete certainty is everything*. (*that you can ever experience).

Your existence is everything you will ever know

While it is true that the only thing you can know with complete certainty is your own existence; since that existence encompasses everything you will ever experience, it isn’t much of a restriction.

Forgive me for banging on about this point, it is crucial.

Typical interpretations of “Cogito Ergo Sum” and Solipsism draw a line between your existence and everything else: “your existence is certain but nothing else is”.

It is true that Sensory Data can be fooled. In principle, you might be a brain in a jar and everything you experience is a simulation created by a computer.

However, even if you are a brain in a jar, you still experience Sensory Data. While the individual pieces of Sensory Data might not be what they seem; the existence of Sensory Data is not in question. You experience Sensory Data. Sensory Data exists. And just like your own existence, the existence of Sensory Data is utterly certain. The existence of Sensory Data doesn’t have to be proven. Nobody can prove to you that your experience of Sensory Data does not exist.

There is more.

You know you can interact with Sensory Data. You experience Sensory Data and can change Sensory Data through your own actions. You have Agency within Sensory Data. You can move your arm and know that you have moved your arm.

Your Agency demonstrates that Sensory Data has Structure. You can distinguish your movements from other Sensory Data. Sensory Data cannot be random noise. Sensory Data must respond to your actions in a Structured fashion for you to see your own actions in Sensory Data.

Again, you are completely certain of the existence of Structure within Sensory Data because you experience its existence.

You can, of course, mis-interpret and mis-understand. What you cannot do (with any effectiveness) is point to part of yourself or your experience and say “this does not exist”.

Even if you are a brain in a jar being fed computer simulated Sensory Data; you still experience that Sensory Data. The Sensory Data still exists.

Even if your Sensory Data is being fabricated; it is fabricated in a way that allows you to see similarities and distinctions, to feel your own actions within that Sensory Data (you know the difference between you moving your arm and (simulated) rain falling from the sky).

You don’t need to be persuaded that you exist. There is no argument that will prove you didn’t feel what you just felt.

I’m not telling you that you exist. You know you exist.

There are no words, there is no language that can ‘prove’ that you don’t exist.

Proof

The mathematical concept of proof has no meaning. Your experience is your experience. Your existence is never false, non-existent, inconsistent, badly formed or otherwise falsifiable.

Your existence is never other than your existence. Your existence is what it is. “It might be something else”. It isn’t something else. It is what it is and can only ever be what it is.

Your existence is a given. It is your foundation. There is no doubt, no ambiguity; you exist. It isn’t something you can question. Literally, there is no aspect of your existence you can second guess.

There are no theories of existence. You do exist. Your existence isn’t a theory. First Order Logic and Axiomatic mathematics have no relevance. No-one can logic you out of existence. There is no model, theorem or reason that can prove you don’t exist.

Any words you speak, any symbols your write down – they exist. Everything you read and hear exists. An equation can’t prove itself non-existent.

If you say something you have proven the existence of what you say. If you write something you have proven the existence of what you have written.

{Note: I use the word existence. Substitute any word you like (e.g. ‘truth’). Your existence isn’t conditional on what words you use to label it. Your experience of existence informs your understanding of words – not the other way around.}

Language is part of Sensory Data. Language is part of the universe. Any communication is automatically true (exists). Everything you say and write is part of the universe. Nothing is a model of the universe, or a theorem about the universe; everything is actually the universe. (And the universe actually exists because you experience it (whatever it is)).

Pause a moment

The concept of proof is a foundation of modern thought.

Where all statements are equally true we need some other measure for the value of a statement.

This is where the (mildly hyperbolic) headline up above comes in.

We have here a fundamental change in world-view. A change that impacts our understanding (and use) of language itself.

So… there are no proofs. There are no theorems or theories. There are no falsifiable models. There is no inconsistency.

These are extraordinary claims. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

The evidence is your existence. The thing that you know without any doubt.

Your existence includes everything you experience. It doesn’t matter what your experiences are, even if you think they are the product of delusion – they still exist.

Your existence is self evident to you. You are not being reasoned into (or out of) your own existence.

By the same token, I am not trying to persuade you that your experiences are part of your existence. They are part of your existence (they might be all of your existence). Without experiences you would not exist.

There is no language that could prove your experience of language does not exist.

There is no part of the universe that can prove itself out of existence. Insofar as language is a physical part of the universe, language cannot prove that language does not exist, or is wrong, or is badly formed. Language is simply a part of the universe. Language is simply a part of your Sensory Data.

{Maybe I’m misunderstanding mathematics. Maybe ‘true’ and ‘exist’ shouldn’t be conflated. I mean, … it really, really feels like there are statements that are plain false?}

Language

Language does work and we can communicate (to a degree). So what is going on? How can it be that no statement can be falsified yet we don’t find all statements equally valuable?

Consider the totality of everything you can do and everything you can experience. By definition, there is nothing or relevance outside this totality.

This totality is what you have to work with. (This totality is the universe and also Sensory Data – just different labels for the same thing).

Every action you take, Everything you experience is part of this Totality.

The universe (the Totality) works. You know it works because you exist. Whatever the requirements are for your existence, the universe satisfies those requirements.

Now:

  1. point to a piece of the universe that doesn’t work.
  2. Point at something that it not part of the Totality (the universe).
  3. Describe something without using part of the universe (the Totality).
  4. Experience something that is not part of Sensory Data (the universe, the Totality).
  5. Draw a picture without using any part of the universe.
  6. Draw a picture of something that doesn’t exist in the universe.
  • Tasks 1-6 are, of course, impossible.
  • Mathematicians should recognise Gödel’s incompleteness theorem.
  • There is no sleight of hand here. Nothing is hidden. The clearly impossible thing is clearly impossible.

Recapitulation

Language is part of the universe. Any statement made in any language is part of the universe.

A description isn’t similar to the universe; it isn’t like the universe. A description (any piece of language) is an actual, right now, piece of the universe.

A model, theorem or axiomatic system is not a simulation of emulation of the universe. It is a piece of the universe.

Anything that is said or written is the universe doing its thing.

“Why does the universe work?” It just does.

“What would happen if it was different?” It isn’t different.

“How does the universe work?” Just fine, thank you.

You can provide examples of the universe working until the cows come home.

How does language work?

The same way the rest of the universe works – it just does.

Sensory Data has Shape (Structure). You can compare shapes, distinguish between shapes, see similarities of shapes, see that shapes are related.

Language is Sensory Data. Language has shapes that can be compared, distinguished and related.

Yes. Okay. Language does, in fact, work. We are able to communicate. We can understand some things in some fashion.

Sensory Data == Totality of Everything == Universe.

  • You can experience Sensory Data (be changed by Sensory Data).
  • You can change Sensory Data.
  • There is no non-Sensory-Data that you can experience.
  • no-change is not relevant.

As such, language/communication consists of changes to Sensory Data.

This doesn’t say much. We know changes happen because we experience them. The word ‘change’ is a label for what we experience – it doesn’t explain what we experience.

In general terms, language is just the universe being the universe. Sensory Data changes. Language is changes in Sensory Data.

In functional terms, language is a tool for refining our ability to change Sensory Data.

To be clear, there is no Sensory Data AND… Sensory Data is everything you can experience, no exceptions.

Likewise, changing Sensory Data (and being changed by Sensory Data) is everything that can be done with Sensory Data.

Specifically there is no backup plan. This is what we have to work with.

Language doesn’t convey meaning. Language is just a particular instance of the universe working. Words are just chunks of universe, nothing more, nothing less.

Meaning for you arises when you experience words. The process of reading is the process of being changed. How you are changed by a particular phrase is determined by you.

Things are like other things

If you perceive something, it exists. If you perceive dimensions, meaning, photons, mass, energy, unicorns, … those things exist.

However, you are limited in how you can describe anything. All you can say about a piece of Sensory Data is how similar or different it is to another piece of Sensory Data.

It gets better. The similarity or difference between two pieces of Sensory Data can also only be described in terms of other Sensory Data.

If we want to describe A then we say that A is similar to B cross C (where C represents the difference between A and B).

Where two things are indistinguishable we usually consider them to be the same thing (THE Empty Set vs AN Empty Set).

If we can describe A in terms of B & C then A is the same as B & C.

In other words

What is ‘knowledge’? What is ‘understanding’?

We describe parts of the universe we are unfamiliar using parts of the universe we know.

You have experienced distance. The basic existence of distance isn’t something you feel needs to be proven.

Mathematics and physics take ‘known’ ideas and build upon them (Axiomatic Mathematics and Quantum Mechanics describe things in terms of known axioms).

The trouble is that those ‘known’ axioms are known because you experience them rather then because they have been explained.

You know that time and distance exist. We have equations that involve time and distance.

So, what, fundamentally, is time?

The only answer it is possible to give is that time is the thing you experience as time.

There is nothing wrong with this answer. What you experience is what you experience. This statement is a tautology (true by definition) but if you’ve been paying attention you will know that anything you say exists (is true). There is no grey area. Your existence isn’t partial existence.

Everything you say is true (exists). Everything you say and hear is a tautology.

“What about lies?”

This is a conversation about how language can work. Changing assumptions about how language works while using that language will lead to moments of confusion.

The universe cannot be not-the-universe. The universe doesn’t lie. The universe isn’t wrong. Contrariwise, people do lie. Ergo, people use the truth of the existence of the universe (or part thereof) to mislead, misdirect, confuse and otherwise gain benefit (or not) by lying.

Remember that you are never wrong about what a word means to you. Your experience is always your experience and is an inextricable part of your existence. How closely your experience of Sensory Data (such as words) matches up with anyone else’s experience of the same Sensory Data is a matter of negotiation.

Consequently there are no shortcuts to communication. Meaning is something each person perceives. Words have no meaning until you ingest them.

Straw-man:

“If everything I say is true then I can say “Everything you say is false.” and prove that you are wrong.”

What you (generic straw-man you) have done is to manipulate a piece of universe into a specific shape. In reading this shape, I fully agree with you that you have manipulated a piece of universe into this shape (written some words).

I incorporate the shape you have written into myself by reading that shape. I am changed (to some degree) as a consequence of reading what you have written. This change will likely have an influence on how further communication from you affects me. It may have an influence on how I process other writing. It may have an influence on how I interact with the world. (If your message said “meet me under the steeple at midnight” it might cause me to travel to a particular location at a particular time).

Language is simply a refined method of interacting with the world around us. For the most part, language is aimed at manipulating (changing) other people. “Don’t touch the electric fence”. “Do wire pins A to Q in sequence to create a timing circuit for a nuclear bomb”.

The value of language (meaning, purpose) is in how it enhances your existence. Your existence is interacting with Sensory Data. Language itself is an interaction with Sensory Data. Language cannot prove that it isn’t possible to interact with Sensory Data. Indeed, language cannot prove anything at all beyond its own existence.

The measure of language is how efficiently it improves your ability to manipulate Sensory Data in your favour. The real language meaning of ‘true’, ‘false’ and ‘lie’ are relative to the baseline of how relatively useful a given snippet of language is in improving your ability to manipulate Sensory Data (the universe).

A lie reduces your efficiency in manipulating Sensory Data. The truth improves your efficiency.

Notice that the only arbiter of meaning, truth and everything else is you. There is no contradiction in you perceiving a sentence to be a lie while someone else perceives the words to be true.

There cannot be a single objective definition of truth.

Really?

As much as you might find some of the claims herein to be extraordinary, you should also find much that is familiar. Your understanding is based on your experience, it could not be otherwise. Meaning has always been what you make it.

More than that, these exact same points have been made before. I’ve explicitly mentioned Descartes and Solipsism. The Anthropic Principle stakes a large claim within prior art.

The Theories of Relativity bang on and on about “The observer” (reference frame). The properties of light that lead to the Theories of Relativity are fundamental properties of all universes that can have observers.

You exist.

As part of your existence you observe that you can change Sensory Data and that you are changed by Sensory Data. A thing that does not change in response to Sensory Data and/or does not cause other Sensory Data to change is not Sensory Data. All Sensory Data has the property of change. (Change is a thing you experience. That is all the definition of ‘change’ you are ever going to get).

There are no fixed points (that you can ever be aware of). You are a process. There are not, and cannot be, fixed rulers (measuring sticks) of any kind.

While much of this conversation has been about your existence and your experience; everything functional that is true for you must be true for every other part of the universe (Sensory Data). Specifically, every part of the universe is an observer within the universe (not necessarily conscious – but changed by Sensory Data and changing Sensory Data).

As you are the foundation for your experience, so the sum of all observers is the foundation for the universe as a whole.

In practise, an observer can only observe other observers (where an observer has the property of being changed and changing Sensory Data). This determines the nature of the universe within very tight parameters.

Or: we observe what we observe because we observe it. We cannot observe what we don’t observe because we don’t observe that.

Enough already

If this is your first read through, your brain might be looking to exit through your ears.

This is a change in world-view in line with the switch from Newtonian Mechanics to General Relativity. – Except that this covers everything. Language, mathematics, physics, philosophy.

And, as with Newtonian Mechanics and General Relativity, the two world-views are not compatible. Newtonian Mechanics cannot be used as a foundation to describe General Relativity.

Fortunately, you have the best possible foundation with which to work. You are already the centre of your world. You have always been the centre of your world.

The evidence is profound in a way that modern mathematics can only dream of. You exist.

There is no doubt. There is no second guessing. You know with complete certainty… You exist.

Even better, you have existed all your life. You are experienced in existing.

The difficult part is undoing the old habits of thought. Quite a lot of the mathematics, physics, philosophy and language you have been told has validity. It works – it just doesn’t work in the way that you were told.