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    August 02, 2008

    The Closing of The Mind

    Yesterday, I started writing a paper journal. There is something therapeutic about synchronizing one's thought processes with the coordination activity involved in handwriting. This morning, I wrote about an acute feeling of melancholy that occurred when a song started playing while I was reading a particularly interesting article in the first issue of The Review for Symbolic Logic.

    This is a new journal that I received as part of my membership to the Association for Symbolic Logic. I had completely forgotten about it when this issue arrived around the time Tina passed away. Since then, I've been reading it at night and on weekends. Actually, for a terminally-nerdy journal, this is pretty darn good stuff! The first article kind of blew my socks off: "How Applied Mathematics Became Pure". Geez, how many people in their lifetime spend a iota of time thinking about the distinction between the two? That's assuming that someone already knows about the existence of this distinction which brings me to this morning when I read the article:

    "The Closing of The Mind: How The Particular Quantifier Became Existentially Loaded Behind Our Backs"

    An example of a particular quantifier is this:

    There exists a French person who speaks English without any accent.

    Well, the debate that has been raging in the circles of formal philosophy and mathematics for years has revolved around the meta-level question whether this statement is vacuously false because it is impossible for any French person to speak any other language without any accent or materially true because such a person has been identified and universally recognized as being a particular example that proves the validity of the statement. I won't pretend dreaming that I'm that person; that would be unpleasantly arrogant and conceited. However, toying with non-native speakers of English about the mere possibility of this statement being true has value as a conversation starter.

    Somewhere in the discussion about Russell's views about the existential quantifier and Russell's example about "Unicorns exist", my computer started playing Léo Ferré's "Avec le temps, tout s'en va..."

    Léo speaks of the inescapable melancholy due to the inevitability of forgetting feelings and memories about loved ones that make particular quantification about the beauty of love, friendship, tenderness, connectedness and understanding true between lovers. Eventually, all of these feelings and memories will be lost; an absolute truth that I realize is the dual of the fundamental need for particular quantification over things that exist, might have existed, did exist or were believed to have existed. How can we be 100% sure about love? I am sure of one thing irrespective of any interpretation of particular quantification: Tina taught me how to love someone. Love is something worth living for. I'm surprised that despite centuries of introspection, all of these smart philosophers are remarkably silent on the import of love on questions of particular quantification. If there is one thing that ought resolve this debate, I'd choose love instead of Russell's unicorns.