[FOM] Platonism and Formalism

Vladimir Sazonov V.Sazonov at csc.liv.ac.uk
Mon Sep 29 16:15:00 EDT 2003

Torkel Franzen wrote:
> Vladimir Sazonov says:
>  >It is Platonism, "the unique" absolute standard model of PA independent
>  >on anything  - what is mysticism and meditation.
>  In everyday life, and in ordinary reasoning, we take many things for
> granted. It is open to you, or to anybody, to question what we take
> for granted, but such questioning will be of little interest (to most
> people) as long as it does not provide any workable and
> fruitful alternatives. 

What if it is unclear WHAT REALLY is taken for granted? 
I believe that the most reasonable scientific question is 
WHAT DOES IT MEAN in seemingly evident situation (for the 
majority). By the way, Einstein has demonstrated to all of 
us how it is fruitful. 

In the present case, a metaphysically sensitive
> person will reject the idea that "the number"
>       25195908475657893494027183240048398571429282126204
>       03202777713783604366202070759555626401852588078440
>       69182906412495150821892985591491761845028084891200
>       72844992687392807287776735971418347270261896375014
>       97182469116507761337985909570009733045974880842840
>       17974291006424586918171951187461215151726546322822
>       16869987549182422433637259085141865462043576798423
>       38718477444792073993423658482382428119816381501067
>       48104516603773060562016196762561338441436038339044
>       14952634432190114657544454178424020924616515723350
>       77870774981712577246796292638635637328991215483143
>       81678998850404453640235273819513786365643912120103
>       97122822120720357
> (which is the RSA $200,000 challenge number) has a determinate
> factorization which we don't as yet know, and perhaps will never
> know. Such metaphysical sensitivity is fine, but it will not have any
> impact on people's thinking unless it can be used in some illuminating
> alternative explanation of the relation or correlation between theory
> and practice in computation. Ethereal metaphysical misgivings about
> the "mysticism" involved in ordinary thinking about numbers are in
> themselves just unworldly complaints divorced from practical
> intellectual concerns. 

The discussion on Platonism and Formalism has a different character. 
Such kind of particular examples can be considered here too. 
But the most general questions may have their own value and 
even practical enough. See comments below. 

Since you mention absolute time, let us note
> that Einstein spent no time or effort arguing about the mystical
> character of the idea of absolute time.

To the time when Einstein came to his Special Relativity Theory 
there were some experiments which required some URGENT explanation. 
The most of the strongest scientists were waiting for an explanation 
and quite ready to accept his theory. But, there was another 
experiment, much long time before, which could lead people to 
such a theory. This was determining that the light has a finite 
speed. There was known no faster signals than the light. There 
were a lot of great scientists before Einstein. Why they did not 
come to this theory? (Another story, why the greatest Gauss, 
did not publish his Non-Euclidean Geometry before Lobachevsky 
and Bolyai, although he seems to came to it earlier?) 

Of course, the history cannot be changed. But should not we 
learn NOW something from the history of science? The main 
particular lesson from this case is that the idea of absolute 
time was at least scientifically doubtful from the very beginning. 
As I know, it never had been asked (before Einstein) the question 
WHAT DOES IT MEAN AT ALL this absolute time. I guess, if this 
would be asked, the majority preferring mysticism would strongly 
resist even to stating such a question. Who knows what would 
happen with such a questioning person? 

I think, the general lesson for us is: let us ask such questions 
in all doubtful, mystical cases. (We have so good teachers like 
Einstein!) Then we will have more chances to come to something 
really important in more concrete situations. This seems quite 
sufficient reason for such questions. 

Why do YOU resist to such questions and to attempts to resolve 
them in a rational way? Why do YOU continue to insist that even 
if some views are mysticism, let them be? Let us wait for 
something more concrete. Then we will see what to do. 

Let me hope that this is only some misunderstanding. 

I believe, we need at least a more fresh scientific air. 
It is highly strange to me that it is a problem at all 
whether to allow mysticism in (or around) science or not. 

Vladimir Sazonov

> ---
> Torkel Franzen

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