This page is devoted to links to various philosophical writings.
All of these materials authored by Robert G. Brown are published under
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A bit of a Zen ramble on religion, philosophy, physics, and Zen. Take
it with a grain of salt -- it is deliberately lighthearted, isn't
finished yet (and who knows when I'll next have the time to work on it)
but I pretty much mean it. (05/09/03, rgb)
Version 0.6.0 Draft!
Robert G. Brown (rgb)
Warning Warning Warning! This is totally a draft release
and is liable to change without warning, to contain twinned chapters, to
contain material that will not be in the final version, and to be
incomplete and inconsistent or worse! It is being released as a
draft as an open invitation for further comments and suggestions from
the many people that found even the very short pre-draft form. It's
probably going to get worse before it gets better again, alas...
Axioms has also been translated into certain
languages by volunteers:
The Belorussian translation, thanks to the efforts of Bodhan
German translation, thanks to the efforts of Valeria Aleksandrova:
This is the official pre-publication distribution website for the
Axioms project. This work is basically about what we know:
the foundations of all human knowledge. It is revealed that we don't
know much of anything -- that the basis for most of what
we know are a set of assumptions that are rarely enumerated or examined
(at least outside of mathematics and science) because even to examine
them requires additional assumptions. These assumptions are the
axioms upon which the whole shaky edifice of human knowledge is
Here is a very short outline of how they book may eventually
- Reason and Its Limitations
- A look at the so-called "laws of thought", at set theory, at
Jaynes' notion of conditional belief or probable belief, and at the
closely allied ideas of logic (including what might be called "zen
logic"), mathematics, and computer science. Godel's theorem is examined
in some detail. Finally, it is shown that when it comes right down to
it, we cannot prove a whole lot about the world we see using
these tools one at a time or all together.
- Here it is shown (basically restating the conclusions of the first
part in context) that Philosophy is Bullshit. This is a
deliberately provocative way of phrasing it, a way that that no longer
admits any possibility that there is an answer out there to be found by
means of pure reason, let alone that some particular answer is
the One True Answer. It asserts that as a necessary prior
condition for any sort of philosophical discussion all participants
need to agree on their axioms, the unprovable assumptions and
methods of reasoning upon which their conclusions are ultimately based.
It then examines at least some of the near-infinity of often mutually
contradictory and self-referential axioms that underlie major subsystems
of human society. Only the axioms of mathematics and science are seen
to be reasonably consistent and clearly stated (if still largely unknown
even to many scientists), and even there the axioms are "bullshit" in
the sense that they are logically unprovable assumptions.
- In this section a first pass is made at proposing (or if
you prefer and more honestly, cobbling together from the previous
efforts of many philosophical giants) a set of axioms upon which
human society might be based. It differs significantly from
previous axiom sets (at least those from outside of science) in that it
is openly acknowledged from the beginning that it is neither complete
nor correct, merely provisional and practical. It is intended to
be discussed, argued over, tried and rejected, modified and tried again,
with the stated goal being (paradoxically enough) a rational
society based on irrational assumptions that -- work. In
this society there is room for God, for Self, for realization and
enlightenment. Humans can talk about what they know in the full
understanding of what it means to say that they "know" anything at all.
The one thing that is no longer possible in such a society is to
claim that one is in possession of absolute truth, as it is absolutely
true that no such thing can be proven to exist.
Fairly ambitious, to be sure. This work strips off the
undergarments of the philosophical basis for knowing anything and
lays it out naked for us all to see that -- there is nobody and nothing
there. Far from the Emperor being there and the clothing being
imaginary, we find the Emperor entirely missing and that all the Reality
that we've every seen or imagined is nothing but traditional and
colorful undergarments! Fortunately, the clothes do make the man,
If you accept its conclusions, this will be the last work of
philosophy you'll ever need to read. When you're done, you may or may
not know the deepest answers to the deepest pseudoquestions, but you'll
at least be able to tell a real question (one with a real -- derivable
-- answer) from a pseudoquestion (one with no derivable answer, only a
meta answer -- an axiom -- for an answer). You'll understand that all
real answers are connected by inevitable chains of logic and
reason to axioms, and hence are always subject to doubt.
At the end of it all, you should end up well-equipped to choose
your axioms as the most important human freedom, the one that
underlies all the rest. A wise choice can lead to the greatest human
society that one can imagine. Foolish, conflicted choices can lead to
the extinction of the human race. Can't do any better than that.
Hmmm, maybe philosophy is bullshit, but just maybe it is
important bullshit as well...
- A Theorem Concerning God
An Actual Theorem Concerning God
by Robert G. Brown (rgb)
It is rare in the history of mankind that an actual theorem has been
stated, let alone proven, concerning God. This lack of provable results
has been one of the major stumbling blocks to rational religion, and of
course that which is not, or cannot, be made rational remains
irrational to our great dismay and mutual destruction.
This document proves an actual theorem concerning God and the
Universe that might be of interest in the eternal conflict between those
that allege that God "created" the Universe and those that allege that
there is no God and that the Universe didn't require a creator. The
theorem does not resolve the question of whether or not there is a
God (as Hume showed long ago that neither reason nor inference are
sufficient to prove God's existence), but it puts an end rather
nicely to the question of whether or not any consistently
proposed God could have created the Universe.
By analyzing the question of God using information theory and
Godel's theorems, by using set theory in straightforward
ways, it demonstrates that only one model of God can be made to
satisfy the "standard properties of God": Omniscience, Omnipresence,
Omnipotence. It therefore establishes strict constraints on
theisms. Most theistic religions of the world are, to put it bluntly,
not in accord with this theorem. Because the theorem is based on
reason, and indeed its axioms are such that they can hardly be
challenged and end up with a system of rational knowledge at all, this
is simply too bad for those religions. They are wrong! Not just
incorrect at their periphery, flawed in some relatively minor manner of
scripture. Not just flawed in their scripture. Flawed at the
core -- the basic conception of God they advance is self-contradictory
In most cases this is painfully obvious from even a cursory
examination of their theistic mythology anyway, but again the
lack of an actual constructive theorem concerning God has left a
tiny window of possibility that the core belief and description of God
as a dualistic creator of the Universe it isn't actually unreasonable,
irrational, impossible so that those theism could be correct.
This window is now closed.
Be Warned! The article contains a gratuitous polemic against
theist scripture-based religions, especially those whose mythological
roots lie in the Bronze Age, a time when life on earth was ugly, nasty
brutish, and short (the mean life expectancy in central Eurasia was only
around 18). To quote Thomas Jefferson:
The priests of the different religious sects ... dread the
advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on
the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which
The advances of science have long since diced all of the
duperies (contained in the supposedly "divinely inspired" scriptures
that define their creed) upon which they live, demonstrating (for
example) that the entire book of Genesis is pure myth and is absolutely
disproven by science. It is precisely as reasonable to believe that the
computer screen upon which you are reading these words will
transmogrophy into a cloud of butterflies (violating any number of laws
of physics) than it is to believe Genesis. Simple common sense and
everyday experience suffices to reject it. Yet recent surveys suggest
that as much as 60% of the population of the United States still
believes that the events in Genesis actually happened!
This kind of self-deluded belief is not harmless, and is not without
consequences. We live in an age where single individuals can control
destructive powers that vastly exceed all of the armies in all of the
world of the Bronze Age, and to attempt to govern that power with a
Bronze Age morality, the morality expressed by Moses in Numbers
31 as he commanded his troops to commit genocide and slaughter the
Midianite captive women and children, sparing only the young virgin
girls whom he gave to his troops as sex-slaves, is unthinkable. The
world currently lives in a perpetual state of global war --
religious war, founded in ancient conflicts between competing
mythological superstitions. No country is immune, no person is safe as
long as these superstitions are insulated from the forces of
reason by common custom.
Those who choose to believe these fantasies have every right
to do so, but they have no right at all to expect that their beliefs
should be safe from being questioned by their neighbors in public
forums, as this too is a natural right of all freethinking
humans. To again quote Jefferson:
Of publishing a book on religion, my dear sir, I never had an
idea. I should as soon think of writing for the reformation of Bedlam,
as of the world of religious sects. Of these there must be, at least,
ten thousand, every individual of every one of which believes all wrong
but his own.
In this I respectfully disagree with Jefferson. It is my duty to
correct this situation every bit as much as it is my duty to correct
students in their errors in physics problems, and for the same reason.
Both exhibit an incorrect application of reason to the world in
which we live, and if evil exists at all in the natural world,
its name is unreason. Nothing is more frightening that the human
who acts against the dictates of reason; we call such individuals
insane. Why then, should we not give this same term to collective
institutions that systematically promote unreasonable
propositions as if they were truth and call this profusity of religious
A hallmark of science, that is to say, reasonable belief
founded in a mixture of empirical observation and consistency with a
network of equally well founded beliefs with detailed predictive and
explanatory power, is that when presented with the same data and
arguments, two reasonable humans will, in general, agree on the
correctness or plausibility of the conclusions that are drawn from them.
Every student that studies Euclidean geometry proves the same
theorems from the sufficient axioms of the theory. A Muslim, a Hindu, a
Christian, and a Jew may disagree violently about precisely which foods
are unclean and forbidden by God (through divinely inspired scriptures
written by ignorant male humans in the dark ages of the past) to eat,
but presented with a telescope and verifiable astronomical data and
taught the calculus they will all agree that Newton's Law of
Gravitation correctly describes the motions of the little lights that
seem to move about the night sky, and that upon closer examination those
tiny lights are actually enormous worlds that companion our own as it
orbits the truly enormous sun.
Reason leads them to a common answer, and takes a dogmatic
theistic assertion of Genesis and proves it false. To continue
to hold to a belief that the sun goes around the earth, or the belief
that Genesis itself is still divinely inspired truth, is insane. This
work is therefore advanced in the pious hope that if humans wish
to continue to hold to a religious belief in God -- something that is a
matter of purely personal choice, given the evidence of their own lives
and observations -- they begin by applying the test of reason to any
theistic system they wish to adhere to by ensuring that its core
theology is compatible with the theorem..
- God the King, the Father, the Brother, the Ghost
God the King, the Father, the Brother, the Ghost is a
currently (very) short article on the distortion of the image of God
caused by the frequent use of human metaphors in scriptural writings.
It is concluded that God is not a King or mundane ruler in any
sense of the word, is not a Father (or Mother or any other
human/sexual parent), is not even a Brother in the sense that
certain humans are God to the exclusion of others. God is the Holy
Spirit, the very essence of awareness and existence itself.
Consequently God is both very simple and yet very difficult indeed to
get a conceptual grip on.
- A Few Modest Proposals for an Improved World
The following small list of ideas in presented in the hope that someday,
somehow, enough people will read them that they will "emerge" in the sea
of public consciousness and transform themselves into realities. Each
idea is presented together with a brief discussion in which the
reasoning underlying the idea is laid out. Feel free to forward these
proposals or a URI to this page to your favorite politicians.
Note well, this is a rather disjoint collection. The ideas are not
necessarily related. Each idea is accompanied by a short block of text
explaining why the idea is (in my opinion) worth trying and might
improve life if it were.
Politicians, in particular, should feel free to steal these ideas
and present them as their own brilliant concepts, if that is the
only way they are willing to make use of them. Play right on through,
As you'll see, not all of these ideas originate strictly within me
anyway (although quite a few do and likely will in the future) and by
the time even the most modest of them is implemented even discussion and
development of the ideas will have occurred that even the ones that are
mine alone will be mine alone no longer.
If I ever record enough ideas to make it worthwhile I may organize the
ideas into broad categories, but in the meantime the list is presented
in no particular order. Enjoy.