BB #75: Gloves and Shoes

Speaking of Bell tests, I’ve noticed that science writers often struggle to find a good metaphor that illustrates just what’s so weird about the correlation between entangled particles. Bell tests are complex, and because they squat in the middle of quantum weirdness, they’re hard to explain in any classical terms.

I thought I had the beginnings of a good metaphor, at least the classical part. But the quantum part is definitely a challenge. (All the more so because I’m still not entirely clear on the deep details of Bell’s theorem myself.)

Worse, I think my metaphor fails the ping-pong ball test.

I saw “the ping-pong ball test” referred to in a paper I read (one, not entirely coincidentally, about Bell’s theorem). The idea is that any analogy to quantum behavior in which the “particles” could be replaced by ping pong balls without damaging the analogy… is probably missing the point.

Because quantum “particles” aren’t anything like ping pong balls.

That’s the whole problem with the quantum world, really. It’s nothing like ping pong balls. Or any kind of balls. Or anything we know from experience.

It’s a bunch of mathematics that works really well for all sorts of predictions and work, but which drives everyone crazy because what the hell does it mean?

(Well, don’t ask me. I don’t know anymore than anyone does.)

§ §

Anyway, I’ve sought a good analogy for Bell’s Inequality tests for a long time. Most I’ve seen are either too detailed or too vague. Finding a Goldilocks version is a real challenge. What I’ve toyed with so far is this:

When I wrote about quantum spin I explicitly stayed away from “magic” boxes and discussed Stern-Gerlach devices, but a classical analogy seems to require them. My magic box contains either one glove or one shoe, depending on whether one opens the top (glove) or side (shoe).

Two boxes can be entangled such that, opening both from the top always results in matching right- and left-handed gloves. Likewise, opening both from the side always results in matching shoes. Note that which box contains which glove or shoe is random.

However, opening one box from the top and the other from the side results in a random glove or shoe with no correlation to each other.

The analogy stars Alex and Blair, who each receive one of an entangled pair of boxes. They are free to choose how to open their boxes but they cannot communicate their choice. Neither knows how the other opened their box.

If both open their box the same way there are four possible outcomes:

  1. Alex opens Top: Left Glove + Blair opens Top: Right Glove
  2. Alex opens Top: Right Glove + Blair opens Top: Left Glove
  3. Alex opens Side: Left Shoe + Blair opens Side: Right Shoe
  4. Alex opens Side: Right Shoe + Blair opens Side: Left Shoe

We say that when Alex and Blair open their boxes the same way, the results are always anti-correlated. The important aspect is that they are fully correlated. It just so happens that, in this case, the correlation is anti-wise.

If they open their box not the same way there are eight possible outcomes:

  1. Alex opens Top: Left Glove + Blair opens Side: Left Shoe
  2. Alex opens Top: Left Glove + Blair opens Side: Right Shoe
  3. Alex opens Top: Right Glove + Blair opens Side: Left Shoe
  4. Alex opens Top: Right Glove + Blair opens Side: Right Shoe
  5. Alex opens Side: Left Shoe + Blair opens Top: Left Glove
  6. Alex opens Side: Left Shoe + Blair opens Top: Right Glove
  7. Alex opens Side: Right Shoe + Blair opens Top: Left Glove
  8. Alex opens Side: Right Shoe + Blair opens Top: Right Glove

Here we say that when Alex and Blair don’t open their boxes the same way, the results are not correlated at all. In the first case there is 100% correlation, in this case there is 0% correlation.

This, in a nutshell, is a Bell’s test, but as described so far it can be fully explained classically. Clearly the boxes can be prepared in such a way to account for any result Alex and Blair get. We need to add a weird wrinkle to bring out the quantum nature of entangled pairs.

Unfortunately, this analogy doesn’t lend itself to what’s needed.


What’s needed is a magic dial on the box that sets the opening from 100% glove  (and 0% shoe) to 100% shoe (and 0% glove) or any setting between (say 90% glove and 10% shoe).

There’s a 100% of getting something, so the two probabilities have to sum to 100%. But anything from 100/0 through 50/50 to 0/100 is allowed within that constraint.

If the dial is set, say, to 75% glove (and 25% shoe), then when Alex or Blair open their box, there is a 75% chance of getting a glove (and a 25% chance of a shoe).

When Alex and Blair open their boxes the constraints involving matching pairs applies. If both get shoes, those shoes must match (one left, one right). Likewise if both get gloves. Who gets a left or right, as always, is random, but matching pairs are always (anti-)correlated.


Classically, one might assume a linear probability distribution. But quantum probability follows a cosine-squared distribution. At the 100/0, 50/50, and 0/100, settings, classical and quantum behavior happens to match, but at other settings they don’t.

What the analysis of results seems to prove is that entangled states are not separable. The wavefunction describes a single system that acts in a singular manner no matter how far apart its components are.

But the glove and shoe box isn’t any more helpful in illustrating this than any other analogy I’ve seen. It really all does boil down to experimental results and some rather heavy math.

§ §


Stay gloved, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

35 responses to “BB #75: Gloves and Shoes

  • Wyrd Smythe

    A little “soft shoe” for a Friday. 😀

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “That’s the whole problem with the quantum world, really. It’s nothing like… anything we know from experience.”

    This may not necessarily the case. The entire notion of “superposition” is derived from our own experience. As a system, the mind is able to hold all possible outcomes in a superposition until an intellectual measurement is made. So the compelling question really becomes: Does the quantum world really hold all possibilities in a superposition until a measurement of some kind is made or did we just make it up. The entire notion of “superposition” in the quantum world may just be a projection of our own experience or, maybe not. 🤔

    I mean after all, the entire notion of idealism is nothing more than a projection of our own experience onto the fundamental reality. It’s a head scratcher that’s for sure…….

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Yeah, the older I get the more poignant is that old saw about the more I learn the less I understand. Reality is, I think, too big to fit inside anyone’s head. (Kant’s idealism, sure, but most forms of idealism seem Ptolemaic to me, and I don’t think we’re that special. Even Kant’s puts us at the center of our own reality.)

      I think we’ve touched on the notion of mind as a superposition of myriad thoughts. I’ve long wondered if, exactly as you say, some kind of intellectual measurement selects from that superposition. Could that be what (genuine) free will is — the ability of consciousness to “collapse” the wavefunction of the mind? Is being “of two minds” about something more literal than we imagine?

      Very speculative, and no evidence (so far) the mind is a quantum system or needs quantum effects to function, but since we don’t really know how the mind functions,… who knows. Maybe?

      I do count quantum superposition among the mysteries, though, along with interference, entanglement, and decoherence. Those seem to set the quantum world off from the classical one.

      What my mind keeps scratching at is that there seem to be two kinds of superposition, which I’ll call classical and quantum. Our personal experience is of the former. The latter is… weird.

      The wavy surface of a lake, or the sound of a guitar, is a classical superposition of contributing sine waves. Fourier 101. But the water, or the soundwave, is a single medium where any given point has a single energy level that sums those contributing waves.

      In quantum superposition, however, there is more a sense of distinct objects somehow intersecting with each other. Photon polarization, for instance, is somehow a blend of the photon “spinning” two opposing directions at once. Some interesting experiments with nano-objects seem to demonstrate a physical object in two physical states (a nano-beam that is both vibrating and not vibrating).

      [sigh] One can certainly see the seductive attraction of idealism.

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        “One can certainly see the seductive attraction of idealism.’

        I’ve spent quite a bit of personal capital studying idealism and interacting with idealists on their blog sites. I did it because I really want to see what they see. So in that sense, I do see what they see. But at the end of an intense dialectic, a few individuals will concede that idealism is at best a guesstimate. It is one that they are willing to embrace for no other reason then the metaphysical position of materialism’s inability to explain matter, let alone consciousness. They find those two pitfalls very problematic, and understandably so.

        Only a rigid and disciplined metaphysics has the capacity to solve those mysteries. But I think idealism itself is the greatest obstacle to any productive breakthroughs in the disciplines of philosophy or metaphysics. This is because those disciplines have painted themselves into the proverbial corner by believing that a fundamental reality has to be an either or. Even neutral monism falls prey to the same mind trap. Philosophers fails to ask the most important question of all: What if a fundamental reality is neither matter nor mind but some “thing” that is more fundamental, some “thing” that will accommodate both matter and mind?

        I’m convinced of very little, but I do believe that we live in a physical reality and that our experience of consciousness is physical, an experience that corresponds to a physical paradigm, whatever that means. Now that being said, the physical sciences really have no business in consciousness theory because they fail to address the most fundamental question of its own premise: What is matter in and of itself? By addressing that question first and correctly answer it, then the mystery of consciousness will fall like a domino. Because it’s like you said, we are not special.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        (Heh. I’ve been on a similar mission regarding the MWI.) I think you know I’m not terribly sympathetic to philosophical idealism (I’m okay with the social and personal kind within reason), and I pretty much agree with your assessment of it. One problem I see with idealism (and with the MWI) is that it’s a dead end. Assert a bit of magic and call it a day. Nah…

        I dabbled with idealism back in high school. I was struck by things like August Kekulé’s supposed dream about the snake eating its tail, and that solved his problem with the benzene ring. But since no human had ever thought that before, what if it wasn’t true until he thought of it? No other human thought was interfering with that idea, so it became a faint reality. As other minds bought into it, it became more and more solidly a part of the reality we know.

        Under this theory, there really were miracles in ancient times because people believed they could exist and no human thought at the time ruled them out. As we got into science and decided those things were not real,… they weren’t. (I was very taken with Terry Pratchett’s idea that, in his Discworld reality, belief creates reality. The more believe, the stronger that reality. Gods exist on Discworld because people think they do, and the God’s power is directly proportional to how many believe and how strongly they believe. Neat idea for a fantasy series, but…)

        Under this theory the Higgs boson is real… now. 🙂

        I also agree consciousness got some ‘splaining to do, but I find I’m willing to take time, space, and stuff, as axiomatic. We may be able to understand them better, but I think ultimately we just have to accept that that they are fundamental properties of existence. Something has to be axiomatic (it’s not turtles all the way down); for me it’s, likewise, a lawful physical reality that we inhabit.

        Mind may turn out to be equally axiomatic. I think there’s a good chance mind turns out to be entirely physical, but I have enough spiritual leaning to leave a window open for something else to sneak in. (I’m kinda down with Pascal’s Wager, although I long ago gave up the organizations of worldly religion. I’ll find my own path up the mountain, thanks.)

        We’re definitely not special in any idealism sense (and individuals not in any social sense), but a rough approximation of the Drake equation that focuses just on probability gives me pause. Say we grant there are at least five “improbable” events necessary for intelligent life. Stuff like a big moon to create tidal pools for transitioning life from ocean to land or the invading symbiote that became mitochondria and enabled multi-cellular life or needing to be near (but not too near) a supernova that created the heavy elements or any of a number of other necessary factors. Assume each has a 1:10,000 odds. That’s 10^4. Five such events raise the odds to 10^4^5 or 10^20, which is more stars than in the local group.

        So it’s a bit damned unusual and special that we’re having this conversation. There’s likely nothing like it for billions of light years around us. We’re an island.

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        “There’s likely nothing like it for billions of light years around us. We’re an island.”

        That is another mind blower, actually……😎

        “Something has to be axiomatic… for me it’s, likewise, a lawful physical reality that we inhabit.”

        I agree. And for me, I also used make a correlation of a lawful physical reality so, I do see what you see. However, within the last say four or five years I’ve since changed my mind on that model.

        I see Reality as a strict monism which consists of only one thing or one kind of stuff. And if that is the case, there is no need for this thing called law to establish a lawful order of “different” things that are competing against each other. This entire notion of competition and the need for law to establish “order” is also a projection of our own experience onto a fundamental reality.

        As far as I can tell, all of the dynamic relationships we observe in the natural world are iterations of the same thing engaged in a relationship with itself. In other words, the cause is the same thing as the effect; on and on it goes, over and over again, cause and effect being the same thing or the same kind of stuff; all of which results in a continuum of motion and form.

        Now clearly, I’m utilizing a vague vocabulary without any specificity but it is germane nevertheless. In fact, much of the vocabulary of our western religious traditions are also valid even though they may not be reliable. I’m not willing to discard any religious tradition east or west just because it is not reliable. It’s like the miners always say: “If you are looking for gold, gold is where you find it.”

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with!” 😉

        FWIW, I view it as unscientific to not be open-minded about anything that hasn’t been ruled out. I deeply believe (and my experience has never denied this) there is a Yin-Yang aspect to life, the “scientific” and something more ineffable that’s hard to name (because it has so many partial names). We humans haven’t really grasped either side yet. We don’t have answers to fundamental science questions any more than answers to fundamental metaphysical and spiritual ones.

        I’m reading Lee Smolin’s Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (2001, so a bit outdated). In it he’s promoting Loop Quantum Gravity, which is a monism as far as “stuff” goes. I’m not halfway through yet, but I believe he does also take time as axiomatic (although he has a more recent book about time). And there are laws that describe how his stuff interacts. OTOH, space emerges from how the stuff behaves.

        Which leads me to questions. Do time and space emerge from your monism? Without laws, what defines how stuff interacts to produce things?

        Smolin is, in this book, presenting the notion that everything consists of relationship, that’s the underlying stuff, just relationships (he cites Leibniz). I’m not a big fan of relational theories. To me a relationship requires two things to be a relationship between. But LQG is a theory about pure relationships (plus time and laws).

        P.S. I don’t know if you noticed this belated reply to a previous conversation.

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        “Do time and space emerge from your monism?”

        Absolutely, emergence is a good way of articulating it. It’s kind of like the idealists like frame it: a reality of forms emerge from a reality of formless-ness. But their rendition is an empty mind that is formless until it thinks a thought, a thought which then becomes the form. it’s a really good spin actually….

        Furthermore, I am with you all the way on your first paragraph as well. The vocabulary is the tough part.

        “Without laws, what defines how stuff interacts to produce things?”

        What we refer to as laws are descriptions of regularities that we observe, regularities that allow us to make predictions. That is, unless one wants to invoke the gods and their laws😳

        At a fundamental level, I think the underlying cause of motion resulting in form reduces to pure relationships. But like you said, relationship requires two things and I am in agreement with that assessment. But that doesn’t mean those two things have to be divided and separate, they could be coextensive as one. And as one, motion resulting in form would be a process of the iteration of those two things interacting with each other.

        The Father and the Son metaphor come to my mind as an attempt to show that even though there may be two, they are coextensive as one. Seriously though, I do think there is something profound in that seemingly mysterious and often ridiculed metaphor, and that something if it is correctly understood could be implemented in a purely secular vocabulary used by the physical sciences.

        I just read your belated response on Pirsig. Yeah, I spent a fair amount of personal capital trying to see what Pirsig saw, and because I did actually see what he saw, he goes on my short list of geniuses.

        Keep mind tripping Wyrd…..

      • Wyrd Smythe

        After reading more of the Smolin book, he makes a pretty good case for how space can emerge, and despite my own misgivings (e.g. why does 3D space emerge?), I can see his argument.

        Perhaps it’s my own limitation, but I cannot seem to wrap my head around the idea of emergent time. How? From what? Everyone who talks about emergent time can’t help but use time-based terminology. Change is essentially defined as first this then that. (I’m reminded of those determinists who deny free will, yet their narrative is peppered with words such as “choose” and “pick” and “select” — which suggests an incoherent view to me.)

        OTOH, Kant thought time was our most primal intuition, so maybe I’m just stuck in my intuition. (Or maybe that universal intuition is based on an apprehension of the truth. That’s the horse I’ve bet on.)

        “What we refer to as laws are descriptions of regularities that we observe, regularities that allow us to make predictions.”

        Absolutely. What intrigues me is why those regularities exist. They are so regular that we’ve formed a fundamental basic science principle: isotropy — shit is the same everywhere. The half-life of U238 is the same across the universe as it is here.

        They’re so regular that, as you say, we call them “laws” — implying they can’t be broken. (Which is weird because many of us break laws all the time. Speed “limit” my ass…)

        One that fascinates me is that, despite the power and ubiquity of entropy, there is something in the universe that allows some basic stuff plus simple rules plus time to evolve incredibly complex structures (exhibit A: humans). There is a “law” of self-organization. (Wanna talk about mind blowing, the Mandelbrot or Conway’s game of Life are two visually stunning examples of this that blow my mind. I damn near see God in the Mandelbrot.)

        “But that doesn’t mean those two things have to be divided and separate, they could be coextensive as one.”

        Agree. (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! The original power trio.)

        I’ve used the notion of “love-hate” relationships, which occur in the same mind regarding the same subject. As you said, we’re no stranger to the notion of superposition.

        I’ve long pondered the idea that every civilization on Earth throughout time has had some form of god, some form of metaphysics. No culture ever thought this physical stuff was all there was. To me that suggests either [A] the human mind is wired to create god (which is what atheists believe) or [B] humanity is apprehending something real. We cast god in our image, and we all cast god differently according to our context, but is it possible we’re seeing a piece of something real? I believe so. I have no idea what it really is, but all of creation seems kind of a waste if there isn’t something a bit deeper to it.

        Science right now may be stuck in something analogous to how Timothy Leary put such a stink on things that serious research into hallucinogens was essentially killed for decades. Recently that stink has lifted, and we’re beginning to see that such gifts from nature can vastly improve people’s lives. Michael Pollan, whose work I’ve enjoyed, has a book out about it that I’ve got queued.

        Anyway, science may be mired in scientism right now and thus disdainful of the Yang of life.

        “…my short list of geniuses.”

        Heh. I’ve been not just a geek but an über-geek kinda literally all my life, and my interests have always been eclectic. After so many decades, my list of geniuses has gotten long! A few I had the pleasure of knowing personally. These people do shape us!

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        Yeah, I think the one dynamic that locks us in intellectually is this thing we call apprehension. To apprehend is to capture something, like in apprehending a criminal. This dynamic of capturing holds true with concepts as well because to apprehend a concept is to supposedly understand it. A fundamental reality is too elusive to be apprehended. The annuals of history have demonstrated that brute fact.

        On the other hand, to comprehend a concept is to become one with that concept, and that “one-ness” is an a posteriori experience. Comprehension begins with an a priori intuition which is basically a prehension of “I know not what, only that it is of a high or low value”. Every helpless infant child that is born into this world goes through this process. Once that a priori intuition works its way through the internalization process of the mind, this prehension of “I know not what” is integrated and becomes “complete”. Comprehension is accomplished and the a priori intuition now becomes an a posteriori experience.

        I liken a prehension to a computer download. But that download has to be installed into our minds in order to be complete. Sometimes the install takes time and sometimes it does not install because we do have the freedom to resist that install as well.

        I’ve enjoyed our discourse Wyrd, you’ve got some really good intellectual instincts…… Thanks for your time and thoughts

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It’s been a good discussion; I’ve enjoyed it, too.

        “On the other hand, to comprehend a concept is to become one with that concept,…”

        Agreed, and folks do apprehend criminals (or try to). When I use it with regard to the ineffable I mean it in the older sense, as in ‘we apprehend, but do not comprehend’ God. (Or Shakespeare. (Or Kant.)) As you say, comprehension is a much stronger concept.

        Interesting to cast prehension as a precursor to comprehension. I’d always thought of prehension as a physical thing — grasping with the hands (as in prehensile) — but there is a related root in the two. I can see what you mean. A metaphor I stumbled over long ago is that ‘the mind is like your front door — you can’t control who knocks, but you can control who you let in.’ (Kinda like the old myth about vampires needing to be invited in.)

        “A fundamental reality is too elusive to be apprehended.”

        Absolutely. As I use the words I would put it that fundamental reality, although we apprehend much of it, is too elusive to be comprehended. (Same as people say about God for the same reason.) For me apprehension is more akin to intuition; we’re in sync on comprehension.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    I think for an analogy or metaphor to be useful, its meaning has to be quickly apparent to the audience with a minimum amount of effort. The problem with Bell’s theorem is that every analogy I’ve seen takes as much work to parse as a high level description in terms of particles, spin, and measurement. At least with the high level physics description, the reader is closer to understanding the real thing. (Or perhaps more accurately, is closer to understanding the same metaphors scientists are themselves using to talk about it.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I agree very much on both counts. A metaphor has to be as comfortable as your favorite old shoes. There should be an immediate sense of, “Oh, I see what you mean!” And, as you say, every Bell’s analogy is as hard to parse as the physics is.

      Well, almost, anyway. 😀

      Entanglement is so far outside our experience and intuition that many serious people still don’t accept it. As I just said to Lee, it’s one of the key quantum mysteries in my mind.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “There is a “law” of self-organization.”

    This is a very good point and it reminds me of another quote from Pirsig:

    “All of life, (the evolution process) is the natural migration from static patterns of quality to dynamic quality… Without static quality an organism (or system) cannot last…. And without dynamic quality, it cannot (evolve, self-organize) or grow. Everything in the world is an ethical activity, not just man’s actions. This binds science and ethics…”

    There you have it, another articulation of the Yin and the Yang……. Have a good one

    • Wyrd Smythe

      There you have it. The evolution is circular, which also involves Yin-Yang. The static properties evolved into dynamic ones that allow more complex static ones which allows more complex dynamic ones, and so on. That contra-entropic law of self-organization; the original giants, shoulders of, standing on.

      “Everything in the world is an ethical activity, not just man’s actions.”

      How so? Aren’t ethics unique to intelligence?

  • paultorek

    I really like the glove-and-shoe analogy. Sure it’s “only” about the classical side, but it does help focus the weirdness.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “How so? Aren’t ethics unique to intelligence?”

    Technically speaking you are correct. But I think his assessment is an overall global one viewed from a macro-perspective, where dynamism (or quality) itself is the overall objective as well as the driving force. So in that context, I can see why he would call the entire process of dynamism an ethical activity.

    Pirsig did put together a framework for morals and ethics based upon his metaphysics of quality in his second book Lila. It was a good model, one that garnered him much praise and equally much criticism; but in the end his model does not stand up to scrutiny of analysis.

    Another area of contention for his critics was his fierce condemnation of subject/object metaphysics (SOM). He vehemently despised SOM but was unable to come up with a suitable model that could be used to supersede SOM.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Ah, that, perhaps, is the seed of your campaign against subject-object models. As I believe we’ve discussed in the past, I don’t share the issues with SOM (seeing it just as one context) nor see relationship-appearance models as ignored in science. Theorists, in my experience, are pretty good at exploring the conceptual space, most of them very much hoping to find a unique angle.

      (That Smolin book I mentioned; he’s promoting an exclusively relational model of reality. A key point he makes early is that any cosmology can’t be about the universe from the outside — there is no outside; by definition the universe is everything — so our cosmology has to include that we’re inside it.)

      The thing about the SOM is that it’s very effective, and it is hard to find alternative views that are equally so. In the philosophy of science there is a lot of discussion about the role of the observer. As you no doubt know, in quantum mechanics, it became a bone of contention. Still is for many.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      (That said, science does go down some, to me, inexplicable paths. I’ve written a lot here about what a blind alley I think the MWI is. Reading that Smolin book, I find myself questioning the largely accepted notion of the holographic theory that a volume of space cannot contain more information than the surface of that space. It’s a rather counterintuitive notion that I never really thought about until Smolin talked about it in detail. Now I’m thinking about it and… I’m not sure I buy it.)

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        “Ah, that, perhaps, is the seed of your campaign against subject-object models.”

        Actually, even though I could see Pirsig’s argument against SOM, I didn’t get the implications of it for a really, really long time. At it’s core, SOM accurately and efficiently reflects how we rationalize as a system. There are several ways to characterized it but essentially SOM is a solipsistic paradigm that does not perceive reality as a united whole. And that’s OK if all we are only interested in are the “objects” that we can weigh, measure, test or otherwise place in a Haldron collider to be observed and analyzed. But we also know that there is much, much more to Reality then “objects.” So the question becomes: how do we deal with that “much, much more?”

        As an intellectual paradigm, I liken SOM to a carpet that is too big for a room (the room being Reality). No matter how many times philosophers try to make that carpet fit tightly and smoothly, that wrinkle pops up somewhere else. Needless to say, a great effort is made to fix that irregularity in the carpet. But no matter how many times we try, and no matter how many people attempt to make that carpet fit, that wrinkle just keeps popping up somewhere else.

        The problem is not the effort of an entourage of philosophers working on the problem through the millennia, the problem is that the carpet is metaphorically just too damn big for the room. Philosophers have to replace the carpet with one that is the correct size. Buy here’s the problem, the SOM paradigm is too close to us, so close that it mirrors how we rationalize and that rationalization is our the blind spot; and that blindspot becomes our achilles heel as a species.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’m not sure I’m keeping up here. I have questions. Firstly, what domain are we talking about? Science? All science? Religion? Art? Society as a whole? Is SOM a problem throughout all human activity or is it restricted to some domain? Some concrete examples would be helpful, because I can’t match the assertions to my experience.

        For instance, I would have said science works hard to avoid solipsism. One of its fundamental tenets is that we’re absolutely not the center of anything (except our own minds). Indeed, until one decides against idealism, it’s hard to do any science at all.

        I’m puzzled by the carpet metaphor. If SOM isn’t adequate for the “much, much more” of reality, why is the carpet too big? I got the impression you were saying it was too small? We seem to agree the carpet covers the space of objects just fine, and that’s really all science is, the study of objects, so I’m not too clear about the issue here.

        The question, perhaps, is whether science is seen as the totality. Scientism, which I see as all Yin with no Yang. Spirituality, art, even philosophy, deal with aspects of reality science just nibbles the edges of. Rightly so, I’d say. SOM seems appropriate and effective for science, but the Yang side explores a greater range of human experience.

        Bottom line, I guess I don’t understand the issue nor what exactly should be changed. A “for instance” would be very helpful.

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        Example: First and foremost, the SOM paradigm “dictates” that a fundamental Reality can “only” be one of two things, either a fundamental Reality is matter or it is mind.

        That’s problem number one and its a big one however, most individuals I’ve engaged with online do not find having to choose between one of these two alternatives problematic because they are already in the idealist or materialist camp and the SOM paradigm only reinforces their own confirmational biases.

        This is where the conversation about SOM usually ends…….😎

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Oh, you don’t get off that easily, Amigo. The sign on the wall reads “Stand and Deliver!” 😉

        We’re talking here about the principle of the excluded middle. If you want to blame SOM, okay. To me it’s just an axiom of logic and philosophy. Under the axiom, propositions are either true or false, never both, never neither. If something is not true it is necessarily false, and vice versa. (Courts don’t follow the PotEM; a judgement of not guilty does not insist on a verdict of innocent!)

        In logic and philosophy we take it as axiomatic because it leads to useful proofs. Since those proofs seem to map to reality, we’re inclined to accept the axiom as reasonable. (But it is understood to be an axiom, not a truth.)

        In general it maps to our experience; things are or aren’t. Yin-Yang speaks both to the is-isn’t and to the notion neither pole is pure. You can’t actually stand on the North Pole. All the points of your foot are ever so slightly south of it. Quantum physics has the notion of superposition. So do religions; we touched on Father-Son-Holy Ghost. There are views that see reality as both external and yet subject to mind.

        I guess I’m saying I’m not sure the issue is as profound as you seem to. Certainly we have an implicit bias favoring the PotEM. If you had a magic wand, what would you change?

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    I see that I screwed up my previous metaphor….. it should read: “Reality is the carpet and it is too big for the room,” (the room being SOM.)

    If I, or anyone else were to posit a fundamental reality that does not conform to being either a mind or matter, that proposition would be rejected by everyone on the grounds that it does not conform to the SOM paradigm. Therefore, any proposition that is not a mind of some kind or matter of some kind is made intellectually illegal by SOM. The SOM model is an intellectually constructed, self-imposed prison system.

    So in conclusion: if I were the Pied Piper, I’d encourage the citizen’s of this walled city to at least be willing to climb to the top of that protective bulwark and take a peak at what’s on the other side of that wall, even if what they saw would frighten them.

    I used to play clarinet but the Pied Piper played the flute didn’t he? Have a good one my friend, as always it’s been fun…..

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Ah, yes, reality as an over-large carpet makes more sense. 🙂

      It sounds like you need to talk to more open-minded people, Lee. What I keep saying is that, at least in my experience, a lot of folks are outside those walls. I agree plenty are limited in their thinking, but that’s humanity for you. Most people just play it as it lays without thinking too much about it.

      If you “posit a fundamental reality that does not conform to being either a mind or matter” my only response is, “Okay, what do you think it is then?”

      Might I suggest that treating the SOM like it creates thought zombies is unproductive and not true? Theoretical physicists come up with some seriously wild ideas. Toss in science fiction and the spiritual, and humans cover a wide spectrum of ideas. Hell, add musicians and poets. I don’t believe there are places human thought fears to tread. Some humans, sure, but never underestimate monkey curiosity!

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        “Okay, what do you think it is then?”

        No thanks……. I’ve played this game before. As soon as I choose a word, any word, that word immediately becomes subordinate to the SOM paradigm: “Is such and such an objective state of the world, something that we discover? Or is such and such a subjective state of mind?”

        For the record: the one word in our common vocabulary that defies being pigeon holed by this non-sensical academic bantering is the word value. In fact, there is an entire field of philosophy dedicated to answering that infamous question, and that field of philosophy is called axiology. Axiology explores that fundamental question and after an arduous, endless inquiry the answer to the original academic question is…… “INCONCLUSIVE”.

        But wait……. J.L. McIntyre jumps in and saves the day by declaring in “Value Feelings and Judgements of Value”, where he forcefully expounds that:

        “Value is never the character or quality of an object, but always a relation between an object and a subject.”

        See how this game works? But here’s the fundamental problem. In Reality, there are no such things as subjects and objects, just the things we do not understand, and because we do not understand them we label them subject and objects. Then we get busy building an intellectual model that in the end suppresses knowledge.😥

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’m willing to play your game; I just wanna know the rules. I’ll follow until eight-lumps time.

        What I have so far is: Reality is neither external-objective nor internal-subjective. Value also is neither external-objective nor internal-subjective (of course because, I assume, value is part of reality). There seems an undropped shoe. These assertions are deconstructive. The board is wiped clean; the class waits with baited breath (because they had sardines for lunch).

        Is there a construction? What is value to you and how does it relate to reality?

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        You’ve got a good sense of humor Wyrd. That’s one attribute that I really enjoy when engaging with people. Although I will say that humor has gotten me into trouble more often than not😥.

        I now visualize myself in front of the white grease board with a colored maker in my hand with the smell of sardines lingering in the air as I write down the equation: (R=V) or otherwise stated; Reality “is” Value or, Value is “the” Reality.

        Therefore, Reality is both external-objective and internal-objective and likewise, Value is also both external-objective and internal-objective. And according to Reality/Appearance Metaphysics, Value is both the Reality (formless-ness) and the Appearance (form).

        The trouble with this type of vocabulary is that it’s too abstract. Abstract concepts are hard to convey so I’m constantly working on a vocabulary that can provide specificity. And engaging with folks like yourself helps me to refine that vocabulary, so thanks for your patience. Here’s a brief example of one attempt at specificity (as lame as it might turn out to be):

        I see value as a universal constant that does not change. This universal constant is experienced directly by every physical system. For us, that experience is consciousness which is a localized field of “sentient” experiences that are conceptual representations of value. Whereas for those systems that cannot be classified as a mind, those system’s experiences are valances which are a localized field of “sentient” experiences that are non-conceptual representations of the same value, such as the localized field of positive (-) or negative (-) charges of electro-magnetism, the localized field of the nuclear forces both strong and weak as well as the localized field of this thing we call gravity.

        This explication all reduces back to some form of relational mechanics be it quantum or classical. Continuing on: if we add to the mix the notion of “sentience” being both universal and ubiquitous, we are no longer hamstrung to come up with another schema such as the notion of “law” to explain motion which results in form. Because metaphorically speaking, a first person sentience experience be it non-conceptual or conceptual is a direct experience of value. Therefore, value is the impetus that drives motion resulting in form and likewise, value is the direct experience of the system.

        If I had to come up with a definition of value, and I am reluctant to do so. But the closest thing I’ve come up with so far is that “value is ‘indeterminate’ intensity that tends, and that tendency is towards motion resulting in form.” That definition is based upon observation……

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I once made a list of the ten most important things in life to me. Laughter was #1. 😀 And I’ve always loved the Niels Bohr quote, “Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them.” But, yeah, some people have an impaired sense of humor. Gets me in trouble, too.

        I think the vocabulary is not too abstract, but too vague. This seems a work in progress. An idea not yet a theory.

        I do have questions about what you described:

        If R=V, and V is universal and unchanging, where do the physical systems that experience it come from? How does an ontology based on R=V derive space, time, matter, or energy? What sense can we make of notions such as object persistence and age? Kant felt (and I agree) that time and space were our most fundamental intuitions. What accounts for those?

        Your description of fields reminds me somewhat of some descriptions of micro-panpsychism. Everything from particles on up experiences something akin to sentience, or at least valence of some kind. But that would place Value as an external field — a type of matter.

        The thing about (physical) “laws” is, as we discussed before, we derive them from observation, and they are just regularities we observe and codify into law. But they are observationally so regular that a central tenet of physics is the isotropy of physical law. Trying to explain that iron-clad consistency is a (deal-breaking, in my mind) challenge for any Idealist theory. To the extent your idea involves mutable law, or discounts law, it also needs to account the consistency of those patterns.

        It seems quite a challenge to create an ontology based on what seems a derived, complex, and relative, notion (Value). The thing about any metaphysical theory is that it needs to recover our common experience. MWI, for example, needs to explain why we don’t experience those other worlds (and a lot else). I can see that something as radical as a Value-based ontology has a lot of work ahead of it.

        But then we old farts need our hobbies!! 🙂

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        It is laughable sometimes what us old farts find for hobbies. But hey, it keeps your mind sharp….

        “If R=V, and V is universal and unchanging, where do the physical systems that experience it come from? How does an ontology based on R=V derive space, time, matter, or energy?”

        All good questions: The fundamental premise is based upon an ontology of emergence where all of the physical properties you would describe and more would emerge from a singularity, a singularity that contains all of the possibilities that could ever exist and more, in other words; a singularity that is “the all in all of everything”. This singularity would be Kant’s “thing-in-itself”. And curiously enough, “the all in all of everything” is literally what the Hebrew word YHWH actually means. There’s the Yang again, another gold nugget. 😎

        Our current model of physics posits black holes (a singularity) as a phenomenon created by the weight of dense matter warping the fabric of space resulting in a black hole. My model has it the other way around where matter itself actually emerges from that singularity.

        Here’s a thought: what if what we observe as black holes are actually responsible for the emergence of matter and an absolutely essential dynamic for forming our universe. Neil degrasse Tyson kicked that idea around himself once, positing that black holes might actually be essential in forming our universe and not a phenomenon of dense matter warping the fabric of space.

        If this notion of emergence from a singularity is correct, one would expect to find a black hole at the center of every physical system that has mass, from the smallest of elementary particles moving up in complexity and density to the largest of galaxies. The larger the mass of a given system, the larger the black hole at the center of that system holding it all together. I think it is there and there should be a way to test this theory. I also have a hunch that those black holes are actually the “cause” of gravity. The greater the mass, the larger the black hole, the greater the localized field of what we know as gravity.

        This is all something I play around with in my spare time. It’s stimulating and fun, but one should not take it too seriously… Plus, I don’t blab about this around family members and friends, don’t want them to call for an “intervention”. I personally know a few older people who get obsessed with shit to the point you don’t even want to talk to them. I don’t want to be one of “those people”.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Heh, tell me about hobbies. I’ve been trying to analyze the geometry of a torus as comic relief from trying to figure out what’s really happening to that train. Fortunately I’ve always been like this, so no one raises an eyebrow. They do sometimes flock in numbers elsewhere. What you can do is tell folks you’re a science fiction writer doing research! Or just come out and cope to being a thinker.

        Your description of emerging from a singularity sounds similar to the common view of the Big Bang. Everything started as a singularity of infinite density and energy, and then unfolded into the universe we see today. There is also some similarity to the idea Lee Smolin floated in his first book that black holes give birth to new universes (within them). There’s a natural selection force at work; universes with more black holes spawn more universes. Each universe can have slightly different laws, and the trend will be towards universes friendly to black hole formation.

        As it happens, universes friendly to black hole formation are also friendly to intelligent life formation. (It has to do with carbon fusion in stars and gravity and etc. If interested, the book is The Life of the Cosmos (1997).)

        We seem to have shifted from Value to spacetime singularities. Which by the way come from Einstein’s General Relativity — they are a consequence of how spacetime curves in the presence of mass/energy. People checking out GR noticed they would happen. (Anyway, “This is all a long way from R=V,” he noticed.🤔🤓)

        Your notion of singularities everywhere will need to account for why we haven’t noticed them. The thing is, black holes are loud. We observe them from millions of light years away. The big ones powering quasars are some of the most distant and oldest objects we know about, and it’s only because they are so astonishingly loud that we see them. Active black holes in some galaxies outshine the rest of the stars in that galaxy.

        If the Earth’s gravity were concentrated in a singularity at the center, we wouldn’t feel much gravity. Gravity falls off with the inverse-square of distance just like light, the Earth’s radius is 4,000 miles, so the gravity we’d feel from the center is the same as we’d feel 4000 miles up. Our instruments are very sensitive to gravity gradients, and they tell us the Earth’s gravity is distributed throughout its bulk. There is also that gravity not only goes up near big mountains, but actually slants towards them.

        Bottom line, a Tootsie-pop theory starring center singularities has some accounts to balance. 😀

        One thing has always puzzled me. Why didn’t the Big Bang immediately collapse into a black hole? Given the density, it should have, a whole universe in a tiny place. What allowed it to expand so the universe could emerge?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        (And, yeah, I do a lot of this explicitly as mental exercise. As someone who perceives that most of his value lies in his intellect, a failing mind is one of my greater fears.)

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    Yeah, the a priori intuitions of a metaphysics of value is a long way from the a posteriori intuitions of physics. It reminds of the lyrics from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: “If you can’t be with the one you love honey, love the ones you’re with.”

    An a priori metaphysics of value is the one I love, but I also refuse to settle for the a posteriori knowledge of what I’m with. To answer Kant’s compelling question: There is knowledge outside of experience and that knowledge “is” value.

    Don’t you just love the power of rhetoric? It is so much more emotionally moving than dull and boring dialectic. The appeal of rhetoric is 100% pure unadulterated sentience.

    Keep having fun my friend…..

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