Saturday, February 13, 2016

The meaning of 'proof': Answer to the quiz posted on January 25.

On January 25, I asked: What is the definition of ‘proof’? as this word is commonly used in mathematics.

My understanding of the meaning of ‘proof’

A friend of mine says that he knows a proof when he sees one. But ‘proof’, as this word is commonly used in mathematics, has no concrete definition. ‘ Proof ’ is an appeal to authority, an appeal to the judgment and instincts of other mathematicians.

Wikipedia has a page on mathematical proof which I believe supports my definition.

Why is this Relevant to the Resource Patterns Model of Life?

I will soon draft the chapter on Philosophy of the Critters, as this is the next chapter I will take up in the book outline. That chapter will suggest a meaning for ‘truth’ because such a concept may be needed in the thinking of critters.

To give a preview, recall the calculating capacity of critters in the initial condition. In this original form critters certainly have no concept of truth. In fact they have no concepts at all, in the sense of consciousness of a sensation or proposition.

But as we work with RPM we will give more powers to our critters, trying to learn for ourselves what capacities will enable the critters to handle ever more human-like problem situations. At one stage we will give critters ability to signal one another, a signal offering a mutually beneficial trade. But when we also give critters ability to overpower and eat one another, which is a natural-enough development, then a signal offering trade might be bait. As such, the critters’ minds will need a way to judge the trustworthiness of a proposal. When such a judgment of trustworthiness becomes so certain as to always be accepted, then a critter needs a concept like ‘truth’.

And a situation like that is probably where humans, in our history of development, first needed a level of confidence called ‘truth’. If I am correct, our idea of truth does not originate in the satisfying simplicities of logic. Logic would prove useful, in fact, only later in higher levels of development. ‘Truth’ originated in the demand to judge a sensation, idea, or proposition. 'Truth' originated in decision-making for survival, I argue.

We started out above on the subject of ‘proof’, not ‘truth’ into which I have digressed. But I hope the reader of this post will see kinship between the two meanings and thereby see how the preceding discussion of truth relates: Mathematicians need a word to signify their unquestioning confidence in a proposition. ‘Proof’ satisfies this need.