Tuesday, 3 February 2009


It's the t in the equations that dissolves the Platonic Idealist dream. Which is to say, the Platonist finds herself unable to leave it at 'I know that three pints of beer mean I;m no longer safe to drive home', or 'three biscuits is more than I need'; she has to add 'but where is three?' Three must exist, says the Platonist, independent of sandwiches or pints. Now, maybe we agree with this point; but it's a mistake to go on from that to say 'if it exists it must exist somewhere'; because that's what leads to the elaborate fantasy worldbuilding of the Realm of Forms (where? there!) as the location for this existence. Some things exist without location; some things exist but don't exist anywhere. We all know this; since things exist and then cease to exist in a particular place without ceasing to exist: that's how time works. Shakespeare exists, but not in any particular place. (The Platonists know this: not for nothing is the Realm of the Forms supposed to be timeless. Which always made me think: but then what are time-dependent things supposed to be modelled upon?)

1 comment:

peteypiefrogworth said...

Ah yes, well put.

Please pass this on to Neal Stephenson so that maybe he'll un-write bloody Anathem.