Mountain Math Software
home consulting videos book QM FAQ contact

PDF version of this poster presentation
next up previous
Next: External and internal reality Up: expth Previous: The essence of experience

Structure and essence

The distinction between structure and essence is unnatural. In normal discourse we take the merger of structure and essence as given. It is how we visualize the world and how we think. The problem is that the essence we attribute to external objects is from our own experience. A soft touch, sharp slap, beautiful sunset or ugly wound, are things created in us when we have particular experiences.

We are not perceiving external reality as it truly is nor are we dimly perceiving some ideal platonic reality. We are creating the world in our conscious experience. There is a causally connected external structure that exists as its own immediate experience. But the perception of color is for more a construction of our sensory and nervous system than it is an effect from light of a particular frequency.

The distinction between structure and essence is important because science and analysis only applies to structure and never to essence. We can use our understanding of the structure of vision to explain optical illusions. But we can never explain the experience of the color red. Structure can be analyzed and broken down into components. The essence of our immediate experience is an indivisible gestalt.

That science and mathematics deal only with structure is a conceptual leap. I reached this conclusion as an undergraduate. Computers were a comparative novelty in the late 60's and I was able to work with one of these extraordinary machines. I could program it to do complex tasks using simple instructions. The low level or ``assembly language'' for computers contains instructions like move the value stored in one place to a different place or add the values stored at two locations together and put the result in a third place. The computer itself was constructed from simple operations. You could build all the logic that controlled the computer from three circuits: AND, OR and NOT. Every logic circuit in any computer no matter how complex can be built out of these three simple circuits.

I was struck by how much complexity could be constructed from such simple building blocks. My interest and wonder was further aroused by the idea of a Universal Turing Machine. This is a very simple computer that could simulate any program that any computer or other mechanistic process could ever possibly do.

I started to realize how everything at least in the world of computers was structure. The AND, OR and NOT circuits were so simple that they had no real content to them. The important thing was how they were put together to form more complex circuits. The programs that controlled these machines were a long sequence of ones and zeros. One did not write programs that way but it was clear how the symbolic names one typed were translated into a sequence of ones and zeros. The computer did this translation just as computers do today.

The sense that everything is structure was expanded when I studied set theory. All of mathematics was constructed with the single primitive entity of the empty set. Everything in computing is structure devoid of essence and the same is true in mathematics.


PDF version of this poster presentation
next up previous
Next: External and internal reality Up: expth Previous: The essence of experience


Mountain Math Software
home consulting videos book QM FAQ contact
Email comments to: webmaster@mtnmath.com