Archive for March, 2009

What is NULL?

March 21, 2009

Recently I was asked by a co-worker to define relational database terms in a glossary. I cheekily wrote of NULL:

What is NULL? It is nothing. But nothing must be something, otherwise it would not have a name. But perhaps nothing is nothing but an empty abstraction of the mind, devoid of any material reality. But this proposition must imply that nothing came from something, namely our minds, which happen to have a material basis, namely our brain. If nothing is a result of something and that causal something has a basis in material reality than ergo nothing has a material basis as well. Ask yourself, is not the nothing of outer space, or the gaps between atomic particles, constitutive of the universe and all of material reality? To be is to be perceived. We see nothing everywhere; it is pervasive amongst the other somethings. NULL is not nothing, but a mere signifier or pointer to another reality in which nothing really does not exist.

My co-worker was amused, as they ought to be. Such philosophical speculation only has value for amusement.



March 15, 2009

The Philosopher’s Zone chats about Providence Lost?

It is well worth a listen, particularly as providence, despite mystical obfuscation, allows us an alternative view of freedom that is not to do with freedom of the will, but with a recognising of what is necessary in nature. This is a good pointer to Spinoza and the Stoics as a source of practical wisdom.

Genevieve Lloyd says:

What philosophy now has to offer us is something more than what I see as the rather narrow agenda of 20th century analytical philosophy. I’ve nothing against it actually, as a style of philosophy, it’s the way I’ve learned philosophy, and I still have a lot of respect for it. But there’s a lot more there that I think can be a resource now, not just for professional philosophers, but for all of us in our ordinary lives. These texts have a lot to offer.

The meaning of a word

March 7, 2009

Wittgenstein and Joe are walking along a quiet road when they see  a railway crossing, about 20 metres away.

They also see a sign and slow down the pace of their walk. The sign says “Achtung.”

Joe cautiously stops and asks, “What does that sign mean?”

Wittgenstein, continuing to walk ahead of Joe, replies “The meaning of that sign is its use in language.” He proceeds to walk onto the crossing when, unexpectedly, a train steams by and cuts Wittgenstein from the face of the earth.

The moral of the story: The meaning of abstract-minded (AKA absent-minded) philosophy is not its use in life. Its only use is for Occam’s Razor.