May 06, 2005

Godel : A left wing defence of right wing ideas

Many of you would be aware that the two halves of the human brain have two widely different functions. The left half of the brain is used to handle the rational, analytical stuff : mathematics, planning, organization, while the right brain is engaged with emotional and instinctive tasks like arts, music, love and other passionate matters.

Human beings also fall into these broad categories. Some are methodical, rational and people like these end up as scientists and administrators. The other category end up as artists, musicians and finally as mystics.

What characterizes the second group from the first is that the latter are more often interested in the result and not the process of arriving at the result. They know ‘what’ but not quite sure of ‘why’ or ‘how’. Instinctively, they know whether something is good or bad but would not be able to explain why. On the other hand, the former are extremely insistent on reason and proofs. They refuse to accept anything that cannot be proved .. and in particular this group of rationals are extremely uncomfortable with concepts and ideas in the area of religion : mystic insights, realization of God.

In fact starting from Galileo, it is this ‘leftist’ group that has led mankind through the rational path of scientific enquiry and subsequent progress that has resulted in the marvels of modern technology-based society.

In contrast, the ‘right’ wing group does not have too many tangibles to support their case. This philosophy is based on belief and intuition and in most cases there is neither any evidence nor anything repeatable and demonstrable. A most unhappy state of affairs when confronted by the rational brigade of skeptics.

But then like Bibhishan who walked out Ravana’s camp and crossed over to Rama’s army we suddenly have Kurt Godel.

Who is Godel ?

Godel was a Hungarian mathematician whose specialized in one the most interesting parts of mathematics : Symbolic Logic. This is interesting because it is here that we get to see the foundation of the entire edifice of mathematics, science & technology that is built up using rational logical methods.

And what did he do ? He took a stick of dynamite and blew up the edifice. How ? By publishing his famous Theorem of Incompleteness.

The actual theorem is quite complex and I do not have the ability to prove it for you in this space but the result is stupendous. The theorem states that “In any logically consistent set of statements, there will be at least one statement that is true but not provable.” And if you try to fox the system by defining this un-provable statement as an axiom it will immediately generate another statement that has the same property : true but not provable.

But dealing with things that were true but not provable was always the domain of the ‘right’ wing mystics and religious people. And here we have a true blue ‘leftist’ mathematician who uses ‘leftist’ mathematical logic to demolish one of the fundamental pillars of the ‘leftist’ faith.

Godel published his theorem in 1930 and since then we have had an army of ‘leftist’ mathematicians trying to pick holes in this heretical theorem. They have failed and for the first time there could be limits to what is possible through the rational route.

Galileo had challenged the orthodoxy of the Christian church through the rational route but now it seems that the wheel has come a full circle. The orthodoxy of the rational school of thought is now under challenge from Godel and his famous theorem. Perhaps we should finally converge on the fundamental principle of Ramakrishna .. that there could be many ways of reaching the same goal.

If you wish to know more about Godel, go to Google and search. There are hundreds of pages about him and his theorem.


al hakanson 8:43 pm  

implicit in advaita is passivism. could it be that the veda & shankara had a subconscious fear of offending the political authorities of their time. coming from the abrahamic religious tradition id like to see a much more aggressive advaita not in prosyletising so much as in politics

Benjamin 10:37 pm  

Greetings fellow Advaitin! I submit to you the following proposition. Far from being 'unprovable', the fundamental reality of Brahman or Consciousness is irrefutable. We cannot doubt our existence, because the very consciousness that doubts thereby proves its existence! That sounds somewhat Godelian (or perhaps anti-Godelian) to me. :-) Now, what is truly unprovable is the so-called 'external, material world' that 'left-wingers' take for granted.

al hakanson 9:32 pm  

we are conscious we exist. we are also conscious we see things. there is matter but it is based on cit not v.v. does the owner of this blog answer commenters?

al hakanson 10:52 pm  

why do you call people left wingers who believe in matter albeit matter secondary to cit

al hakanson 10:43 pm  

i dont detect any interest in advaita from your posts. in what sense are you interested in it

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