A Portrait of Godel: ‘We are in Plato’s Cave’

This is a painting I have been doing (nearly finished I think) of a wonderful photo of Godel in the library of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The photo took a full page in the Time-Life book Mathematics. The caption quoted Godel: ‘Either mathematics is too big for the human mind, or the human mind is more than a machine’. It adds: ‘He hopes to prove the latter.’ Reading this as a boy and looking at Godel, I was deeply impressed. There seemed to be a very deep mystery here – one that could be investigated by means of powerful logic and deep mental contemplation. Now, almost 50 years later, I can at least portray this deeply contemplative Platonist who believed that it is a mere prejudice of our age that we admit sensory impressions as evidence of a reality, but not logical apprehension of a priori (non-sensory) truths – even though these logical impressions have built mathematical systems we rely on absolutely in the material world, to build bridges skyscrapers and all manner of things – most recently an instrument sensitive enough to detect gravity waves from distant black holes. Mathematical and other a priori intuitions are at least as reliable as sense impressions. And, unlike the evidence of the senses, in the act of perceiving them we recognise that they ‘must be’ – i.e. they are necessary truths, not contingent. They could not NOT be. Ethical intuition is like this too. Another way of saying it is, these truths are transcendental – they transcend time and place and all the vicissitudes of the material world. If this is not evidence of the primacy of ‘mind’ over ‘matter’, of the ‘intelligible order’ over the contingent cosmos, I don’t know what would be. I’m with Godel, and Plato, who in the Republic likened the normal human’s condition to that of a prisoner sitting in a dark cave looking at shadows projected on the wall from various artefacts, thinking the shadows to be reality, when outside there is a sun and real objects, not just shadows on a cave wall. Every now and then a human struggles up and sees this beauty, but if he comes back down to tell his fellows he is not believed, and indeed may seem inferior to the prisoners, because his eyes are no longer used to the gloom. Yet outside the sun shines, and is the source of all the objects that cast the shadows which the prisoners take to be the only reality… We ARE in Plato’s cave! And, therefore, there IS a transcendental order.



A category list for the posts

Ok so I outlined that the posts will be divided by me as I do them into the four phases. But we need a meta category, where posts about the whole site and its structure and the health of its writer/s, can be ‘put’.

Also need an about the writer/s page, maybe

And a ‘list of philosophers’ – and one page just for Godel, and for Peirce.

So it’s getting there. In my ‘spare time’… The whole quest is a subsection of my ambitions when studying philosophy. I wanted to develop a theory of how to build a fractal, evolving theory database; i wanted to build a theory of all process per se; and I wanted to investigate the Transcendental Order, the nature and reality of God, theory of mind, ontology; ie to DO some metaphysics of a Platonist kind (is there really any other?!).