Monday, April 25, 2005


As I mentioned in my last entry, I'm going to be including a history of some of my own discoveries in logic.

This gives a little more detail as a followup to March's post on Culture. The area of concepts is probably the single most practically important subdivision of knowledge: Nearly all people can converse, but literacy, or the ability to read and write, and its special subdivision numeracy, the ability to understand numbers and to calculate forms the foundation of all other learning.

I have divided this into several areas for convenience in study.

1) Language includes the study of language and linguistics, writing, and specific languages of the world.

2) Literature. I take this in a very broad sense, not only literary works of artistic merit, but nonfiction, scholarly works, and oral tradition.

3) Graphic arts. This includes drawing, painting, photography, and animation. Motion pictures could be grouped here, but I prefer to put them with others of the performing arts in the "Behavior" division of culture.

4) Mathematics. This is usually considered one of the sciences, and is often considered the language of science. However, it has roots in language and writing, so I group it with them.

5) Applied science. This includes bodies of knowledge such measurement and the calendar, accounting, electronics, and engineering. These are largely mathematical.

6) Philosophy. As usually recognized. I have already noted that this has some overlap with religion, but there is a something of a distinction.

Some of these subjects depend more heavily than others on the physical and natural sciences. These don't seem to connect directly with the human body, but psychology is useful, and biographies of linguists, authors, artists, mathematicians, philosophers, and other contributors are very useful. Understanding of their social connections and natural environment may also be useful. Other approaches include the creation of cultural works as an occupation, and the role of games and play. It is also useful to consider the physical books and other artifacts that are associated with cultural works. The role of families, education, economics, government, and religion can only be summarized here. Connections with social changes and movements, particular communities, and the peoples of the world are also important. There is little known with certainty about the prehistory of concepts, but it can be traced with increasing amounts of source material in antiquity, classical and medieval times, and modern history.

Most of these areas of knowledge are major areas in their own right, and I take it for granted that readers of this blog are literate and already have the foundations of this area. More specific suggestions will come with individual areas.

I don't clearly remember when I became interested in logic, but I do remember coming across the fundamentals of symbolic logic in my high-school geometry class. I also remember trying to reconcile algebraic and geometric styles of proof: they were quite different, and I didn't really appreciate how and why. This idea of attempting to reconcile different approaches has a lot to do with my later discoveries.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Direction shift

It's been longer than I wanted since I created my last post here, but I've decided to shift directions a little. For one part, I'm going to start pursuing subjects in a little more depth. For another, as an example, I'm going to start describing the history of my development of one of my favorite topics; 3-valued propositional logic.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Religion is systematically excluded from discussion in many of the American public schools. This means that the best way to learn about it, especially about religious traditions other than the one one was raised with, involves a process of self-education.

For my own purposes, I have divided this into four branches of study:

1) Particular religious traditions. These include the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism); Asiatic religions, Traditional or tribal religions, and Secularism, which includes atheism, agnosticism, secular humanism, and their relatives.

2) Religious organization

3) Religious practice and worship

4) Religious belief

Factual knowledge of nature and its laws tends to support some religious beliefs more than others, but not necessarily a secular point of view. Insight into the human body and psychology can also be applied. Biographies, particularly of religious figures and leaders, can also be infuential. Religious bodies and movements can be examined as social organizations, with demographics, patterns of relationship with nature, and geographic distribution. There are strong connections with areas of culture, including religious literature, and there is some overlap between religion and philosophy. Practices and behavior, and religious artifacts can also be considered. There are connections with families, education, economics, and government. The influence of religion on social structure and change, in different communities, and in different societies is also a useful topic. It is difficult to follow religion from prehistory, given the limitations of the sources, but in antiquity it becomes more possible to follow religion through groups such as the Egyptians and Babylonians. Several of the major religions of the world developed in the classical and medieval period, and can be followed through the modern period to today.

I don't have specific suggestions except to become familiar with your own religious beliefs, or if you claim none, what you do believe.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Social structure and change

One of the difficulties with a self-directed education program is that it's easy to begin with a burst of enthusiasm, but harder to keep it going when there aren't immediate rewards. Then again, there are many other such projects, such as weight loss, housecleaning, and practically anything else that takes longer or costs more than you had anticipated. The costs of a self-education project aren't so much monetary as in the form of time and other opportunities that may need to be sacrificed.

Social structure and change includes a significant part of sociology and anthropology. I have three principal divisions.

1) Social structure. This deals with the group structure of society. It may include, for instance, the distribution of people (urban or clustered, or rural and dispersed). There are social categories such as men, women, children, the elderly, and racial or ethnic groups, and there classes based on economic status. For societies with more than one community, the distribution of communities also belongs to this grouping.

2) Social types. These include categories based on the means of subsistence; for instance, hunting and gathering, horticultural, pastoral, seafaring, agricultural, and industrial societies.

3) Social change. These include things such as generational change, artistic styles, inventions, and the various mechanisms by which innovations are adopted, or fail to be adopted, by a society. I also include changes in society such as migration or settling, industrialization, modernization, and urbanization. Specific social movements, such as temperance, abolitionism, or world commmunism, to pick just a few examples, also belong here.

These are toward the opposite end of the scale of knowledge from the natural sciences, which are not as directly useful as they are in other areas. However, these depend heavily on leaders and prominent figures. These areas depend on and are sometimes hard to separate from social fundamentals such as social psychology, demography, and physical anthropology. Cultural elements such as idealogy and philosophy, customs, and objects are both products and instigators of social change, and the institutions of families, education, economics, government, and religion are all important. History is also useful in exploring the background and consequences of social structure and change.

It's difficult to make a specific assignment in this area, since there are so many possibilities and levels of involvement. Pick your own subject and try to consider it from a social point of view.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Cities and communities.

A self-education program probably isn't going to compete with the NCAA finals or the lastest version of Law and Order or CSI, but I think the world would be a better place if more people took an interest in improving their minds.

There are far too many cities, towns, and communities in the world to make a comprehensive listing, and I have not yet found a source that gives them a significant treatment, although there may be one, or more, buried somewhere in the anthropological literature. The best approach I have been able to find is an indirect one.

Individuals who are connected to a city, by either having lived in one or visited it provide only a sample of what can be learned about it. A city's size or population is only a small step in learning about it, although quite a few facts can be guessed from its size and density of population. Large cities are more complex than small ones, and the complexity goes up faster than the population. The geography of a city site may tell a great deal about it. The buildings, streets, and other structures of a city are generally more enduring than particular individuals, and can be examined using methods of culture. The cultural institutions of a city are usually embodied in such buildings, and the size, prominence, and state of buildings are important indicators of the past or present importance. For example, there are churches, schools, government buildings, business and office buildings, and houses. These may or may not reflect ethnic groups and social classes, and may be easier to understand with history of the city or provide clues to the history of a city. Very few cities have existed throughout history: they tend to grow and decline, although in modern times, as the world's population has grown, more people have become concentrated in cities and there has overall been more growth than decline.

As an exercise, an excellent way to begin a self-education program is to begin with your own neighborhood and city. At some point, I may provide a sample analysis to suggest how the various subjects I have discussed so far can contribute.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Peoples of the world

I intend to go back to history and consider it in more detail, but for now, it's time to move on to study of peoples of the world. I may have mentioned before that this is connected to geography, sociology, and anthropology, but it's not necessary to be an expert in these to study various peoples. In order to study the history of the world, or even follow current events, it's necessary to become familiar with the various peoples of the world.

Peoples can also be called civilizations, nations, tribes, and ethnic groups. The exact definitions are rather fuzzy and I make no effort to be precise about them.
I have divided these into four major areas, largely on the basis of shared history, culture, and geography.

1) Western civilization and peoples. On the basis of shared history, religion, language, and other elements of culture, I include European, Modern North and South American, Russian, and Australia in this group.

2) Asiatic civilization and peoples. This is probably the largest division and is rather a catch-all category, and includes such diverse peoples as those of the Middle East, China, and India. I also include Australian aborigines, non-Russian peoples of central asia, and various others in this grouping.

3) African civilization and peoples. This includes sub-Saharan African peoples.

4) American Indian or Native American civilization and peoples. In modern times, these have been submerged by Western Civilization, but they still exist as distinct and groups within the larger communities.

Earth science and biology are the most useful of the natural sciences in study of peoples of the earth. A few particular areas of the human body and psychology are also useful, but most of these are directed toward particular individuals. However, each of the peoples of the earth has its own cultural heroes and famous or notorious personalities.
Studies of population and its growth and movement, relationships with the environment, race, and particular groups also form part of the foundation for studies of peoples. Although this area of corresponds roughly to human geography, people in widely different places are more similar in culture than some that are nearby.
The distinctive languages and philosophies, customs and arts, and differences in architecture, diet, and other elements of culture are part of the identification of peoples.
Likewise, important families, educational traditions, economic systems, and government are significant. Again, this corresponds only roughly to the nations of the earth, since some peoples have more than one government, and quite a few nations include more than one people.
Each people has its own distinctive structure, there are many different types, and history of the changes it has undergone. It is also composed of communities; usually more than one.
Many peoples that no longer exist can be identified from historical records. Some have been been absorbed or merged into others, or divided into more than one; while others have originated by division or combination of older peoples. These changes give world history much of its content and variety.

For an exercise, I would suggest choosing which of these peoples you most identify with, and describe as many features of it as possible.