Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day Zero: The Many or the One

The Many or the One? THE MANY! Hedgehog or Fox? A small pack of foxes riding inside of a mechanical hedgehog, that they modify/upgrade/re-build from time to time. Building on this, why do we reject "The One" (The One Big Thing that explains everything... why do we reject it, why do we laugh at people trying to find it?) The Dictionary Paradox:
At some point or the other, nearly every young schoolboy comes to wonder how it is a dictionary is able to define words without falling into circularity.
Imagine a dictionary of 250,00o words. You can easily write the definitions of all 250,000 words, only using a pool of 50,000 words. Some of your definitions will be long and repeat parts of other definitions (you lose some ability to be succinct), but you will not need to sacrifice clarity. Those 50,000 contain some pretty important words. Can you do the same trick with those 50,000 Important words? Can you write definitions of all 50,000 using only 10,000 words? (And thus, write definitions of the original 250,000 with only 10,000 words?) Probably. So now you have 10,000 Very Important words. Are there 2000 Very Very Important words, that you can do the same trick? 200 Very Very Very Important Words? 75 Very Very Very Very Important Words? Can you bring it all the way down to One Word? I guess, but only if you use that word in very peculiar ways. Maybe your definition of AND using only the One Word THE might be: "tHe THE the tHe tHe THEthethe the T-H-e the THE" At this point "THE" (the Ultimate One Word) is a very different thing than "the" (the definite article). You are cheating. We reject this game altogether. We are interested in The Many. (We do value smaller sizes of Many. We put some effort to bringing down in number the fundamental points. Not too much effort -- we do not lose too much sleep if we might have a Point that is expressible in terms of the other Points -- we are pragmatic.)

No comments: