News from June 2001



Creative energy is a crazy thing. It took me a while to hit my stride with my research back when I was starting, and it feels like a transition has come with Zachary's birth too. Now, time to think and write is more concentrated. More focussed. I can't tolerate timewasting to anywhere near the same extent as before. (Actually, this reminds me of the time I moved from my postdoc at ANU to a teaching position at Macquarie. The concentration of time in regular teaching commitments at Macquarie meant that I couldn't waste time to the extent that I did at ANU when I had a research only 2.5 years. Now I can't waste time to even the extent that I did when childless. (What did I do with all the time I now spend with him? I have no idea where it all went. Some of it was spent on this site, no doubt.)

The creative energy is still there, not squelched by the squeeze in available time. Let's see if it will continue.


The productions of the mind and hand seem very numerous in books and manufactures. But all this variety lies in an exquisite subtlety and derivations from a few things already known; not in the number of axioms. [*]



You might have noticed that I've not been speaking here in my own voice much lately. It's mainly been my betters speaking for me, instead of me speaking for me. One reason, is that my own voice has been utilised elsewhere. That elsewhere is an historical essay on Relevant and Substructural Logics. Read, inwardly digest, enjoy, and above all, give me feedback.

(Brace yourself, though. It's a 1.1MB, 105 page pdf file consisting of roughly 50,000 words.)


We maintain that the business of philosophy is nothing other than to look into creation and to ponder over it in order to be guided to the Creator -- in other words, to look into the meaning of existence. For the knowledge of creation leads to the cognizance of the Creator, through the knowledge of the created. The more perfect becomes the knowledge of creation, the more perfect becomes the knowledge of the Creator. The Law encourages and exhorts us to observe creation. Thus, it is clear that this is to be taken either as a religious injunction or as something approved by the Law. But the Law urges us to observe creation by means of reason and demands the knowledge thereof through reason. [*]



I call any quantity a Genitum, which is not made by addition or subduction of divers parts, but is generated or produced in arithmetic by the multiplication, division, or extraction of the root of any terms whatsoever; in geometry by the invention of contents and sides, or of the extreams and means of proportionals. Quantities of this kind are products, quotients, roots, rectangles, squares, cubes, square and cubic sides and the like. These quantities I here consider as variable and indetermined, and increasing or decreasing as it were by a perpetual motion or flux; and I understand their momentaneous increments or decrements by the name of Moments; so that the increments may be esteem'd as added, or affirmative moments; and the decrements as subducted, or negative ones. But take care not to look upon finite particles as such. Finite particles are not moments, but the very quantities generated by the moments. We are to conceive them as the just nascent principles of finite magnitudes. Nor do we in this Lemma regard the magnitude of the moments, but their first proportion as nascent. It will be the same thing, if, instead of moments, we use either the Velocities of the increments and decrements (which may also be called the motions, mutations, and fluxions of quantities) or any finite quantities proportional to those velocities. The coefficient of any generating side is the quantity which arises by applying the Genitum to that side. [*]



Working quickly I have completed this letter in a single night anxious alike to gratify a friend and to try my hand on a rhetorical theme. Then early in the morning he has knocked at my door on the point of starting. I wish also to shew my detractors that like them I too can say the first thing that comes into my head. I have, therefore, introduced few quotations from the scriptures and have not, as in most of my books, interwoven its flowers in my discourse. The letter has been, in fact, dictated off-hand and poured forth by lamp-light so fast that my tongue has outstripped my secretaries' pens and that my volubility has baffled the expedients of shorthand. I have said this much that those who make no allowances for want of ability may make some for want of time. [*]



As the Philosopher said in the second Metaphysicorum, 'as a thing is related to existence, so is it related to truth,' the reason of which is that the truth about a thing (which is established in the truth as in its subject) is a perfect likeness of the thing as it is.

Now of things which exist some so exist as to have absolute being in themselves; others so exist as to have a being dependent on something else, by some kind of relation, for example 'being at the same time' or 'being related to something else,' like the correlatives 'father and son,' 'master and servant,' 'double and half,' 'whole and part,' and the like, as such; and because the being of such depends on something else, it follows that the truth of them also depends on something else; for if we have no knowledge of half we can never understand double, and so of the rest. [*]



The user interface people at Amazon seem to be doing quite a few things right. One of the non-obvious things they're doing right is paying attention to URLs as interface. The average Amazon URL is not particularly memorable. However, that doesn't mean that you can't use sensible things in that field. Now that the front page is just their general shop front, you need to go to different places to focus on different categories. Try to get to the books, or to get to the music. They're not URLs you'll find as links anywhere on the site. They are just things that people like me are prone to try. And someone there at Amazon has made sure that they work.


We must inquire into the nature of causes, and see what the various kinds of cause are and how many there are. Since our treatment of the subject aims at knowledge, and since we believe that we know a thing only when we can say why it is as it is -- which in fact means grasping its primary causes -- plainly we must try to achieve this with regard to the way things come into existence and pass away out of it, and all other natural change, so that we may know what their principles are and may refer to these principles in order to explain everything into which we inquire. [*]


Today it's Zack and me at home. Christine has gone in to work to see how that goes. It's all OK so far, but I haven't had the first feed yet. I've fed him before, but only in the evening, when he's less hungry. It will be interesting to see how he takes the bottle at 10am or 11am or so.

Later: Zack was an angel all day. Apart from some understandable narkiness at the sight/taste/texture of milk coming from a bottle and not mother, he was a delight from beginning to end. He cries, but for reasonably well-understood reasons. You pay him some attention, and he rewards you with affection. You leave him be when he's tired, and he falls asleep by himself. Not just once, but three times today he's fallen asleep unaided, in his bassinet. He seems to be getting the hang of this living business. And we seem to be getting the hang of this looking-after-a-small-person business.

Not only that, but I managed to get about ten pages written. I'm getting back in the writing groove.


What he said. (Except he's leaving there and we could be going there.)


You want me to tell you why God is to be loved and how much. I answer, the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due to Him is immeasurable love. Is this plain? Doubtless, to a thoughtful man; but I am debtor to the unwise also. A word to the wise is sufficient; but I must consider simple folk too. Therefore I set myself joyfully to explain more in detail what is meant above.

We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is more reasonable, nothing more profitable. When one asks, Why should I love God? he may mean, What is lovely in God? or What shall I gain by loving God? In either case, the same sufficient cause of love exists, namely, God Himself. [*]



My friend Brian's father passed away suddenly last month. He has been remembered in many ways, including this entry in Hansard, the proceedings of the Parliament of Australia.


We cannot expect that the wisest men of our remotest posterity, who can base their conclusions upon thousands of years of accurate observation, will reach a decision on this subject without some measure of reserve. Such being the case, it might appear the dictate of wisdom to leave its consideration to some future age, when it may be taken up with better means of information than we now possess. But the question is one which will refuse to be postponed so long as the propensity to think of the possibilities of creation is characteristic of our race. The issue is not whether we shall ignore the question altogether, like Eve in the presence of Raphael; but whether in studying it we shall confine our speculations within the limits set by sound scientific reasoning. Essaying to do this, I invite the reader's attention to what science may suggest, admitting in advance that the sphere of exact knowledge is small compared with the possibilities of creation, and that outside this sphere we can state only more or less probable conclusions. [*]



I hope that Zachary does not grow up to be inventive in quite this way.

Now 17, David hit on the idea of building a model breeder reactor, a nuclear reactor that not only generates electricity, but also produces new fuel. His model would use the actual radioactive elements and produce real reactions. His blueprint was a schematic in one of his father's textbooks. Ignoring safety, David mixed his radium and americium with beryllium and aluminum, all of which he wrapped in aluminum foil, forming a makeshift reactor core. He surrounded this radioactive ball with a blanket of small foil-wrapped cubes of thorium ash and uranium powder, tenuously held together with duct tape.
As the article says, do not try to build a nuclear reactor at home.


But perhaps there are some that neglect this way of pleasure and rest satisfied in the enjoyment of their friends, calling friendship the most desirable of all things, more necessary than either air, fire, or water; so delectable that he that shall take it out of the world had as good put out the sun; and, lastly, so commendable, if yet that make anything to the matter, that neither the philosophers themselves doubted to reckon it among their chiefest good. But what if I show you that I am both the beginning and end of this so great good also? Nor shall I go about to prove it by fallacies, sorites, dilemmas, or other the like subtleties of logicians, but after my blunt way point out the thing as clearly as it were with my finger. [*]



Often the hearts of men and women are stirred, as likewise they are soothed in their sorrows more by example than by words. And therefore, because I too I have known some consolation from speech had with one who was a witness thereof, am I now minded to write of the sufferings which have sprung out of my misfortunes, for the eyes of one who, though absent, is of himself ever a consoler. This I do so that, in comparing your sorrows with mine, you may discover that yours are in truth nought, or at the most but of small account, and so shall you come to bear them more easily. [*]



I’m Greg Restall, and this is my personal website. I am the Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews, and the Director of the Arché Philosophical Research Centre for Logic, Language, Metaphysics and Epistemology I like thinking about – and helping other people think about – logic and philosophy and the many different ways they can inform each other.


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