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Date: Sun, 16 Apr 95 13:12 PDT
From:Jim Andrews

I can see how the development of a fable concerning The Seven by Nine Squares could be thought of as the development of a foundation for thoughts about hypertext. There are points in the Socratic dialogues where Socrates (or Plato) resorts to fable. The Meno is a good example of this. That is part of the the appeal of the work, part of what makes it entertaining and poetical. It seems that we have to resort to fable and myth and story when our philosophical arguments hit bedrock. Or we can follow Wittgenstein's advice and say nothing. But resorting to myth and fable and story is part of what I mean(o) by uniting the trees of life and knowledge. They give life to what otherwise could be very boring and ponderous meanderings amid vaguely defined philosophical and technological questions.

The htlit list is starting to bore me for that very reason. I don't see much imagination happening there. The responses to your question about which books people wanted to see written was typical of the thinking I've read from the list: turn novels into hypertext. It's very erudite and learned and on topic, but it's dull.

I can also see how The Seven by Nine Squares undermines the bedrock of its own (still largely unwritten) fables. But that's fine. Humpty Dumpty almost said "When I say a word it means exactly what I say it means." Of course, the problem is that we rarely say what it means; we merely say it. But even if we were to say what it means, we would begin the long descent. Which we would have to stop somewhere: at an arbitrary foundation. Dictionaries are circular (foundationless). Mathematics attempts to avoid circularity by acknowledging that some 'words' must go undefined. The notion of a 'collection' is undefined, for instance. The idea of a collection is foundational. That doesn't make mathematical language better than natural language, but it does make it non-circular. It does give math language foundations (if only rather mysterious ones open to revision).

I read Bernstein's bit. Can't say I understand what he's talking about. And I don't know, really, what you mean when you say you are "indifferent to foundationless culture." Does that mean that you seek foundations? I'm not quite sure what's at issue here.

Yours confusedly,