by David Koski

Memo: regarding |truth|

Kirby Urner
3 min readMar 30


(from the M4W listserv — typos fixed)

I decided |truth| looked like a mathy way to signify “absolute truth”, based on how we say “|v|” for “absolute” value of v.

My investigation is into a context for |truth| (cite Jon), beginning with: what is the language this |truth| is couched in?

To what extent are maths “a partially overlapping set of languages”?

Mathematicians collaborate in the direction of mutual intelligibility and so forge a common vocabulary and shared treasure chest of proved results, algorithms and so on. Such collaboration results in a common language but only to some extent i.e. within limits.

Mathematicians are not guaranteed to grasp a mathematics they’ve not yet been schooled in. Maths are not “self evident” communications. Not by a long shot. Some maths take many years to decipher completely. Consider lambda calculus and/or Clifford algebra.

Might another word for context (language) be “ethnicity”?

I bring in this key term from anthropology in a way consistent with a mnemonic: my intersection of PATH (philo, anthro, theater, history) with STEAM i.e. STEM + Anthro (some say the “A is for Art”, but I say “Art is subsumed within Anthro”).

Scrabble-wise they criss-cross on the A: Anthro (echoing: “man, the measure of all things”).

I’ll be curious to see how the listserv archives handles Fixed Width.

To what extent is mathematical |truth| inevitably refracted through the lens of ethnicity and/or language?

Wittgenstein (the later one): a language is a form of life.

Certainty: in what sense is a wolf certain of being a wolf, a bear of being a bear. In that sense, we may have certainty in our ethnicity, our way of life.

Note: I am very keen in my own language to distinguish the concept of “ethnicity” from “race”. The former is epigenetic (around what’s genetic, outside the DNA) and would include such as Pythonistas, an ethnicity I would claim (see below).

The latter is a sad mix of:

* Social Darwinism (which race is superior?)



Kirby Urner