Thought Experiments

A thought, or gedanken, experiment is the creation of a simplified, often fanciful, world for the purpose of understanding the implications of a theory. One of the first was Plato’s allegory of the cave, in which Plato postulates that people are only able to sense a part of the universe about them. The allegory explores what that means and implies. The real value of thought experiments is to generate hypotheses that can be tested in the real world.


At any rate, let’s get back to why we are having this conversation. We are here to use the language of art to search for a boundary between Art and (Not Art) in a real example. Surprises occur at boundaries. Surprises are the basis of humor. So … we might know when we are close to a boundary between Art and (Not Art) when we start laughing.


Systems of knowledge have languages associated with themselves. The language can be a natural language, mathematical language, or even artistic language. We can say that each of these closed knowledge systems has big holes in it. There are true things that the knowledge system will never know. Any system of knowledge is like a great sponge with structure, but that is full of holes. Knowledge does not expand like a bit of perfume into a room. It expands like an interconnected sponge skeleton of knowledge.


Life must have some parts that are solid so that life in the form of organisms can persist for long periods of time. This is needed so that the blueprint or biological organization chart for life can be preserved over extended periods. It must have other parts that behave like a fluid and can adapt to changing conditions around the organism on short time scales. Life must exist as both a solid and a fluid simultaneously. How this comes about leads to one of the most fascinating, but little known, stories in science.