Richard II (act III scene iii)

King Richard II [To Northumberland.] ‘We are amaz’d ; and thus long have we stood to watch the fearful bending of thy knee, because we thought ourself thy lawful king ; and if we be, how dare thy joints forget to pay their awful duty to our presence? If we be not, show us the hand of God that hath dismiss’d us from our stewardship ; for well we know, no hand of blood and bone can gripe the sacred handle of our sceptre, unless he do profane, steal, or usurp.’

– Reed International Books Ltd. 1992. The Illustrated Stratford Shakespeare London, Great Britain: Chancellor Press (1996) p. 377

A British Democracy

‘In Britain, democracy has never meant that the people have a hand in the running of the country; rather it means that the people choose who is to govern the country, and let the politicians get on with it!’

– O’Driscoll J. 1995. Britain Oxford, Great Britain: Oxford University Press (2009) p. 71

Demonstrative Reasoning and Deductive Evidence

Take even a simpler case, which seems more nearly resolvable into an expression of identity: 4=2+2. Even here, the meaning is not that the two members of the equation are identical, but only that the Concept or group four is equivalent in one respect – viz. the possession of an equal number of units – to the two groups two and two. It is plain that one group cannot be identical with two groups, or that two distinct acts of the mind, each conceiving or grasping together two units, cannot be literally the same thing as one mental act conceiving four.

– Bowen, F. 1864. A Treatise on Logic, The Laws of Pure Thought Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press (1864) p. 360-1

Reductio ad Absurdum

For example, consider the proposition “Cuius est solum eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos” (literally: ‘for whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell’). This is also known as “ad coelum.” A legal reductio ad absurdum argument against the proposition might be:

Suppose we take this proposition to a logical extreme. This would grant a land owner rights to everything in a cone from the center of the earth to an infinite distance out into space, and whatever was inside that cone, including stars and planets. It is absurd that someone who purchases land on earth should own other planets, therefore this proposition is wrong.

Anselm’s Ontological Argument

The ontological argument was proposed by Anselm of Canterbury in the second chapter of his Proslogion. Although he did not propose an ontological system, he was very much concerned with the nature of being.

He distinguished necessary beings (those that must exist) from contingent beings (those that may exist, but whose existence is not necessary).

Anselm of Canterbury

1. If I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable, then I can think of no being greater
1a. If it is false that I can think of no being greater, it is false I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable
2. Being is greater than not being
3. If the being I am thinking of does not exist, then it is false that I can think of no being greater.
4. If the being I am thinking of does not exist, then it is false that I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable

Conclusion: If I am thinking of the Greatest Being Thinkable, then I am thinking of a being that exists

The Plenitude Principle

The plenitude principle or principle of plenitude asserts that everything that can happen will happen. The historian of ideas Arthur Lovejoy was the first to discuss this philosophically important principle explicitly, tracing it back to Aristotle, who said that no possibilities which remain eternally possible will go unrealized.

Infinite Monkey Theorem

The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare. In this context, “almost surely” is a mathematical term with a precise meaning, and the “monkey” is not an actual monkey, but a metaphor for an abstract device that produces a random sequence of letters ad infinitum.

Old-Fashioned Typing

The theorem illustrates the perils of reasoning about infinity by imagining a vast but finite number, and vice versa.

The probability of a monkey exactly typing a complete work such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet is so tiny that the chance of it occurring during a period of time of the order of the age of the universe is minuscule, but not zero.

“We’ve heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.” – Robert Wilensky