The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pop Quiz #5: Language question for Sibby.

Which of these concepts doesn't make sense?

a. Perfect
b. More Perfect
c. Most perfect

Other Forumpians are welcome to play along, of course, but I'm especially interested in Steve's answer. The question has legs that extend into his "area of specialty" (truth) as we will soon discover.
Note to those who don't yet know "Uncle Sibby." You know how when your family all gets together for the holidays and there's always that one relative who's just a little (how to put this...) out in the twinkies?

Well, after years of debate, that's how I've come to think of Stevie.

I love him like family, but I'm not putting up with any of his nonsense.

It's for his own good. And deep down, I think he knows it.

That said, he still gets just as much turkey and dressing on his plate as anyone else. And he even gets to sit in on the Pictionary® games. (Although hardly anybody ever wants to have him as a partner. He thinks we're all fools for not being able to read his incomprehensible drawings.)


Michael Sanborn said...

Since perfection is perfection, nothing can be either more perfect or most perfect.

Similar to unique. And destroyed.

Nothing can be the most unique, because it would require at least two to make it more unique. But if there are two, neither is unique.

So, the framers, while grammatically correct, probably SHOULD have written We The People, in an effort to form a perfect union, ...

Neal said...

Your response, Michael, implies that perfect is a static thing, and not capable of evolving or improving over time.

Bill Fleming said...

"Perfect union" is an absolute clause.

The word "perfect" is an absolute adjective. There is no such thing as a "more perfect" or "most perfect" anything, just as there is no such thing as being "more eternal."

Proper recommended usage for degrees of "unity" approaching perfection are as follows:

a. imperfect
b. nearly perfect
c. more nearly perfect
d. most nearly perfect
e. perfect

Which begs Michael's question. What was it that the Founders were trying to communicate in the language of the Preamble anyway? Whatever it was, clearly they did a less than perfect job of doing it.

Bill Fleming said...

It is my read on history that the Founders KNEW the Constitution was going to be an imperfect document when they drafted and signed it. It was the best they could do (and get enough states to ratify) at the time.

Further, they expected each subsequent generation to review and refine their work and in fact created the very legal mechanism whereby such review, revision and continuing refinement toward perfection could be accomplished.

Bill Fleming said...

A concrete, mathematical example of this can be examined in the consideration of "perfect harmony" in a proportion known as the "Golden Section" or the "Divine Proportion" and its relationship to the Fibonacci series of whole numbers, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, etc... where:

a. imperfect= 1/2
b. nearly perfect= 5/8
c. more nearly perfect= 144/223
d. most nearly perfect= 1+square root of 5/2
e. perfect = ineffable because "d" is an irrational number.

David Newquist said...

Posing a question like this in front of an old grammarian is like sending a quail up in front of the nose of an old bird dog. The juices charge up the old instincts.

Michael and Bill are right according to the grammatical statutes currently in effect in saying that "perfect" like "unique" are words that describe something that is without equivalent or parallel. According to today's rules of grammar the founders wrote something in the Constitution that would produce a marginal rebuke from any competent English teacher. The punctuation and conditional subordination in the Second Amendment also sends froth to the mouths of grammatical constructionists.

The problem is that at the time the documents were written, the rules of English grammar had not been codified. And when they were codified, they borrowed heavily from Latin grammar and applied concepts that were not characteristic of English as it had developed and was practiced. An example is the concept of the double negative. In Latin, one negative cancels out another. In Old English, multiple negatives had the effect of intensifying a negative statement in an exponential way.

It would seem that the founders from our perspective would have better used "perfect" as a verb than an adjective, in something like "to perfect the union," or the construction that Michael suggests.

The word perfect is a word that is based upon describing an absence of negative qualities more than the presence of unparalleled qualities: 1. Lacking nothing essential. 2. Being without defect or blemish. 3. Completely suited for a particular purpose. It's definitions indicate that the perfect can somehow be augmented. A common saying in English is "the peak of perfection," indicating that the perfect can be bolstered or made stable.

As for the analogy of Sibson as a crackpot uncle, I think he is more like a hired man that my family loved and invited to family gatherings, but set conditions through which he could earn his way to the main table. Anton believed that washing overalls ruined them. It was better to accumulate sweat and a patina of animal wastes to enhance the natural protective qualities of stiff denim. And he wore only bib overalls. He also chewed. And
peed out of the window of his second-floor room. Consequently, under one window of my uncle's big white farm house was a big yellow blaze streak. We cousins and our friends made many a hilarious moments out of that blaze. Anton's habits earned him his own wood stove and television set in the farm shop, so that his ambiance would not intrude upon the more delicate sensibilities of family and friends.

When Anton retired and left the farm, he was still invited to family gatherings and looked forward to them. The last time I saw him, he was at my mother's table wearing a suit, dentures without snoose stains, and had apparently accepted the notion that windows are not a kind of plumbing.

Bill Fleming said...

Wonderful Anton story David. Thank you.

Together we've certainly set a peculiar table for Mr. Sibson's arrival.

I wonder if he'll be late for dinner, or skip it altogether, preferring instead to pop in somewhat unannounced, taking us by surprise, and delivering what I'm sure he will consider to be our just desserts.

Steve Sibson said...

So Bill,

Have you ever made mistakes, and if more than one, what was your worse?

Bill Fleming said...

Regarding mistakes, Steve, I learned from a wise person when I was still in my teens that we can never even come close to being even half good at anything until we have made our first 2,000 f**k ups.

I'm 59 years old now, and have acquired a number of skills at a price of at LEAST 2,000 flops per final triumph.

And I'm still working on new ones.

Now, as far as which mistake was the worst... with so many to choose from, I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite.

But let me think about it and get back to you.

Steve Sibson said...


So you are not perfect, as is true of the rest of us. Have any of your mistakes been infractions to one or more of the Ten Commandments?

And why did my question to Mr. Sanborn get deleted? He has used Jesus to set a standard of perfection in the past, and rightly so. Seems that question is related to this post on perfection.

Bill Fleming said...

Correct, Sibby, neither you, I, nor the Constitution — as acknowledged... indeed stipulated — by the Founders are perfect.

Your question to Mike seemed like trolling to me, mostly asked to annoy him. I don't have much patience with that kind of behavior. Mike has less than I do, I think. I was just trying to save you from another righteous ass chewing. Think of the deletion as a favor, and ask it again more politely.

Same with your 10 Commandments question, Sibby.

This is a discussion forum not a confessional.

Unless you can offer me the miracle of somehow having a better past, I don't see any reason to share my laundry list of sins with you.

I have made other, better arrangements in that regard.

Steve Sibson said...


Why on a post regarding perfection, you would not consider the Ten Commandments relevant?

And it was Sanborn who held be to the standard of Jesus. I was just asking him to do the same for you.

Steve Sibson said...

"Correct, Sibby, neither you, I, nor the Constitution — as acknowledged... indeed stipulated — by the Founders are perfect."

Se Michael, Fleming is not a supporter of the Constitution. A "true American" would defend, not attack, the Constitution.

Steve Sibson said...


The Natural Law foundation of America includes the Ten Commandments as its core.

If American was to target perfection, would not Jesus Christ be the way, the life, and the Truth?

Bill Fleming said...

There is no mention of Jesus nor of the 10 Commandments in the Constitution, Steve.

Not one word.

Also, "perfection" in and of itself is not what is being "targeted." Unity is the objective — a more (nearly perfect) UNION. E Pluribus Unum.

As to why? Those are questions better asked of the Framers, don't you think? If I were you, I'd look at the very first Amendment of the Constitution for clues in that regard.

Incidentally, the fact that the Constitution has been amended 27 times is proof that it was not a "perfect" document to begin with. It is a work in progress, just as We, the People are.

Steve Sibson said...


The Declaration stated Natural Law, which is defined as God's will, as the legal philosophy. The Constitution set up a governmental system to implement Natural Law. The Ten Commandments is the core to God's Natural Law.

What is the First Commandment and what does it mean?

Bill Fleming said...

Is that a trick question, Steve? The answer of course is as per Mtt 22:37-40, Mrk 12:28-34.

"When Jesus was asked, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" he replied, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind' - this is the great and foremost commandment, and there is a second like it, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself'. The whole Law and Prophets hang on these two commands." .

Bill Fleming said...

Interesting that you brought that up, actually, Sibby. Because right after that talk about commandments, Mark tells this story about some observations Jesus made that day.

It kind of reminds me of the current health care debate:

"As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”"
— Mark 12, 38-44

Bill Fleming said...

You see where this is going, right, Steve? If you really do believe that ours is a Christian nation, that the bible is the truth and that the teachings of Jusus trump all the other teachings in the book, you are commanded to come to grips with the lesson given by Jesus (God) in Mark 12, 38-44.

Perfect giving involves not just chipping in a pittance out of your abundance, but rather, surrendering ALL YOU HAVE in order to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Don't look now, Stevie, but that sounds pretty Socialist to me. Marxist, actually: From each according to ability, to each according to need.

Now, keep in mind, that's not what I'm advocating, that's what YOU appear to be advocating, by claiming that we are (or perhaps just that we SHOULD BE) a Christian nation.

Steve Sibson said...


So would allowing other gods to be equal to the Creator God (the one noted in the Declaration) be a violation of the most important commandment, and then calling those who do "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" athiests, violate the commandment on bearing false witness on the neighbors that you are to love as yourself?

Bill Fleming said...

There's nothing wrong with being an athiest, Sibby. I was just pointing out to you that in fact, most people are.

And note, Jesus didn't say you had to "believe," or "fear," he said you had to "love." Big difference. Huge.

He also didn't say that you had to love "my" Lord, he said you should to love "your" Lord. Again, big difference. Huge.

So huge in fact that, taken in combination with the point above it, they make your last question meaningless and irrelevant.

Steve Sibson said...

"He also didn't say that you had to love "my" Lord, he said you should to love "your" Lord. Again, big difference. Huge."


Your own version of the quote says "the" Lord. The one and only Lord Bill.

Nothing wrong with being an athiest? Remember when I brought to this web site what John Locke said about atheists? And you called me an atheist for only beliving in one God, while you believed in many. That violatee the First and most important Commandment. Now you contradict yourself, or you are in some kind of spin mode. So clarify, what supernatural philosophy do you adhere to:

Atheist: There is not god
Montheistic: There is only one God
Pantheistic: There are many gods

Bill Fleming said...

None of the above, Sibby. I am a monist, not a dualist. I don't believe in anything "supernatural." Only natural. Nature and Nature's God. See Baruch Spinoza.

Steve Sibson said...


You said this a while back:

"Sibby, I think we've already established that in a comparison of world views and religious beliefs, it is you — and not me — who is in fact the most "athiest," because whereas you only believe in one very specific interpretation of one very specific permutation of what is essentially a belief in the god of Abraham, I on the other hand embrace and tolerate all god concepts without discrimination."

That does not sound "mono". Sounds pantheistic to me, and a violation of the First Commandment. Can you explain?

Bill Fleming said...

The God concept is always an attempt to explain the unexplainable, Sibby.

Throughout history various cultures have taken their shot at it with varying degrees of fidelity to what is observed in nature.

All of these ideas are pointing to some ineffable mysterious reality beyond comprehension. So in a sense, they are all right, even as they are all wrong at the same time.

Their degree of "rightness" to me, has to do with how well they square with our understanding of reality, which changes as our knowledge base grows. So you can take each human description of God as being "true" in a sense, based on the understanding of the person or culture doing the describing. (Love the Lord YOUR God.)

For a more detailed (albeit imperfect) discussion of this I recommend Deepak Chopra's "How to Know God." As you read it, you may come to discover the limits of your understanding. Most people do. That is the whole point of the book actually.

The same with Nature. Although we are immersed in it, part of it, inseparable from it, we still don't understand it completely.

But we have people like Pythagoras, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Bohr, Bohm, Hawking, Guth and Wilczek showing us the way — each of them contributing something essential to our ever expanding understanding of Nature. And by extension, Nature's God.

Namaste, Sibby.

Steve Sibson said...


Did you delete a comment here?

Steve Sibson said...

And Bill,

Darwin is an example of a false prophet. He lead John Dewey astray.

Bill Fleming said...

Part 1. Sib, delete a comment? Nope.
Did you forget to post one?

Part 2. Darwin was a scientist, Sibby. True, he had conflicts between his religion and his science, as have many other scientists. But science is not a religion, at least not in the usual sense of the word. Scientists can change their minds (and thus their belief systems), when new and better information comes to light.

Steve Sibson said...

Thanks Bill,

I may have not posted it. I am not perfect. (pun intended)

Basically I am not hearing an answer to the premise that your religious position, that I brought in from another thread, violated the First and greatest commandment. I found this from the Stanford web site regarding Spinoza:

"According to the traditional Judeo-Christian conception of divinity, God is a transcendent creator, a being who causes a world distinct from himself to come into being by creating it out of nothing. God produces that world by a spontaneous act of free will, and could just as easily have not created anything outside himself. By contrast, Spinoza's God is the cause of all things because all things follow causally and necessarily from the divine nature. Or, as he puts it, from God's infinite power or nature “all things have necessarily flowed, or always followed, by the same necessity and in the same way as from the nature of a triangle it follows, from eternity and to eternity, that its three angles are equal to two right angles” (Ip17s1). The existence of the world is, thus, mathematically necessary. It is impossible that God should exist but not the world. This does not mean that God does not cause the world to come into being freely, since nothing outside of God constrains him to bring it into existence. But Spinoza does deny that God creates the world by some arbitrary and undetermined act of free will. God could not have done otherwise. There are no possible alternatives to the actual world, and absolutely no contingency or spontaneity within that world. Everything is absolutely and necessarily determined."

By denying the "Creator" of the Declaration and the Bible, I believe that I have intellectually proven that you are not in agreement with the Bible, the Declaration, and therefore the Constitution. And since those are foundational to America, I am retaining the right to say that your philosophy is not that of a true American, even though I believe you have a right to have those befiefs.

I would also think Mr. Sanborn's take on my analysis.

Steve Sibson said...

"I would also think Mr. Sanborn's take on my analysis."

I mean:

I would also like Mr. Sanborn's take on my analysis.

Again, I am imperfect.

Bill Fleming said...

Sibby, your proposition seems to run directly counter to the "establishment" clause of the First Amendment.

Also, your read on Spinoza is a little lacking, but we'll leave that for another time. I have absolutely no interest in trying to convert you to my particular brand of philosophy/theology.

For now, just explain how the citizenship requirements you are presuming to impose on me isn't an obvious violation of the 1st Amendment.

Steve Sibson said...

How can Natural Law violate the establishment clause. Glenn Beck and I agree political and he is a Mormon and I am a Christian. We are not trying to convert one to the onter, nor are we asking the government to do that.

So what are you going to say about violating the First and most important commandment?

Bill Fleming said...

No problem, Sibby. Like I said, I think there is only one God. You're the one who thinks there are more than that.

Steve Sibson said...

"No problem, Sibby. Like I said, I think there is only one God. You're the one who thinks there are more than that."

But you said this:

"Sibby, I think we've already established that in a comparison of world views and religious beliefs, it is you — and not me — who is in fact the most "athiest," because whereas you only believe in one very specific interpretation of one very specific permutation of what is essentially a belief in the god of Abraham, I on the other hand embrace and tolerate all god concepts without discrimination."

Another violation of a Commandment Bill. You are all over the place. Is that what Spinoza does to a person?

Bill Fleming said...

I've already explained that Sibby, aren't you paying attention?

All of those ideas are metaphors, pointing at the same thing. There can only be one unity, one absolute. But there a million ways to describe it. There's no inconsistency in that unless you choose not to understand what I'm talking about.

Think of it this way. Take all the whole numbers that will add up to 100 and list them out: 1+99, 2+98, 3+97 etc. etc. All the way to 50+ 50. Then list them back out in reverse. You'll have a whole bunch of formulas that all point at the same answer and they're all true.

It's the same way with the Perennial Philosophy.

They all point to the same perfect unity.

Now, "In order to form a more (nearly) perfect Union..." as per the Preamble.

I'm not going to explain this for you any more, now Steve.

You'll either get it or you won't.

If you don't that's your karma, and you'll have to work it out with your Creator.

One thing I've noticed in that regard though, Sib is that working it out with God is a lot easier to do if you just sit still, shut up, take a few deep breaths, and relax.

Steve Sibson said...


OK, I get it...for the sake of unity, one can say one thing, and then turn around and say the exact opposite. There is no right or wrong...there is just Bill Fleming.

How does white one one day become black on the next?

Bill Fleming said...

Close, Sibby. Very close. Perhaps much closer than you realize. Unity transcends right and wrong. Unity is all inclusive. It includes both black and white. There is no inside and outside to it. All includes everything there is, and everything there is not. That is the absolute. That is God.

Bill Fleming said...

In brief, then Mr. Sibson, I submit that your political and religious worldviews are at once divisive and exclusionary and thus not in keeping with the Constitution's intent to form a more (nearly) perfect Union. I'll leave it to you to determine what you can do by thought and deed to rectify this situation in order to more fully engage yourself in the great American experiment.