Managing Products of the Human Mind

ORBIS TERTIUS

"Tertius" (Latin = third) is an allusion to:

  • World 3: the world of the products of the human mind, defined by Karl Popper

    Karl Popper on World 3

    Theories..are produced by us: they are the product of our critical and creative thinking, in which we are greatly helped by other existing third-world theories. Yet the moment we have produced these theories, they create new, unintended and unexpected problems, autonomous problems, problems to be discovered. This explains why the third world which, in its origin, is our product, is autonomous in what may be called its ontological status. It explains why we can act upon it, and add to it or help its growth, even though there is no man who can master even a small corner of this world. All of us contribute to its growth, but almost all our individual contributions are vanishingly small. All of us try to grasp it, and none of us could live without being in contact with it, for all of us make use of speech, without which we would hardly be human. Yet the third world has grown far beyond the grasp not only of any man, but even of all men (as shown by the existence of insoluble problems). Its action upon us has become more important for our growth, and even for its own growth, than our creative action upon it. For almost all its growth is due to a feed-back effect: to the challenge of the discovery of autonomous problems, many of which may never be mastered. And there will always be the challenging task of discovering new problems, for an infinity of problems will always remain undiscovered. In spite and also because of the autonomy of the third world, there will always be scope for original and creative work.
    (Objective Knowledge: "On the theory of the objective mind")
     

  • the fictional Orbis Tertius ("third world") described in Jorge Luis Borges' story "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" ("it is conjectured that this ..world is the work of astronomers, biologists, engineers, metaphysicians, poets, chemists, algebraists, moralists, painters, geometers...The plan is so vast that the contribution of each writer is infinitesimal.")

    Borges on Metadata

    "Locke, in the seventeenth century, postulated (and rejected) an impossible idiom in which each individual object, each stone, each bird and branch had an individual name; Funes had once projected an analogous idiom, but he had renounced it as being too general, too ambiguous. In effect, Funes not only remembered every leaf on every tree of every wood, but even every one of the times he had perceived or imagined it. He determined to reduce all his past experience to some seventy thousand recollections, which he would later define numerically. Two considerations dissuaded him: he thought the task was interminable and that it was useless." ("Funes the Memorious")

    "So complex is reality, and so fragmentary and simplified is history, that an omniscient observer could write an indefinite, almost infinite, number of biographies of a man, each emphasizing different facts; we would have to read many of them before we realized that the protagonist was the same man. Let us greatly simplify, and imagine that a life consists of 13,000 facts. One of the hypothetical biographies would record the series 11,22,33...; another, the series 9,13,17,21...; another, the series 3,12,21,30,39.... A history of a man's dreams is not inconceivable; another, of the organs of his body; another, of the mistakes he made; another, of all the moments when he thought about the Pyramids; another, of his dealings with the night and with the dawn. The above may seem merely fanciful, but unfortunately it is not." ( "On William Beckford's Vathek"; 1943)

    "These ambiguities, redundancies, and deficiencies recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance" ( "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins").