A formal world is a world in which everything that happens can always be described in a clear and precise way. That’s what makes a formal world into a formal world – the fact that it can be definitively or exhaustively described. The formal world is the defined world, therefore. We can create a formal world for ourselves any time we want by sealing off a portion of what we might call ‘The Realm of all Possible Possibilities’ and then forgetting about (or disregarding) the part that we haven’t sealed off. This is a ‘figure/ground-type thing’, in other words. As soon as we do this we end up with the FW – it’s as simple as that. The other way putting this would be to say that we create a formal world by neatly forgetting that there IS any other world outside of the world that we have just created. We limit ourselves to our descriptions. Most succinctly of all, we can say that formal worlds come into being purely and simply because of entropy…
In the one way this principle isn’t particularly hard to understand. It doesn’t seem like too difficult a thing to grasp; on the contrary, it seems perfectly straightforward. Formal worlds come into being as a result of entropy or ‘irreversible information loss’ – fair enough. When we really reflect on this however it becomes quite mind-boggling. In terms of abstract mathematics this won’t be regarded as being anything strange but what we’re talking about here is no mere mathematical oddity – this is how the world that we all take for granted gets to exist.
Stuff can happen in a formal world that can’t happen otherwise, and this is the type of stuff that we all take for granted. It isn’t however ‘real stuff’; we take it absolutely for granted in our everyday lives it is true – but that doesn’t mean that it’s real. What we can do in a formal world that we can’t do anywhere else that we can measure (and therefore compare) things (measurement equals comparing, anyway). Measurement or comparison can ONLY take place in a formal world, a ‘bounded’ world. The concept is quite meaningless otherwise; the concept of measurement is profoundly meaningless otherwise.
‘Measurement’ includes a whole heap of stuff – it includes categorisation, classification, identification, evaluation, ratio-making, theory and theory making, prediction and extrapolation, logical analysis, and so on. We can neatly summarise this all of this by saying measurement equals ‘thought’ – the operation or functioning of thought is the thing that can’t happen outside of a formal world (which is us we keep saying a world that comes into being as a result of arbitrary boundaries having been put in place).
Yet another way talking about an FW is to say that it is the subjective world that we can make apparently ‘real’ for ourselves by assuming that the only way something can ever be treated as real is if it can be recognised as such by the thinking mind. If it agrees with thought’s categories then it’s real, in other words. If it fits into the map that we have made up then it’s real. Thought operates (and this is the only way it can operate) by taking it for granted that there is some unit or metric that absolutely does exist; this metric exists in an axiomatic way, a way that is self-evidently true. Once this has been done then we can build a entire world on the basis of this unit of or metric.
Once thought has created a world in this way then it automatically becomes totally self-evident that the unit or metric that everything rests on is something that has an absolute unquestionable existence of its own. That’s the way we are looking at things after all – we’re looking at things on the basis of that ‘metric’! Any arguments that we might put forward with respect to the essential building block of our world being genuinely real and reliable is therefore entirely redundant. It’s like a fundamental Christian trying to argue that Christianity is the one true religion (unlike all the rest of them) ‘because it says so in the Bible’!
This is of course the most laughably stupid argument in the whole wide world and yet when we actually live in the world that has been created by ‘us taking for granted the assumptions that thought also takes for granted’ then the redundancy becomes totally impossible for us to see. The redundancy that the system is based on is now invisible to us and this is – of course – the reason the formal world seems subjectively real to us. What we looking at here therefore is ‘self-agreement’ or ‘self reference’ and so we can go on from this observation to say that the only reason we can ‘measure’ things in a formal world is because of self-reference.
Where this brings us therefore is to the observation that thought (or measurement) can only exist in a world that has been created on the back of self-reference (which is to say, that can only occur in a FW). An FW – to paraphrase what we started out by saying – comes into existence as a result of us assuming limits that aren’t really there. When we create a world by as a result of us assuming limits that don’t really exist then those limits are all that can ever be allowed in this world. They are what make up that world after all. The limits are all that exist in a formal world and at the same time they aren’t in the least bit real. They’re assumed, not real.
This is the thing we never see – we might be prepared to acknowledge that an FW is a limited world but this goes way beyond what we normally understand by that apparently harmless term ‘limited’! In a FW there can only be what we have allowed there to be. There can only be what we ourselves have put in there – it’s all ‘extrinsic content’, in other words. There is zero ‘intrinsic content’ in a FW (which is of course the same thing as saying there is no reality in it). The FW is made up entirely of the limits that we have based it on therefore – there’s nothing else to it. There’s nothing else in it and yet these limits don’t exist, as we keep emphasizing. We make up the limits. We make up the limits and then get controlled by them.
The unreality of the limits we have assumed doesn’t turn out to be a problem with regard to constructing a formal world however and the reason it doesn’t turn out to be a problem because of the phenomenon of SR, as we were saying. SR is the clever trick thought uses to get the formal world to seem real, and a very effective trick it is too! The fundamental ‘unit’ or ‘building block’ that we are talking about is nothing other than this – the ‘limit that we have assumed’, the ‘limit that doesn’t actually exist’. This is what lies at the root of ‘the Great Inversion’; the inversion whereby what is unreal gets glorified as ‘the one and only true reality’ and the real gets written off entirely.
We might of course try to argue this point. We might say ‘Yes, but what if the limit in question isn’t one that has been assumed, but is one that really exists?’ This is a very fair point to raise (and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t raise it) but it doesn’t go very far. It doesn’t go very far because in the real world – which is the world from which the FW is abstracted, the world which we have conveniently forgotten about (or disregarded) – there aren’t any limits and that’s the whole point! In the real world, the only limits are the ones we make up ourselves…