[Beowulf] Re: Linux laptops, and M$ advertisement

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Tue Apr 17 15:36:29 PDT 2007

On Tue, 17 Apr 2007, David Mathog wrote:

> The Buddhist nature of the electrical code is becoming more and more
> clear to me.  See for instance this section from the Wikipedia article
> on koans:
> ****************************************************************
> A related kōan in the Book of Serenity reinforces the teaching that
> Zhaozhou's response does not refer to affirmation or negation:
> One time a monk asked Zhaozhou, "Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?"
>    Zhaozhou answered, "No."
> Another time, a monk asked Zhaozhou, "Does a dog have Buddha-nature or not?"
>    Zhaozhou answered, "Yes."
> ****************************************************************

Actually, technically, Zhaozhou answered "Mu", which doesn't have a
precise meaning in English but approximates as "No-thing".  It does not
compute.  Or in true computerese, NaN.

Note well that this suggests that there may well be a semantic mapping
between some of the famous old koans and axiomatic set theory augmented
by the addition of a "null set" -- an symbolic construct for "not a set"
(not in the set theory), not the "empty set" (which is always in the set
theory).  The null set provides an elegant solution to some of the
problems with self-referentiality and paradox.  See my draft online:


Since I finally finished (today) "The Book of Lilith" on lulu, I'm
getting back to Axioms and will see if I can knock it off now that I
have David Mackay's Information Theory, Inference, and Learning
Algorithms, which, by the way, should probably be required reading for
all computer science, math-stats, math-philosopher types.  Along with
E.T. Jaynes Probability Theory as Extended Logic, from which part of it
is derived.

My own favorite version of this koan is:

   And finally, a monk asked Zhaozhou, "Does the Buddha have dog-nature
   or not".  Zhaozhou answered, "Would that be yellow lab, bulldog, or


Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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