Common Linux Programs

Blake Barnett shadoi at
Thu Sep 14 14:58:59 MDT 2006

On Sep 14, 2006, at 9:12 AM, Shane Hathaway wrote:

> Dave Smith wrote:
>> Jason Holt wrote:
>>> t is for true, which does very little
>> But at least it does it successfully, which is more than we can  
>> say for false.
> The man page for "false" presents an interesting logic puzzle.  The  
> intent of the false command is to "do nothing, unsuccessfully",  
> which I understand in natural language, but it must be a mess to a  
> logician. There is no success nor failure if nothing happens.  If I  
> don't play a game, and instead do nothing, I have neither won nor  
> lost that game.  So nothing can fit that interpretation of "do  
> nothing, unsuccessfully", regardless of what the documentation  
> might claim.
> That must be the wrong interpretation.  Perhaps it means the false  
> command should be unsuccessful in its attempt to do nothing.  But  
> if I am unsuccessful in my attempt to do nothing, apparently I must  
> have done something.  Like when I want to go to sleep, I try to  
> think about nothing, but then I end up thinking about thinking  
> about nothing, which is something.  I can only truly be successful  
> at doing nothing if I cease to exist.  Even the rock that stubbed  
> my toe did something, as did the space debris that reflected  
> light.  So apparently, everyone and everything fits the description  
> "does nothing, unsuccessfully".
> Since that interpretation allows the false command to exist, I can  
> argue that it is correct.  However, everyone and everything also  
> fits, so perhaps false is a synonym for everyone and everything.   
> Everyone and everything includes this argument, so this argument  
> matches the description for false.  This argument disproves itself.
> Ok, third interpretation: the word "nothing" is not intended  
> literally.
> When it says "do nothing", it really means "do as little as  
> possible". While this is probably the best match for the natural  
> language interpretation, it's an abomination in logic.  If I argue  
> that "nothing" and "something" are interchangeable, it becomes  
> impossible to prove or disprove anything, since so many proofs  
> require nonexistent things to stay nonexistent.  Now if I say  
> nothing travels faster than the speed of light, I'm really saying  
> that something does.  If nothing dies before it is born, then  
> something actually does.  If nothing disproves this interpretation,  
> then something does.  Yet another self-disproving argument.
> So the false command has no stable foundation.  It must be  
> deprecated. Start the petition!  Also, memorize its description  
> because it could be a great defense against killer robots.



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