I was at a philosophy conference, and there was a surprise pair of speakers who were giving a joint presentation replacing the original keynote. We all crowded into the big room, to see Ayatollah Montazeri and some guy from MIT (in most of my dreams, any archtype of academia is likely to be from MIT) at the podium. I was pretty sure at that point that it was going to be BS and was imagining walking out when I got bored, and then came the title, 「Machine learning and Fiqh」. Before the speech began, the doors were secured and heavily armed IDF(!) guards patrolled the edges of the room. Montazeri got up and gave an overview of Islamic literary logic, the six schools of Islamic jurisprudence and how differences in their styles of logic, implication, and reading led them to different conclusions about divine law. He saw this as a problem, and apparently had slipped out of house arrest to come to MIT(!) for new ideas, where he met the other guy. The other guy then outlined a machine learning approach to meaning preservation, using training data based on partial and complete lines of sentences from the Quran to build a system of formal logic, e.g. breaking "You should not marry your brother's wife unless X" into two statements and training a reasoner using redundant and clarifying potions from the Quran to determine the type of logic that presumably was meant to be used to interpret it. They went into a lot more detail, and people were pretty impressed, He made a call for a new school of fiqh that would replace the old and unite Sunni and Shia.
Not long after this call, I heard the sounds of gunfire outside.
Waking up, I am not sure what to make of the idea - I'm not sure there's enough redundancy in the Quran to pull it off, I don't know if the idea really is sound to begin with, and I am pretty sure it would not unify Sunni and Shia. It's kind of cute though.
Preservation of meaning across generations might be a kind of weak cultural crypto - the system of reasoning of the encoder combines with the message to produce the meaning. Unlike most crypto, it has the unfortunate characteristic of if you use a subtly wrong key you get subtly wrong results (rather than widely wrong results). I suppose that characteristic is needed to make an older philosopher recognise their earlier work - same words, but the self of the present can paint its self-identificative past into it and so claim it. (the relationship between the "past" that is part of our identity and the "present" that was part of our identity in the past is pretty complicated - any of us could get away with identifying parts of our worldview that were "still emerging" in the past, even if these parts were not actually there at the time - the shape of our mind over time, each with its own "past" and present partly distinct from what theoretically should align with other timescales - it's pretty amusing and weird.)
Feeling surprisingly not-depressed right now. Hoping it will last for awhile.