Tortoises all the Way Down

(by Murray Lachlan Young)
The world is not round
The world is flat
And it sits on a giant
Tortoise’s back

And that Tortoise
Sits on another Tortoise
And so on and so forth
The tortoises abound

But you won’t catch me out
Asking – what’s at the bottom?
It’s Tortoises
All the way down

Yes its Tortoises
All the way down of course
It’s Tortoises
All the way down

I can’t prove it of course
But then neither could you
Prove the world is
The slightest bit round

Circular, regressive
Axiomatic
It seems that it’s simple
For people to see

That nothing
Adds up
If you follow it through
Epistemologically

Yet as Munchhausen said
To the hairs on his head
As he bootstrapped himself
From the mud laden ground

It’s Tortoises
All the way down
My friends
It’s Tortoises
All the way down

(Tortoises  all the Way Down deals with The Münchhausen trilemma – a term used in epistemology to stress the impossibility to prove any truth even in the fields of logic and mathematics. The origins of the story are unclear but one version has it that a well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant turtle.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise   standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!” )

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