description - explanation - metaphor - model

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description - explanation - metaphor - model

Prof David West
Lacking the wit tore- weave the  argument that has unraveled into several threads and posts; an attempt to begin afresh from one of the points of origin - the Introduction to a book by Nick and Eric.

First a common ascription: " A description is understood as a simple statement of a fact, whereas an explanation is an interpretation. A description simply says what happened, whereas an explanation says why it happened."

Followed by an argument that description and explanation are pretty close to the same thing:  all descriptions explain; all explanations describe, and both are in some sense, interpretations.

Then a discussion that leads right back to the same distinction:  "Descriptions are explanations that the speaker and audience take to be true for the purpose of seeking further explanations. Conversely, explanations are descriptions that the speaker and audience hold to be unverified under the present circumstances."

There is, however, a (in my mind) subtle error here, in that the assertion just quoted uses the word "true" as if it was the same thing as "assumed for the purposes of argument" — the conclusion of the argument about differences — which it is not.  Similarly, "unverified" is not the same as "contested absent further information;."

I presume that this error? was intentional, as they need descriptions and, later, models to have this "truthiness" quality.

The discussion of explanations as models with 'basic" and "surplus" implications (surplus being divided into "intended" and "unintended") parallels and, except for vocabulary, duplicates McCormac's discussion of the evolution of metaphor from epiphor to either "lexical term" or "dead metaphor." [Unlike Glen, I have no difficulty with metaphor as a kind of philosopher's stone for sense-making in science.]

The discussion of levels of explanations is where the need for "truthy" descriptions comes back into play.  Somewhere in our hierarchy of models is the need for a "true" purely descriptive model. Even within any given model there is a need to accept the "Basic Meaning" as being "true" and purely descriptive, so we can go about researching and verifying (or not) the intended "surplus meanings."

Although it is evident how and why they need "truth" in order to proceed with their discussion and argument, I am unwilling to grant it. For me, both explanations and descriptions are "interpretations" with no qualitative differentiation.

Their goal is to be "scientific" and so "truthy" models must remain and become fundamental to the evaluation of explanations. Evaluation is taken to be a two step process, with each step having three aspects.

Specify the explanation:
  1. find the foundational (root of the theory) "true" description.
  2. expose the model - i.e. the metaphor.
  3. expose the intended surplus implications such that research can begin to verify/disprove them.
Evaluate the explanation
  1. discard the explanation if there are no surplus implications exposed for investigation.
  2. confirm the basic implications
  3. prove some number of the intended surplus implications to be "true."

Nice and tidy - except it does not / cannot work this way. Just like the "scientific method" in general, this construct can serve, at best, as an after the fact rationalization of a course of investigation.

Absent a "true" description at its root, a theory becomes a Jenga tower of speculation.

"Confirmation" of basic implications is too often a "political" exercise — so too any "proving" of surplus implications as "true" — witness the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics. (Or, in the case of 'proving" things, the fact that string theory and many other quantum theories generate no testable intentional surplus implications.)

It is far too easy to move inconvenient (i.e. unprovable) "intended surplus implications to the "unintended' category — witness Artificial Intelligence and the mind-is-computer-is-mind model/metaphor.

The "unintended" surplus implications might, more often than not, be more important than the "intended" ones — witness epigenetics.

Reliance on models, even structured models like those proposed, eliminates "context" because all models are, if not abstractions, simplifications; focusing only on what is deemed 'relevant."

This last point makes me want to read the rest of Eric's and Nick's book, because I suspect I would find agreement with the last point of my argument. I surmise this from the all to brief mention that: "we will find that the problem Darwin’s theory does suffer from is that it is wrong.  Yes…Wrong! Darwinian Theory is wrong in a much more limited sense – empirical evidence shows that a comprehensive explanation for adaptation will require the inclusion of other explanatory principles, to complement the explanatory power of natural selection. "

Which brings me to a concluding question: can 'broken-wing' behavior convey an evolutionary advantage to the Killdeer absent a mechanism the maintains the gullibility of the Fox? It would seem to me that Foxes whose behavior ignored the Killdeer feint would be better fed (eggs and nestlings) than those that were fooled and therefore obtain an evolutionary advantage that would, eventually make the Killdeer seek an alternative strategy.

An off-hand BTW — I much prefer postmodern methods of deconstruction as a methodology; not to find "Truth" which does not exist, IMO, but simply to keep the investigation lively and honest.

davew
 


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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

Frank Wimberly-2
Bravo, Dave.

-----------------------------------
Frank Wimberly

My memoir:
https://www.amazon.com/author/frankwimberly

My scientific publications:
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Frank_Wimberly2

Phone (505) 670-9918

On Tue, Dec 24, 2019, 5:26 AM Prof David West <[hidden email]> wrote:
Lacking the wit tore- weave the  argument that has unraveled into several threads and posts; an attempt to begin afresh from one of the points of origin - the Introduction to a book by Nick and Eric.

First a common ascription: " A description is understood as a simple statement of a fact, whereas an explanation is an interpretation. A description simply says what happened, whereas an explanation says why it happened."

Followed by an argument that description and explanation are pretty close to the same thing:  all descriptions explain; all explanations describe, and both are in some sense, interpretations.

Then a discussion that leads right back to the same distinction:  "Descriptions are explanations that the speaker and audience take to be true for the purpose of seeking further explanations. Conversely, explanations are descriptions that the speaker and audience hold to be unverified under the present circumstances."

There is, however, a (in my mind) subtle error here, in that the assertion just quoted uses the word "true" as if it was the same thing as "assumed for the purposes of argument" — the conclusion of the argument about differences — which it is not.  Similarly, "unverified" is not the same as "contested absent further information;."

I presume that this error? was intentional, as they need descriptions and, later, models to have this "truthiness" quality.

The discussion of explanations as models with 'basic" and "surplus" implications (surplus being divided into "intended" and "unintended") parallels and, except for vocabulary, duplicates McCormac's discussion of the evolution of metaphor from epiphor to either "lexical term" or "dead metaphor." [Unlike Glen, I have no difficulty with metaphor as a kind of philosopher's stone for sense-making in science.]

The discussion of levels of explanations is where the need for "truthy" descriptions comes back into play.  Somewhere in our hierarchy of models is the need for a "true" purely descriptive model. Even within any given model there is a need to accept the "Basic Meaning" as being "true" and purely descriptive, so we can go about researching and verifying (or not) the intended "surplus meanings."

Although it is evident how and why they need "truth" in order to proceed with their discussion and argument, I am unwilling to grant it. For me, both explanations and descriptions are "interpretations" with no qualitative differentiation.

Their goal is to be "scientific" and so "truthy" models must remain and become fundamental to the evaluation of explanations. Evaluation is taken to be a two step process, with each step having three aspects.

Specify the explanation:
  1. find the foundational (root of the theory) "true" description.
  2. expose the model - i.e. the metaphor.
  3. expose the intended surplus implications such that research can begin to verify/disprove them.
Evaluate the explanation
  1. discard the explanation if there are no surplus implications exposed for investigation.
  2. confirm the basic implications
  3. prove some number of the intended surplus implications to be "true."

Nice and tidy - except it does not / cannot work this way. Just like the "scientific method" in general, this construct can serve, at best, as an after the fact rationalization of a course of investigation.

Absent a "true" description at its root, a theory becomes a Jenga tower of speculation.

"Confirmation" of basic implications is too often a "political" exercise — so too any "proving" of surplus implications as "true" — witness the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics. (Or, in the case of 'proving" things, the fact that string theory and many other quantum theories generate no testable intentional surplus implications.)

It is far too easy to move inconvenient (i.e. unprovable) "intended surplus implications to the "unintended' category — witness Artificial Intelligence and the mind-is-computer-is-mind model/metaphor.

The "unintended" surplus implications might, more often than not, be more important than the "intended" ones — witness epigenetics.

Reliance on models, even structured models like those proposed, eliminates "context" because all models are, if not abstractions, simplifications; focusing only on what is deemed 'relevant."

This last point makes me want to read the rest of Eric's and Nick's book, because I suspect I would find agreement with the last point of my argument. I surmise this from the all to brief mention that: "we will find that the problem Darwin’s theory does suffer from is that it is wrong.  Yes…Wrong! Darwinian Theory is wrong in a much more limited sense – empirical evidence shows that a comprehensive explanation for adaptation will require the inclusion of other explanatory principles, to complement the explanatory power of natural selection. "

Which brings me to a concluding question: can 'broken-wing' behavior convey an evolutionary advantage to the Killdeer absent a mechanism the maintains the gullibility of the Fox? It would seem to me that Foxes whose behavior ignored the Killdeer feint would be better fed (eggs and nestlings) than those that were fooled and therefore obtain an evolutionary advantage that would, eventually make the Killdeer seek an alternative strategy.

An off-hand BTW — I much prefer postmodern methods of deconstruction as a methodology; not to find "Truth" which does not exist, IMO, but simply to keep the investigation lively and honest.

davew



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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

Eric Charles-2
In reply to this post by Prof David West
"Absent a "true" description at its root, a theory becomes a Jenga tower of speculation"

Ah, I see you've been to an American Psychological Association conference!

That aside... ;- ) .... thank you for this excellent critique! I will endeavor to do it justice in reply when I get to a real computer. 

Best, 
Eric

On Tue, Dec 24, 2019, 7:26 AM Prof David West <[hidden email]> wrote:
Lacking the wit tore- weave the  argument that has unraveled into several threads and posts; an attempt to begin afresh from one of the points of origin - the Introduction to a book by Nick and Eric.

First a common ascription: " A description is understood as a simple statement of a fact, whereas an explanation is an interpretation. A description simply says what happened, whereas an explanation says why it happened."

Followed by an argument that description and explanation are pretty close to the same thing:  all descriptions explain; all explanations describe, and both are in some sense, interpretations.

Then a discussion that leads right back to the same distinction:  "Descriptions are explanations that the speaker and audience take to be true for the purpose of seeking further explanations. Conversely, explanations are descriptions that the speaker and audience hold to be unverified under the present circumstances."

There is, however, a (in my mind) subtle error here, in that the assertion just quoted uses the word "true" as if it was the same thing as "assumed for the purposes of argument" — the conclusion of the argument about differences — which it is not.  Similarly, "unverified" is not the same as "contested absent further information;."

I presume that this error? was intentional, as they need descriptions and, later, models to have this "truthiness" quality.

The discussion of explanations as models with 'basic" and "surplus" implications (surplus being divided into "intended" and "unintended") parallels and, except for vocabulary, duplicates McCormac's discussion of the evolution of metaphor from epiphor to either "lexical term" or "dead metaphor." [Unlike Glen, I have no difficulty with metaphor as a kind of philosopher's stone for sense-making in science.]

The discussion of levels of explanations is where the need for "truthy" descriptions comes back into play.  Somewhere in our hierarchy of models is the need for a "true" purely descriptive model. Even within any given model there is a need to accept the "Basic Meaning" as being "true" and purely descriptive, so we can go about researching and verifying (or not) the intended "surplus meanings."

Although it is evident how and why they need "truth" in order to proceed with their discussion and argument, I am unwilling to grant it. For me, both explanations and descriptions are "interpretations" with no qualitative differentiation.

Their goal is to be "scientific" and so "truthy" models must remain and become fundamental to the evaluation of explanations. Evaluation is taken to be a two step process, with each step having three aspects.

Specify the explanation:
  1. find the foundational (root of the theory) "true" description.
  2. expose the model - i.e. the metaphor.
  3. expose the intended surplus implications such that research can begin to verify/disprove them.
Evaluate the explanation
  1. discard the explanation if there are no surplus implications exposed for investigation.
  2. confirm the basic implications
  3. prove some number of the intended surplus implications to be "true."

Nice and tidy - except it does not / cannot work this way. Just like the "scientific method" in general, this construct can serve, at best, as an after the fact rationalization of a course of investigation.

Absent a "true" description at its root, a theory becomes a Jenga tower of speculation.

"Confirmation" of basic implications is too often a "political" exercise — so too any "proving" of surplus implications as "true" — witness the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics. (Or, in the case of 'proving" things, the fact that string theory and many other quantum theories generate no testable intentional surplus implications.)

It is far too easy to move inconvenient (i.e. unprovable) "intended surplus implications to the "unintended' category — witness Artificial Intelligence and the mind-is-computer-is-mind model/metaphor.

The "unintended" surplus implications might, more often than not, be more important than the "intended" ones — witness epigenetics.

Reliance on models, even structured models like those proposed, eliminates "context" because all models are, if not abstractions, simplifications; focusing only on what is deemed 'relevant."

This last point makes me want to read the rest of Eric's and Nick's book, because I suspect I would find agreement with the last point of my argument. I surmise this from the all to brief mention that: "we will find that the problem Darwin’s theory does suffer from is that it is wrong.  Yes…Wrong! Darwinian Theory is wrong in a much more limited sense – empirical evidence shows that a comprehensive explanation for adaptation will require the inclusion of other explanatory principles, to complement the explanatory power of natural selection. "

Which brings me to a concluding question: can 'broken-wing' behavior convey an evolutionary advantage to the Killdeer absent a mechanism the maintains the gullibility of the Fox? It would seem to me that Foxes whose behavior ignored the Killdeer feint would be better fed (eggs and nestlings) than those that were fooled and therefore obtain an evolutionary advantage that would, eventually make the Killdeer seek an alternative strategy.

An off-hand BTW — I much prefer postmodern methods of deconstruction as a methodology; not to find "Truth" which does not exist, IMO, but simply to keep the investigation lively and honest.

davew



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Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
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Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

Steven A Smith
In reply to this post by Prof David West
Dave (et al) -

I haven't had the bandwidth/focus to follow this line of discussion
closely nor well, much less stick my fat foot in the middle of it,
however your synopsis/redux/refactor here is very well presented and
while I have some pause with some of your assertions/conclusions,
overall rings "true" (Oupsie!)... 

In any case, I've started the force on my annual solstice narcissus
bulbs and lit my solstice ("magical luck reversing") candle (ritually
purchased at pojoaque village market in lieu of one of the many saints I
could choose from) and am trying to refocus my "self" toward a future
(path through the multiverse of adjacent possibles?) which
simultaneously embraces the unknowable whilst maintaining enough of a
rationalization of the path of (apparently adjacent) events strung out
behind me in my (imaginary) rear-view mirror, stretching back to some
aft-horizon roughly correlated with the degree of my neurological
senescence or perhaps the degree of reinforcement from my extended
context (retelling all my old stories at holiday meals?).  All this to
frame the issue of "objective reality" and "truth" in terms of my own
decisions in the light of my beliefs (models?) and memories.

I am (willfully?) unable to either confirm or deny your assertion that
there is no qualitative distinction between description and
explanation.   Or more to the point, I feel a need to embrace both, to
whatever extent such is possible.   I find the distinction incredibly
useful for relating to others...  it is incredibly convenient to share a
sense of an objective reality which allows for a style of relating
through the (illusory?) shared physical (by agreement?) reality... in
fact, it is downright "convenient" to treat other people as if they have
an objective reality and their nature is immutable and more than simply
"my interpretation" of the various sensory inputs that impinge on me
"from" their behaviour.

On the other hand, of course, I understand both practically and
philosophically that for everything I think I *know* to be "true", that
there is at the very least a fuzzy haze - a distribution of alternative
explanations for my perceptions.  I also recognize that the models (or
metaphors) I live by are inherited from A) my physiology (ala Lakoff and
Nunez) and B) my cultural embedding (nuclear family, regional
distinctions, ethnosocial subcultural embedding, etc.   I feel blessed
to be somewhat aware of this "duality" (in a different sense than we
have bandied about here methinks?) through a lot of my life... and
therefore am like the Red Queen, able and willing to "think six
impossible thoughts before breakfast", and yet apparently/conveniently
able to proceed as if there were a (shared with others) objective reality.

But (BUT) what I think I find disturbing about the truism (oupsie!) that
"everything is interpretation" is so often used as the sophists entree
into a manipulation, into a switcharoo where the "everything is
interpretation" suddenly becomes "let me give you my interpretation in a
compelling way that has you acting as if it is somehow 'more true' than
the one you started with".   My oldest friend by most measures carried
this acutely as a young man...   always pretty sure of the things he
thought he believed in as if he had strong evidence for believing them
(and denying other's beliefs) but when confronted with fairly damning
evidence against his pet-ideas had the pat phrase "you never know!"
which he could never muster nor allow when *others* had pet-beliefs that
opposed his.   I last saw him in person after his wife (also a friend
from HS) died and I went to the funeral... his young-adult daughter (who
I had not seen since she was a baby) referred to him (fondly?) as her
"fox news-father" because A) anything you might have an idea or opinion
about he had an answer to which had the tone and in fact likely specific
scripting straight from Fox-News; and B) he never turned off his TV...
and it was tuned *only* to Fox-News... as if leaving it running when he
was gone made what they spewed "more true" or making sure he didn't
forget to turn it on when he got home again, or ????    Granted, I have
plenty of friends who act vaguely the same way with PBS/NPR and in fact
have a whole cohort of very liberal/progressive *younger* friends who
are all but literally *allergic* to NPR/PBS because *their parents*
(from my cohort) ran it 24/7 during their upbringing.

Regarding the "wit to re-weave"... my elderdotter weaned herself off
smoking through knitting which became a near compulsion... it was
something she could do with her hands whilst reading technical papers on
her kindle.. she became (as her personal blog is titled) a "yarn
harlot", but at one point she realized that no matter how many skeins of
yarn she bought (at the store, or yard sales), there was no such thing
as "enough" yet she also had "too much".   To curb that ,she began a new
obsession, that of finding high quality, but often mildly stained or
damaged wool sweaters at the thrift store and un-ravelling/re-knitting
them, sometimes with bits of "new" yarn for color/accent...   I very
much appreciate when someone (Glen is also prone to this) backs up,
unravels (or simply picks up the unraveled bits available) and re-ravels
a tapestry for us that includes (some if not all of) the elements from
the original(s).

Sappy Solstice!

 - Steve





On 12/24/19 5:26 AM, Prof David West wrote:

> Lacking the wit tore- weave the  argument that has unraveled into several threads and posts; an attempt to begin afresh from one of the points of origin - the Introduction to a book by Nick and Eric.
>
> First a common ascription: " A description is understood as a simple statement of a fact, whereas an explanation is an interpretation. A description simply says what happened, whereas an explanation says why it happened."
>
> Followed by an argument that description and explanation are pretty close to the same thing:  all descriptions explain; all explanations describe, and both are in some sense, interpretations.
>
> Then a discussion that leads right back to the same distinction:  "Descriptions are explanations that the speaker and audience take to be true for the purpose of seeking further explanations. Conversely, explanations are descriptions that the speaker and audience hold to be unverified under the present circumstances."
>
> There is, however, a (in my mind) subtle error here, in that the assertion just quoted uses the word "true" as if it was the same thing as "assumed for the purposes of argument" — the conclusion of the argument about differences — which it is not.  Similarly, "unverified" is not the same as "contested absent further information;."
>
> I presume that this error? was intentional, as they need descriptions and, later, models to have this "truthiness" quality.
>
> The discussion of explanations as models with 'basic" and "surplus" implications (surplus being divided into "intended" and "unintended") parallels and, except for vocabulary, duplicates McCormac's discussion of the evolution of metaphor from epiphor to either "lexical term" or "dead metaphor." [Unlike Glen, I have no difficulty with metaphor as a kind of philosopher's stone for sense-making in science.]
>
> The discussion of levels of explanations is where the need for "truthy" descriptions comes back into play.  Somewhere in our hierarchy of models is the need for a "true" purely descriptive model. Even within any given model there is a need to accept the "Basic Meaning" as being "true" and purely descriptive, so we can go about researching and verifying (or not) the intended "surplus meanings."
>
> Although it is evident how and why they need "truth" in order to proceed with their discussion and argument, I am unwilling to grant it. For me, both explanations and descriptions are "interpretations" with no qualitative differentiation.
>
> Their goal is to be "scientific" and so "truthy" models must remain and become fundamental to the evaluation of explanations. Evaluation is taken to be a two step process, with each step having three aspects.
>
> Specify the explanation:
>   1. find the foundational (root of the theory) "true" description.
>   2. expose the model - i.e. the metaphor.
>   3. expose the intended surplus implications such that research can begin to verify/disprove them.
> Evaluate the explanation
>   1. discard the explanation if there are no surplus implications exposed for investigation.
>   2. confirm the basic implications
>   3. prove some number of the intended surplus implications to be "true."
>
> Nice and tidy - except it does not / cannot work this way. Just like the "scientific method" in general, this construct can serve, at best, as an after the fact rationalization of a course of investigation.
>
> Absent a "true" description at its root, a theory becomes a Jenga tower of speculation.
>
> "Confirmation" of basic implications is too often a "political" exercise — so too any "proving" of surplus implications as "true" — witness the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics. (Or, in the case of 'proving" things, the fact that string theory and many other quantum theories generate no testable intentional surplus implications.)
>
> It is far too easy to move inconvenient (i.e. unprovable) "intended surplus implications to the "unintended' category — witness Artificial Intelligence and the mind-is-computer-is-mind model/metaphor.
>
> The "unintended" surplus implications might, more often than not, be more important than the "intended" ones — witness epigenetics.
>
> Reliance on models, even structured models like those proposed, eliminates "context" because all models are, if not abstractions, simplifications; focusing only on what is deemed 'relevant."
>
> This last point makes me want to read the rest of Eric's and Nick's book, because I suspect I would find agreement with the last point of my argument. I surmise this from the all to brief mention that: "we will find that the problem Darwin’s theory does suffer from is that it is wrong.  Yes…Wrong! Darwinian Theory is wrong in a much more limited sense – empirical evidence shows that a comprehensive explanation for adaptation will require the inclusion of other explanatory principles, to complement the explanatory power of natural selection. "
>
> Which brings me to a concluding question: can 'broken-wing' behavior convey an evolutionary advantage to the Killdeer absent a mechanism the maintains the gullibility of the Fox? It would seem to me that Foxes whose behavior ignored the Killdeer feint would be better fed (eggs and nestlings) than those that were fooled and therefore obtain an evolutionary advantage that would, eventually make the Killdeer seek an alternative strategy.
>
> An off-hand BTW — I much prefer postmodern methods of deconstruction as a methodology; not to find "Truth" which does not exist, IMO, but simply to keep the investigation lively and honest.
>
> davew
>  
>
>
> ============================================================
> FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv
> Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
> to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
> archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/
> FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove
>


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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

thompnickson2
Steve,

I take you as a colleague in the enterprise to see signs of spring, even as winter is pressing in.  Just as a matter of climatology, Santa Fe, unlike Massachusetts, is a place where the average coldest day of the year occurs almost as soon as the sun angle starts to rise (first week of January, I think).  In the East, the momentum of all that nearby cold water carries the average temperature down all the way to the forth week of January.   But the EARLIEST sign of spring is already behind us by two weeks.  On December 7 the AFTERNOONS started to get longer.  For those of us who are... um .... late risers, the time from noon to sunset is the only cue to day length we ever get, so WE think that the days have been getting longer ever since Pearl Harbor Day.  

I won't have time to respond to this thread in earnest until  the Rellies leave.  Dave's remarks are going to be tremendously useful, but I need time to work them over.  Until then, let me just say to you that, as you know, I am no fan of relativism.  First, whether truth exists or not, I think plays a tremendously important role in human life.  So, if we are to talk to anybody about anything, we have to take descriptions for granted.  Thus, we cannot talk about Santa Clause, you and I, without a description, at least partially shared, about he looks like, or does, or is, or whatever.  This is the Pragmatist position.  I think, in addition, that truth EXISTS.  The evidence for this proposition is that, in some regards, our experience as a species does tend to converge.   This is the PragmatiCIst view of my man, Peirce.  It is a statistical notion.  (Peirce had a lot to do with the stuff we learned in elementary statistics courses.)  He starts by asserting that events in experience are essentially random: i.e., there are not reliable rules of experience that connect them. However, SOME types of events are TRULY connected to other types of events.  How do we tell the difference between "true" coincidences and coincidental ones?   The more frequently two events coincide the more likely they have been drawn from a population of events that "really" coincide, rather than from populations o spurious ones.  Like the evidence for the fairness of a coin, this sort of progress toward an asyntote is NEVER conclusive.  No matter how often we flip the coin heads, it still COULD BE a fair coin.  But after a run of heads sufficiently long, the betting folks amongst us will start to distrust the coin, and we PragmatiCIsts are betting folks.  Species and organisms are the sort of entities that make such bets, and species evolution and individual learning are evidence for the utililty of, and perhaps even the truth of, such bets.

So truth is not only tremendously useful (even Fox agrees with that) but it actually exists, even though we can see it only in the asymptotes of our sucessful guesses.  

Joyous X, Steve, for whatever value of X you care to adopt.

Nick
Nicholas Thompson
Emeritus Professor of Ethology and Psychology
Clark University
[hidden email]
https://wordpress.clarku.edu/nthompson/
 


-----Original Message-----
From: Friam <[hidden email]> On Behalf Of Steven A Smith
Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2019 11:09 AM
To: [hidden email]
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] description - explanation - metaphor - model

Dave (et al) -

I haven't had the bandwidth/focus to follow this line of discussion closely nor well, much less stick my fat foot in the middle of it, however your synopsis/redux/refactor here is very well presented and while I have some pause with some of your assertions/conclusions, overall rings "true" (Oupsie!)...

In any case, I've started the force on my annual solstice narcissus bulbs and lit my solstice ("magical luck reversing") candle (ritually purchased at pojoaque village market in lieu of one of the many saints I could choose from) and am trying to refocus my "self" toward a future (path through the multiverse of adjacent possibles?) which simultaneously embraces the unknowable whilst maintaining enough of a rationalization of the path of (apparently adjacent) events strung out behind me in my (imaginary) rear-view mirror, stretching back to some aft-horizon roughly correlated with the degree of my neurological senescence or perhaps the degree of reinforcement from my extended context (retelling all my old stories at holiday meals?).  All this to frame the issue of "objective reality" and "truth" in terms of my own decisions in the light of my beliefs (models?) and memories.

I am (willfully?) unable to either confirm or deny your assertion that there is no qualitative distinction between description and explanation.   Or more to the point, I feel a need to embrace both, to whatever extent such is possible.   I find the distinction incredibly useful for relating to others...  it is incredibly convenient to share a sense of an objective reality which allows for a style of relating through the (illusory?) shared physical (by agreement?) reality... in fact, it is downright "convenient" to treat other people as if they have an objective reality and their nature is immutable and more than simply "my interpretation" of the various sensory inputs that impinge on me "from" their behaviour.

On the other hand, of course, I understand both practically and philosophically that for everything I think I *know* to be "true", that there is at the very least a fuzzy haze - a distribution of alternative explanations for my perceptions.  I also recognize that the models (or
metaphors) I live by are inherited from A) my physiology (ala Lakoff and
Nunez) and B) my cultural embedding (nuclear family, regional distinctions, ethnosocial subcultural embedding, etc.   I feel blessed to be somewhat aware of this "duality" (in a different sense than we have bandied about here methinks?) through a lot of my life... and therefore am like the Red Queen, able and willing to "think six impossible thoughts before breakfast", and yet apparently/conveniently able to proceed as if there were a (shared with others) objective reality.

But (BUT) what I think I find disturbing about the truism (oupsie!) that "everything is interpretation" is so often used as the sophists entree into a manipulation, into a switcharoo where the "everything is interpretation" suddenly becomes "let me give you my interpretation in a compelling way that has you acting as if it is somehow 'more true' than the one you started with".   My oldest friend by most measures carried this acutely as a young man...   always pretty sure of the things he thought he believed in as if he had strong evidence for believing them (and denying other's beliefs) but when confronted with fairly damning evidence against his pet-ideas had the pat phrase "you never know!"
which he could never muster nor allow when *others* had pet-beliefs that opposed his.   I last saw him in person after his wife (also a friend from HS) died and I went to the funeral... his young-adult daughter (who I had not seen since she was a baby) referred to him (fondly?) as her "fox news-father" because A) anything you might have an idea or opinion about he had an answer to which had the tone and in fact likely specific scripting straight from Fox-News; and B) he never turned off his TV...
and it was tuned *only* to Fox-News... as if leaving it running when he was gone made what they spewed "more true" or making sure he didn't forget to turn it on when he got home again, or ????    Granted, I have plenty of friends who act vaguely the same way with PBS/NPR and in fact have a whole cohort of very liberal/progressive *younger* friends who are all but literally *allergic* to NPR/PBS because *their parents* (from my cohort) ran it 24/7 during their upbringing.

Regarding the "wit to re-weave"... my elderdotter weaned herself off smoking through knitting which became a near compulsion... it was something she could do with her hands whilst reading technical papers on her kindle.. she became (as her personal blog is titled) a "yarn harlot", but at one point she realized that no matter how many skeins of yarn she bought (at the store, or yard sales), there was no such thing as "enough" yet she also had "too much".   To curb that ,she began a new obsession, that of finding high quality, but often mildly stained or damaged wool sweaters at the thrift store and un-ravelling/re-knitting them, sometimes with bits of "new" yarn for color/accent...   I very much appreciate when someone (Glen is also prone to this) backs up, unravels (or simply picks up the unraveled bits available) and re-ravels a tapestry for us that includes (some if not all of) the elements from the original(s).

Sappy Solstice!

 - Steve





On 12/24/19 5:26 AM, Prof David West wrote:

> Lacking the wit tore- weave the  argument that has unraveled into several threads and posts; an attempt to begin afresh from one of the points of origin - the Introduction to a book by Nick and Eric.
>
> First a common ascription: " A description is understood as a simple statement of a fact, whereas an explanation is an interpretation. A description simply says what happened, whereas an explanation says why it happened."
>
> Followed by an argument that description and explanation are pretty close to the same thing:  all descriptions explain; all explanations describe, and both are in some sense, interpretations.
>
> Then a discussion that leads right back to the same distinction:  "Descriptions are explanations that the speaker and audience take to be true for the purpose of seeking further explanations. Conversely, explanations are descriptions that the speaker and audience hold to be unverified under the present circumstances."
>
> There is, however, a (in my mind) subtle error here, in that the assertion just quoted uses the word "true" as if it was the same thing as "assumed for the purposes of argument" — the conclusion of the argument about differences — which it is not.  Similarly, "unverified" is not the same as "contested absent further information;."
>
> I presume that this error? was intentional, as they need descriptions and, later, models to have this "truthiness" quality.
>
> The discussion of explanations as models with 'basic" and "surplus"
> implications (surplus being divided into "intended" and "unintended")
> parallels and, except for vocabulary, duplicates McCormac's discussion
> of the evolution of metaphor from epiphor to either "lexical term" or
> "dead metaphor." [Unlike Glen, I have no difficulty with metaphor as a
> kind of philosopher's stone for sense-making in science.]
>
> The discussion of levels of explanations is where the need for "truthy" descriptions comes back into play.  Somewhere in our hierarchy of models is the need for a "true" purely descriptive model. Even within any given model there is a need to accept the "Basic Meaning" as being "true" and purely descriptive, so we can go about researching and verifying (or not) the intended "surplus meanings."
>
> Although it is evident how and why they need "truth" in order to proceed with their discussion and argument, I am unwilling to grant it. For me, both explanations and descriptions are "interpretations" with no qualitative differentiation.
>
> Their goal is to be "scientific" and so "truthy" models must remain and become fundamental to the evaluation of explanations. Evaluation is taken to be a two step process, with each step having three aspects.
>
> Specify the explanation:
>   1. find the foundational (root of the theory) "true" description.
>   2. expose the model - i.e. the metaphor.
>   3. expose the intended surplus implications such that research can begin to verify/disprove them.
> Evaluate the explanation
>   1. discard the explanation if there are no surplus implications exposed for investigation.
>   2. confirm the basic implications
>   3. prove some number of the intended surplus implications to be "true."
>
> Nice and tidy - except it does not / cannot work this way. Just like the "scientific method" in general, this construct can serve, at best, as an after the fact rationalization of a course of investigation.
>
> Absent a "true" description at its root, a theory becomes a Jenga tower of speculation.
>
> "Confirmation" of basic implications is too often a "political"
> exercise — so too any "proving" of surplus implications as "true" —
> witness the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics. (Or, in the
> case of 'proving" things, the fact that string theory and many other
> quantum theories generate no testable intentional surplus
> implications.)
>
> It is far too easy to move inconvenient (i.e. unprovable) "intended surplus implications to the "unintended' category — witness Artificial Intelligence and the mind-is-computer-is-mind model/metaphor.
>
> The "unintended" surplus implications might, more often than not, be more important than the "intended" ones — witness epigenetics.
>
> Reliance on models, even structured models like those proposed, eliminates "context" because all models are, if not abstractions, simplifications; focusing only on what is deemed 'relevant."
>
> This last point makes me want to read the rest of Eric's and Nick's book, because I suspect I would find agreement with the last point of my argument. I surmise this from the all to brief mention that: "we will find that the problem Darwin’s theory does suffer from is that it is wrong.  Yes…Wrong! Darwinian Theory is wrong in a much more limited sense – empirical evidence shows that a comprehensive explanation for adaptation will require the inclusion of other explanatory principles, to complement the explanatory power of natural selection. "
>
> Which brings me to a concluding question: can 'broken-wing' behavior convey an evolutionary advantage to the Killdeer absent a mechanism the maintains the gullibility of the Fox? It would seem to me that Foxes whose behavior ignored the Killdeer feint would be better fed (eggs and nestlings) than those that were fooled and therefore obtain an evolutionary advantage that would, eventually make the Killdeer seek an alternative strategy.
>
> An off-hand BTW — I much prefer postmodern methods of deconstruction as a methodology; not to find "Truth" which does not exist, IMO, but simply to keep the investigation lively and honest.
>
> davew
>  
>
>
> ============================================================
> FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe
> at St. John's College to unsubscribe
> http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
> archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/
> FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove
>


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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

Steven A Smith

Nick -

Thanks for the JoyousX and acknowledgement of "signs of spring".... I'm a bit more allegorical/parable-ic about my narcissus bulb growth than just "signs of Spring" but definitely that...   it is a reminder for me of *many* things:  1) That the sun (despite it's recent habit) *will* return.  I just spent 2 weeks in Sweden/Denmark/Holland and experienced (really for the first time) what happens in those latitudes, and perhaps more to the point in the presence of (warmish?) waters...   The sun rose (obscured by a continual mild cloud-cover) as late as 10++AM and disappeared near 3--PM each day (while in Stockholm and nearby) but the "twilight" hours were long and drawn out...   something I experience here at our (32?) latitude, but to a much greater extent;   2) In the starvation time of deep hibernation (my Genetic Test says that my genes are somewhat split between Scandinavian, Ursus, and Sasquatchii), it is amazing to watch something like a bulb with it's stored energy launch a set of photosynthetic probes up toward the light (away from the wet roots?) which begin to gather energy and convert the water from it's roots and the CO2 from the air into cellulose and actually bulk up, even divide (though they are better at that in real soil)... something animal life just can't quite muster (taking *our* energy from the carbon complexes built up BY other life via the combustion process)... making us (almost) entirely dependent on plant life (at the base); 3) Spring is a time of rebirth/return, of the cycle of life requiring a "rest" and perhaps even some "challenge" to renew it's desire/unction/necessity to relurch upward and outward.  

"I am life that wills to live in the midst of life that wills to live"

— Albert Schweitzer

Opposite/Apposite to your mistrust of relativism, I agree with the "pragmatic" value of having an absolute grounding to support the relativism/contextualism of everyday real-world situations.   The "Turtles all the way down'" aphorism still seems apt, however...   *IS* it possible that a world supported by "turtles all the way down" can be just as (apparently?) stable as one seated in bedrock (which itself is seated where?).

Slap-Happy Holidays!

- Steve


On 12/24/19 1:01 PM, [hidden email] wrote:
Steve, 

I take you as a colleague in the enterprise to see signs of spring, even as winter is pressing in.  Just as a matter of climatology, Santa Fe, unlike Massachusetts, is a place where the average coldest day of the year occurs almost as soon as the sun angle starts to rise (first week of January, I think).  In the East, the momentum of all that nearby cold water carries the average temperature down all the way to the forth week of January.   But the EARLIEST sign of spring is already behind us by two weeks.  On December 7 the AFTERNOONS started to get longer.  For those of us who are... um .... late risers, the time from noon to sunset is the only cue to day length we ever get, so WE think that the days have been getting longer ever since Pearl Harbor Day.  

I won't have time to respond to this thread in earnest until  the Rellies leave.  Dave's remarks are going to be tremendously useful, but I need time to work them over.  Until then, let me just say to you that, as you know, I am no fan of relativism.  First, whether truth exists or not, I think plays a tremendously important role in human life.  So, if we are to talk to anybody about anything, we have to take descriptions for granted.  Thus, we cannot talk about Santa Clause, you and I, without a description, at least partially shared, about he looks like, or does, or is, or whatever.  This is the Pragmatist position.  I think, in addition, that truth EXISTS.  The evidence for this proposition is that, in some regards, our experience as a species does tend to converge.   This is the PragmatiCIst view of my man, Peirce.  It is a statistical notion.  (Peirce had a lot to do with the stuff we learned in elementary statistics courses.)  He starts by asserting that events in experience are essentially random: i.e., there are not reliable rules of experience that connect them. However, SOME types of events are TRULY connected to other types of events.  How do we tell the difference between "true" coincidences and coincidental ones?   The more frequently two events coincide the more likely they have been drawn from a population of events that "really" coincide, rather than from populations o spurious ones.  Like the evidence for the fairness of a coin, this sort of progress toward an asyntote is NEVER conclusive.  No matter how often we flip the coin heads, it still COULD BE a fair coin.  But after a run of heads sufficiently long, the betting folks amongst us will start to distrust the coin, and we PragmatiCIsts are betting folks.  Species and organisms are the sort of entities that make such bets, and species evolution and individual learning are evidence for the utililty of, and perhaps even the truth of, such bets. 

So truth is not only tremendously useful (even Fox agrees with that) but it actually exists, even though we can see it only in the asymptotes of our sucessful guesses.  

Joyous X, Steve, for whatever value of X you care to adopt. 

Nick 
Nicholas Thompson
Emeritus Professor of Ethology and Psychology
Clark University
[hidden email]
https://wordpress.clarku.edu/nthompson/
 


-----Original Message-----
From: Friam [hidden email] On Behalf Of Steven A Smith
Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2019 11:09 AM
To: [hidden email]
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] description - explanation - metaphor - model

Dave (et al) -

I haven't had the bandwidth/focus to follow this line of discussion closely nor well, much less stick my fat foot in the middle of it, however your synopsis/redux/refactor here is very well presented and while I have some pause with some of your assertions/conclusions, overall rings "true" (Oupsie!)... 

In any case, I've started the force on my annual solstice narcissus bulbs and lit my solstice ("magical luck reversing") candle (ritually purchased at pojoaque village market in lieu of one of the many saints I could choose from) and am trying to refocus my "self" toward a future (path through the multiverse of adjacent possibles?) which simultaneously embraces the unknowable whilst maintaining enough of a rationalization of the path of (apparently adjacent) events strung out behind me in my (imaginary) rear-view mirror, stretching back to some aft-horizon roughly correlated with the degree of my neurological senescence or perhaps the degree of reinforcement from my extended context (retelling all my old stories at holiday meals?).  All this to frame the issue of "objective reality" and "truth" in terms of my own decisions in the light of my beliefs (models?) and memories.

I am (willfully?) unable to either confirm or deny your assertion that there is no qualitative distinction between description and explanation.   Or more to the point, I feel a need to embrace both, to whatever extent such is possible.   I find the distinction incredibly useful for relating to others...  it is incredibly convenient to share a sense of an objective reality which allows for a style of relating through the (illusory?) shared physical (by agreement?) reality... in fact, it is downright "convenient" to treat other people as if they have an objective reality and their nature is immutable and more than simply "my interpretation" of the various sensory inputs that impinge on me "from" their behaviour.

On the other hand, of course, I understand both practically and philosophically that for everything I think I *know* to be "true", that there is at the very least a fuzzy haze - a distribution of alternative explanations for my perceptions.  I also recognize that the models (or
metaphors) I live by are inherited from A) my physiology (ala Lakoff and
Nunez) and B) my cultural embedding (nuclear family, regional distinctions, ethnosocial subcultural embedding, etc.   I feel blessed to be somewhat aware of this "duality" (in a different sense than we have bandied about here methinks?) through a lot of my life... and therefore am like the Red Queen, able and willing to "think six impossible thoughts before breakfast", and yet apparently/conveniently able to proceed as if there were a (shared with others) objective reality.

But (BUT) what I think I find disturbing about the truism (oupsie!) that "everything is interpretation" is so often used as the sophists entree into a manipulation, into a switcharoo where the "everything is interpretation" suddenly becomes "let me give you my interpretation in a compelling way that has you acting as if it is somehow 'more true' than the one you started with".   My oldest friend by most measures carried this acutely as a young man...   always pretty sure of the things he thought he believed in as if he had strong evidence for believing them (and denying other's beliefs) but when confronted with fairly damning evidence against his pet-ideas had the pat phrase "you never know!"
which he could never muster nor allow when *others* had pet-beliefs that opposed his.   I last saw him in person after his wife (also a friend from HS) died and I went to the funeral... his young-adult daughter (who I had not seen since she was a baby) referred to him (fondly?) as her "fox news-father" because A) anything you might have an idea or opinion about he had an answer to which had the tone and in fact likely specific scripting straight from Fox-News; and B) he never turned off his TV...
and it was tuned *only* to Fox-News... as if leaving it running when he was gone made what they spewed "more true" or making sure he didn't forget to turn it on when he got home again, or ????    Granted, I have plenty of friends who act vaguely the same way with PBS/NPR and in fact have a whole cohort of very liberal/progressive *younger* friends who are all but literally *allergic* to NPR/PBS because *their parents* (from my cohort) ran it 24/7 during their upbringing.

Regarding the "wit to re-weave"... my elderdotter weaned herself off smoking through knitting which became a near compulsion... it was something she could do with her hands whilst reading technical papers on her kindle.. she became (as her personal blog is titled) a "yarn harlot", but at one point she realized that no matter how many skeins of yarn she bought (at the store, or yard sales), there was no such thing as "enough" yet she also had "too much".   To curb that ,she began a new obsession, that of finding high quality, but often mildly stained or damaged wool sweaters at the thrift store and un-ravelling/re-knitting them, sometimes with bits of "new" yarn for color/accent...   I very much appreciate when someone (Glen is also prone to this) backs up, unravels (or simply picks up the unraveled bits available) and re-ravels a tapestry for us that includes (some if not all of) the elements from the original(s).

Sappy Solstice!

 - Steve





On 12/24/19 5:26 AM, Prof David West wrote:
Lacking the wit tore- weave the  argument that has unraveled into several threads and posts; an attempt to begin afresh from one of the points of origin - the Introduction to a book by Nick and Eric.

First a common ascription: " A description is understood as a simple statement of a fact, whereas an explanation is an interpretation. A description simply says what happened, whereas an explanation says why it happened."

Followed by an argument that description and explanation are pretty close to the same thing:  all descriptions explain; all explanations describe, and both are in some sense, interpretations.

Then a discussion that leads right back to the same distinction:  "Descriptions are explanations that the speaker and audience take to be true for the purpose of seeking further explanations. Conversely, explanations are descriptions that the speaker and audience hold to be unverified under the present circumstances." 

There is, however, a (in my mind) subtle error here, in that the assertion just quoted uses the word "true" as if it was the same thing as "assumed for the purposes of argument" — the conclusion of the argument about differences — which it is not.  Similarly, "unverified" is not the same as "contested absent further information;."

I presume that this error? was intentional, as they need descriptions and, later, models to have this "truthiness" quality.

The discussion of explanations as models with 'basic" and "surplus" 
implications (surplus being divided into "intended" and "unintended") 
parallels and, except for vocabulary, duplicates McCormac's discussion 
of the evolution of metaphor from epiphor to either "lexical term" or 
"dead metaphor." [Unlike Glen, I have no difficulty with metaphor as a 
kind of philosopher's stone for sense-making in science.]

The discussion of levels of explanations is where the need for "truthy" descriptions comes back into play.  Somewhere in our hierarchy of models is the need for a "true" purely descriptive model. Even within any given model there is a need to accept the "Basic Meaning" as being "true" and purely descriptive, so we can go about researching and verifying (or not) the intended "surplus meanings."

Although it is evident how and why they need "truth" in order to proceed with their discussion and argument, I am unwilling to grant it. For me, both explanations and descriptions are "interpretations" with no qualitative differentiation.

Their goal is to be "scientific" and so "truthy" models must remain and become fundamental to the evaluation of explanations. Evaluation is taken to be a two step process, with each step having three aspects.

Specify the explanation:
  1. find the foundational (root of the theory) "true" description.
  2. expose the model - i.e. the metaphor.
  3. expose the intended surplus implications such that research can begin to verify/disprove them.
Evaluate the explanation
  1. discard the explanation if there are no surplus implications exposed for investigation.
  2. confirm the basic implications
  3. prove some number of the intended surplus implications to be "true."

Nice and tidy - except it does not / cannot work this way. Just like the "scientific method" in general, this construct can serve, at best, as an after the fact rationalization of a course of investigation.

Absent a "true" description at its root, a theory becomes a Jenga tower of speculation.

"Confirmation" of basic implications is too often a "political" 
exercise — so too any "proving" of surplus implications as "true" — 
witness the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics. (Or, in the 
case of 'proving" things, the fact that string theory and many other 
quantum theories generate no testable intentional surplus 
implications.)

It is far too easy to move inconvenient (i.e. unprovable) "intended surplus implications to the "unintended' category — witness Artificial Intelligence and the mind-is-computer-is-mind model/metaphor.

The "unintended" surplus implications might, more often than not, be more important than the "intended" ones — witness epigenetics.

Reliance on models, even structured models like those proposed, eliminates "context" because all models are, if not abstractions, simplifications; focusing only on what is deemed 'relevant."

This last point makes me want to read the rest of Eric's and Nick's book, because I suspect I would find agreement with the last point of my argument. I surmise this from the all to brief mention that: "we will find that the problem Darwin’s theory does suffer from is that it is wrong.  Yes…Wrong! Darwinian Theory is wrong in a much more limited sense – empirical evidence shows that a comprehensive explanation for adaptation will require the inclusion of other explanatory principles, to complement the explanatory power of natural selection. "

Which brings me to a concluding question: can 'broken-wing' behavior convey an evolutionary advantage to the Killdeer absent a mechanism the maintains the gullibility of the Fox? It would seem to me that Foxes whose behavior ignored the Killdeer feint would be better fed (eggs and nestlings) than those that were fooled and therefore obtain an evolutionary advantage that would, eventually make the Killdeer seek an alternative strategy.

An off-hand BTW — I much prefer postmodern methods of deconstruction as a methodology; not to find "Truth" which does not exist, IMO, but simply to keep the investigation lively and honest.

davew
 


============================================================
FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe 
at St. John's College to unsubscribe 
http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/
FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove


============================================================
FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv
Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/
FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove


============================================================
FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv
Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/
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to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

gepr
In reply to this post by Steven A Smith
And this is one of the reasons postmodern rhetoric is more pragmatic than modern rhetoric, because it shifts the concern away from Truth and toward Power. It's nothing more nor less than the standard gumshoe technique of following the money. If you want to know why some yahoo said what he said, Truth is irrelevant. What matters is how he might benefit from such expression.

But many people seem to think postmodern implies a form of pure relativism. I disagree. A postmodernist can still believe in some stably structured reality "out there". But she is willing to employ *both* power-based *and* stability-based analytic tactics.

A friend recently claimed I wasn't a Platonist because I challenged the idea of a unitary, constant entailment operator (⊢), as well as me claiming that the whole algebra can be arbitrarily changed, at will. So, the question for the Platonist becomes "which parts do we hold constant and which parts vary". I'm still a Platonist ... simply one that's skeptical of anyone's assertion that some part should be held constant/universal.

As you point out later in your post, of course, we have to doubt our own rhetoric just as much as we doubt others' rhetoric. And that's (obviously) difficult. Personally, posts like this one (https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=4476) teeter me on a kind of knife edge. It's a great sensation to teeter one way, then another, on some value-based judgement. Did Pinker's tweet provide cover for systemic sexism? It's a kinda Zen Koan ... one of those unanswerable questions whose only proper answer is Mu. But if we look at it through a postmodern lens, Pinker is *clearly* part of the good old boys club ... as crisply a member of that set as Jordan Peterson. He's objectively smart enough to know better than to tweet such nonsense.

Seth Meyers handles this well with his "Jokes Seth Can't Tell" segments. And the recent Jost/Che bit where they give each other jokes to tell blind handles it well, too: https://youtu.be/Ys786ZsA5tI. In the end, the bane of the rationalists (including Aaronson, Pinker, et al) is their tendency to *avoid* power analytics and focus on truth analytics.

On 12/24/19 10:08 AM, Steven A Smith wrote:
> But (BUT) what I think I find disturbing about the truism (oupsie!) that
> "everything is interpretation" is so often used as the sophists entree
> into a manipulation, into a switcharoo where the "everything is
> interpretation" suddenly becomes "let me give you my interpretation in a
> compelling way that has you acting as if it is somehow 'more true' than
> the one you started with".
--
☣ uǝlƃ

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uǝʃƃ ⊥ glen
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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

David Eric Smith
I am relieved you brought up the Truth/Power bundling, Glen, because I wanted to but was too much of a coward to do it.

There is a style of speech that I hear often, which goes something like “It doesn’t matter what so-and-so says, or thinks he means.  He is just claiming he owns truth, but I know he is just an entitled group-group-group-assignment, motivated only to exploit or oppress [fill in whoever the good people are].”  My inner translator translates that to my language as “The only thing I care about in life is the fight by which I have constructed my identity, and in my world, there are only two kinds of people: those who are in my army and the enemy.  There are no non-combatants.”   I know my cartoon above is excessive and over-simple, but I may as well admit I have become primed to hear it through time and the accumulation of conflicts, and I can think of a few good exemplars (specific exchanges with specific people over the years) where I think it is fair to say that is really what is there to be heard.  

The problem is, that kind of conduct precludes any other conversation about anything, including most conversations aimed at intellectual clarity, distinctions, etc.  Basically, you can talk to that person if you are talking about or some other way engaged in that person’s fight.  

To me it is not hard to understand that there is a difference between what one is trying to think about, and what one may be motivated to care about.  Certainly, there are some who are so totally consumed by compulsions that they can’t do it ever and so can’t see a distinction, but I think most of us in ordinary life are comfortable with the premise that both can exist, and are capable to some extent of knowing when we drift from one to the other.  Not ideal, and not reliable, but enough that we can see a reason to have both categories.  I assume most postmodern philosophers are complex enough to be capable of parsing such distinctions.  Hence if they choose to entirely conflate them, it feels to me like dishonesty, and often the specific dishonesty of a resentment motive (at the core; it accretes lots of other vanities and problems as it grows institutional.)

This is what I find unpleasant about Rorty.  If he had labeled himself a social critic, I would have been happy to support him (and in that role, I _do_ support much of what he says and I find it insightful and important).  But his delight in hoping he is destroying something that somebody once esteemed (here, the concept of truth, though I have watched him dance like a Stephen King monkey in attacking Weinberg’s efforts to describe some things about how science is practiced) is to me just the posture of the person who is mainly motivated by resentment of whatever he construes as power.  


My comments above are oblique to your main point below about Truth and Power, and the postmoderns being pragmatist, but I think it connects back eventually.  

I have been thinking a bit about pragmatism in the context of a different conversation, which (for reasons not relevant to the thread here) have me thinking there should be a formal version of the pragmatist position that has technical questions in common with ideas we pursue in statistical mechanics, error correction, and things of that kind.  Where I want to get to is that we can all admit to the probable error of all positions on the short term, without concluding thereby that they must reflect claims to power and therefore we can be power-monists, without needing to have both truth and power as primitives.  (I am not branding you as endorsing such a position, but I read you as saying that is where the postmoderns want to be, which is also how I read them).  What I want to claim is that that postmodern position is very far from what I would think of the main conceptual center of pragmatism.

The idea being very lowbrow.  Suppose we are willing to work within the space of concepts and models that physicists have been using for a century, and not worry about deconstructing every word in every sentence in case they might all be hallucinating.  I want to make claims about structure _within_ that space of models and concepts.

We routinely talk about a generating process for some stochastic dynamic, and the process has values for some parameters.  (Rates for a chemical reaction, biases for flipped coins, whatever.).   We then talk of samples from the process, of estimators computed for the samples, and of how the estimators are distributed.  In this lowbrow world, it is unproblematic for a problem with a continuous state space, that a finite sample estimator has measure-zero probability to coincide with the exact value of the parameter in the generating process, but that the generating parameter can still give the value of a stable central tendency for samples.  We care, then, about which estimators are unbiased, which estimation protocols converge with large sample sizes, etc.  All stuff that everybody on this list knows backward and forward.

Things become interesting when there starts to be considerable mechanistic complexity and hierarchy, control relations, feedbacks, etc., so that it becomes _very_ hard to chase through the convergence properties of finite samples.  Hence we see that the biosphere appears to have certain properties stable on geological timescales even though many other things change, but can we justify that impression, or derive from some kind of “first principles” whether a sensible model for the biosphere would be stable in that way?  So far, not.  

The problem of making pragmatism a well-formed position feels like it should have much of that character.  Scientific inference (also everyday inference) is very much “theory-full” in Leslie Valiant’s sense in Probably Approximately Correct.  The theories are controlling systems over how we get rich interpretations from poor observations.  Sometimes the weight of observation can nudge a theory Bayes-wise in a better direction.  Sometimes a bad theory leads to systematic misinterpretation of facts for a very long time (Alchemy, trickle-down, one could go on seemingly forever with examples).  The components have only each other and their couplings with whatever we posit is a “real world” to stabilize them, and whereas we tautologically consider the “real world” to be whatever is consistent by virtue of being what it is, we should take as assumptions that all the components of the interpretive system can be subject to errors in a monstrously more difficult version of the way sample estimators can be wrong.

Biases from unfortunate motives can be one source of sample skew, but that is just one mechanism.  Identifying it, or any other mechanism, seems like a different conceptual problem from trying to figure out what convergence-to-truth can mean in an interpretive system, and to then derive what kinds of properties “truths” can have as the fixed points of such convergences.  For instances, even if I tell you that phase transition theory exists, or that asymptotically reliable error correction exists, you still have the whole scientific domain of understanding how sparse or dense or stable phases can be, how they can be related or interconnected, etc., or what is the domain of applicability of Shannon’s reliable-encoding theorem and how its manifestations vary from context to context.  

It would be appealing to me if some of what we have learned in these much simpler fields (physics of matter, reliable communication) could be bootstrapped into a technical analysis of what pragmatism can be or is.  It also seems to me that there is a kinship between the explanation for the stability (or apparent stability) of very complex things like the biosphere, and the problem of formulating a notion of truth with the right kinds of stability.

To circle back, then, with the complaint that opened this post, when the postmoderns just declare that there isn’t really anything else to think about regarding truth, than their resentments of somebody or some system that they regard as holding power, they make themselves uninteresting for me to invite into my personal world, which has a hard enough time holding together and making any progress on anything as it is.  

Thanks,

Eric





> On Dec 26, 2019, at 12:25 PM, uǝlƃ ☣ <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> And this is one of the reasons postmodern rhetoric is more pragmatic than modern rhetoric, because it shifts the concern away from Truth and toward Power. It's nothing more nor less than the standard gumshoe technique of following the money. If you want to know why some yahoo said what he said, Truth is irrelevant. What matters is how he might benefit from such expression.
>
> But many people seem to think postmodern implies a form of pure relativism. I disagree. A postmodernist can still believe in some stably structured reality "out there". But she is willing to employ *both* power-based *and* stability-based analytic tactics.
>
> A friend recently claimed I wasn't a Platonist because I challenged the idea of a unitary, constant entailment operator (⊢), as well as me claiming that the whole algebra can be arbitrarily changed, at will. So, the question for the Platonist becomes "which parts do we hold constant and which parts vary". I'm still a Platonist ... simply one that's skeptical of anyone's assertion that some part should be held constant/universal.
>
> As you point out later in your post, of course, we have to doubt our own rhetoric just as much as we doubt others' rhetoric. And that's (obviously) difficult. Personally, posts like this one (https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=4476) teeter me on a kind of knife edge. It's a great sensation to teeter one way, then another, on some value-based judgement. Did Pinker's tweet provide cover for systemic sexism? It's a kinda Zen Koan ... one of those unanswerable questions whose only proper answer is Mu. But if we look at it through a postmodern lens, Pinker is *clearly* part of the good old boys club ... as crisply a member of that set as Jordan Peterson. He's objectively smart enough to know better than to tweet such nonsense.
>
> Seth Meyers handles this well with his "Jokes Seth Can't Tell" segments. And the recent Jost/Che bit where they give each other jokes to tell blind handles it well, too: https://youtu.be/Ys786ZsA5tI. In the end, the bane of the rationalists (including Aaronson, Pinker, et al) is their tendency to *avoid* power analytics and focus on truth analytics.
>
> On 12/24/19 10:08 AM, Steven A Smith wrote:
>> But (BUT) what I think I find disturbing about the truism (oupsie!) that
>> "everything is interpretation" is so often used as the sophists entree
>> into a manipulation, into a switcharoo where the "everything is
>> interpretation" suddenly becomes "let me give you my interpretation in a
>> compelling way that has you acting as if it is somehow 'more true' than
>> the one you started with".
> --
> ☣ uǝlƃ
>
> ============================================================
> FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv
> Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
> to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
> archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/
> FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove


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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

Marcus G. Daniels
In reply to this post by gepr
In spite of this review, I still agree with Krugman.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/01/review-paul-krugman-arguing-with-zombies/603052/

Sent from my iPhone

On Dec 26, 2019, at 9:25 AM, uǝlƃ ☣ <[hidden email]> wrote:

And this is one of the reasons postmodern rhetoric is more pragmatic than modern rhetoric, because it shifts the concern away from Truth and toward Power. It's nothing more nor less than the standard gumshoe technique of following the money. If you want to know why some yahoo said what he said, Truth is irrelevant. What matters is how he might benefit from such expression.

But many people seem to think postmodern implies a form of pure relativism. I disagree. A postmodernist can still believe in some stably structured reality "out there". But she is willing to employ *both* power-based *and* stability-based analytic tactics.

A friend recently claimed I wasn't a Platonist because I challenged the idea of a unitary, constant entailment operator (⊢), as well as me claiming that the whole algebra can be arbitrarily changed, at will. So, the question for the Platonist becomes "which parts do we hold constant and which parts vary". I'm still a Platonist ... simply one that's skeptical of anyone's assertion that some part should be held constant/universal.

As you point out later in your post, of course, we have to doubt our own rhetoric just as much as we doubt others' rhetoric. And that's (obviously) difficult. Personally, posts like this one (https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=4476) teeter me on a kind of knife edge. It's a great sensation to teeter one way, then another, on some value-based judgement. Did Pinker's tweet provide cover for systemic sexism? It's a kinda Zen Koan ... one of those unanswerable questions whose only proper answer is Mu. But if we look at it through a postmodern lens, Pinker is *clearly* part of the good old boys club ... as crisply a member of that set as Jordan Peterson. He's objectively smart enough to know better than to tweet such nonsense.

Seth Meyers handles this well with his "Jokes Seth Can't Tell" segments. And the recent Jost/Che bit where they give each other jokes to tell blind handles it well, too: https://youtu.be/Ys786ZsA5tI. In the end, the bane of the rationalists (including Aaronson, Pinker, et al) is their tendency to *avoid* power analytics and focus on truth analytics.

On 12/24/19 10:08 AM, Steven A Smith wrote:
But (BUT) what I think I find disturbing about the truism (oupsie!) that
"everything is interpretation" is so often used as the sophists entree
into a manipulation, into a switcharoo where the "everything is
interpretation" suddenly becomes "let me give you my interpretation in a
compelling way that has you acting as if it is somehow 'more true' than
the one you started with".
--
☣ uǝlƃ

============================================================
FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv
Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/
FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove

============================================================
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Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

gepr
Awesome! I love it when the thread forks but so clearly maintains its pre-fork core.

The pragmatism of truth-flexible power analytics is revealed, perhaps, in Krugman's "taking sides". It's clear that partisanship (think Pelosi) need not involve a total loss of non-partisan credibility. Some of us, even though we may *want* to have deep conversations with various "enemies" in the hopes we can lessen the bloodshed, in the end any continuum distance between any 2 positions will eventually be discretized. We can either discretize it purposefully, as *engineers*. Or we can have it stumble into a discretization haphazardly. In the Krugman context, he disjointly lumps all the righties into a group, despite their intra-group variation. In Eric's context, a theory champion (maybe Bohmian mechanics or Thomas Gold's hot biosphere or even alchemy or somesuch) circumscribes a "them" by which to contrast an "us". (Robert Rosen was famously bitter about being ignored or accused of vitalism, for example.) This discretization is model simplification at its best.

These champions can be viewed as sacrificing themselves for the greater good. They adopt a position and advocate it in spite of their own inner homunculus shouting at them that they should be more reasonable ... take criticism as constructive and respond in metered and polite language, stick to the facts, be willing to change one's mind. But by making these (purposeful) discretizations, they are simplifying the domain and, thereby, making potential 80/20 solutions *feasible*.

People like me, who remain on the fence about everything, skeptical even of our own beliefs, don't move the world. The champions who commit (and are eventually revealed as wrong to lesser or greater extent) move the world. So, this is the sense in which commitment, persuasion, and power is a more pragmatic way to parse the world. It's hard for me to imagine someone *not* being moved by, e.g. Greta Thunberg's, partisan, impassioned language.

But I also believe that power can be an *indirect* measure of truth. And if you allow that, then it seems reasonable that power structures are the higher order things like fixed points, phases, attractors, etc. The study of these more global systemic phenomena (Power) *leads* to facility with the more localized mechanisms (Truth). Those of us who try to restrict their talk to Truth and facts are *preemptively* closing themselves off to Truth and fact. E.g. an alchemist who thinks of alchemy as True will be trapped in her misinterpretation for longer than an alchemist who thinks of alchemy as Power.  I.e. what can I *do* with trickle-down economics versus what can I *know* with trickle-down economics.

As long as the focus is on what you can do with your model, you're more open to doffing that model when it fails you. So, to sum up, I also agree (in the sense of his "choosing sides") with Krugman because simplification is good engineering. And I *think* I agree with Eric that what we need from any self-professed Pragmatist, is a way of constructing higher order structures out of (putative) lower order structures so that we can *be* pragmatic at any scale and have ways of navigating across scales. The Standard Model does this quite well, I think. And a commitment to it, in a shut-up-and-calculate sense, is very postmodern and pragmatic.

Would it be possible to do something similar with Social Justice issues? One point made in this video <https://youtu.be/N230wLWjwEU> implies that we can. The idea being that our incarceration nation is more a result of minimum sentencing laws than other causes. This is power analysis. But it's not not relativism run amok. If there is a bottom-turtle, atomic lexicon of truth bricks underlying it, it's waaaaay down there. And we don't need to commit to unjustified hypotheses about those (distant and putative) bricks in order to make good progress way up here and in the meantime. We just need to stop obsessing over our desire for direct access to THE Truth and allow for a path toward Truth via Power.

Or, e.g., if people think NIPS is offensive, just change the damned name and avoid tweeting about it. 8^)




On 12/26/19 10:39 AM, Marcus Daniels wrote:
> In spite of this review, I still agree with Krugman.
>
> https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/01/review-paul-krugman-arguing-with-zombies/603052/

On 12/26/19 10:33 AM, Eric Smith wrote:

> I am relieved you brought up the Truth/Power bundling, Glen, because I wanted to but was too much of a coward to do it.
>
> There is a style of speech that I hear often, which goes something like “It doesn’t matter what so-and-so says, or thinks he means.  He is just claiming he owns truth, but I know he is just an entitled group-group-group-assignment, motivated only to exploit or oppress [fill in whoever the good people are].”  My inner translator translates that to my language as “The only thing I care about in life is the fight by which I have constructed my identity, and in my world, there are only two kinds of people: those who are in my army and the enemy.  There are no non-combatants.”   I know my cartoon above is excessive and over-simple, but I may as well admit I have become primed to hear it through time and the accumulation of conflicts, and I can think of a few good exemplars (specific exchanges with specific people over the years) where I think it is fair to say that is really what is there to be heard.  
>
> The problem is, that kind of conduct precludes any other conversation about anything, including most conversations aimed at intellectual clarity, distinctions, etc.  Basically, you can talk to that person if you are talking about or some other way engaged in that person’s fight.  
>
> To me it is not hard to understand that there is a difference between what one is trying to think about, and what one may be motivated to care about.  Certainly, there are some who are so totally consumed by compulsions that they can’t do it ever and so can’t see a distinction, but I think most of us in ordinary life are comfortable with the premise that both can exist, and are capable to some extent of knowing when we drift from one to the other.  Not ideal, and not reliable, but enough that we can see a reason to have both categories.  I assume most postmodern philosophers are complex enough to be capable of parsing such distinctions.  Hence if they choose to entirely conflate them, it feels to me like dishonesty, and often the specific dishonesty of a resentment motive (at the core; it accretes lots of other vanities and problems as it grows institutional.)
>
> This is what I find unpleasant about Rorty.  If he had labeled himself a social critic, I would have been happy to support him (and in that role, I _do_ support much of what he says and I find it insightful and important).  But his delight in hoping he is destroying something that somebody once esteemed (here, the concept of truth, though I have watched him dance like a Stephen King monkey in attacking Weinberg’s efforts to describe some things about how science is practiced) is to me just the posture of the person who is mainly motivated by resentment of whatever he construes as power.  
>
>
> My comments above are oblique to your main point below about Truth and Power, and the postmoderns being pragmatist, but I think it connects back eventually.  
>
> I have been thinking a bit about pragmatism in the context of a different conversation, which (for reasons not relevant to the thread here) have me thinking there should be a formal version of the pragmatist position that has technical questions in common with ideas we pursue in statistical mechanics, error correction, and things of that kind.  Where I want to get to is that we can all admit to the probable error of all positions on the short term, without concluding thereby that they must reflect claims to power and therefore we can be power-monists, without needing to have both truth and power as primitives.  (I am not branding you as endorsing such a position, but I read you as saying that is where the postmoderns want to be, which is also how I read them).  What I want to claim is that that postmodern position is very far from what I would think of the main conceptual center of pragmatism.
>
> The idea being very lowbrow.  Suppose we are willing to work within the space of concepts and models that physicists have been using for a century, and not worry about deconstructing every word in every sentence in case they might all be hallucinating.  I want to make claims about structure _within_ that space of models and concepts.
>
> We routinely talk about a generating process for some stochastic dynamic, and the process has values for some parameters.  (Rates for a chemical reaction, biases for flipped coins, whatever.).   We then talk of samples from the process, of estimators computed for the samples, and of how the estimators are distributed.  In this lowbrow world, it is unproblematic for a problem with a continuous state space, that a finite sample estimator has measure-zero probability to coincide with the exact value of the parameter in the generating process, but that the generating parameter can still give the value of a stable central tendency for samples.  We care, then, about which estimators are unbiased, which estimation protocols converge with large sample sizes, etc.  All stuff that everybody on this list knows backward and forward.
>
> Things become interesting when there starts to be considerable mechanistic complexity and hierarchy, control relations, feedbacks, etc., so that it becomes _very_ hard to chase through the convergence properties of finite samples.  Hence we see that the biosphere appears to have certain properties stable on geological timescales even though many other things change, but can we justify that impression, or derive from some kind of “first principles” whether a sensible model for the biosphere would be stable in that way?  So far, not.  
>
> The problem of making pragmatism a well-formed position feels like it should have much of that character.  Scientific inference (also everyday inference) is very much “theory-full” in Leslie Valiant’s sense in Probably Approximately Correct.  The theories are controlling systems over how we get rich interpretations from poor observations.  Sometimes the weight of observation can nudge a theory Bayes-wise in a better direction.  Sometimes a bad theory leads to systematic misinterpretation of facts for a very long time (Alchemy, trickle-down, one could go on seemingly forever with examples).  The components have only each other and their couplings with whatever we posit is a “real world” to stabilize them, and whereas we tautologically consider the “real world” to be whatever is consistent by virtue of being what it is, we should take as assumptions that all the components of the interpretive system can be subject to errors in a monstrously more difficult version of the way sample estimators can be wrong.
>
> Biases from unfortunate motives can be one source of sample skew, but that is just one mechanism.  Identifying it, or any other mechanism, seems like a different conceptual problem from trying to figure out what convergence-to-truth can mean in an interpretive system, and to then derive what kinds of properties “truths” can have as the fixed points of such convergences.  For instances, even if I tell you that phase transition theory exists, or that asymptotically reliable error correction exists, you still have the whole scientific domain of understanding how sparse or dense or stable phases can be, how they can be related or interconnected, etc., or what is the domain of applicability of Shannon’s reliable-encoding theorem and how its manifestations vary from context to context.  
>
> It would be appealing to me if some of what we have learned in these much simpler fields (physics of matter, reliable communication) could be bootstrapped into a technical analysis of what pragmatism can be or is.  It also seems to me that there is a kinship between the explanation for the stability (or apparent stability) of very complex things like the biosphere, and the problem of formulating a notion of truth with the right kinds of stability.
>
> To circle back, then, with the complaint that opened this post, when the postmoderns just declare that there isn’t really anything else to think about regarding truth, than their resentments of somebody or some system that they regard as holding power, they make themselves uninteresting for me to invite into my personal world, which has a hard enough time holding together and making any progress on anything as it is.  




--
☣ uǝlƃ
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uǝʃƃ ⊥ glen
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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

thompnickson2
In reply to this post by David Eric Smith

Hi, eric,

 

I share your distaste for Schadenfreud: Isn’t that a great word!  Schaden arises from the same root as “scar”. Its root meaning is taking pleasure in leaving scars in others – “scar-inflicting-joy.”  I have the same problem with Rorty, who seems to take joy in tearing down what others have constructed.  In fact, it makes me so mad, I want to… um … tear him down. 

 

The idea’s/teams thing is more complicated.  Perhaps because I am too dumb to hold two ideas in my head at once, I think the best way to develop an idea is to take it and run with it, hence my current advocacy of monism.   It probably sounds like I am not listening, but actually each time I am knocked down in the open field I get up and head off in a slightly different direction.  For me, listening takes the form  of feeling my bones hitting the astroturf.  I don’t know if it is true of the rest of you, but I can be in a discussion and change my mind several times, but at each moment I care about the idea I am thinking and want others to join me in thinking it.  But who is it who said; “I take most pleasure from those who agree with me, but learn most from those who do not.”?  Thus intellectual argument is an exercise in restraint of passion.  Whence cometh the ENERGY to argue if not from the idiotic notion that one is correct and others are in want of convincing? Anybody who claims to be neutral in argument probably holds the position that the argument is stupid, and that, of course, is the most aggressive position of all. 

 

By the way, I haven’t watched a football game in 25 years.  I don’t know why I am giving way of football metaphors today.

 

Larding below.

 

Thanks Glen,

 

Nick

 

 

 

Nicholas Thompson

Emeritus Professor of Ethology and Psychology

Clark University

[hidden email]

https://wordpress.clarku.edu/nthompson/

 

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Friam <[hidden email]> On Behalf Of Eric Smith
Sent: Thursday, December 26, 2019 11:33 AM
To: The Friday Morning Applied Complexity Coffee Group <[hidden email]>
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] description - explanation - metaphor - model

 

I am relieved you brought up the Truth/Power bundling, Glen, because I wanted to but was too much of a coward to do it.

 

There is a style of speech that I hear often, which goes something like “It doesn’t matter what so-and-so says, or thinks he means.  He is just claiming he owns truth, but I know he is just an entitled group-group-group-assignment, motivated only to exploit or oppress [fill in whoever the good people are].”  My inner translator translates that to my language as “The only thing I care about in life is the fight by which I have constructed my identity, and in my world, there are only two kinds of people: those who are in my army and the enemy.  There are no non-combatants.”   I know my cartoon above is excessive and over-simple, but I may as well admit I have become primed to hear it through time and the accumulation of conflicts, and I can think of a few good exemplars (specific exchanges with specific people over the years) where I think it is fair to say that is really what is there to be heard. 

[NST===>].  I am not sure the most interesting discussions occur between people who are not invested personally in their ideas.  Shifting sports, for a moment, to one I have not played in 40 years: imagine the best rally in tennis you have ever watched.  Each of the players was trying to end the rally on the next shot, and the beautiful thing arises dialectically out of their failure to do so.  Now, before you take me to be some kind of ravening Neo-liberal, let me quickly say that that beautiful thing could not arise without the players’ agreement on a highly constraining set of rules – nobody “wins” a tennis match  by leaping over the net and braining his opponent with his racket. 

 

The problem is, that kind of conduct precludes any other conversation about anything, including most conversations aimed at intellectual clarity, distinctions, etc.  Basically, you can talk to that person if you are talking about or some other way engaged in that person’s fight. 

[NST===>] Yes!

 

To me it is not hard to understand that there is a difference between what one is trying to think about, and what one may be motivated to care about.  Certainly, there are some who are so totally consumed by compulsions that they can’t do it ever and so can’t see a distinction, but I think most of us in ordinary life are comfortable with the premise that both can exist, and are capable to some extent of knowing when we drift from one to the other.  Not ideal, and not reliable, but enough that we can see a reason to have both categories.  I assume most postmodern philosophers are complex enough to be capable of parsing such distinctions.

[NST===>] But many of their followers are not. 

 Hence if they choose to entirely conflate them, it feels to me like dishonesty, and often the specific dishonesty of a resentment motive (at the core; it accretes lots of other vanities and problems as it grows institutional.)

 

This is what I find unpleasant about Rorty.  If he had labeled himself a social critic, I would have been happy to support him (and in that role, I _do_ support much of what he says and I find it insightful and important).  But his delight in hoping he is destroying something that somebody once esteemed (here, the concept of truth, though I have watched him dance like a Stephen King monkey in attacking Weinberg’s efforts to describe some things about how science is practiced) is to me just the posture of the person who is mainly motivated by resentment of whatever he construes as power. 

 

 

My comments above are oblique to your main point below about Truth and Power, and the postmoderns being pragmatist, but I think it connects back eventually. 

 

I have been thinking a bit about pragmatism in the context of a different conversation, which (for reasons not relevant to the thread here) have me thinking there should be a formal version of the pragmatist position that has technical questions in common with ideas we pursue in statistical mechanics, error correction, and things of that kind.  Where I want to get to is that we can all admit to the probable error of all positions on the short term, without concluding thereby that they must reflect claims to power and therefore we can be power-monists, without needing to have both truth and power as primitives.  (I am not branding you as endorsing such a position, but I read you as saying that is where the postmoderns want to be, which is also how I read them).  What I want to claim is that that postmodern position is very far from what I would think of the main conceptual center of pragmatism.

[NST===>] I am called to the Kitchen, but let me say one more thing.  I think it’s important to understand the distinction that Peirce made between PragmatiCIsm, which ultimatedly called his own form of the philosophy, and Pragmatism, which he invented but was soon over run by heathens like Rorty.   Given Peirce’s ferocious commitment to scientific thought and practice (whence his original use of the word “pragmatism” probably arises), for modern “pragmatists” to advance an anti scientific obscurantism is frankly more irony than I can stand.  It’s like dressing the devil in a Santa Claus outfit and sending down to the mall to preach 

 

The idea being very lowbrow.  Suppose we are willing to work within the space of concepts and models that physicists have been using for a century, and not worry about deconstructing every word in every sentence in case they might all be hallucinating.  I want to make claims about structure _within_ that space of models and concepts.

 

We routinely talk about a generating process for some stochastic dynamic, and the process has values for some parameters.  (Rates for a chemical reaction, biases for flipped coins, whatever.).   We then talk of samples from the process, of estimators computed for the samples, and of how the estimators are distributed.  In this lowbrow world, it is unproblematic for a problem with a continuous state space, that a finite sample estimator has measure-zero probability to coincide with the exact value of the parameter in the generating process, but that the generating parameter can still give the value of a stable central tendency for samples.  We care, then, about which estimators are unbiased, which estimation protocols converge with large sample sizes, etc.  All stuff that everybody on this list knows backward and forward.

 

Things become interesting when there starts to be considerable mechanistic complexity and hierarchy, control relations, feedbacks, etc., so that it becomes _very_ hard to chase through the convergence properties of finite samples.  Hence we see that the biosphere appears to have certain properties stable on geological timescales even though many other things change, but can we justify that impression, or derive from some kind of “first principles” whether a sensible model for the biosphere would be stable in that way?  So far, not. 

 

The problem of making pragmatism a well-formed position feels like it should have much of that character.  Scientific inference (also everyday inference) is very much “theory-full” in Leslie Valiant’s sense in Probably Approximately Correct.  The theories are controlling systems over how we get rich interpretations from poor observations.  Sometimes the weight of observation can nudge a theory Bayes-wise in a better direction.  Sometimes a bad theory leads to systematic misinterpretation of facts for a very long time (Alchemy, trickle-down, one could go on seemingly forever with examples).  The components have only each other and their couplings with whatever we posit is a “real world” to stabilize them, and whereas we tautologically consider the “real world” to be whatever is consistent by virtue of being what it is, we should take as assumptions that all the components of the interpretive system can be subject to errors in a monstrously more difficult version of the way sample estimators can be wrong.

 

Biases from unfortunate motives can be one source of sample skew, but that is just one mechanism.  Identifying it, or any other mechanism, seems like a different conceptual problem from trying to figure out what convergence-to-truth can mean in an interpretive system, and to then derive what kinds of properties “truths” can have as the fixed points of such convergences.  For instances, even if I tell you that phase transition theory exists, or that asymptotically reliable error correction exists, you still have the whole scientific domain of understanding how sparse or dense or stable phases can be, how they can be related or interconnected, etc., or what is the domain of applicability of Shannon’s reliable-encoding theorem and how its manifestations vary from context to context. 

 

It would be appealing to me if some of what we have learned in these much simpler fields (physics of matter, reliable communication) could be bootstrapped into a technical analysis of what pragmatism can be or is.  It also seems to me that there is a kinship between the explanation for the stability (or apparent stability) of very complex things like the biosphere, and the problem of formulating a notion of truth with the right kinds of stability.

 

To circle back, then, with the complaint that opened this post, when the postmoderns just declare that there isn’t really anything else to think about regarding truth, than their resentments of somebody or some system that they regard as holding power, they make themselves uninteresting for me to invite into my personal world, which has a hard enough time holding together and making any progress on anything as it is. 

 

Thanks,

 

Eric

 

 

 

 

 

> On Dec 26, 2019, at 12:25 PM, uǝlƃ <[hidden email]> wrote:

>

> And this is one of the reasons postmodern rhetoric is more pragmatic than modern rhetoric, because it shifts the concern away from Truth and toward Power. It's nothing more nor less than the standard gumshoe technique of following the money. If you want to know why some yahoo said what he said, Truth is irrelevant. What matters is how he might benefit from such expression.

>

> But many people seem to think postmodern implies a form of pure relativism. I disagree. A postmodernist can still believe in some stably structured reality "out there". But she is willing to employ *both* power-based *and* stability-based analytic tactics.

>

> A friend recently claimed I wasn't a Platonist because I challenged the idea of a unitary, constant entailment operator (), as well as me claiming that the whole algebra can be arbitrarily changed, at will. So, the question for the Platonist becomes "which parts do we hold constant and which parts vary". I'm still a Platonist ... simply one that's skeptical of anyone's assertion that some part should be held constant/universal.

>

> As you point out later in your post, of course, we have to doubt our own rhetoric just as much as we doubt others' rhetoric. And that's (obviously) difficult. Personally, posts like this one (https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=4476) teeter me on a kind of knife edge. It's a great sensation to teeter one way, then another, on some value-based judgement. Did Pinker's tweet provide cover for systemic sexism? It's a kinda Zen Koan ... one of those unanswerable questions whose only proper answer is Mu. But if we look at it through a postmodern lens, Pinker is *clearly* part of the good old boys club ... as crisply a member of that set as Jordan Peterson. He's objectively smart enough to know better than to tweet such nonsense.

>

> Seth Meyers handles this well with his "Jokes Seth Can't Tell" segments. And the recent Jost/Che bit where they give each other jokes to tell blind handles it well, too: https://youtu.be/Ys786ZsA5tI. In the end, the bane of the rationalists (including Aaronson, Pinker, et al) is their tendency to *avoid* power analytics and focus on truth analytics.

>

> On 12/24/19 10:08 AM, Steven A Smith wrote:

>> But (BUT) what I think I find disturbing about the truism (oupsie!)

>> that "everything is interpretation" is so often used as the sophists

>> entree into a manipulation, into a switcharoo where the "everything

>> is interpretation" suddenly becomes "let me give you my

>> interpretation in a compelling way that has you acting as if it is

>> somehow 'more true' than the one you started with".

> --

> uǝlƃ

>

> ============================================================

> FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe

> at St. John's College to unsubscribe

> http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com

> archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/

> FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove

 

 

============================================================

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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

Eric Charles-2
Well, for what it's worth, I have a strong taste for Schadenfreud...

The weird merger of pragmatic and postmodern thinking always bristles me. I can see how Rorty gets there, selectively taking from William James and others, but it is all so... dystopic. 

I don't think Peirce would have any problem with it all, IF the people putting forward those views were research psychologists, anthropologists, and/or sociologists, actually sciencing how such power-dynamics work. The idea that one would take that as anything near a "base" or "foundational" idea for a philosophy, however, is what would drive him nuts. And if you focus on the power-dynamics so much that you lose the idea that AT LEAST SOMETIMES there is a truth of the matter which could, over sufficient time, overtake the effects of any power-dynamics and come to be the consensus opinion by simple dint of being what actually achieves when tested... well... if you lose that idea altogether, then you definitely aren't doing pragmatism any more. 

Eric (Smith), Peirce has extensive writings on probability and VERY extensive writings on logic. I suspect he has much of what you are looking for, we just don't focus on that part of his work as much. While he didn't have a full modern understanding of all that stuff, he was massively ahead of his time. 

I still owe a decent reply to David's post that started this off. I haven't lost track of that. If this drifts too much further, I will do that in a separate thread. 

-----------
Eric P. Charles, Ph.D.
Department of Justice - Personnel Psychologist
American University - Adjunct Instructor


On Thu, Dec 26, 2019 at 4:12 PM <[hidden email]> wrote:

Hi, eric,

 

I share your distaste for Schadenfreud: Isn’t that a great word!  Schaden arises from the same root as “scar”. Its root meaning is taking pleasure in leaving scars in others – “scar-inflicting-joy.”  I have the same problem with Rorty, who seems to take joy in tearing down what others have constructed.  In fact, it makes me so mad, I want to… um … tear him down. 

 

The idea’s/teams thing is more complicated.  Perhaps because I am too dumb to hold two ideas in my head at once, I think the best way to develop an idea is to take it and run with it, hence my current advocacy of monism.   It probably sounds like I am not listening, but actually each time I am knocked down in the open field I get up and head off in a slightly different direction.  For me, listening takes the form  of feeling my bones hitting the astroturf.  I don’t know if it is true of the rest of you, but I can be in a discussion and change my mind several times, but at each moment I care about the idea I am thinking and want others to join me in thinking it.  But who is it who said; “I take most pleasure from those who agree with me, but learn most from those who do not.”?  Thus intellectual argument is an exercise in restraint of passion.  Whence cometh the ENERGY to argue if not from the idiotic notion that one is correct and others are in want of convincing? Anybody who claims to be neutral in argument probably holds the position that the argument is stupid, and that, of course, is the most aggressive position of all. 

 

By the way, I haven’t watched a football game in 25 years.  I don’t know why I am giving way of football metaphors today.

 

Larding below.

 

Thanks Glen,

 

Nick

 

 

 

Nicholas Thompson

Emeritus Professor of Ethology and Psychology

Clark University

[hidden email]

https://wordpress.clarku.edu/nthompson/

 

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Friam <[hidden email]> On Behalf Of Eric Smith
Sent: Thursday, December 26, 2019 11:33 AM
To: The Friday Morning Applied Complexity Coffee Group <[hidden email]>
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] description - explanation - metaphor - model

 

I am relieved you brought up the Truth/Power bundling, Glen, because I wanted to but was too much of a coward to do it.

 

There is a style of speech that I hear often, which goes something like “It doesn’t matter what so-and-so says, or thinks he means.  He is just claiming he owns truth, but I know he is just an entitled group-group-group-assignment, motivated only to exploit or oppress [fill in whoever the good people are].”  My inner translator translates that to my language as “The only thing I care about in life is the fight by which I have constructed my identity, and in my world, there are only two kinds of people: those who are in my army and the enemy.  There are no non-combatants.”   I know my cartoon above is excessive and over-simple, but I may as well admit I have become primed to hear it through time and the accumulation of conflicts, and I can think of a few good exemplars (specific exchanges with specific people over the years) where I think it is fair to say that is really what is there to be heard. 

[NST===>].  I am not sure the most interesting discussions occur between people who are not invested personally in their ideas.  Shifting sports, for a moment, to one I have not played in 40 years: imagine the best rally in tennis you have ever watched.  Each of the players was trying to end the rally on the next shot, and the beautiful thing arises dialectically out of their failure to do so.  Now, before you take me to be some kind of ravening Neo-liberal, let me quickly say that that beautiful thing could not arise without the players’ agreement on a highly constraining set of rules – nobody “wins” a tennis match  by leaping over the net and braining his opponent with his racket. 

 

The problem is, that kind of conduct precludes any other conversation about anything, including most conversations aimed at intellectual clarity, distinctions, etc.  Basically, you can talk to that person if you are talking about or some other way engaged in that person’s fight. 

[NST===>] Yes!

 

To me it is not hard to understand that there is a difference between what one is trying to think about, and what one may be motivated to care about.  Certainly, there are some who are so totally consumed by compulsions that they can’t do it ever and so can’t see a distinction, but I think most of us in ordinary life are comfortable with the premise that both can exist, and are capable to some extent of knowing when we drift from one to the other.  Not ideal, and not reliable, but enough that we can see a reason to have both categories.  I assume most postmodern philosophers are complex enough to be capable of parsing such distinctions.

[NST===>] But many of their followers are not. 

 Hence if they choose to entirely conflate them, it feels to me like dishonesty, and often the specific dishonesty of a resentment motive (at the core; it accretes lots of other vanities and problems as it grows institutional.)

 

This is what I find unpleasant about Rorty.  If he had labeled himself a social critic, I would have been happy to support him (and in that role, I _do_ support much of what he says and I find it insightful and important).  But his delight in hoping he is destroying something that somebody once esteemed (here, the concept of truth, though I have watched him dance like a Stephen King monkey in attacking Weinberg’s efforts to describe some things about how science is practiced) is to me just the posture of the person who is mainly motivated by resentment of whatever he construes as power. 

 

 

My comments above are oblique to your main point below about Truth and Power, and the postmoderns being pragmatist, but I think it connects back eventually. 

 

I have been thinking a bit about pragmatism in the context of a different conversation, which (for reasons not relevant to the thread here) have me thinking there should be a formal version of the pragmatist position that has technical questions in common with ideas we pursue in statistical mechanics, error correction, and things of that kind.  Where I want to get to is that we can all admit to the probable error of all positions on the short term, without concluding thereby that they must reflect claims to power and therefore we can be power-monists, without needing to have both truth and power as primitives.  (I am not branding you as endorsing such a position, but I read you as saying that is where the postmoderns want to be, which is also how I read them).  What I want to claim is that that postmodern position is very far from what I would think of the main conceptual center of pragmatism.

[NST===>] I am called to the Kitchen, but let me say one more thing.  I think it’s important to understand the distinction that Peirce made between PragmatiCIsm, which ultimatedly called his own form of the philosophy, and Pragmatism, which he invented but was soon over run by heathens like Rorty.   Given Peirce’s ferocious commitment to scientific thought and practice (whence his original use of the word “pragmatism” probably arises), for modern “pragmatists” to advance an anti scientific obscurantism is frankly more irony than I can stand.  It’s like dressing the devil in a Santa Claus outfit and sending down to the mall to preach 

 

The idea being very lowbrow.  Suppose we are willing to work within the space of concepts and models that physicists have been using for a century, and not worry about deconstructing every word in every sentence in case they might all be hallucinating.  I want to make claims about structure _within_ that space of models and concepts.

 

We routinely talk about a generating process for some stochastic dynamic, and the process has values for some parameters.  (Rates for a chemical reaction, biases for flipped coins, whatever.).   We then talk of samples from the process, of estimators computed for the samples, and of how the estimators are distributed.  In this lowbrow world, it is unproblematic for a problem with a continuous state space, that a finite sample estimator has measure-zero probability to coincide with the exact value of the parameter in the generating process, but that the generating parameter can still give the value of a stable central tendency for samples.  We care, then, about which estimators are unbiased, which estimation protocols converge with large sample sizes, etc.  All stuff that everybody on this list knows backward and forward.

 

Things become interesting when there starts to be considerable mechanistic complexity and hierarchy, control relations, feedbacks, etc., so that it becomes _very_ hard to chase through the convergence properties of finite samples.  Hence we see that the biosphere appears to have certain properties stable on geological timescales even though many other things change, but can we justify that impression, or derive from some kind of “first principles” whether a sensible model for the biosphere would be stable in that way?  So far, not. 

 

The problem of making pragmatism a well-formed position feels like it should have much of that character.  Scientific inference (also everyday inference) is very much “theory-full” in Leslie Valiant’s sense in Probably Approximately Correct.  The theories are controlling systems over how we get rich interpretations from poor observations.  Sometimes the weight of observation can nudge a theory Bayes-wise in a better direction.  Sometimes a bad theory leads to systematic misinterpretation of facts for a very long time (Alchemy, trickle-down, one could go on seemingly forever with examples).  The components have only each other and their couplings with whatever we posit is a “real world” to stabilize them, and whereas we tautologically consider the “real world” to be whatever is consistent by virtue of being what it is, we should take as assumptions that all the components of the interpretive system can be subject to errors in a monstrously more difficult version of the way sample estimators can be wrong.

 

Biases from unfortunate motives can be one source of sample skew, but that is just one mechanism.  Identifying it, or any other mechanism, seems like a different conceptual problem from trying to figure out what convergence-to-truth can mean in an interpretive system, and to then derive what kinds of properties “truths” can have as the fixed points of such convergences.  For instances, even if I tell you that phase transition theory exists, or that asymptotically reliable error correction exists, you still have the whole scientific domain of understanding how sparse or dense or stable phases can be, how they can be related or interconnected, etc., or what is the domain of applicability of Shannon’s reliable-encoding theorem and how its manifestations vary from context to context. 

 

It would be appealing to me if some of what we have learned in these much simpler fields (physics of matter, reliable communication) could be bootstrapped into a technical analysis of what pragmatism can be or is.  It also seems to me that there is a kinship between the explanation for the stability (or apparent stability) of very complex things like the biosphere, and the problem of formulating a notion of truth with the right kinds of stability.

 

To circle back, then, with the complaint that opened this post, when the postmoderns just declare that there isn’t really anything else to think about regarding truth, than their resentments of somebody or some system that they regard as holding power, they make themselves uninteresting for me to invite into my personal world, which has a hard enough time holding together and making any progress on anything as it is. 

 

Thanks,

 

Eric

 

 

 

 

 

> On Dec 26, 2019, at 12:25 PM, uǝlƃ <[hidden email]> wrote:

>

> And this is one of the reasons postmodern rhetoric is more pragmatic than modern rhetoric, because it shifts the concern away from Truth and toward Power. It's nothing more nor less than the standard gumshoe technique of following the money. If you want to know why some yahoo said what he said, Truth is irrelevant. What matters is how he might benefit from such expression.

>

> But many people seem to think postmodern implies a form of pure relativism. I disagree. A postmodernist can still believe in some stably structured reality "out there". But she is willing to employ *both* power-based *and* stability-based analytic tactics.

>

> A friend recently claimed I wasn't a Platonist because I challenged the idea of a unitary, constant entailment operator (), as well as me claiming that the whole algebra can be arbitrarily changed, at will. So, the question for the Platonist becomes "which parts do we hold constant and which parts vary". I'm still a Platonist ... simply one that's skeptical of anyone's assertion that some part should be held constant/universal.

>

> As you point out later in your post, of course, we have to doubt our own rhetoric just as much as we doubt others' rhetoric. And that's (obviously) difficult. Personally, posts like this one (https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=4476) teeter me on a kind of knife edge. It's a great sensation to teeter one way, then another, on some value-based judgement. Did Pinker's tweet provide cover for systemic sexism? It's a kinda Zen Koan ... one of those unanswerable questions whose only proper answer is Mu. But if we look at it through a postmodern lens, Pinker is *clearly* part of the good old boys club ... as crisply a member of that set as Jordan Peterson. He's objectively smart enough to know better than to tweet such nonsense.

>

> Seth Meyers handles this well with his "Jokes Seth Can't Tell" segments. And the recent Jost/Che bit where they give each other jokes to tell blind handles it well, too: https://youtu.be/Ys786ZsA5tI. In the end, the bane of the rationalists (including Aaronson, Pinker, et al) is their tendency to *avoid* power analytics and focus on truth analytics.

>

> On 12/24/19 10:08 AM, Steven A Smith wrote:

>> But (BUT) what I think I find disturbing about the truism (oupsie!)

>> that "everything is interpretation" is so often used as the sophists

>> entree into a manipulation, into a switcharoo where the "everything

>> is interpretation" suddenly becomes "let me give you my

>> interpretation in a compelling way that has you acting as if it is

>> somehow 'more true' than the one you started with".

> --

> uǝlƃ

>

> ============================================================

> FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe

> at St. John's College to unsubscribe

> http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com

> archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/

> FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove

 

 

============================================================

FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv

Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com

archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/

FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove

============================================================
FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv
Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/
FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove

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Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
to unsubscribe http://redfish.com/mailman/listinfo/friam_redfish.com
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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

gepr
I don't know what you mean by "base" or "foundational". But I suspect there are plenty of postmodernists who *allow* for a truth of the matter. They simply don't think such truth is directly accessible, which I *thought* postmodernism held in common with both pragmatism and pragmaticism. Doesn't Rescher even argue that, although distinguishable from pragmaticism, James and Dewey are more relativist than Peirce?

It would be fantastic to read some treatment of higher order structures like social justice issues from Peirce or one of his intellectual descendants.

On 12/26/19 2:47 PM, Eric Charles wrote:
> The weird merger of pragmatic and postmodern thinking always bristles me. I can see how Rorty gets there, selectively taking from William James and others, but it is all so... dystopic. 
>
> I don't think Peirce would have any problem with it all, IF the people putting forward those views were research psychologists, anthropologists, and/or sociologists, actually sciencing how such power-dynamics work. The idea that one would take that as anything near a "base" or "foundational" idea for a philosophy, however, is what would drive him nuts. And if you focus on the power-dynamics so much that you lose the idea that AT LEAST SOMETIMES there is a truth of the matter which could, over sufficient time, overtake the effects of any power-dynamics and come to be the consensus opinion by simple dint of being what actually achieves when tested... well... if you lose that idea altogether, then you definitely aren't doing pragmatism any more. 
>
> Eric (Smith), Peirce has extensive writings on probability and VERY extensive writings on logic. I suspect he has much of what you are looking for, we just don't focus on that part of his work as much. While he didn't have a full modern understanding of all that stuff, he was massively ahead of his time. 

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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

glen ropella
Heh... ask and ye shall receive!

https://fewd.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/user_upload/inst_ethik_wiss_dialog/Rescher__Nicholas__2008_Moral_Objectivity.pdf

Rescher, seemingly a Peircian pragmatist, goes through a hypothetical in an attempt to argue that for a moral principle to be objective, the community to which it applies must have some (accurate) conception of morality. By the parenthetical "accurate", I mean those moral principles they hold must, in some definition, benefit that community.

But what's interesting in relation to EricS's question about higher order structures is his assertion that moral principles are *schematic*, with some variables bound to context. And he develops, then, a hierarchy of moral principles where:
"At this highest level alone is there absoluteness:the rejection of appropriate moral contentions at this level involves alapse of rational cogency. But at the lower levels there is almost always some room for variation, and dispute as well."

Such a nesting of schema bears a striking resemblance to what EricS is asking for in the context of the biosphere or the higher order attributes of dynamic systems. The *trick*, of course, that Rescher doesn't seem to cover (perhaps I missed it), is whether the *schema* evolve, whether it's a strict hierarchy, etc. hearkening back to EricC's post about whether or not a Peircian "convergence" assumes stationarity.

Regardless, I'm pretty skeptical of Rescher's setup because it hinges on this ability to predicate/define groups and define what's beneficial for those groups. But that's orthogonal to the rather nice idea of schematic principles.

On 12/26/19 3:43 PM, uǝlƃ ☣ wrote:
> It would be fantastic to read some treatment of higher order structures like social justice issues from Peirce or one of his intellectual descendants.
>
> On 12/26/19 2:47 PM, Eric Charles wrote:
>> Eric (Smith), Peirce has extensive writings on probability and VERY extensive writings on logic. I suspect he has much of what you are looking for, we just don't focus on that part of his work as much. While he didn't have a full modern understanding of all that stuff, he was massively ahead of his time. 
>

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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

Frank Wimberly-2
I'm sure I've met Rescher at Pitt.  In the mid-sixties (I think) most of Yale's philosophy department moved en masse to Pitt resulting in it's being ranked second to Harvard in the Carter Study  q.v.  

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Phone (505) 670-9918

On Thu, Dec 26, 2019, 6:46 PM uǝlƃ ☣ <[hidden email]> wrote:
Heh... ask and ye shall receive!

https://fewd.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/user_upload/inst_ethik_wiss_dialog/Rescher__Nicholas__2008_Moral_Objectivity.pdf

Rescher, seemingly a Peircian pragmatist, goes through a hypothetical in an attempt to argue that for a moral principle to be objective, the community to which it applies must have some (accurate) conception of morality. By the parenthetical "accurate", I mean those moral principles they hold must, in some definition, benefit that community.

But what's interesting in relation to EricS's question about higher order structures is his assertion that moral principles are *schematic*, with some variables bound to context. And he develops, then, a hierarchy of moral principles where:
"At this highest level alone is there absoluteness:the rejection of appropriate moral contentions at this level involves alapse of rational cogency. But at the lower levels there is almost always some room for variation, and dispute as well."

Such a nesting of schema bears a striking resemblance to what EricS is asking for in the context of the biosphere or the higher order attributes of dynamic systems. The *trick*, of course, that Rescher doesn't seem to cover (perhaps I missed it), is whether the *schema* evolve, whether it's a strict hierarchy, etc. hearkening back to EricC's post about whether or not a Peircian "convergence" assumes stationarity.

Regardless, I'm pretty skeptical of Rescher's setup because it hinges on this ability to predicate/define groups and define what's beneficial for those groups. But that's orthogonal to the rather nice idea of schematic principles.

On 12/26/19 3:43 PM, uǝlƃ ☣ wrote:
> It would be fantastic to read some treatment of higher order structures like social justice issues from Peirce or one of his intellectual descendants.
>
> On 12/26/19 2:47 PM, Eric Charles wrote:
>> Eric (Smith), Peirce has extensive writings on probability and VERY extensive writings on logic. I suspect he has much of what you are looking for, we just don't focus on that part of his work as much. While he didn't have a full modern understanding of all that stuff, he was massively ahead of his time. 
>

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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

thompnickson2
In reply to this post by gepr
Clear I am going to have to read Rescher before I write any more posts to this thread.  

That should give you guys a rest.

N

Nicholas Thompson
Emeritus Professor of Ethology and Psychology
Clark University
[hidden email]
https://wordpress.clarku.edu/nthompson/
 


-----Original Message-----
From: Friam <[hidden email]> On Behalf Of u?l? ?
Sent: Thursday, December 26, 2019 4:43 PM
To: FriAM <[hidden email]>
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] description - explanation - metaphor - model

I don't know what you mean by "base" or "foundational". But I suspect there are plenty of postmodernists who *allow* for a truth of the matter. They simply don't think such truth is directly accessible, which I *thought* postmodernism held in common with both pragmatism and pragmaticism. Doesn't Rescher even argue that, although distinguishable from pragmaticism, James and Dewey are more relativist than Peirce?

It would be fantastic to read some treatment of higher order structures like social justice issues from Peirce or one of his intellectual descendants.

On 12/26/19 2:47 PM, Eric Charles wrote:
> The weird merger of pragmatic and postmodern thinking always bristles
> me. I can see how Rorty gets there, selectively taking from William James and others, but it is all so... dystopic.
>
> I don't think Peirce would have any problem with it all, IF the people
> putting forward those views were research psychologists, anthropologists, and/or sociologists, actually sciencing how such power-dynamics work. The idea that one would take that as anything near a "base" or "foundational" idea for a philosophy, however, is what would drive him nuts. And if you focus on the power-dynamics so much that you lose the idea that AT LEAST SOMETIMES there is a truth of the matter which could, over sufficient time, overtake the effects of any power-dynamics and come to be the consensus opinion by simple dint of being what actually achieves when tested... well... if you lose that idea altogether, then you definitely aren't doing pragmatism any more.
>
> Eric (Smith), Peirce has extensive writings on probability and VERY
> extensive writings on logic. I suspect he has much of what you are looking for, we just don't focus on that part of his work as much. While he didn't have a full modern understanding of all that stuff, he was massively ahead of his time.

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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

Steven A Smith
In reply to this post by thompnickson2

Nick -

Interesting introspective riff on the imperative to argument.   First, I applaud you recognizing and/or digging out the roots of Shadenfreud.   I've always used it in a more passive mode... not so much to *inflict* a scar, but perhaps enjoying seeing someone else scarred... in particular in the sense of a self-inflicted wound, even if it might be receiving a saber scar in a duel as was popular in Europe well into the 18th century, among "gentlemen".   Reading "Gods of the Upper Air"  recently I was reminded of this practice... with Franz Boas himself sporting a few such facial scars.  It seems that these duels were somewhat more like professional wrestling than a proper street-scuffle, designed to yield *only* facial scars...  I believe Austria was the epicenter of such behaviour and Boas is credited with gaining his own whilst defending his honor against anti-semites...  I'd say this activity might well be a good place to use the term "Shadenfreud"?

Your assertion that you are "too dumb to hold two ideas in my head at once" and "each moment I care about the idea I am thinking and want others to join me in thinking it" harkens back to my introduction to Debate Club in high school.   I don't know that it is that I am "smart" that I join the Red Queen in "thinking six impossible things before breakfast", but I do cultivate that... the propensity for seeking high *intellectual* ground on a topic and rather than treat that vantage point as something to vigorously defend, use it it to survey the larger landscape looking for other interesting features on said landscape... other promising, defensible, and most of all with-a-good-viewshed ideas. 

Following this landscape metaphor, I somewhat understand why some feel safer hunkered down in a sheltered valley or "holler" as my hillbilly ancestors chose to occupy (or good reasons I think).  I also don't always like the exposure of being "on top of a hill" as others are given to mistaking my posture there as a challenge in the proverbial "king of the mountain" game.  Rather than getting people to "believe what I believe", I am interested in seducing others into stepping to the top of the same rise and surveying the "same" landscape with their own eyes and perhaps joining me in a trek to what looks like "yet higher ground" or if not precisely "higher", "ground offering unique perspective", like an escarpment jutting out into a deep canyon that I'd like to see (more) to the bottom of.    My variation of "getting people to believe what I believe" might be getting them to pause and gaze in the same direction I am looking and "compare notes", to discuss with me what THEY think they see out there on the horizon... how they read the landscape from that vantage point.

While you (and others) may be fighting over positions of higher ground, I do appreciate the stories you tell *from* those higher grounds, which help me navigate the same territories with a broader view... ideally expanding my territories of interest.  In that I align with your quote about learning more from your "enemies" than from your "friends" and to invoke a contemporary term, I feel that we all have a number of such "frienemies" here to help goad and prod us to see the "world" from different perspectives.   I've been harried from time to time for my obsessive use of "scare" quotes...  and this use here of "world" is under such emphasis because by "world" I am not so much talking about an implied absolute, physical "real world" as has been bandied about here, but rather the implied "landscape of perspectives" on something similar which is "the world as we consensually construct it, whether there is a physical base underneath it or not".

Your invocation of the competitive-sports metaphor (you reference American rules Football as the target domain) is not without motivation... a lot of discussion (including on this list) has that tone...  while I am not a rock-climber myself, I find the metaphor of rock climbing a bit more apt for what I seek here....  others with different skill levels on different types of rock/ascents/weather studying a particular face with me, discussing their preferred potential attacks/routes.   While I might be eager to take the first ascent, I am very happy to come upon a rock face being "attacked" by others who either A) help me by eliminating some of the false-starts; B) help me by showing me how this particular rock/conditions *works*; C) help me by teaching me new techniques (through demonstration as well as critique).

I was drawn to mathematics for roughly this reason... there were a LOT of ascents already chronicled but there were many that had refused assault to date (and new ones being recognized/discovered every day).   I never became much of a serious mathematician but am glad to have learned the skills enough to clamber around on boulders (not so much anymore) and properly appreciate a  great climber when I stumble over them on a given face.   There are a (large) handful here who inspire me when I watch them swarm up what looks like an unassailable rock face and sometimes even, I can see the chinks and holds and nubs in the rock as they are climbing and my limited ability/experience allows my mirror neurons to fire as if it were *I* who were making that climb with my own mind (body).

Thanks for the "views"...

- Steve


On 12/26/19 2:12 PM, [hidden email] wrote:

Hi, eric,

 

I share your distaste for Schadenfreud: Isn’t that a great word!  Schaden arises from the same root as “scar”. Its root meaning is taking pleasure in leaving scars in others – “scar-inflicting-joy.”  I have the same problem with Rorty, who seems to take joy in tearing down what others have constructed.  In fact, it makes me so mad, I want to… um … tear him down. 

 

The idea’s/teams thing is more complicated.  Perhaps because I am too dumb to hold two ideas in my head at once, I think the best way to develop an idea is to take it and run with it, hence my current advocacy of monism.   It probably sounds like I am not listening, but actually each time I am knocked down in the open field I get up and head off in a slightly different direction.  For me, listening takes the form  of feeling my bones hitting the astroturf.  I don’t know if it is true of the rest of you, but I can be in a discussion and change my mind several times, but at each moment I care about the idea I am thinking and want others to join me in thinking it.  But who is it who said; “I take most pleasure from those who agree with me, but learn most from those who do not.”?  Thus intellectual argument is an exercise in restraint of passion.  Whence cometh the ENERGY to argue if not from the idiotic notion that one is correct and others are in want of convincing? Anybody who claims to be neutral in argument probably holds the position that the argument is stupid, and that, of course, is the most aggressive position of all. 

 

By the way, I haven’t watched a football game in 25 years.  I don’t know why I am giving way of football metaphors today.

 

Larding below.

 

Thanks Glen,

 

Nick

 

 

 

Nicholas Thompson

Emeritus Professor of Ethology and Psychology

Clark University

[hidden email]

https://wordpress.clarku.edu/nthompson/

 

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Friam [hidden email] On Behalf Of Eric Smith
Sent: Thursday, December 26, 2019 11:33 AM
To: The Friday Morning Applied Complexity Coffee Group [hidden email]
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] description - explanation - metaphor - model

 

I am relieved you brought up the Truth/Power bundling, Glen, because I wanted to but was too much of a coward to do it.

 

There is a style of speech that I hear often, which goes something like “It doesn’t matter what so-and-so says, or thinks he means.  He is just claiming he owns truth, but I know he is just an entitled group-group-group-assignment, motivated only to exploit or oppress [fill in whoever the good people are].”  My inner translator translates that to my language as “The only thing I care about in life is the fight by which I have constructed my identity, and in my world, there are only two kinds of people: those who are in my army and the enemy.  There are no non-combatants.”   I know my cartoon above is excessive and over-simple, but I may as well admit I have become primed to hear it through time and the accumulation of conflicts, and I can think of a few good exemplars (specific exchanges with specific people over the years) where I think it is fair to say that is really what is there to be heard. 

[NST===>].  I am not sure the most interesting discussions occur between people who are not invested personally in their ideas.  Shifting sports, for a moment, to one I have not played in 40 years: imagine the best rally in tennis you have ever watched.  Each of the players was trying to end the rally on the next shot, and the beautiful thing arises dialectically out of their failure to do so.  Now, before you take me to be some kind of ravening Neo-liberal, let me quickly say that that beautiful thing could not arise without the players’ agreement on a highly constraining set of rules – nobody “wins” a tennis match  by leaping over the net and braining his opponent with his racket. 

 

The problem is, that kind of conduct precludes any other conversation about anything, including most conversations aimed at intellectual clarity, distinctions, etc.  Basically, you can talk to that person if you are talking about or some other way engaged in that person’s fight. 

[NST===>] Yes!

 

To me it is not hard to understand that there is a difference between what one is trying to think about, and what one may be motivated to care about.  Certainly, there are some who are so totally consumed by compulsions that they can’t do it ever and so can’t see a distinction, but I think most of us in ordinary life are comfortable with the premise that both can exist, and are capable to some extent of knowing when we drift from one to the other.  Not ideal, and not reliable, but enough that we can see a reason to have both categories.  I assume most postmodern philosophers are complex enough to be capable of parsing such distinctions.

[NST===>] But many of their followers are not. 

 Hence if they choose to entirely conflate them, it feels to me like dishonesty, and often the specific dishonesty of a resentment motive (at the core; it accretes lots of other vanities and problems as it grows institutional.)

 

This is what I find unpleasant about Rorty.  If he had labeled himself a social critic, I would have been happy to support him (and in that role, I _do_ support much of what he says and I find it insightful and important).  But his delight in hoping he is destroying something that somebody once esteemed (here, the concept of truth, though I have watched him dance like a Stephen King monkey in attacking Weinberg’s efforts to describe some things about how science is practiced) is to me just the posture of the person who is mainly motivated by resentment of whatever he construes as power. 

 

 

My comments above are oblique to your main point below about Truth and Power, and the postmoderns being pragmatist, but I think it connects back eventually. 

 

I have been thinking a bit about pragmatism in the context of a different conversation, which (for reasons not relevant to the thread here) have me thinking there should be a formal version of the pragmatist position that has technical questions in common with ideas we pursue in statistical mechanics, error correction, and things of that kind.  Where I want to get to is that we can all admit to the probable error of all positions on the short term, without concluding thereby that they must reflect claims to power and therefore we can be power-monists, without needing to have both truth and power as primitives.  (I am not branding you as endorsing such a position, but I read you as saying that is where the postmoderns want to be, which is also how I read them).  What I want to claim is that that postmodern position is very far from what I would think of the main conceptual center of pragmatism.

[NST===>] I am called to the Kitchen, but let me say one more thing.  I think it’s important to understand the distinction that Peirce made between PragmatiCIsm, which ultimatedly called his own form of the philosophy, and Pragmatism, which he invented but was soon over run by heathens like Rorty.   Given Peirce’s ferocious commitment to scientific thought and practice (whence his original use of the word “pragmatism” probably arises), for modern “pragmatists” to advance an anti scientific obscurantism is frankly more irony than I can stand.  It’s like dressing the devil in a Santa Claus outfit and sending down to the mall to preach 

 

The idea being very lowbrow.  Suppose we are willing to work within the space of concepts and models that physicists have been using for a century, and not worry about deconstructing every word in every sentence in case they might all be hallucinating.  I want to make claims about structure _within_ that space of models and concepts.

 

We routinely talk about a generating process for some stochastic dynamic, and the process has values for some parameters.  (Rates for a chemical reaction, biases for flipped coins, whatever.).   We then talk of samples from the process, of estimators computed for the samples, and of how the estimators are distributed.  In this lowbrow world, it is unproblematic for a problem with a continuous state space, that a finite sample estimator has measure-zero probability to coincide with the exact value of the parameter in the generating process, but that the generating parameter can still give the value of a stable central tendency for samples.  We care, then, about which estimators are unbiased, which estimation protocols converge with large sample sizes, etc.  All stuff that everybody on this list knows backward and forward.

 

Things become interesting when there starts to be considerable mechanistic complexity and hierarchy, control relations, feedbacks, etc., so that it becomes _very_ hard to chase through the convergence properties of finite samples.  Hence we see that the biosphere appears to have certain properties stable on geological timescales even though many other things change, but can we justify that impression, or derive from some kind of “first principles” whether a sensible model for the biosphere would be stable in that way?  So far, not. 

 

The problem of making pragmatism a well-formed position feels like it should have much of that character.  Scientific inference (also everyday inference) is very much “theory-full” in Leslie Valiant’s sense in Probably Approximately Correct.  The theories are controlling systems over how we get rich interpretations from poor observations.  Sometimes the weight of observation can nudge a theory Bayes-wise in a better direction.  Sometimes a bad theory leads to systematic misinterpretation of facts for a very long time (Alchemy, trickle-down, one could go on seemingly forever with examples).  The components have only each other and their couplings with whatever we posit is a “real world” to stabilize them, and whereas we tautologically consider the “real world” to be whatever is consistent by virtue of being what it is, we should take as assumptions that all the components of the interpretive system can be subject to errors in a monstrously more difficult version of the way sample estimators can be wrong.

 

Biases from unfortunate motives can be one source of sample skew, but that is just one mechanism.  Identifying it, or any other mechanism, seems like a different conceptual problem from trying to figure out what convergence-to-truth can mean in an interpretive system, and to then derive what kinds of properties “truths” can have as the fixed points of such convergences.  For instances, even if I tell you that phase transition theory exists, or that asymptotically reliable error correction exists, you still have the whole scientific domain of understanding how sparse or dense or stable phases can be, how they can be related or interconnected, etc., or what is the domain of applicability of Shannon’s reliable-encoding theorem and how its manifestations vary from context to context. 

 

It would be appealing to me if some of what we have learned in these much simpler fields (physics of matter, reliable communication) could be bootstrapped into a technical analysis of what pragmatism can be or is.  It also seems to me that there is a kinship between the explanation for the stability (or apparent stability) of very complex things like the biosphere, and the problem of formulating a notion of truth with the right kinds of stability.

 

To circle back, then, with the complaint that opened this post, when the postmoderns just declare that there isn’t really anything else to think about regarding truth, than their resentments of somebody or some system that they regard as holding power, they make themselves uninteresting for me to invite into my personal world, which has a hard enough time holding together and making any progress on anything as it is. 

 

Thanks,

 

Eric

 

 

 

 

 

> On Dec 26, 2019, at 12:25 PM, uǝlƃ <[hidden email]> wrote:

>

> And this is one of the reasons postmodern rhetoric is more pragmatic than modern rhetoric, because it shifts the concern away from Truth and toward Power. It's nothing more nor less than the standard gumshoe technique of following the money. If you want to know why some yahoo said what he said, Truth is irrelevant. What matters is how he might benefit from such expression.

>

> But many people seem to think postmodern implies a form of pure relativism. I disagree. A postmodernist can still believe in some stably structured reality "out there". But she is willing to employ *both* power-based *and* stability-based analytic tactics.

>

> A friend recently claimed I wasn't a Platonist because I challenged the idea of a unitary, constant entailment operator (), as well as me claiming that the whole algebra can be arbitrarily changed, at will. So, the question for the Platonist becomes "which parts do we hold constant and which parts vary". I'm still a Platonist ... simply one that's skeptical of anyone's assertion that some part should be held constant/universal.

>

> As you point out later in your post, of course, we have to doubt our own rhetoric just as much as we doubt others' rhetoric. And that's (obviously) difficult. Personally, posts like this one (https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=4476) teeter me on a kind of knife edge. It's a great sensation to teeter one way, then another, on some value-based judgement. Did Pinker's tweet provide cover for systemic sexism? It's a kinda Zen Koan ... one of those unanswerable questions whose only proper answer is Mu. But if we look at it through a postmodern lens, Pinker is *clearly* part of the good old boys club ... as crisply a member of that set as Jordan Peterson. He's objectively smart enough to know better than to tweet such nonsense.

>

> Seth Meyers handles this well with his "Jokes Seth Can't Tell" segments. And the recent Jost/Che bit where they give each other jokes to tell blind handles it well, too: https://youtu.be/Ys786ZsA5tI. In the end, the bane of the rationalists (including Aaronson, Pinker, et al) is their tendency to *avoid* power analytics and focus on truth analytics.

>

> On 12/24/19 10:08 AM, Steven A Smith wrote:

>> But (BUT) what I think I find disturbing about the truism (oupsie!)

>> that "everything is interpretation" is so often used as the sophists

>> entree into a manipulation, into a switcharoo where the "everything

>> is interpretation" suddenly becomes "let me give you my

>> interpretation in a compelling way that has you acting as if it is

>> somehow 'more true' than the one you started with".

> --

> uǝlƃ

>

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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

Steven A Smith
In reply to this post by glen ropella

Glen -

Well found.   I am digging into it now.  Thanks to both you and Eric S.
for this acute but interesting/relevant bend to the thread at hand.

A fascinating twist in our "Climate Complexity Summit" in Stockholm
earlier this month (thanks Merle for instigating/organizing) was what
felt to me was an emergent awareness that the core of "Endogenous
Existential Threat" (my term)  Responsefrom a Complexity Science
standpoint is at least partly (if not centrally) the question OF morality. 

Whence arises morality?   Our tribal (e.g. judeo-christian, etc)
precedent said these things came down from (the) God(esses) or possibly
"the Ancestors", and modern Sociology, Psychology, Spirituality seem to
appeal to the idea(l) that it comes from deep within us (humans).   This
(sub)thread advances the contemplation I have been trying to worm my way
into about how such a human-centric abstraction as "morality" might be
rooted in fact in our heritage as complex adaptive systems amongst
complex adaptive systems, roughly (illusorily?) decomposable into  a CAS
of CASes as it were.

Before I start rattling my dentures in all directions at once, I'll try
to read Rescher and maybe even follow some of the loose threads he might
leave exposed for tugging on.

- Steve 

> Heh... ask and ye shall receive!
>
> https://fewd.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/user_upload/inst_ethik_wiss_dialog/Rescher__Nicholas__2008_Moral_Objectivity.pdf
>
> Rescher, seemingly a Peircian pragmatist, goes through a hypothetical in an attempt to argue that for a moral principle to be objective, the community to which it applies must have some (accurate) conception of morality. By the parenthetical "accurate", I mean those moral principles they hold must, in some definition, benefit that community.
>
> But what's interesting in relation to EricS's question about higher order structures is his assertion that moral principles are *schematic*, with some variables bound to context. And he develops, then, a hierarchy of moral principles where:
> "At this highest level alone is there absoluteness:the rejection of appropriate moral contentions at this level involves alapse of rational cogency. But at the lower levels there is almost always some room for variation, and dispute as well."
>
> Such a nesting of schema bears a striking resemblance to what EricS is asking for in the context of the biosphere or the higher order attributes of dynamic systems. The *trick*, of course, that Rescher doesn't seem to cover (perhaps I missed it), is whether the *schema* evolve, whether it's a strict hierarchy, etc. hearkening back to EricC's post about whether or not a Peircian "convergence" assumes stationarity.
>
> Regardless, I'm pretty skeptical of Rescher's setup because it hinges on this ability to predicate/define groups and define what's beneficial for those groups. But that's orthogonal to the rather nice idea of schematic principles.
>
> On 12/26/19 3:43 PM, uǝlƃ ☣ wrote:
>> It would be fantastic to read some treatment of higher order structures like social justice issues from Peirce or one of his intellectual descendants.
>>
>> On 12/26/19 2:47 PM, Eric Charles wrote:
>>> Eric (Smith), Peirce has extensive writings on probability and VERY extensive writings on logic. I suspect he has much of what you are looking for, we just don't focus on that part of his work as much. While he didn't have a full modern understanding of all that stuff, he was massively ahead of his time. 


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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

Frank Wimberly-2
Schadenfreude.  Sad- happiness, I think.  Don't forget the final "e".
-----------------------------------
Frank Wimberly

My memoir:
https://www.amazon.com/author/frankwimberly

My scientific publications:
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Frank_Wimberly2

Phone (505) 670-9918

On Fri, Dec 27, 2019, 8:57 AM Steven A Smith <[hidden email]> wrote:

Glen -

Well found.   I am digging into it now.  Thanks to both you and Eric S.
for this acute but interesting/relevant bend to the thread at hand.

A fascinating twist in our "Climate Complexity Summit" in Stockholm
earlier this month (thanks Merle for instigating/organizing) was what
felt to me was an emergent awareness that the core of "Endogenous
Existential Threat" (my term)  Responsefrom a Complexity Science
standpoint is at least partly (if not centrally) the question OF morality. 

Whence arises morality?   Our tribal (e.g. judeo-christian, etc)
precedent said these things came down from (the) God(esses) or possibly
"the Ancestors", and modern Sociology, Psychology, Spirituality seem to
appeal to the idea(l) that it comes from deep within us (humans).   This
(sub)thread advances the contemplation I have been trying to worm my way
into about how such a human-centric abstraction as "morality" might be
rooted in fact in our heritage as complex adaptive systems amongst
complex adaptive systems, roughly (illusorily?) decomposable into  a CAS
of CASes as it were.

Before I start rattling my dentures in all directions at once, I'll try
to read Rescher and maybe even follow some of the loose threads he might
leave exposed for tugging on.

- Steve 

> Heh... ask and ye shall receive!
>
> https://fewd.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/user_upload/inst_ethik_wiss_dialog/Rescher__Nicholas__2008_Moral_Objectivity.pdf
>
> Rescher, seemingly a Peircian pragmatist, goes through a hypothetical in an attempt to argue that for a moral principle to be objective, the community to which it applies must have some (accurate) conception of morality. By the parenthetical "accurate", I mean those moral principles they hold must, in some definition, benefit that community.
>
> But what's interesting in relation to EricS's question about higher order structures is his assertion that moral principles are *schematic*, with some variables bound to context. And he develops, then, a hierarchy of moral principles where:
> "At this highest level alone is there absoluteness:the rejection of appropriate moral contentions at this level involves alapse of rational cogency. But at the lower levels there is almost always some room for variation, and dispute as well."
>
> Such a nesting of schema bears a striking resemblance to what EricS is asking for in the context of the biosphere or the higher order attributes of dynamic systems. The *trick*, of course, that Rescher doesn't seem to cover (perhaps I missed it), is whether the *schema* evolve, whether it's a strict hierarchy, etc. hearkening back to EricC's post about whether or not a Peircian "convergence" assumes stationarity.
>
> Regardless, I'm pretty skeptical of Rescher's setup because it hinges on this ability to predicate/define groups and define what's beneficial for those groups. But that's orthogonal to the rather nice idea of schematic principles.
>
> On 12/26/19 3:43 PM, uǝlƃ ☣ wrote:
>> It would be fantastic to read some treatment of higher order structures like social justice issues from Peirce or one of his intellectual descendants.
>>
>> On 12/26/19 2:47 PM, Eric Charles wrote:
>>> Eric (Smith), Peirce has extensive writings on probability and VERY extensive writings on logic. I suspect he has much of what you are looking for, we just don't focus on that part of his work as much. While he didn't have a full modern understanding of all that stuff, he was massively ahead of his time. 


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Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
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archives back to 2003: http://friam.471366.n2.nabble.com/
FRIAM-COMIC
http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove

============================================================
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Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
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FRIAM-COMIC http://friam-comic.blogspot.com/ by Dr. Strangelove
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Re: description - explanation - metaphor - model

gepr
In reply to this post by gepr
https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/y4bkJTtG3s5d6v36k/stupidity-and-dishonesty-explain-each-other-away

I can't help but hope there are other causes for being wrong. 8^) For example, in a Kierkegaardian "throw down with your best guess" sense, e.g. the champions like Krugman, when their simplifications are shown to be wrong, I couldn't call them either dishonest or stupid. I'm OK with calling them "premature", but that's not really denigrating in the same way. As I tried to say before, a premature advocacy may be necessary to disambiguating the problem ... which is necessary for good problem solving. This is why I like the adjective "authentic". Even if some yahoo is completely wrong about some concept, treating them as if they're authentic presents constructive paths to various solutions.

On December 26, 2019 1:11:30 PM PST, "uǝlƃ ☣" <[hidden email]> wrote:
>These champions can be viewed as sacrificing themselves for the greater
>good. They adopt a position and advocate it in spite of their own inner
>homunculus shouting at them that they should be more reasonable ...
>take criticism as constructive and respond in metered and polite
>language, stick to the facts, be willing to change one's mind. But by
>making these (purposeful) discretizations, they are simplifying the
>domain and, thereby, making potential 80/20 solutions *feasible*.

--
glen

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Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
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uǝʃƃ ⊥ glen
123