Everything posted by Parody of Language
Parody of Language added a topic in ExploreSome excerpts concerning "logical negativism"I am reading an essay by Sowa about Peirce. It's generally an essay that is basically trying to promote Peirce's work, and suggests that Peirce has basically been ignored by analytical philosophy. The essay is here: www.jfsowa.com/pubs/csp21st.pdf
But I thought I would post here because of some of the excerpts and quotes that Sowa has mined. His argument is, basically, that Peirce was being ignored largely because he didn't follow the fashion of the later Vienna Circle and Logical Positivism by avoiding metaphysics. In fact, here is what Peirce writes about the subject:
"Find a scientific man who proposes to get along without any metaphysics — not by any
means every man who holds the ordinary reasonings of metaphysicians in scorn — and you
have found one whose doctrines are thoroughly vitiated by the crude and uncriticized
metaphysics with which they are packed. We must philosophize, said the great naturalist
Aristotle — if only to avoid philosophizing. Every man of us has a metaphysics, and has to
have one; and it will influence his life greatly. Far better, then, that that metaphysics should
be criticized and not be allowed to run loose." Peirce
Sowa writes about Hao Wang: "In his book Beyond Analytic Philosophy, Hao Wang, a former student of Quine and assistant to Gödel, classified philosophers by the terms nothing else and something more. The leaders of the analytic movement were mostly characterized by what they excluded: they chose a methodology that could address a limited range of topics and declared that nothing else was a legitimate matter of discussion. By applying logic to a narrow range of questions, they often achieved high levels of precision and clarity. But the philosophers who sought something more felt that the unclear questions were often the most significant, and they tried to broaden the inquiry to topics that the nothing-else philosophers rejected."
This seems like a fruitful way of understanding logical positivism, but you won't really see this in any of their doctrines. It's interesting that any movement that comes to be called positivist seems to have it's heart in what doctrines it rejects. Personally I see the modern scientific skepticism movement, and the striving for demarciation, in this same light: By their rhetoric, they seem to be talking about science, but in effect they are really talking about everything that isn't science, or shouldn't be considered science.
Sowa notes that this way of thinking is rejected by Peirce, "His first rule of reason, 'Do not block the way of inquiry' (CP 1.135), implies that no question is illegitimate."
Wang criticizes Quine:
Quine merrily reduces mind to body, physical objects to (some of) the place-times, placetimes
to sets of sets of numbers, and numbers to sets. Hence, we arrive at a purified
ontology which consists of sets only.... I believe I am not alone in feeling uncomfortable
about these reductions. What common and garden consequences can we draw from such
grand reductions? What hitherto concealed information do we get from them? Rather than
being overwhelmed by the result, one is inclined to question the significance of the
And Wang quotes a personal letter by C. I. Lewis, the founder of modern modal logic:
It is so easy... to get impressive 'results' by replacing the vaguer concepts which convey real
meaning by virtue of common usage by pseudo precise concepts which are manipulable by
'exact' methods — the trouble being that nobody any longer knows whether anything actual
or of practical import is being discussed.
Two other examples of logicians who are treated the same way as Peirce is Whitehead and Godel, who are both pretty much just referred to by the analytic tradition only for their purely logical results. But in all three cases, these logicians have all branched off into philosophy, without ever really divorcing logic from philosophy. But you rarely hear of Whitehead other than as the co-author of the Principia, and Godel is famous for the Incompleteness Theorem, but his proofs for the existence of God are rarely mentioned. Sadly, Peirce is rarely known as a logician, which was really the heart of his interest, but as a Pragmatist. Also there is a logical theorem with his name known as Peirce's Law.
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Parody of Language added a topic in ExploreThe pragmatic maxim and dynamic logic (technical)C.S. Peirce, a master logician, found some difficulty with how the old formula "clear and distinct idea" was defined. He didn't find it very clear. He had a different sense of the purpose of ideas than Leibniz did who wasn't particularly empirical in his thinking. But Peirce had a foot in both logic and science, and so he proposed what is now called the pragmatic maxim:
"Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object."
Our ideas aren't clear unless we can explicate what I would call the practical difference that the object of the idea would. Note particularly the term conceivably. Lately I've been thinking about this in terms of dynamic logic, a species of modal logic that I've stumbled on recently.
I've been thinking about methods lately, in terms of techniques used in experiments. I try to stay simple, and say that measuring the length of something is a method, then you can measure the various dimensions of an object, and then determine the volume of an object by means of a composite method that combines more basic methods, such as measuring length or volume displacement.
Suppose that a method is operational, which means you have to actually make concrete changes to the subject. This must be modelled in logic as moving by changing the actual world, which means changing from what is now the actual world to one of the possible worlds that are reachable from this world. So the actual world is indexical, there is nothing special about the actual, other than we identify one of the possible worlds as the actual one.
Let's consider this proposition: Striking the match will possibly produce fire. To show the logical form, you put the method inside angular brackets: <strike a match> produce fire. To show that striking a match will necessarily or always produce fire, you would use square brackets: [strike a match] produce fire. But it seems that the former proposition is true because, for example, the match might be wet, and so won't always produce fire. We could correct this by sequencing methods as in [ensure the match is dry; strike the match] produce fire. This is equivalent to [ensure the match is dry][strike the match] produce fire.
The difference between <strike a match> produce fire and [strike a match] produce fire is that the former means that sometimes striking a match will produce fire, and sometimes it won't. This means that it isn't really a good method for producing fire, and most methods that have nothing to do with the outcome will have merely possibility brackets. Some methods might actually interfere with the result making it impossible to produce fire, for instance ~<submerging the match in water> produce water which is the same as [submerging the match in water] ~produce water using normal modal laws.
To me this gets very close to not only articulating Peirce's pragmatic maxim in formal terms, but gets us closer to being able to unravel the logic of scientific method. Dynamic logic has already been axiomatized, but through online sources alone, it seems to be applied mostly to verifying computer programs. I'm going to continue to read more and experiment more to determine whether this logic can or should be applied to scientific logic.
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Parody of Language added a topic in ExploreEvaluating scientific consensusSorry to hammer home a sore topic, but I've spent the last week or so trying to figure out how to make good on my promise to lay out the argument for human-caused global warming. But I've failed at this, none as much time as I wished I have, and maybe to be genuine it isn't very high on my priority list. It's one of the issues that I can do the least about, and honestly isn't very interesting. So engaging this topic is a little trollish for me. Maybe I shouldn't write at all about it. But I feel like I need some closure on the topic, so please allow me to continue.
The only logical argument I could come up that would dispose me is that this is an instance of valid appeal to authority. Everywhere I search on the internet I see plenty of evidence of a scientific consensus for the existence of global warming, and that this is due to human causes. I did find some books that seemed like genuine criticisms of global warming, but they were authored by scientists whose expertise wasn't associated with climate science, like geology.
Aside from this logic, there is the vague plausibility, to my mind, that the thesis is could be true. It is possible to measure the temperature of the earth's atmosphere. Weather stations all over the globe are constantly recording and reporting the temperature. We have satellites who, given some assumptions, can produce a decent approximation of the temperature of the earth. Similarly, we can measure the temperature of our oceans at various points, at various times of the year, under various circumstances.
The existing consensus, no doubt, is a product of decades of what might be thought to be detective work, evaluating various maybe's and probably's. For instance, maybe the upper atmosphere is cooler than the lower atmosphere, or at least doesn't show the same warming that our weather stations report. So deploy high altitude weather balloons. Or maybe, as one skeptical book argues, heating and cooling is a consequence of cloud cover: Fewer clouds would reflect less light from the earth's surface, causing it to warm. But this claim can easily be examined with satellite photography. You could further speculate about volcano erruptions, or the urban heat effect. These maybe's too could be evaluated using rigorous scientific method.
The average educated person could easily speculate on all of these possibilities himself, the more he learns about climate change, the model and it's function. Doubts are produced, and this is scientific. Skepticism is a scientific virtue. So there should be a great deal of credibility achieved when scientists, after decades of investigative work, run out of doubts. Science should be the gold-standard for human inquiry. A scientific institute says that global warming is due to the products of fossil fuels, but Average Joe says that he thinks it's because of volcanic activity. It's very important how this debate should be settled: The institute should be able to respond to volcano conjecture, not by dismissing or demeaning it, and not by questioning who funded Average Joe, but by responding in the like, "We wondered about that too, and here's where that reasoning took us." Science should assimilate, but not oppose. It's character shouldn't be political.
So forgive me when I failed to separate separate things. In the last thread, and I think I admitted this, I failed to distinguish between climate science and the environmental movement. That environmentalism appropriated climate science gave me the impression that climate science itself has been politicized. Also my discussion of ideologies surrounding climate science made it sound like I was disputing climate science. It's a little too sociological, or meta-political, to try to capture the cognitive biases involved in how people behave politically. Generally, when political groups happen to be right about something, they are only incidentally right, this is perhaps the only thing people really need to know about politics. To take a different example, I'm an atheist, but not because atheism is true and somehow I'm predisposed to believe true statements, but because I'm predisposed to become an atheist. Environmentalists have been waging a war against industry for a very long time now. They have made an enemy of industry, and so they were predisposed to find the concepts of athropegenic climate change compelling. It would be a serious mistake to suggest that any political group is inherently rational. They all have their moments.
Now it is worth wondering if I'm being a hypocrit here in excluding science. It's a central question in the philosophy of science to ask whether science is inherently rational. I'm probably too much of an idealist, because I think it is possible for science to be rational, but on the whole the institution of science as it is actually practiced isn't rational. I don't believe that hinging significant policy debates on scientific consensus helps matters at all. I prefer my science to be as clean of politics as possible, and so I remain an idealist, and a bit of a purist.
So let me talk for a minute about scientific consensus. We should trust that humanity has caused global warming because that is the scientific consensus on the matter, by scientists who are qualified to speak on the matter. Logically, this should immediately be identified as an argument. To evaluate this argument, we evaluate it's form. We pretend that we aren't actually talking about anthropegenic climate change, but we're talking about any issue. We ask, is this argument valid no matter what issue we're talking about. It helps if we think of concrete examples rather than just making up issues. For instance, we could ask about genetically-modified food, or the theory of evolution, or of cold fusion.
There are two ways, I think, in which the trust in scientific consensus could be undermined. Basically, if these two issues are shown not to be present, then I think scientific consensus should be trusted. I don't think either of these issues influence climate science, but I implore that advocates cease making scientific consensus a simplistic matter.
The first issue is institutional. If there are institutional reasons to suggest that scientists are taking a certain position on an issue. This basically suggests that the rationality of science has been thwarted on an institutional level. For instance, if there are institutional pressures for scientists to conform, or if they are being rewarded for speaking a certain way on the topic. Similarly, if the scientists themselves are being selected based on their agreement to certain views, and the rest simply fail to attain credibility due to their conclusions alone. There should be no single authority that determines which scientists should be considered credibile. In fact, on the whole, a great argument that the rationality of a science hasn't been undermined by institutional reasons is when you find a diversity of views and competing models and ways of interpreting the data. Consensus can even used as evidence in support of institutional corruption of the scientific process.
The second issue is what Kuhn calls "normal science". Normal science is when scientists all implicitly, though probably not explicitly, agree on a paradigm. A paradigm is when scientists, without being aware of it, have learned to think and speak in narrow ways about the subject matter. This is when there are no radically different ways of thinking about the topic that competes at the same time as the mainstream theory. Basically, the rationality of science is questioned when the concepts involved are assumed, implicit, not questioned not due to dogmatism but because they have become invisible. If the science is involved in normal science, there is the express possibility that any scientific consensus is just a revolution away from being overturned. It would be like citing a scientific consensus on Newtonian physics against Einstein.
I don't know if climate science is engaging in normal science or not. On one hand, the existence of a consensus at all, especially to the degree that it exists. I see numbers citing between 82% and 98% of climate scientists agree that human beings are the cause of global warming. On the other hand, there's a very distinct difference between a concept and a proposition. Whether human beings are causing global warming is a statement, it can be true or false. A scientific paradigm is more about the concepts themselves. So it is certainly possible, even within that scientific concensus, for researchers to be coming to the same conclusion is very different ways, and even disagreeing with each other radically on how they approach the problem.
That said, to be honest, I have a problem with the idea of scientific consensus. The odd thing is that widespread agreement is a sign of irrationality, not of rationality. I'm smarter when my ideas are being met with constant criticism, and by people who think themselves smarter than I am. And I've always associated this with intellectual and scientific virtue. To look for consensus, it seems to me, is to be applying a political formula to science, when it is in this and other ways in which politics and science are fundamentally different.
But my ignorance of the situation in detail prevents me from evaluation whether this scientific consensus is a rational or irrational one, and whether arguments that refer to it are valid or invalid. I also worry that climate science itself is being corrupted by politics, and I don't mean in the obvious way. It interferes with rationality when you are no longer thinking about the subject matter, but about it's humanitarian and social consequences. But I hope that scientific virtue alone can withstand this.
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Parody of Language added a topic in ExploreThe rediscovery of term logicDiscovered something interesting about logic just tonight in fact. A recent logician, Fred Sommers, has rediscovered term logic. But he's done better, he's enhanced it. Now it is on par with the predicate logic of Frege and Russell. This is significant.
First, the new term logic and predicate logic are comparable in really only one way: They both involve translations into an algebraic like syntax. But the term logic syntax is much easier, and possibly more expressive. I've been fooling with predicate logic for about ten years now, and I still don't get the hang of it. Worse, it seems I do a better job reasoning if I skip the whole "translate into predicate syntax" step in the first place. The term logic syntax is just symbol algebra with only plus signs and minus signs. It's much more superfiscial, in the way that predicate logic is supposed to be deep and reveal the True Logical Form of the proposition. If anything, Sommers refutes this thesis.
I was going to introduce the new logic, but read Sommers' Foreward in this book for a summary: http://books.google.com/books?id=F5a-US69x78C&lpg=PA1&pg=PR9#v=onepage&q&f=false. In a separate paper, which I'll have to trace, Sommers explains many of the advantages of his term logic, for instance that it deals with mass nouns appropriately and shows inferences that may even be impossible to express in predicate logic. But as of this writing, there might be pitfalls in the logic that I'm not yet aware of. For instance, how does it deal with multiple generality? And I haven't seen anything about modal logic, but I doubt it's that difficult to incorporate.
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Parody of Language added a topic in ReadMerchants of DoubtAfter a small debate in chat with davidm and Nullifidian about the politics of global warming, davidm recommended a book to me called Merchants of Doubt. I have a Kindle now so I can pretty much download books like this right away and start reading. I've only started reading this, so I thought I would use this thread a forum to express some of my concerns.
Just as I debate some of you guys in chat, I am at the same time self-critical. My poor performance in chat is due to lack of knowledge on many of the details. But it is important to understand, to some extent, where you guys are coming from, and to understand where my beliefs are coming from. I'm not a climate scientist, but like most Americans, I understand cynicism. I suppose a lot my doubts come from my feeling of powerlessness in the face of cynicism. So as a good example of this, let me relate my thoughts even after reading just a few pages of this book.
First, what I mean by cynicism should be obvious from the context of the book. Merchants of Doubt is a book about lobbyists and think tanks that use various tactics to undermines what the author deems good science. So far, examples are the cancer causing properties of tobacco use, the risks and limitations of SDI (I don't know what this is), acid rain, the ozone hole, and the main subject, global warming.
What bothers me most at this point is this excerpt:
So the author is making a cynical case here. The narrative is that these "fact-fighters" were trying to disrupt the scientific process using these underhanded techniques. I guess it isn't necessary the material statements, but the form of cynicial arguments that I have problems with.
First, it seems to me that cynical arguments seem to have to beg the question. You have to agree with the author about who the villains are. The book started out with an obvious narrative appeal describing the scientist Ben Santer as the protagonist. The book begins:
Problem is, I already know this is a cynical book. So I pretty much analyze everything in the book from this standpoint. So I identify this pretty quickly as an attempt to manipulate me. This man's personality has nothing to do with the claims in the book. Even if he was a horrible person, with bad breath, and participates in cock fights, it wouldn't change anything.
Here's what I mean by question-begging: Flip the roles, of hero and villain, can a similar story be made? Look at the first excerpt. Apparently these groups who are attacking global warming, for example, have a list of scientists with sound credentials who will weigh in on their side about the issue. As an outsider, if I saw in the press that these scientists conclude that people are causing global warming, but these other scientists, with equal credentials, say that people aren't causing global warming, how am I supposed to know the difference?
Lets say that the cynical accusations continue in this book. I wouldn't doubt that the author will eventually describe books in the press that are part of this group attacking global warming. But this book that I'm reading, that is describing these cynical attacks on global warming, is itself a book attacking the groups who are against global warming. And if I were to find a book on my Kindle on the other side, what is to prevent them from making the same sort of cynical accusations as the other side?
I think the problem is either the cynical methods have become too good, whereby it's impossible for someone on the outside to reason for himself who is the hero and who the villain, or there is no cynicism at all, other than conspiracy theories by certain book writers.
So my issue is with cynicism in general. "Think tank" for instance is really just a pejorative term for a group of scientists and professors. The author hails the IPCC as the world's leading authority on climate issues, what distinguishes the IPCC from a think tank? You can't really, not from the outside, unless you have already decided who the villains were.
Anyway, enough for now, I'll keep reading.
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