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Philosophy of Science 2006 Forum

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Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-17 12:25:42
Link to this Comment: 17643

Welcome to the on-line forum for Philosophy of Science at Bryn Mawr College, spring semester 2006. Like all Serendip forums, this is a place for informal public conversation, a place to share thoughts and ideas in progress. What you're wondering and thinking now can help others with their thinking and what they're thinking can help you with yours. So don't worry about whether what you have to say is polished or final. The idea is to think together out loud and together, so everyone's ideas can help trigger further ideas in everyone else. Looking forward to seeing what we can make out of philosophy of science together.

Name: orah minde
Date: 2006-01-17 17:01:25
Link to this Comment: 17644

let's say that language, like philosophy, is "second order inquiry about first order practices" ((or, let's not say, and, rather, let's discuss)). the scientist is threatened by a philosophy of science bc such a philosophy takes the threatening omnisient stand-point. to be the object that is gazed upon is a vulnerable identity. such an outside standpoint supposes that there is an experience outside the experience of object from where the whole experience of the object can be viewed: an view that cannot be had by the object itself. scientists cannot, according to such logic, be philosophers of science. Similarly, according to such logic, a person cannot speak about himself. ((though this logic is obviously flawed, there is something to say for the idea that the Other has a better view of the self than the self has of itself.)) that does not sound quite right, so i'll phrase it differently: the scientist is not she who cannot be a philosopher of herself, but rather, the scientist is she who CHOOSES not to examine her work bc she finds the action of DOING her work sufficient. humm ...

let's discuss further the proposition that language is most basic to the academic sphere. academia, therefore, is the sphere of a second order inquiry no matter the discipline. the primary job of the academic scientist is to find findings and then, crucially, to inquire about his practice of finding through language. the first inquiry is private. the second, crucially, public. whether or not we regard the transcendent as internal or detached, can we say that this second level inquiry is a transcendent space? the private sphere for the non-academic scientist is sufficient. the difference between her and the academic scientist is the crucial space for the latter is not the private sphere, but rather, the classroom where people converge. a second order inquiry is, therefore, a public inquiry. we experience the world as individuals. all other experience is transcendent. if the transcendent is found internally than can we posit that the second level inquiry is crucial to what it means to be a human being. the existentialists would agree, no? they would say that the work of the private/non-academic scientist lacks meaning and only gains such in the public classroom. these ideas are not meaningful in my head, they only gain meaning here in the classroom or on the web. the web, therefore, can be seen as a transcendent realm. but it creates a new kind of public domain. while my thoughts are made meaningful/public here, we are secluded when in relation to them. i write them privately and you read them privately. so lets never give up on the classroom. enough for now.

Name: Laura Cyck
Date: 2006-01-20 10:11:46
Link to this Comment: 17698

Nothing to add, just a few thoughts... I read some of the exchange about Storytelling & Story Telling and had to agree with most of what was said on the side of Story Telling. I got hung up on the idea of working towards a "more right" vs. a "more right" but never knowing "how right" vs. "less wrong". The 2nd seemed to be just as good as the latter since it seems to imply/require a continual improvement/exploration while never calling for there to be an end/final word. But since it nonetheless set some kind of benchmark, it was useful to take into account two points on the side of "less wrong"-- that using a "less wrong" approach will be more productive in exploring changing and not only fixed systems and that while there cannot only be a number of viable "stories", all those stories may in fact be equally useful and able to account for the same observations/problems/etc. and impossible, at least for the moment, to “chose” between (not to chose as “right“ but to further explore). Now some things I'm confused/concerned about... Although storytelling supposedly has at it's heart the same commitment to an on-going exploration/improvement upon stories there still seems to be an element of an "end process" to it; viewing religion/ID/creationism as a competing story, as opposed to just a possible/maybe someday/not nearly has useful as evolution, leaves me with a feeling that storytelling is a process with an end while ID/religion will stand on the sideline and wait for evolution to lose and thereby win "by default", and then of course what happens after that? The reason behind teaching science as storytelling seems noble, but if I take the stand point of religion/ID/creationism I feel just as uncomfortable about the "rest of science"/other stories because even though with respect to story telling, religion/ID/creationism is allowed a fair shot and potential as a useful story at a later date if the story of evolution became less useful, religion/ID/creationism still takes a backseat nonetheless, so I don't see it as really stepping that much away from the issue. And one thing I was thinking about that was mentioned briefly on the first day of class-- Professor Krausz was talking about emergence and gave two examples. One being whether or not the shape of a bank of a river could be thought of an emergent property of the water molecules colliding with the bank, which seems like it could qualify as emergence. Another example was something about a friend coming to find you're not in your room because you came to class and whether or not that had some flavor of emergence, which I was confused about because my current understanding of emergence thus far wouldn't consider this to be emergence, but rather just causality.

week 1
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-23 21:00:46
Link to this Comment: 17756

Glad others found our first session interesting/provocative. Agree that the first order/second order distinction is an intriguing one to pursue further, am sure we'll get back to that as well as to both story telling/storytelling and emergence as the course proceeds. In meanwhile, a few of the things that stick in my mind from our first session ...

Liked very much starting with the contrast between "an examination of the growth of scientific knowledge" and "an exploration of the nature of scientific knowledge", do think it sets up rather well a version of the realism/constructivism distinction in a way that usefully not issues that may not be so obvious. "Examination" certainly implies that there is something there "independent of interpretation" that can in principle be described. "Exploration" is more neutral on that point, and even I think on the question of whether the something would be altered by observing it (wish I had thought of a better word). It is a little wishy-washy as well on the question of whether one is necessarily interacting with something and particularly on the question of whether inquiry in fact creates something new. All of those SHOULD be looked at more closely, so I'm glad they were attributed to the word. The other point was "growt" versus "nature, highlighting the question of whether "progress" is an inherent part of the notion of science from a realistic perspective but not? from the constructivist. One could, alternatively, take this as a challenge (as I do). If one can't appeal to a "fact of the matter" and "correspondence theory" of truth/science, could one still define and claim "progress"? Would one want to? I think the answer is yes and yes. At least for me. To return to. And am intrigued by the issue of whether one could similarly argue for "progress" in literature, music, even religion?

Along which lines, am looking forward to further discussion of the political, and philosophical problem of how to adjudicate between different languages/frames, and deciding what to do with the "ineffable". If things look different in different frames/languages, and there is no preferred frame/single language, does one have to abandon any hope of adjudication? Might the "ineffable" be the extreme (ie singular) of distinctively framed (hence no words for it) and, if so, what significance should be accorded it in efforts to adjudicate?

Lots more to talk about. Thanks all for last week. Looking forward to this one.

week 2
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-24 16:45:41
Link to this Comment: 17773

A whirld wind tour through Popper but very generative. Thanks to all, including Orah, Laura, Michael for expert guidance. A few things that struck me, for my own records and whatever use they might be to others. Looking forward as well to hearing what others made of today.

Its important to recognize the context for Popper's work (as it is for all work), in this case the effort to correct some problems of "logical positivim" (itself a reaction to enthusiasms about things that "go beyond individual minds"). In this context (and still) the notion of an inability to verify universals and the recognition that one CAN "refute" is very powerful. "Conjecture and refutation" is I think indeed the core of "science" as methodology, noting not only its permanent incompleteness but also its dependence on "conjecture". And noting as well that while a scientific statement must be refutable, the motivation for one need not be.

Reactions to science as "uncertainty" rather than "certainty" brought up several additional probably misleading idea, one being the idea that something was non-scientific if falsified. Popper's position, as discussed, would have it that what is NOT science isn't falsified things but rather inherently unfalsifiable things (ie a marxism or psychoanalytic (or evolutionary or religious) posture that can turn any potentially falsifying observation into a supporting one). Its important here to distinguish "science" from motivation, eg marxism/psychonalysis/evolution may not be falsifiable but may motivate scientific statements that are.

Along these lines, an additionally interesting issue is the long term significance of motivational perspectives. If one of these leads to a falsifiable and falsified statement, that is sometimes taken as evidence that the perspective itself has been falsified, and probably shouldn't be. This relates to an additional misunderstanding about scientific methodology that Popper may not have given adequate attention to, the idea that progress occurs only in the present or, to put it differently, that new falsifiable statements can reliably be derived from older ones. In at least some cases, one finds that a new observation (or a new idea) not only falsifies present falsifiable though not yet tested statements but undermines or reduces the "usefulness" of earlier ones as well. In these cases, one may well "back up" and discover a new "generativity" in motivational perspectives that one might have thought have gone by the board.

Hmmm, just realized I'm slipping here from Popper's criterion of "falsifiability" for a scientific statement to "generativity", an idea that hasn't yet come up in the course (but will) that I've been exploring elsewhere (see On Beyond Post-Modernism: Discriminating Stories and Science as Storytelling or Story Telling). And have been having some trouble with that might be corrected by talking about "generativity of falsifiable statement"?

Some equally interesting issues when we moved from "methodology" to "ontology", ie to what the method is being used on/for. We'll definitely return to the issue of whether observations are "mediated" and to the merits or lack thereof of Popper's realism/appeal to the correspondence theory of truth and its necessity (or lack thereof) for motivating and providing a definition of progress in science. What's new (for me) is the realization that Popper actually had a justification for his "realist" posture that bears an interesting similarity to the slighly discounted argument from social consensus that in turn became the Kuhnian ("constructivist") battle cry. As Popper says in "The Aim of Science" "falsifications ... teach us the unexpected ... they reassure us that, although our theories are made by ourselves, although they are our own inventions, they are none the less genuine assertions about the world; for they even clash with something we never made". I think one can in fact get a coherent picture of science, with something out there and with progress (carefully defined so as to not amount to an asympototic approach to truth, out of "clash" (and, more generally, "conflict").

To talk more about. Thanks again, all, for the generative conversation.

Role of intuition/creativity
Name: Laura Cyck
Date: 2006-01-30 23:34:39
Link to this Comment: 17890

I've been trying to make better sense of "intuition" and "creativity" and their role in
the method/practice of science (whatever it is/may be). As systematic or methodical, for lack of a better word, I first found Popper's idea of science, it seems they both find their way into Popper's ideas. Given, he acknowledges that the start of the entire process requires conceiving of an idea and no doubt requires imagination/creativity: "There is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas, or a logical reconstruction of this process. My view may be expressed by saying that every discovery contains an 'irrational element', or a 'creative intuition.'" (pg. 134) But he still appeals to intuition and creativity as being involved to at least some extent in next process-- evaluating ideas and deciding where to go from there. I wholeheartedly agree that dogmatism serves a useful purpose in science, it may even be a necessary component of skepticism or a critical evaluation-- by which I mean to be "fair" or critical requires at least a temporary commitment to dogmatism or "suspension of disbelief" in order to fully evaluate any idea and gauge all of it's parts. He says, "Supersensitivty with respect to refuting criticism was just as dangerous: there is a legitimate place for dogmatism, though a very limited one... Only if we defend them can we learn all the different possibilities inherent in [a] theory." (pg. 126) Now, maybe coming from a different perspective and trying to "dogmatically" accept another view in order to understand it may not involve any element of intuition, those at least subscribing to the idea in question would rely on a sense of conviction. (Though on the other hand, dogmatism need not necessarily rest on intuition. I could intuitively "prefer" the story of evolution while still willingly put my beliefs in another story [religion] that provides me with things that the story of evolution cannot [need for meaning, place in the world, etc.], in which case I'd be placing the needs for certain things over any gut-feeling sense of what I would want to otherwise believe. But whatever the case, it seems like dogmatism usually implies intuition.) Granted he cautions a limited place for dogmatism, he also says of conjectures: "As always, science is conjecture. You have to conjecture when to stop defending a favorite theory, and when to try a new one." (pg. 126) This I think better illustrates what I'm trying to say... conjecturing, I hope, rests on intuition. Also, for him, as a realist, to allow all this, especially seems off. By trying to make a case for realism, it seems that by allowing a creative process into the equation, particularly at the beginning (conceiving an idea), any ideas are automatically shielded from reality, should it exit; all ideas are from the get-go "mediated." If there exists a truly inaccessible reality, this would be why these ideas can "clash with something we've never made." But this doesn't seem distinguishable from what I understood Kuhn as arguing, just one “social consensus” clashing with a different larger/broader/“stronger” “social consensus”... but anyway, all this reminded me of one of the points that struck me reading Science as Storytelling or Story Telling-- “humanity” of the process [of science]. An element of “humanity” seems key in coming up with more and more “stories”, but seems in opposition to using “generativity” as a criterion for evaluation (/deciding/distinguishing). “Generativity” seems useful for judging predictability, but being also rather “systematic” seems to detract from that bit of “humanity”/creativity/intuition in deciding which path to take or which idea to explore further. Finally, one last thing I thought I’d add my thoughts on... last class we talked about refutation/corroboration and science as continual problem-solving as both parts of a (good) theory of education. Right now these make the most sense as far as education is concerned and that in my school/experience, like others in the class, science was always approached with an expectation of finding one, right description and “explaining away” phenomena to ultimately leave a single, final uninteresting “answer.”

week 3
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-31 18:02:09
Link to this Comment: 17903

Rich (generative?) conversation today. Thanks all, particularly Spalding and Heather for thoughts on Kuhn. Again, we did a lot in a short time but seemed to me good groundwork to think/rethink both Popper and Kuhn further as we move along this semester. Looking forward to what struck others. In the meanwhile, what intrigued me ....

How dependent IS Kuhn in fact on a "cryptic" appeal to "reality"? And to a demarcation that includes the idea of science as "progressive", in contrast to, for example, art? Is Kuhn's picture ENTIRELY "local puzzle-solving" with NO "cumulative" character?

I was, for some reason, more struck this this time around by Kuhn's paralleling of science and evolution

And, was (obviously) very intrigued by Spalding's (and Orah's) argument that Kuhn's description of science could be used for religious inquiry as well (Howard Kee?). This suggests that religious inquiry (like science?) might be better off without not only the concept of "revelation" (from an outside source) but also the concept of "Truth" or "reality". And provides some interesting new ways to think about the existence of different religious traditions.

Along these lines, I was struck by the absence in an otherwise quite sophisticated characterization of the "inside" of science by Kuhn of a key element that has recently become apparent to me in a different context: the inclination of (at least some scientists) to "suspend judgement", to avoid "premature story telling". To avoid inhibiting "generativity"?

And was obviously very intrigued as well by the discussion of a "motivation" for doing science at all, which both Popper and Kuhn (we'll get back to the latter's legitimate concern about "elementary observations") seemed to feel was a problem that had to be resolved. IS interesting that trees and other things "evolve" without needing a reason/justification but that scientist's need a motivation/justification? Because they can "choose"?, ie they would do it anyhow if they avoided thinking about it but because they think they .... ?

A possible relation between the last two points has to do with the bipartite brain, which we'll talk about in a few weeks. Basically, one might argue that humans have a distinctive part of the brain that habitually tries to "make sense" of things and that its because of this part of the brain that people in general have trouble avoiding premature story telling AND need to have explicit justifications for their actions (even if they are would they would do in the absence of such justifications).

The "progress" issue has turned up in my neurobiology and behavior class. And the science/religion discussion I mentioned has both contributed to and benefited from this one. Maybe there is something to philosophy from/in the trenches?

bloomin' and buzzin' and Revelation
Name: orah minde
Date: 2006-01-31 20:57:33
Link to this Comment: 17904

thx all, heather, and spalding for today and thx paul for continued conversation.
some ideas on revelation and beyond :
revelation is according to random house: "1. something revealed, esp. something surprising and not known before. 2. God' disclosure of Himself to His creatures."
and according to my computer: "a surprising and previously unknown fact esp. one that is made known in a dramatic way. 2. the divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the world."
it comes from the french "revelare" which is "to lay bare".

in order for something to be revealed there must be an initial covering, or separation, between that which is revealed and she to whom the revelation occurs. In order for god to reveal herself to her creatures there must be a prior moment in which she is veiled from human senses. in order for there to be scientific revelation there must be a prior moment in which something is unrealized. revelation depends on a fragmented world. without such fragmentation "there can only be, in William james's phrase, 'a bloomin' buzzin' confusion" (Kuhn, 113). According to Kuhn, paradigms provide a lens through which we can order and see the world. sight cannot be all-realizing, rather, in order to see somethings we must be blind to other things. Since we are not built able to see all, since we are not omnisient, we must accept that are vision will always be partially blind. If we accept that we are not all-seeing we can accept that revelation of things previously unseen is a part of the human experience. things are constantly being revealed to our sense. simultaneously things are always being hidden from our senses. the idea of revelation does not depend on a God-Outside-absolute Other, but it does depend on an acceptance that our perception of the world is parced into parts that are seen and parts that are unseen: that we cannot know all, and, therefore, through experience are always coming into contact with the unknown. we need not seek a Truth that ends inquiry, but we can seek the unveiling of things previously unseen. such a cosmology deals with space: inside and outside. scientific revelation depends on the inquiry of an inside-science-community into an outside-space. maybe, even, there are three spaces: there's the inside space of science, there's outside-science-society, and there's the Outside space (i.e. Nature, God, Whatever, Nothing) that humans experience. One may suggest that this last space does not exist, but there still must be a parcing in order for there to be 'a bloomin' buzzin' confusion.'

the most interesting definition of revelation to me is: "the divine or supernatural disclosure to humans of something relating to human existence or the world." while one might think of the requires religious referent to be God, this definition reverses this requirement: the referent for divine revelation is the human: divine revelation is therefore always "relating to human existence or the world." this is a very Here-oriented, Nature(al) theology. This usage of the word revelation contradict's Paul's usage of revelation as something that is fundamentally External. This definition of revelation reflects a desire of the revealer to be Internal to human experience: to unveil himself to the human, to put himself INTO relation with the human. the paradigm search of religion, here, is not for that which is unhuman, but rather, for that to which the divine is attracted, namely, human existence or the world. separation is not bad. without separation there is only 'bloomin' and buzzin'.' revelation occurs in a world in which things are always being unveiled: there is no final, apocalyptic revelation, no Truth, there are only truths, and mini-revelations.

hoping for more conversation. my best to all.

week 4
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-09 17:00:43
Link to this Comment: 18045

Thanks to Alex, all for a generative/rich/enjoyable conversation based on Kosso. As usual, a few thoughts it triggered in me, with hopes others will chime in with their own sense of what was/wasn't/should have been/shouldn't have been said.

A nice "frame" for the discussion was the issue of whether the traditional philosophical distinction between metaphysics and epistemology was itself a "reference frame" ("paradigm"?, "point of view"? "world view"? "language"?) that necessarily conditioned any conclusions one drew from the observations one was using. Was Kosso's "realistic realism" a consequence of the frame he set? ("circularity"?). Where would the argument go if one accepted his offer to be a "responsible epistemological anti-realist" who would thereby refuse to make any metaphysical claim? Note though that there are actually two pretty different choices available here: one is that there is no "world beyond our observation" (bordering on "pure" idealism, solipsism, projectionism) and the other (more acceptable, to me at least) is that there is no "objective world beyond our observation", ie no world which we can characterize in any terms more absolute than those made available by our observations/thoughts at any given time.

I find Kosso's basic effort, somewhat stripped of some of its philosophical baggage, quite appealing/useful. What he wants understood is that physics (science) actually DOES "surprise" and therefore can't in fact be totally made up from inside. Moreover, it tries to and DOES notice, with great subtlety, aspects of our observations/understandings that are context-dependent (frame-dependent), ie that result either from our perturbing the system we are trying to understand or that would be different if we looked at them differently, and can and DOES successfully correct for those. The sun DOES look like it goes around the earth, the earth DOES look flat, but if we notice and correct for our limited perspective (by making new observations) we get a less perspective/context/frame dependent understanding: we are on an earth much bigger than ourselves which in turn moves around the sun.

Notice though that "correct for" is a little overstated. There is a still less "perspective bound" description that would include the sun rotating around the galactic center, the galactic center moving ... etc etc. One can "correct for" only those aspects of perspective that one has noticed. Having done so, there is no easy assurance that there aren't further aspects of that kind of perspective yet to correct for and no assurance whatsoever that there aren't OTHER kinds of perspective limitation that one hasn't noticed at all. In fact, the very concept of "correct for" carries an implicit presumption of realism. Might one instead simply call this process one of seeking additional ways to look at/see things? without needing the presumption that one is approaching a singularity which would be perspective (frame) free?

All this is a relevant to (an important context/frame for) Kosso's second equally important point: physics is not about generalities but about particulars. Einstein's physics does NOT say that everything in relative. It says that motion is relative but that the speed of light is absolute. Similarly, physics does NOT say that everything is "indeterminate" or perturbed by an observation. It says that CERTAIN aspects of certain things (position and velocity, for example) cannot be independently measured without a measurement of the value of one influencing the value of the other. Momentum (the product of the two) is among many things that are quite determinate.

So far so good. But its here that I think Kosso verges uncomfortably close to Popper's achilles heel, a belief that there is an objectively describable reality and that falsification gets us closer to it. Physics has, can, and presumably will continue to surprise us by discovering that things we took as fixed/eternal/invariant are actually perspective/frame/context dependent (measurements of length and time, for example) and it will, each time it does it, establish that SOME things are not perspective/frame/context dependent. But, and its an important but, one can draw conclusions ONLY over the set of context/frame/perspective variations that have been explored SO FAR. Which includes presumptions about what is relevant and what is not. Newton's laws hold in a vacuum (treating friction as a perturbation) at low speeds and intermediate size scales. The speed of light is constant holds in a vacuum (it doesn't otherwise) in all inertial frames. Popper's own concern about the limitations of induction are relevant here: there is not, and cannot be, from scientific activity, absolutes. Science is capable ONLY of characterizing invariances across enumerated sets of frame/perspectives/contexts. Unless and until someone establishes that the set of possible frames/perspectives/contexts is itself enumerable, there can be no claim from science that anything is "absolute".

All of this takes us back, it seems to me to the Bohr quotation that Kosso began with: "Physics concerns what we can say about nature" and to responsible epistemological anti-realism. But with the understanding that the latter need not deny either the power of physics nor the existence of something "out there". Einstein may indeed have said "Physics is an attempt to grasp reality as it is thought independently of its being observed" but he also said "Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world". My guess is that the only real difference between the two was that Bohr was less driven than Einstein by the unknown. Both knew there was no certain relationship between what they were understanding and "reality". Bohr was inclined to let it be so; Einstein regarded it as a source of energy for taking the next "less wrong" steps.

As, I hope, will we. Lots of the "rules" of physics/science (perhaps inquiry in general) have their origins in "realism", cryptic or otherwise. If we are going to deny the validity of that starting point, we'd better be prepared to come up with some replacements for those rules. Maybe that's our task for the rest of the semester? If so, maybe Theory and Practice of Non-Normal Inquiry (to which our conversations have contributed importantly) is relevant.

Reference Frames
Name: Heather
Date: 2006-02-09 22:55:14
Link to this Comment: 18049

Kosso does want to allow for our reference frames to be "corrected", but like Prof. Grobstein brings up, there could very well be observations that we haven't made yet that would correct the frame we have now. I guess the question is, as Prof. Grobstein also says, whether our new observations are really correcting anything or if they are just a different way to look at the same thing. I think we would need to posit a real world and some amount of access to it if we are to posit that our observations are corrected. Perhaps it really isn't necessary to have a frameless reference point, however, if our reference frames are useful for our present purposes. Spalding and I were arguing a similar point as Prof. Grobstein and Prof. Krausz in the last class, of whether human behavior can be explained fully through biology and culture, or whether there is something more than that, such as the source for human creativity. I thought that biology and culture is a useful reference frame for describing human behavior. However, Spalding brought up the point that if there is indeterminacy in matter, since humans are made of matter, there might be indeterminacy that is a part of our behavior that we cannot explain through biology and culture. Sort of relating to this, I had a question for Prof. Grobstein. If things like pens are in a state of both being there and not there until we look at them, would it then be the case that people are in a state of being both here and not here, but are here in virtue of the fact that we are conscious of ourselves?

indeterminacy, human and otherwise
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-10 08:59:41
Link to this Comment: 18051

Yep, biology and culture aren't (to a biologist/neurobiologist at least) enough. See From Genomes to Dreams and Variability in Brain Function and Behavior. And that DOES, I think, bear in several potentially interesting/useful ways on our frame discussion.

It hadn't occurred to me that we are outselves "in a state of being both here and not here" that is resolved by consciousness into being here, but I like that idea a lot in connection with some earlier efforts to make sense of (and correct) Descartes. What had occurred to me is that the brain is indeed often in "indeterminate" states in more local way. Perhaps the simplest and most dramatic form of this has to do with ambiguous figures. What one sees for a given input is indeterminate until one part of the brain resolves it.

And that in turn bears in an interesting way on the question of whether there is a "real world". If the input is resolved one way, one sees one thing and acts one way. If the input is resolved a different way, one sees a different thing and acts in a different way. One is, of course, a part of the "world", so that, to a greater or lesser extent, the world is changed by how one acts, and that means the world is actually not a fixed thing but rather a thing which is continually changing in part at least as a result of how one sees it.

Ergo, the world is indeterminate because of our presence in it (among other things)? And science is changing because of our own changing patterns of inquiry?

Name: Laura Cyck
Date: 2006-02-11 22:49:46
Link to this Comment: 18070

Just some thinking out loud... One of the things I'm trying to make sense of is distinguishing between the three possibilities of 1) (anti-realist) there is no "out there" 2) (metaphysical realist) there is a "there", independent of/existing before us and is fixed/unchanging and 3) (metaphysical realist?) there is a "there", independent of/existing before us, yet changing or influenced and affected by our existence/activity in/with it (or maybe the fourth possibility of an external world with some things changeable others not... this is I guess what Kosso is describing?) My concern, I guess, assuming an "out there", is there a meaningful distinction between changing something and influencing something? The understanding I'm getting from realists is that the "out there" is really not as independent as it first seemed to be and not so static. The idea of something being indeterminate and in two states at once isn't easy to swallow. I keep thinking of the pen example from class-- if it is indeterminate and exists in both the state of not being there and being there, but then is observed and rendered as being in the latter state (?), what is it that is independent and what is it that is dependent (the experience of the thing or the thing itself?) Is then pen itself really being changed/influenced?... any help making better sense of this appreciated. Also, I forget if this was discussed in class or not, but Kosso's description of "objectivity" was interesting. I found it useful to think of being objective not as an aim to escape one's perspective (and reach Nagel's "view from nowhere") but to "understand our point of view" (and then presumably try out new ones). And on the difference between Bohr and Einstein and more generally between an epistemological anti-realist view and an epistemological/metaphysical view-- in Kosso's discussion of inference to the best explanation, his second argument for IBE is the psychological accomplishment, "an explanation is a claim that satisfies our curiosity, a claim that gives our questioning rest, at least momentarily". An epistemological anti-realist view doesn't seem to lead very far, appropriate I guess only for pragmatists, and robbed of satisfactions of these psychological accomplishments by virtue of it's defeatist qualities. So, I agree that it's best/most interesting to adopt Einstein's attitude if for not for any other reason then for "curiosity". It was also useful to note Kosso's first argument for IBE and the criteria for what explanation is best-- compatibility or complementary, suggesting these replace simplicity; this makes sense since the principle of parsimony may be less useful judged against the backdrop of an inevitable reference frame.

Name: Laura C.
Date: 2006-02-13 13:53:32
Link to this Comment: 18098

Just some rethinking... on the first day of class, when Professor Krausz asked us what we considered our positions to be in regards to realism/constructivism, I believe I said anti-realist/maybe constructivism. But after reading Goodman's argument for constructivism (? or whatever it will be called), and not finding it very compelling/useful at all, I feel more comfortable with a realist approach (though, constructive realism, as discussed in the other reading seems like a reasonable "compromise"...). I think I was drawn to an anti-realist approach/constructivism (or perhaps pragmatism?) because it seemed more flexible to change/revision/inconclusiveness (?) & puts an emphasis on "usefulness" (maybe "utility" would be better). Though, I guess I've realized now that a realist approach (epistemological or metaphysical) in no way requires such rigidity to revision or one single approach (frame?), allows for more skepticism/uncertainty than I had originally thought, and embraces it's own form of usefulness (?) (instrumentalism?); by which I mean in the sense of useful to scientific inquiry versus humanity/society/etc./instrumentalism[?]). Anyway, don't know if that all makes much sense, that's just where I am right now... Looking forward to tomorrow's class.

Name: Laura Cyck
Date: 2006-02-14 16:30:03
Link to this Comment: 18117

After class today Professor Grobstein jokingly (?) asked Marya and I if we thought today's class had found an answer (to?). At this point, I'm not yet comfortable saying for sure what are the most relevant questions to be asking in the first place (frames? objectively escaping a frame? choosing between? an ultimate? science and art? and culture? human fabrications versus elemental objects? complete versus partial versus obscured reality/Truth? aims/goals/objectives? individual versus community reference frame? meta- yet not all encompassing frames? realism>constructivism>mysticism?), let alone what their answers may be... but it seems most others know what kind of answers they'd like to which kind of questions?

week 5
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-14 17:35:15
Link to this Comment: 18118

I'm getting a little hard pressed for adjectives to characterize our sessions, which seem to me to be getting progressively more enjoyable/rich generative. So, thanks to Spaulding for a clear and provocative coverage of Goodman and McKenna, and to everyone for ... what I hope we're all both pleased by and coming to expect. Here's some notes on what stuck in my mind, hoping others will chime in with their own thoughts.

We're clearly into "reference frames" and the issues the recognition of them pose. In particular, is there a viable "anti-foundationalist" position that allows some adjudication among coordinate frames? An interesting aspect of that occurred to me as I was thinking about Goodman's speeding problem. One usually thinks that the inclusion/appreciation of cultural influences makes things more "relative". In fact, in the speeding example, the "relativity" is inherent in the situation before one introduces any cultural factors, and the effect of the cultural factors is to make things more "real" (we agree to use the earth as a common reference frame). I wonder how general that inversion actually is? Relativity (frame dependence) is the norm, and the concept of the non-frame dependent "real" ("absolute") is in fact the cultural construction? See below for a counter-argument?

Goodman's picture of "no fact of the matter" is obviously useful/generative, both for its recognition of the general coordinate frame issue and for some ... holes? The argument that language necessarily falls short of providing a description of reality is fine but perhaps not general enough for "coordinate frames"? And is a little ambiguous as to whether it is an argument against a world "out there" or only against a world out there that has a unique linguistic description. The latter becomes particularly significant in Goodman's effort to distance from "mysticism" as well as "linguamorphism". Mysticism, in some terms, is similar to Goodman's position in being skeptical of language/rationality. What Goodman's seems to want to distance from is any assertion that there actually IS a "reality" out there that can be accessed in any form, including non-rational ways (the idea that there is would seem to make mysticism a forum of metaphysical realism). Here too, though, either no reality outside the self or something out there which is not describable would, it seems, do for his purposes. More interestingly, perhaps is the issue of the relation of Goodman's position to other forms of "mysticism", characterized more by a "can't talk, can't act, can't engage with" posture, one emphasizing appreciation of rather than causal interaction with an "ineffable".

Goodman's digression into art and cultural history also proved to be generative. Is there a way to speak of "esthetic value" independent of cultural frames? And without claiming the existence of a single preferred coordinate frame? The parallels to science and "truth"/"reality" seem quite direct. Clearly there are communities of practice that make coherent esthetic judgements as well as coherent scientific ones. Is there a way to make discriminations between communities of practice in either case in the absence of a metaphysical claim, ie the claim of a single preferred reference frame?

In the absence of a metaphysical claim, there can be no single preferred judgement. This does not however, preclude the possibility of making at least some relative judgements, so long as one retains the possibility of at least two equivalent most favored coordinate frames. If one adds the stipulation (yes, I don't trust democracy in inquiry; there needs to be a bill of rights) that the meta-coordinate frame one is using must also contain the seeds of its own destruction, perhaps one can indeed conceive ways to retain discrimination in the absence of any absolute claims of truth or esthetic quality. An interesting extension of this would be to conceive of such a process occuring not only in human communities of practice but also in ways that do not depend on human cultures and perhaps not on the existence of humans at all.

McKenna's sophisticated plain-Jane realism is a good foil for Goodman (and the anti-realism postures we seem for the most part to be evolving. It does though seriously suffer from the natural=essential, artificial=subject to interpretation dichotomy that isn't very well founded (living organisms, at least, cannot be defined essentially, as Darwin pointed out; more on this later from Dennett). On the other hand, there are appealing elements in McKenna. Is the "individual" a required starting point? How is one to account for the observation that there do in fact seem to be better and worser ways to "cut" nature (at the "joints" or otherwise)? And how is one to account for the observation that there does indeed seem to be some kind of gradient of how easy it is to come up with alternate interpretations as one goes from the very small to the larger, at least into the middle realm of sizes? Its here where the issue of whether things get more or less real as one adds cultural factors is worth thinking more about.

There was an interesting connection as well of McKenna to mysticism, in his wish to have something for his Poppy. And hence of McKenna to Popper and his concern about scientists not having any motivation to do anything without "reality" (see also the little monk in Brecht's Galileo). Is this another form of frame-dependence? That might be adjudicated in some appropriately structured metaframe that allows discriminations but admits of multiple at any given time preferred frames?

taking a go at McKenna's realism
Name: alex
Date: 2006-02-20 00:52:11
Link to this Comment: 18217

Hey everybody - thanks for posting your thoughts, I've been reading along and been intrigued by the ideas on revelation, indeterminacy in our being until perceived, and the issue of order without an absolute reference frame. So just wanted to say - great forum.
I was looking back over the reading from McKenna, and was struck by his argument for preserving realism from being nothing but linguistic conventions, which seems to me to be somewhat unsettling. It seeems similar to Wittgenstein's idea of objects being whatever agreed-upon familial resemblance - but how far does culture and our education really go in determining our experiences? As a defense against Goodman's provocative claim that we cannot make assertions of a world undescribed, I was wondering if McKenna's Plain Jane metaphysics will hold without any sort of absolute reference frame. Logical positivists seem to have absorbed relativity as being unproblematic for the assertion of universal laws, but surely Popper's much more guarded and adaptable realism falls less readily to criticism on account of cultural intentionality, and even all that aside, is more resilient to the insurpassable relativity of any given reference frame. But what about McKenna's appeal to our commonsense that I take is a "correspondence theory of truth" kind of argument - does that still recognize the determinacy of a given reference frame? Perhaps in protecting the "joints" of the natural world from layered intentionality, one necessarily imposes an unjustified (frame-dependent) view?

One of McKenna's key points seems to have been that individuality cannot have been constructed, because we cannot even conceive of a world of "da stuff" or whatever without differentia. Thus there must be certain objects independent of our calling them so, and there is no reason to assume that they gain their properties simply after we recognize them. This seems reasonable to me - I want to agree with him here. Still, I think - can we even talk about individuality as being part of the world out there and not as an aspect of OUR world. So maybe there are no properties that we can point to and say are 100% natural. But that doesn't seem to preclude or even weigh against realism at all...I find Popper's unembellished presentation of realism to be helpful. Just that it seems rather magical that our intentions truly determine the world such that truth cannot be found, at all. Truth may not be provable, and any given belief is always not-true but rather in a state of becoming true for us, when we check: but an internal truth can be assessed for the sake of investigating the parameters of the reference frame. And I think we can talk to one another about the truth of that frame, and that is the highest that we can go in the way of Truth. I see that I have moved near Goodman's camp here - well, as long as the possibility of finding facts remains open (not allowing anti-realism to foreclose anything) then why not be limited in what we can assert to language, intentionality in addition to relativity?

to footnote a few of Paul's id
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2006-02-20 14:35:46
Link to this Comment: 18228

"Relativity (frame dependence) is the norm, and the concept of the non-frame dependent "real" ("absolute") is in fact the cultural construction?" could one translate this as: in order to face a world without frame cultures construct ... God ... an absolute ... a metanarrative?

one might argue that there is a difference between metanarrative and absolute. namely, that the absolute does not necessarily have a function, but is because of its unchanging quality. while a metanarrative DOES have a function and if that function is uncalled for it relinquishes its absolutism. the metanarrative, therefore, might not be considered an absolute. But, i might argue that stories never cease. they are retold, and reshaped, and make take a form that is unrecognizable as an evolution from its original form, but, i think, every story is rooted. there are no spontaneous stories. just as minds, are not blank. there is something eternal about every story. could it be the word at the beginning? no. bc some stories aren't worded.

acknowledging this possible difference between the words, lets play the word game of using them interchangably. there are, i think, two ways of applying these cultural constructions to the world. One might require that such words maintain the function they had in the first context to which they were applied. In this sense the metanarrative not only contains the mind of the culture, but also time and space that are external to the human mind. this metanarrative attempts to transcend the mind by collapsing time, space, and ceasing change. this metanarrative, however, cannot be a metanarrative (?) for all, because some might recognize its failure to transcend its maker. The metanarrative can function as a swaddle to comfort the human mind, but it fails to pull time and space and change into itself. some human minds, therefore, recognizes the failure of this metanarrative to hold that which is external to the mind. what does one do with such a recognition? maybe write another metanarrative. this world, i realize, is a relative world without absolute. The other way, however, (lets change the word from metanarrative to:) God might be applied is as a frame for the mind : the mind sees the world and applies the story of God to the world. because the function of this metanarrative is not to restrict, but is malleable to the world, it is (more?) durable than the previous absolute?

I am interested in the human confrontation with chaos. I am writing my thesis on a play that is about this stand-off. while Paul seems to be suggesting that some confront chaos with meta-stories, I am interested in the confrontation of the human without story-protection. the play i am studying uses the metaphor of skin: "Show me the words that will reorder the world, or else keep silent. if a snake sheds his skin before a new skin is ready, naked he will be in the world, prey to the forces of chaos." THE question of the play is, 'how do people change?' when stories crumble do we have to wait for new ones to proceed, or, is there a kind of 'painful,' skinless, naked movement ever-forward? the previous quote demands silence in the face of chaos, unless one is to offer theory-clothing. but, at the end of the play, God is rejected. "HE isn't coming back ... if HE did come back you should SUE the bastard ... Sue the bastard for walking out. How dare HE." so, yes, Paul, let's say all metanarratives for cultural constructions ... can we imagine a culture that does NOT require such stories? kushner, my playwright, imagines such a place. we proceed with a certain 'painful progress,' without the swaddle-padding of big stoires. is this what it means for the human race to be getting old? or, at least, growing up?

while kushner and Paul (?) seem to ascribe to this painful, flayed progress, i am reminded of some thinkers upon which i am performing a (3rd?) level inquiry. walter benjamin (thesis phil. hist), fredrich nietzsche (geneology of morals), and freud (beyond the pleasure principle) provide images of humans (and an angel for benjamin) longing backwards. i am looking now at nietzsche's writing, "i saw the GREAT danger of mankind, its most sulime temptation and seduction to what? to nothingness? - in these very instincts i saw the beginning of the end, stability, the exhaustion that gazes backwards, the will turning against Life." humm ... kinda heart wrenching, no? and familiar in an uncanny way ... no? kushner's vision of naked progression is not happy, or comforting, but "even sick. i want to be alive ... i want more life. i can't help myself. i do. i've lived through such terrible times, and there are people who live through much much worse, but ... you see them living anyways." Neitzsche isn't so sure. when metanarratives fail and we are confronted with unending chaos, one might seek another story (like kushner) and another might seek ... nothing. neitzsche's, i think, is the darkest of the three germans. and, maybe becuase of his shading, the most haunting. do we call him a mystic? ascetic? suicidal? desirous of that which is beyond pleasure?

... and ... 'how, in your experience of life, do people change?'

'the horror. the horror.'
Name: orah minde
Date: 2006-02-22 18:46:06
Link to this Comment: 18295

how can we "flag"/drown "the core of the human condition" i.e. the problematic that as conscious beings we cannot move in the world without story ?!?!?!? someone chat with me about it here??!?!?!?!? here are some possible implications of this condition:i.e. OUR condition:

can we liken the act of storytelling to the creation of a metanarrative ? while i acknowledge the distinction between meta-narrative and supreme-narrative, i am going to continue to call attention to their similarities, their origination from the same genre, their common features. and as a digression, even before i start, i want to make an argument as to the great similarities between the two. the word "supreme" means, according to the random house dictionary, "1. highest in rank or authority 2. of the highest quality or degree, 3. greatest or extreme, 4. last or final." my argument pivots on the observation that 3 out of the 4 definitions allow that 'the supreme' is supreme only because others are not supreme. a 'supreme' story gains its supremecy on the less-than-supreme nature of all other told stories. the subscription to a 'supreme' story does not cease the production of stories, but rather, is a choise of the 'highest quality' lens through which to see the world. i acknowledge that the def. that totters me, however, is the last one: "4. last or final," but i will suggest that as conscious creatures who can only experience the world through story the only way to act, to function, is to act AS IF the supreme story is the last or final story. we are more complex than the trees bc of this consciousness; this heightened complexity can be characterized by our ability to hold diverging concepts within us. Our consciousness' must hold the acknowledgement that there is no such thing as an 'ultimate/absolute' story, but in order to act we must treat every theory into which we place our bodies as if we were never going to undress from it again. ... i am avoiding the notion of an absolute story.

on that note, i am going to continue to think through the metaphoric lens of stories as clothing or flesh, the supreme narrative as merely a narrative from which the wearer is disinclined to disrobe, while the meta-narrative is a clothing set for the day, a snake's temporary skin. if the conscious being cannot act in the world without story/metanarrative/clothing/skin then what is the difference between a person who chooses to change his clothing and one who doesn't? there is no way for a conscious being to experience naked-reality, so to speak ... so what are the differences between the experience of a person who chooses to tell many stories and one who tells only one? if changing stories allowed one a glimpse of the naked-world in the instant of change, then i would be inclined toward the changing my clothes more offen ... but THERE IS NO EXPERIENCE OF THE WORLD WITHOUT STORY. so, i ask, again, how do people change? there must be a moment when a part of a story disintegrates and a CRUCIAL moment before that part is replaced? or, do parts of stories not dissintegrate, but are, rather replaced without loosening their grip on our bodies and perceptions? not that i WANT to see the world naked. but i am interested in the question of how people change their stories and maintain protection. i am inclined to assert that there is a lot of pain in those moments of change that comes from a moment of fuller exposure to what we are protected from when wearing our skins thick. was neitzsche's desire to go back purely nostalgic, OR was it a pulling away from future horror?

there are changes, and then there are changes
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-22 20:39:43
Link to this Comment: 18298

Chat? Sure. So, let's agree that we are "avoiding the notion of an absolute story" (ie in the context of the wider course converation, there is no preferred reference frame, and no prospect of ever having one). Does one have "to act as AS IF the supreme story is the last or final story"? No, I don't think so. In order to act, one needs only to accept that the story one has is, for the moment, the best one one has. "The key here is that depriving EVERYTHING of the status of FINAL "authority" gives one permission/room to (not actually paradoxically) make use of everything one has at any given time."

The problem, for me, with the "metaphoric lens of stories as clothing or flesh" is precisely that it implies that there is something to which one would be more fully exposed in the absence of story. But that conflicts with "there is no experience of the world without story", which I take as a second essential starting point for the present discussion. IF there is no "supreme" story/reference frame, and if there is no experience without story/reference frame, then whatever there is in the way of "pain in those moments of change" must have its origin in something other than an experience of the world "naked".

I don't at all doubt that there IS, for many people at many times, "pain in those moments of change" but only your particular interpretation of its origin. My guess, in fact, is that there ISN'T any single explanation, that just as some people experience change as pleasureable and others as painful, so too people who experience it as painful do so for different reasons.

And the same person may in fact react differently to change at different times in their lives. Change has certainly been quite pleasurable at times in my own and quite uncomfortable at others. Sometimes the discomfort has been associated with realizing that something I've relied on without thinking about it is becoming less sturdy, and the unpleasant feelings have something of the character of disorientation or dizziness or insecurity. Other times, I have had a fear that a story I could live with was changing into something that, for one reason or another, seemed very threatening. The unpleasant feelings in those cases ("future horror"?) were much more fear than dizziness.

Can one "change their stories and maintain protecton"? One can certainly try to, but I suspect the cost is always to put one at risk of fearing change, if for no other reason than it creates the frightening story of losing "protection". Maybe one is better off enjoying the potential for change inherent in whatever story one has at any given time, looking forward to seeing what it becomes next, and so experiencing change as the promising process of writing one's own story anew?

week 6
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-26 18:01:12
Link to this Comment: 18352

And on, in our now routine (?) rich/generative mode. Thanks to all, and to Alex particularly for a thoughtful guidance through Putnam and Hempel. Some thoughts about where I (in my reference frame) think we've gotten to, trusting that others will add what it looks like from their own ...

I'm very intrigued by our continuing return to the "what does realism buy one?" issue. Both in abstract terms and in quite concrete ones. If we equate "interpretation" with "reference frame", then could we argue that "interpretation" and "reference frame" are, like velocity, both always "relational", ie that an interpretation/reference frame is not a thing in itself but rather a relation between a particular observer and what is observed? If so, the concept of "reference frame" itself exists if and only if there is an "interpretation".

That might seem to get us into some very difficult waters. An interpretation exists if and only if there is an interpretation? and an interpreter? Now, THAT has a pretty circular feel to it, and, like all circularities makes one worry about whether the interpretation or the interpreter came first and whether one is going to get into an infinite regress of interpeters interpreting interpretations. Maybe THAT's the answer to what realism buys one; it avoids dizziness? It's all interpretations (of interpretations of ... ) also raises some practical questions about how one should teach science (where's the "facts"?) and some spiritual ones (chaos isn't the absence of a frame/interpretation but rather a particular frame/intepretation?). THINK we'll be able to handle all this without ... severe gastrointestional problems?, but ... we'll see.

Equally intriguing along the "what does realism buy one?" line (to me at least) was the "as if" proposition: does one need to behave "as if" one was a realist? Without it, there would be no frame, no "story", and hence no movement/progress? Popper notwithstanding, I still don't buy it. Trees (and biological evolution in general) "progress" without any semblence of a conception of "reality" or of a perspective/coordinate frame. Here William James seems to me more relevant. James argued compellingly (for me at least) that acting "as if" is important, in that it was capable of bringing into existence things that wouldn't otherwise come into existence. His point was not that you need "as if" for hope or to motivate action but rather that it provides a groundwork for creation of novelty. Notice that that doesn't in fact require a notion of "reality", and indeed that a notion of "reality" might even inhibit the creation of novelty. The upshot is that one can indeed value the "as if" capability without becoming a "realist". Maybe the difference between trees (lacking "as if" capability) and people (having it) could help us with building a platform from which the "interpretation/coordinate frame" problem would look less daunting?

In the meanwhile, Putnam seems to me to help us solidify an important distinction between someone who thinks there is something out there that in principle can be described by humans independent of a human perspective and someone who thinks there is something out there but that it cannot be so described. What this does (usefully, I think) is to put the emphasis in thinking about the "realist/constructivist" issue more on the nature of humans and less on whether there is or is not something beyond humans (ie out there). One can be a "constructivist" in the sense of asserting that any human description involves a human perspective without denying that there is probably something out there, in which case the "noumenal" does, as Putnam argues, become irrelevant. And yes, I personally would have been happier if Putnam had in fact opted for "pragmatic realism" instead of "internal realism". And happier still if he had termed it ... "pragmatic inside/outside transactionalism"?

What I had missed in Putnam but Alex appropriately picked up was a set of "moral" issues inherent in all this: "These thinkers [Quine, Goodman, Davidson] have been somewhat hesitant to forthrightly extend the same approach to our moral images of ourselves and the world. Yet what can giving up the spectator view in philosophy mean if we don't extend the pragmatic approach to the most indispensible "versions" of ourselves and our world that we possess?".

One route to these "moral" issues is the set of concerns Hempel addresses. If indeed there is no preferred reference frame and there is no human experience without a reference frame, how does one handle/adjudicate among multiple reference frames? Can we get beyond post-modernism or are we stuck there? Do we need "reality" for this or can we handle it within a "non-foundationalist" perspective that denies the existence of any single preferred reference frame/perspective? Stay tuned?

Enjoyed looking at peoples' papers. A few quotations that seemed to me worth highlighting (anonymously, since I haven't asked permission but happy to add names of those willing to be quoted or to remove quotations entirely if those quoted prefer) ....

brain model & reference frames
Name: Laura Cyck
Date: 2006-03-05 13:21:38
Link to this Comment: 18451

In last week's discussion of (pragmatic) multiplism, Professor Grobstein put on the board a similar diagram:

[x ] "ignorant"
[xxx] experienced/Emily's "advanced"/etc.; x's equaling observations.

Where these 'x's, or "observations", give rise to interpretations...

[ABC] all these interpretations A, B, C include even unfalsified ones (as I heard it)
[^ ^ ^] <-- use of reference frame to pick a hypothesis A, B, C etc.
[   x   ]
(outside the brain, a *probable* external world giving rise to many (most?) x's, but not all... and possible things "made up"/added at the level of ABC)

And so, it was said that when a brain needs to take action in deciding between A, B, C from any given x, reference frames are used to pick a hypothesis-- the action is based on a reference frame. This then of course supports the claim that one cannot escape any/all reference frames to be reference frame free, at least if one wants to take action. Anyway we were using the terms 'observation' and 'interpretation' distinctly (observation- tacit processing/interpretation-"I-function"[?]) which I guess I was using synonymously. But I was thinking of reference frames coming into play before even "observations" were made:

[ABC] <-- maybe here again
[^ ^ ^]
[   x   ] <-- use of reference frame here or
(conjectured outside) <-- use of reference frame here that there would be many precursors to any particular x in the outside world but the reference frame would filter them so as to precondition ABC, etc. This is what I was thinking of when Kuhn emphasized the distinction between different scientists seeing something as something else rather than just merely interpreting it differently. The brain model seems much more flexible and seems to offer more of a conscious choice of reference frames, but with Kuhn any certain reference frame seemed more unescapable. But I guess with a brain model or tacit processing/I-function dichotomy there's no where else to put reference frames, and a biologist is committed to doing it this way.

Also, I've really liked the methodology of falsification up until now, since it does not seem to stand up to the argument of proceeding from different reference frames. Hempel's quotation of Popper, "[basic statements] have admittedly the character of dogmas, but only in so far as we may desist from justifying them...", is very compelling and relevant even if one is willing to except multiple interpretations, because presumably we're not accepting "all" but willing to accept more than one (?).

week 7
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-12 18:01:59
Link to this Comment: 18487

Now THAT was a little different. Is interesting to have the author of a text sitting in the room and available for the discussion. Thanks to all for giving the paper serious consideration. Particular thanks to Emily for guiding us through it, and for her critique, and to Michael for the kind of fully engaged critique that I hope the paper deserves and that, in any case, is essential for any effective process of "pragmatic multiplism". A few thoughts that have stuck with me about a richly generative conversation ....

A significant issue continues to be what is "reality" for? Emily's characterization of her own starting point as a "realistic realist, "going towards one goal" was a useful one in this regard, particularly when this singularist notion of a goal was contrasted by Emily with a co-existing multiplist notion of purpose. Objects may have a variety of purposes, dependent on the observer, but the observer ... has one goal/purpose? If so, then "reality" may be useful to support ... a singularist conception of oneself?

Emily (appropriately I thought) pointed to a relevant and significant "self-referentiality" in the paper, ie a frame (or context) dependence that was an important part of the argument of the paper, and that was explicitly acknowledged at the end of the paper. Perhaps her concern might be that the author of the paper was only able to make the arguments made by virtue of not having a singularist conception of self? And, more generally, that serious philosophical (academic work in general?) ought not to be (or appear to be?) individual frame specific?

Emily was also concerned about an indeterminacy theme that runs through the paper and illustrated that, perhaps significantly, from her own experience: "friends call me random but I can always backtrack ... everything has its basis". Here too the issue may be as much about individual singularism/multiplism as about the nature of the world (that which is interpreted). Are individuals "independently creative"? If not, they may differ from each other and so conceive different purposes both for themselves and for other things but they do so in a universe that has provides the "basis" for what they do and so is the foundational "real". If individuals are, on the other hand, independently creative then ... neither they not what they can influence has a fixed basis and "reality" is not only what one sees but also what one creates ... both for oneself and for others?

If I've gotten the story right, there is a very interesting example of a frame difference here. And the question, of course, becomes how to adjudicate it. Is there a "less wrong" perspective? And, if so, what would it take to reach it? Perhaps the path is one that "discourages arguing about interpretations, and encourages instead dialogue about what is similar and different both about observations and about how interpretations/stories are created from them". And perhaps, along these lines, some of Beyond "Simple" Agents and Environments might be relevant to the conversation (and the course)? We'll get to it in a few weeks. In the meanwhile ....

I've never responded formally to Michael's published critique of my paper, at least partly because the course and our conversations have been such a productive exchange that I never felt it necessary to go back to it. I am though pleased to have the chance to make explicit my responses to the critique as well as my appreciation for it.

"Ideality is a product of the brain and restricted to the brain ... In contrast, I urge that from the brain completing the information that is brought to it by the eye (or any of the senses), multiplism does not follow ... A world exists external to the brains engaged in interpretive practices ... As powerful as the brain is, it may just be incapable of 'seeing' a singularist position beyond itself".

I actually acknowledged in my paper that singularism was an "admissable interpretation" and that there could be "a singularist outcome to science, at which point it will cease to be a significant human activity". So we have no immediate logical disagreement here. I do, though, have reservations, as expressed in class, about whether there exist so far truly "singularist" cases in science. "that unsupported bodies drop at a rate of 32 feet per second squared" is not, for me, an instance of "singularly true". It is, given a particular frame (the notion of an "ideal situation", and "Ideality is a product of the brain and restricted to the brain"), a very good/useful summary of observations but that's as far as I'm comfortable going with it. The brain is, on my argument, not limited to being a "completing organ" (which already presumes there is something to complete). It is also a creating one (this relates closely to "independently creative" above). "Grobstein runs together two claims. First is the 'idealist' claim of our inability to know a 'reality' beyond our perceptions ... Second is the claim ... that , for a would be world independent of our perceptions, given the neurological constraints of the brain, it cannot be singularly grasped ... While the second claim may be defensible ... the first is not". That the world, because of the way the brain is organized, cannot be "singularly grasped" is the main point of the paper. I am not, so far as I know (or intend), making an "idealist" claim beyond that. Could there be ways that don't involve the brain "to know a 'reality' beyond our perceptions"? I don't know of any, but have equally no way to establish that they don't exist. IF the brain is the "sole inquirer" AND the brain works as I have outlined, THEN it seems likely there will always be (as there has always been) more than one way to make sense of our observations to date, and that how we make sense of them at any given time will always be context-dependent (and subject to "independently creative" acts).

Note that this is NOT a classic "idealist" position. There is no claim here that all that exists is ideas that the brain creates, nor that there is nothing outside the brain. The claim is only that there cannot be (or, more cautiously, that there is very unlikely ever to be) a single acceptable interpretation of what is (probably) out there ("IF the brain ... etc"). The "out there" is in fact an important part of the activity of the brain (the "summary of observations"). The inability to say what it is does, however, I think suffice for now (and for the foreseeable future) to justify my claim that one cannot "provide a sufficiently certain description of the thing being interpreted so as to say what is its relation to an interpretation of it".

"Grobstein's position has further difficulties ... takes the brain to be a material thing. He does not explicitly say that the material brain must also be a product of the brain, but the claim is entailed by his thesis. But then, how can a brain be a product of itself? And whose brain is it that produces the brain? And what is the status of materiality?" I fully acknowledge the self-referentiality of the story presented (cf Being, Thinking, Story Telling: What It Is and How It Works, Reflectively and the risks associated with that (see From the story teller back to the I-function). My guess though is that self-referentiality is not only inevitable but has quite positive features to it, among which is to encourage "independent creativity" in oneself and others and, by so doing, to provide the new things out of which further inquiry proceeds. As for "materiality", that is, of course, a creation of the brain (of lots of brains) trying to make sense of their observations. It is NOT, any more than anything else is, a starting point or foundation (more below). "Notice that Grobstein's negativist epistemology (with which I agree) is quite distinct from his world-as-pictured-by-the brain hypothesis ... He rules out the realist account of falsity in terms of non-correspondence between propositions and the way the world is ... So an alternate account of falsity is required. But he does not provide one. The claim that "the world" is a product of the brain and is limited to the brain precludes the conceptual space required for criticism of the contents of hypotheses about the world ... also precludes the possibility of giving a coherent account of the aims of cognitive inquiry ... provides no conceptual space to ask such normative questions as to why you should pursue astronomy over astrology ... If such issues are settled exclusively in terms of the products of the brain, then normative questions cannot even arise" The negative epistemology and the "world-as-pictured ..." are, for me at least, inextricably connected. As above, the latter seems to me to give rise to the former (though I will freely admit that it is possible that both in turn derive from something else). That said, I freely and happily admit that the paper falls short of "an alternate account of falsity", fails to provide "a coherent account of the aims of cognitive inquiry", and seems to provide no space for "normative questions". The paper was in an important sense a "deck clearing", written with the hope(?) that by forestalling some questions in order to explore others one might be in a position to take a fresh look at some of those postponed. I don't think I could then but think I can now begin to provide "an alternate account of falsity", a new account of the "aims of cognitive inquiry", and even a useful space for exploring "normative questions". Quite relevant to all of this is a question Laura put during our last meeting and then expanded on in a forum posting. That in turn motivated me to try and create a graphic that would illustrate some of what is talking about in our next reading, as well as some of my thinking based on conversations here. I'm looking forward to seeing to what extent it carries our discussion of the absence of a single preferred coordinate frame (yes, even discounting logic) in a direction that justifies our conversations (in preference to, among other things, drug use). Maybe there is a positive side to "reality" is not only what one sees but also what one creates ... both for oneself and for others?" Maybe the only foundation we need is the ability to detect differences between our observations and our pre-existing interpretations, as well as between our context dependent understandings and those of other people?

The way Science is taught
Name: Corrie Ron
Date: 2006-03-18 21:54:14
Link to this Comment: 18589

Something that I was continually concerned with throughout the Grobstein reading and class that was never brought up was the way that Grobstein wants science to be taught. My thoughts are not as intellectual as Laura's, but more simple. I use a lot of examples because it helps me think (like the couch potato). Grobstein basically wants science to be taught in a more story-like way, like English. He suggests this idea because some students are scared of science-y type words, ideas, etc. My problem is that some students are scared of story like teaching too. Some of us (yes, myself included) like the straightforward, math equation, science vocabulary kind of teaching. Why not do the opposite of what Grobstein is suggesting? Why not make English more like science for those of us scared and confused by 'frilly stories'? Obviously this is a bit extreme and I would never suggest that we actually do this, but I think it is important to look at both sides. It seems to me that most people fall under two categories, math-minded or humanities-minded. Yes, we can excel at both (that is why we are at BMC), but it seems in most cases that one comes more easily to us than the other. For me, math and science. This is something that I often think about, especially in relation to our school's curriculum. Why is it that students are required to take two years of a language, a year of English, but only one semester of a math or science? If we want well rounded individuals shouldn't the requirements be equal? I just got the feeling that under Grobstein's new way of teaching, the math-nerd minority would be gypped.

the "sciency" and the "frilly"
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-19 21:22:28
Link to this Comment: 18602

Thanks greatly to Corrie for helping to sharpen the conversation. What ABOUT the "math-nerd minority" (is it actually a minority?) who LIKE "the straightforward, math equation, science vocabulary kind of teaching"? Is it true that "people fall under two categories, math-minded or humanities-minded"? That some are "scared of science-y type words, ideas, etc" and others "scared and confused by 'frilly stories'? If so, why? and what ought one to do about it? Eduationally? Philosophically? If one "comes more easily to us than the other" does someone inevitably have to be "gypped"? Could one actually aspire to "excel" at both? And what would that take .... educationally? philosophically? Individually? Collectively? NICE set of questions that, it seems to me, bridges the theoretical and the practical and gives us increasing reason to try and make better sense of the constructivist/realist issue and ... and to see whether there are ways to not only adjudicate between but somehow integrate different coordinate frames/perspectives? What WOULD a science curriculum look like that didn't gype anyone?

week 8
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-19 22:23:13
Link to this Comment: 18604

I agree. Two papers in two weeks by the same person whose philosophical credentials are shakey at best is a little much. Particularly so when they seem to unsettle things without much sign that they're going to converge again. Still and all, a good discussion. Thanks to Laura for guiding us through it, and for some serious critique, and to all for the (I hope) generative thoughts in progress. My thoughts, for whatever they might be worth and in hopes of other perspectives from others (as Corrie already).

So, there probably is a world "out there" and so we're (at least some of us) comfortable in a discourse community that takes trying to make sense of it as a shared objective (as opposed to one that says the "out there" is distinctively and unchallengeably made differently by each person). BUT (perhaps) we are also agreed that any sense we make of it (individually or collectively) is frame/context dependent and so always challengeable on those grounds? An "actual but indeterminate" reality? The physicists' wave function, collapsed in different ways by different humans at different times? Where does THAT take us?

Perhaps, according to Laura, to some kind of essential complementarity between "convergence" and "divergence". The view from nowhere lacks idiosyncracy, whereas the view from everywhere is nothing but idiosyncracy, so maybe one needs something that involves both divergence/idiosyncracy and convergence/reduced idiosyncracy? The questions that arise from that include what is the "over-riding value"? Is one trying to "explain, make clear, understand" (convergent?) or to ... be "generative"/create something new (divergent?). Is it more important to be able to justify how one got to a particular understanding of reality ("positivism") or to have created a platform from which further developments occur? Could it be that the tension between wishing to understand (convergent, both individually and socially) and the wish to make new is the key ingredient in science, in inquiry generally? That the former creates an essential platform for the latter? That "falsification" is as important for generativity as it is for understanding?

If so, perhaps there is less difference between the products of the humanities ("frilly stories") and the products of science than is often thought. Writers (and composers and artists) actually do to a significant extent build on some prior work (and not others prior work, hence "falsifying" it?), whereas scientists, in addition to accepting some and rejecting other prior work, do to a significant extent generate new ideas (create new interpretations). So maybe the difference between them is more quantitative then qualitative, and we should indeed encourage everyone to "excel at both", elaborating a philosophical and educational framework that supports that?

Should this perspective somehow also make sense of the the "couch potato" coordinate frame/perspective? Could there alternatively be here an extension into the realm of the "moral", something that says that both divergence and convergence are valuable but doing neither is .... failing to contribute to others? And how would a divergent/convergent perspective relate to some kinds of religious thought, particularly a "wish for harmony"? To say nothing of individual lives? Looking forward to seeing how all this continues to evolve.

Name: Laura
Date: 2006-03-20 20:08:16
Link to this Comment: 18618

Now I'm hesitant to relate idiosyncrasy (or lack of) with the view from nowhere/everywhere. Or, more specifically that the view from everywhere is nothing but idiosyncrasy. I would think that it is through idiosyncrasy that you get to it, but if ever there, the idea of idiosyncrasy would be meaningless. But that's just returning to the same argument that you need to diverge in order to reach an ultimate convergence, I suppose. I guess I want to think of divergence as the short-term process (pragmatic multiplism), and convergence as the long-term, but by that I do not mean to imply singularism... because "at the end" there wouldn't be any views/frames/stories that would loose out to another, there would just be one. Professor Grobstein, or someone, equated convergence with "getting everyone to the same place" and divergence as "getting people to all places that you can go", but in my eyes these would be the same. As science would "progress" it wouldn't be that diversity is stifled, just that the threshold for diversity would increase...? Similarly, it seems generativity occupies a role only in the short-term. Eventually, you have to choose, so with all that it's unclear where adjudicating between frames/views/stories comes into play, or what good it is at all. Which now leads me to think that of generativity, convergence/divergence, and a need for reality the latter is the most important. Rejecting reality just precludes any use of convergence/divergence and leaves generativity without any need to adjudicate.

Also, in addition to Corrie's concern with the practical issues of science in terms of education, what about the view that science 'has no commitment to the well-being or security' of society?, I find this hard to reconcile. Obviously, whether it should or shouldn't be, science is in a position to contribute to the well-being/security/etc. of people. I think I agree that science should be divorced of such expectations, but it seems like the burden/blame is transferred back to science when other institutions/endeavors attempt to emulate 'science'.

week 9
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-26 16:43:51
Link to this Comment: 18688

And on, further into the realm of a realist/constructivist bridge? Thanks to Emily for guiding us through Harrison and Hanna, and all for the continuing rich (generative?) conversation. What sticks in my mind ....

Some interesting preliminaries. Just as singularism/multiplism is not parallel to realism/constructivism, so too a commitment/lack of commitment to "truth" isn't either. Neither, it turns out, is a an interest in stability or lack thereof. Perhaps though an interest in "idiosyncracy" or "generativity"? To consider further ...

Harrison/Hana, I think usefully, introduce a third term, "practice" into the relation between "prospositions" and the "world". In doing so, their "constructive realism" (or "relative realism" creates an indeterminacy in the relation between the world and descriptions of it. "Practice" may be different for different people and, in lieu of agreement on practice, different propositions about the world are equally valid. The situation here is, I think, quite akin to the notion of coordinate frames (with no master coordinate frame) and setting things in the context of a brain (that varies among individuals).

Harrison/Hana also assert, contra Krausz, that single objects of interpretation may be treated simultaneously from a singularist and a multiplist perspective. This seems to be a logical contradiction and hence impossible on the face of it, unless one acknowledges (see previous weeks) that logic itself is not a foundational frame. While the H/H claim is couched in terms of variations in "linguistic practices" it probably has a deeper meaning (one that doesn't depend on the existence of language).

H/H's paradigmatic claim is that "length" is inherently multiplist, ie that their exist only different lengths established using different measuring devices with no master length (notice similarity to/difference from the argument based on relativistic physics). Though H/H don't mention it, a particularly clear example of this claim is the "coast of England" problem, first described by Benois Mandelbrot in connection with fractals. There is no "true" length for the British coastline (or any other fractal shape). As one measures with finer and finer precision tools, the coastline gets longer and longer (though it has an upper and lower bound). Another interesting example that was mentioned is the square root of 2. Among other examples is the simultaneous existence and use of "the world is flat" and "the world is round".

This seems to require a multiplist perspective for many things but raises the question of whether one then needs to give up the concepts of both "truth" AND "falsity". Can one know something is "false" without knowing something else is "true"? In fact, the two notions are dissociable, as per Popper's original claim that the universal claims are falsifiable but not verifiable (seeing one black bird falsifies the claim that all birds are green but does not prove the claim that all birds are either green or black). In short, the dependence on practice allows falsifiability independent of any truth claim.

We touched briefly on whether H/H shows that length is simultaneously singularist and multiplist but (as I recall) skipped over a definitive answer to that question and onto the claim that singularism and multiplism are inevitably intertwined, that one can't exist without the other. It was my assertion (probably without adequate development and certainly without consensus agreement) that such intertwining is indeed the case. A simple argument from the brain is that singuralism as a possibility comes into existence only with story telling capability and that itself is a fundamentally multiplist posture. Without a developed story telling capability, there is only what is ("reality") with no conception of either alternative possibilities or of alternative postures. With story telling, the latter come into existence and, in so doing, create "singularism" as an alternative.

So, do we still want "reality"? As something other than "that which causes particular appearances under particular practices" (coordinate frames/brains)? Particularly given that (Emily) how one sees it may in turn produce particular actions that in turn change the thing we are interpreting? Tune in next week.

singularism/multiplism, logical/non-logical, reali
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-30 13:48:12
Link to this Comment: 18747

Interesting, relevant recent conversation over in another pasture. Issue was some recent work on "entanglement", a concept that derives from quantum mechanical formalisms, and is increasingly becoming itself a well-supported "summary of observations".

Several points germane to our discussions. One is that we should add the photon as a wave or a particle to our list of inherently multiplist interpretations (along with length and the square root of two). And to our consideration of the legitimacy or lack thereof of logical contradictions. One way to deal with logical contradictions such as the multiplist/singularist issue is to find a flaw in the argument, ie to discover a way that the thing for which one is entertaining both postures is actually two different things. Another way to deal with contradictions is to accept them and derive a new thing from them. This seems to be the case with the wave/particle issue. The photon used to be something that had to be (exclusively) one or the other. It was then an accepted contradiction (both). It is now ... something new that expresses one property or the other depending on the context of something else's interaction with it (the "practice" or coordinate frame or brain/mindset).

Perhaps even more interesting was a compelling demonstration that a particular set of observations/interpretations is not, in and of itself, either "normal" or "revolutionary" ("non-normal"). Much of the listeners' responses to the presented new observations/interpretations involved efforts to make sense of them "realistically", ie in terms of the stories that people usually use to explain things. In fact, the observations/interpretations as presented by the investigators were intended to prove that quantum phenomena cannot be "explained" this way. And, amusingly, it became clear (to me at least) that one cannot in this case (ever?) establish unequivocably that there is not some "explanation" in "normal" terms. The choice of singularist or multiplist postures is thus .... always non-logical? always subject to individual variation? itself always story?

Name: Laura Cyck
Date: 2006-03-31 15:40:35
Link to this Comment: 18772

Came across this article ('Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer') this morning from the NY Times. I was definitely shocked to see it in the Science section, more so that it was published in The American Heart Journal, some highlights:

"Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people... Skeptics have contended that studying prayer is a waste... by definition beyond the reach of science... whether prayer was an appropriate subject for scientific study... The problem with studying religion scientifically is that you do violence to the phenomenon by reducing it to basic elements that can be quantified, and that makes for bad science and bad religion... the study could not overcome perhaps the largest obstacle to prayer study: the unknown amount of prayer each person received from friends, families, and congregations around the world... the research on prayer and spirituality is just getting started."

It wasn't just trying to establish some kind of effect of awareness of prayer, or what could be considered a placebo, but actual prayer itself. I find this case, science entering religion, more disconcerting than religion entering science. Anyway, thought it was a relevant article to the class that others might be interested in reading.

week 10
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-04-03 17:50:41
Link to this Comment: 18807

And on, seeing what we can take from constructivism, from realism, that works together? And what problems in other realms arise from trying to do so? Thanks all for the wealth of thoughts/ideas last week and to Mariya for helping us incorporate Gupta's thoughts into our discussion. Some notes on how things are now looking from my (continually evolving) coordinate frame ...

Perhaps of unique (or at least distinctive) interest to me was the continuing discussion of how one handles "logic", both practically and philosophically. The take off point was Michael's inclination to look for an "explanation" of instances of multiple valid interpretations of an object by establishing that, in some sense, what is being intepreted is different in different cases, in contrast to my own preference to more readily accept multiple valid interpretations of all "objects", including "physical" ones. Which, in turn reflects (at least in part) Michael's wish to avoid contradictions and hence to prevent certain kinds of political postures. What that in turn helped me to realize is that "logic" actually has its origins (in Greece) in an effort to mediate political disagreement in the absence of clear "authority" (power based or otherwise). Significantly, there were other perspectives in Greece (the "skeptics") who recognized the philosophical limitations of logic in ways not unlike the more formal demonstrations of its limitations in the early part of the twentieth century. Central to the latter was Godel's proof that formal systems must necessarily be either incomplete or inconsistent. Logic necessarily seeks consistency at the cost of incompleteness. My own inclination is to accept inconsistency not only as the price of aspiring to completeness but as a generative ingredient of the effort to get "less wrong". What this does clearly require is some new basis for social interaction/political decision making. Not so different, perhaps, from the philosophical issue of how one deals with the question (inevitability?) of multiple coordinate frames. My argument, in both cases, is that one best deals with contradiction/conflict not by proving that one position is right and the others wrong ("antagonistic" but rather by using the existence of multiple stories to generate new ones ("synthetic").

Along which lines, I thought Gupta's interest in creating "a realism minus absolutism and a constructivism minus projectivism" is intriguing/worthwhile. By "realism minus absolutism", I understand the position that there is something "out there" but that it is not observable/describable/meaningful independent of a coordinate frame and therefore cannot be used as a benchmark for adjudicating between interpretations. By the latter, I understand the position that everything one says/thinks is a story (coordinate frame dependent) but that does not mean that the story is entirely sui generis, ie created "inside" and hence with no independent "outside". Assuming all this to be Gupta's position, I'm comfortable with it and think it is more or less what I called "pragmatic multiplism". It is also, I think fully consistent with HandH tripartite theme, and gains concreteness from thinking of it in terms of actual inside/outside/processing characteristics of the brain.

There may be some issues remaining to be argued at at least three points. While I'm content with saying that "reality" can't be used as a benchmark, I would be inclined to go one (maybe two) steps further. That there is something "out there" is, from in here, not "certain"; it is just a very very likely bet and a good grounds for further exchange of interpretations (though some attention in such exchange has to be paid to the possibility that one interpretation is actually intended as of something "out there" and the other as of something "in here"). And I remain to be convinced that the term "reality" is useful for anything at all. Second, I reserve the right to argue that in some (many?) cases/situations, the "out there" is itself continually evolving, and, in at least some cases, the "out there" is actually altered by what goes on "in here". Third, neither HandH nor Gupta address the remaining Popperian argument for "reality", the need for a stimulus to motivate inquiry (and community engagement). Here I want to argue that in some cryptic way they continue to accept the idea that inquiry is about "reality", and how to deal with/uncover/expose it. And that it is time to recognize that inquiry isn't about "reality" at all; it is instead about finding/creating new things, things that have never existed before. It is exploration of what might be given what has been rather than discovery of what is. And it is because of THAT characteristic that it motivates exchange among different stories. "world as outcomes of practice", "world as source for outcomes" ... how about "out there" interacts with "in here" bidirectionally, yielding continual evolution, novelty generation by and in both?

Among the other issues this touches on is the notion of the "rational" in opposition to the "ineffable". The latter, I've argued above and elsewhere isn't in fact "coordinate frame free" but may be totally "inside", ie non-communicable (and therefore not community creating). There IS an "ineffable" but it isn't (if we take the brain argument seriously) due to special contact with something "out there" but rather to a particularly direct sense of something in here.

Name: Laura Cyck
Date: 2006-04-03 22:30:09
Link to this Comment: 18815

Since I've been labeled a realist, I think now I will concede, given "constructive realism" I can have my cake and eat it too. I think it's a reasonable "compromise", and it clears up one of my earlier concerns. Claiming a bi-directional relationship/loop between proposition/practice/reality and thus a varying external world seems to work well, from a biological standpoint with respect to the brain. Though, from any other standpoint, the distinction between what's real and what's constructed, given that the external is continually influenced and influencing, becomes harder for me to see. By which I mean, I guess, that I'm more reluctant to consider a world that is variant as something real but rather constructed by virtue of interaction, though that's of course still distinct from a constructivists 'constructed' I guess. Also,-- 'the question of whether one then needs to give up the concepts of both "truth" AND "falsity".'-- I still kinda feel confused/frustrated/concerned with this point.
If things can be falsified, but never verified, then it follows (or maybe it doesn't, if we're throwing logic to the wind) that nothing can be verified to be falsified, which still leaves falsification not as attractive.

Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2006-04-04 18:25:02
Link to this Comment: 18835

if we share parents with all forms of life than there must be an original set of parents. no? dennett says that darwin does not try to identify this origin, but to say that all life is remotely related, is to posit an origin. I understand why darwin's idea felt threatening to religious thinkers of his time, but i can also read him as confirming a religious tenet that all of existence comes from a single origin. there are religious traditions that hold God to be absolutely Other than human, Other than word, God is not only that which cannot be spoken of, but God bursts the bounds of word. God, therefore, is NOT merely a super form of human ordering consciousness. God's presence in the world, rather, is utterly incomprehensible to human thought. The idea that God had a plan and enacted the plan in his creation of life conceives of a God with human characteristics. Darwin's maybe-not-so dangerous idea depicts an origin point that does not manifest itself as a human conscious, but something Other. The point is that both theolgians and Darwin think in terms of the SINGLE orgin: theologians in terms of God and Darwin in terms of the Original pair that birthed life. I am not ignoring Paul's answer to my question today, but if all life forms are related than they must have come from a single origin, right? and darwin's idea seems to pivot on the idea that since we all come from the same parents there is no inherent value of one life form over another ... am i missing something?

so, what would be the implications of one suggesting multiple origins? that maybe elephants and humans and monkies and donkies and birds came from one set of parents and ants and rabbits and mice came from another set? am i right in thinking that languages and religions come from such a model: that romance languages and semetic languages do not share a single origin language? that there litterally was not an original word, an original language, but rather, there were seperate groups of people who independently of each other developed languages that were absolutely unrelated to each other? or, someone tell me, what is the origin of the languages? maybe religions are slightly different in that, yes, i think that monotheism evolved from polytheism, but i'm not sure if there was an original "religion" ... probebly bc i don't have a clear definition of what religion is, so it's hard to recognize a clear origin point and to decipher if it is single or multiple. anyways, i guess, what i am arguing is that Darwin's theory seems more to have an original Word (the origin couple) while language seems not to have this Word.

Name: Laura
Date: 2006-04-04 22:52:55
Link to this Comment: 18836

I'll second Orah's concerns about origin. Even at the beginning of today's class, before we got to evolution, we were talking about entanglement... I don't think "something" being in two states simultaneously is the same thing as being in the state of potentiality. The former, to me, is differentiated, the latter undifferentiated. Furthermore, if supposedly "time is not modeled in any physical theory" (particularly quantum physics?), how can one justify that entity "before" observation and "during/after" observation? And if we're going to posit the external world/reality as part of a bi-directional relationship, being changed/influenced, why not the benchmark/goal of finding the origin/initial starting state/configuration? And if Darwin's evolution switches the arrows from a top-down God>Mind>Design>Order>Chaos>Nothing to a bottom-up, why is an eventual loop ruled out, in which the chance things created (indirectly) impose a purpose/direction on the (evolutionary) process?? Why does a "higher force" have to be rejected even if it emerges at point sometime after the process has gotten a foothold??

week 11
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-04-08 14:51:53
Link to this Comment: 18906

Hmmmm, got beaten into the forum this week, by both Orah and Laura. Rich conversation, thanks to Corrie, for guiding us through Dennett, and all for generative contributions. Things that struck me, with some thoughts re Orah and Laura along the way.

Dennett suggests that Darwin's approach to making sense of biological systems, evolution by natural selection, has much wider significance in that it provides a different way to make sense of lots of things (and hence is a "universal acid", ie has the potential to alter understandings quite generally). The key points, in the biological context, are

  1. non-essentialism - categories of living organisms exist at any given time because of lines of descent rather than because things in those categories have "essential" characteristics. "Meaning" is therefore local and history dependent. Present categories are not directly applicable to the past, and can be expected not to be directly applicable in the future.
  2. non-absolutism - existing categories are understandable only in terms of historical processes in which random events play a significant role. There is no overall pattern to existing categories which can be used to infer eternal pattern, intent, or meaning.
  3. non-foundationalism - randomness and natural selection (a "mindless" or algorithmic process) may suffice to largely account for the categories that exist at the present (and completely for categories that existed over much of history). The process may have originated and continued in the absence of any architect or planner, with the Word, intention, and meaning all being products of the process rather than present at the outset (in explanatory terms, Jeffersonain deism is the same as this but has the problem of creating the distracting question of who created God)
  4. relativism/multiplism/pluralism/pragmatism - existing categories of living things are different but equally good interpretations/stories about what it takes to get along in the world that have come into existence (for the most part) without any conception of either the world or "reality"
What is, I think, of interest to us in this course is not so much the application of these ideas to biological systems as their relevance to other matters, among them philosophy of science (Kuhn: "the entire process may have occurred, as we now suppose biological evolution did, without benefit of a set goal, a permanent fixed scientific truth, of which each stage in the development is a better exemplar"). It is though worth clarifying several points in the biological context. The first and most important is that evolution by natural selection is not "Truth". It is a way of thinking that summarizes a huge array of diverse observations, creates new questions, and motivates new observations. Among the open questions at the moment is that of origin. No, it is not a necessary inference that there was an original set of parents. One can readily imagine the process as it is currently understood involving multiple "origins". Just as one can imagine the possibility that languages originated independently in several human groups. While descent plays a dominant role in biological systems, there is clear evidence as well for "horizontal" information flow, ie for influences, as in social/cultural systems, between groups from different lines of descent. Teasing apart the two kinds of information flow in any give case is an empirical problem but since they both demonstrably play roles there is no certainty about the existence of an "origin", single or otherwise. Even that which is shared among all (known) existing organisms (eg DNA) may or may be so because of simple descent. It is entirely possible (perhaps even likely) that there existed at one time organisms that did not have DNA. Regardless, the "no inherent value of one life form over another" does not derive from "we all come from the same parents" but rather from the recognition that all existing life forms must (by biologists) be regarded as equally successful answers to the question of what it takes to get along in the world. Similarly, there is nothing that rules out the idea that "the chance things created ... impose a purpose/direction on the ... process". Assuming we grant humans the capability (produced by evolution) to "impose a purpose/direction" it is clear from the domestication of other plans and animals (among other things) that an undirected process can indeed create entities that in turn influence that process (or at least have some success at doing so).

Obviously, the really intriguing question isn't biology per se but rather the usefulness of these ideas in other contexts (the "universal acid"). They clearly seem to be useful, as we talked in class, for thinking about languages, and perhaps about religions as well. Perhaps also for thinking about literature, art, and social/cultural change generally? Maybe even for thinking about personal development as well? For present purposes, though, the issue is philosophy of science. Might it have developed differently if Darwin rather than Newton and Einstein were the primary sources for Popper and Kuhn? How might we phrase philosophy of science given this perspective?

Among the things that seems to me interesting/relevant in this context is Darwin's suggestion (via Dennett and PG?) that biological evolution is an example of a process of inquiry that

Maybe this is another way to get to the fusion of "realism" and "constructivism"? Maybe the better parts of both "realism" and "constructivism" have been there, comfortably intersected, all along? Maybe "realism" and "constructivism", to say nothing of an oppositional contrast between the two, are actually themselves "stories", ie constructions of brains that are inclined to create "meaning"? Perhaps along with the ability to create meaning, and hence to influence evolution, sometimes even usefully, comes as well a propensity to create stories that attribute meaning prematurely and/or too promiscuously (and should, following biological evolution, be allowed to die)?

Religious stories, as we touched on at the end of our conversation, seem to serve two functions. One is, like scientific stories, to "make sense of things" outside ourselves. The other, with perhaps the same root, is to give "comfort" by making sense of ourselves, giving ourselves and others around us "meaning". Might scientific stories also serve some such function? Might the apparent conflict between "science" and "religion", like that between "realism" and "constructivism", also be a "story" conflict that could in turn generate something new? I can't, of course, resist taking a crack at it ...

How about we all start from the premise not that there is some fixed and eternal commonality among us (called "God" or "reality" or anything else) but rather from the proposition that we are all biological entities and so in some ways similar and in some ways different. Among our similarities is the ability to create and tell stories that endow ourselves and what we find around us with candidate "meanings" and to modify those stories and meanings based on our experiences as well as the stories we hear from other people that will, of course, be somewhat different. In this way, we use both our similarities and our differences to continually expand the range of things we can make sense of both for ourselves and for others.

If there was no "reality" and no "God" but only an ongoing and expanding process of "making sense of things" both inside and outside of ourselves, a process that involves continual testing and retesting of the sense we make of things against both our own experiences and the sense made of things by others, would that be science or religion or ... ? Would it be adequately comforting to know that one is necessarily a part of a process that began in the remote past and will continue into the distant future, that one starts as the beneficiary of that process and is oneself a meaningful contributor to it? Adequately uplifting to know that we are ourselves the creators of meaning?
Looking forward, as always, to see where we go next ...

Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2006-04-08 15:33:39
Link to this Comment: 18907

"the "no inherent value of one life form over another" does not derive from "we all come from the same parents" but rather from the recognition that all existing life forms must (by biologists) be regarded as equally successful answers to the question of what it takes to get along in the world." : that clarifies things for me. thanks.

i am intruiged by the idea that to be alive implies a certain kind of success. i realize that the biologist is not thinking about individual success, but rather, the success of a species, a family that culminates in individual life. It is interesting, nevertheless, to think about success in two ways: (1) like the biologist, that 'success' refers to a group activity that is recognized in the life of an indiviual and (2) that to be alive is, to a certain degree, to be successful. The interesting part of this second view of success is, i think, that it assumes the general flow of the world toward an innanimate state. innanamacy precedes all forms of life. To be alive, therefore, means to be seperated out from innanimacy. And, since the primary pull of the world is toward the innanimate, life is a constant resistance to innanimacy. I can relate to the feeling of warding off inanimacy through constant movement. and though i cannot logically make this point, in my experience, such frantic movement strangely leads to a certain inanimacy (see Freud's "beyond the pleasure principle" ... "but this way of looking at things is very far from being easy to grasp and creates a positively mystical impression" (Freud Reader, 621)).

resistance, however, is quite a complicated action. in one sense it maintains a seperation from the main-flow, but its existence depends upon that which it is not. there is no resistance without mainstream; there is no outside or marginal without inside. the living individual is successful because he has off-put the force of the world. to offshoot the scientific term into a different direction: maybe it's a sort of "entanglement." resistance is a pulling apart, a seperating of two electrons, but the distance between is always a proximity that retains a vital connection. by looking at one electron, by examining a resistor seperated from that which it resists than one is able to tell something of that which is resisted. if we look at individual success can we tell something of the undertow of the innanimate? ..... sry for the "bad science."

is there a place for individual success in the biologist's view ? or does success fully depend on what one's parent's give one. if i am given bad tools with which to live in the world is there no possiblity of success, or, worded differently, does the individual have a will that enables him to transcend (?) his biological composition ... but, no, you might argue, it is not transcendence ... but might one have a will that allows him to live a life that counters the odds dictated by his genes? (might we discuss transcendence?: what is the difference between transcendence and 'countering odds': that transcendence seperates the resistor from that which he resists: seperates one from his genes; to 'counter odds' remains within the bounds of the genome, but resists what is there.) because if ALL life is determined by what tools/genes one is given then all life is predictable and when we gain full vision of the genome then will there be any room for an individual will to alter that which the genes prescribe? the second view of success maybe depends too fully on the power of this will: it would suggest that all life is a matter of individual will. maybe there is a hazy middle ground of success ...

leaders, communities, and, as always, the ineffabl
Name: Orah Minde
Date: 2006-04-11 18:24:44
Link to this Comment: 18985

many ideas from class today that would be nice to pursue.
1. leadership. i'll rephrase my question to corrie, here, for everyone. i guess i see two models of leadership in the context of our class: a good leader is (a) someone who is most able to step out of his own reference frame, get a sense of what other's frames are, and create a frame into which all members fit. or, (b) a good leader is one who is able to 'sell' his own frame, inviting others to dress themselves in his frame. leader (b) maybe be identified by his charisma, (a) by her perceptiveness and ability to effectively articulate what she perceives. corrie answered nicely that good leaders hold both of these abilities within them. I aggree, but I wonder if different 'missions' require different qualitites in a leader. and do all leaders lead a mission? are all missions teleological? and do you think that leader a or leader b is going to be better at acheiving a goal? i think, like corrie said, the ideal leader embodies aspects of all the kinds of leadership. i've learned, however, that a good leader dependends upon the abilities and the qualities of the group that she leads. and she is only as good as her group. furthermore, the single leader might only be the figure to which the group looks to gain coherence, while in actuality the effective movement of a group does not depend upon this figure. the leader might be as a totem that defnes the group, but her qualities (other than attracting the gaze of the group) are irrelevant. we might also look into what we mean by "good" leader. hitler was so adept at selling his own frame, and getting people to see as he saw, that one might call him the best b-leader of all time. i might, therefore, suggest that leadership might be unsafe if it is taken to either the extreme of a or b.

2. following from the idea of community as something that exists within a single frame: i think one reason i am wary of frames that are seen as holding similar objects (which, i think, either extreme of these styles creates) is because i think it divides the world into two distinct categories of 'us' and 'them.' i think humanity is more complicated than that. we create such groups as defenses against a world that we perceive to be hostile. but by forming "armies" we mobilize not only against the world but against those who do not chose to fit into the category of sameness. there is an implicit hostility/defensiveness built into community building that is based on similarity. what, to use paul's phrase, would a community look like if it were formed through acts of 'choosing for difference'? choosing for difference does not exteriorize the other, but welcomes her as essential to the community. absolute difference, i realize, imobilizes us, makes us speechless, so maybe we have to act "AS IF" we were similar, imagine similarities. for example: there is no essential quality that all bodies hold. a body is a body because it is metonymically connected to all other bodies. so, pragmatically, we say that all people inhabit this things we call bodies that are to a certain degree similar to each other. but what is this degree? if i say that human bodies have arms then i am exteriorizing she who does not have that body. not only am i exteriorizing her from body-sameness, but i am also exteriorizing her from the first frame we established which was: human has body. there is no one function or one quality that all bodies have, so the similarity of which we speak when we say that we are all bodied is "AS IF" there was such a common thing as a body.

3. and i am a bit enamored with the idea that the ineffible might be the constant flux that occurs between seer and seen, object and objectifier, created and creator. if that which is created is never fixed, but rather, fluctuates according to the experiencer, and changing experiences, than the ineffible is relational. the ineffible occurs in between space. it depends on commerce between seer and seen (which is another reason why choosing for sameness is dangerous because by pinning the other as absolutely different restricts commerce to and from inside space). revelation of the ineffible is, therefore an ongoing process because it is never still. and as long as the gaze is maintained than revelation is constant. what happens to the ineffable when we do shift our gaze, when we form a relation with another, when we go to sleep, and stop dreaming outward?

maria is right when she says that all this depends on the definition of ineffable. here's one, random house dictionary, "incapable of being expressed or described. not to be spoken." so if i follow my argument by saying that the the ineffable is that which occurs between perceiver and perceived, then when we turn our perception to ourself, when we close our eyes, then the ineffable in inside of us. .... i could go on but ... hoping for more conversation.

Name: Corrie
Date: 2006-04-11 20:53:11
Link to this Comment: 18988

First let say something about a subject that we discussed a few weeks ago. Recently I was walking to dinner and chewing gum at the same time...I know, I'm talented. I was thinking about our class and how there was debate about whether we could actually see the vase and the face at the same time or if we just jumped back and forth between the two. Isn't being able to multi-task proof that our brains can do (or see) two things at once. Lets think about this example a little more. I tried to look at it as if maybe our mind jumped back and forth between the two activities, but that would imply some pausing. And these activities are not involuntary like blinking or breathing. We make a conscious effort to walk and chew. I really believe that our brain can do several functions at the same time, whether it be walking and chewing or seeing two/recognizing two things at once.

Second, I'd like to address some of Orah's questions. There is so much theory and discussion about the subject that it could be debated forever. However, I'd like to tell you what I look for in a good leader, not that my idea of one is any better than anyone else, its just that I've been through a lot of different training and been lead by many different sorts of leaders. I totally get Orah's concept about type (a) leadership and type (b). I think that there are probably even more types, but that is getting ahead. For 4 weeks between my sophomore and junior year, I went to boot camp, to 'learn' how to be a good leader, but really the experience was to 'learn' how not to be a bad leader. By seeing a large pool of types of leadership, I found the kinds I did not want to be like. They don't however fall directly under type (a) or (b). Like I said before, I see type (a) leaders as those that think outside of the box, something the Air Force is good at because we are always ahead in terms of technology, etc. Type (b) leadership is also VERY useful sometimes. Think about the Marines for one second (I don't claim to be an expert on Marines, but just see where I'm going). A commander might not look at each individual's ideas/reference frames in case it hurts the mission. If the commander were to second guess a decision, or tell the group what was on the other side of the hill, perhaps they would no longer want to go. This would be a terrible fault in the mission and a waste of money and resources. Generals tell their troops where to go and what to do (like Hitler did) without asking all of their troops their opinions because sometimes it is better that they not know, or get involved - it isn't imperative information. Its really hard to explain... Sometimes quick decisions are crucial and troops don't need to know the rhyme and reason behind every decision. The key is that they TRUST their leaders. Like Marya suggested in class today, Stalin's reign fell because the people stopped trusting his leadership abilities. However, like Orah said in her posting a leader that was Type (b) all of the time would be bad - Hitler bad. Something else Orah hinted at was the team. A good leader to me is one that "knows her people" - to coin an AF phrase. If you know your followers on all levels, emotional, personal, physical, etc. you know their strengths and weaknesses then you can make good decisions based on your knowledge. In some situations you can ask for other reference frames, but in others you can "sell" your reference frame because you know that your people will follow you if you are a good leader. Does this make sense? I will say one more thing about how "armies" are formed, why there is such a distinction between us and them, such a camaraderie, or group cohesion. First of all, not everyone is allowed into the military for fear that their differences could "hurt the mission". A few examples include: you have to be in good shape because you have to be able to carry a 100 pound rucksack in 120 degree weather. You have to be emotionally stable because depression can cause serious morale problems for the group. Homosexuality is another example, but lets not go there, that's another discussion. So, the military is selective, but not in all areas, you don't have to have a certain score on the SATs, or have a certain GPA like Bryn Mawr's criteria. Once the group is selected, it is important that they become really close in order for TRUST to occur.

Sorry this was really long, I hope I got some of the confusion straightened out. I'm eager to discuss this more in the future.

Date: 2006-04-12 20:38:12
Link to this Comment: 19008

i realize that this leadership thing is quite tangential, but that's what serendipity is about, right? going down avenues that syllibi do not pre-pave, and encountering wholly unexpected ... revelations?

So I participated in a leadership training expedition last summer in which we learned about two kinds (among many more) types of leadership: there is goal oriented leadership (which tends to be a male style) and group oriented leadership (which tends to be a female style). The goal orientation seeks for something BEYOND the group, want to ACHEIVE something that is not possessed. The group orientation is more about the process, the here and now. i would say that goal orientation is telelogical while group orientation is ... mystical (?). the way that corrie describes the military by saying that differences could "hurt the mission"makes it seem as though the military is highly weighted to the goal-orientation. group dynamics are only important in so far as they further this transcending mission. The group is greater than the sum of its individuals. and if the group would benefit from the loss of an individual from its midst than that is what must be done. so, as i asserted before, i think that any extreme leadership is dangerous. i aggree with you, corrie, when you say that a good leader embodies a number of different styles. but, i don't really see this image of the military as being simultaneously group and goal oriented, but allows members to become disposable for the sake of the mission/goal. could this be dangerous? this is also why i kinda balked a paul's use of the word "army" in the paper that we read. an army is a group of people that focuses all it's attention on a single, simple goal: to defeat the enemy. this goal is transcendent, and the army dissolves when it is acheived and realized. i don't think anything REAL is so simple. that is why when the goal is realized, when we kill off the enemy, we realize .... nevermind ... obviously, i ascribe to the group-oriented leadership style. maybe you can try to enlighten me to the benefits of goal-oriented leadership.

to translate this into our class terminology: the group-orientation, i think, allows for members to hold and speak of different reference frames. difference of view is allowed. the maintanance of the cohesion of a group with different perspectives without unifying these perspectives is the delicate balance that the group-oriented leader has to play. The goal oriented leader uses her powers of persuasion to influences others into her own reference frame. by joining into the same frame we arrive more quickly at the vision that this frame provides.

week 12
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-04-16 13:32:02
Link to this Comment: 19046

Its interesting where a discussion of philosophy of science leads, no? To, among other things, ineffability and leadership. I don't in fact think either is "tangential", but maybe a little context setting is in order? So, a quick summary of where we were last week, as I saw it, and how we got to, in particular, "leadership" (since ineffability was already on the table). Thanks to Corrie for guding us through Johnson, Mariya for guiding us through Lakoff, and all for generative conversation.

Darwin/Dennett gave us, it seems to me, a way to think about science that could blend appealing features of both realism/constructivism and of singularism/multiplism without having to buy as well some of the less desirable features. And "emergence" (as per Johnson) explicitly extends way of thinking to a variety of other realms. One can indeed have "progress" without the notion of "reality" as a motivator and not only despite but in fact because of the absence of any kind of "master coordinate frame" to adjudicate among (inevitably) frame-dependent understandings. "Progress", from this perspective, might be understood as the ongoing appearance of new things that result from the interactions of different frame-dependent understandings. Among the appealing features of this perspective is that it acknowledges that individual understanding has both a practical component and a social component. And that individual understanding itself may be multiplist (see Corrie), and hence internally progressive ("generative") as well.

Its a measure of the novelty and potential generality of this perspective (a "universal acid"?) that it presents challenges to accustomed ways of thinking not only about biology and science but other things as well, including creativity and leadership, both in science and in other realms. What are we to make, for example, of "great man" theories in history of science, or history generally? Are there cases where a particular understanding becomes, at least for a time, a "master coordinate frame"?, and if so how are we to account for those? Are those cases of "frame independent" perspectives or something else, and if so what? Should one aspire to "frame independent" perspectives for onself? for others? Does "creativity" depend on frame-independence? Does leadership? And if not, what sense can we make of those phenomena? One way to deal with these questions is to relate them back to the brain (cf The Brain: Insights into Individuals and Complex Social Organization and Ants, Brains, Cultures, Human and Otherwise). Whether this particular approach proves satisfactory ("generative"?) or not, the requirement to examine older ideas in new ways clearly shows that the emergence perspective raises some interesting new questions.

Lakoff's "embodied realism" adds, I think, to our evolving picture of a way to think of science (and inquiry generally?) in terms that avoid the realism/constructivism, singularism/multiplism oppositions, with the brain as a center point of the resulting perspective. Among other things, it emphasizes "convergent evidence", rather than a correspondence theory of truth, as the grounds for both stability and progress. And suggests that the brain, by virtue of being multilayered, can indeed have at any given time multiple stories about what otherwise might be understood as one thing. The latter returned us to a consideration of the "location" of logic, outside and invariant (on the Platonic view) or inside and potentially contingent (Bentham, utilitarianism, logic as a branch of psychology). Can we hold contrary opinions at the same time (the Greek's Janus headed god)? Might this be a good thing? Contra modern efforts to emphasize consistency over completeness in the development of logics?

Convergence as a feature of philosophy of science (and other inquiries) is perhaps most interesting/significant if it results not from the horizontal dissemination of frame dependent understandings but rather from reaching similar understandings in different frame dependent ways. Looking forward to seeing whether this is in fact the case this week, comparing our own evolution of ideas with those of Lakatos, Feyerabend, James, and feminist philosophy.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-04-16 14:04:23
Link to this Comment: 19048

Sorry, forgot the "ineffable". Here's a figure I'm working for another project that perhaps includes the ineffable and may in any case be useful for continuing conversation. The upper part of the figure is a "traditional" view, in which the world acts through the nervous system to produce experiences which can also be affected by the "self" and the "unknown". The lower part of the figure draws heavily on, among other things, our conversations this semester. It shows the "world", the "self", and the "unknown" all as aspects of experience that, because they are created within the nervous system, are all "frame dependent" understandings.

Notice the bidirectional arrows between the "whatever the hell is out there" and the nervous system and between the nervous system and its subregion that is the substrate of ideas. The rightward directed arrows prevent experiences from being entirely "solipsistic" while the leftward directed arrows allow for some measure of "constructive imputationalism". The two sets of arrows (particularly the left most set) assure that the whole system has a "practice" character to it.

By the "ineffable" do we mean what is experienced as "unknown" or that which is outside the nervous system? Or do we mean the relation between the two (the "flux" which is itself generatively in flux)? Or the residual unavoidable difference in experience between two (or more) nervous systems? Any one of these has a potential for generativity and so appeals to me (at least) more than "incapable of being expressed or described. not to be spoken."

Date: 2006-04-19 17:03:06
Link to this Comment: 19097

discussion yesterday and thoughts here have generated much thinking in THIS brain at least. I am thinking about the connection between leadership and progress. and maybe i'll suggest that generativity is the activity that is produced when such connections are made. I did think that 'leadership' was a bit tangential to this course, but then i read the james chapter in which he says that the funtion of true ideas is to "lead to consistency, stability, and flowing human intercourse. They (true ideas) lead away from excentricity and isolation, from foiled and barren thinking" (James, 83). truth, for james, is progressive: meaning, i think, that is moves directionally. i have always thought that progressive and directional movements were by default teleological, but james makes me realize that progressive/directional movement has an intrinsic quality that does not depend on an external goal. this, i don't think, is obvious when we merely glance at the words progressive and directional. but james encourages us to seek out word-skelatons so that we can fill them out and use them without being restricted to the ways they have been used in the past. he encourages us to create our own frames for words. furthermore, james asserts that truth does not incite individual movement, but group movement. so, in sum, james seems to suggest that truth is about groups moving together in one direction. this reeks of leadership issues!

james, however, seems to quite group-oriented in his leadership style. or, should i say, according to james, truth is group-oriented in its leadship. truth is not out to get somewhere, but rather, focuses on the method of movement, namely, progressive/directional movement. while i do have a strong inclination toward this leadership style, i have learned that a good leader must embody both group and goal orientations, or, at least, must be able to be able to imagine movement through both lenses. it seems to me, however, that james' vision of truth seems to be quite wholly group-oriented.

btw, if you couldn't tell, i think james is BRILLIANT in his ability to generate new thinking about single words: e.g. in the sentence, "aggreement thus turns out to be essentially an affair of leading." if we go to the directionary to reveal the bare bones of these words we come to the realization that mr. james is right! i think i share a love for the dictionary with james.

maybe some more james lovers out there who want to discuss? or leadership thinkers? i know you're out there.

Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-04-20 17:29:34
Link to this Comment: 19109

Happy to converge here. Yes, lots of people presume "progressive and directional movements were by default teleogical". But, yes, "progressive/directional [can result from] an intrinsic quality that does not depend on an external goal". That's the point of "progressively getting it less wrong" in contrast to "more right". Hadn't myself remarked upon James extension of pragmatic "truth" to the collective ("consistency, stability, and flowing human intercourse") but that's certainly what has been, is increasingly on my mind re "generativity". And re "leadership style".

What's convergence without some bumping? I share as well a sense of James as brilliant, probably the most interesting/generative character of the American twentieth centry. But "love of the dictionary"? James was certainly a scholar but even more he was an empiricist.

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