Inquiry as Emergence: Product and Contributor

Paul Grobstein
Emergence working Group (with appreciation)
12 December 2007

| overview| no unwobbling pivots | story | intersubjectivity | inquiry and education |

No Unwobbling Pivots in Empiricism/Induction Either
(loop 1)

Any given understanding is a distinctive material state of the brain

States of the brain are influenceable by

  • genes
  • sensory input (including inputs from other people)
  • randomness
All understandings are empirically rooted, derive from detecting pattersn in past events (depend on inductive processes)

Strengths and limitations of science (more generally, of empirically/inductively derived understanding)

A traditional perspectiveA loopy story telling perspective
Science as body of facts established by specialized fact-generating people and process

Science as successive approximations to Truth

Science as authority about "natural world"

Science as process of getting it less wrong, potentially usable by and contributed to by everyone

Science as ongoing story telling and story revision: repeated making of observations, interpreting and summarizing observations, making new observations, making new summaries ... individually and collectively

Science as skepticism, a style of inquiry that can be used for anything, one which everybody is equipped to to/can get better at/be further empowered by, and contribute to - a way of making sense of what is but even more of exploring what might yet be

The Crack and Limitations on Inductive Inquiry Generally
(Is there a discoverable fixed set of "properties and rules" that accounts for everything?)

  • Inability to prove universals (Popper)
  • Observations may or may not be good guides to underlying "properties and rules"
    • irreversibility (5 because of 3 + 2 or 6 - 1?)
    • indeterminacy
  • Multiple summaries for a given set of observations
    • 3,5,7, .... ?
  • Observations in turn depend on context, existing summaries
    • 1+1=2 or 1+1=10?
    • velocity, space, time all relative
    • an irreducible "subjectivity"

  • No assurance that one can get to a fixed set of properties and rules
  • Raises serious question about whether that is what one should be looking for
  • An alternative: science/inquiry is as much about creation as it is about discovery; for that subjectivity may turn out to be a feature rather than a bug

Review and prospectus

Empirical, purely inductive inquiry can get it less wrong, but not "Right" nor even closer to "Right" (except in case where inquiry proves in fact to have an end)

Empirical, purely inductive inquiry (and aspiring to greater "objectivity") has been, can be productive but ...

  • the "goal" of inquiry as unshakeable collective understanding is not only unachievable but may lead one in less productive directions, get one stuck (to say nothing of producing serious interpersonal, intergroup conflict)
One might stay with a particular "goal" even if it is unachievable, and perhaps should in lieu of a replacement. Is there an alternative "goal" for inquiry that might be "less wrong"?
  • generativity

    Paul, there seems to be no relationship between your two concepts of what makes a theory (or a story, which for me is the exact same thing) good:

    1. "It is less wrong"
    2. "It is generative"
Good theories/stories are BOTH less wrong AND more generative, because inquiry is as much about bringing into existence new things as it is about describing what already exists. The point is particularly important for deciding which of many non-falsified stories to use as a basis for further inquiry (and reminding one that doing so is always a bet). Story (and story sharing/comparing/testing) is as much a part of inquiry as are observations/summaries. This in turn creates a demand for new ways of understanding/conducting/teaching inquiry. Among other things it suggests that one should avoid both premature story telling AND premature story rejection.

Generativity of this story?

On to story (loop 2) and intersubjectivity (loop 3)