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Posted by Harvey on September 20, 2002 02:37:24 UTC

Hi Aurino,

***Actually, a large part of what is achieved by the process you described is in fact agreement on linguistic conventions, not a limitation on conceptual schemes. For one thing, conceptual schemes cannot be directly communicated, so any theoretical discussion must necessarily center on the language we want to use to describe Experience.***

Keep in mind that we often frame our conceptual frame to ourselves in language. For example, I often write out my conceptual framework, and then change my concepts after reviewing what I have written. Sometimes when I am replying to someone (e.g., Dick), I realize a way to improve my conceptual scheme simply because I am attempting to communicate that scheme to someone else. However, when someone tries to talk to me an idea (e.g., right now), I necessarily use my current conceptual scheme to interpret those comments. Its when someone challenges my conceptual scheme that I seem to be most vunerable to change.

***H: "All we have is reason, beyond that we cannot say." A: I'm not sure what you mean here. I would say all we have is Experience, and reason places constraints on what aspects of Experience can be communicated. This is related to the above.***

What I meant was that we cannot say how the world actually 'is', we can only go so far as say what is reasonable. But, the clause 'what is reasonable' is based on our most consistent experiences, hence in that sense all logic does boil down to experience, but a certain kind of experience (for example, we might rule out our most irrational moments when deciphering what the actually 'is').

***"It sounds like some minimalist theory of truth." Well, terminology is not my strength...***

The minimalist program is part of the Speech-Act project of truth. That is, it asks what are we doing when we ascribe truth. Earlier you said: "What I think I found is no more no less than a way to understand 'truth' by means of understanding the relationship between Statements in a Language and what those Statements refer to. It made it clear to me why people often disagree on what is true and what we can do about it".

Listen to Paul Horwich (a minimalist) says:

"The truth predicate exists solely for the sake of a certain logical need. On occasion we wish to adopt some attitude towards a proposition - for example, believing it, assuming it for the sake of argument, or desiring that it be the case - but find ourselves thwarted by ignorance of what exactly the proposition is. We might know it only as 'what Oscar thinks' or 'Einstein's principle'; ... or ... we may wish to cover infinitely many propositions (in the course of generalizing) and simply cannot have all of them in mind. In such situations the concept of truth is invaluable. For it enables the construction of another proposition, intimately related to the one we cannot identify, which is perfectly appropriate as the alternative object of our attitude ("Truth", P. Horwich, Oxford: Blackwell, 1990).

Maybe you will find some elements in that paragraph in which you can agree?

***H: My view is that disagreement about truth is often a conflict of conceptual schemes. A: It can be sometimes, but most of the time it is a conflict of the conceptual scheme involved in our Experience of a Theory, not in our Experience of the Object of the Theory (I'm capitalizing to remind you I'm talking about my definitions)***

Can you give an example? I don't think we directly experience objects of a theory, rather we ingraft theories into our conceptual schemes which allows us to 'experience' objects of a theory. For example, we experience quarks by indirect measurements at CERN or Fermi Labs, and these indirect measurements are interpreted in the context of our theory on quarks and particle physics, but this too is encased in a whole conceptual frame of the whole scientific paradigm. Without the scientific paradigm (our main conceptual scheme related to quarks), the theory would be scoofed at as the ridiculous imagination of scientists. Without elementary particle physics theory (i.e., our scheme dealing with particles), we would scoof at the need to imagine invisible particles called quarks. And, without the objects called quarks, we would have no explanation for the statistics of the particle theories that predicted the existence of quarks. Our abstract 'experience' of quarks is all via our conceptual schemes that are constantly affected by language (i.e., what you call Theory), and the language modifies our conceptual schemes which is our internal perspectives.

***H: Since the world can tolerate many different conceptual schemes, it also tolerates many versions of 'truth'. A: I think I disagree with that. The world can in fact tolerate many different conceptual schemes, but these can be classified in two types and two types only, wrong and isomorphic. Wrong conceptual schemes can be, at a minimum, understood as a social convention and therefore attributed to consistency problems in Experience. For instance, many conceptual schemes of a schizophrenic person are wrong, but if you're cynic enough and ask me to prove it (I know you won't but some people will), I can say that my definition of wrong is "that which is not socially acceptable". That must do. The other type of conceptual scheme is the one I'm really interested in. I maintain that all conceptual schemes which are not wrong must necessarily be isomorphic, for the simple reason that they refer to the same reality. So, for instance, a description of any Object in German can be fully translated to English or Japanese without change in meaning.***

As you mentioned in your disagreement, I take an different view. I don't see a dichotomy between a so-called wrong conceptual scheme and one of being isomorphic to one's environment. We can never have a completely wrong view just like we cannot completely have a right view. All schemes are judged by different standards. My standard of a successful scheme might be if I become a wealthy person (as well as remain healthy, happy, and wise). However, this might not be satisfactory for you. That is, it is perhaps acceptable that I be wealthy, healthy, happy, and wise, but you want to know what is in it for you. If my conceptual scheme doesn't benefit you - at least indirectly, then you might reject my conceptual scheme at some points. For example, I might be perfectly wealthy, healthy, happy, and wise if Canada gets pollution from the United States, but, darn it, you live in Canada and you don't want to see my lackadaisical views of pollution to propagate. Hence, my scheme is perfectly isomorphic to my environment for me, but wrong to you. Maybe there are a number of issues that all humans agree to (e.g., a standard human morality), but this is only universal to humans. A chimpanzie doesn't necessarily share that morality, neither might ET. The point is that conceptual schemes are sometimes 'wrong' to some, and very isomorphic to their environment for 'others'. A cockroach conceptual scheme might downright 'prefer' the worst possible scenario - global nuclear war, it is certainly not a 'wrong' conceptual scheme for such a creature.

***H: It's not that there is many versions of 'truth', it is rather our access to the best conceptual scheme as it relates to the universe as a whole is rather limited. A: Ah, but why do you need to relate to the universe as a whole in order to have a conceptual scheme that is isomorphic to any other (except the wrong ones). The fact is that for most practical purposes you don't.***

No, you don't need to consider the universe as a whole to obtain some degree of isomorphicism. However, at some point our degree of isomorphicism is not satisfactory for more consistent conceptual schemes unless we consider the whole universe. This is why the physics of gravity is moving toward universal laws of gravity that apply in every and all circumstances. The idea is that classical physics and general relativity are only good approximations, but those approximations lead to problems. In the case of classical equations, they break down at the relativistic scales, and in terms of GR equations they break down at quantum scales. This is okay to obtain some degree of isomorphicism with our environment, but as we push our knowledge to the frontiers, we see how unsatisfactory those schemes are at those frontier points. In order to improve on our conceptual scheme, we must develop a scheme which considers the universe as more of a whole (i.e., as both a macroscopic entity and as an entity having very microscopic parts). In this way, our schemes are able to explain in a coherent manner all the sense data that comes to our awareness.

***I'll give you an example of a Theory: "tomorrow will be September 20, 2002". The conceptual scheme required for understanding that Theory involves many things, such as knowing the date I wrote this, that I'm using the Gregorian calendar, and that I'm writing in the English language as spoken in North America. But the fact is that what I gave you is a perfect example of a Theory which is true by any sensible definition of truth. It can be translated to Hebrew, the date converted to their calendar, and it would still be true. It can be translated to Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and their respective calendars, and it would still be true. I find that amazing and worth investigating. I believe everything we call knowledge should be like that.***

Sure, our experience is similar enough such that this can be easily communicated and understood in another culture's general conceptual scheme. However, how would you explain Sept.20, 2002 to an early human living 2 million years ago? How would you explain it to ET whom our descendants might contact in the M31 galaxy 5 million years from now? The communication of such details is much more difficult. You would only hope that their conceptual scheme is universal enough so that they can come to understand exactly what you mean and when you mean it. This is why it is helpful to extend our conceptual scheme to the universe as a whole. If our conceptual scheme is more coherent to the universe as a whole, the idea is that we can start of communicating very general facts that are true of the whole (e.g., the universe came from a singularity, the laws of physics are such and such, and gradually communicate times, distances, etc.). Conceivably, it would be much easier communicating to a civilization having such an 'advanced' conceptual scheme than a civilization totally lacking any knowledge of the universe outside the atmosphere of their planet (e.g., the pre-Copernican conceptual scheme).

***H: As we know the universe better (e.g., through science, through debate of ideas in a philosophical discussion, etc), we can limit the number of viable conceptual schemes (i.e., restrict 'truth' to something more specific), but we still cannot reduce the number of feasible conceptual schemes to one. I think this is why 'truth' is seen differently by so many. A: You are making the problem unnecessarily complex. "The universe as a whole" is as much an Object as "tomorrow", exhibits exactly the same properties as far as Theorizing about it goes, and as such only supports two types of conceptual schemes: wrong and isomorphic.***

Yes, the universe as a whole is an Object, but it is understood and interpreted within the context of the conceptual scheme (which our theories compose sub-elements of that scheme). With a univeral conceptual scheme - that performs the function that I suggest - we can predict and explain sub-objects in the whole Object. This is important in terms of being 'correct'. That is, if we try to predict the action of a sub-object, and we lack knowledge of the whole universe Object, then lacking that knowledge might cause our predictions to be wrong. The people who thought that their schemes were isomorphic are proven wrong - sometimes badly. For example, without a full understanding of earth's global warming, we might make poor predictions about future temperature increases, which could have catastrophic consequences. Having a better conceptual scheme requires that we have a better understanding of the Object as a whole. Sometimes it is earth that is all that we must understand to have a suitable and workable model of future events, but sometimes we must know fundamental physics, in which case we need to understand how the universe works as a whole.

***If you agree on classifying schemes that way, and to ignore wrong schemes, then we can explore isomorphism and, most important, the cause and consequences of its absence in most Theories.***

I see that as a problem since I see a gray scale that moves from near white to gray to near black. The near black is what you might characterize as wrong, and the near white is what you might characterize as perfectly isomorphic. It is just a continuum having many factors and subjective judgement calls by those judging the isomorphisms in question.

***There's one aspect of "truth" which I need you to ignore for now: it's the truth in statements such as "God exists". The reason we can't discuss that for now is that we have not, yet, agreed on a way to describe what "God" is. God is not an Object, Theory, Language, conceptual scheme, or any other word we seem to be agreeing on the meaning.***

I see God as part of a conceptual scheme. To understand what 'God' means to someone, we have to understand their conceptual scheme and translate that in terms of our conceptual scheme. We do that by establishing universal concepts that we think are very agreeable (e.g., logic, math, etc). Then we move forward and slowly establish communication methods to eliminate as much noise as possible. The hope is that after a long while, I understand what you mean by 'God' in the context of your conceptual scheme. I might never fully understand your meaning (indeed, your meaning might not even be consistent from day to evening), but the hope is that we can eliminate as much error as possible. Some individuals are much closer to sharing like conceptual schemes, and others are 'way out there' and a lot of effort is required to communicate. The difficulty of that communication is often so hard that it isn't even worth trying. People in this situation talk at each other, they aren't actually talking to each other. Often, the conceptual schemes are mired in inconsistencies with the universe Object as a whole, and that only makes communication all that more difficult. It is necessary to correct their understanding by showing why they must make their conceptual scheme more consistent with the universe Object as a whole, and then you show why they need the conceptual scheme that you are trying to provide. Einstein did this, for example, in his paper on special relativity, but many had trouble understanding what was wrong with their conceptual scheme, so they didn't understand the need for special relativity (i.e., even assuming they understood it). I think it is very difficult to understand another foreign concept unless you understand the need for that concept. We saw this especially with the creationists, Alex's math=physics arguments, and recently Alan's you-have-to-understand-the-universe-using-very-simple-analogies approach, etc.

***But I think you're trying to get where I'm trying to get, which is a rational demonstration that what we call the universe is not purely objective. In other words, the universe is an Object plus something else to be defined. I'd venture to say that "the universe" is subjective to a large extent, but I fear you'll be thinking I'm a solipsist, which is not the case. So let's save that discussion for when we have more clear words to use.***

Yes, I agree. Our conceptual schemes as good as they might be keep us from an objective view. Realism is preserved by the concept of 'approximate truth', but this is not an easy concept to defend.

Warm regards, Harv

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