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Posted by Harvey on February 28, 2002 16:00:06 UTC

Hi Dick,

***You are beating straw dogs!***

Better than beating real ones, right?

***H: Yes, the possibility of error exists, however there is greater possibility when there appears to be a misunderstanding or miscomprehension of the message. D: Misunderstanding of a message is an error! And should be thought of as included in the category I specified. Furthermore the fact that a message was misunderstood and that perhaps we have a new interpretation which makes more sense needs to be thought of as nothing special; it is no more than additional information obtained from the net communication.***

Yes, misunderstanding is an error, but not all messages are equal in terms of the possibility of them being misunderstood. Appearance is important in establishing confidence that a message was correctly understood.

***H: We never know for sure, but we seek to have a pragmatic justification for believing that a message was properly received. D: I have no problem with that at all. All I am looking to do is set down a way of cataloging the messages so that, were I to find an error (or inconsistency) which required adjustment of something I thought I understood, I would have a straight forward method of determining the consequences of that adjustment on all the messages my current conclusions were derived from.***

What about Thales? How do you know what you consider important is really a valid category to distinguish as meaningful (e.g., Greek philosophers attempts at catagorizing solids, liquids, gases, plasmas, etc)?

***H: Rather than get all caught up in our inability to communicate, we keep tossing out analogies, descriptions, definitions, etc which we hope will bridge the difference in the way we think so that we can form a common understanding. By forming this common understanding it is hoped that our communication is effective enough so as to be effective. D: That is the standard way of attempting communications. I wish to lay that aside and instead, consider the nature of the fundamental problem which confronts us. H:
This is where I am somewhat skeptical. D: Skeptical of what? That any such effort is worth the trouble? Of course you are skeptical of that! If anyone with any intelligence had even looked at the issue, what I have discovered would have been seen a hundred years ago. The entire scientific community believes what I am looking at is a complete waste of time. But you know, it is possible they are wrong. Consider the central issue here for a moment: do you really believe it is possible to prove that nothing can come from examining a problem? You are just presuming nothing can come of it because no one has examined it. That in itself is an intellectually very dangerous position to take.***

I am skeptical of any attempt that tries to be more fundamental than pragmaticism. From my perspective pragmatism is the most fundamental we can approach a philosophical problem. When you say that you want to lay aside the pragmatic approach I immediately raise an eyebrow. The reason is that every argument I've seen that tries to approach philosophy from a different tactic than a pragmatic approach is immediately found to be based on a pragmatic approach. We'll see if this holds true for your approach (which I'm confident it does).

***H: If communication (either with sender/receiver, or individual/Universe) is by appearance, then how can we avoid but addressing only the appearance as it appears to our sense impressions (i.e., the method used by science)? To focus on any other means but appearances seems to me to be a doomed effort. D: It seems to everyone to be a doomed effort! That is why no one looks at it! They cannot even comprehend the idea of *including* everything they know in a specific well defined representation. They have not figured out a way to do it ERGO it can not be done!***

Most intellectuals know the history of foundationalism. It has failed miserably over the course of the centuries and every attempt to revive it has also failed. Your foundationalist approach, while different in flavor, still has the same herbs and spices in the recipe.

***D: With regard to that problem, there exist two very different aspects of what I will present. First, there is the aspect of how I want to catalog and examine that communication. This I claim to be a totally free issue: i.e., I can catalog and analyze it in any way I choose. You may argue that I am wasting my time but there exists no issue of right or wrong here with one single very specific exception. That single exception is the possibility that there exists some communication or part of a communication which cannot be cataloged or analyzed by the procedure which I will propose. H: If communication (either between sender/receiver or individual/Universe) is by appearances, any cataloging of the 'facts' is also dependent on appearances. As you say, what if a great deal of the 'facts' are misleading, then it follows your cataloging will be false. D: Harv, you really cannot allude to errors in a procedure when you do not even know what the procedure is. After all, the scientific journals are in reality little more than a cataloging procedure for keeping track of what the scientists have discovered. Would you say that the journals should be thrown away as "misleading" because they contain errors? At least look through my telescope before telling me I can not possibly be seeing anything worth looking at.***

I am not saying that you have cataloged errors, I am saying that whatever you catalog is based solely on appearance. If you catalog an appearance, then your cataloging is only as valid as the appearance of the thing in question. Thales failed in his cataloging material properties only because the appearances were deceiving (he lacked a knowledge of atomic and quantum physics). Whether you categorize appearances correctly is not really the issue. The question is how do you know you have properly cataloged a valid appearance? For example, the periodical table is a cataloging of appearances as they are obtained from experiment, we are justified in saying it is a correct method because we can predict with great accuracy if a certain chemical reaction takes place. You are not depending on experiment, so the question becomes how do you know you have properly cataloged a valid appearance?

In the case of scientific journals, in most cases all the categorizing must also be backed by experiment. Now, there are categorizing efforts that are simply useful to understand science which is predictive (e.g., Feynman diagrams, taxonomy, etc), but these are simply tools that help in the formulation of predictive results. They could be discarded and another more cumbersome method could be used. Nevertheless, even these pure categorizing methods have been substantiated by the predictive elements of science. For example, Feynman diagrams are useful to conduct science that is predictive, so it is justified. Cataloging that is not useful to science need not be considered.

***H: If your abstract concepts are based on thought about what you knew when you started, then what separates your attempt from Thales who was one of the pioneers in ancient Greece of categorizing substances? D: Listen to it and then decide for yourself! Refusing to look certainly is not a rational way to decide the issue.***

I'll look at it, but why can't you simply answer the question? What prevents you from being a 21st century version of Thales?

***H: Maybe you are mistaken in your assignments. D: I presume you mean by assignments, my definitions of concepts. With that regard, if I am mistaken in my assignments then certainly so is the entire current scientific community as my assignments turn out to be absolutely identical to theirs!***

I'm not so sure about that. Your definition of time is a parameter based on [Chap.1 from your paper]: 1) [The subsets of reality (sets of numbers) are transformed (by our senses) into the information available for us to analyze (after we have constructed our mental model of reality)] ... the subsets must be finite 2) The number of subsets examined must be finite. 3) The number of subsets which make up the universe must be infinite.

Now, just this definition alone is not a scientific definition of time. Time, as far as I know, doesn't have an exact definition in science. That is, there isn't an equation which tells us all about what time is. It is one of the perplexing mysteries of science. Quantum physics treats time differently than GR physics, and these two fields have not yet been unified.

We could go over more definitions, but I think this illustrates my point.

***Basically your entire position is that I can not possibly do what I say I can do and you arrive at that position without any knowledge as to what I am doing.***

No, my position is that foundationalism is completely off base and that there are very general reasons why this is so. We can study each foundationalist approach and see case by case why it is mistaken, but that would be only delaying the inevitable conclusion. But, alas, I'm willing to go through that with you if you wish.

***"So, in essence, I am going to show you a way of cataloging arbitrary communications which yields some rather astounding relationships. To find fault in what I present, you need to show that there exists a communicable concept which cannot be represented as I propose to represent it."***

You can build a cataloging of arbitrary communication and yield some astounding relationships, but how do you validate your choices of what you decide to catalog? How do you know that there are ET communicable concepts which cannot be represented by your model? If you rely on mathematics, then how do you know that mathematics is merely a human invention? What if our evolution were different, how do you know that our mathematics wouldn't be different? I believe that mathematics couldn't be different for an alien species, but heck, mathematics was different between the Babylonians and the Greeks. When we make assumptions based on appearances (i.e., as they appear to humans) then we can do that but this is not ontological proof of anything. Any truths we obtain from such efforts are contingent on our perceptions and our human inference reasoning abilities.

Warm regards, Harv

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