Tag Archives: Bill Frisell

The Auguries of Science

“The very notion of truth is a culturally given direction, a part of the pervasive nostalgia for an earlier certainty. The very idea of a universal stability, an eternal firmness of principle out there that can be sought for through the world as might an Arthurian knight for the Grail, is, in the morphology of history, a direct outgrowth of the search for lost gods in the first two millennia after the decline of the bicameral mind.”
Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind., Mariner Books, 1990, p. 446.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 11-02-2010. Between this and Kyburg at least the author list is complete.]

There you have it in one quote: all of the beauty and most of the folly of one of the most original thinkers of the XXth century – a scientist that did some good philosophizing but presented it as a bad scientific hypothesis. A thinker lost in the Quine-Duhem-Davidson triangle of changing too much concepts at the same time to be taken seriously by anybody because – in the end – everybody has one concept that is so near and dear to her or his heart that it’s a little bit too holy to be touched.

The prime example being: a naïve concept of truth. The type of truth that settles things, once and for all. Continue reading

Evidential probability

“The best the logician can do is to recommend gathering more data.”
Henry E. Kyburg Jr. & Choh Man Teng, p. 200, Cambridge University Press, 2001.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 09-01-2010. See also my ‘common sense reasoning: Do Humans Think?’ thesis linked to elsewhere on this site. This one is surprisingly transparent ;-]

A small series on forgotton (or, let’s be optimistic: not yet discovered) pearls of this human endeavour that’s called thinking. I learned Mr. Kyburg died a couple of years ago. Given that that ís a fact, one can only hope that he turns out to be an instance of the reference class of great thinkers that have ideas requiring the environment of thought of a generation coming well after their own generation.

The series has as its common theme: three B-list philosophers, on which I based my Cognitive Science dissertation (available on-line for those inspired enough to look for the link “Do Humans Think?’).

But let’s cut to the chase: Continue reading

Of liberty and necessity

“If objects had not an uniform and regular connection with each other, we shou’d never arrive at any idea of cause and effect; and even after all, the necessity, which enters into that idea, is nothing but a determination of the mind to pass from one object to its usual attendant, and infer the existence of one from that of the other. Here then are two particulars, which we are to consider as essential to necessity, viz. the constant union and the inference of the mind; and wherever we discover these we must acknowledge a necessity.” D. Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Penguin Classics, 1985, p.448. 

Too many take Hume to talk mainly, and in a definitive way, about how the world is. Hume himself is confused sometimes, taking psychological subject matter to physical conclusions. This is an annoying fallacy, & more annoying still is a tendency of some who self-advertise as being part of the Humean tradition to promote it to an empirical dogma.

As pointed out by Davidson, there is a difference between our everyday statements of causality and the lofty heights of mathematical physics. To put it more tellingly: there is a difference between ‘if A then B’ and ‘E=mc2’.

This difference is a difference of more consequence than mostly thought. Let us go & explore it, so we can plant the seed of a long needed civil war on ‘minds’. Continue reading