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Happiness and Suffering as the Basis for Morality
Posted: 18 December 2007 02:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]  
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Sander - 18 December 2007 05:46 PM

I see the contours of a familiar argument lurking behind your original question.
It goes something like this: Sure, religion is bullshit but some people, not me, are better off with it.

If this is so then a fair amount of arrogance is involved.

That’s how I feel.  Why do you think it’s arrogant?  If I said, “Sure, visiting dead people in a cemetary is bullshit but some people, not me, are better off doing it,” would you say that was arrogant?  And if not, what’s the difference?

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Posted: 18 December 2007 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 18 December 2007 07:37 PM

That’s how I feel.  Why do you think it’s arrogant?  If I said, “Sure, visiting dead people in a cemetary is bullshit but some people, not me, are better off doing it,” would you say that was arrogant?  And if not, what’s the difference?

Is that how you feel? That some people, but not you, are better off with it? I think you feel that you are better off if some people are better off with it, even if you claim to be without it. One may speculate about just what those reasons are.

You are indeed a character, ASD, a curious character. You just like yanking the chain of those who lack sympathy for “some people” in their “need” for religion. It’s arrogant (though you did not ask me) because you’ve divided the world into two kinds of people. But it is not as simple as that. Perhaps a whimsical example would clarify. You sometimes sound more like you are saying “I do not, myself, jerk off, but I will defend to the death anyone else’s right to jerk off as he pleases, because I know how much good it does them.” Do you see how arrogant that is? It’s arrogant because it is a lie you think no one will ever catch you in. Worse yet, it is a lie on the face of it, because you cannot possibly know the truth of what you are suggesting unless you are lying about what you do or do not believe yourself.

By the way, visiting dead people in a cemetery IS a religious rite. It is sometimes known as ancestor worship. It is sometimes known as “belief in the afterlife”, because it certainly does nothing for anyone who is buried in the cemetery. Well, almost certainly. You know, at the twentieth standard deviation, or some ridiculous level like that.

[ Edited: 18 December 2007 04:14 PM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 18 December 2007 05:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]  
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Antisocialdarwinist - 18 December 2007 07:37 PM

That’s how I feel.  Why do you think it’s arrogant?  If I said, “Sure, visiting dead people in a cemetary is bullshit but some people, not me, are better off doing it,” would you say that was arrogant?  And if not, what’s the difference?

Perhaps I should have phrased my comment/question to Derek a little more cautiously.
I don’t know him very well and maybe I am seeing contours where there aren’t any.
I am sensitive to this (perceived) kind of thinking because I have seen versions of this close to home and all of them were repulsive.
To illustrate: my grandfather, who was an unpleasant man by many standards, had a favorite maxim: ‘Poverty will keep people in line.’

He himself was very well off.


If my suspicion is right then this is a case of someone pretending to speak generally and academically while harboring an unsavory bias.
To paraphrase SC; making a division between ourselves and the wretched multitudes around us.

There is a great Latin tag that illustrates this even better:
( I don’t know crap about Latin, this one just stuck with me because my dad loved to quote it)

Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi
What is permitted to Jupiter is not permitted to an ox.

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Posted: 18 December 2007 06:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]  
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Salt Creek - 18 December 2007 08:09 PM

It’s arrogant (though you did not ask me) because you’ve divided the world into two kinds of people… It’s arrogant because it is a lie you think no one will ever catch you in. Worse yet, it is a lie on the face of it, because you cannot possibly know the truth of what you are suggesting unless you are lying about what you do or do not believe yourself.

What two kinds of people have I divided the world into?  People who are better off with religion and people who aren’t?  I don’t see how that’s arrogant. 

And what’s the lie?  That some people are better off with religion?  That’s only a lie if I buy your theory about theists pretending to believe in God so they can pretend to be happy. 

I think I do see why it’s arrogant, though.  Since religion has been equated with bullshit, it’s like saying “Some people, not me, are better off with bullshit.”  Maybe a better way to say it would be, “Sure, religion is a placebo, but some people, not me, are better off with it.” 

But actually, I kind of prefer the original.  Sure, it’s arrogant.  But so what?  That doesn’t make it any less true.

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Posted: 18 December 2007 06:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]  
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Carstonio - 18 December 2007 05:31 PM

Again, please provide your definition of “truth.” Without such a definition, your point about inherent tension has no meaning. Also, believers use “truth” to mean that only their beliefs are factual and anything that disagrees with those beliefs is not factual.

Well, Harris uses the term casually, without ever explicitly saying what he means by it, but since you asked…

This is from a blog entry I wrote trying to outline my conception of truth:

Stephen Pinker very nicely describes information in How the Mind Works in this way:

Information is a correlation between two things that is produced by a lawful process, as opposed to coming about by sheer chance. We say that the rings in a stump carry information about the age of the tree because their number correlates with the tree’s age. The older the tree, the more rings it has. And the correlation is not an accident, but is caused by the way trees grow. Correlation is a mathematical and logical concept. It is not defined in terms of the stuff that the correlated entities are made of. Information itself is nothing special. It is found wherever causes leave effects.

If we accept that information is a correlation between two things, specifically a representation (an abstract, compressed form) and a referent (the entity being referred to), then the truth value of a given amount of information is based on the strength of the correlation between the representation and the referent.

In Pinker’s example, the truth value of the information contained in the tree rings would be very high if there were a strong correlation between the growth of the rings and the age of the tree. However, if some other event added or distorted the rings such that the correlation was low, then the corresponding truth value would be low.

This concept of truth is less in line with the black-and-white, bivalent classical Greek logic, and more in line with the notions of fuzzy logic, where truth is an analog continuum and not an all-or-nothing proposition. To say something is true is to say that something is true to a certain extent or with a particular confidence level, with the understanding that truth is an ideal, and that no representation can ever be 100% true.

The most common representation/referent relationships we are familiar with are the words with which we communicate. Any given word does not have a concrete, unambiguous mapping to the real-world concept it is meant to refer to. However, some combinations of words, or messages, are truer than others, that is, having a stronger correlation with the actual things they are referring to. A lie or falsehood is a message intended to refer to the opposite of the actual state of the world. The truth value of a message can also be lowered by the omission of relevant facts.

However, this conception of truth is not restricted to statements, such as “All men are mortal.” Any correlation can be evaluated on the basis of its strength. If a particular metal rod is exactly one meter long, we could evaluate the truth value of the statement “The rod is 1.1 meters long,” and the truth value would be reasonably high. However, we could also measure a piece of string along the rod and cut it to use as a representation of the rod. The truth value of the representation (in this case a physical object and not a statement) would depend on the correlation between the lengths of the string and the rod.

Thus, truth is a graded measure of correlation between two entities, regardless of the medium of either the representation or the referent.

So I basically believe that truth is a correlation between two things in the world, a referent, some thing, and a representation, which is a carrier for some subset of information about the referent. If this is close enough to your conception of what it means for a thing to be true, that it maps accurately to the real world, then we can move on in the discussion. However, philosophers have been chewing over the topic for thousands of years, so we could devote quite a bit of time and discussion just to the topic of “truth” and its meaning. The same goes for any other complex, abstract concept, such as “happiness” or “freedom”. We could proceed on the assumption that there is enough overlap in our conception of these things to discuss them intelligibly, unless we’re pretty sure from the outset that our ideas about these concepts are too divergent.

[ Edited: 18 December 2007 08:53 PM by derekjames]
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Posted: 18 December 2007 06:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]  
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Salt Creek - 18 December 2007 05:14 PM

I did not realize that was the case. By all means clue us in to what you think a better foundation might be. Or are you just tearing down the arguments of New Atheism and not presenting any alternatives?

I’ve already remarked on concepts that I think would provide better foundations than happiness to a secular moral system, such as truth and freedom.

I think valuation of truth is far more important than valuation of happiness. If they happen to correlate, then great, but in evaluating ethical choices, I personally favor telling the truth than making people feel good, and I prefer people do the same to me. Likewise with the beliefs I hold. I prefer beliefs that are as tested and scrutinized as much as possible according to standards of evidence and reason, rather than flimsily-supported ones that happen to make me feel good.

I think the core problem with using happiness/suffering as a basis for morals is that they are general reward/punishment signals from the subcortical structures in our brain. Pleasure and pain evolved to signal to the organism that they were engaging in beneficial behaviors, typically creature comforts. The problem is that they are measurement devices, indicators, ways of telling whether goals have been achieved. Happiness and the avoidance of suffering are means to ends; they should not be viewed as ends in themselves.

I scribbled a few notes here and there, but I’m not sure I’m equipped to be a revolutionary moral philosopher and articulate a full-blown secular value system. And as I said, I admire Harris for at least proposing a starting point based on something, which is more than most other atheist writers have been willing to do. But I do see some real problems with his starting point. I also think Hitchens’ response to this question, which has basically been a flippant “We don’t need to come up with a new system. We already have an innate sense of morality.” is wrong-headed and irresponsible, since a reliance on our innate dispositions has us rely on instinct, making our decisions no more informed by reason than animals.

I’d prefer to see the secular community expressing the need for such a system, and hashing it out with many enlightment principles (such as valuation of truth and the scientific method, the sanctity of individual liberties, and so on) as the starting point. Basically I think a new secular value system should be reasoned out by the workings of our neocortex, rather than by the crude urges of our reptilian hindbrain.

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Posted: 18 December 2007 07:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]  
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Sander - 18 December 2007 05:46 PM

I see the contours of a familiar argument lurking behind your original question.
It goes something like this: Sure, religion is bullshit but some people, not me, are better off with it.

Nope, that’s not my position at all.

I’m in the camp that wishes that religion would go the way of the dodo. I think the world would generally be a better place.

I think religion can often make people happier and more comfortable than they would be without it, but then, I don’t think happiness is the most important thing in the world (which is what I’ve basically been arguing about). I think being a lot more honest with each other and with ourselves, being scrupulously doubtful, but open-minded and curious is a much better way to live, even if it doesn’t result in the kind of euphoria that a die-hard religious adherent may experience.

[ Edited: 18 December 2007 08:57 PM by derekjames]
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Posted: 18 December 2007 07:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]  
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Sander - 18 December 2007 10:07 PM
Antisocialdarwinist - 18 December 2007 07:37 PM

That’s how I feel.  Why do you think it’s arrogant?  If I said, “Sure, visiting dead people in a cemetary is bullshit but some people, not me, are better off doing it,” would you say that was arrogant?  And if not, what’s the difference?

Perhaps I should have phrased my comment/question to Derek a little more cautiously.
I don’t know him very well and maybe I am seeing contours where there aren’t any.
I am sensitive to this (perceived) kind of thinking because I have seen versions of this close to home and all of them were repulsive.
To illustrate: my grandfather, who was an unpleasant man by many standards, had a favorite maxim: ‘Poverty will keep people in line.’

He himself was very well off.


If my suspicion is right then this is a case of someone pretending to speak generally and academically while harboring an unsavory bias.
To paraphrase SC; making a division between ourselves and the wretched multitudes around us.

There is a great Latin tag that illustrates this even better:
( I don’t know crap about Latin, this one just stuck with me because my dad loved to quote it)

Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi
What is permitted to Jupiter is not permitted to an ox.

Depends on whose ox is gored.  LOL

Alexandra David-Neel, in Oral Secrets of Tibetian Buddhist Sects, reports being told by a lama who was instructing her that there were three sorts of people: the first couldn’t be taught, only conditioned; the second could be taught a few things; and the third did not need to be taught, “one says to them look at that from this perspective and they see what is there to be seen.”  Similar ideas have shown up in many cultures in the world.  Ghazali wrote that some people needed dogmatic religion, others needed philosophical argument and disputation, while others yet were in direct contact with reality and were beyond such needs.  He also said that each type must respect the needs of the others.  It may seem anti-democratic, but there it is.

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Posted: 18 December 2007 09:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]  
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derekjames - 18 December 2007 11:58 PM

I think valuation of truth is far more important than valuation of happiness. If they happen to correlate, then great, but in evaluating ethical choices, I personally favor telling the truth than making people feel good, and I prefer people do the same to me. Likewise with the beliefs I hold. I prefer beliefs that are as tested and scrutinized as much as possible according to standards of evidence and reason, rather than flimsily-supported ones that happen to make me feel good.

...

I’d prefer to see the secular community expressing the need for such a system, and hashing it out with many enlightment principles (such as valuation of truth and the scientific method, the sanctity of individual liberties, and so on) as the starting point. Basically I think a new secular value system should be reasoned out by the workings of our neocortex, rather than by the crude urges of our reptilian hindbrain.

That’s fine, Derek, but based on what we appear to have gleaned from Pinker, our capacity to “value” truth is so imprecise that you might as well go back to prescribing happiness. This is what I meant by “obscurantism”, though I was only referring specifically to cumbersome phrases such as:

Thus, truth is a graded measure of correlation between two entities, regardless of the medium of either the representation or the referent.

Pinker is a philosopher, and can be forgiven not knowing what he is talking about. Not every measurement is about correlation. Cognitive “scientists” are overly worried about “correlation” because they are unable to measure directly the physical parameters and variables in their theories.

Scientists do not spend a lot of time ruminating about “truth values” as a “graded measure”. Instead they evaluate the likelihood that a hypothesis is true based on statistics collected on an experimental measurement intended to test the hypothesis. The hypothesis is either true or it’s not. The likelihood that the hypothesis explains the observations is what is measured in the experiment. If the measurements support the hypothesis at some statistical level of significance, the hypothesis is continued into other experiments. If not, the hypothesis may not be false, but the indication may be that more sensitive experiments are required to test the hypothesis adequately. Most experiments don’t work, meaning that the data don’t tell you anything at all. Experiments that do work are usually part of a related complex of experimentation on a broad subject with sets of results that do not duplicate one another but are consistent with one another. You can make measurements that are statistically significant and not be able to say what they mean in the context of a theory. Maybe a new theory is in the offing.

The kinds of hypotheses that believers use to make themselves “feel good” are unfalsifiable. The reason that unfalsifiable ideas are chosen is because they feel so good to hold onto. The reason they feel so good is because they are unfalsifiable. Nobody wants to have to give up “feeling good” just because the facts might indicate that the feeling is not supported. I am sure that someone like Pinker can point to “correlations” between “feeling good” and “religious belief”.

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Posted: 19 December 2007 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 85 ]  
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derekjames - 18 December 2007 11:38 PM

So I basically believe that truth is a correlation between two things in the world, a referent, some thing, and a representation, which is a carrier for some subset of information about the referent.

Would you give me an example of a referent and a representation?

Part of the problem is that the word “happiness” is misleading in a moralistic context. It’s more accurate to say that morality is about the effects of actions on the self and others. Generally an action is wrong if it causes harm. (One could argue that some harmful actions may be justifiable if they prevent greater harm, but that still recognizes that harm is bad.) The Golden Rule, which is found in almost all religions and philosophies, fits well with this concept of morality - would I find a certain action to be harmful to me if it was directed at me? It’s all about observing actions in the real world and using reason to evaluate their consequences. Would you say that this equates to your ideas about truth?

By contrast, submission to authority as a basis for morality has little or no connection to the real world. To a certain degree, it involves the suspension of one’s judgment about the effects of actions. It treats obedience for its own sake as the highest good, rendering the help or harm from one’s actions as secondary or irrelevant.

In my experience, when many believers use the word “truth” in a moralistic context as a euphemism for submission to an alleged divine authority.

[ Edited: 19 December 2007 05:54 AM by Carstonio]
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Posted: 19 December 2007 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 86 ]  
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Carstonio - 19 December 2007 10:51 AM
derekjames - 18 December 2007 11:38 PM

So I basically believe that truth is a correlation between two things in the world, a referent, some thing, and a representation, which is a carrier for some subset of information about the referent.

Would you give me an example of a referent and a representation?

Did you even read the passage? There were numerous examples:

representation: rings of a tree
referent: age of the tree

representation: words (e.g. dog)
referent: things in the world the word refers to (e.g. a particular dog)

representation: a statement regarding the length of a metal rod
referent: the actual length of the metal rod

representation: a piece of string cut to approximate the length of a metal rod
referent: the actual length of the metal rod

Also, a measurement is a representation, and the referent is the actual attribute being measured. When you’re measuring discrete variables, especially small quantities (e.g. “How many oranges are on the table?”, answer: “3”), accuracy (i.e. truth value) usually isn’t much of an issue. When you get into large discrete variables (e.g. the number of humans on the planet, the number of atoms in the universe) or continuous variables (e.g. temperature, length, etc.) then there are invariably issues with accuracy, and approximations are inevitable.

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Posted: 19 December 2007 07:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 87 ]  
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derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:07 PM

Also, a measurement is a representation, and the referent is the actual attribute being measured. When you’re measuring discrete variables, especially small quantities (e.g. “How many oranges are on the table?”, answer: “3”), accuracy (i.e. truth value) usually isn’t much of an issue. When you get into large discrete variables (e.g. the number of humans on the planet, the number of atoms in the universe) or continuous variables (e.g. temperature, length, etc.) then there are invariably issues with accuracy, and approximations are inevitable.

I missed reading the passage from Pinker the first time. Thanks for the clarification. I’m still uncertain how the referent/representation concept applies to any principle of morality. Unless you are connecting the concept to how we perceive the effects of our actions.

Your choice of the word “truth” is confusing because it sounds like you are referring to philosophical principles and not scientific ones. The former are certain opinions about human existence and the latter are facts about the physical universe.

[ Edited: 19 December 2007 07:32 AM by Carstonio]
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Posted: 19 December 2007 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 88 ]  
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Salt Creek - 19 December 2007 02:34 AM

That’s fine, Derek, but based on what we appear to have gleaned from Pinker, our capacity to “value” truth is so imprecise that you might as well go back to prescribing happiness.

What’s unclear about it?

Pinker is a philosopher, and can be forgiven not knowing what he is talking about.

He’s a linguist. You, on the other hand, probably shouldn’t be forgiven for not knowing what you’re talking about.

Not every measurement is about correlation.

Sure it is. There’s the measurement and the thing being measured, and the degree of correlation between them.

Cognitive “scientists” are overly worried about “correlation” because they are unable to measure directly the physical parameters and variables in their theories.

Again, you obviously have no clue about what you’re talking about. Do you know anything about cognitive science?

Scientists do not spend a lot of time ruminating about “truth values” as a “graded measure”. Instead they evaluate the likelihood that a hypothesis is true based on statistics collected on an experimental measurement intended to test the hypothesis.

You basically just restated the first sentence. A hypothesis is a representation. The likelihood that it is true, or the extent to which it is true is the truth value of that hypothesis, and it is a graded measure. No scientist worth their salt should state with absolute certainty that a given hypothesis or a given theory is 100% true. Every hypothesis and every theory is subject to revision or rejection in the light of additional evidence.

The hypothesis is either true or it’s not.

That’s pretty simplistic thinking for all but the most banal hypotheses. For most complex phenomena there are no black-and-white answers. Scientists don’t sit around with check-boxes and mark hypotheses as either true or false.

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Posted: 19 December 2007 07:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 89 ]  
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Carstonio - 19 December 2007 12:25 PM

I missed reading the passage from Pinker the first time. Thanks for the clarification. I’m still uncertain how the referent/representation concept applies to any principle of morality. Unless you are connecting the concept to how we perceive the effects of our actions.

You asked for a detailed definition of truth, so I tried to provide one. I would guess it conforms to most people’s commonsense conception of what they mean when they refer to something being “true”. When you say things, the extent to which your utterances are true depends on how close they map to reality. The extent to which a measurement is true is the extent to which it reflects the actual state of affairs.

As long as we agree on this kind of working conception of truth, I think it’s pretty clear what it means to value it. Honesty and integrity become elevated as values. To say things that map as accurately to reality (i.e. don’t obscure the truth or lie) is good. Your actions should be a reflection of your words (i.e. if you say you’re going to do something, then you should do it). You should hold beliefs that are as close to true as you can get them, which necessarily involves not only relying on evidence and reason to form beliefs, but as much as possible using techniques like independent confirmation, heuristics like Occam’s razor, and so on (Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit is a nice primer for this).

When you include the valuation of truth into a secular moral system, you can weigh various daily decisions based on their relative goodness. So, when my friend asks me what they think of their new shirt, should my actions be determined by the greater valuation of happiness (I lie to my friend and tell them I think the shirt looks great) or truth (I accurately represent my opinion and hurt my friend’s feelings). You make these sorts of decisions every day, so what you value is implicit in your actions already.

What I was trying to get at is that Harris explicitly talks about the valuation of happiness, but avoids talking explicitly about the valuation of truth (which includes honesty and integrity), although he seems to definitely implicitly value such things.

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Posted: 19 December 2007 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 90 ]  
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derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

Again, you obviously have no clue about what you’re talking about. Do you know anything about cognitive science?

How could I? Even cognitive science does not know anything about cognitive science. If it did, it would not resort to obscurantism such as you seem to delight in.

derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

A hypothesis is a representation.

In much the same way that a linguist is a philosopher.

Sure, Derek, but you think no one will notice that you haven’t bothered to define “representation”. This is an obscurantist dodge by way of focusing on what the experimenter thinks (or says, since we are now working with linguistics, rather than mere “philosophy”) instead of phenomena the experimenter is trying to study. Is a “representation” merely a “conjecture”, as in mathematics, such that it is only part of a formal system? When all you are is a linguist, everything looks like semantics. Here’s how you do that:

derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

He’s a linguist. You, on the other hand, probably shouldn’t be forgiven for not knowing what you’re talking about.

Teach me something useful, Derek, rather than splitting hairs about someone’s professional affiliation.

derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

Sure it is. There’s the measurement and the thing being measured, and the degree of correlation between them.

I think you’re hung up on the linguistic niceties of symbols and referents. I would not be fool enough to assert that the measurement and what is being measured are coincident, but I do not wish to obscure the problem by proposing a “correlation” between them. Often what is being measured is not a “thing”, is it? But you knew that, and are simply going to pout because I like to sweep up the semantic hairs you leave around everywhere so that you may later split them.

derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

What’s unclear about it?

“Truth value” stuffs twenty ounces of linguistic jargon into a ten ounce can of data analysis. You cannot be said to have measured something if you can only talk about its “correlation” with a “representation”. If you are uncomfortable with saying what it is you are measuring, then you aren’t measuring anything. Since you have not gone farther than splitting linguistic hairs, I will assume you have nothing to measure. Basing a moral (i.e., ethical) system on the “truth value” of (whatever it is you cannot specify) is a recipe for something that has a bad smell to me.

derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

The likelihood that it is true, or the extent to which it is true is the truth value of that hypothesis, and it is a graded measure.

Well, why do you not refer to the statistical metrics used by people who are actually in the business of making measurements? Why do you need “truth value” for what scientists call “the central tendency” or moments of a statistical distribution. Scientists use mathematics for a specific purpose; you appear to use linguistics to avoid the contention that you don’t know what you are talking about.

derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

No scientist worth their salt should state with absolute certainty that a given hypothesis or a given theory is 100% true.

And that of course is exactly what scientists do not do. So one straw man for you. Scientists talk about the moments of a statistical distribution of a set of measurements. Where “correlations” rather than “measurements” are being assessed, the confidence that science is being done is consequently lower.

derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

For most complex phenomena there are no black-and-white answers.

And that is really what your problem is. Why go through all that to tell me that there are no black and white answers for the problem? I agree that the problem you think you are studying has no black and white answers. It is philosophical (though you like to call it linguistics).  All the rest is obscurantism.

derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

Every hypothesis and every theory is subject to revision or rejection in the light of additional evidence.

Theory is subject to revision. The null hypothesis is either accepted or rejected. Once again, Derek, do attempt to teach me something I do not already know.

derekjames - 19 December 2007 12:29 PM

Scientists don’t sit around with check-boxes and mark hypotheses as either true or false.

No, they don’t. They actively make measurements and attempt to rule out certain hypotheses rather than sitting around and offering up didactic platitudes. In a way, you can mark our intellectual progress by the quantity of garbage hypotheses we no longer have to entertain. When and where cognitive “science” is able to do this, it will actually become a “science”, rather than what it is now, philosophy that recycles ancient theories of mind and language dressed up in the obscurantist prose of “correlation” and “representation”.

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