Just came across this from a favorite of mine…

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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29 May 2019 05:26
 

“When the proverbial child cries for the moon, is the object of his desire doubtful? He points at it unmistakably; yet the psychologist (not to speak of the child himself) would have some difficulty in recovering exactly the sensations and images, the gathering demands and fumbling efforts, that traverse the child’s mind while he points. Fortunately all this fluid sentience, even if it could be described, is irrelevant to the question; for the child’s sensuous experience is not his object. If it were, he would have attained it. What his object is, his fixed gaze and outstretched arm declare unequivocally. His elders may say that he doesn’t know what he wants, which is probably true of them also: that is, he has only a ridiculously false and inconstant idea of what the moon may be in itself. But his attention is arrested in a particular direction, his appetition flows the same way; and if he may be said to know anything, he knows there is something there which he would like to reach, which he would like to know better. He is a little philosopher; and his knowledge, if less diversified and congealed, is exactly like science.”

Santayana, George. Scepticism and Animal Faith: Introduction to a System of Philosophy (pp. 172-173).

There’s a lot of implication to unpack here.  Any thoughts?

 
nonverbal
 
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29 May 2019 05:41
 

When I first told my little boy that people have actually flown all the way to the moon in a space ship, landed, and returned to earth, he looked at me like I was out of my mind. We quickly changed the subject.

 
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29 May 2019 07:17
 

I would disagree that “his knowledge… is exactly like science.”

 
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29 May 2019 10:22
 

If I add this, would you agree?

“The attitude of the child’s body also identifies the object for him, in his own subsequent discourse. He is not likely to forget a moon that he cried for. When in stretching his hand towards it he found he could not touch it, he learned that this bright good was not within his grasp, and he made a beginning in the experience of life. He also made a beginning in science, since he then added the absolutely true predicate “out of reach” to the rather questionable predicates “bright” and “good” (and perhaps “edible”) with which his first glimpse had supplied him. That active and mysterious thing, co-ordinate with himself, since it lay in the same world with his body, and affected it—the thing that attracted his hand, was evidently the very thing that eluded it. His failure would have had no meaning and would have taught him nothing—that is, would not have corrected his instinctive reactions—if the object he saw and the object he failed to reach had not been identical; and certainly that object was not brightness nor goodness nor excitements in his brain or psyche, for these are not things he could ever have attempted or expected to touch. It is only things on the scale of the human senses and in the field of those instinctive reactions which sensation calls forth, that can be the primary objects of human knowledge: no other things can be discriminated at first by an animal mind, or can interest it, or can be meant and believed in by it. It is these instinctive reactions that select the objects of attention, designate their locus, and impose faith in their existence.  But these reactions may be modified by experience, and the description the mind gives of the objects reacted upon can be revised, or the objects themselves discarded, and others discerned instead.”


(175-6).

 
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29 May 2019 12:02
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 29 May 2019 10:22 AM

If I add this, would you agree?

“The attitude of the child’s body also identifies the object for him, in his own subsequent discourse. He is not likely to forget a moon that he cried for. When in stretching his hand towards it he found he could not touch it, he learned that this bright good was not within his grasp, and he made a beginning in the experience of life. He also made a beginning in science, since he then added the absolutely true predicate “out of reach” to the rather questionable predicates “bright” and “good” (and perhaps “edible”) with which his first glimpse had supplied him. That active and mysterious thing, co-ordinate with himself, since it lay in the same world with his body, and affected it—the thing that attracted his hand, was evidently the very thing that eluded it. His failure would have had no meaning and would have taught him nothing—that is, would not have corrected his instinctive reactions—if the object he saw and the object he failed to reach had not been identical; and certainly that object was not brightness nor goodness nor excitements in his brain or psyche, for these are not things he could ever have attempted or expected to touch. It is only things on the scale of the human senses and in the field of those instinctive reactions which sensation calls forth, that can be the primary objects of human knowledge: no other things can be discriminated at first by an animal mind, or can interest it, or can be meant and believed in by it. It is these instinctive reactions that select the objects of attention, designate their locus, and impose faith in their existence.  But these reactions may be modified by experience, and the description the mind gives of the objects reacted upon can be revised, or the objects themselves discarded, and others discerned instead.”
(175-6).

Still doesn’t work for me. If I were to try and characterize what seems missing, I’d say “attitude” as a major factor. As I think of it, that is the difference between a scientific approach and experience based learning.

 
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29 May 2019 12:48
 
burt - 29 May 2019 12:02 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 29 May 2019 10:22 AM

If I add this, would you agree?

“The attitude of the child’s body also identifies the object for him, in his own subsequent discourse. He is not likely to forget a moon that he cried for. When in stretching his hand towards it he found he could not touch it, he learned that this bright good was not within his grasp, and he made a beginning in the experience of life. He also made a beginning in science, since he then added the absolutely true predicate “out of reach” to the rather questionable predicates “bright” and “good” (and perhaps “edible”) with which his first glimpse had supplied him. That active and mysterious thing, co-ordinate with himself, since it lay in the same world with his body, and affected it—the thing that attracted his hand, was evidently the very thing that eluded it. His failure would have had no meaning and would have taught him nothing—that is, would not have corrected his instinctive reactions—if the object he saw and the object he failed to reach had not been identical; and certainly that object was not brightness nor goodness nor excitements in his brain or psyche, for these are not things he could ever have attempted or expected to touch. It is only things on the scale of the human senses and in the field of those instinctive reactions which sensation calls forth, that can be the primary objects of human knowledge: no other things can be discriminated at first by an animal mind, or can interest it, or can be meant and believed in by it. It is these instinctive reactions that select the objects of attention, designate their locus, and impose faith in their existence.  But these reactions may be modified by experience, and the description the mind gives of the objects reacted upon can be revised, or the objects themselves discarded, and others discerned instead.”
(175-6).

Still doesn’t work for me. If I were to try and characterize what seems missing, I’d say “attitude” as a major factor. As I think of it, that is the difference between a scientific approach and experience based learning.

 

That’s interesting because I thought it captured the attitude and an essential element of the logic without quite capturing the full means, indicating, as it does, that learning from experience is sufficient.  Unless the reaching out can be thought of as an experiment with testable implications, upon failure of which the original conceptions are modified….

 
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29 May 2019 14:03
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 29 May 2019 12:48 PM
burt - 29 May 2019 12:02 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 29 May 2019 10:22 AM

If I add this, would you agree?

“The attitude of the child’s body also identifies the object for him, in his own subsequent discourse. He is not likely to forget a moon that he cried for. When in stretching his hand towards it he found he could not touch it, he learned that this bright good was not within his grasp, and he made a beginning in the experience of life. He also made a beginning in science, since he then added the absolutely true predicate “out of reach” to the rather questionable predicates “bright” and “good” (and perhaps “edible”) with which his first glimpse had supplied him. That active and mysterious thing, co-ordinate with himself, since it lay in the same world with his body, and affected it—the thing that attracted his hand, was evidently the very thing that eluded it. His failure would have had no meaning and would have taught him nothing—that is, would not have corrected his instinctive reactions—if the object he saw and the object he failed to reach had not been identical; and certainly that object was not brightness nor goodness nor excitements in his brain or psyche, for these are not things he could ever have attempted or expected to touch. It is only things on the scale of the human senses and in the field of those instinctive reactions which sensation calls forth, that can be the primary objects of human knowledge: no other things can be discriminated at first by an animal mind, or can interest it, or can be meant and believed in by it. It is these instinctive reactions that select the objects of attention, designate their locus, and impose faith in their existence.  But these reactions may be modified by experience, and the description the mind gives of the objects reacted upon can be revised, or the objects themselves discarded, and others discerned instead.”
(175-6).

Still doesn’t work for me. If I were to try and characterize what seems missing, I’d say “attitude” as a major factor. As I think of it, that is the difference between a scientific approach and experience based learning.

 

That’s interesting because I thought it captured the attitude and an essential element of the logic without quite capturing the full means, indicating, as it does, that learning from experience is sufficient.  Unless the reaching out can be thought of as an experiment with testable implications, upon failure of which the original conceptions are modified….

I think that recognizing the difference between instance and evidence is essential for science. Is something to be taken as an instance that supports my existing belief, or is it evidence that could count for or against this belief?

 
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29 May 2019 16:29
 

I can see how evidence against a belief differs, but how does evidence for a belief and an instance that supports a belief differ?

 
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29 May 2019 18:17
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 29 May 2019 04:29 PM

I can see how evidence against a belief differs, but how does evidence for a belief and an instance that supports a belief differ?

Evidence in favor of a belief is still evidence, that is it’s subject to doubt and testing. An instance is just my interpretation of something as indicating the truth of a belief, without doubt or testing. This distinction came up in a paper by the anthropologist Robin Horton (also in a book by Christopher Alexander) (sorry, don’t have better references at this point) but initially ran across in in a Castenada book as what he called the distinction between “omens” and “agreements.”

 
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30 May 2019 01:37
 
burt - 29 May 2019 06:17 PM


Evidence in favor of a belief is still evidence, that is it’s subject to doubt and testing. An instance is just my interpretation of something as indicating the truth of a belief, without doubt or testing. This distinction came up in a paper by the anthropologist Robin Horton (also in a book by Christopher Alexander) (sorry, don’t have better references at this point) but initially ran across in in a Castenada book as what he called the distinction between “omens” and “agreements.”

This sounds like the distinction between testing a belief against the available evidence and confirmation bias, which tests potential evidence against the prevailing belief.  Is that what he was driving at?

 
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30 May 2019 06:23
 

Scientific methodologies strive to eliminate bias from an observation or experiment. Confirmation bias is only one of many kinds of bias to be concerned about. While it’s possible for a person to arrive at an orderly analysis of a complex natural process or entity without having set things up scientifically, when effective and wise methods are in place, success rates increase. Robust skepticism—with an implied invitation both to strangers and colleagues to check things—is built into the whole process.

 
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30 May 2019 08:22
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 30 May 2019 01:37 AM
burt - 29 May 2019 06:17 PM


Evidence in favor of a belief is still evidence, that is it’s subject to doubt and testing. An instance is just my interpretation of something as indicating the truth of a belief, without doubt or testing. This distinction came up in a paper by the anthropologist Robin Horton (also in a book by Christopher Alexander) (sorry, don’t have better references at this point) but initially ran across in in a Castenada book as what he called the distinction between “omens” and “agreements.”

This sounds like the distinction between testing a belief against the available evidence and confirmation bias, which tests potential evidence against the prevailing belief.  Is that what he was driving at?

The context was a debate on whether some primitive cultures has a form of science or not. The example of the Azande in East Africa (studied by E.E. Evans-Prichard in the 1920s) was being used. The Azande believed in witchcraft, to which they attributed all unusual events. They also had a “poison oracle” which was claimed to be a form of empirical science. To consult the oracle one collected and prepared a certain amount of a poison. Then half of the poison would be fed to a chicken along with a question having a yes or no answer that connected with whether the chicken lived or died. When the answer was given, the other half of the poison was fed to another chicken with the question rephrased so that lt reversed the yes or no answers. So some were claiming this was a rough version of experimental science and hypothesis testing. The counter argument was that when the oracle failed this was not taken as evidence against the oracle, rather it was evidence that some witch was interfering with the oracle. In other words, the system was not set up to question itself or its own results. So in short, yes.

E.E. Evans-Prichard (1937) Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande Oxford, Clarendon Press, Don’t have the other references handy.

[ Edited: 30 May 2019 17:15 by burt]
 
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30 May 2019 15:04
 

burt

I like the long answer.  It’s all too easy to invoke confirmation bias as a catch all and miss the various forms it can take—forms that bear on important questions about how we acquire knowledge.  Do you remember the source you mention more specifically?  I will do a Google search in the meantime….

nonverbal

Yes, that.

 
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30 May 2019 17:38
 

You added that, right?  I’d hate to think I missed it…  In any case, thanks.

 
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04 June 2019 20:01
 
burt - 30 May 2019 08:22 AM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 30 May 2019 01:37 AM
burt - 29 May 2019 06:17 PM


Evidence in favor of a belief is still evidence, that is it’s subject to doubt and testing. An instance is just my interpretation of something as indicating the truth of a belief, without doubt or testing. This distinction came up in a paper by the anthropologist Robin Horton (also in a book by Christopher Alexander) (sorry, don’t have better references at this point) but initially ran across in in a Castenada book as what he called the distinction between “omens” and “agreements.”

This sounds like the distinction between testing a belief against the available evidence and confirmation bias, which tests potential evidence against the prevailing belief.  Is that what he was driving at?

The context was a debate on whether some primitive cultures has a form of science or not. The example of the Azande in East Africa (studied by E.E. Evans-Prichard in the 1920s) was being used. The Azande believed in witchcraft, to which they attributed all unusual events. They also had a “poison oracle” which was claimed to be a form of empirical science. To consult the oracle one collected and prepared a certain amount of a poison. Then half of the poison would be fed to a chicken along with a question having a yes or no answer that connected with whether the chicken lived or died. When the answer was given, the other half of the poison was fed to another chicken with the question rephrased so that lt reversed the yes or no answers. So some were claiming this was a rough version of experimental science and hypothesis testing. The counter argument was that when the oracle failed this was not taken as evidence against the oracle, rather it was evidence that some witch was interfering with the oracle. In other words, the system was not set up to question itself or its own results. So in short, yes.

E.E. Evans-Prichard (1937) Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande Oxford, Clarendon Press, Don’t have the other references handy.

It’s a very interesting question (to me) whether one should consider practices adapted over long periods of time in the context of folk narrative to be science. Certainly human beings have developed many inventions in this mode. There are all sorts of technological innovations that pre date the concept of science as we use it today. Trial and error and selective pressure seem reasonably analogous to experiment and control. Does science necessarily require a scientist?

 
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04 June 2019 21:03
 
Brick Bungalow - 04 June 2019 08:01 PM
burt - 30 May 2019 08:22 AM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 30 May 2019 01:37 AM
burt - 29 May 2019 06:17 PM


Evidence in favor of a belief is still evidence, that is it’s subject to doubt and testing. An instance is just my interpretation of something as indicating the truth of a belief, without doubt or testing. This distinction came up in a paper by the anthropologist Robin Horton (also in a book by Christopher Alexander) (sorry, don’t have better references at this point) but initially ran across in in a Castenada book as what he called the distinction between “omens” and “agreements.”

This sounds like the distinction between testing a belief against the available evidence and confirmation bias, which tests potential evidence against the prevailing belief.  Is that what he was driving at?

The context was a debate on whether some primitive cultures has a form of science or not. The example of the Azande in East Africa (studied by E.E. Evans-Prichard in the 1920s) was being used. The Azande believed in witchcraft, to which they attributed all unusual events. They also had a “poison oracle” which was claimed to be a form of empirical science. To consult the oracle one collected and prepared a certain amount of a poison. Then half of the poison would be fed to a chicken along with a question having a yes or no answer that connected with whether the chicken lived or died. When the answer was given, the other half of the poison was fed to another chicken with the question rephrased so that lt reversed the yes or no answers. So some were claiming this was a rough version of experimental science and hypothesis testing. The counter argument was that when the oracle failed this was not taken as evidence against the oracle, rather it was evidence that some witch was interfering with the oracle. In other words, the system was not set up to question itself or its own results. So in short, yes.

E.E. Evans-Prichard (1937) Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among the Azande Oxford, Clarendon Press, Don’t have the other references handy.

It’s a very interesting question (to me) whether one should consider practices adapted over long periods of time in the context of folk narrative to be science. Certainly human beings have developed many inventions in this mode. There are all sorts of technological innovations that pre date the concept of science as we use it today. Trial and error and selective pressure seem reasonably analogous to experiment and control. Does science necessarily require a scientist?

As I see it, it’s a matter of attitude.