Tuesday, August 11, 2015


The following is a question, and my answer to start the discussion. It was posted on a forum which came back with this: "The question Why has no one asked about (or even mentioned) quasi-empiricism? was marked as possibly insincere. 45m ago"

This was similar to what I got with another question. In this case, it was published but marked. The former question was bounced. Again, I took it off, albeit the question did sit there a few days.

The use of quasi-empirical, in this blog, has been there from the beginning (2007). I knew that there would be an uphill trek; yet, does not anyone even think of these things?

-------- Question ---------

Why has no one asked about (or even mentioned) quasi-empiricism?"

Starting with Eugene Wigner. ... Would this @question's subject be amenable to the Answer Wiki method here? ...


Not long after posting, there was this response.
    CJ -- 1 vote by John M. Switlik
    I think you'll need to expand before you can expect answers.  Not having a context topic, asking an ambiguous question, then requiring people to read through two dense links before answering may not be the path to mutually edifying discussion, and definitely won't get you any answers from people with math professors or philosophy professors (I'm still not sure which you'd rather hear from.)
At that point, I added this Introduction.
    We all have marveled at the results of the growing prowess evident from scientific and engineering efforts. At the same time, some (many?) can identify, and discuss, the downside of the prowess. And, as time goes along, effects keep rolling on from the prowess, seemingly without end and definitely without control (hubris, itself, rages). What gives? 
    Too, the STEM thrust has come about as a direct consequence of people trying to capture what they understand from observing the better practitioners at work into a set of practices and skills. Along with that thrust, we see a strong notion that all knowledge can be encapsulated in computational modes which are inherently supported by mathematics. Those modes can be thought of as being very broad, leading to worries by some (of late - name the technical celebrity), to wit: singularities, dystopian situations, and more. 
    Many have sought to understand the capabilities that underlie progress. In 1960, Eugene Wigner published his reflective article: The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences. Letting Wigner's article speak for itself: The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.
    In 1980, Richard Hamming provided some thoughts on Wigner's theme. He pointed to humans being primed by evolution as a factor. Others have commented, as well. Of late, Max Tegmark argues thus: Our external physical reality is a mathematical structure. 
    Much like attitudes about Pascal's later thinking which led to his Wager, many ignore Wigner's ruminations. However, given the rapidity of technology's advancement and the growing awareness of the pitfalls thereof, one might expect that the quasi-empirical discussions would be of extreme interest. One inhibitor could be that these issues have not been addressed in a universally available medium. 
---- My (seeding) answer to start the discussion -----
    John M. Switlik, Timeless autodidact

      Why? Why? 

      Does that sound like a 2/3-year old? Mature, successful adults learn to suppress a lot of their inquisitiveness. Too, pressures keep people in line when they may want to relapse (up to, even, peer-reviewed journals) as if inquisitiveness were bad in itself.

      Success, for the most part, comes to those who apply the current state of knowledge in a useful (to some one or ones (why else the remuneration?) manner. But, at every point, some have to be thinking forwardly, and tinkering (which, again, for the most part, is the effective means), in order to advance what is the current situation (status quo, in other words). For the most part, advances come via perturbations, hopefully controlled, to the established basis. 

      But, sometimes, we get jolts that are disruptive (though, the effects might be a long-time coming to many folks - there are others who being at the center of the change feel the impact very soon - comparatively). 

      At any of the shared points of experience, do we know how things are going to pan out? Well, it's like they say with the markets, past performance does not guarantee future returns (paraphrase). Yet, this applies to science, to boot, which is supposed to be provisional, etc. 

      One might ask, how does this strong belief (all ways to characterize, so punting, for now) come about? In fact, many feel certain-ness, in their situations, though uncertainty is the reality (again, punting). 


      That little bit leads us to the following list which will be part of the discussion. We have to ask how people know if they are heads-in-the-sand types. "know" implies a whole lot about effective action based upon knowledge and rationality (again, a punt).  

      Aside: Everyone is like an ostrich when dealing with things outside of their expertise - yes, of course, ... -> chemists --> physicists --> mathematicians --> (?) -- I will not give them the credit of talking to God (not in mathematics, anyway). One might say, from this we see the imperative nature and emergence of the autodidact (again, not a know-it-all).

      Let's end by listing a few ways to know. 

      By authority (impression) - That is, someone (or something) provides the means to making choices, including, many times, forcing behavior (ah, so many youngsters drugged to get them in line). In this bucket, throw loved ones, heroes, stars (as in, the faces on the screen - what I call, talking heads). Enumeration is required ().

      By rationality (reason) - Some make this claim. We can let them talk for themselves. In many cases, they are using the advances associated with the original question (by Wigner, who was pondering the glee being raised by some - oh yes, we can now pollute in ways that are unfathomable to grasp). Based upon what? Oh, Russell said that, Frege said this, whoever said that, ... Circularity (well, tautology, okay?). ... We have to ask, how the heck can this conglomeration of wetware, ourselves (even Spock), rise above the swamp creatures that we are (lizard brains, one Quora guy, says here). Again, let us count the ways ().

      Knowing-ness (differs from the first and second bullets, in this sense - let's say, autodidact - independent and wise - knows the gamut). This implies the ability of which we see the effect of without knowing how to affect that state (so desired by many - but which is right outside the grasping fingers?). Too, note that there are all sorts of knowing types that we have to address (the more sensitive thinkers have, at least, opened their eyes a little).

      This list can be extended in the Wiki piece (via Answers, remember the rules). In fact, a look at the categorizations that have come about is about due, except we're not writing a book here. Outlining one, perhaps. 
Remarks:   Modified: 08/11/2015

08/11/2015 -- First posted on 8/7; Quasi-empiricism has been a constant theme in this blog. So, there is no insincerity.

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