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Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Prediction of events with some component of randomness is necessarily uncertain—to think otherwise is to misunderstand the whole endeavor. The fault here is not with the scientists, for predicting incorrectly, but with the public for believing this prediction came with certainty. To suppress predictors of random events for predicting incorrectly is to court ignorance and block progress, as it discourages the very research which will one day improve our ability to predict such events.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Similarly, esprit de corps, class bias, national pride, and even the narrowest minded local patriotism may have high value, for certain purposes. But such attitudes will not be shared by the broad-minded inquirer, at least not in moments of research. All such egoistic views are adequate only for practical purposes. Of course, even the inquirer may succumb to habit. Trifling pedantries and nonsensical discussions, the cunning appropriation of others' thoughts, with perfidious silence as to the sources, the metaphorical dysphagia suffered when recognition must be given, and the crooked illumination of others' performances when this is done, abundantly show that the scientist and scholar have also the battle of existence to fight, that the ways of science still lead to the mouth, and that the pure quest of knowledge in our present social conditions is still an ideal.
~ Ernst Mach (1885) Contributiosn to the Analysis of the Sensations
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Dealing with logical (rather than physical) possibility, the only plausible purpose of thought experiments is conceptual clarification through appeal to intuition;
Intuitions by their very nature may only be used to investigate intuitive concepts; yet
Firstly, there is no guarantee either that intuitive concepts may be made sufficiently precise, nor even if they can be, made sufficiently relevant for the problems of philosophy; and
Secondly, the assertion that intuitive concepts are indeed so relevant begs a mere statistical survey of "folk" intuitions on their content, a procedure widely reviled yet nevertheless the inevitable consequence of the practice of appeals to intuition in general and thought experiments in particular;
Consequently, thought experiments can serve no purpose in philosophical discourse other than to distract from and avoid real philosophical issues, and to block, misdirect from, and otherwise frustrate the precise definition of concepts constructive for clarifying philosophical problems through the red herring of intuition;
I vow never to utilize thought experiments in my philosophy, nor to succumb to the temptation to appeal merely to intuition, when considerations of philosophical work may direct my conceptual clarification in a more constructive direction than that of mere intuitive appeal.