Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dykes on Karl Popper (update)

Contingencies announces an exciting new series of posts on Karl Popper, and Popper's mistakes, with assistance from one Nicholas Dykes, an English writer and philosopher of science (that does not mean, except to the dysfunctional, that we completely buy libertarianism, or the Objectivism that Dykes sometimes leans towards (as in Ayn-Randian Ob.). Regardless, Dykes brings up some important points criticizing Popper's "Critical Rationalism", as the following passages indicate:

""""Popper built his philosophy on foundations borrowed from Hume and Kant. His first premise was wholehearted acceptance of Hume's attack on induction. The second, to be addressed in the next section, was agreement with Kant's view that it is our ideas which give form to reality, not reality which gives form to our ideas.

Hume, whom Popper called "one of the most rational minds of all ages" [PKP2 1019], is renowned for elaborating the 'problem of induction' - a supposedly logical proof that generalisations from observation are invalid. Most later philosophers have accepted Hume's arguments, and libraries have been filled with attempts to solve his 'problem.'

Popper thought he had the answer. "I believed I had solved the problem of induction by the simple discovery that induction by repetition did not exist" [UNQ 52; c.f. OKN 1ff & PKP2 1115]. What really took place, according to Popper, was CR, knowledge advancing by means of conjecture and refutation: "... in my view here is no such thing as induction" [LSCD 40]; "what characterises the empirical method is its manner of exposing to falsification, in every conceivable way, the system to be tested" [LSCD 42].""""

Good, if a somewhat naive reading of Hume's points on induction. Not so naive readings would consist of awareness of undecidability of various issues, whether in sciences or social sciences. The current problems with identifying all the causal factors associated with global warming (ie CO2: culprit or benign? most likely benign) and atmospheric physics somewhat Humean. Few humans would care to wager on weather predictions for say October, or the stock market, or World Series). At the same time, unpredictable is not the same as undetermined (a point Bricmont makes, rather forcefully, and with boo-coo partial derivatives).

Dykes does not address falsification in much depth either; we might also question whether Hume's skepticism regarding induction entails Popper's falsification ("what characterises the empirical method is its manner of exposing to falsification, in every conceivable way, the system to be tested"). Popper tends to be a bit "conclusionary" himself; at the same time, much empirical research (whether in sciences, economics, social science, history, etc) does often relate to Popperian themes (even statisticians are ad hoc Popperians. Confidence intervals, margins of error, sampling problems---not to say reliability of any data. That is Popperian (or perhaps Kuhnian, who updates KP)).

""""Hume, said Popper, had shown that: "there is no argument of reason which permits an inference from one case to another... and I completely agree" [OKN 96]. Elsewhere he referred to induction as "a myth" which had been "exploded" by Hume [UNQ 80]. He further asserted that "There is no rule of inductive inference - inference leading to theories or universal laws - ever proposed which can be taken seriously even for a minute" [UNQ 146-7; see also RASC 31].

The Problem with 'The Problem'

Popper's solution was certainly correct in one respect. The problem of induction would indeed vanish if there were no such thing as induction. However, the issue would be resolved much more positively were it to turn out that Hume had been wrong, and that there never had been any problem with induction in the first place. And, in point of fact, this is the case. Despite his great skill as a thinker and writer, Hume missed the point. Induction does not depend for its validity on observation, but on the Law of Identity.

Hume stated, in essence, that since all ideas are derived from experience we cannot have any valid ideas about future events - which have yet to be experienced. He therefore denied that the past can give us any information about the future. He further denied that there is any necessary connection between cause and effect. We experience only repeated instances, we cannot experience any "power" that actually causes events to take place. Events are entirely "loose and separate.... conjoined but never connected."8

According to Hume, then, one has no guarantee that the hawthorn in an English hedge will not bear grapes next autumn, nor that the thistles in a nearby field won't produce figs. The expectation that the thorn will produce red berries, and the thistles purple flowers, is merely the result of "regular conjunction" which induces an "inference of the understanding."9 In Hume's view, there is no such thing as objective identity, there is only subjective "custom" or "habit."

However, Hume also wrote: "When any opinion leads to absurdities, it is certainly false"10 and the idea that one might gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles is surely absurd enough to qualify. And false is what Hume's opinions most certainly are. Left standing, they lead to what he himself called "the flattest of all contradictions, viz. that it is possible for the same thing both to be and not to be.""""""

OK, but at the same time, the law of identity is a logical law, and analytically true: 5 squared will always equal 25. The pythagorean theorem (identities regarding the relationship of a right triangle) holds whereever you are, as does modus ponens or the law of non-contradiction and other logical givens (some freaks might dispute the LONC: they are mistaken). But a rose might be red this year, white next year, or non-existent. The naive reader of Hume (or Popper) utters "the bastard's saying inductive knowledge, indeed science, is impossible"! Yet the real point concerns epistemology: whatever sort of knowledge induction is, it is NOT logical and mathematical. Yes, ceteris paribus as they say, the roses will probably be red, and our observations about regular order to nature will be confirmed, and we will grant, reluctantly, that Hume (and his disciple Popper) may have overstated the case for subjectivity. But that "that bush with red roses will, nearly with certainty, have red roses next year" is not necessary in the sense of 5 squared equals 25; a botanist knowledgable in Mendelian genetics could hardly predict the flower's exact shape or form or color.

Dykes errors at least slightly here: evolution itself shows adaptationism (as Popper, often somewhat Darwinian, realized). What appear to be regularities often are not (especially over centuries); probability always enters the picture with inductive knowledge, and in many cases, even with hard sciences (say medicine) things may remain unresolved; Wittgenstein in the Tractatus often seemed somewhat Humean: "We cannot infer the events of the future from those of the present. Superstition is nothing but belief in the causal nexus." (TLP, 5.1361). At the very least inductive knowledge is NOT the same as the axiomatic knowledge of logic and mathematics, whether one holds that axiomatic knolwedge to be a priori or not.

"""""The crux of the case against Hume was stated in 1916 by H.W.B. Joseph in An Introduction to Logic: "A thing, to be at all, must be something, and can only be what it is. To assert a causal connexion between a and x implies that a acts as it does because it is what it is; because, in fact, it is a. So long therefore as it is a, it must act thus; and to assert that it may act otherwise on a subsequent occasion is to assert that what is a is something else than the a which it is declared to be."12 Hume's whole argument - persuasive though it may be - is, to borrow Joseph's words, "in flat conflict with the Law of Identity."13

Existence implies identity. It is not possible to exist without being something, and a thing can only be what it is: A is A. Any actions of that thing form part of its identity: "the way in which it acts must be regarded as a partial expression of what it is."14 Thus to deny any connection between a thing, its actions, and their consequences, is to assert that the thing is not what it is; it is to defy the Law of Identity.

It is not necessary to prolong this discussion. Entities exist. They possess identity. By careful observation - free from preconception - we are able to discover the identities of the entities we observe. Thereafter, we are fully entitled to assume that like entities will cause like events, the form of inference we call induction. And, because it rests on the axiom of the Law of Identity, correct induction - free from contradiction - is a valid route to knowledge. The first premise of CR is therefore false."""""

That "law" works with equations, functions, numbers, argument forms. Does it work with roses or roosters? Not quite. There's an egg. Safe bet that if a chick hatches it will have one head. Then after a few years, a two-headed bird appears! Sacre bleu! St. Hume at work again.

"""""There is nonetheless a substantial grain of truth in Hume's position, or few philosophers would have followed him. The grain lies in the precision of our knowledge of future events. Hume denied all knowledge of the future because we can have no experience of it. As we have seen, this is not true, it overlooks the Law of Identity. What is true, is that our prediction of events is limited by the unforeseeable. An 'O' ring may fail and destroy an otherwise reliable spacecraft; an icy road surface may cause a pristine Rolls-Royce to crash. For, no matter how sound our judgement nor wide our experience, we cannot possibly have complete, certain and absolute knowledge of future events. We are not omniscient: all kinds of unforeseen happenings may intervene to spoil even the best laid of our plans. Further, new information about old subjects continuously comes to light and, over time, things can evolve or change. Nonetheless, armed with the Law of Identity, there is no reason to allow the unforeseeable to turn us into sceptics. The universe is not a series of "loose and separate events" any more than time is a series of discrete, unrelated segments of duration.

It should also be noted that, in fact, all knowledge of entities, and all knowledge of language, is acquired inductively. A child's knowledge of apples, for example, is based on a very limited sampling. A student's knowledge of the word 'inference' is founded on a similarly narrow acquaintance. If it were true that induction is a myth, then all knowledge of external reality, all language, and all human thought - which depends on knowledge of reality and on language - would be myths as well, including, of course, CR...."

That's the naive reading of Hume again. Hume read his Newton fairly closely (supposedly), and does not really suggest radical skepticism: he's saying inductive knowledge, whatever it is, does not operate like deductive knowledge operates. Yes, the cannonball trajectory, if we know all the parameters and initial conditions (another problem), will nearly with certainty follow a predictable parabolic path. Yet whatever it is that gives that regularity is not at all the same as the pythagorean theorem. It's damn near certain, but not necessary (that's not to suggest that we take a naive reading of quantum physics and uphold "non-locality" either; locality appears to be the default position (as Bricmont also argues). Hume arguably does not deny determinism, and is not as subjective as Dykes believes, nor is Popper: Hume's doing epistemology, not physics. If determinism does hold for physical reality and our knowledge of the physical world, it's a quite a different type of thinking than the axiomatic thinking of logic and mathematics (though that's not to make claims for any quasi-platonic dualism either).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Reverend Obama, continued.

From Yahoo news:

""""On Tuesday, touring Presbyterian Church-based social services facility, the Democratic senator said he would get religious charities more involved in government anti-poverty efforts if elected.

"We need an all-hands-on-deck approach," he said at Eastside Community Ministry.

The event was part of a series leading into Friday's Fourth of July holiday aimed at reassuring skeptical voters and shifting away from being stamped as part of the Democratic Party's most liberal wing.

He said the connection of religion and public service was nothing new in his personal life.

Obama showed he was comfortable using the kind of language that is familiar in evangelical churches and Bible studies by calling his faith "a personal commitment to Christ." He said that his time as a community organizer in decimated Chicago neighborhoods, supported in part by a Catholic group, brought him to a deeper faith and also convinced him that faith is useless without works.....yada yada yada"""""""

The BO-Train, proceeding according to planz. ObamaCo played the hipster leftist-progressive while at battle with Hillary (and humiliated her as often as possible), and now does the switcheroo to biblethumper (invoke "faith and communi-tay," quote Reagan, appease neo-cons like David Brooks, etc.) to get the xtian hicks on his side. Hustling the presbyterians, no less: prezbo's sort of like baptist trash who passed an accounting course or two (see Voltaire on Presbyterian England and scotland for details, or Hume, for that matter (presbo's circa 18th century carried torches outside DH's chateau).

(update: anyone who reads this or any other posts critical of B.O. as pro-McCain or GOP should be locked down and sedated. Opposing B.O.'s move to vichycratism (google "Feinstein" for a definition) does not at all imply supporting McLame's rather more alarming Reaganist-hawk perspective, or joining his supporters at the WF Buckley Hall. It means, more than likely, supporting the DFV party. Don't F-n Vote. (that's not exactly a vote for that libertarian quack Ron Paul either, yet at least his hands are mostly clean)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Barack Obama's homie, David Brooks

Alex Cockburn recently penned some thoughts on Obama's supposed shift to the right:

" of the New York Times’s extensive stable of neo-conservative columnists, David Brooks, was fretting that a statement Obama had made after Bush’s Knesset speech did indeed constitute “appeasement”, indicating he had drifted off into “Noam Chomskyland”. Obama’s sin had been to say that “it’s time to engage in diplomatic efforts to build a new Lebanese consensus,” focusing on electoral reform, an end to a corrupt patronage system and the promotion of an equitable economy.

So anguished was Brooks by these dread prospects that he phoned Obama who promptly furnished answers resoundingly mollifying the columnist’s suspicions. According to Brooks, Obama said that “in some ways he’d be tougher than the Bush administration”, doing more, to take one specific example, to arm the Lebanese military. (This schedules a bloodbath in Lebanon in Year One or Two of the Obama administration.) Obama’s bottom line to Brooks was straight-up Caesarism: “The [U.S.] generals are light-years ahead of the civilians. They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough.”

Representin', y'all

Those few dissenting anti-B.O. voices on KOS (now mostly moderated, banned, deleted) do not appear to be so off-the-mark after all. Obama's response to Bush's Knesset speech featured other interesting allusions which Cockburn neglected to mention, including a positive reference to those two GOP hepcats, Reagan and Nixon: "Instead of tough talk and no action, we need to do what Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan did and use all elements of American power - including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy - to pressure countries like Iran and Syria." Contingencies doesn't really trip on that, but it would seem that many an old-school Demo might.

Americans should expect General Obama to appear a few weeks after his electoral victory in 11/2008. (insta-qualification: though one might object to Cockburn's occasional Leninist aspects {tho' Cockburn seems une petite romantique for marxist orthodoxy), A.C. did, with assistance from quite a few respected scientists, point out corp-shill Al Gore's shoddy research in regards to global warming. Of course that hasn't stopped Obama from embracing Gore's pop-green agenda....(sponsored by Chevy, Chevron, Occi, and many others)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oratory of Power

In architecture the pride of man, his triumph over gravitation, his will to power, assume a visible form. Architecture is a sort of oratory of power by means of forms.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Papal mass at Yankee stadium (the "cathedral").

And the underside of power, ala Jameson:

"Of all the arts, architecture is the closest constitutively to the economic, with which, in the form of commissions and land values, it has a virtually unmediated relationship. It will therefore not be surprising to find the extraordinary flowering of the new postmodern architecture grounded in the patronage of multinational business, whose expansion and development is strictly contemporaneous with it. Later I will suggest that these two new phenomena have an even deeper dialectical interrelationship than the simple one-to-one financing of this or that individual project. Yet this is the point at which I must remind the reader of the obvious; namely, that this whole global, yet American, postmodern culture is the internal and superstructural expression of a whole new wave of American military and economic domination throughout the world: in this sense, as throughout class history, the underside of culture is blood, torture, death, and terror....."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Buchanan's thesis

Pat Buchanan--not one of Contingencies' fave pundits--recently produced a tome which has created a bit of a stir among the east coast literati. PJB suggests that WWII was an unnecessary exercise for the most part, and that the real culprit behind the tragedies of the 20th century was none other than Winston Churchill. To a certain degree, this is not, prima facie, such an outrageous claim. Tho' lacking the time (and energy) to engage in some lengthy quasi-Spenglerian analysis of the causal factors leading to the Sausage Grinder circa 1914 to 1945, I would advise the bright Biff and Bunny's out in ConsumerLand (budding history buffs, like most petite-booj-wah) to read between the lines of the official Boneheadburg Jr. College history text, and soon, yass, soon Biff will realize that the Brits were definitely aiding and abetting the wolf-packs of the Kaiser, and of the brownshirts, and finally those of Der Fuhrer (indeed, Contingencies includes the sinking of RMS Lusitania on the Conspiracy Inc. laundry list).

At the same time, any reasonable non-nihilist should take issue with the Buchanan sort of isolationism (or pop-isolationism. Even that much maligned do-gooder Woodrow Wilson took issue with isolationism back in the dark days of 1917-18). Blog-lands' favorite cynic du jour, Christopher Hitchens, takes issue with Buchanan's thesis. Hitch. vs PJB and we lean towards the oxford dweeb rather than that old Reaganite orator, PJB, tho' with some reservations. Here's some of PJB's sancto-speak:

PJB: Morality — Trotskyite vs. Christian
(by Patrick J. Buchanan)

"""""Did Hitler’s crimes justify the Allies’ terror-bombing of Germany?
Indeed they did, answers Christopher Hitchens in his Newsweek response to my new book, “Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War“: “The stark evidence of the Final Solution has ever since been enough to dispel most doubts about, say, the wisdom or morality of carpet-bombing German cities.”

Atheist, Trotskyite and newborn neocon, Hitchens embraces the morality of lex talionis: an eye for an eye. If Germans murdered women and children, the British were morally justified in killing German women and children.

According to British historians, however, Churchill ordered the initial bombing of German cities on his first day in office, the very first day of the Battle of France, on May 10, 1940.

After the fall of France, Churchill wrote Lord Beaverbrook, minister of air
production: “When I look round to see how we can win the war, I see that there is only one sure path … an absolutely devastating, exterminating attack by very heavy bombers from this country upon the Nazi homeland.”

“Exterminating attack,” said Churchill. By late 1940, writes historian Paul Johnson, “British bombers were being used on a great and increasing scale to kill and frighten the German civilian population in their homes.” “The adoption of terror bombing was a measure of Britain’s desperation,” writes Johnson. “So far as air strategy was concerned,” adds British historian A.J.P. Taylor, “the British outdid German frightfulness first in theory, later in practice, and a nation which claimed to be fighting for a moral cause gloried in the extent of its immoral acts.”

The chronology is crucial to Hitchens’ case.

Late 1940 was a full year before the mass deportations from the Polish ghettos to Treblinka and Sobibor began. Churchill had ordered the indiscriminate bombing of German cities and civilians before the Nazis had begun to execute the Final Solution.
By Hitchens’ morality and logic, Germans at Nuremberg might have asserted a right to kill women and children because that is what the British were doing to their women and children.

After the fire-bombing of Dresden in 1945, Churchill memoed his air chiefs: “It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed.”

Churchill concedes here what the British had been about in Dresden. Under Christian and just-war theory, the deliberate killing of civilians in wartime is forbidden. Nazis were hanged for such war crimes.

Did the Allies commit acts of war for which we hanged Germans?

When we recall that Josef Stalin’s judges sat beside American and British judges at Nuremberg, and one of the prosecutors there was Andrei Vishinsky, chief prosecutor in Stalin’s show trails, the answer has to be yes.

While Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were surely guilty of waging aggressive war in September 1939, Stalin and his comrades had joined the Nazis in the rape of Poland, and had raped Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, as well. Scores of thousands of civilians in the three Baltic countries were murdered.
Yet, at Nuremberg, Soviets sat in judgment of their Nazi accomplices, and had the temerity to accuse the Nazis of the Katyn Forest massacre of the Polish officer corps that the Soviets themselves had committed.

Americans fought alongside British soldiers in a just and moral war from 1941 to 1945. But we had as allies a Bolshevik monster whose hands dripped with the blood of millions of innocents murdered in peacetime. And to have Stalin’s judges sit beside Americans at Nuremberg gave those trials an aspect of hypocrisy that can never be erased.

At Nuremberg, Adm. Erich Raeder was sentenced to prison for life for the invasion of neutral Norway. Yet Raeder’s ships arrived 24 hours before British ships and marines of an operation championed by Winston Churchill.

The British had planned to violate Norwegian neutrality first and seize Norwegian ports to deny Germany access to the Swedish iron ore being transshipped through them. For succeeding where Churchill failed, Raeder was condemned as a war criminal and sent to prison.

The London Charter of the International Military Tribunal decided that at Nuremberg only the crimes of Axis powers would be prosecuted and that among those crimes would be a newly invented “crimes against humanity.” This decree was issued Aug. 8, 1945, 48 hours after we dropped the first atom bomb on Hiroshima and 24 hours before we dropped the second on Nagasaki.

We and the British judiciously decided not to prosecute the Nazis for the bombing of London and Coventry.

It was an understandable decision, and one that surely Gen. Curtis LeMay concurred in, as LeMay had boasted at war’s end, “We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people in Tokyo that night of March 9-10 than went up in vapor in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.”

After the war, a lone Senate voice arose to decry what was taking place at Nuremberg as “victor’s justice.” Ten years later, a young colleague would declare the late Robert A. Taft “A Profile in Courage” for having spoken up against ex post facto justice. The young senator was John F. Kennedy.""""""

Hitchens may be a bit callous: Buchanan, on the other hand, tends to the absurd. It is rather absurd to suppose the Brits would not retaliate with, like, as heavy bombing and invasion as was feasible at the time (tho' yeah Dresden was probably not phunn. Nor was Nagasaki. C'est le guerre). So Hitch. at least scores by noting Buchanan's own myopia: PJB complains about the Allies' bombing while not bothering to mention the liquidation of jewish, polish, roma, czechs, russian, POWs, and even non-nazi germans. The drah-mah may be trite at this stage, yet at the same time, stare at some pics of the mass graves, and like , er, forward your packet of Ted Kacynski to PJB's addy.................

Friday, July 11, 2008

Freeman Dyson on The Dogma of Global Warming

Ah some clear-headed thinking from Doc Dyson guaran-f-n-teed to irk the faithful of the Church of Al-Gore-in-the-Field:

"""My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models."""""


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

"All America is an asylum.""

Ez in da house ("with usura.....")

""""By the mid-1950's various influential figures and magazines were campaigning for Pound's release. After 13 years confinement, Pound's treason indictment was dismissed on 18 April 1958...On 30 June he set sail for Italy, giving the Fascist salute to journalists when he reached Naples, and declaring "all America is an asylum.""

"Exitus acta probat"

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Evangelicals, Inc.

B.O. representin' for old-time religion:

""""" Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama promised a more active approach to faith-based social programs on Tuesday in a bid to bolster his support among evangelical and religious voters.

Obama visited a community ministry in a conservative region of the election battleground state of Ohio to unveil a plan to reinvigorate faith-based community programs first pioneered by President George W. Bush.

The Illinois senator, who will face Republican John McCain in November's presidential election, said he would put more money and emphasis on strengthening the link between government and community faith programs.


"The fact is, the challenges we face today -- from saving our planet to ending poverty -- are simply too big for government to solve alone," Obama said. "We need an all-hands-on-deck approach."

McCain and Obama are gearing up for a pitched battle for evangelical support in November's election. Neither candidate has inspired strong enthusiasm in the religious community, normally a core Republican bloc. """""

Americuns will be asked to decide on their choice of protestant Rapture, links oder rechts: Obama, and Reverend Wright, Phleger, Rev. Oprah, Jackson, Sharpton etc. OR McCain, and Rev. Hagee, and the rest of the GOP biblethumpers-- Or the Contingencies write-in, Senor N.O.T.A. Halle-loo-jah (see HL Mencken's prognostications regarding a calvinist regime for details).
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