[ExI] Increasing coherence over increasing context? Or Truth?

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Thu May 21 22:31:52 UTC 2009

Jef writes

>> I paid $400 for a high precision thermometer because
>> I got too interested in the "exact" temperatures of
>> my various living rooms. It claims... one-tenth
>> of a degree Fahrenheit. Now when I turn it on, and
>> look skeptically at it as it fluctuates a bit, and
>> I compare it to my cheaper thermometers, I testify
>> that I have this in mind: I want to know the average
>> temperature that the world's greatest scientists
>> would report if they'd spent billions of dollars
>> instrumenting the various rooms of my house. Since
>> I do understand the kinetic theory of gases and
>> I know that my instrument (and theirs) must vacillate
>> a great deal, I think I do understand (you may
>> disagree) the nonexistence of an infinitely
>> precise temperature (given by some real number r).
> First let's recognize the absurdity of your implication that any
> measurement could be "infinitely" precise.

But what I wrote was "...I do understand the non-
existence of an infinitely precise temperature."

> Next, are you conflating the actual state of the air molecules in the
> room with *knowledge* of their state?

No. Clearly the real state of the air molecules
can only interact with sensors via certain laws
of physics (at any instant---whatever that means
under QM), and so as Kant might mutter, we
cannot know the thing in itself.

Visually, since at least age 18, I've pictured
knowledge as residing (almost always) in the
heads of entities, while what they know *about*
lies outside.

> I will observe here, again, that you seem to be searching for Truth by
> looking closer and closer, rather than finding truth in the
> regularities observable in the bigger picture.

That could be a key difference, good point.

So very often I do want to look closer and closer
into things, and often don't find the context
informative. (Of course, there are plenty of
examples where this is obviously a very dumb
thing to do.) Sometimes we really do look to
the 3rd or 4th significant difference in a
measurement, where the context is
understood (say a science laboratory).

I snipped your interesting remarks about my
*analyzing* paragraphs by focusing on key
sentences within them. I, for one, perhaps
expecting the same, try to be pretty careful
with each sentence; but sure, it's pretty
dangerous to take sentences one-by-one.

When I do that, I think I'm trying to focus
in on what seem to be signatures of conceptual
errors or conceptual disagreements. I'll try
to stop with your posts.

>> Take the temperature example again. Yes, I
>> can admit that many people have a rather
>> naive view of what temperature is (never
>> having even heard any phrase like "mean
>> kinetic energy" in their lives), but does
>> it really lead to bad planning, bad investment,
>> or wrong-headed approaches in practical life?
> Yes.  it's analogous to how our national security apparatus has
> traditionally operated more like a surgical team than as an immune
> system, and how we see politics more as zero-sum conflict over
> scarcity than positive-sum cooperation for increasing abundance. And
> how most of us still see moral issues in terms of what is Right (the
> inherited context), or in terms of maximizing expected utility (the
> presently perceived context), but rarely in terms of promoting an
> increasing context of increasingly coherent [hierarchical,
> fine-grained] evolving values into an ever-broadening future.

Those errors are familiarly categorized also by
those of us who either have acquired some wisdom
(e.g. about economics). Sorry, I've tried, but I
still draw a blank when trying to do more than
superficially place such errors/bad habits into
the great scheme of things, including "the
ever-broadening future".


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