We appear to be pretty far apart. Perhaps more in our language, and how
we choose to use it, than in the way (if we could trade spectacles for a
moment) the world really looks to us. Let me reply interleaved here...
On Thu, 2 Nov 1995, Michael McMaster wrote:
> Jim, I like the challenges of this conversation.
...and I too. More than I can say.
> But wait! Isn't, in the way that I've posited things, the Newtonian
> concept just another story. Never mind that it's a story that can't handle
> being referred to as a story. That's *its* problem, not our problem. It
> is, after all, a story that does have some utility.
This sort of sounds like an effort to mediate between two sides in an
industrial dispute. But I can make no sense out of positing that the
Newtonian universe is 'just another story'. If you are referring to the
events in Western intellectual history as Newton's accomplishments were
assimilated into the general texture of scientific and philosophical
thought: well, yes, that's a story, even by my definition. But to refer
to Newtonian law itself as "a story" seems a needless confusion. What
problem does that solve for us?
> > > Good stories, I think, are exemplifications of "laws" which provide
> > > the detail, the richness, the deepened understanding of those laws.
> > This is exactly what, on my view, stories are _not_. The series of
> > singular events which is my life,
> Where did this comment come from? Where do you find "singular events
> which is my life" in what I said? *All* that I said is that stories add
> richness. This neither suggests nor excludes what you said.
I think it _does_ imply the proposition to which I was objecting. The
argument would go something like this:
(1) Good stories...are exemplifications of laws... .
(2) My life is a good story
(3) Therefore my life exemplifies [one or more] laws
...and, of course, (3) is what I deny, regardless of whose life is being
referred to. If the conclusion is false, then one of the two premises
must be false, or else the syllogism is not valid. The syllogism is valid,
so either (1) or (2) is false. I'm not about to deny (2), so that leaves
(1) as the defective premise.
Well, there's one necessary relationship I can think between story and
law: scientific experimentation. By definition, an experiment is a story
in my sense of a sequence of singular events. I need to prove/disprove a
theory, so I interrogate the universe: "if theory A is right, my apparatus
will do THIS; if the experiment does anything else, then theory A is
Hm. But the law itself abstracts so completely from the experiment that
the events -- the story -- disappears entirely. Ha. Yes. That's the
point exactly. The law of gravity doesn't even mention things like
planets. Physical laws are not, in a sense, _about_ anything in
particular, because they are about everything in general. Thus the
opposition between law and story. My original question was: how can a
story contain information? In a universe governed solely by Newtonian
physical laws, no one story can contain useful information that another
one doesn't; all stories, since they take place in the same universe,
represent the same set of laws, and are therefore identical.
But stories _do_ contain information (and, as we have all seen on this
group, wisdom, and profound human transformation).
Haven't we all heard the word "anecdotal" used to dismiss the information
content of someone's story -- say in medicine?
> And I am quite happy to use your language of patterns. That gets away
> from some of the Newtonian baggage of *laws*.
It does. Part of my interest in this area arises from exactly this
reflection. Newton's successes had, for one of their aftereffects, the
conceptual "mechanisation" of the universe and everything in it. This
very group is, among other things, helping its members outgrow numerous
"mechanical" ways of understanding human interaction and organization that
are themselves remnants of the Newtonian hegemony.
Look at the sorry history of AI. Almost to a man, early researchers
systematically confused _patterning_ activity with _rule-following_ (i.e.
lawlike) activity. (The last couple of chapters of Hubert Dreyfus' book,
which I just finished earlier today -- and immediately started again --
are in places eloquent in showing that confusion and its consequences.)
> Again, I think you missed my point. *Connectors* doesn't imply that
> the theories are explicit. It suggests that ways are being supplied,
> frequently implicily, to connect something which is more abstract to
> something in experience.
> But you do raise something interesting - again.
> > The kind of
> > stories that provoked me to start thinking about this contain and
> > communicate useful knowledge, but they don't seem to be based on theories
> > at all. The fleece inspector, the silent consultant story, Tom Burke's
> > story, Jack Hirschfeld's story of the rabbi saving his town, and many
> > other stories that we have told each other here -- I don't find any
> > theories in these stories. All I find are the events, and -- somehow --
> > the wisdom, but no theories.
> I suggest that you find no theories in these stories because the
> theories are the presuppositions of the stories.
I find wisdom, but no theories either explicit, implicit, or presupposed.
I find human acts, perceptions, and events, so ordered that they move me
emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. The story does its work on
me without being an example of a theory or law. I don't understand how
this can be.
The way that I use
> theories is not some grand, exclusive and scientific sense but the
> everyday sense of understandings of the way things work. (Maybe what
> you are calling patterns?)
Yeah maybe. Certainly a lot of the distance between us disappears if you
substitute "pattern" for "law". I have to think about this some more.
I need this sort of challenge. Without it I'd turn to mush. Thanks.
-- Regards Jim Michmerhuizen firstname.lastname@example.org web residence at http://world.std.com/~jamzen/ ........................................................................... . . . . There are far *fewer* things in heaven and earth, Horatio, . . . . . . . . . than are dreamt of in your philosophy... . . | _ .