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Re: [ontolog-forum] {Disarmed} Reality and Truth

To: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Patrick Durusau <patrick@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 07 May 2007 17:41:14 -0400
Message-id: <463F9CFA.3010508@xxxxxxxxxxx>
John,    (01)

John F. Sowa wrote:    (02)

> Patrick,
> There is no difference between those two claims:
> > It is one thing to claim that a theory is compelling, etc.
> > but quite another to claim that it correctly describes
> > "the true nature of reality."
> If you have a theory that makes correct predictions in every
> case that anyone has ever been able to devise for many centuries,
> then it "correctly describes the true nature of reality."  That
> does not mean it is a *total* description or that there are no
> other equally correct theories.  But it *does* mean that you have
> discovered an important part of the truth.
>    (03)

Why isn't it sufficient to say that a theory makes correct predictions 
in every case we have encountered? Isn't that enough?    (04)

I am not sure what more you could ask of any theory, that is that for 
every case encountered it made the correct prediction.    (05)

It certainly supports the use of such a theory should be relied upon as 
a basis for other theories.    (06)

Moreover, I can use a theory that has always given the correct 
prediction whether or not I think it describes some "truth" or not. In 
other words, use of the theory does not depend upon its elevation to the 
category of being "truth."    (07)

By the same token, if someone offers a theory that does not give correct 
predictions or that relies upon what I suspect are fanciful premises, 
i.e., airplanes fly because the motors attract fairies that carry the 
plane aloft, I can ignore that theory because it is less useful than 
some other theory. Such as calculating the thrust needed by a jet engine 
to propel the next generation of jet aircraft. I don't ever have to 
reach the issue of "truth" but can rely upon theories that I find useful 
for some particular task.    (08)

> Newtonian mechanics, in fact, is such a theory.  During the past
> century, physicists have discovered phenomena of relativity and
> quantum mechanics, for which Newtonian mechanics makes incorrect
> predictions.  However, for macroscopic phenomena at nonrelativistic
> speeds (i.e., for cars and airplanes) Newtonian mechanics is a true
> description of reality.  I trust my life to Newtonian mechanics
> whenever I drive a car or fly in a plane.
>> A friend of mine sent me the following example:
>> There is an elementary model in electrical engineering, called
>> the "4-terminal network".  The thing is a closed ebony container,
>> with an input, an input return, an output, and an output return.
>> The student is given a set of inputs and outputs, and asked to make 
>> the simplest thing that he can which could be substituted for the 
>> actual contents of the container.  The problem of what is _actually_ 
>> inside the container is dismissed as impossible.
> That is an excellent example.
> If anyone defines a theory (i.e., a set of axioms) that correctly
> predict the output for every conceivable input, then I would say
> that the theory is a true description of the behavior of that box.
First, "every conceivable input" isn't really possible. Testing is 
always with a finite set of inputs.    (09)

Second, I would say that a theory (set of axioms) that correctly 
predicts all the inputs we have tried is simply accurate. That is it 
agrees with the inputs and predicted outputs.    (010)

Calling a theory "true" or "part of truth" doesn't make it any more or 
less accurate. The aether theory was at one time thought to be "true" 
but that did not save it from being superceded.    (011)

I suppose that is what I am missing. What claim is it, beyond accuracy 
(agreement of theory with observations), that you want to make by saying 
something is "part of the truth?" (If any claim at all. I may simply be 
over-reading your statement to imply more than it is actually saying.)    (012)

Hope you are having a great day!    (013)

Patrick    (014)

Patrick Durusau
Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
Member, Text Encoding Initiative Board of Directors, 2003-2005    (015)

Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!     (016)

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