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[ontolog-forum] On theory, ref. ontolog-forum Digest, Vol 57, Issue 1, n

To: <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: DLThomas@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "H.M. Gladney" <hgladney@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 3 Nov 2007 19:03:12 -0700
Message-id: <002501c81e86$db34ca20$6401a8c0@HMG2>

John Sowa drew my attention to the following sentences in the cited note. 

"Yes, "let's get on with the engineering."   We are proponents of what we call "theory-based semantics," meaning that from our perspective, the facts of the observable world are understood according to the theory that binds them.   Knowledge = Theory + Information, or Knowledge = Theory + Reality.  Well justified theory, such as scientific, axiomatic value-based understandings, business (buy low sell high, its better to have it sooner than later), etc., are more important than unfounded imagination.   Theory lasts decades, centuries and millenniums and makes sense of our world as we encounter it.  It understands the who, what, when, where and how much information of situations and circumstances.  For this reason, theory is also predictive."

The sentences beginning with "Theory lasts decades ..." strike me as much better poetry than science, because they can be read to suggest that theory has existence apart from mankind--whereas many philosophers, starting with Kant, took pains to position theory as a human construction.  The quoted passage almost makes theory a sentient and rational entity instead of an abstract concept set.

And the final sentence does not correspond to the last century's role of theory in the hard sciences.  Specifically, theories are human conceptual constructions (often mathematical) put forward initially as conjectures, which we reject if they do not predict correctly.  I.e., a theory that does not predict does not survive, because WE CHOOSE to ignore it (except as an example of wrong thinking).

Cheerio, Henry
H.M. Gladney, Ph.D.  http://home.pacbell.net/hgladney

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