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Re: [ontolog-forum] History of the Atomic Hypothesis

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2008 23:14:58 -0400
Message-id: <488E8B32.3020906@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Len,    (01)

Thanks for the support:    (02)

LY> I believe John is trying for a very long time and with some
 > notable success to use Pierce's theory as such unifying framework.
 > I support him on this 100%.    (03)

But I'd like to clarify the point.  I believe that Peirce's theory
of signs provides a unifying methodology for viewing the many
different perspectives that one can have on anything.  But some
of those perspectives may be incompatible, and therefore, it might
not be possible to believe all of them at the same time.    (04)

As an example, consider the various kinds of "optical illusions",
which can be interpreted in different, mutually exclusive ways,
but not at the same time.    (05)

But for any of those illusions, there is a consistent way of
interpreting and describing the underlying figure that creates
those illusions.  That description, which explains how the
illusion arises, subsumes both, but in a way that destroys
both illusions -- i.e., from that point of view, it is not
possible to "see" either illusion, although it enables one
to see how other observers could "see" one or another of
the illusory views.    (06)

I believe that many of the conflicting views that intelligent
people hold arise from a process of seeing one side an illusion.
But it's not always possible to know that one is seeing the
world through an illusion.  Sometimes the illusion has a large
grain of truth in it, and many people may agree that it is true.
It is even possible that whole societies may believe in the
illusion for years or even centuries.    (07)

For example, from our current knowledge of chemistry, we can view
the theory of phlogiston as a kind of illusion that had considerable
predictive power.  Joseph Priestley, who was the first or one of the
first chemists to discover oxygen, called it "dephlogisticated air".
Following is Priestley's report of his attempt to understand what
happens in his experiments with different kinds of "airs":    (08)

    http://web.lemoyne.edu/~giunta/priestley.html    (09)

 From our perspective, we can think of Priestley as an intelligent
person who is struggling to rid himself of an illusion.  He
realized that his earlier view that air is a single substance
was wrong.  But he still retained the view that burning is a
process of releasing phlogiston into the air and that burning
stops when the air can no longer absorb any more phlogiston.
Things burn more brightly in "dephlogisticated air" because it
is a "purer" kind of air that can absorb more phlogiston.    (010)

The scientific method enables scientists to rid themselves of
various illusions over time, but we have no idea how many more
illusions remain (or will be invented) as time goes on.    (011)

John    (012)

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