On Sep 18, 2008, at 6:49 PM, Len Yabloko wrote:
On Sep 18, 2008, at 3:21 PM, Ed Barkmeyer wrote:
Chris Menzel wrote:
On Thu, 18 Sep 2008, Ed Barkmeyer wrote:
As to the rest of John's posting, I refuse to be drawn into a
discussion of the power of either mathematics or logic. I am an
And you won't discuss it because, as an engineer, and hence as one
familiar with bridges, moon shots, computers, the web, and the like
wouldn't exist but for the power of mathematics and logic, it isn't
worth discussing something so obvious? Right on.
Indeed. That power is well documented and in evidence. But whether
mathematics can correctly capture "reality", as distinct from how much
of the derived and quantified property called load it will take to
collapse the bridge, is not my concern.
In brief: omit the scare quotes. By 'reality' I mean something very
mundane. All I mean is that when an engineer does some calculations
and then says "the cables aren't strong enough to support the deck",
that she really is talking about the cables and the deck. That is what
"reality" means in this example: the real, actual stuff that the
engineer is concerned with, the stuff that will collapse into the
river if mistakes are made. She is not talking about a model of the
cables and the deck, or about representations of the cables and the
deck. Who would care if a model or a representation fell into the river?
My answer to that last question is: those who leave by that model and representation do care.
Um... not sure I can parse that. ("leave by that model"?)
Perhaps all they care about is the model, because all they know about reality is the representation.
Yes, of course. All we every know of reality is encoded in representations of it: mental representations, many of them. In fact the prime lesson of current cognitive science seems to be that we are in a very real sense made of
representations, a kind of self-maintaining self-referential tower of representation. But it doesn't follow that these representations are not OF REALITY. To think that because all we have is a representation, that therefore the representation isn't really OF anything, is a very deep and pernicious fallacy. Representations are useful precisely because they are representations OF something real. If they were not, they would be no more use than dreams. When the Verrazano Narrows bridge collapsed, it was a real bridge that fell, not a model or a representation of a bridge.
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