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Re: [ontolog-forum] Laws: physical and social

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Barkmeyer, Edward J" <edward.barkmeyer@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 6 Jun 2013 10:38:20 -0400
Message-id: <63955B982BF1854C96302E6A5908234417E0A9488A@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
John,    (01)

I must say, I am really surprised at the turn this has taken.    (02)

> > The distinction between social contracts and scientific laws, which
> > neither of us mentioned, is that the purpose of most scientific "laws"
> > is to predict the behavior of individual phenomena (on some scale).
> I certainly agree that the second half of the sentence is true about the laws
> of science.  But both I and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, believe that
> *exactly* the same principle holds for every law passed by any legislature:
> > The primary rights and duties with which jurisprudence busies itself
> > again are nothing but prophecies... a legal duty so called is nothing
> > but a prediction that if a man does or omits certain things he will be
> > made to suffer in this or that way by judgment of the court.
> Source:  http://constitution.org/lrev/owh/path_law.htm    (03)

Can you really not distinguish between:  
  Drivers stay on their side of the centerline
  If a driver does not stay on his side of the centerline, he is prosecuted for 
reckless driving.
?    (04)

Perhaps I misunderstood the way in which you intended your observation about 
drivers staying to their side of the centerline.
I understood you to say that one could assume that the "social law" expressed 
in the first sentence above is true,  in the same way that one can assume that 
a body at rest will stay at rest until acted on by an outside force.  What 
Holmes is talking about is clearly the second.  As Ron Ross has said many times 
many ways, the first sentence is not a 'structural rule' (axiom), because in 
practice it can be 'violated'.  The proper rule is 'operational' (deontic):  
"Drivers MUST stay on their side of the centerline," and Holmes' aphorism is 
about 'enforcement', which (according to Ron) is separable from the rule itself 
(and I concur).    (05)

Frankly, I doubt that the second sentence above is even true in the aggregate, 
but then Chief Justice Holmes probably had rather more significant laws in mind.
If we can agree that the second sentence above is at least closer to the kind 
of predictions made by the "laws of science", we will have come to an 
understanding.    (06)

-Ed    (07)

While we are quoting the aphorisms of engineers, I like this one:
"The difference between theory and practice in practice is greater
than the difference between theory and practice in theory."
  -- unattributed (via John Dilley at HP)    (08)

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