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

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 07 Jun 2013 02:51:31 -0400
Message-id: <51B182F3.6040508@xxxxxxxxxxx>
On 6/6/2013 10:38 AM, Barkmeyer, Edward J wrote:
> Can you really not distinguish between:
>    Drivers stay on their side of the centerline
> And
>    If a driver does not stay on his side of the centerline,
>    he is prosecuted for reckless driving.
> ?    (01)

Those are two very different statements.  The first is a simple
declarative sentence, which may be true or false.  That is not
a statement of a law.    (02)

But the second is an implication.  As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr 
would say, that implication is the meaning of a law that says "Drivers
shall stay on their side of the center line."  The modal word 'shall'
or 'must' is critical to stating a law.    (03)

As I said, I completely agree with you that the essential meaning
of a law of science is its predictions about what would happen under
certain circumstances.    (04)

And I completely agree with OWH that the essential meaning of
a law of any legislature is a prediction about what would happen
under certain circumstances.  If you don't agree with that point,
please quote any point OWH made that you disagree with:    (05)

   http://constitution.org/lrev/owh/path_law.htm    (06)

> but then Chief Justice Holmes probably had rather more significant
> laws in mind [than traffic violations].    (07)

Please read what he said.  Another quotation from the same article:    (08)

> A man who cares nothing for an ethical rule which is believed and
> practised by his neighbors is likely nevertheless to care a good deal
> to avoid being made to pay money, and will want to keep out of jail if he can.    (09)

OWH was talking about penalties like fines and jail time.  That shows
that he had rather mundane laws in mind -- which would include traffic
violations.  Note the following point, which applies to every sort of
penalty, ranging from a fine to capital punishment:    (010)

> if we take the view of our friend the bad man we shall find that he
> does not care two straws for the axioms or deductions, but that he does
> want to know what the Massachusetts or English courts are likely to do
> in fact. I am much of this mind. The prophecies of what the courts will
> do in fact, and nothing more pretentious, are what I mean by the law.    (011)

That statement with a suitable change of terminology would apply just
as well to any and every law of science:  "The prophecies of what will
happen in any particular experiment, and nothing more pretentious,
are what is meant by a law of science."    (012)

> 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)    (013)

I like it.  And I believe it supports my point:  what engineers do
in practice is determined more by the mundane circumstances of the
problem they're paid to solve than on any high falutin theory.    (014)

John    (015)

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