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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "doug foxvog" <doug@xxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 8 Jun 2013 18:21:07 -0400
Message-id: <f739892e84c49932e802cd8709ca5ced.squirrel@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
On Fri, June 7, 2013 23:48, John F Sowa wrote:
>> I don't believe that the intent of a law of any
>> legislature is a "prediction of what would happen
>> under certain circumstances".    (01)

> I'm sure legislators didn't believe that -- I doubt that they were more
> intelligent than today's Congress.    (02)

Since the legislators didn't believe that, they didn't intend it.
Since those who created the law did not intend it, it is not
the "intent" of the law.    (03)

> But OWH's intent was to inform any legal scholar who read
> his article how the law does, in fact, work.    (04)

OWH was referring to how the law works for a "bad man".  He did
not discusss how it worked for a "good person".  A person deemed
to be "good" (or maybe "goody-goody") will accept the instruction
of a normal law.  To such a person, in the normal case, the size
of the penalty or the odds of being caught do not enter into the
decision to obey the law.    (05)

For such people, the meaning of the law is a lot more than
prediction.  Different people (less "goody-goody") will weigh
different categories of laws differently -- obeying some types
when there is no possibility of being detected, while treating
others as OWH describes.    (06)

>> It [a law] is rather a directive to the populace not to
>> PRODUCE those circumstances.    (07)

> A directive without any prediction that a violation would be met with
> undesirable consequences is totally meaningless.    (08)

It is not meaningless for those who have a bent to obey laws.
It will affect their behavior even without a prediction of externally
imposed "undesirable consequences".  One could argue that such
a person would suffer the "undesirable consequence" of moral
guilt, upon violating a law, but i don't think that is what you are
referring to.    (09)

> Remember the old proverb, "When the cat's away,
> the mice will play."  The mice don't have to be deep thinkers
> to know when they can get away with something.    (010)

Of course, mice are not normally considered to have a moral
compass (except in children's stories).    (011)

I suggest that mice react to danger, not having the concept
of "getting away with something".   FWIW.   8)#    (012)

>> Holmes' predictions are conditional upon the violation
>> being observed and the law being enforced.
>>  And unless those conditions are stated in the
>> implication, the implication is logically false!
>>  By comparison, Newton's laws are not conditional on observation    (013)

What about Heisenborg's?    8)#    (014)

>> or on the decisions of an "officer
>> of the laws of nature".    (015)

> The method by which the consequences are produced is useful for
> classifying certain laws as physical, and others as social.    (016)

I think that using the same term for both is more confusing than
enlightening.    (017)

An obligation has a structure, among which is a complex implication.    (018)

A scientific law is an implication with some clear conditions, and
other contextual conditions -- which are often not fully understood.
Such laws are often stated with their clear conditions, but the
contextual conditions not well or fully stated.    (019)

There are certainly some similarities, but their "nearest common
generalization" with a useful meaning would be a far broader
topic than either "scientific law" or "social law".    (020)

> That is the distinction I made in the subject line above.    (021)

> But the *meaning* of every law, as Peirce and Holmes observed,
> is in the prediction of consequences.    (022)

It may depend upon the type of prediction.  I can agree, if the
"predictions" are along the lines of:
* A person who obeys law X, does [not] do Y.
* A person who violates law X, does [not] do Y'.    (023)

* The State informs those under its jurisdiction, to [not] do Y.    (024)

> Physical consequences come about through
> physical mechanisms.  Social consequences
> come about through social mechanisms.    (025)

>> The fact that Newton's laws are inadequate and inaccurate
>> for atomic physics is a different problem.    (026)

> Newton's laws are accurate in the ideal case when all the initial
> conditions are known and all the exceptions can be accounted for.
> For practical engineering problems, that ideal is almost never
> achieved.    (027)

Newton's laws provide methods for modifying general results
as a result of known changes from the ideal case -- friction,
air resistance, temperature variation, flexible objects, ...    (028)

Most engineering problems are far from the context of Newton's
laws.    (029)

> Please note my response to Doug's point below.    (030)

>> But they [drivers who slowed down on seeing the police]
>> were up to that point violating the law;
>> they are only taking  care to avoid having the
>> violation OBSERVED.    (031)

> Thank you for confirming my point:  The meaning of the law is
> in the prediction of consequences.  In those cases where the
> agents can predict that there are no undesirable consequences,
> the law is meaningless.    (032)

For those with no respect for the specific law, yes.
However, even posted speeding laws can be informative
to drivers, changes often indicating changes in road
conditions up ahead.    (033)

Highway engineers know this.  I have in many places noted
signs on curves with speeds given on yellow signs being the
same as the (often politically mandated) speed limit for the
whole road.    (034)

>> I think we can all agree that the real "law of the land" is that
>> which is enforced by the courts.  But that definition makes
>> many traffic "laws" some other category
>> of "statements of guidance".    (035)

> Yes, indeed!  Peirce made the point that there is a continuum from
> preferences to recommendations to habits to strictly enforced laws.
> Whenever there is a predictable regularity with a probability above
> chance, there is some law-like principle (physical or social).    (036)

Hence we get back to tendencies.  However, i'm uncomfortable
calling all of these "laws".    (037)

-- doug    (038)

> ...    (039)

> John
> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Laws:  physical and social
> Date: Fri, 07 Jun 2013 10:56:29 -0400
> From: John F Sowa
> Doug,
> I agree with your analyses and conclusions.
> DF
>> Of course, the vast majority of times the antecedent occurs,
>> the consequent does not.
> That is certainly true.  Every law -- of science, of some
> legislature, or of your mommy -- has implications about the
> consequences of following it or violating it.  But none of the
> laws, including F=ma, can state all the contexts and conditions
> that may affect or completely block the consequences.    (040)

So, not every task can be accomplished using a sledge hammer.
I'm not sure how that is applicable to what we are discussing.    (041)

> For example, the laws of fluid mechanics, of which the
> Navier-Stokes equation is a prime example,
> are based on F=ma plus many assumptions
> about the nature of the fluid.  In effect, those laws relate the
> mass and acceleration of each particle of fluid to the forces being
> exerted on it by surrounding particles.    (042)

This describes a complex situation in which the one Newtonian
Law you specify plays a role, but other laws (electromagnetic
and chemical) play other roles, in a situation with 10^(20+)
interactions.    (043)

> The result is a very complex differential equation that is
> (a) at best an approximation, ... (b) far too complex to solve ...
> and (c) impossible to get complete data for ...    (044)

So, a complex rule that has some input from a simple law
has issues.    (045)

> DF
>> It seems to me that it is far better to model social laws as
>> proscriptions -- and then to derive predictions from them based
>> on context, than to skip the proscriptive definition and jump
>> straight to their predictive force.    (046)

> It is also true that different laws have different origins, and
> any ontology should classify them based on the source, the range
> of applicability, and the mode of enforcement.    (047)

Agreed.  Though i wonder about applying "mode of enforcement"
to scientific "laws".    (048)

> The term 'proscription' just means a law that is stated and
> enforced by some authority.    (049)

Again, i reject the term "law".  A law is far narrower concept.    (050)

What enforces the "laws" of solitaire?  ... chess?  ... of singing
a specific song?    (051)

> Therefore, the general category of Law (or whatever you want
> to call it)    (052)

I would use "obligation" for social obligation and "physical
principle" for the "laws" that science discovers and describes.    (053)

> will have subcategories for which you can choose
> different names.  Examples:  charter, constitution, by-law,
> rule, regulation, proscription, prohibition, recommendation,
> or just habit.  (Social norms, for example, are shared habits.)    (054)

To cover this breath of concept, "tendency" or "dispositional
property"would probably be a sufficiently general term.
I agree, that an ontology should differentiate and name the
widely varying concepts that you mention (to the extent
that they are covered in the ontology).    (055)

> But the same principle applies to every one of them, no matter
> what its source, level of confidence, or kinds of exceptions:
> their essential meaning is a prediction about the future.    (056)

For most, the prediction is that "those who follow this <disposition>
will [not] do X".  However, there is a lot more baggage on most
of these, so i would dispute that a prediction is their "essential
meaning", instead claim that they all have the property of having
an associated prediction along such lines.    (057)

-- doug    (058)

> John    (059)

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