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OT? Philosophy and the discovery of Thomas

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  • Dave Gentile
    Chuck, This is a bit more on this topic of the discovery of Thomas, and how we should respond. My other academic hobby is philosophy of science, and I m still
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 12, 2009
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      Chuck,

      This is a bit more on this topic of the discovery of Thomas, and how we should respond. My other academic hobby is philosophy of science, and I'm still working at getting a paper published in that area. This post draws on that background, so, it may be off-topic, although I'm not sure since it relates to our conversation about the synoptics. I'll just give some basic points. I can also give simple examples to illustrate points, but I'll omit those here.

      Suppose we have two competing explanatory models. Based on a short list of rational-empirical criteria we judge B better than A. Let's also suppose (although this could be difficult because there may be no one single relevant scale in some cases) that we think B is only a little better than A. How should we proceed? Our choice will be based on what I will call our "rational-empirical aggressiveness" (again, examples omitted). I can characterize the extreme choices here. If we are maximally aggressive we only take account of the model which is at the moment judged best. The other models may as well not even exist. If we are as non-aggressive as possible, we will never reject any model. In the first case, we will learn the most and the fastest. We will however, assuredly, make misstates. In the other extreme we will never learn anything at all. (But we'll never make any mistakes either). There are of course middle-ground choices. A related idea is Popper's claim that scientists should make "bold" hypotheses. If we agree, it is not because this approach will minimize mistakes. Rather, we are interested in maximizing our potential learning. (We are also interested in minimizing mistakes of course, but in the most aggressive approach, only to the extent that this goal does not conflict with our maximal learning goal.)

      Thus, if we are committed to this maximally aggressive approach, mistakes which might be brought to light by new discoveries will cause us to quickly change positions, but they won't cause us to question the method, since our choice of method was not based on minimizing mistakes, but rather on maximizing learning.

      Dave Gentile
      Riverside, IL
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