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Re: Rikk Re: [XTalk] for Bob Schacht: history, nature, science and the resurrection

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  • Bob Schacht
    ... Thanks. I ll try to make this relatively quick, as I ve got other matters to deal with tonight. ... You seem to be asking about a goal-less game. Its hard
    Message 1 of 8 , Jan 29, 2007
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      At 09:20 AM 1/29/2007, Rikk Watts wrote:
      >Thanks Bob, I really have to catch up on this stuff; much of this was very
      >helpful. just some questions if I may... and if it's alright too, I'll just
      >deal with the first half. Maybe we can move on after working through this
      >(if you have the time).

      Thanks. I'll try to make this relatively quick, as I've got other matters
      to deal with tonight.



      >On 28/1/07 9:25 PM, "Bob Schacht" <bobschacht@...> wrote:
      >
      > > In games there's always a
      > > "goal," so one generally assumes the other side wants to "win." You can't
      > > avoid trying to "predict" all those things that may influence how people
      > > will act. .. what you usually do is to try
      > > to guess at all the factors that will go into the opposing leader's
      > > decision, and then try to simulate each factor. And you can bet that those
      > > factors include psychological and emotional variables. And then you
      > > generally assume rationality, of course.
      >This is helpful, but I think my question was more to do with: granting that
      >there's always a "goal," is game theory a predictor of specific goals (and
      >values) or do the goals and players' values constitute the data it plugs
      >into the theory? In a discrete game setting, can game theory itself
      >determine goals? It seems evident to me that it cannot, since a given game
      >assumes a given goal, it cannot tell you whether that goal is morally
      >right or wrong.

      You seem to be asking about a goal-less game. Its hard for me to imagine
      what that might look like.


      >Also to take the chess game, if the goal is simply to win then whether the
      >game involves just a friendly between my wife and myself or between Spassky
      >and Fischer doesn't seem to make much difference in terms of the steps one
      >would take to win. How does game theory, when applied to winning a chess
      >match, see anything that relates to a particular game's significance? I
      >suppose it's possible by setting those games within a larger game, but how
      >does one then avoid an infinite regression?

      I don't know about infinite regression, but the important thing here is to
      be clear about the actual goals.
      * First of all, it is not necessarily the case that both parties have
      the *same* goals. Of course, if this is the case, then things get much more
      complicated.
      * Second, your two chess games are not really equivalent, because the
      goals may be only superficially the same. For example, in the husband-wife
      chess game, the game occurs within the context of an ongoing relationship.
      Spassky and Fischer did not have to think about living together for the
      next year.
      * Third, just because there may be games within games doesn't
      inevitably lead to infinite regression.
      Let's try a historic parallel: Napoleon's war with the Russians. Napoleon
      won, right? He chased the Russians all the way to Moscow, and captured the
      Russian capitol. But he didn't see the larger game that his opponents were
      playing, and wound up losing, big time, at Waterloo. There we had a
      regression of a game within a game, but it wasn't an infinite regression.

      In advanced game theory, the one thing you have to be careful about is
      this: Do I know all of the relevant issues?

      I won't draw it out, but I see another parallel in the current games being
      played by our U.S. government against the Iranians, who invented the game
      of chess, and who have been an imperial power for 3,000 years. We must look
      like children to them.


      >I wonder too if we are defining science so broadly that it begins to be
      >another word for thinking reasonably. Perhaps I'm operating with an badly
      >out of date definition of science, but I thought science was primarily about
      >proposing hypotheses about the material world whose adequacy is tested by
      >experiment (as opposed say to discussing ideas where the test is logic).

      The first part of your characterization of science is OK, but why just the
      "material" world? Do you hold that clinical psychologists are not
      scientists? Why just "by experiment"? What "experiments" do Astronomers do?
      Or Geologists? What "experiments" did Darwin do? What "experiments" did
      Einstein do?

      I'd really! really! really! like to expunge the stereotype of scientists as
      people in white lab coats who do all their work in laboratories. Science is
      MUCH more than that. People who resort to such stereotypes expose their own
      lack of knowledge about science. But alas! C.P. Snow's Two Cultures seem to
      be very much alive and well, and their prejudices and biases seem
      remarkably intact, I regret to say. For that reason, I am favorably
      impressed by your interest in learning about game theory. I salute your
      interest!

      The main requirement of a scientific hypothesis is that it be *testable* by
      independent observers. But there are lots of ways to do that.

      [snip]

      > >> How would it help in determining the historicity of the resurrection?
      > >
      > > From the viewpoint of the game theorist (depending on what the "game" is),
      > > it may matter more whether people *thought* that the resurrection was real,
      > > and if so, what they might *do*.
      > > Think of Pilate and the Crowd. He's faced with figuring out (or at least,
      > > so we're told) whether to release Jesus or Barabbas. He's gaming the
      > > situation in his head, comparing the outcome if he releases one or the
      > > other, both in terms of what the freed person would do, and what the crowd
      > > would do if their choice wasn't freed. A modern gamer would consult
      > > Josephus on the response of crowds to various situations, and create some
      > > kind of response matrix based on the perceived patterns.
      >Yes, I can see this and it helps explain how people might act given their
      >disbelief/belief in the resurrection. But, again, sorry if I'm thick, I
      >don't see how this addresses the question: how exactly does game theory help
      >in determining the historicity of the resurrection?

      I don't know whether or not it does. I don't think I brought it up as a
      solution to the problem of determining the historicity of the resurrection,
      did I?


      > >> This strikes me as Brown's point: that the first principles employed in
      > >> thinking about the true are not the same as those employed in thinking
      > about
      > >> the good or the beautiful. It would be fascinating if you were suggesting
      > >> that they are (I don't mean this facetiously).
      > >
      > > Ah. First principles. Your "principles" relate to what I wrote above as
      > > "factors." What do you mean by "first" principles? That these are more
      > > important than the others? Statisticians take care of this by assigning
      > > "weights" to each variable. Are "first principles" absolute, such that no
      > > deviation can be tolerated? Something like, "No images of emperors in the
      > > Temple!" ??? No problem-- that can be built in. But they are probably not
      > > the "same" as those employed in thinking about the "good" or the
      > "beautiful".
      >Traditionally, a first principle is something that must be assumed if one is
      >to think about something. So they are not really factors. E.g. each of your
      >game theorists assumes the non-demonstrable law of non-contradiction. If
      >they didn't there wouldn't be any game theory. "No Emperors in the Temple"
      >is not of course a first principle since it is not necessary to hold it in
      >order to think about moral questions. But already we've introduced two
      >different kinds of things (a la Aristotle): pure reason and practical
      >reason. I'm not suggesting that they don't overlap in the real world (I
      >don't think anybody has have they, even if they've emphasized one way of
      >thinking as the key to understanding everything) but their first principles
      >are different. I suspect that is partly what Collingwood was getting at.

      Well, I suppose if you start out disagreeing about first principles,
      there's scant chance of agreeing on the results. And such disagreements are
      probably rampant in our field.


      > >> I wonder then if we are
      > >> partly talking past one another since I'm not quite sure if code switching
      > >> among various home, work, etc. environments, which surely happens, is the
      > >> same thing as what appears to be the different ways we reason employed for
      > >> thinking about the true, the beautiful, and the good, which while clearly
      > >> related and part of our one world nevertheless seem to have their own
      > >> distinctive ontologies?
      > >
      > > But do we ever think about these things in isolation from each other? Think
      > > about judgments like these:
      > > * Wow. That's a beautiful painting! But I can't afford it.
      > > * I think Hillary is a really good candidate, because I agree with her
      > > on most issues-- but she voted for the War, so I could never vote for her.
      > > * I agree with Dennis Kucinich about everything! But he'll never be
      > > elected, so why should I waste my vote on him?
      > > We always mix judgments about truth, beauty and goodness. They only acquire
      > > distinctive ontologies in the minds of critics, who screen out all other
      > > ways of thinking about their category of judgment.
      >I've no problem here, having said from the beginning that reality is one.
      >But the criteria for deciding whether the painting is beautiful strike me as
      >different from deciding whether I can afford it (I'm assuming by this you
      >mean that you don't have access to enough cash).

      Of course. But part of the decision process is making decisions about
      priorities.

      >But perhaps you might decide to steal it, which raises a moral question. .
      >. .

      Aren't you confusing two issues here?
      * One is how beautiful the object is
      * The other is the degree to which you feel you "must" possess it.
      Do we digress?

      Bob



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