Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Definitions, Take 2

Well, Nicolas, I don't think we are sharing the same definitions quite yet.

I'll update my terms in the hope that we'll agree to some shared definitions.

Level of Trust - a level of expectation that a model or proposition is true (level on a scale from zero to one). Every meaningful proposition can be assigned a degree of trust.

Strong Belief - a proposition for which one has a high level of expectation that the proposition is true (level on a scale from zero to one, but typically greater than 0.5). Only a subset of meaningful propositions are categorized as strong beliefs.

Relative Belief - a proposition, that while one may have a low level of expectation that the proposition is true, is estimated to be most likely true (level on a scale from zero to one, often less than 0.5). Example: My sports team will win the championship.

Knowledge - that subset of strong beliefs justified by empirical facts and by verified models.

Faiths - that subset of beliefs unjustified by empirical facts or by verified models.

Heuristics - that subset of faiths unjustified by, yet consistent with, empirical facts and verified models.

Superstitions - that subset of faiths inconsistent with empirical facts and verified models.

(Man, I need to make a Venn Diagram.)

Every person has a different quantity of experience, scientific expertise, and capacity for reason. This explains why one person's knowledge is another person's faith, or one person's heuristic is another person's superstition.

Here are some examples of my terminology:

All men are mortal - Trust does not apply because the proposition is not meaningful.

The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series this season. - I have a 4% level of confidence that this proposition is true. Therefore, it is not a strong belief. However, I may think they have the best chance of any team of winning, so I may call this a relative belief.

The energy of a photon is proportional to its frequency. - Knowledge based on empirical facts and confirming experiments.

The world is subject to physical laws. - This is a faith, specifically, this is a heuristic.

God made humans in different races and intended that the races not interbreed. - This is a faith, specifically, this is a superstition.

Now, suppose I want to plan a project. I will estimate risk and reward.

I may decide to base my plan on a relative belief, e.g., I may invest in Microsoft stock on the estimation that it is most likely to be a good investment.

I may decide to pray that I recover from a treatable disease instead of seeking medical attention. This is a decision based on superstition.

When I started my business, I believed it would be successful. I figured I had better than a 50% chance of success (though not much better). I also thought that I had a very small chance of great success. Overall, the expectation value of my return on investment was high enough to pursure the business. Furthermore, if the business failed, I knew I could return to the work I was doing before (hey, it was the nineties!). I would say that I believed that my business would be a success, but I did not have faith it would be a success (by my definitions).

There are times when we want to convince ourselves to believe in something that we do not trust so that we can make proposition more likely. If I do not believe that I can compose music, I will decrease my ability to compose music by reducing my motivation. This is a heuristic. If I doubt myself, my performance will probably be worse. If I believe in myself, my performance will be better. Whether this heuristic is a good idea or not depends on the consequences of failure. If I can't compose music, I've wasted some of my free time. No big deal. If I falsely believe that I can win the Ansari X Prize and invest my life savings in a rocket, there is a high cost of failure.

One other scenario. I may not plan my actions at all. Action without planning accurs more frequently than we would like to admit. I can throw a punch or say something cruel as an emotional outlet, without planning for the consequences. When we act on impulse like this, the only thing that we are trusting is that the resulting emotional release will be pleasurable or cathartic.

Perhaps you want to re-label some of my definitions? Or add new definitions for new terms?


Monday, September 27, 2004

Symbols and Language


You reject my claim that, in language, we are mapping symbols to empirical measurements.

Yet, I maintain this is effectively what we are doing, even if it may not have a structure as formal as mathematics or science.

In mathematical models, we explicitly map symbols to empirical measurements. Our brains evolved to do the same thing without using raw symbol manipulation. We can estimate distances, speeds and rates of closure. We can perceive ranges of temperature. We can detect colors and hear sounds. Let's take your example: I am seeing a blue object. Though we can distinguish two similar colors, we cannot quantify color in terms of spectra without the aid of instrumentation. However, the principle is not weakened. We are able to recognize the predominant frequencies in the color as blue. We have similar limitations with other senses. For example, I cannot estimate the a car's length to better than about six inches of precision, even when I' m looking at it.

Our brains may not naturally use symbolic algebra, but it is creating an approximate mathematical model nonetheless. It must do so in order to perceive the world. The average human brain is a microcosm of scientific research. Certainly, the average human is no scientist. Working primarily from instinct and emotion, humans are not naturally suited to rigorous science.

Here is a plausible scientific model about how our brains actually work. For each concept the brain associates with a measurement (e.g., speed, color, auditory volume) or thing (bee, car, planet), there is a region of our brain that is activated (or 'spikes') when we observe or imagine the corresponding thing. Language is an approximate association between these activations and vocalizations. Our language lacks the precision or clarity of mathematics, but it is optimized for social interaction and brevity. Voila! A scientific model of language. Okay, so I skipped a few details, but I don't doubt that we will one day create a very effective model of both thought and human language.

When this happens, there will be only science, and abstract theories about language (e.g., Wittgenstein's Tractatus) will be cast aside.


Sunday, September 26, 2004

Knowledge, Belief and Faith


This is difficult, but let's try to narrow down our definitions again. These are my working definitions. I'm not averse to altering them in reasonable ways.

Belief is a model or collection of models that are trusted by an individual as a consequence of reason and prior experience. Here, trust is not a binary value (yes or no). Trust is a continuous value between zero and one. I believe 97% that I will to walk to lunch later this morning. This is belief because I do not have verification.

Knowledge is trust in the verification of a belief. Verification is rarely complete, but it is statistically possible. I will know whether I walked to lunch or not this afternoon with 99.999% confidence (maybe I was hallucinating). I may believe that the universe is supersymmetric (symmetry between matter and energy), but it is not knowledge until I have empirically verified my belief.

Faith is different. Faith is a model or collection of models that are trusted by an individual a priori, independent of any prior experience, reason or process of verification. Again, trust here is a value between zero and one.

Let's subdivide faith into that which is the result of reason (reasoned faith), and that which is not (blind faith). Faith, in the traditional sense, does not require reason.

Does reasoned faith include heuristics?

If you include heuristics in faith, then the principle of verifiability is a form of faith. The principle is a priori. Note that, by including heuristics, we have expanded faith beyond its traditional sphere.

If you drop your keys at night, do you have reasoned faith that you dropped them under the street light? Or do you only search under the street light because that's the only place you'll be able to find them? Is this faith at all? I would say this is not faith. It is a choice based on knowledge and belief, so not all heuristics should be considered faith.

Is faith in God heuristic? Perhaps, if a man sees eternal life as the ultimate goal, then subscription to a particular religion is the only way to have even a small chance at eternal life (again, discounting transhumanism). There are few people people of faith who would claim this line of reasoning. Besides, this line of reasoning is flawed because there are plenty of alternative religions to choose from. People do not have religious faith because of reason. They don't need reason to have blind faith.

Your definitions of knowledge, belief and faith may be different. That's okay, but we need to get the definitions in sync.

Nicolas, you have mentioned faith several times. Is it reasoned faith or blind faith? If it is reasoned, what are the reasons?


Saturday, September 25, 2004

The Role of Science


I am not saying that science can choose for us what kind of society we want to live in. Science cannot choose anything by itself. Science is simply a way to know the rules of the universe. It does not tell us what technology we should deploy. Science makes technology possible, and tells us what the effects will be when deploy a given technology.

We can (and often do) choose to deploy a technology without analysing the consequences or by ignoring the predictions of science. This happens all the time.

Should we colonize the galaxy? There are advantages and disadvantages. Science can tell us what they are. It cannot choose for us. However, science can tell us what strategies or actions are consistent with our goals.

Logical positivism doesn't command us to create a communist or fascist society. Not at all. It is a false argument to place blame on science and logical positivism for the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. The fact that much of the scientific rationale claimed by the Nazis wasn't science is beside the point. Science is completely neutral when it comes to intent. Science provides technology to facilitate intent.

So how do we decide to make "value" decisions? For any given objective, we will probably have many possible courses of action. Each course of action has a cost and a reward. We must incorporate human emotion in our model when we evaluate each possible course.

To me, this is plainly scientific. There is a lot of uncertainty involved when assigning a "weight" to human emotion. We cannot completely ignore human emotion - science predicts failure in these cases. We also cannot assign infinite weight because many goals (including survival) can never be met when assigning infinite weight to our emotions.

Transhumanism aside, you are correct that science cannot "control" emotions in a personal or social sense. However, science tells us the price we pay for placing emotions above other factors.

In summary, science tells us what the facts are, how the world works, and what will be the consequences of our actions. What we do with that information, science does not say (though it may still provide an explanation for our choice).


The early church's choice

Axiologist. As it happens, I am also waiting for a book I should receive from Amazon in a few days. It is a big tome on the Vienna Circle and is supposed to contain some material on M. Schlick's murder. And, so I hope, on Nelböck's paper and the reasons it was rejected by Schlick. Also, I have found a site that contains the full text of the Austriacus article. But it is in German. So if you know somone who would like to translate it for us...

Regarding the choices made by the early church, I think they need to be put in context. Church fathers were learned men and they had probably more than 100 times more philosophical material than what has survived to reach our time. Virtually all possible combination of faith and reason had been tried by the countless schools that freely mixed greek traditions with semitic, egyptian, or persian thought. So all they had to do was to pick the right combination. But they had to do it quick and make the right choice. The barbarians were at the gates and the empire badly shaken. Around 250 CE, Goth made raids in the west and in Asia Minor and Greece while the imperial troops were thoroughly routed by the Persians in the east (an emperor was even captured and taken captive to the Parthian capital, something absolutely unheard of). For several decades, insecurity mounted and terrible epidemics ravaged the whole eastern half of the empire. Estimates based on fiscal documents seem to show that Alexandria, a city not directly impacted by military events, lost up to a third of its population in 25 years. To top it all, this was also the time where the persecutions were at their highest and bloodiest.

So the minds of the church Fathers were probably quite concentrated and my impression is that they did a pretty good job given the circumstances. The image of God they chose was not a Nazi thug. It was just the mirror image of the people they were facing. They thought they were not going to convince visigothic chieftains, or bloodthirsty centurions about to boil them alive, with kind words. So they built on the jewish God (quite strong already) to create a mighty creature capable to impress even these hardened men. And they succeeded. While Rome had been unable to tame the barbarians on its borders by force, the church managed to convert most of them in a few centuries.

And what is amazing is that, while doing this extremely tough job in the most difficult of times (the war in Irak is a piece of cake in comparison), they managed not to lose track of the more subtle philosophical issues. In turning down the Gnostic, and later Arian or Nestorian, vision of God, I believe they preserved christianity's potential as a healthy civilization-building ideology for after the difficult period would have been seen through. Indeed, the history of the middle ages seems to support this. The west was rebuilt in five centuries, to the level it reached in the Renaissance, largely by the church. I do not say that the church Fathers forsaw the disasters that befell us because of our modern rationalist and scientist excesses. But I believe they were witnesses to what happened in the various Gnostic and other sects that were common in their time and did not like what they saw. An interesting job could be done in that direction, I believe : decrypt such great Gnostic-bashing Fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyons or Augustine and see what we could apply to LP or even the Unabomber.

So God is not a Nazi thug, it is just something strong enough to impress a IIIrd century thug. Not that I think it is any better. And this is indeed the biggest problem the church has faced for the last few centuries. The church Fathers made practical choices and the church, and everyone else, had only to thank them for that during the first 1500 years of its existence. Now, in the very mild and refined atmosphere of our present time, the result of these choices has become an increasingly crushing embarrassment for christianity. So be it. Either christians manange to purge their faith of what has become unacceptable to us (I doubt they can), or we have to get to work ourselves, just as te church Fathers did. But, in that case, we have to be conscious that being less good at it than they were would be impardonable. We have far more material at our disposal and, above all, we have their example to learn from. In that perspective, I doubt that just replacing the Apocalypse by a milder text (and a Gnostic one, of all things) will be nearly enough. Building a TOE for the next 1500 years requires more than that.

Regarding what books to burn, I basically agree with what you mean. Except that buring a book is probably a bad move because it is only too easy to "rediscover" the contents of a banned text. It is probably more effective to keep it in full but tightly laced in a straightjacket of counter arguments and eye-witness reports on its consequences. If the church had preserved the contents of the Nag-Hamadi library together with its own refutations of it and added reports on what was going on within Gnostic sects, it might have saved us from some of the tedium of having to reexperiment the effects of rationalism for ourselves. I am trying not to repeat this mistake with LP here. Count on me to leave for future generations a big fat CD-ROM of material on LP : their complete works, what their oponents have said, what we say here and as much information on the Unabomber, Nelböck, Gödel and other such cases.

To finish with a note on the Unabomber, and to make a connection to what you say on emotivism, I found the following excerpt on page 40 of Harvard and the Unabomber :

Somewhat paradoxically, he thought of himself as a scientist, embracing what philosophers call Logical Positivism [...] Further, he believed in positivism's parallel theory of ethics, sometimes called "emotivism", which holds that moral and spiritual judgements, being scientifically untestable, are mere "cognitively meaningless" expressions of emotion. To him, ethical and religious scrupules are [...] what he called "brainwashing". [...] Like the Nazi doctors who performed sadistic tests on concentration camp victims, Kaczynski called each of his bombings of human targets an "experiment".
Let us see what Wilks can do to salvage emotivism.

More clarification

How about one of the great-grandfathers of LP, the nominalist William of Occam, who in his SUMMA LOGICAE, rejected Aquinas's claim that theology is a science and his proofs for the existence of God. Occam had to flee Avignon as he was about to be convicted of heresy. Do we know on what grounds Moritz Schlick rejected Hans Nelbock's paper? What about Fritz Haber who has been called one of the greatest saviors of mankind because of his innovations in production of fertilizers that saved the food supply, but also developed processes that saved the German munitions industry and prolonged WWI. Not to mention heading a company that developed Zyclon B as an insecticide before it was used in the Shoah.

I think Hume should rethink his judgment about what books should be consigned to the flames. Suppose Joseph Mengele publishes a very scientific, logical cookbook about how to consign Jews to the flames. It obeys Hume's rules about number, empiric data like temperature, etc. Raoul Wallenberg gets emotionally upset and writes a very "inflammatory",
judgmental, even hysterical book about how Mengele is nuts and should be arrested. Would LP say that Wallenberg's book doesn't meet LP standards and that's all there is to it? Would LP say that Mengele's book meets LP standards? Aristotle said that science should be based on premises that can be demonstrated. But how do we choose our premises? I still favor the Taoist alchemists here

Let me suggest an answer to my questions: On the Internet (Amazon.com) I ran across a book by Colin Wilks titled EMOTION, TRUTH AND MEANING: "In Defense of Ayer and Stevenson". The Amazon editorial reviewer says that Dr. Wilks "clarifies what the emotivists actually meant when they made some of their more controversial claims". I've ordered the book from the library, but I think that Wilks is saying the LP folks undervalued emotion by denying meaning to that which cannot be presently demonstrated (verified or falsified). And does LP tell us what to choose to verify or falsify? When doc says LP is just a technical tool,
I agree. When Nicholas says that LP promoters overreached and turned everything into a nail that would yield to their hammer, I would agree if that's true. It seems the LP folks did make some extreme statements. When Dr. Wilks says he will "clarify what the LP people meant",
he implies there's some confusion that needs to be resolved. I look forward to his book.

On Nicholas's posts on trust and the failure of the Church and knowledge: The Chruch failed with me because I was constantly threatened with Mengele's fire (The Apocalypse/Revelation of John). A friend has been taking me to adult classes at a local Presbyterian church. I'm explaining that if they want a God, they should throw out the Nazi thug they've got and begin to rewrite Scripture by replacing the Apocalypse of John with the Apocalypse of Peter.
The latter Apocalypse admits everyone to Heaven (cf. Unamuno, TRAGIC SENSE OF LIFE).
But it was rejected by the early Church fathers as a Gnostic heresy. This might cause conflict with Nicholas. Einstein was my high school hero and I went to MIT in search of the Unified Field Theory. Then I figured out that a TOE (Theory of Everything) would take longer than forever. But a TOE (Theory of Everyman) would not. I'm back with the Taoist alchemists who lost debates with Confucians and Buddhists because they (the Taoists) preferred experiment (praxis) to language.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Statements about the future

Let us take two statements from your last two posts :

  1. 'God will show up in X years'
  2. 'Ted Williams will be up and running in 20 years'

They are exactly of the same form, right ? So which one belongs to science and which one does not ? Now conduct a poll asking this question. More than 99% of respondents will answer (correctly, in my opinion) : (2) belongs to science and (1) does not. So we are all agreed on this. But if we are, it cannot be on the basis of form, since the form of the two sentences is the same. So on what basis do we all make this judgement on which we are so well agreed ?

I think this is not a simple problem and we should approach it with great care. Indeed, this is probably one of the most difficult problems of modern philosophy. One that people like Carnap, Ayer, Quine and Wittgenstein have been struggling with for the best part of their lives. In that debate, I have chosen my camp. It is that of the later Wittgenstein (after 1930, not to be confused with the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus, which was written just after WWI).

Its answer to this particular problem would probably be to say that you cannot use form to distinguish between the two statements because form has no direct relationship with reality. It is just a set of rules, a 'grammar', that only apply within language itself, to govern how we use it, but cannot say anything to us about the objects to which we apply it. In fact, the later W is in full agreement with you, Doc, when you say that language is nothing more than a protocol. But this has a consquence I am not sure you see as clearly. If you look at it, Logic, in its modern, mathematical sense, is nothing more than form. It is made of syntactical rules. So it can only be used as a set of rules, a programming language to transform statements into other statements. You cannot use it to say things about the things the statements talk about; or even about the statements themselves. Logic is not a language in the sense that it does not say anything about anything. It is just a mechanical device to transform bits of language into other bits of language. This is the idea behind the equation of Logic with Grammar (one of W's famous stunts). No one would be tempted to call grammar a language. Would you ?

So what is language ? W claims that we cannot answer this question precisely because the word applies to a variety of human activities that only share a 'family ressemblance' between them and no hard and fast property. Instead, what there is is a variety of 'language games', with overlapping domains. None of the domains constitutes the whole of language. Everyday language within a given family is one such game. Everyday language within a given company is another one; very similiar but different. This is why we have company-specific jargon. Science is yet another language game or, rather, a cluster of related language games.

Confused ? Well yes, it is difficult. Because it is not the way we are used to think about science and language. Another way to put it (my own, this time) is to say that language is something that happens between people and not between people and objects. We definitely are not 'mapping symbols to empirical measurements'. We are making noises or putting together strings of graphical marks that others may use as clues to imagine what kind of empirical experience we might have had. If I say 'I am seeig a blue object' you are almost certainly going to imagine a different color than the one I am currently seeing. And the point here is not whether I am being precise or not. It is the process you use to decode my message : you imagine a color at random and picture it in your mind because it is not incompatible with the word 'blue'. So there is no direct 'mapping' between the sign and the empirical experience. What there is is a set of reflexes, acquired through training, which make us accept or reject a certain group of empirical experiences or imagined empirical experiences, in the presence of a given sign.

The consequence is that science cannot be defined on the basis of the statements it uses. 'Ted Williams will be up and running in 20 years' is a scientific statement if it is uttered by someone who has the relevant credentials to be considered a scientist. If it is uttered by a snake-oil peddler, it is not a scientific statement even though it is exacly the same statement in both cases. Science will always elude you if you try to define it as a 'body of knowledge' or a set of statements of a certain kind. You can only catch it if you accept to consider it as human activity (a language game) practiced by a recognizable group of human beings with definite boundaries in the social space. In a word, it is a human institution, a tribe. The only way to get a grasp on what science is is sociology (Kuhn), not Logic.

Once again, we cannot have knowledge because we have no access to things in themselves (Kant). But, hopefully, we have institutions whose activity tend to accumulate justifications for certain beliefs. Science, or rather, the scientific establishment, has used a certain method over the past few centuries that has proved extremely efficient at justifying a certain cluster of beliefs. This method might have been also efficent at justifying other beliefs, like those we use as a basis for ethics. The history of the XXth century is mainly the result of a number of experiments at doing just that. I think everyone agrees that these experiments (Nazism, Communism, Logical Positivism, the Murray and CIA mind-control attempts) are failures. The result is that scientists are no longer credible outside science itself, that is outside the domain of expertise within the bounds of which our culture considers them to be reliable.

More than Science?

...science is science, it has its own methods and is amazingly sucessful in its own domain, but it does not provide means to control our emotions.


Are you saying that there is something outside science that is more successful at describing parts of the world? Specifically, that you believe that there is knowledge outside of mathematics and science?

You would not be alone in this belief. This belief dominates theology, philosophy and is probably accepted by more than 95% of the world's population. It is often said that science has its domain, and the supernatural has another.

Of course, the number of people subscribing to an idea is not a measure of its correctness.

What must one sacrifice to say that there is something more than science and mathematics? One must sacrifice either logic or the assumption that the universe is governed by physical laws.

Some people are happy to make these sacrifices. I am not one of those people. I have given a lot of thought to this. Suppose there are two domains, one that follows physical laws and one that does not. I can't see a way to bridge the two domains with human experience without destroying causality in the scientific domain. Thus, I have not been able to escape the conclusion that either the world is totally causal and accessible to science, or it is not at all causal.

As axiologist points out, emotion is perfectly within the realm of science. We each have statistical models of behavior that we have learned from our relationships with ourselves and with others. We can predict with better-than-even accuracy what the effects of various events will be on the average person. The more we know about someone, the better we can predict their behavior. At a physiological level we can look at blood pressure, blood chemistry, facial expressions, EEG's, brain scans and probably many other observables.

So, propositions about emotion are meaningful to logical positivists. Similarly, propositions about many other things are equally meaningful to the degree that they fall under the domain of science:

  • synthetic ethics

  • game theory and trust

  • language

  • human delusion

Logical positivism is not the bogeyman!

You also say that "science is honest because it is coherent with its own ethos." What you mean to say is that science is okay as long as we don't use it to actually make any decisions about personal or social matters.

But now we need science more than ever. The world is wracked by war and ignorance. Political powers use the irrationality and emotion of the people to gain support for their foolish plans. The people are suckered into supporting policies that are clearly going to hurt them in the future. The people will always be cheated this way as long as they are convinced that there is some supernatural power that will ensure everlasting life and final justice.

Perhaps philosophy was never going to have much impact on the average person. However, if it was to have any effect, philosophy would need to have come to some reasonable consensus. The philosophers' war on positivism has robbed philosophy of any beneficial effect it might have rendered to popular culture. Instead, philosophy's message to the common man is that it's okay to have faith instead of reason.


Language is still not supernatural


In your critique of my logical positivism you argue that we can never truly know what any of our propositions say with infinite precision because we can always claim that a word is not defined well enough (infinite precision) to perform the corresponding falsification test.

I will assume from your critique that you believe my process is equally flawed when applied internally within the mind of a single individual. That is, the flaw exists independent of there being two intellects who might have different interpretations of the same language.

I also assume from your posting that you believe that, while we cannot have infinite precision in meaning, we can have some precision. For if we could not, then language itself would be utterly useless and all science would be impossible.

These assumptions are not an unreasonable starting point. The question is whether language can be developed to arbitrary precision to address the falsification of a specific scientific proposition.

So now we must look at how we gauge the precision of language.

Let's take a little detour and consider a sample proposition:

Heat from a flame is reduced with distance from the flame.

This proposition contains several components: "heat", "flame", "reduced", "with distance".

Informally, we see that we are correlating heat, distance and flame. These three things are patterns of sensation. A flame is a recognized pattern of sensation that incorporates heat, light, sound and possibly smoke. Heat and distance are directly perceptible with our senses. The word "reduced" relates a set of empirical facts together - specifically relating the degree of sensation. The reduction in heat with distance is a mathematical model. In the model, the two degrees of sensation are related to one another in a given context. So we see that this proposition expresses a scientific theory, and it appears to succeed because we are simply mapping symbols to empirical measurements.

Informally, language terms in this proposition are symbols either for empirical measurements and categories or for mathematical relationships.

Can this be made formal? Yes it can. It's called science.

We create a formal language by associating mathematical symbols with the output from sensors, and create mathematical models that relate the different symbols. Imprecision in such a language is exactly the same imprecision we have in scientific theories. The crudity of our sensors is the crudity of our language. As we learn to improve our sensors, our definitions become more refined. As our mathematical models become more complex, our vocabulary of verbs becomes larger.

My claim is that the limits of precision of language in describing the real world are exactly the limits of science. Hence, the ultimate meaning of a proposition is the description of the falsification test (or tests) for the proposition.

Our brains are engines of science at the most basic level. Without this scientific ability, we would have no understanding of our world at all. Our personal scientific ability is what allows us to create language and to understand human subtleties like love, deception, and ethics.


P.S. Let's return to your favorite case: 'God exists, he will show up in X years'. Is this scientific? Can this proposition be falsified? If it cannot, it is outside of science and mathematics. Devise a scientific experiment that will falsify your proposition. If you can devise such an experiment, then the proposition is significant (at least in a purely logical sense).


Nicholas and doc, I think I reinvigorated Confucianism in my last post by fusing it with Taoism (film script). The Confucians, who were opposed to Taoism, would disapprove.

But a question to both Nicholas and doc (I've just read doc's latest draft): Ted Williams' body is frozen at Alcor. Alcor states that current research on lower organisms indicates the company's scientists will be able to thaw and resuscitate Ted Williams in 20 years. They will then cure his cause of death and he will proceed to live a normal life. Why are these statements outside science and mathematics? Won't the basic statement ("Ted Williams will be up and running in 20 years.") be verified or falsified in 20 years? Is this not inside science and mathematics? See the "grue-bleen paradox" in the article 'Confirmation', May 1973 "Scientific American". Would we say that an accurate measurement of the speed of light was outside science because Galileo, Descartes, and Newton lacked techniques to measure it properly?

More Clarification

"It is a commonplace but an important one that it is not science and technology that are fateful to man, but the uses to which they are put. When we speak of uses, we imply purposes and ends, goals and policies. We therewith find ourselves in the realm of values. The humanities, broadly speaking, are concerned with the exploration of this realm."--Sidney Hook

Nicholas, I challenge your assertion that science can't deal with emotion.
DESCARTES' BABY by Paul Bloom and NEWSWEEK magazine on "The New Science of Mind and Body" 27 September 2004 are good references.

On your pistis/faith/trust focus: Confucianism attempted to revitalize the failed Chou religion by making "li" ("ritual") a practical set of civil, secular behaviors. This would be supported by "ren" ("love/kindness") which involved perfecting one's character in the performance of family and cultural duties. Confucianism became a practical, down-to-earth ethos (non-transcendental) intended to stabilize society.

Buddhism was imported to China in the latter half of the 1st millennium c.e. partly to supply the transcendent needs that Confucianism had abandoned. Also, the failure of the Taoist alchemists to produce immortality in the here-and-now led people to look skyward again, seeking oblivion in Buddhist nirvana/nihilism: a permanent escape from consciousness.

I personally side with the physicalist/materialist Taoists. I think that's what the Transhumanists are doing when they promote Alcor, aging research, etc.

When I said that you and doc(logic) should declare a truce on the science/scientism dispute, I didn't mean you should not fight; I was suggesting (throwing a punch in the fight) that you both might be laboring over a distinction without a difference. You mentioned that scientisticians (or scientisticists) make negative statements about metaphysics. But F. Tipler seems to make positive statements about metaphysics. My question is: in the argument between Steven Weinberg and F. Tipler, who is the potter and who the pot. It seems to me that if the 7th century c.e. Taoist alchemist had produced immortality instead of gunpowder, there would be no argument. My source on Taoism is Joseph Needham's SCIENCE AND CIVILIZATION IN CHINA: Vol.II; Vol.V,parts 2,3,4,5,7 (especially 5 & 7).

I attack the Straussians Leon Kass, Michael Sandel, Fukuyama, and Daniel Callahan by updating Jonathan Swift and Nathaniel Hawthorne. A scenario I'm working on revises the script of the film "Charly" (based on the book FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON) by concluding when the planet Earth has become a giant biotech lab with 5 billion researchers working on life-extension.

The pleasure of fighting

Dear Axiologist. You correctly noticed there is a fight going on in this blog and suggest we might want to declare a truce. I do not think I want a truce now because I realize I enjoy fighting, provided it is for sports and not an actual war (which it is'nt).

What are we doing here ? we fight while exercising our reason. Is'nt this an instance of the connection between emotions and reason that you point out (rightly, in my view) ? It is quite clear that a large part of our emotional world is related to fighting and we only need to consider our ancestor's way of life to understand why. So let us fight, but only in socially accepted ways that minimize harm and produce as much indirect benefits as possible, like aggressive blogging, sports or business.

Indeed, I am not sure we have a choice. A well known experiment goes like this. You put a rat in a cage where he gets non lethal electric shocks at random intervals. It is properly fed and the environment is in all aspects ok, except that the rat has nothing to to but wait in idelness for the next jolt. As a result, most test subjects become depressed. They developp imunological weaknesses, lose weight, etc. Now put two rats in the same cage and subject them to the same treatment. Very soon, they will start fighting between them. But they will not become depressed. None of the symptoms previously mentioned will appear in most cases. Declare a "truce" (in the form of a wall in the cage between the two rats, for example), and they wil become depressed again. So do not try to prevent me from fighting with my cage mate, since it is probably good for both of us.

I believe there is also a connection with the unabomber. My impression is that he did not have enough opportunities in his life to fight in order to cure himself of what he had suffered. I just recieved 'Harvard and the Unabomber' from Amazon this morning, so I will be able to check if I am right shortly. But, from what I know, Kaczynski went on to pursue an accademic career after he graduated from Harvard. As I know from direct experience, there is little opportunity for a good healthy fight in accademia. There is hostility indeed, but it mostly translates into low intensity warfare and the kind of dirty tricks that are probably not the best thing for mental health. This is in marked contrast with business of sports. Perhaps Kaczynski would not have become the Unabomber if he had done more of these.

How to control our emotions

Axiologist, I agree with you that there is more important business to do than to bicker about completeness, falsifiability and so forth. The problem is that there is no point in moving 'beyond Logical Positivism' until we are not reasonably sure that these questions are not going to come back in their unreconstructed LP form, and throw everything into confusion again.

Many people are nowadays ready to admit that emotions and reason are not separate, and I am among them. But realizing this provides only a very short relief as the question of how we control our emotions comes back with a vengence. As we have just shown, the urge to fight and and other potentially nasty things feature prominently in our emotional world. So we need some way of restraining them. Cartesian dualism belongs to a long tradition in our culture that tries to point to such a way through a posit that there is something called 'reason' that can be stronger than our 'passions'. I agree that this position fails and it is important to say that it does because there nothing more dangerous than the sense of false security that an undetected failed protection device creates. It is partly for this reason that I attack LP. Like cartesian rationalism, LP masquerades as a method to avoid harmful emotional statements. It is therefore important to show its claims to be empty.

Now what about the claims on science ? Everyone wants to have science on its side. Since science has become so sucessful, there are many who are ready to 'courir au secours de la victoire' (run to the help of victory), as we say in french. Quine, like LP, is among those brave people. Indeed, the fight between them really looks like a sordid tussle between the inheritors of a big fortune. Apparently, Quine came out on top and ran away with most of the loot. I find Wittgenstein's position more courageous : science is science, it has its own methods and is amazingly sucessful in its own domain, but it does not provide means to control our emotions. It is just not its busines. Moreover, I believe that one can show (and that is what I tried to do in this blog) that trying to apply science methods (what I call the mistrust game) to that end makes matters worse. Let us just leave science alone and move on. We have to accept to rely on ourselves to find the means to tame the threatening maëlstrom of our emotions.

So the problem remains to find those means or, rather, to chose from the myriad of possibilities that are being peddled to us. The genealogy of ideas you outline (speculative philosophy then natural philosophy then social mathematics then back to speculative philosophy) could be interpreted as the nihilistic account of absurdity going around eternally in vacuous circles, leaving us nothing but despair. Hopefully, I am convinced we can break free of this circle. Tipler has some interesting things to say, I think, but 'religion is part of science' is not among them. 'Science is part of religion' might be a better start. Indeed, if you interpret 'religion' as 'the sum total of what we believe in' then this is exactly how I picture things. Wittgenstein's statement that 'philosophy and science are separate' fits in this view as well : you just need to consider philosophy as another component of this grand total.

But we have not really started yet. If we want to, I think looking more closely at the first term of your genealogy might provide a starting point. You mention 'speculative philosophy' as being composed of religion and metaphysics. But these could, just as well, be seen as irreconcilable opposites. The first few centuries of chistianity were shaped by an internal struggle between rival factions one can more or less identify with them. On the one hand, gnostics (and, later, manicheans) held that it is knowledge that saves (hence their names). On the other, Paulininans, and other currents which eventually coalesced into the orthodox church, contended that only faith can save. Gnostics were direct descendants of the greek philosophical tradition which had been transmitted to them mostly through neo-platonism. From it, they had inherited a devotion for sophia (wisdom, knowledge, from which philo-sophia). Their opponents held for pistis, which is the greek word for faith, but their traditional roots were more jewish than greek. Eventually, pistis won and went on to create christianity in the form that persists to this day. Sophia went underground for several centuries and started to reappear, timidly at first, as scholastic christian theology then more openly and eventually morphed into the countless avatars of modern philosophy, including Logical Positivism. So, when you mention religion and metaphysics, I see the ghosts of the old pistis and sophia.

Pure sophia leads to failure, as is demonstrated by the flaws of cartesian Dualism, Logical Positivism and all the orther isms whose bones get whiter in the sun every day. The conclusion is not very difficult to see : we have to rediscover pistis, faith. Yes, I dare to utter the F-word, and I do so because I have discovered that 'faith' does not necessarily imply 'faith in God' in the sense given to the word 'God' by the three main monotheistic religions. Actually 'God' is a placeholder that has been used to embody faith because it was too difficult to visualize something so abstract without imagining it as some sort of person. In short, God is an hypostasis of faith, but an entirely disposable one, in my view. This is where I find interesting things in Tipler : he proposes another hypostasis for faith (which, by the way, he also confuses with God). To be more precise, I believe it is helpful to equate faith with trust, and this is why I spent so much energy defending it here. You mentioned someone saying that 'anthropology is the secret of religion'. Here we are : trust is what human societies produce. It is more than a necessary condition of their survival, it is their very essence. Let us put faith/trust back to the center of our preocupations because it is where it belongs. Trust is what we do collectively because we are indvidual embodiments of longevity. Our emotions, tamed by a trust producing culture, contribute to our longevity both as individuals and as a collective. Science does not help us in that, or at least not in its present form. So let us keep at bay those who see nails everywhere because they hold a hammer, and use whatever tools we have (philosophy, poetry).

Pistis crushed sophia by excomunication and church-enforced discipline. These means are repellent to us now. But I venture to say that we should probably be grateful to the church to have saved us from gnosticism. Our modern societies probably owe their existence to protestantism more than to anything else, including philosophy (read Weber). Protestantism, though it is anti-church, is unmistakbly christian in that it is squarely pro-faith. And a strong pro-faith current in our culture is what we owe to the choices of the early christian church. We need now to move on beyond God because it is no longer credible (as Doc says, we do not see the motivation any more). But it would be a grave mistake to throw faith overboard in the process. If we were to become gnostics again we would indeed be running in circles.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Is Logical Positivism a Church or a Method ?

Doc, as I assumed, you knew that I knew. But did you knew that my trap had a double action mechanism ?

Let us come back to your definition of a 'complete' statement.

(D) A proposition is complete if it contains all the necessary assumptions and definitions that will make it a falsifiable model.
What is the purpose of (D) ? Ist it a method for determinig what statements are commplete from those that are not or is it just a metaphor giving a broad idea of what a complete statement is. What I tried in my previous post was to use (D) as a method. Since I noticed (D) contained the phrase 'all [...] definitions' I tried to see if my test statement contained all the definitions required to test it in practice. It obviously does not contain them (it refers to them). So I tried to see if I could make use of your definition of 'completable' to turn it into a complete statement that would meet criterion (D) by replacing the names of notions by their definitions. If you reject this way of using (D), it means you do not consider (D) as a method. And indeed it would be ridiculous to call it such, as my absurd use of it shows.

But if (D) is not a method, in what sense is it still Logical Positivism ? What differentiates LP from other philosophical currents is precisely that it wanted to provide a method to discriminate between valid and invalid (meaningless) statements. Says Ayer :
A complete philosophical elucidation of any language would consist in enumerating the types of sentence significant in that language, and then displaying the relations of equivalence that held between sentences of various types [...] [T]he deduction of relations of equivalence from the rules of language is a purely logical activity; and it is in this logical activity that philosophical analysis consists.
If 'logical activity' is not synonymous with 'method' I really do not see what it is supposed to mean. So Logical Positivism says it is an effort to provide us with a method to tell the 'significant' sentences from those that are not. And this method will take the form of rules of equivalence between statements (what I tried to do with (D)). Carnap genuinely tried to deliver on that promise (Aufbau). And, so far, we have assumed that your theory of 'completeness' is another such attempt.

Now consider what happens if LP cannot, or will not, come forward with such a method but still lays a claim to existence, to be something ? What kind of thing will it be ? When I read your last post and some of your earlier comments, I have the impression that whether a given statement will count as complete or not is always ultimately decided by you. I propose various statements and high priest Doc of the LP church decides whether they will be accepted or rejected. Well you can do that. But this is probably not the way you see things.

Actually, it was not the way LP saw them either. They wanted to reject certain propostions (the title of the first chapter of Ayer's book Language, Truth and Logic reads : 'THE ELIMINATION OF METAPHYSICS') but did not want to use the methods of a church to reach that goal. So they had to say that they would do it by providing a method. Indeed, when it became clear that doing so would be so much more difficult than anticipated that it looked an extremely remote prospect, at best, all honest Logical Positivists retreated. Hence Ayer's admission that it had been 'all wrong'.

Now the question I lay before you, Doc, is this : are you going to be an honest Logical Positivist or not ? If you are, you must provide us with a method fast; or accept that you have no reason to reject statements like 'God exists, he will show up in years' other than because you do not like them or do not believe in them (that is fine with me, I do not either). Failing which, you will have to put up with my saying that you belong to a church, and a dishonest one at that, because it pretends not to be one. There is nothing new here. LP attracted a lot of flak along these lines in the 1950s and 60s and it is what ultimately undid it : no one (especially not a british gentleman like A.J. Ayer) wants to be seen to belong to a dishonest cult.

A last remark : contrast this with science. Science is honest because it is coherent with its own ethos. It never says that a statement is to be believed without providing you with a method to test that statement. 'The mass of the proton at rest is 0.938 +/- 0.001 GeV' is indeed a statement of science in that sense because I can learn what it means from books and courses and test it on my own. But when science cannot provide you with a method, it just stops; it does not say anything. But scientism does. It says many (negative) things about metaphysical statements, religion, traditions, etc. Does it have a method one can use to test these claims on his own ? No.

Language is not supernatural

Nicolas! So you knew that I knew that you were setting a trap. But did you know that I knew that you knew?! ;-)

I did not define "complete" to mean that the proposition must be written in a way that is comprehensible to someone in a completely different language. If I say that "the acceleration of an object is inversely proportional to its mass", a man who knows only Japanese will not understand any of my words or verbs. This does not render my proposition meaningless or untestable. Similarly, a claim that "neutrino mixing is responsible for the deficit of solar neutrinos" is no less complete just because you have not learned how to interpret it. The fact is that you can learn to interpret it and perform the experiments that will falsify the proposition.

From my perspective, your counterclaim is trivial. It basically says that in order to understand a proposition it must be expressed in a language you have learned.

I have a problem with the linguistic school (Wittgenstein et al). They mistake language for something more fundamental than a protocol.

First, I would answer by saying that perception of the world does not require language. Other species (and a few individual humans) have demonstrated the ability to perceive the world and even use tools without using language at all.

Second, scientific progress in neuroscience, language and information theory have made the linguistic school obsolete. If language was fundamentally linked to perception and understanding of the world, it would be invulnerable to scientific explanation. However, it is straightforward to see how language works from a scientific perspective. With science, we can gauge the limitations of our language.

There's a good analogy here. Science accepts that a universe that is subject to physical laws is perfectly compatible with the fact that experimental measurements have finite precision. Similarly, we can say that conceptual representation of the world (meaning) is perfectly compatible with language that has finite precision. In both cases, we can make propositions about the world with an arbitrarily high degree of precision, and falsify those propositions to a correspondingly high degree of precision.

Language is simply a technology for communication. It is not beyond science, and it is not metaphysical.



"Funeral by funeral, theory advances."--Paul Samuelson (probably adapted from Max Planck)
"Philosophy progresses not by solving problems but by abandoning them."--John Dewey

There's an article by Wesley Salmon titled 'Confirmation' in the May 1973 issue of "Scientific American". But are these discussions about confirmation, completability, verification, and
falsifiability of primary relevance? According to Antonio Damasio (DESCARTES ERROR),
and other neuroscience researchers, the dualism between reason and emotion promoted by Descartes was a mistake. Brainscans seem to reveal the entanglement of emotion and reason in the brain (or more accurately the entire person) just as entanglement has become a large topic in quantum physics.

Wittgenstein believed that philosophy is separate from science. Quine countered that philosophy is really a brance of science. One could propose that speculative philosophy (religion, metaphysics) led to natural philosophy (science, physics--Newton/Steven Weinberg) which led to social mathematics (Condorcet/D. Bernoulli/H. H. Gossen/the failed 20th century c.e. Macy Foundation conferences) which led back to speculative philosophy and the resurrection of religion/metaphysics by Frank Tipler who said, contrary to Weinberg, that religion was now a branch of science: reductive science takes on the duty of religion and provides us with the promised consolation of immortality. Tipler it seems attempts to rebut Robert C. Priddy's and Nicholas's argument against scientism. (Priddy's book SCIENCE LIMITED is on the Internet; cf.: Chapter 7) But Tipler's scientism seems to be a scientism that Nicholas would accept and Weinberg, Ayer, and doc(logic) would not. Weinberg's scientism, rejected by Tipler, would also be rejected by Nicholas but accepted by Ayer and doc(logic). The Weinberg-Tipler dispute is covered in Tipler's THE PHYSICS OF IMMORTALITY.

Two terminologies seem to be at war here, and I think it's time to declare a truce. The two terminologies are science/scientist/scientific vs, scientism/scientisticist/scientistic. I think that Hume and the LP folks failed to recognize the relevance of the connection between human emotion and reason. Hume's friend, Adam Smith, seemed to approach this problem but lacked the machinery to resolve it. Ayer includes a chapter by Carnap, 'The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of Language', in his book LOGICAL POSITIVISM. I think poetry, ethics, values may be our first way of saying what we want to pursue and that language clarification and science are the tools we develop to pursue it. We want to be sure that language doesn't lead us into deconstructionist cul-de-sacs like Paul de Man's comment: "death is a misplaced name for a linguistic predicament". I think the early Taoist alchemists were on target when they attempted to use science directly for the achievement of immortality. Because it would have been heresy (overthrowing the Cherubim guarding the Tree of Life) for Christian alchemists to pursue that course, they said they were only pursuing an elixir to keep them alive till Christ's second coming. Smart move. If the South Sea cargo cults keep growing coconuts while waiting for the return of the generous strangers, they won't starve if the strangers fail to return.

I'll close with a word from the poet Virginia Woolf (THE WAVES): "And in me too the wave rises. It swells; it arches its back. I am aware once more of a new desire, something rising beneath me like the proud horse whose rider first spurs and then pulls him back. What enemy do we now perceive advancing against us, you whom I ride now, as we stand pawing this stretch of pavement? It is death. Death is the enemy. It is death against whom I ride with my spear couched and my hair flying back like a young man's, like Percival's, when he galloped in India. I strike spurs into my horse. Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!"

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Complete ? Really ?

Forgive me Doc, but, as you no doubt have guessed, my question was a rethorical trick. And it seems you fell into the trap.

Let us review your example of a complete statement :

(S) The mass of the proton at rest is 0.938 +/- 0.001 GeV
in light of your definition of 'complete' :
(D) A proposition is complete if it contains all the necessary assumptions and definitions that will make it a falsifiable model.
Let us suppose (S) indeed contains all the necessary assumptions. It certainly cannot be said to contain all the relevant definitions. What is a proton ? What is a GeV ? What does 'at rest' mean (for a proton) ?. These are more than rethorical questions, this time. As far as I am concerned, I roughly know what a proton is supposed to be and that a GeV is a Giga electron Volt. But I must confess that I do not remember very well what a Giga electron Volt is, and especially how to measure it. The term 'at rest' is probably even trickier since, if I am not mistaken, protons are never at rest in the kind of experiments we can do. So the 'mass at rest' is not something you measure directly but deduce (how ?) from measurements under different circumstances (which ones exactly ?). So (S) is definitely not complete according to (D).

Now is it 'completable' ? You can concievably transform (S) into another statement (S1) where 'proton', 'GeV' and 'at rest' have been replaced by short definitions (several lines long) of what these notions mean. But these definitions will inevitably contain other words like 'spin' or 'quark' or 'particle accelerator' or 'magnetic field' that will, in turn, require definition. Repeating the expansion process will yield a third statement (S2) where these words will have been similarly replaced by definitions. But why should (S2) be more complete than (S1) ? There is, in fact, every reason to believe (if you don't, just try) that (S2), being longer, will contain even more terms requiring definition. So from (S2) we will derive (S3), then (S4), etc. Now, is this series of statements going to stop at some point ? Logical Positivists believed it could and this is why R. Carnap (Der Logische Aufbau der Welt) or Otto Neurath tried to build very detailed systems to decompose any statement into a set of sense experience data readouts + predicitive structure. This project is generally considered to have failed and, indeed, has been abandoned. The coup de grâce seems to have come from W.V. Quine who said :

our statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a corporate body.

The unit of empirical significance is the whole of science.

which means that Quine (and everyone else nowadays) believes that the sequence (S), (S1), ... (Sn),... cannot be meaningfully stopped until it contains 'the whole of science'. Now, 'the whole of science' is not a statement because it is not even precisely defined (what counts as science ? must we include definitions of ordinary words as well ?) So, none of the statements (S), (S1), ... (Sn), ... is a complete statement and what could be considered complete ('the whole of science') is not a statement. Ergo, there are no complete statements, since the above argument can be repeated for any starting statement (S).

Honestly, Doc, do you still believe your defintions of 'complete' and 'completable' are taking us anywhere ?


Here are some examples of complete propositions.

Scientific propositions are the easiest:

The mass of the proton at rest is 0.938 +/- 0.001 GeV.

Two objects with different masses will accelerate at the same rate in a uniform gravitational field in which external forces are negligible. Link

In these scientific examples, an experimentalist knows enough to devise an experiment that will falsify the proposition.

Let's move on to less scientific propositions.

I paid my taxes for fiscal year 2003.

Volkswagen makes the cheapest car in each category of automobile, with categories defined as groups of vehicles with comparable performance and luxury appointments.

I think that tartar sauce smells repellent.

In each case, we can test the proposition and potentially prove it false. The last proposition is the most difficult to argue as complete, but I think that there are very few people who could lie on this subject and still evade all of the potential falsification tests. To the extent that it is an empirical proposition about personal feelings, it may not need to be falsifiable. I'll discuss this more below.

The following natural language statements are incomplete, but are completable (--> indicates completion):

Unemployment is bad. --> Unemployment in contemporary American society is bad for economic growth, tends to increase crime and depresses morale.

Tartar sauce smells repellent. --> I think that tartar sauce smells repellent.

There is no bread at the supermarket. --> There were no salable packages of bread in edible condition on the bread shelves at the supermarket when I was there 15 minutes ago.

Again, an incomplete statement is completable if we can agree that it is equivalent to a complete statement.

Let's now look at statements that are generally intended as non-completable:

God exists.

God is good.

God created the universe.

Killing is absolutely wrong.

Each of these statements suffers from the problem that the person who speaks these things generally does not intend them to be equivalent to falsifiable propositions.

For example, most people would not be willing to translate "God is good" as "I think of my wife is a goddess, and she makes me feel good," or translate "God exists" as "There is an extraterrestrial life form that possesses technology vastly superior to our own."

Most statements that are "incomplete by intention" are the result of confusion. For example, they may be attempts to explain the unknown ("the universe") in terms of the more unknown ("god").

Empirical facts are not themselves falsifiable. If my photodetector records two events between 1pm and 2pm, this is an empirical fact: "Photodetector #12 detected two events between 00:13:00 GMT and 00:14:00 GMT with the time measured by clock #27". Note that this does not necessarily mean that there were no other photons passing through detector #12 during that same time period. Other detectors may see the events differently. Sometimes, you only have one detector, and it may give you an inaccurate result.

The scientific view of the universe as a machine that follows physical laws is perfectly consistent with imperfect measurement.

We humans are also detectors. If you see something that no one else could have seen, that empirical fact may not be falsifiable. However, this does not mean that your measurements correctly reflect physical events. You may have imagined the events. Furthermore, humans are more than just detectors. Humans are theorizers as well as detectors. To make a measurement directly, a human must fit the observation into his or her neural model of reality. This means we may express a measurement in terms that are not reliable or consistent. We are also gamers, so we can lie about what we observe (consciously or subconsciously).

Empirical propositions are readouts from scientific equipment, or expressions of sense observations by humans:

I saw a large bird of prey soaring over my home town this afternoon.

The electrical potential across the terminals of this battery reads 5.25 volts.

Due to known flaws in human perception, we must rely on methods that minimize these flaws. Double-blind experiments are one such method.


The Metaphysics of Scientism

Doc, I do not say scientists pursue metaphysical goals. I say scientism does. And I am not alone.

Look at your definition of knowlege. Its point No. 2 reads "Empirical facts.". Presumably, these empirical facts must be expressed as completable statements, which, according to your definition of 'completable', can then be decompressed into a complete equivalent statement. Now, let us put that to the test : can you show us a complete statement ?