Re: Philosophy vs. rigor

From: Jeff Medina (
Date: Sun Oct 24 2004 - 18:41:10 MDT

"Sigh. I mean the following: I don't care if you prove that, based
on some assumption or other, you can fly when you step off a cliff, if
you actually plummet to the ground and go splat. My goal is to
outguess the mysterious agent "reality" which produces the actual
experimental results we compare against our predictions."

Good good. So you actually don't have "little use for conclusions that
are absolutely certain given their assumptions." You have little use
for conclusions that are absolutely certain given *dubious*
assumptions. So say that. Pardon, but I am sometimes a bit of a
literalist when it comes to interpreting others' meaning.

"I'm a Bayesian, Medina. I don't assign probabilities of 0 or 1 to
anything. My math goes kerplooey when it tries to handle infinite
certainties. The suggestion that I ever claimed anyone could be
absolutely certain of anything is base calumny verging on deliberate

I figured. But that just exacerbated my confusion over your repeatedly
stated disdain for assumptions. The sought-after "conclusions that are
correct" are a subset of "conclusions that are absolutely certain
given their assumptions"; the subset corresponding to true assumptions
and valid rules of inference.

If the word 'assumptions' is replaced by 'unjustified assumptions',
your statements no longer put me off. I just don't think you should be
using the word 'assumption' to mean this. I think Ben's recent reply
is relevant here, wherein he said (paraphrasing) that while rigor is
important, it isn't the only thing that's important. I think we all
agree that correspond to fact is quite an important feature of a
theory. This requirement does not speak against Ben's point about the
importance of rigor.

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