Re: Reductionism

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Fri Nov 26 2004 - 15:22:03 MST

Samantha Atkins wrote:

> By this I mean that you too make and must make use of various tools
> and assumptions that you cannot fully reduce in order to function at
> all in the world. There is no need to fight over an obvious truth.
> :-)
We always operate within a context beyond our own comprehension.

Having raised three children and managed teams of very bright technical
staff for two decades, I've faced this issue repeatedly at home, work
and online, however, I have not discovered any good way to effectively
communicate the case-relevant knowledge except through experience. It
seems to be essentially incompressible, although in a sense, it is
encoded into the environment in which we've evolved.

Interestingly (to me, at least), if I reflect on the topics over the
last few years that motivate me to post, it's clear they're all linked
by the theme of "pragmatic action under intrinsically limited but
expanding knowledge." They're all about expanding spheres of
awareness. Since I'm a predominately visual thinker, I imagine
illustrating the concepts in animated 3D. Maybe someday I'll get the time.

    * The problem of concept-mapping across noncongruent knowledge
      bases, AKA "you can't know what you don't know"
    * The question of rational trust in a system complex beyond one's
      own understanding.
    * The bounds of rationality.
    * The importance of context.
    * The arrow of morality.
    * The subjective / objective trap.
    * The "mystery" of qualia.
    * The "hard problem" of consciousness.
    * The illusion of an independent self.

Come to think of it, "pragmatic action under intrinsically limited but
expanding knowledge" comes close to what we call intelligent behavior or

So why should this matter to anyone?

It appears there can be no shortcut to wisdom, but we can and should
work to improve the growth of wisdom. Optimum growth appears to require
(1) a fertile environment for interaction (competition) among diverse
systems of thought, and (2) a framework (cooperation) for selection and
promotion of successful systems to the next level.

With the web and its capability to connect communities of thought, we
are well on our way with #1 above at global scope. However, we are
lacking the global cooperative framework to accomplish #2 at global
scope. We are still mostly separate and competitive, lacking the
overlying cooperative framework necessary for a successful global
metasystem of thought.

<-- insert action plan here -->

I'm hoping that our ideas and discussions nurture the seeds of the
growth we need.

- Jef

P.S. Apologies in advance for this considered cross-posting.

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