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November 26, 2007


Eliezer- I like these ideas. I’m thinking a possible distinction between a seeker (one attempting to overcome bias) and a dogmatist (one attempting to defend bias) would be that a seeker takes a pragmatic rationality and looks for exceptions (thereby continuing to look for the deeper epistemic rationality) whereas a dogmatist takes a pragmatic rationality and turns it into an epistemic rationality by ignoring or redefining exceptions.
Am I understanding?

'Scuse me, but isn't this trivial ? Both pragmatic and epistemic instances depend on available information. If you drive to Carrefour, you need some information to tell you they're out of chocolate. And to see the 'Out of chocolate' sign, you need to have driven to Carrefour. So, dear friends, both instances depend on (a) purpose (b) information relative to the achievability of the purpose. Unless of course your purpose is 'enculage des mouches', in which case, don't go to Carrefour. Go to Tesco.
PS Truth does not reduce to usefulness. Truth is a relative concept dependant on usefulness. I asked Schrodinger's cat to contribute but she was busy with her Whiskas.

Truth is a relative concept dependant on usefulness.

You're both wrong! Truth is an objective concept totally unrelated in any way to usefulness.

It is not useful to have an accurate model of reality? Isn't that what truth is: something that helps you refine your model of reality?

Hi Richard, any relation to the punch card guy ? IBM paid my salary for 35 years. Someone in one of these threads got squashed flatter than a pancake for supposedly confusing maps and territories, so let's be careful with models of reality. When I say 'dependant on usefulness', I just meant that the selectivity and level of detail of the map would depend on what you want to use it for. Not much point in going to the doctor and telling him the 'truth' about my finger, which would involve energy fields and dark matter, if what I want from him is a sticking plaster.
Lovely article here on what the Romans thought was important in a map, and why it doesn't look like one that we'd find useful, or 'truthful', today.

Interesting comments. I recently read Lovejoy's "Thirteen Pragmatisms", which made me think that a pragmatic view is, by necessity, purpose-driven. The question is, does that argument necessarily lead to a relativist view of the world or can it be in line with a realist perspective? This is a crucial issue for knowledge representation, and ontology-focused philosophers such as Barry Smith have strong opinions about it:


Truth and usefulness? I don't think that the two can be equated. Sometimes in life a lie is more useful than the truth (a nice tool against self-incrimination), so how could a useful lie be in any way truthful?

Does the lie become a truth at some conceptual level?

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