The relationship between usefulness and falsifiability

There’s an article by Matthew R. Francis in Symmetry magazine garnering a lot of attention asking whether falsifiability is a useful criteria for scientific theories.

Popper wrote in his classic book The Logic of Scientific Discovery that a theory that cannot be proven false—that is, a theory flexible enough to encompass every possible experimental outcome—is scientifically useless. He wrote that a scientific idea must contain the key to its own downfall: It must make predictions that can be tested and, if those predictions are proven false, the theory must be jettisoned.

If you think about it, Popper’s criteria is simply that for a theory, a model, to be scientific, there must be something about observable reality that is different if it is true instead of false.  There are a wide variety of conditions that could satisfy this criteria.  It’s actually pretty broad.  But apparently not broad enough for some.

But where does this falsifiability requirement leave certain areas of theoretical physics? String theory, for example, involves physics on extremely small length scales unreachable by any foreseeable experiment. Cosmic inflation, a theory that explains much about the properties of the observable universe, may itself be untestable through direct observations. Some critics believe these theories are unfalsifiable and, for that reason, are of dubious scientific value.

At the same time, many physicists align with philosophers of science who identified flaws in Popper’s model, saying falsification is most useful in identifying blatant pseudoscience (the flat-Earth hypothesis, again) but relatively unimportant for judging theories growing out of established paradigms in science.

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder has a response up on her blog that is well worth reading.  Both Francis and Hossenfelder discuss situations in which a rigid adherence to falsifiability is problematic, although Francis allows for a broader scope for it than Hossenfelder.

My own attitude, as a layperson and skeptic, is that it matters to me whether a theory has been tested, or can be tested in some plausibly foreseeable scenario.  I’ll grant that scientists need space to work on speculative ideas, but as Hossenfelder notes, if there is never any pressure to eventually find testable predictions in those ideas, then they eventually become just metaphysical philosophy.  Not that there’s anything wrong necessarily with metaphysics, but it doesn’t enjoy the credibility of science for a reason.

Anyway, there are a couple of points the Symmetry article makes that I want to comment on.

On that note, Caltech cosmologist Sean M. Carroll argues that many very useful theories have both falsifiable and unfalsifiable predictions. Some aspects may be testable in principle, but not by any experiment or observation we can perform with existing technology. Many particle physics models fall into that category, but that doesn’t stop physicists from finding them useful. SUSY as a concept may not be falsifiable, but many specific models within the broad framework certainly are. All the evidence we have for the existence of dark matter is indirect, which won’t go away even if laboratory experiments never find dark matter particles. Physicists accept the concept of dark matter because it works.

First is the observation that well established theories often make untested predictions.  Sure they do.  But those theories are well established because of the predictions that have been tested.  And it’s well worth keeping in mind which predictions haven’t been tested yet, because it’s always possible that they reflect areas where even a well established theory might eventually have to be adjusted in the future.

But the other point is the use of the word “useful” here.  In what way are the untestable theories useful?  What about them makes them useful?  How would they be different if they weren’t useful?  Do they add value to other theories, value that makes the predictions of that other theory more accurate?  If so, then congratulations, you’ve just made the useful theory falsifiable.

Or are they “useful” in some other manner involving their aesthetics or emotional appeal?  Do they give us a feeling like we’ve explained something, plugged a hole in our knowledge of how something works, but without enhancing our ability to make predictions?  If so, then this feels like what in psychology is often called a “just so” story.

Just-so stories are generally recognized as having little or no value.  They’re just bias enforcing narratives we come up with that make us feel better about how something got to be the way it is, but not in giving us any real insights.  The danger with such narratives is that if everyone is too satisfied with them, they might actually stifle investigation into areas that still need it.

(Of course, whether a particular theory has been or can be tested is inevitably a matter of judgment.  I’ve had numerous people over the years point to a well accepted scientific theory they disliked and insisted that it either wasn’t falsifiable or that there was no evidence for it, and then insist that the evidence accepted by the vast majority of scientists wasn’t actually evidence.  Even Popper had trouble with this, initially thinking that natural selection wasn’t falsifiable, a fact that delights the creationists who know about it.)

Falsifiability, in my understanding, is simply an insistence that a scientific theory must be epistemically useful, must enhance our ability to make more accurate predictions, directly or indirectly.  If it doesn’t do that, or at least pave the way in some foreseeable manner for other theories that might do it, then the notion might have value as philosophy, but presenting it as settled science is misleading and, I think, puts the credibility of science in jeopardy.

Unless of course I’m missing something?

89 thoughts on “The relationship between usefulness and falsifiability

  1. “But the other point is the use of the word “useful” here. In what way are the untestable theories useful? What about them makes them useful?”

    I was thinking the exact same thing (almost word for word). What occurred to me is that science that turns into technology is useful. Science that doesn’t is just interesting.

    Our inability to figure out quantum gravity or consciousness or time raises the question of whether there are limits in what we can figure out. Is it possible for physicalism to be ineffable?

    BTW: Peter Woit also posted about this. I get the sense a lot of scientific types are quite offended at this. (You may recall my carping about how we need more physical reality. Here’s another facet of that disconnect.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Quantum physics in particular strikes me as a boundary of the knowable that we might have hit. Nailing which interpretation is the right one may be a misguided endeavor, a forlorn attempt to understand the quantum world in classical terms, terms that our minds are tuned to work with, but that simply aren’t the right equipment to understand what lies underneath.

      The other boundary I think science will eventually run into is the ROI (return on investment) boundary, the point where society says, okay, that’s a very interesting question, but unless you can demonstrate a clear return, we’re not willing to give you the increasingly larger resources to find the answer. Particle physics may be near that boundary now, but it seems like one every science may someday reach.

      Not that I want anyone to assume either boundary has been reached. Maybe I’m full of hot air and next year someone will find a way to move pass them. I hope so.

      Thanks for the Woit link! I hadn’t seen that one yet.


      1. “The other boundary I think science will eventually run into is the ROI (return on investment) boundary,”

        Yeah, a pragmatism boundary rather than a physics one. And, honestly, what has the Higgs Boson (cool as it was) done for me? 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it gets into scientism. Basically I’d say we as a species are inclined to make religion of any old thing – this is why in climate change debates the idea that climate change could have a tiny, tiny chance of being wrong isn’t brought up. Not just because the deniers would pounce on a tiny chance as if that disproves the whole thing, but because people are dogmatically attached to climate chance science. Which works out for the best, mostly, but it’s dogmatic religion all the same.

    Here you see people trying to declare their science is the one to grasp onto and accept. Tenures and mortgages ride on it, even if it seems unclear that we have a blatant craving for certainty and just knowing instead of guessing and betting.

    It would be interesting for scientists to test the psychology of other scientists to see how much they become attached to theories and must treat them as true so they can feel certain. But the scientists tend to not test their own kind and just run cognitive science on the rest of us, leaving the psychology of scientists a massive blindspot in our society (while what they do is a massive changer of society – seems a bad thing, eh?)

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    1. Max Planck once made the remark that science progresses one funeral at a time, meaning that a lot of intellectual advances have to wait for the old guard to die out. So I think you’re right that scientists are human and just as prone as anyone to being dogmatic over certain things.

      Of course, the difference is that there are almost always other scientists out to make a name for themselves and find flaws in the reigning paradigms. I referenced the bitter fights between archaeologists in my post on Neanderthals the other day. Unfortunately, those kinds of fights aren’t unusual. But seen philosophically, they serve a purpose, to clean out bad ideas and allow better ones to rise.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What is ‘better’, though?

        If it’s our nature to be religious then what manages this? Suppose religion is like the slime a snail produces on its foot so as to be able to navigate the environment rather than have its foot cut on every little sharp. If we strip the slime away then we are left navigating a world of broken glass.

        If we don’t strip slime away, we become mired in supernatural dogma. Which isn’t so bad if the practical ramifications aren’t dire – what’s wrong with offering a few food scraps to gods if you have plenty of food, for example? But that measure of ‘practical ramification’ itself becomes mired in supernatural dogma and a tool of it – soon enough sacrificing people to appease the sun gods seems without practical ramification.

        But there seems no man at the helm between the two – the modern western world disenchants the world rapidly (while making various fake reality devices to then re-enchant for a dollar), while I’d argue people at a psychology level need enchantment to navigate the world of broken glass (thus the selling of fake realities taking off and why super hero movies are so hot now, I guess, as in the 80 and earlier people had more of their own supply of enchantment)

        I think this is a subject that may actually cover the actual psychology of humans, but basically nobody is talking about managing it in practical terms. Specifically in practical terms, because plenty of religions will talk about the importance of keeping religion in peoples lives – that’s from the frame of the religion, which makes ‘practical ramification’ a tool of the religion rather than the other way around.

        The Planck quote reminds me of a line in a poem ‘And then a plank in reason, broke’

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I’ve written about this before. Medicine was once primitive and superstitious, but it was also useful, so we updated it according to modern precepts. I’ve argued we should do the same for religion for the same reason. I’ve always seen metaphysics as the Yang to the Yin of physics.


          1. “I’ve always seen metaphysics as the Yang to the Yin of physics.”

            So true Wyrd… The problem with metaphysics is that our model is one that we inherited from the Greeks, and that model is clearly “fubar”. Unless or until we are willing to reject that model, we will be forever confounded. Subject/object metaphysics (SOM) needs to be trashed because it is an egregiously suppressive paradigm, one that obstructs meaning and understanding. Sure, SOM is useful, because it gives one a sense of control. But if one values meaning over a transient sense of control, one has to make a different choice. And being a pragmatist myself, I do not see that change taking place any time soon…


        2. Callan said: “If it’s our nature to be religious then what manages this?… I think this is a subject that may actually cover the actual psychology of humans,…”

          This assessment is indeed factual, but it only addresses the effect, not the cause. Causation is what we need to pursue if there is to be a meaningful change of any kind. Our experience is one of relationships. And fundamentally, that relationship is with POWER. There are only two things that discrete systems do: they experience and they express. First, they experience the power of other discrete systems and second, they express the power of their own unique structural, qualitative properties in correspondence with other discrete systems.

          A religious conviction is not what grounds human beings, it is a sense of control. A religious conviction is the effect of that pursuit, not the cause. The need for control is the cause, because without at least a sensation of control, there is no sensation of self. The dependencies that we create for ourselves in order to maintain a sense of control are as varied as their are individuals to express that power, a power that is targeted exclusively to gain and/or maintain that transient sensation of control. Control is the ghost of rationality.


          1. Well, why care about control or power? Why do you need a sensation of self?

            No, I’d say it’s recursive – you’ve gone back one layer and treat it that you are at the cause. But then there’s another layer behind that – and it’s still religious (if more primordially so)


  3. The demarcation problem of science versus pseudo science was of course pondered long before Karl Popper. Aristotle for one was quite interested in solving it. No indication that this quandary will ever be satisfactorily resolved. Though I do consider Popper’s “falsifiability” heuristic to be reasonably useful, I’m not hopeful about the project in general.

    I love when scientists remove their science hats in order to put on philosophy hats! It’s an admission that failure in philosophy causes failure in science. And why does failure in philosophy cause failure in science? Because philosophy exists at a more fundamental level of reality exploration than science does. Without effective principles of metaphysics, epistemology, and value, science lacks an effective place to stand. (Apparently “hard” forms of sciences are simply less susceptible than “personal” fields such as psychology, though physics suffers here as well given that we’re now at the outer edges of human exploration in this regard.)

    I believe that it would be far more effective to develop a new variety of philosopher rather than try to define a hard difference between “science” and “pseudo science”. The sole purpose of this second community of philosophers would be to develop what science already has — respected professionals with their own generally accepted positions.

    Though small initially, if scientists were to find this community’s principles of metaphysics, epistemology, and value useful places from which to develop scientific models, this new community should become an essential part of the system, or what might then be referred to as “post puberty science”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Eric,
      I think “pseudoscience” remains an important label, but I’m personally cautious in using it, reserving it for clear cases of fake science, where someone is selling something very different from science but decorating it with the trapping of science in an attempt to hijack the credibility that science has earned.

      I can’t say I’m optimistic about philosophers adding much to scientific methodologies. History isn’t kind to this notion. They’ve more often documented existing methodologies and made them known to a wider audience, an important contribution, but their actual contributions to it have been limited. Their principle value has been in helping to establish the important questions and possible hypotheses, as well as documenting how science works.

      Could a new philosophy improve on this? I don’t know. I think for the idea to catch on, someone would need to actually do it, and demonstrate its value.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree that pursuing “demarcation” is not very fruitful. But I agree with SelfAware in rejecting the idea that philosophy comes before science in the “fundamentals” line-up. Philosophy comes after observation (both informal observation and scientific). The premises used in philosophy come almost entirely from those observations.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well okay Mike and Paul, but let’s travel down that road just a little further as well. You’re saying that scientists rather than philosophers must be in charge of the function of science. But that’s obviously also the situation that we have today, and yet modern physicists get “Lost in Math”. Furthermore mental and behavioral sciences clearly carry all sorts of maladies which render them “soft”. Must things remain as they are now, or where each variety of science must not only do it’s own science, but also figure out it’s own principles from which to do it’s own science? Shouldn’t we have dedicated specialists to at least get the structure of science down for the institution in general? That’s essentially what I’m proposing, and regardless of what these people are called. Furthermore I’m proposing four principles from which to potentially do that sort of thing. I leave all of this open for your scrutiny.

        Then as far as “anti philosophy” rhetoric goes, I don’t see how that road could be a productive one. Philosophy remains the mother from which science sprang. It gave away virtually all of the topics which have progressed, but still holds three that have not — metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology, or the very topics where modern science seems to fail.

        So given such circumstances, might the great Gandhi then say “You philosophers have failed us by means of your incompetence. We scientists shall now do your jobs better than you have”? No I think he’d consider such a response to invoke needless defenses which would thus mandate breaching. Instead he’d praise traditional philosophy as a tremendous cultural endeavor for humanity to treasure and preserve. But secondly he would not yield regarding a requirement that a coexisting branch be developed whose singular mission would be to develop a respected community of professionals with their own generally accepted principles of metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology.

        Remember this line from the movie?

        Yes. In the end, you will walk out, because 100,000 Englishmen simply cannot control 350,000,000 Indians if those Indians refuse to cooperate. And that is what we intend to achieve: peaceful, nonviolent, non-cooperation — till you, yourselves, see the wisdom of leaving.

        We’ll I’ve got a similarly stark observation for each of you to consider. Humanity has been around for hundreds of thousands of years in a reasonably evolved form, and even if not culturally so. I consider the evolution of natural languages to be humanity’s first great power revolution. The second would be the specialization associated with civilization. The third would be written languages. Then now we have the most recent — hard science. This has clearly transformed our species. But is there any way for this “pre-pubescent” institution, this baby-child, to remain without generally accepted principles from which to function? In the grand scheme of things, I see no way for us to do science perpetually, and yet permit it to remain without generally accepted principles of metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology.

        Mike, I realize that you’d like me to start actually “doing this” rather than just talking about it. But as in Gandhi’s case, it could be that talking about it is the essential first step of doing it.

        In these efforts I’ve been talking over at Sabine’s just recently, and have felt quite welcomed. Apparently one very sharp person over there has been vetting me, which I consider quite hopeful. I do hope to see some of them over here as well given my recent invitation. Of course Sabine has both a career and family to manage, and apparently she can’t keep the Backreaction board open without mayhem. I wouldn’t expect to see my recent comments up until late night for me and early morning for you:


        1. Eric,
          I think the difficulty is that the idea that all scientific fields use the same methods is wrong. Yes, we all learn about the scientific method in school, but that’s a major oversimplification.

          The reality is that methods vary tremendously between fields. They are hammered out within the logistics and constraints of that particular field. The methods of particle physics won’t work in chemistry, biology, archaeology, psychology, or economics. Each field has to find the best methods they can given the realities of what they’e studying.

          The other issue to consider is that those methods weren’t established at the beginning of each field as philosophical axioms. They’re constantly being hammered out scientifically. Scientific methods are themselves constantly being assessed for their efficacy. As a result, the methods in a lab 50 years ago wouldn’t pass muster in a modern lab.

          The idea that a group of philosophers are going to think really hard and then tell these people how to do their job, well, I don’t think it’s realistic. They would have to embed for months or years in the relevant field before they’d even be up to speed enough to offer anything possibly insightful.

          “Philosophy remains the mother from which science sprang.”

          The story is actually more complicated than that. Some of it is semantic since scientists were called “philosophers” before 1833. But modern science owes a lot to renaissance engineering and its pragmatic approaches to research and experimentation, approaches many philosophers of the 16th century often resisted. Galileo’s methods owed as much, if not more, to his engineering background as his philosophical one. Today Galileo’s religious persecution is remembered, but he caught a lot of grief first from philosophers.

          I’m not trying to dismiss philosophy. As I said above, I think it has an important role to play. But its proponents have a tendency to oversell it.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Mike,
        I’m not saying that the methods from which to do one variety of science must also exist as the methods from which to do another. The methods of chemistry clearly need to be different than the methods of sociology. No dispute about that!

        I’m instead talking about something bigger. For example, you’re fond of saying that “consciousness” lies in the eye of the beholder. Furthermore I’ve heard you expand this principle to also address other terms. So apparently the definitions of all terms lie in the eye of the beholder. But there presumably isn’t just one form of science which this principle applies to. It surely applies to them all. So your “epistemology” is a heuristic from which to think about things in general, and indeed, a means from which to do science. And I’d say a damn good one! “Ordinary language” philosophers such as the late Ludwig Wittgenstein propose a competing principle. Regardless, when you provide your heuristic you’re functioning in the role of “philosopher” no less than Wittgenstein once did. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes I wish we could entirely stop using the “science” and “philosophy” terms. These labels seem to foster associated team members and allegiances.

        With “Lost in Math” I’d say that Sabine Hossenfelder is functioning in the role of philosopher as well, though in a micro way of simply trying to fix her own field rather than science in general. Apparently that’s exactly the way you think it should be — scientists must be the people who fix science. But I’m saying that what she’s trying to fix extends far beyond just the borders of physics. This is to say that it needs to become generally understood that there is only one process by which anything conscious, consciously figures anything out. It takes what it thinks it knows (evidence), and uses this to assess what it’s not so sure about (a model). As a given model continues to remain consistent with evidence, it tends to become progressively more believed. This is my second principle of epistemology.

        I provided a similar message when we met at Massimo’s in late 2015. Each of them had attended a conference in Munich from which to help fix physics. She gave me a lovely response three comments down. (Unfortunately this link may or may not come up to the proper part of the page. I did respond well down the following page.)
        I’ll bide my time to support her efforts where I can. I suspect that she’ll eventually decide that the problem she fights is indeed endemic to the still new institution of science. If she did change gears to support my project, or even some variation of it, that would be huge! Hey, if I’m going to be hanging out over there in earnest, then I better finally read her book!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. This comment is for both Mike and Eric…

          The reason that philosophy has been relegated to the trash bin of academia is because there is no new philosophy being done. Everything that is being marketed today as philosophy is nothing more than a footnote to what Plato, Aristotle and their Greek cronies handed us. And those footnotes are not philosophy, they’re philsophology. Philsophology amounts to reciting other people’s arguments.

          As a discipline, metaphysics is in even worse shape. Metaphysics is concerned with the nature of being, which is beyond physics. Nevertheless, metaphysics isn’t even considered science by the scientific community, never mind that their faith in a magical mystical world of materialism is somehow exempt from such criticism. Why the bad rap? Because there is no new metaphysics being done, just a re-spinning of old ideas and models. The root of the problem lies at the feet of the solipsistic self-model, “I think, therefore I am”, the center of the “known” universe. That is one sorry reference point.


          1. I know one of the things that turns me off of philosophy as a discipline is the requirement that you first read every historical philosopher directly. Science doesn’t require that you read Galileo, Newton, Darwin, or Einstein directly as though they were prophets or something, just that you grasp the updated versions of their ideas.

            It’s likely one of the reasons the Nobel committee considers philosophy to essentially be literature.


          2. “It’s likely one of the reasons the Nobel committee considers philosophy to essentially be literature.”

            Ditto on that one Mike. If the discipline of metaphysics and philosophy wants to regain its prestige in the arena of science, it needs to start by deconstructing what Plato and Aristotle built and then rebuild from there. The Greeks laid the foundation for metaphysics and philosophy in the West as we know it today, and that model is systemically a false paradigm. Unfortunately, that deconstruction will never occur in the venue of an institution, it will occur in isolation, one person at a time.

            There are some great philosophers in the distant past that should be revisited, and their messages re-examined. I have a short list myself; Parmenides is the first. Parmenides was a historical genius who was venerated by Plato and Aristotle, but they did not understand what he was really trying to say even though they had his entire Proem to reference. And yet, Parmenides message still remains an enigma. There are others, but that would be rambling on my part, so I will just list them: Siddhartha Gautama,( also known as the Buddha), Nagarjuna, the figure behind the Christ event; and our most recent contributor, Immanuel Kant.

            What’s unique about Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” is that fundamentally, it corresponds to Parmenides “reality/appearance distinction”, plus it incorporates Nagarjuna’s “Two Truths Doctrine” into its ontology. Which brings up a compelling question: If we scrap the Greeks, is there a crude model out there already which could be modified and then used as a venue to move metaphysics forward? Any ideas???


          3. That’s the problem with philosophy. Everyone agrees that most of it is confused and wrong headed, but that some of it is right. The problem is that no one agrees on which parts are which. It doesn’t have the tie breaker that science has, the reality checks to end debate.

            I’m partial to Humes myself, and the empirical and skeptical traditions overall. But then as a skeptic, I would be 🙂


        2. Eric,
          I think I would make your second principle more primal:
          A conscious entity takes what it think it knows from prior conscious experiences and constructs models to predict future conscious experiences. It’s only knows something to the extent of the accuracy of its predictions.

          Of course, this is really just a restatement of falsifiability.

          That said, in terms of actual rubber meets the road science, I think this is too general to be of much use. It’s not a controversial proposition in most of science that scientific theories need to be testable. The only reason it’s coming up in theoretical particle physics is because they’ve hit a wall in terms of empirical investigation.

          Liked by 1 person

      3. Mike,
        Well I’m always up for revisions where they may be helpful. I do currently prefer my own version however. For example, you’ve implied that this principle might be too general or uncontroversial to help science improve. But note that your version doesn’t explicitly state “There is only one process by which anything conscious, consciously figures anything out…” Is that not a bold beginning? Many have thought they’d be able to contradict me here I think, which would merely take a reasonable counter example. None that I know of so far.

        Note that I’m not just talking about inductive reasoning here, but all reasoning. This includes the deductive form where premises by definition mandate a given conclusion. If I’m given that all people die, and that Socrates is a person, then for me to believe that Socrates will die, I must still consider my evidence that all people do die, and that Socrates does happen to be a person.

        Furthermore if I’ve not presented anything specific and controversial regarding conscious understandings, and if there are people in academia who explore epistemology, then shouldn’t they have already come to this conclusion? And if psychologists study human function, then shouldn’t they have reached this conclusion as well? So it may be that my position here is not so general and tame.

        The Nobel committee considers philosophy to essentially be ”literature”? I hadn’t heard that. Wow. Still I’ve got to agree. And I don’t want to take that away from philosophy either. But I do believe that some community, whether traditional scientists, philosophers, or people off the street, must come together to develop respectable principles of metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology from which to guide the institution of science, as well as humanity in general. “Literature” is the last thing they’d claim to be working on!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Eric,
          The Nobel committee isn’t explicit about it, but all the philosophers who’ve received a Nobel so far have received the one for literature. Of course, the Nobel people don’t have a philosophy category, which itself speaks to their mindset. And I suppose it’s always possible a philosopher could win the peace one.

          So, how do you think your ideas would help with something like the replication crisis? Would it give any insights on the debates about the p-value standards, sample sizes, peer review reform, or how to balance any issues with budget realities? Similarly, does it help with the debate on whether to build another particle collider? Or the specific debate on falsifiability? Just curious.


        2. Eric,

          Please excuse my intrusion on your discourse with Mike, just a couple of quick bullet points: First, I have to agree with Mike that your statement: (“There is only one process by which anything conscious, consciously figures anything out…”) is not something new nor profound. It is the primordial practice that every sentient creature utilizes to make sense of their reality. It is an implicit feature of the systems of rationality. Simply stating it as a grounding tenet for the scientific community does not add anything new to our current paradigm. As far as your principle of axiology, that model is not something new nor profound either. That feature of human nature is currently recognized as hedonism. The only thing you have done to an existing model is spin it by introducing your non-sentient computer which generates valence for the sentient computer. This model adds nothing new or useful to what we already have. Your model of morality is not new either, it’s predicated upon relativism which has been around for a long, long time. The one thing that humanity does not possess is “consensus”, and that is profoundly problematic. The reason a consensus cannot be forged is because of our reference point, the solipsistic self-model.

          Second, I do concur that there needs to be some grounding principles to guide humanity on its quest for understanding and meaning. As it stands today, we simply do not possess those axioms, ontological distinctions and/or theorems. That’s the role of philosophy, and my targeted point is: that no new philosophy is currently being done nor has been done since the Greeks handed us their repressive models. My work targets the Greeks, deconstructs their repressive models and I builds new ones from scratch. That Eric, is real philosophy, not philsophology.


          Liked by 1 person

          1. Lee,
            I’m happy that you’re interested in my project though we’ve been through this many times. All I can ever know with perfect certainty, is that I exist. So I consider the epistemic solipsist position to be the responsible one. You however demonize it. I don’t know what else there is to say.


      4. Yes Mike it’s good to think about practical matters. The simple question here concerns whether or not to build a larger particle collider. If physicists are making a case for this by means of the mathematical “beauty” of their proposals, rather than evidence that the next higher order of energy will be a worthy investment, then this would lie in stark opposition with my EP2. So if generally accepted then proponents should have far more trouble making such a case than they do today.

        That’s not my true passion however. As I recently said recently at Backreaction, I’m sinisterly pleased that physics is having such problems at its outer fringes. (What’s more gratuitous than this end of the physics spectrum anyway?) Perhaps seeing this problem even in physics will help illustrate that science needs help in general. My true passion instead involves our soft sciences.

        I consider the modern replication crisis in these fields to not display the true problem itself, but rather to be a standard symptom of this problem. I see the true problem to be that our mental and behavioral sciences do not yet have broad general theory which reasonably addresses our nature. They’re somewhat like physics was without Newton-like theory. All such models have failed to become validated, from Freud’s to Skinner’s and so on. And how might neuroscientist do their work effectively without general models from which to work, or what I call “architecture”? Lisa Feldman Barrett decided to simply make up such theory of her own — the theory of constructed emotion. Good plan, though her theory seems like crap as well.

        I have a broad model regarding our nature that I consider pretty good. I’d like others to assess it, though our paradigm of morality lies in opposition. This is to say that there’s a social tool which penalizes us for being open about the ultimate nature of what’s valuable to us. Compounding this is the failure of philosophy. Without explicit principles of metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology, the challenge grows. I‘m sure that this stuff will get resolved however, and probably sooner rather than later. The institution of science is still quite young of course, so these should just be standard growing pains. Anyone who’s able to effectively understand these wrongs and help us right them should become quite significant for doing so, so I do find this project enjoyable.


        1. Eric,

          “If physicists are making a case for this by means of the mathematical “beauty” of their proposals, rather than evidence that the next higher order of energy will be a worthy investment, then this would lie in stark opposition with my EP2″

          But how specifically does it violate your EP2? Could you connect the dots for me? If a physicists asserts that prior successful theories were beautiful and that is something they think they understand about successful theories, what in particular about your principle is violated?

          ” I see the true problem to be that our mental and behavioral sciences do not yet have broad general theory which reasonably addresses our nature.”

          But how specifically do they change what they’re doing in order to change this? Neuroscience in particular right now seems to be focused on gathering empirical data. A lot of people have issues with it, but I don’t. People have been trying to just think hard about the mind for millenia, and while it hasn’t been completely fruitless, it has also led to a great deal of nonsense. I think it’s a good thing that the field is keeping its speculation to a minimum. What should they, or the psychologists, or sociologists, change about their methodologies when conducting a study?

          How do we translate your ideas into real rubber meets the road solutions?

          Liked by 1 person

      5. Mike,
        It sounds like you’ve got my principle right. So if there were statistical evidence that “beautiful” theories (by whatever definition) were significantly more successful than the converse, then yes these physicists would be conforming with my EP2. I haven’t read her book quite yet, but I’m pretty sure that Sabine makes the case that no such correlation is apparent. Actually I get the sense that “beauty” is merely her derisive term for an implicit tendency in her field, and thus no one is explicitly saying that beautiful theories tend to also be successful, even while implying it.

        Regardless, if my EP2 were widely accepted then this would serve as an explicit statement of what’s expected in order for something to get figured out. Apparently the nether regions of physics could use such help today. Furthermore in that case philosophers would finally be able to claim one generally accepted principle of epistemology, and psychologists would be able to provide an accepted dynamic regarding conscious function. (Hopefully these further dots help clarity!)

        How do scientists need to change their practices in order to address the problems that I see? I consider my ideas essentially like past ideas that have now become accepted in science, though mine have extenuating circumstances to address. For example there was the transition by which scientists lost their theism. We’re all products of our circumstances, though even the great Rene Descartes didn’t quite make the cut there.

        I suspect that in a century, normally educated people will look back at science today and marvel at how there was no accepted general model regarding human/ animal function — no worthy big picture grasp of that sort of thing. I suspect that such an understanding will be so obvious to them that historical education will be required in order to teach people why we failed for so long there.

        On neuroscience, I agree that it holds lots of wonderful stuff. It’s quite like medicine and very much has a “hard” flavor to it. Copious data. One thing that studying the brain itself can’t provide however, are big picture models regarding our nature. For that we must zoom out to macro observations of our function to model. Then once we have something which conforms with such observations (perhaps like my dual computers model of brain function), that’s when neuroscience should really shine! The engineers will have their architecture.

        So now to my “rubber meets road” solutions. Each of my principles of philosophy… become generally accepted!

        MP1: No more supernaturalism in science. Instead they can build themselves a club which accommodates such metaphysics. EP1: Definitions (such as “consciousness”) finally become recognized as terms to define rather than to discover. (Sorry panpsychists, but you’re out here.) EP2: Explicit statement of how to do science (as well as provides effective model for conscious function). AP1: Finally academia comes to terms with value, without which broad general models regarding our nature should not be achieved. Apparently our hedonistic nature mandates that we evolved a social tool which encourages us to deny our hedonistic nature. (Our friend J. S. Pailly once made such an observation here: No problem, that is until this social tool prohibits us from being honest enough about ourselves to develop effective big picture models of our function.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Eric,

          I’m going to critique your models and offer some constructive criticism. The targeted goal and objective of western syllogistic logic is to discover, and it is hoped that discovery will lead to causation.
          MP1: Supernaturalism will always be “the” underlying architecture of science unless or until the meta-problem of causality is resolved. Science will forever be held hostage by that paradigm.
          EP1: Mutual definitions of agreement are not the objectives of western syllogistic logic, discovery of the facts which underlie the truth is the objective. Essentially, EP1 is asserting that we should all give up on that goal and be satisfied with not knowing who, let alone what we are. It should be duly noted that you are not the only voice supporting EP1. The entire movement of construction theory is based upon that tenet and it was also the advice of the late philosopher Richard Rorty.
          EP2: 1) There is no way science is going to throw up their hands and declare, “when causation fails, there is nothing to discover anyway”. That attitude defies the targeted objective of syllogism. 2) When it comes to your computer models, there is no efficacy in that model other than a statement which underwrites your own pet theory of consciousness.
          AP1: This one is very important and is actually a fulcrum concept. It needs to be developed further. Putting your computer models aside, your understanding of value scratches the surface of the essential nature of man, but that’s all it does is scratch it. Once understood, the real nature of man will become a paradigm shift of unprecedented magnitude, a shift which can then be used to deal with the dependencies we create for ourselves. Those dependencies include but are not limited to religious ideologies, ideologies in general as well as the scourge of addiction. Without that vital understanding about the true nature of man, dependencies like addiction will continue to plague our culture and the soft sciences will remain soft.

          Quick note: I am not demonizing the solipsistic self-model. The underlying dynamics which underwrite the true nature of man are absolutely essential is man is to survive, let alone thrive in this phenomenal realm. My point is, and it has always has been that, “I think, therefore I am” is a constrained, restrained and limited reference point. “I think, therefore I am”, is a place to start, it is not and should not be the end game.

          Keep on truckin..

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Lee,
            For my economics degree there wasn’t a whole lot of art required. The closest I can think of is one music class and one literature class. Neither got very conceptual that I recall, or went into a single underlying principle of expression.

            Apparently you’re referring to “contrast” and “inequity”. They’re similar ideas in that they each reference differences, though with “inequity” implying a value based differences. If you are able to reduce these ideas back to a single underlying principle of expression, which would thus encompass the way that I’m expressing myself right now, I wonder, what’s your point? Is there something fundamental associated with human expression?


          2. Eric,

            Well, if you were not grilled in college on the underlying principle of expression, the point I’m trying to make will be an arduous task for myself, one I’m not sure I want to participate in. I wasn’t specifically targeting how human beings express themselves per se, even though the principle applies. I was using the underlying principles of expression to demonstrate scientifically that our phenomenal realm is literally an expression.

            The two words I’m looking for are: diversity and contrast. Art and science, contrary to what we’ve been taught are not two distinct disciplines, they are twins, born out of necessity, who’s mother is expression. Now, dig into the science of what I’m articulating here. The “four forces” of nature are opposing forces which are contrasted against each other which make it possible for the diversity and novelty of expression that make up our phenomenal realm. That…… is the scientific evidence staring us directly in the face. That’s my point.


          3. Lee,
            Like Eric, my degrees didn’t really cover art, but I have done a lot of reading about fiction writing, and the main difference I see between art and science is that art is designed to evoke an emotional experience in the audience, while science seems aimed a maximizing our ability to predict future experiences.

            But on your point about diversity and contrast, that does seem to be the only way to convey information. But that seems so basically true that I worry if I’m really getting your point.


          4. FWIW, I was a Communications Arts major in college (a Computer Science minor), so I have actively studied both art and science. I don’t see them as being at all the same thing other than in the vague way both are examinations of our reality.

            Art, to me, is about the expression of a personal take on reality, and that take can, as in the case of abstraction, impressionism, and sheer fantasy, be quite far from physical reality as we know it. Art tries to show Truth through fiction.

            Science is about observation, analysis, theorizing, and testing. The first two steps are also performed by the artist, but the path diverges from there (and the first two steps are different for an artist than they are for a scientist).

            I can’t make much out of “diversity and contrast” — I’m not sure what the difference is — but they sound a little like high school English assignments to “compare and contrast” two works, especially literary ones. Perhaps I, too, haven’t gotten the point.


        2. One more footnote Eric,

          Pick up a copy of “An Invitation to Social Construction” by Kenneth J. Gergen. There is already a movement within academia which corresponds with your principles. You might want to collaborate with that movement. Although it must be noted; that even this movement is having difficulty getting any traction for the same reasons I listed in my previous post.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Lee,
            You might note that Mike and I are fairly well aligned on basic issues in general. We do have very different goals, his being something about understanding neuroscience well enough to conceptually build a conscious computer, which I cringe at just bit (and obviously he can chime in to adjust my perception if he likes). Mine is to help the institution of science finally become whole by means of a community with accepted principles of philosophy, thus permitting our soft sciences to harden. Here I believe that it would become more open to the hedonistic theory that I began developing as a kid. Of course Mike must smile about anyone with such lofty ambitions.

            Anyway he’s been teaching me his tricks over the past 2+ years, and I think that I’ve had a reasonable influence on him as well, stubborn though he may be. We’re sparring partners who thus tend to strengthen the other by trying to strengthen ourselves. Either of us should revel in any success of the other given that either of us should play a part in that success.

            By this point I may have learned a good portion of what I can from Mike, and he me, so I probably ought to look harder for people who could show me new tricks, as well as influential people such as Sabine Hossenfelder who just happen to be natural allies. Actually I always have sought new opportunities. This is what brought me here from Massimo Pigliucci’s, and it’s why I try to strike up conversations with people who say interesting things. But once I do find greener pastures, I doubt that I’ll ever stop coming back here on occasion.

            So what are my thoughts about you? I was intrigued initially, and of course we even had some private talks. Once I noticed both your position and commitment to it however, I could see that there wouldn’t be anywhere for us to go. I believe that my own existence is all that I can ever confirm to be Real, though you believe that you’ve found a way around that limit. But just as I suspect that general acceptance of my single principle of metaphysics would force supernaturalists into something beyond standard science, my first principle of epistemology should do so for panpsychists (like Guilio Tononi) and platonists (like Max Tegmark). There are no true or false definitions.

            Panpsychism is actually trendy, and I do see signs of it around here beyond you. But let me assure you that I have no potential to be swayed. And could I sway a panpsychists? I’m actually more hopeful regarding theists. “So God made us this way? Fine. Then beyond scripture and preachers, let’s rationally observe what He built.” To me that would at least be conceptually possible. Not so for a person who demands Truth rather than belief about this world, and then finds that Truth by means of of definition.

            Apparently you continue to be interested in me because you like my game. So how do you get my game? Perhaps by illustrating to me and/or others what’s so obvious to you — that your position is far better than mine. And what do I have to gain here? I guess this would go along with illustrating the uses of my first principle of epistemology — another demonstration of how my ideas could help clean up science. So if that’s the situation then I guess I shouldn’t fight it.


          2. “his being something about understanding neuroscience well enough to conceptually build a conscious computer,”

            Honestly, my initial aim was to make sure I could incorporate AI and various mind notions intelligently into science fiction stories, or at least not in a hopelessly incompetent manner. I think I long ago passed that benchmark, but do remain interested in how a technological system could meet our intuition of a conscious system. But really, at this point it’s knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

            “stubborn though he may be”

            A lot of people seem to think this. Of course, they often think so for varying and opposing reasons. Maybe I am, but from my point of view, I’m a skeptic waiting for evidence.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. “Not so for a person who demands Truth rather than belief about this world, and then finds that Truth by means of a definition.”

            That assessment is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation Eric, so don’t be too impetuous when making assumptions about others that are grounded strictly from your own experience as a solipsistic self-model. Because there is no such thing as equality, morality and justice in our phenomenal realm my friend, only contrast and inequity. That is the observable, undeniable scientific evidence that demands our attention. Every artist understands the fundamental principles of contrast which underly the concept of expression. Yet, we choose to ignore those facts and won’t even consider them.

            Truth is never achieved by definition Eric, Truth is only attained through direct experience.

            Party on…

            Liked by 1 person

          4. Mike,
            I don’t think you meant “knowledge for the sake of knowledge”. I think you meant “knowledge for the sake of enjoyment”. You’re not like a stamp collecting robot! You’d find more enjoyable things to do in your spare time if you thought you could. Me too. There are all sorts of other hobbies out there, though I generally decline.

            We’re all skeptics waiting for evidence to some degree. Some of us simply require a lot more evidence than others of us do. The balanced skeptic is wary of each extremity. Your devil’s advocacy does tend to help me clarify my positions regardless, which I consider valuable.

            I like how hard core you are, since you’re also able to be balanced in the face of opposing opinion. Right or wrong, to me this seems like the best way to be heard and considered.


          5. This short piece is for both Eric and Mike because everyone wants “evidence”. I implicitly outlined a theory in my last post but it seems nobody took the bait, so I’ll be more direct. Both of you are college educated, and as a prerequisite for your degree you were required to take art classes. What is the single underlying principle of expression that you were taught, a fundamental principle that underwrites any expression? Hint, two simple words will satisfy the question…..


          6. (Whoops, scratch that last one Mike.)

            For my economics degree there wasn’t a whole lot of art required. The closest I can think of is one music class and one literature class. Neither got very conceptual that I recall, or went into a single underlying principle of expression.

            Apparently you’re referring to “contrast” and “inequity”. They’re similar ideas in that they each reference differences, though with “inequity” implying a value based differences. If you are able to reduce these ideas back to a single underlying principle of expression, which would thus encompass the way that I’m expressing myself right now, I wonder, what’s your point? Is there something fundamental associated with human expression?


  4. “There are a wide variety of conditions that could satisfy this criteria. It’s actually pretty broad.”

    Only if you interpret it charitably. More charitably, I dare say, than Popper himself allowed. Otherwise falsifiability is a hopelessly narrow criterion, which no scientific theory has ever met. No scientific theory has ever been refuted beyond the tiniest sliver of doubt. There are always auxiliary hypotheses needed when using data to refute a theory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “No scientific theory has ever been refuted beyond the tiniest sliver of doubt.”

      This makes it sound like you’re reacting to verificationism, the principle held by logical positivists that every proposition had to be empirically verifiable, a notion that Popper also criticized as too strict. The problem of induction largely makes every theory unverifiable in this fashion. Eventually someone figured out that verificationism could not itself be verified, which largely scuttled the idea.

      But falsifiability only says that a theory must be capable of being contradicted by empirical evidence, a very different standard. As Einstein once observed, no experiment could ever verify general relativity, but it only took one to kill it, or at least require revisions to it.


      1. Reading a little more, I found that Popper later added nuance that allows for auxiliary hypotheses to be added to save a theory from refutation. This effectively bars definitive once-and-for-all refutation. Which is a good thing, because actual science doesn’t do once-and-for-all definitives – whether confirmation or disconfirmation, doesn’t matter. But most champions of his falsifiability criterion don’t recognize that nuance. So I’m still gonna complain about that.


        1. It’s interesting that if you follow the auxiliary hypotheses saving a theory thing, you eventually end up in Thomas Khun’s paradigm framework, where if the auxiliary explanations become too voluminous and unwieldy, it leads to a paradigm shift, i.e. the overall theory finally being discarded, although it usually doesn’t happen until there’s a new theory with more explanatory power.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think you are missing a thing (yet). Much of this seems to be closer to word play than well thought out ideas. What is an untestable prediction? If it is untestable, then can it be a prediction? (I don’t think so.) You are correct to distinguish between untestable and not currently being capable of being tested.

    String theory is suffering the throes of its untestability. Physic advances because of a subtle dance between theoreticians and experimentalists. The theoreticians come up with conjectures that need testing and so engage the experimentalists. the experimentalists come up with test results that need explaining, thus engaging the theoreticians. If one of the two doesn’t address a theory or an hypothesis, it will lay their for a while and then people will lose interest. This is for good reason! What use, theoretical or practical, is a scientific theory that does not predict verifiable facts about nature? (very little.)

    Obviously entertaining strange thoughts that seem not to be testable is not to be precluded. Like the square root of -1, senselessness can turn into discovers in nature if one persists.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Steve.

      “What is an untestable prediction? If it is untestable, then can it be a prediction?”

      Examples that occur to me are various versions of the afterlife, eternal inflation, and most versions of the multiverse.

      Your point about the interaction between theoretical and experimental physicists is interesting. Theoretical physicists follow a very similar role to philosophers for many other sciences. Which makes the disdain that many theoretical physicists have for philosophy very interesting.


  6. Callan nailed it pretty well… Scientific theories in and of themselves are not problematic, it only becomes troublesome when the church hierarchy crosses that line by construing a “proven theory”, which is nothing more than a cute and useful construct, into a doctrine of dogmatism. General relativity is the the quintessential example. Scientists venerate GR the same way catholics revere the trinity, neither of which have anything to do with the “true” nature of reality. Both of those intellectual constructs are very useful. And this where the term useful comes into play. Useful is nothing more than a “code word” for control. The need for control cannot be overstated, for without at least the fundamental sense of control, there is no sense of self: Period!!

    If one is really serious about building a meaningful community of respected professionals with their own generally accepted principles, establishing the grounding tenet that control and self are “coextensive as one” would be that credo. That simple, primordial and fundamental “truth” is the singular axiom that underwrites the solipsistic self-model. And that self-model will utilize all of the power that is intrinsic to its own unique underlying qualitative properties to maintain its own identity of self, even when all other meaning and purpose has been lost. That singular principle is an axiom, one that applies to all discrete systems, from the institutions of science, academia, and government, all the way down the hierarchy; including but not limited to mass, spin and charge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Physicists’ attitudes toward general relativity depends on who you talk to. Cosmologists tend to see if as the ultimate truth. Particle physicists tend to see quantum physics as that truth. Both camps are convinced that the other will eventually have to come around to their way of thinking. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if both general relativity and quantum mechanics have to eventually be modified.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Now you’ve gotten me thinking about the role of falsification in the study of consciousness. How might one go about falsifying IIT or HOT or whatever? What would we even be trying to falsify?


    1. Good question. Both theories make different assumptions about what consciousness is. They could both be “right” in that they pass empirical tests, but still not be right for people who don’t share their assumptions.

      For instance, Scott Aaronson pointed out to Tononi that IIT predicts consciousness in systems that no one would consider to be conscious. He was taken aback when Tononi bit the bullet and said such systems would in fact be conscious.

      To be fair, HOT and GWT are more neurobiologically centered and seem more falsifiable, although technically they’re a family of theories so it might vary with the particular theory.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wyrd and all… The point I am trying to make is simple: Point #1, in order to have an expression of any kind requires the underlying principle of diversity and contrast. Point #2, diversity and contrast is “exactly” what we see and observe about our phenomenal reality. Maybe it’s so simple that we prefer to postulate computer simulations, multi-universe scenarios, idealism, materialism and the rest of the wild and bizarre possibilities. Nevertheless, if we look at the scientific evidence, doesn’t it at least suggest that our universe is an expression??


    1. “Point #1, in order to have an expression of any kind requires the underlying principle of diversity and contrast.”

      How do you see “diversity” as different from “contrast”? From my perspective, if there is diversity, there is necessarily contrast, and if there is contrast, it must be between diverse elements. So, other than the trivial claim that differences exist, what are you saying about “diversity and contrast”?

      That an expression of any kind requires differences? Pretty much everything requires differences. The alternative is heat death, so I don’t see the import of “diversity and contrast” in “expression of any kind” beyond its trivial truth.

      “Point #2, diversity and contrast is “exactly” what we see and observe about our phenomenal reality.”

      Well, yeah, but see above. Anything else would be heat death.

      “Nevertheless, if we look at the scientific evidence, doesn’t it at least suggest that our universe is an expression??”

      Of what? The laws of physics? The mind of God? A really advanced VR programmer?


      1. “Of what? The laws of physics? The mind of God? A really advanced VR programmer?”

        Now you’ve gotten my point. Does the answer to any those questions change or somehow alter the significance of the scientific evidence?

        (“Art is expression period,…”)

        “Indeed, but the nature of that expression is quite different from the expression of science in ways that I find significant.”

        I understand your distinction, nevertheless, only a singular point was being raised that underwrites the underlying principle of expression. “Indeed” is a reasonable response demonstrating that you understand my point. The addition of a “but statement” however supersedes that concession and is an instrument of deflection. There is no special significance to my iteration of diversity and contrast.

        Sorry if my wry sense of humor caused any offense…..


        1. “Does the answer to any those questions change or somehow alter the significance of the scientific evidence? “

          The significance? It does to me, so I would say yes.

          “I understand your distinction, nevertheless, only a singular point was being raised that underwrites the underlying principle of expression.”

          Okay, everything is an expression of something. And differences exist.

          What is it that you are hanging on this “principle?”

          “Sorry if my wry sense of humor caused any offense…”

          Until people get to know each other it’s best to avoid humor that implies your opponent is incompetent. I try to avoid that kind of humor in any discussion.


          1. (What is it that you are hanging on this “principle?”)

            That our universe, the phenomenal realm is an expression. That is what the data, the hard core scientific evidence suggests. And if our phenomenal reality is indeed an expression, then that reality, of which we are all participants, is a contextual reality. The universe, our phenomenal world is literally a metaphorically living, breathing work of art.


          2. That’s very poetic! Are you implying teleology?

            This is why I consider the difference between the expression of physical laws and the expression of an artist as significantly different. Art is the intentional expression of the artist’s will and vision.

            The common scientific consensus is there appears no will, artistic or godly, in physical reality. Religions, of course, see it differently. Are saying there’s a Maker or Designer?

            What is this “hard core scientific evidence” you have mentioned several times? How do you connect it with “expression”?


          3. The poetry is absolutely stunning…

            (This is why I consider the difference between the expression of physical laws and the expression of an artist as significantly different.)

            This is where I inquire: What is a physical law? Is it something we discover? If so, where was that law prior to the existence of some “thing” that is now subordinate to that law? Was it always there, or did it pop into existence when that some “thing” needed to be controlled? Or is the notion of law something we create to try and make sense of things?

            (Art is the intentional expression of the artist’s will and vision.)

            I concur…… Since art is a form of expression, any implicit teleology intrinsic within a work of art falls under the category of Theology rather than Philosophy. Theological teleology asserts a design and purpose such as a work of art, whereas Philosophical teleology asserts the explanation of phenomena by the purpose they serve rather than by a postulated cause, i.e., the surface appeal or aesthetics of the work of art.

            (What is this “hard core scientific evidence” you have mentioned several times? How do you connect it with “expression”?)

            I challenge you to express without some form of contrast built into the underlying architecture of that expression… It cannot be done.

            I for one could care less about “common scientific consensus”; and yes, if there is an objective reality behind the appearance, that reality is eerily silent. Do I postulate a god? Absolutely not. Nevertheless, I do not deny the irrefutable evidence of the nourmenal realm that is expressing itself, simply because the scientific evidence definitively supports that consensus.


          4. “What is a physical law?”

            A regular pattern we discover in physical reality. When the pattern, as far as we can tell, supervenes on specific physical circumstances, we gain confidence we’re seeing a law.

            Which came first, law or “things,” is a metaphysical question. I do find very interesting the question: Under what meta-laws, and in what meta-reality, was the Big Bang able to take place? But I can think of no way to answer it.

            Most physicists (that I know of) seem to think the laws came first. Under QFT, “things” are just vibrations of a field, all enabled by physical law. We observe the “things” hoping to discover those underlying laws. Generally, it is believed the Big Bang was the result of lawful behavior.

            How we express those laws, the language of mathematics, is certainly our invention, but they’re really just a way we found to talk about those laws and relationships.

            “Or is the notion of law…”

            I think it’s an AND, not an OR. We invent the language to describe those patterns (which we take to come from laws) in order to make sense of how those laws behave and what they mean.

            “…the category of Theology rather than Philosophy.”

            I didn’t understand that bit, so I still don’t understand how you view expression of a conscious will versus expression of physical laws, if you see them as different or identical.

            “I challenge you to express without some form of contrast built into the underlying architecture of that expression… It cannot be done.”

            Your scientific evidence depends on my inability to do something?

            Granting that any expression I make can be said to have some kind of contrast, the question I have is, “So what?” Contrast exists in everything; it’s Yin-Yang, a basic property of reality.

            How does it connect with expression? And expression by what or who?


  9. Wyrd said…

    “Art, to me, is about the expression of a personal take on reality, and that take can, as in the case of abstraction, impressionism, and sheer fantasy, be quite far from physical reality as we know it. Art tries to show Truth through fiction.”

    This statement is true, but it only addresses one aspect of art which then changes the subject we are discussing to a contextual argument. Art is expression period, and that expression takes on every possible conceivable form including but not limited science, technology, the building of things, language, conversations, etc, etc, etc. If I was your Art professor, I would flunk all three of you….

    If nobody has anything more to add, I’m done.


    1. “Art is expression period,…”

      Indeed, but the nature of that expression is quite different from the expression of science in ways that I find significant. For that matter, politics, government, and law, are also “expressions” but also quite different in their nature.

      “If I was your Art professor, I would flunk all three of you…”

      Can we avoid ad hominem, please? (As it turns out, I got high grades in all my schooling. I’m sure you did, too.)


  10. (…so I still don’t understand how you view expression of a conscious will versus expression of physical laws, if you see them as different or identical.)

    Expression as expression is everywhere the same. The experience of power, and the expression of that power are the only dynamics intrinsic to discrete systems. Discrete systems express the “power” of their own unique, structural qualitative properties in correspondence with other discrete systems, i.e., panpsychism. A succinct example is the discrete system of the United States of America. America is in the business of expressing the power of its own unique, structural qualitative properties, be them good, bad, or indifferent. You and I are expressing the power of our own unique, structural qualitative properties as we engage in this discourse.

    (Granting that any expression I make can be said to have some kind of contrast, the question I have is, “So what?”)

    Your “so what” is the scientific evidence which demonstrates that our phenomenal world is an expression. If you choose to dismiss that evidence, I’m cool with that position.

    (Contrast exists in everything; it’s Yin-Yang, a basic property of reality.)

    I do not disagree with that assessment Wyrd, because that is clearly what the scientific evidence asserts. The ambiguous idiom reality is the only provisional term up for debate. Contrast is a basic property of reality, but the question begs to be answered: What is reality outside of a circle of mutual definition and agreement? My assessment is direct: The noumenal realm is the only Reality quantified as the context of (R), everything else is an expression of that Reality.


    1. “Expression as expression is everywhere the same.”

      Then, as I have asserted, we see the world differently on this point.

      “Your ‘so what’ is the scientific evidence which demonstrates that our phenomenal world is an expression.”

      You seem to me to be saying: “Contrast” (a universal general property) demonstrates our phenomenal world is an expression.”

      Again, I’m not sure what contrast or diversity has to do with it, but I certainly agree phenomenal experience is an “expression” of, as you go on to say, the noumenal realm. (Hasn’t this been well understood since Kant? Does someone disagree with this?)

      I also agree reality is quite beautiful and wondrous. I don’t elevate “contrast and diversity” or “expression” to the level you seem to, but whatever. (I think configuration space is a metaphor worth elevating, but most folks don’t see it from the same angle.)


      1. Wyrd,

        I read your post on configuration space…. Well done! And yes, I do agree that the metaphor is worth elevating. Something has to be done to defuse the wave of explosive tribalism that seems to be sweeping over America. I for one, do not feel comfortable with our current paradigm and our future as a people and a nation is at risk.

        (Hasn’t this been well understood since Kant? Does someone disagree with this?)

        The model has been well understood since Kant. Does someone disagree with his model? Yes, most people disagree. Kant came under attack from his peers immediately after he published his “Critique of Pure Reason” and the debate has been raging every since. I think I saw a You-Tube video with Chalmers and Robert Lawrence Kuhn where Chalmers stated that within the world of academia, philosophy and science, nourmenalism has a dismal showing of only 25%.

        Thanks for the engaging discourse Wyrd…… Keep promoting your model.


        1. “Chalmers stated that within the world of academia, philosophy and science, nourmenalism has a dismal showing of only 25%.”

          (There’s an extra “r” there, yes? Noumenalism? Things-in-themselves? That’s what we’re talking about, right?)

          Is it possible Chalmers meant what people were interested in studying rather than what they believed to be true? I’ve always taken Kant’s “Copernican revolution” largely accepted. If I’m not misunderstanding, it almost sounds like a denial of realism.

          Which would certainly explain things in the modern world. I’ve ranted for a long time about the apparent disconnect between culture and physical reality.

          The quote from Leon Wieseltier keeps ringing through my head. He was on The Colbert Report and Colbert challenged him to sum up his view of society in ten words. His reply blew me away: “Too much digital; not enough critical thinking; more physical reality.”

          But I’m damned if I have a clue how to alter this ship’s course.


          1. You’re correct, Kant’s transcendental idealism model is denial of realism. Kant hailed it as the ideal model because every type of known phenomenon can be intrinsically linked to a convergent point of singularity which is the “thing-in-itself”. The only glitch in the model is that the “thing-in-itself” is unknowable. So on that pretext, it’s practicality is limited in scope and considered absolutely useless by most.

            Eric Schwitzgebel wrote an essay back in 2017 titled “Kant Meets Cyberpunk”. He believes that transcendental idealism is an insufficiently appreciated model, one that needs to be seriously considered and further developed. As it currently stands, nobody, not even “professing” noumenalists think it can be improved because of the inherent paradox of the “thing-in-itself” being unknowable. Personally, I’ve taken an aggressive position by stating that the “thing-in-itself” may indeed be unknown, but it is not unknowable. Schwitzgebel also hints toward that position in his essay. Hopefully he will pursue his passion to get more clarity on the “thing-in-itself” because he is on the right track.

            A revision of transcendental idealism, where the qualitative properties of the “thing-in-itself” are clearly articulated is the only model that has any hope of shedding some light on the true nature of reality. Material reduction theory has run its course and is at an insurmountable impasse, idealism is an albatross, theism is a non-starter, Cartesian substance dualism is still popular, and property dualism is favored by the likes of Chalmers.

            No, I’m with you Wyrd, I have no clue how to alter this ships’s course. If I owned a mega media network, I would be running footage every day of the carnage reeked on Syria because of their civil war, just to keep it in the forefront of peoples mind and to deter the romanticization of armed conflict. Too much digital, not enough critical thinking…..


          2. I’m in the camp of those who read Kant, not as denying realism so much as saying it was forever out of reach. Things(-in-themselves) exist, but we can only know them empirically. Which I read as the basic endeavor of science.

            How is it you think we can escape our minds and know things? What’s the program?

            “…I would be running footage every day of the carnage…”

            The problem I’d have with that is (A) it’s propaganda, which I don’t respond well to even if it’s in the service of good, and (B) it ends up desensitizing and ignored or seen as too horrific and ignored.

            (Like those awful ASPCA commercials. I love dogs, which is why I can’t watch those commercials and always change the channel.)

            I understand the impulse, but I think we somehow need to get people to change their values. In particular, to place a much higher value on their own (and others’) education and rational thinking.

            I’d like to see us stop valuing emotionally charged, impulsive, often dumb as a bag of hair, heroes who always end up being right because of script. They turned Sherlock Holmes into an action hero. It breaks my heart.


          3. (How is it you think we can escape our minds and know things? What’s the program?)

            Ahhh yes… And this is where I tell all of my grad students: “If you want to know the answers to difficult questions, be willing to do the hard work and figure it out for yourself, for the answers you seek are already within you.”

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. Our primary experience is one of relationship, and that relationship is with power. Power is one of the qualitative properties of the noumenal realm, and since our provisional realm is the appearance of reality, it only makes sense that power is responsible for causation. Power is only one half of the equation though.

      It’s ironic; sad actually, that science doesn’t even acknowledge power as a noumenal reality, they relegate it to a derivative of energy, specifically electricity. In spite of that lame designation, everyone uses the word “power” with reckless abandonment the then claim it’s not an “objective reality”. Go figure……


  11. Wyrd,

    I am aware that our exchange has all been done in jest on your part, so I take no offense in your remarks. To close out this exchange, my final words of counsel for you would be for you to apply your own metaphor of “configuration space” before you impetuously reply to my answer to your question. First, one cannot judge and second, one “should” not judge someone else’s experience based upon their own reference point as a solipsistic self-model. My answer was clear and concise, beginning with the grand qualifier of “IF”. And yes, my answer still stands. There is a treasure trove of evidence within the annuls of our cherished literature which outlines “the program”, so it is not like the vocabulary is absent.

    The poetry of the expression is magnificently beautiful beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. I’ll close out this exchange with one of my favorite quotes, author unknown: “The unknown is more stirring to my blood than any imagining could ever be.”

    Good luck


    1. It’s cute how, earlier in this thread, you directly insult my intelligence (only later claiming it was a joke when I called you on it), but now you get all huffy about a clear and gentle jest on my part (you saw the grinning smiley, obviously).

      Good luck to you, too, Lee.


  12. Slightly off topic, but I hadn’t heard the term “just so story” before. I’ve encountered cases of this many times, particularly in discussions about gender. It’s good to finally have a term for this.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve run into the racial thing a few times as well, but the societal gender thing seems to be much more deeply ingrained in people’s minds. At least that’s been my experience.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I’d agree that the biological differences provide people psychological excuses for assuming that they can’t make good leaders, can’t be good at math, can’t handle emergency situations, etc. Of course, similar rationale was once used for racial assumptions.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Rudyard Kipling published a book titled “Just So Stories”. It was essentially children’s tales with fanciful stories of how things came to be. I sorta remember reading some. For example, the elephant’s trunk used to be a short snout, but one got into some sort of struggle with another animal (crocodile?) that latched on to its snout and stretched it out to its current length. So a “just so” story is a fanciful explanation which might seem plausible but is not necessarily based on fact.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! A crocodile. Back in the dawn of time, my mom used to read those stories to us. She also acted like her nose was plugged when reading the elephant’s parts. “Dis id do buch for me,” said the elephant…


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