Known unknowns and unknown unknowns!

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Wyman
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if you see a chocolate eclair in front of you, what do you actually see? A patch of various shades of brown, that is the reality. Until we gain some ideas about what those various shades mean, it's just patches of colour
I see an eclair. I wouldn't even notice the colors unless I turned my attention to them. I can only imagine seeing patches of colors if I were to wake from a deep sleep, emerge from a dark room into the light, not expecting to see pastry of any sort.

In other words, if you say that it's just patches of color 'unless we gain some ideas,' then what is it after we gain those ideas?
Ginkgo
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Wyman wrote:
I am not nickpicking (I hope), but trying to make sure I have an understanding of how you and seagull are using terminology.

I understand 'ontology' as consisting of the objects (and relations of objects) of a deductive system or worldview or paradigm. So, I would say that physics does have an ontology. Newton takes gravity as an element or object of his system. Elements are not defined, they are 'posited' as part of an axiomatic system. In being posited, he does not further define it - he tells us he cannot.

Similarly, points and lines in geometry are undefined terms. Representing them as lines and dots on paper is called an 'interpretation.'

F=MA, is an axiom of Newton's physics. Force, Mass, Acceleration and the objects described by them are posits and part of his ontology. The posited objects of his ontology are interpreted, but not defined.

In mathematics, if the interpretation of the axioms (think simple geometry with points and lines) is true, then the interpretation is called a 'model.' This is important when we talk of 'counter examples.' If a theorem is proposed and it can be shown that it would contradict the model, then the theorem is necessarily false .

Physics tries to be a deductive system. But unlike geometry, it's sole purpose is to support a model of reality (not to entertain eggheads and torture high school students). And unlike geometry, the 'axioms' are not taken as true by fiat. If a 'counter example' is produced, then the theorem is false. But rather than stopping there, as we can do in geometry, scientists are free to tweak the whole system if the 'counterexample' is important enough - all the way down to the axioms in some cases (as in what is called by Kuhn a paradigm shift, I think), or in a fundamental shift in the interpretation of that system, or both.

So Newton's system and its interpretation is useful in a limited context. But it is not a model of reality because of its (implicit) misinterpretation of time as absolute. His paradigm was flawed.

Now, is your idea of a 'paradigm' and 'ontology' the same as mine - i.e. the deductive system (and its interpretation) of physics along with its posited elements?

I wanted to get this terminology straight so as to be able to meaningfully ask the following question: am I correct in my impression that you and seagull maintain the following:

that, although no one proposition within a paradigm (such as a physical theory) could be said to be 'absolutely' true, nonetheless, it is possible for the whole paradigm to be an 'accurate representation of reality' and therefore true with a capital 'T'?

I think you are getting close to the mark. What makes Newton so different to Aristotle is that he doesn't attempt to explain what gravity actually IS. To do so would be to fall to the Aristotelian trap of doing metaphysical ontology in relation to gravity. Physics just makes the assumption that gravity exists, or gravity is a physical law that affects objects. In other words, things such as gravity have the same ontological status as other physical things in the world. This is the non-metaphysical ontological conclusion that science makes.

I guess you could say that metaphysical ontology and non-metaphysical scientific ontology are paradigms that exist in distinct domains. Metaphysical ontology deals with questions as to what gravity actually is, while scientific ontology deals with putting labels on physical objects, and in the case of gravity this non-physical object needs a label. Scientific paradigms and metaphysical paradigms use different methodologies so there is no paradigm overlapping.
Wyman
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[quote]This is the non-metaphysical ontological conclusion that science makes.[quote]

Thank you, I made some sense to somebody. Quine thought that physics' ontology of objects along with the ontology of mathematics (set theory) and logic were on an equal footing (ontologically speaking). And that 'metaphysical ontology' as you term it is rubbish.

My further point dealt with an analogy to models in mathematics. Physics deduces theorems from its hypotheses like mathematicians deduce theorems from axioms. However, whereas a mathematicians' model or interpretation of those axioms must always submit to the axioms; in the case of physics, the interpretation of the ontology must match empirical observations. If an observation contradicts a theorem (not the whole theory, but one deduced prediction based on the theory), then it is the theory or interpretation that must change in some way.

I am interested in the interplay between theory, interpretation and observation. It seems to involve the same problems on a macro level as typical philosophical discussions (mind/body, Cartesian dualism, phenomenal/noumenal) address on the micro level.
uwot
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Ginkgo wrote:...things such as gravity have the same ontological status as other physical things in the world.
Wyman wrote:I am interested in the interplay between theory, interpretation and observation. It seems to involve the same problems on a macro level as typical philosophical discussions (mind/body, Cartesian dualism, phenomenal/noumenal) address on the micro level.
The difference is that at the macro level, Einstein teasing about whether the moon is there if no one observes it aside, the forces are understood to operate between physical objects; the ontological status of stars and planets, heads and apples, is that they exist. At the sub atomic level, this relationship breaks down; for the purposes of physics, a fundamental particle is the forces that can be measured, the idea that there is something physical that the force is a property of, is metaphysical. Part of the significance of the Higgs Boson is that it implies there is a Higgs field that acts in a 'mechanical' way on matter; it is a physical thing rather than just a mathematical expression of a force. The field and the force both exist, but I personally think they have a different ontological status. It's only a hunch, but I suspect that there is something, a Higgs type field perhaps, which fundamental particles are 'made of'.
Ginkgo
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Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:47 pm

uwot wrote:
Ginkgo wrote:...things such as gravity have the same ontological status as other physical things in the world.
Wyman wrote:I am interested in the interplay between theory, interpretation and observation. It seems to involve the same problems on a macro level as typical philosophical discussions (mind/body, Cartesian dualism, phenomenal/noumenal) address on the micro level.
The difference is that at the macro level, Einstein teasing about whether the moon is there if no one observes it aside, the forces are understood to operate between physical objects; the ontological status of stars and planets, heads and apples, is that they exist. At the sub atomic level, this relationship breaks down; for the purposes of physics, a fundamental particle is the forces that can be measured, the idea that there is something physical that the force is a property of, is metaphysical. Part of the significance of the Higgs Boson is that it implies there is a Higgs field that acts in a 'mechanical' way on matter; it is a physical thing rather than just a mathematical expression of a force. The field and the force both exist, but I personally think they have a different ontological status. It's only a hunch, but I suspect that there is something, a Higgs type field perhaps, which fundamental particles are 'made of'.

Interesting question. Perhaps it has something to do with our ability to classify "field" and "force" as distinct entities in their own right. On the other hand, we may only be able to explain one in terms of the other as a mathematical relationship.
Ginkgo
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Wyman wrote:
I am interested in the interplay between theory, interpretation and observation. It seems to involve the same problems on a macro level as typical philosophical discussions (mind/body, Cartesian dualism, phenomenal/noumenal) address on the micro level.

These things may well have implications in terms of a micro explanation, but I don't think they are limited to this domain in any exclusive way. Cartesian dualism divides the world into physical substances and mental substances. I know what a physical substance is because I am sitting on one right now. However, I have no idea what a mental substance is, and I am sure very few people do. Certainly science does not recognize any dichotomy in this respect. Kant on the other hand held that synthetic apriori judgement about objects were possible, but in the end he concludes that any explanation about the physical world must always be couched in terms of experience.

Is this what you are getting at?
uwot
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Ginkgo wrote:Kant on the other hand held that synthetic apriori judgement about objects were possible, but in the end he concludes that any explanation about the physical world must always be couched in terms of experience.
Yup. 500 pages later: Hume was right. Which means:
Ginkgo wrote:Interesting question. Perhaps it has something to do with our ability to classify "field" and "force" as distinct entities in their own right. On the other hand, we may only be able to explain one in terms of the other as a mathematical relationship.
If their is no experiential phenomenon to explain, a bleep or a flash for example, their is nothing for maths to explain.
uwot
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Wyman wrote:I see an eclair.
What does someone who has never seen an eclair see?
Wyman wrote:In other words, if you say that it's just patches of color 'unless we gain some ideas,' then what is it after we gain those ideas?
Well an eclair is only a collection of atoms so arranged to stimulate a series of sensations that you associate with the term 'eclair'. There is more to being an eclair than meets the eye. Which is all you see.
Wyman
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The field and the force both exist, but I personally think they have a different ontological status
I think that talk of different ontological status (in the metaphysical sense you are speaking of) is meaningless. Just know what model you are speaking in terms of (what paradigm you are 'in') and don't go changing from 'moon' to 'higgs boson' without noting the different uses and contexts in which we call each of them 'objects' (a world of difference!). But bosons, forces, and the mathematical concepts used to describe them, are all of the same 'status.'
Wyman
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Wyman wrote:
I see an eclair.

What does someone who has never seen an eclair see?
They see your original patch of colors, possibly. I am saying, don't mistake the two. The person who has the conceptual apparatus to recognize an eclair 'sees' something different than the newborn baby. Reverting back to the 'pre-knowledge' state (the newborn) in your argument is a slight of hand in my opinion. Knowledge changes future perceptions.
Wyman
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Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:21 pm

It's only a hunch, but I suspect that there is something, a Higgs type field perhaps, which fundamental particles are 'made of'.
Interesting question. Perhaps it has something to do with our ability to classify "field" and "force" as distinct entities in their own right. On the other hand, we may only be able to explain one in terms of the other as a mathematical relationship
You shouldn't worry about what they are made of, only the effectiveness of your theory and the agreement of your model with observation:

'What does it mean to say that things we can’t see, such as electrons or quarks—the particles that are said to make up the proton and neutron—exist? One could have a model in which the table disappears when I leave the room and reappears in the same position when I come back, but that would be awkward, and what if something happened when I was out, like the ceiling falling in? How, under the table-disappears-when-I-leave-the-room model, could I account for the fact that the next time I enter, the table reappears broken, under the debris of the ceiling? The model in which the table stays put is much simpler and agrees with observation. That is all one can ask.' Hawking
uwot
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Wyman wrote:I think that talk of different ontological status (in the metaphysical sense you are speaking of) is meaningless. Just know what model you are speaking in terms of (what paradigm you are 'in') and don't go changing from 'moon' to 'higgs boson' without noting the different uses and contexts in which we call each of them 'objects' (a world of difference!). But bosons, forces, and the mathematical concepts used to describe them, are all of the same 'status.'
Well they all exist. Perhaps it's archaic, but there is a distinction that some people make between primary and secondary qualities. The moon, Higgs bosons and arguably forces have primary qualities, at least extension, in a way I don't see that mathematical concepts do.
I think there's also, theoretically at least, a sense in which the moon, perhaps a Higgs boson, even, at a push, a mathematical concept could be the only thing in existence, but what is a force that isn't acting on something?
uwot
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Wyman wrote: The person who has the conceptual apparatus to recognize an eclair 'sees' something different than the newborn baby.
I'm sure there are people who have lived their entire lives without ever encountering an eclair.
Wyman wrote:Reverting back to the 'pre-knowledge' state (the newborn) in your argument is a slight of hand in my opinion.

Well, I never promised to play fair, but nor did I mention a newborn. That's you taking an empirical fact, the words I typed, an putting them into your context.
Wyman wrote:Knowledge changes future perceptions.
The actual perceptions? How would you verify that? (I'm not a logical positivist; honest guv.)
Wyman
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Wyman wrote:
Knowledge changes future perceptions.

The actual perceptions? How would you verify that? (I'm not a logical positivist; honest guv.)
Good question. I'll take a crack at it.

Think of the fact that the part of our visual field that is focused is no bigger than our thumb held at arm's length. The rest is filled in by our brains. Or that there is a blind spot in our visual field that is also filled in by our brains.

Or when you hear five or six notes of a song out of context that sound nothing like they do after your brain processes what song is being played.

The conceptual 'apparatus' I was speaking of contributes a great deal to perception and is mostly unconscious. You may object to the use of the word 'knowledge' to describe whatever process in the brain influences perception. Perhaps knowledge is a subset of these capacities and processes. But I think when I know what an eclair is, if I see one in my peripheral vision (for instance), my brain will 'fill in' something different than the brain of a person who does not know what an eclair is. As for the fovea (the focused area), I do not think this represents a metaphysical difference, but a difference of degree - the brain processing is still at work.
uwot
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