Are all models wrong?

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Peter Holmes
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Are all models wrong?

Post by Peter Holmes »

George Box claimed that ‘All models are wrong but some are useful’. But if that claim is true, then at least one model is not wrong – in which case, the claim is false. Iow: if all models are wrong, then so is the claim that all models are wrong. But, leaving that aside, there are other problems with the claim.

1 To clarify: Box probably didn’t mean all models are immoral. He likely used the word wrong to mean incorrect, inaccurate, imprecise, incomplete, imperfect – and so on. (Unbelievably, it seems necessary to point out that we can use the words right and wrong non-morally.)

2 A model can be said to be wrong only if it makes sense to say it could be right. But what would a model, map or description that is right – correct, accurate, precise, complete or perfect – look like? How much and what kind of information would it have to contain? The absurdity of these questions exposes the absurdity of the claim that all models are wrong.

3 We could not model a reality or map a domain to which we have no access, or of which we have no knowledge or information. In that case, any model or map we produce would be a fiction or fantasy, and its usefulness would be entirely fortuitous.

4 The solipsistic claim that we know or can know nothing about what we call reality is an affectation exposed at every turn by performative contradictions, of which the use of language to express the claim is merely one.

The fact is that all models are models – full stop. They are not and cannot be the things that they model or describe, which are features of reality. A factual assertion and its truth-value – and any assessment of ‘rightness’, accuracy, precision, completeness or perfection – can exist only within a descriptive context. So the claim that all models are wrong is incoherent.

To say we have no objective standard by which to assess how well a model describes reality, or that we can’t know if our claims are true or false, is to misconstrue the actual relationship – and radical separation – between a description and the described. The myth of propositions, the JTB definition of knowledge, correspondence theories, and truth-maker/truth-bearer ideas all demonstrate the conflation of what we say with what we say it about – as does the course of foundationalism – its existence and rejection.

All posited foundations for what we know – and (therefore) the truth of what we say – are merely models. What we call facts are such models, and they constitute the objective knowledge we express in language. We build and repair this knowledge on foundations and with materials of our own making. But that does not mean the edifice has no foundation, and so must be shaky. That we can always say more does not mean we can never say enough.
Skepdick
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Skepdick »

Peter Holmes wrote: Thu Jan 09, 2020 11:22 am George Box claimed that ‘All models are wrong but some are useful’. But if that claim is true, then at least one model is not wrong – in which case, the claim is false.
The claim "All models are wrong but some are useful" is useful, even if it has exceptions, ergo It's self-affirming. One counter-example is not sufficient to overthrow a general principle.

Truth is subservient to utility. Utility is subservient to morality.
Peter Holmes wrote: Thu Jan 09, 2020 11:22 am 1 To clarify: Box probably didn’t mean all models are immoral. He likely used the word wrong to mean incorrect, inaccurate, imprecise, incomplete, imperfect – and so on. (Unbelievably, it seems necessary to point out that we can use the words right and wrong non-morally.)
Distinction without a consequential difference. Incomplete/inaccurate/imprecise/imperfect models lead to decision errors.

Decision-errors result in harm ergo all errors can be interpreted in a moral context: given the choice between making an error and NOT-making an error (read: risking harm) the moral choice is to NOT-make an error. Primum non nocere.

If humanity wasn't pre-occupied with far more important moral issues I am pretty sure we'd be nit-picking on the round-Earthers' erroneous beliefs out of moral boredom.
Peter Holmes wrote: Thu Jan 09, 2020 11:22 am 2 A model can be said to be wrong only if it makes sense to say it could be right. But what would a model, map or description that is right – correct, accurate, precise, complete or perfect – look like?
A "right" model will make zero predictive errors. Which is the same as arguing for omniscience/omnipresence.

The assertion "All models are wrong" is made from the exact same perspective/reference from which the assertion "All men are sinners" is made. It pre-supposes moral and epistemic idealism. Zero harm. Objective morality.

That goal is idealistic and practically unattainable because Utopia is unattainable. Everybody understands that.

But anything that moves us away from that goal is immoral.
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A_Seagull
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by A_Seagull »

All that we know of the world is a model of the world. To deny that is IMO to be a non-philosopher.
Impenitent
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Impenitent »

the thing in itself remains elusive...

-Imp
surreptitious57
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by surreptitious57 »

All models are wrong - some moreso than others - because they are merely approximations of reality not reality as such
They may be very accurate approximations but that is all they are so the map must never be confused with the territory
Peter Holmes
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Peter Holmes »

A_Seagull wrote: Fri Jan 10, 2020 6:50 am All that we know of the world is a model of the world. To deny that is IMO to be a non-philosopher.
I know my kitchen, clothes, wife and children, home town, colleagues, guitars, and so on and so on. These are real things that I know. They are not models (descriptions) of the world. They are features of reality that I know, given the way we use the word know. The claim that they are merely models is an absurd affectation.
Peter Holmes
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Peter Holmes »

Impenitent wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 1:04 am the thing in itself remains elusive...

-Imp
Why? What is the thing in itself, and in what way is it different from the thing itself?
Impenitent
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Impenitent »

Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:42 am
Impenitent wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 1:04 am the thing in itself remains elusive...

-Imp
Why? What is the thing in itself, and in what way is it different from the thing itself?
all we have are immediate impressions and memories

predictions based on the constant conjunction of events provide no certainty

-Imp
Peter Holmes
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Peter Holmes »

Impenitent wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:52 am
Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:42 am
Impenitent wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 1:04 am the thing in itself remains elusive...

-Imp
Why? What is the thing in itself, and in what way is it different from the thing itself?
all we have are immediate impressions and memories

predictions based on the constant conjunction of events provide no certainty

-Imp
But why does that mean that there's a thing-in-itself that's different from our various impressions of it? Our 'certainty' as to what it is makes no difference. (This reminds me of Russell's 'The Problems of Philosophy', which they used to push at candidate philosophy students.)
Last edited by Peter Holmes on Sun Mar 29, 2020 12:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Skepdick
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Skepdick »

Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:40 am I know my kitchen, clothes, wife and children, home town, colleagues, guitars, and so on and so on. These are real things that I know. They are not models (descriptions) of the world. They are features of reality that I know, given the way we use the word know. The claim that they are merely models is an absurd affectation.
Peter, what is the way in which you are using the word "know" when you utter the sentence "I know my wife"?

When devoid of a conversational context that sentence is completely meaningless to your interlocutors.
Said differently: If you were to utter "I know my wife" as the very first sentence in a conversation I would give you a puzzled look. And that puzzled look would be communicating "What are you trying to say to me? What is the intent behind your words?"

I am outright curious when you might find yourself using the sentence "I know my wife." Can you give me a few examples of how you might use that sentence in the context of a broader conversation?
Peter Holmes
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Peter Holmes »

Skepdick wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:01 pm
Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:40 am I know my kitchen, clothes, wife and children, home town, colleagues, guitars, and so on and so on. These are real things that I know. They are not models (descriptions) of the world. They are features of reality that I know, given the way we use the word know. The claim that they are merely models is an absurd affectation.
Peter, what is the way in which you are using the word "know" when you utter the sentence "I know my wife"?

When devoid of a conversational context that sentence is completely meaningless to your interlocutors.
Said differently: If you were to utter "I know my wife" as the very first sentence in a conversation I would give you a puzzled look. And that puzzled look would be communicating "What are you trying to say to me? What is the intent behind your words?"

I am outright curious when you might find yourself using the sentence "I know my wife." Can you give me a few examples of how you might use that sentence in the context of a broader conversation?
Please just make your point.

Mine is that we use the word know and its cognates perfectly clearly in many different contexts, and that if required we can explain what we mean in different ways. The idea that knowledge is a strange or mysterious thing - for example, that we can't know things but only models or descriptions of things - that things-in-themselves are endlessly elusive - is a peculiar distortion arising from the metaphysical delusion that has plagued philosophy for at least two and a half millennia.
Skepdick
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Skepdick »

Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:51 pm Please just make your point.
My point is that your entire argument is based on the premise "The way YOU use know is the way WE use know". You are pre-supposing the existence of an objective, universal and unambiguous language.

But if that were true, you uttering the sentence "I know my wife" wouldn't be perplexing me.

What is perplexing me is your intent/purpose/telos. WHY are you uttering that sentence?
Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:51 pm Mine is that we use the word know and its cognates perfectly clearly in many different contexts, and that if required we can explain what we mean in different ways.
YOU are not using the word "know" in ANY way I've seen it being used before.

Your sentence "I know my wife" is perplexing me BECAUSE I have no idea how you are using the word "know"!

I have no idea what your sentence means, because in the current particular context you aren't using the word "know" clearly.
I have no idea what it is that you are attempting to communicate, so in the current particular context I need you to explain what you mean.

Apply that which you preach!
Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:51 pm The idea that knowledge is a strange or mysterious thing - for example, that we can't know things but only models or descriptions of things - that things-in-themselves are endlessly elusive - is a peculiar distortion arising from the metaphysical delusion that has plagued philosophy for at least two and a half millennia.
Non-sequitur.

The sentence "I know my wife" is meaningless from my perspective, because it has communicated exactly zero bits of new information about you, your wife or the mutual relationship between you and your wife, from you to me.

So I leave you with my question: In what context and why would you utter the sentence "I know my wife."? What sort of discussion/conversation might lead up to such an utterance? Provide an example please.
Peter Holmes
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Peter Holmes »

Skepdick wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 4:28 pm
Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:51 pm Please just make your point.
My point is that your entire argument is based on the premise "The way YOU use know is the way WE use know". You are pre-supposing the existence of an objective, universal and unambiguous language.

But if that were true, you uttering the sentence "I know my wife" wouldn't be perplexing me.

What is perplexing me is your intent/purpose/telos. WHY are you uttering that sentence?
Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:51 pm Mine is that we use the word know and its cognates perfectly clearly in many different contexts, and that if required we can explain what we mean in different ways.
YOU are not using the word "know" in ANY way I've seen it being used before.

Your sentence "I know my wife" is perplexing me BECAUSE I have no idea how you are using the word "know"!

I have no idea what your sentence means, because in the current particular context you aren't using the word "know" clearly.
I have no idea what it is that you are attempting to communicate, so in the current particular context I need you to explain what you mean.

Apply that which you preach!
Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 3:51 pm The idea that knowledge is a strange or mysterious thing - for example, that we can't know things but only models or descriptions of things - that things-in-themselves are endlessly elusive - is a peculiar distortion arising from the metaphysical delusion that has plagued philosophy for at least two and a half millennia.
Non-sequitur.

The sentence "I know my wife" is meaningless from my perspective, because it has communicated exactly zero bits of new information about you, your wife or the mutual relationship between you and your wife, from you to me.

So I leave you with my question: In what context and why would you utter the sentence "I know my wife."? What sort of discussion/conversation might lead up to such an utterance? Provide an example please.
I'm sorry, but I find your problem uninteresting. Perhaps someone else may wish to engage with you.
Skepdick
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by Skepdick »

Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 6:16 pm I'm sorry, but I find your problem uninteresting.
You find it "uninteresting" that your interlocutor can't comprehend the meaning of your sentences? Now there's a caveat emptor...

Why should anybody be your sounding board then?

Alas. All the more evidence that you don't use language the way "WE" use language. Most of us use it for two-way communication.
Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 6:16 pm Perhaps someone else may wish to engage with you.
Who else (if not you) would have any insight into how you are using the sentence "I know my wife"?
uwot
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Re: Are all models wrong?

Post by uwot »

Skepdick wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 6:29 pm All the more evidence that you don't use language the way "WE" use language. Most of us use it for two-way communication.
Peter Holmes wrote: Sat Jan 11, 2020 6:16 pm Perhaps someone else may wish to engage with you.
Who else (if not you) would have any insight into how you are using the sentence "I know my wife"?
Dunno who this "WE" is. Can you honestly say that you don't know anybody?
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