Models & Critical Discussion

From [Marc Abrams (2005.12.14.1420)]

Rick, I think that at least part of your feelings about me being ‘antagonistic’ might be due to some misunderstanding you have about my position with regard to modeling and your efforts.

I am a big fan of mathematical modeling. I have been involved with SD for over 15 years and I think it provides some important capabilities.

But it does have its limitations. First modeling like all mathematical reasoning is deductive in nature. That means the conclusions automatically are derived from the premises. In fact that is exactly what a mathematical proof is. You work from the conclusion to a certain and absolute truth or premise.

This model of reasoning has been in place for 300 years and was considered by most to be the model necessary in order to do ‘science’. But again we have some issues here.

First, nothing new is ever found with deductive reasoning, and hence modeling. Everything must already be known at least implicitly. Indeed, what deductive reasoning does is rearrange knowledge we already know at least implicitly and makes it explicit. This is often very useful but is limited in its usefulness.

Over the past fifty years a new field has developed around the synthesis of logic, Rhetoric and dialectic called Argumentation. Now, it just so happens that Argumentation and Karl Popper’s ideas on ‘Scientific Critical Discussion’

address the very same thing and that is the production of valid useful and hopefully scientific information.

I will try to be as brief as possible in explaining both. For those interested in Popper I would suggest The Logic of Scientific Discovery first published in 1935 with many reprints the last one in 2004. Routledge Press.

Most know Popper from his popularization of the notion of falsifiability and I think it might be a good idea to see the Wiki explanation of it again because it provides the foundation and need for critical discussion

Falsifiability is an important concept in the philosophy of science that amounts to the apparently paradoxical idea that a proposition or theory cannot be scientific if it does not admit the possibility of being shown false.

Falsifiable does not mean false. For a proposition to be falsifiable, it must be at least in principle possible to make an observation that would show the proposition to be false, even if that observation had not been made. For example, the proposition “All crows are black” would be falsified by observing one white crow.

Falsificationists claim that any theory that is not falsifiable is unscientific. Psychoanalytic theory, for example, is held up by the proponents of Karl Popper as an example of an ideology
rather than a science. A patient regarded by his psychoanalyst as “in denial” about his sexual orientation
may be viewed as confirming he is homosexual simply by denying that he is; and if he has sex with women, he may be accused of trying to buttress his denials. In other words, there is no way the patient could convincingly demonstrate his heterosexuality to the analyst. This is an example of what Popper called a “closed circle”. The proposition that the patient is homosexual is not falsifiable.


Now, I believe we can show perceptual control to be falsifiable but we cannot do it strictly through the use of models. We can only do it by showing some data that cannot explained by any other means. This is going to require not a model but discovery on our part.

Discovery that I believe can only take place with critical discussion, experimentation, observation and then
confirmation by models.

But in order to experiment or observe we need to decide what we are looking for and how we might get that data.

I have no clue at the level of abstraction and investigation of PCT how I would get that kind of data. I think we just don’t have the knowledge or tools yet to do so.

I do believe we have a much better chance of doing so at a higher level of abstraction.

You and Bill seem to be put off by cognition but I don’t see how your understanding is any more certain or knowable than what is known there.

The difference as I see it is in our ability to design tests and collect data at a level that is meaningful and useful for the purposes of showing falsifiability.

This all has to be investigated of course and that is my intent. I have some very unique tools that I believe can help me show the existence of cognitive control. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

I am not asking you to abandon PCT or your quest for validation. I am simply trying to explain my intent and purpose. I actually think I am doing complementary work to PCT since my view is a top-down approach rather than the bot -up approach Bill took. Maybe we can have a Golden spike ceremony when we meet somewhere in the middle. :wink:

Collecting some ‘data’ as you suggest is not a trivial matter and from my perspective I can only do that through the use of language and critical discussion, which includes experiments. Over the past 50 years Argumentation as a field of study has blossomed and the notion that science can only be done through deductive reasoning has just about bit the dust.

Critical Discussion or Argumentation is not a trivial undertaking especially when you consider the constraints control places on each of us.

As you may have surmised I have been very much involved in trying to figure out a way to conduct critical discussions because that is the only way for me to get the data I need for the models I hope to build.

All experiments fall under the category of critical discussion as well because they all involve the interaction and cooperation of others.

Which brings me to the notion of Argumentation. Although there are adverserial elements in Argumentation, in order for it to work and be effective it must be a cooperative exchange and as I hope you have learned over the past couple of days. Cooperation is not a strong suit of controllers. All controllers. We are basically blind to the consequences our controlling has on others and it is only through reflection and the cooperation of others that we can become more aware of our own controlling and the effects it has on the environment.

Most of the time this is not important. Each of us can go for very long stretch’s of time without the need for any real cooperation so this is not something we are as highly skilled in as we are in our behavior and our ability to control which we do without having to think about it, which are both the good and bad points of being highly skilled.

If you are interested in learning more about critical discussion let me know. But I do not believe we can simply go out and “get some data and build a model”. At least my interest does not lie in the physiological realm.

I ask this because this would involve some work on your part and I know you are not particularly interested in this stuff, so if you say no, that is OK, if you have something already in mind for the memory work lets hear about it.

What did you have in mind for data? Do you have any experiments in mind? That is, something already done or something you would like to try?

Anyway, I hope you see now that I was not trying to trivialize your work. I just think that ‘doing’ models are not the most important thing for me to be concentrating on right now although I know and feel that models are extremely important.