Science not poetry

[From Bruce Buchanan (950226.0030 EST)-

[Bill Powers (950225.1625 MST)]

When we conjecture about human nature in a scientific way,
we don't have to be right, but we must at least intend that what we say
be taken literally.

I understand this, and since my remarks were not being taken in that way,
I thought that it is probably not worth trying to pursue the discussion :wink:

When you speak of "the logic of retroactive effects"
you can't mean that literally -- effects in nature are never, ever,
retroactive. So you must be speaking metaphorically: it's _as if_ some
effects were retroactive, for example the way we sometimes edit our
present-time memories.

Language poses a lot of problems. Scientists speak of models where literary
critics speak of metaphors. As I see it, the distinctions between models
and metaphors are not absolute. In each case our perceptions fasten on
partial resemblances to other things. We note similarities and differences,
elaborate descriptions in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions, and
try to categorize experience. As I understand it, scientific advance almost
always involves an increasingly refined vocabulary for specifying both
observation and operations, on the one hand, and more abstract principles,
etc. on the other.
In this process perfection may be a goal, but error-correction is key to
the method.

When I spoke of the "logic of retroactive effects" I admit that I spoke in
general terms. (And I might observe that logic, in any case,is not a
description of what actually happens ie. in time, but a consideration of
relationships, even if in a causal train of events.)

But what I had in mind was something like the following (I may not be right
but I do intend to be taken literally!): It seems to me that basic to
neural function and a control system model is the logic of a feedback of
information (from a comparator) which occurs _after_ the first cycle of
action. And let us say the loop contains a number of links with other
subsystems and systems.
So what?

Well, as you say, effects in nature are never really retroactive i.e. they
cannot act backwards in time. Nevertheless the control system is capturing
an event and relating it very specifically to other event(s) later in time,
or is doing so dynamically over time. (I am aware my description may be
less than perfect but I hope it may be sufficient to convey the key notions
in principle, which I think are such as to support specific elaboration.)

Now, as I understand it, without this specific mechanism of the control
loop no basis for memory could not exist - however the data may be later
manipulated in terms of neural impulses and structural alterations in
distant systems.

So, to me, this seems to be not a metaphor but rather a model of the
relationships, in their simplest form, which alone can account for memory,
and by logical extention the capacities for sustained reflective thought
which are involved in imagined and projected futures, as well as in
composing messages on the internet. (Obviously I am trying to compress a
lot here, and so am again vulnerable to the criticism of talking in too
general terms, which may also partly be true. In part I also am asking for
a thoughtful reader to fill in enough blanks to ascertain any
plausibility.)

Moreoever, as I see it, without the comparator function, which involves an
evaluation of some kind, no _purposive_ action could occur - and this
almost by definition - so that no hierarchical control systems or questions
of goals or values could arise. Contrariwise it might be that this
mechanism, which is of course capable of indefinite expansion, may provide
some clue as to the active principle involved in valuation and values at
whatever levels.

But that is what I'm going to have to think about further. My impression is
that there is no really scientific study of values because no objective
conceptual foundation has been identified. Perhaps there may be clues to
what is required, which involve specific causal mechanisms, i.e. are not
merely poetic metaphors, in the basic control system model. In saying this
I am not trying to reinvent or revise PCT or anything else. I am looking
for any available feedback on the ideas themselves, since it seems to me
that they are specific enough to at least support initial discussion.

In the same way, you can't literally mean what
the words say in the phrase "the neurophysiology of foresight." There is
no such thing as literal foresight; there can only be present-time
estimations, forecasts, or imaginings about what has not yet happened.
So this, too, must be a metaphor.

You perceived or assumed the meaning to be metaphorical. I intended its
referents to be scientific, with the qualifications that entails. (I am not
sure why you assumed otherwise.) What I meant by the "neurophysiology of
foresight" are the brain mechanisms involved in anticipatory imaginings,
specific mechanisms studied among other ways by their absence in
brain-damaged patients.(cf. Damasio: Descartes' Error)

Even Korzybki's term "time-binding" is more poetry than science. Time is
not the sort of thing that can be bound. To find any meat in this phrase
we have to look beneath the surface to the phenomena it supposedly
describes:. . . We have to demystify terms like "time-binding"
before we can get any useful ideas from them.

Agreed. (See above) And I guess I think there may be opportunities to be
exploited in doing this. This is partly why I raised the issue, in order to
get any free advice available :wink:

I do not accept that the questions are not legitimate. I am now reading
_The Origins of Values_ (Eds: Hechter, Nadel and Michod) and am aware that
the scientific approaches are a very mixed bag although some progress is
being made. I would still appreciate positive suggestions from any
direction.

Cheers and best wishes.

Bruce B.

<[Bill Leach 950226.18:57 EST(EDT)]

[Bruce Buchanan (950226.0030 EST)-

... Scientists speak of models where literary critics speak of
metaphors. As I see it, the distinctions between models and metaphors
are not absolute. In each case our perceptions fasten on ...

Bruce, while I agree at some level with what you said here there is a
difference that I believe is quite significant.

I a real scientific environment the model gets tested... the 'better' the
science, the more ruthless the testing.

The PCT 'verbal model' for example, is tested by actually building
working models. Clever people continously try to come up with new ways
to compare the models response (behaviour) to the modeled behaviour.

The method is limited of course, but does have a strong effect upon
'sloppy' thinking. When someone 'designs' a model or metaphor it is
almost unbelievably easy for the desiger to miss critical aspect about
the "phenomenon" that they are working with. In the case of the modeler,
such oversights and errors have a high probability of being discovered,
not so for the metaphor.

In this process perfection may be a goal, but error-correction is key to
the method.

Yes, error correction is the key but there has to be some way for the
existance of an error to be perceived. When one creates a metaphor or
verbal only model, the source of error perceptions becomes popularity,
poetry and the like. A serious problem with such a form of modeling is
that the supposed phonomenon may not even exist.

But what I had in mind was something like the following (I may not be
right but I do intend to be taken literally!): It seems to me that basic
to neural function and a control system model is the logic of a feedback
of information (from a comparator) which occurs _after_ the first cycle
of action. And let us say the loop contains a number of links with
other subsystems and systems. So what?

I imagine that I am going to sound a bit brutal with this one but...
What do you mean by a "neural function"? What is the "logic of a
feedback of information" and how is that different from a perception?
What do you mean by "_after_ the first cycle of action."

Change in perception (if any) ALWAYS follows a control action to correct
a previous error between perception and reference, with respect to time.
This is just basic to ALL real control systems (living or otherwise) and
is mostly irrelevent to living kinds -- it just happens to be a fact.

Well, as you say, effects in nature are never really retroactive i.e.
they cannot act backwards in time. Nevertheless the control system is
capturing an event and relating it very specifically to other event(s)
later in time, or is doing so dynamically over time. ...

A control system also can not relate a current perception to a future
perception. What I think that you are try to say here is that human
control systems 'remember' at least some perceptions and previously
remembered perceptions can be compared to present perceptions.

Now, as I understand it, without this specific mechanism of the control
loop no basis for memory could not exist - however the data may be later
manipulated in terms of neural impulses and structural alterations in
distant systems.

Bruce, I honestly tried to take you literally with this previous
paragraph but I quite truely can not even begin to see what it is saying.

And I suspect that possibly my failure to understand the previous finds

me unable to determine the "this" in: >So, to me, this seems to be not a
metaphor but rather a model of ...

Moreoever, as I see it, without the comparator function, which involves
an evaluation of some kind, no _purposive_ action could occur - and this
almost by definition - so that no hierarchical control systems or
questions of goals or values could arise.

MAN, you're preaching to the choir! All control loops and control
systems MUST have comparitor(s).

Contrariwise it might be that this mechanism, which is of course capable
of indefinite expansion, may provide some clue as to the active
principle involved in valuation and values at whatever levels.

OK, being a BH again... "which is of course capable of indefinite
expansion" strikes me as a bit poetic but then I might not be following
what you are meaning here (ie: you don't mean that there could be an
infinite number of comparitors in a finite brain). And "active
principle" is a bit vague to me. Are you talking about HOW we might
develop "values" and then compare "values" against a scale of values?

But that is what I'm going to have to think about further. My impression
is that there is no really scientific study of values because no
objective conceptual foundation has been identified. Perhaps there may
be clues to what is required, which involve specific causal mechanisms,
i.e. are not merely poetic metaphors, in the basic control system model.
In saying this I am not trying to reinvent or revise PCT or anything
else. I am looking for any available feedback on the ideas themselves,
since it seems to me that they are specific enough to at least support
initial discussion.

I believe that you are talking here about "values" as in ethics or
morality. One pretty well has to conclude that PCT itself offers no help
with any sort of proof for the 'correct' setting of any particular value.
That PCT can help with determining consistancy between different value
concepts is a virtual certainty.

Even "thou shalt not commit murder" is not supported by PCT in isolation
from some previously given arbitrary goal. OTOH, I believe that quite a
few of us would like to see ethical questions examined from a point of
view that recognizes the control system nature of humans.

-bill

[From Bruce Buchanan (950227.01:30 EST)

[Bill Leach 950226.18:57 EST(EDT)] writes:

(I wrote:)

... Scientists speak of models where literary critics speak of
metaphors. As I see it, the distinctions between models and metaphors
are not absolute. In each case our perceptions fasten on ...

Bruce, while I agree at some level with what you said here there is a
difference that I believe is quite significant.

Well I did not go into it as I might have, but the differences are immense.
Science requires specific denotation in terms of operational meanings, in
contrast to the literary use of metaphor in connotative modes to suggest a
variety of associations, appeal to values and arouse feelings. The purposes
are quite different. The goals of science include clear and accurate
models which are useful. The values of literature and the arts involve some
celebration of typical or universal human feelings in their subjective
aspects.

I. a real scientific environment the model gets tested... the 'better' the
science, the more ruthless the testing.

The PCT 'verbal model' for example, is tested by actually building
working models. Clever people continously try to come up with new ways
to compare the models response (behaviour) to the modeled behaviour.

Clever people who have read Popper may also try to think of tests which
might show that the model is inadequate or false ("falsifiability"
criterion), a more decisive kind of test than looking only for confirming
instances.

The method is limited of course, but does have a strong effect upon
'sloppy' thinking. When someone 'designs' a model or metaphor it is
almost unbelievably easy for the desiger to miss critical aspect about
the "phenomenon" that they are working with. In the case of the modeler,
such oversights and errors have a high probability of being discovered,
not so for the metaphor.

Understood. With respect to metaphors the issue is not one of error; the
judgement to be made is rather one of aptness, mostly in relation to
context and purposes.

In this process perfection may be a goal, but error-correction is key to
the method.

Yes, error correction is the key but there has to be some way for the
existance of an error to be perceived.

My point here was really that an absolute perfection in terms of scientific
knowledge in an unattainable goal, that as Whitehead said, "It is by
insisting upon an unattainable standard of perfection that the sceptic
makes himself secure", and that making and correcting errors is a normal
part of a process of discovery.

It seems to me that the perception of error always involves an evaluation
of the effects of some action in relation to the intention. If the
intention is to create a literary or dramatic effect the evaluation is one
of relative success rather than error.

But what I had in mind was something like the following (I may not be
right but I do intend to be taken literally!): It seems to me that basic
to neural function and a control system model is the logic of a feedback
of information (from a comparator) which occurs _after_ the first cycle
of action. And let us say the loop contains a number of links with
other subsystems and systems. So what?

I imagine that I am going to sound a bit brutal with this one but...
What do you mean by a "neural function"?

First of all, my focus here was on what is basic to the functions of
nervous systems. I did not speak of _a_ neural function but of _neural
function_, by which I meant the characteristic functions of nerve cells in
groups and systems.

What is the "logic of a feedback of information"

There is no logic to a single step. The phrase was of the "logic of a
feedback of information which occurs after to first cycle". I was
describing the logical relations of effects which include feedback of
measures of error from a comparator as one of their causal input factors. I
was describing a formal abstract model of negative feedback processes in
general as basic to what goes on in nervous systems.

and how is that different from a perception?

Perceptions are specific events in biological organisms. I was addressing
the principles of the abstract model of such events.

What do you mean by "_after_ the first cycle of action."

I meant the second and any other subsequent cycles.

Change in perception (if any) ALWAYS follows a control action to correct
a previous error between perception and reference, with respect to time.
This is just basic to ALL real control systems (living or otherwise) and
is mostly irrelevent to living kinds -- it just happens to be a fact.

Understood and agreed!

Well, as you say, effects in nature are never really retroactive i.e.
they cannot act backwards in time. Nevertheless the control system is
capturing an event and relating it very specifically to other event(s)
later in time, or is doing so dynamically over time. ...

A control system also can not relate a current perception to a future
perception.

Of course. There is no such thing as a future perception. The brain has the
capacity to formulate anticipatory imaginings based upon high level
selection and analysis of past experiences, and may generate dispositions
and expectations, but that is about all as for as the future is concerned.
Bill Powers has recently reemphasized this point. (I am probably picking
you up on a point you understand very well and didn't state quite as
clearly as you might ;-).)

What I think that you are try to say here is that human
control systems 'remember' at least some perceptions and previously
remembered perceptions can be compared to present perceptions.

If that is all that I meant I might well have said it that way. However the
point I was reaching for was a response to Bill's comments about the need
to look below the surface to understand what might be meant by "binding
time".
Memory is such a familiar concept that we overlook a really amazing
feature, unique to life, by which events related as before and after can be
examined in relation to each other. It is a commonplace that memories can
be compared. The question is, what is the mechanism that makes this
possible. I think the answer lies in the formal logic of feedback systems
insofar as these are supported in living forms and retain their identity
through time and change. The required conditions involve many loops and
cycles but the logic of the negative feedback loop is the prime
requirement.

Now, as I understand it, without this specific mechanism of the control
loop no basis for memory could not exist - however the data may be later
manipulated in terms of neural impulses and structural alterations in
distant systems.

Bruce, I honestly tried to take you literally with this previous
paragraph but I quite truely can not even begin to see what it is saying.

Maybe I am trying to say something that involves too many assumptions, and
to say this in too few words. I have tried to provide an alternative
statement just above. And I guess the statement will not make sense to
anyone who does not recognize the significance of the capacity of living
creatures to live in and deal with events in the dimension of time, or who
does not see any problem to be clarified in this regard.

Moreoever, as I see it, without the comparator function, which involves
an evaluation of some kind, no _purposive_ action could occur - and this
almost by definition - so that no hierarchical control systems or
questions of goals or values could arise.

MAN, you're preaching to the choir! All control loops and control
systems MUST have comparitor(s).

Well, sure. But my point here, admittedly not too clear, was that error
correction entails evaluation, that purposes imply values necessarily. Now
I understand that PCT makes no judgement about particular values. Yet I
think that the feedback and error correction mechanisms not only entail but
in fact create the necessity for values, for standards, which may in turn
be modified by loops tuned to standards at higher levels.

Here again I am trying to address a problem, which is that of the orgins of
any values at all, of the source of the general concept of value
independent of any specific individual or cultural manifestation. Where
does the potential and structure necessary for higher level evaluative
behavior come from? What I am suggesting is that it derives from the same
primary logical relationships as memory, i.e. in the negative feedback
control loop. Questions as to the origins of values per se (not specific
values necessarily) are very poorly understood by social scientists and yet
may be extremely important.

Contrariwise it might be that this mechanism, which is of course capable
of indefinite expansion, may provide some clue as to the active
principle involved in valuation and values at whatever levels.

OK, being a BH again... "which is of course capable of indefinite
expansion" strikes me as a bit poetic but then I might not be following
what you are meaning here (ie: you don't mean that there could be an
infinite number of comparitors in a finite brain).

I don't think my meaning here is very remote from PCT. I just mean that
there is no predetermined limit to be set to the complexity or extent of a
hierarchical control system or set of systems. (I did not use the word
infinite, which is without limit; clearly there must eventually be some
actual limit to any real systems.)

My impression
is that there is no really scientific study of values because no
objective conceptual foundation has been identified. Perhaps there may
be clues to what is required, which involve specific causal mechanisms,
i.e. are not merely poetic metaphors, in the basic control system model.

I believe that you are talking here about "values" as in ethics or
morality.

I am trying to get at something more fundamental related to any goals or
purposes, which is really to keep the effects or behavior of a system
constant, relatively independent of the influences of random perturbations.
At higher levels this may be interpreted in terms such as not to disturb
learned expectations or cultural norms e.g. morals, etc. but I am not
talking about these in specific terms.

One pretty well has to conclude that PCT itself offers no help
with any sort of proof for the 'correct' setting of any particular value.

Understood and agreed.

I believe that quite a
few of us would like to see ethical questions examined from a point of
view that recognizes the control system nature of humans.

If this is to be possible I think that it would require a way of dealing
with consensually validated perceptions of social and environmental systems
in terms which are consistent with control systems theory as it applies to
individuals. This might not deal with particular values as these have
developed historically, but it might cast some light on possible structures
which relate values as these involve interactions,and therefore on possible
superordinate values. (However this is not the place to expand upon this!)

Thanks, Bill, for your comments and the opportunity to expand a bit. Again,
as always, all comments welcome.

Cheers and best wishes.

Bruce B.

<[Bill Leach 950227.20:58 EST(EDT)]

[Bruce Buchanan (950227.01:30 EST)

Clever people who have read Popper may also try to think of tests which
might show that the model is inadequate or false ("falsifiability"
criterion), a more decisive kind of test than looking only for
confirming instances.

I still will maintain that there is a most significant difference here,
these "thought tests" are not subjected to any experimental validation.
The 'falseifications" can be every bit as incorrect as the "theory".

Understood. With respect to metaphors the issue is not one of error; the
judgement to be made is rather one of aptness, mostly in relation to
context and purposes.

Understood, but the "judgement" is not "well considered" (expressions to
the contrary notwithstanding) and "aptness" is highly opinionated.

Don't missunderstand me, I do accept that careful "thought experiment" is
important, but it is also important to subject such experiments to
whatever perceptual experience can be obtained from the environment with
a healthy scepticism of any interpretation of 'results'.

It seems to me that the perception of error always involves an
evaluation of the effects of some action in relation to the intention.

No problem, agree.

If the intention is to create a literary or dramatic effect the
evaluation is one of relative success rather than error.

You "blew this one by me completely". What is the significance of
"literary or dramatic effect" in a search for understanding?

There is no logic to a single step.

Being a reluctant student of Boole... there most certainly can be a
"logic" to a single step (as irrelevent as that might be).

The phrase was of the "logic of a feedback of information which occurs
after to first cycle".

I think that I will probably continue to have trouble with this one. In
control system theory, the actual process is considered to be continous.
The first step is really only a matter for "transient response" and
"control loss" considerations. Basically, feedback is assumed to be
present at onset of analysis (correctly assumed BTW though the actual
feedback value might 'be incorrect' for various different reasons at the
instant of control system activation).

I was describing the logical relations of effects which include feedback
of measures of error from a comparator as one of their causal input
factors.

I almost hate to say this but could you diagram this for me? Feedback is
considered to be something that comes from one source and goes to
another. It is usually not adequate to give even just the source and
destination but the rest of the loop is needed for even the most basic
understanding.

I was describing a formal abstract model of negative feedback
processes in general as basic to what goes on in nervous systems.

But this IS what PCT IS about! A functioning control system MUST have
feedback (and as theory and practice show, the net feedback must be
negative). If I correctly understand Powers (no means a certainty), the
basic PCT principle can be applied to "completely internal" control
loops... that is the stuff of imagination, memory, dreaming, etc. How
might still be a bit of a question though.

and how is that different from a perception?

Perceptions are specific events in biological organisms. I was
addressing the principles of the abstract model of such events.

Well yes, but everything in a biological organism can be terms and event
so I don't think that is quite what you mean.

A perception IS an input signal for a control loop. It may or may not
have a "meaning" to the organism or it may mean that the organism 'feels
tired' or some such. In other words, all control system input signals
are perceptions, all awareness is perception(s) but we are not
necessarily "aware" of all perceptions.

Of course. There is no such thing as a future perception. The brain has
the capacity to formulate anticipatory imaginings based upon high level
selection and analysis of past experiences, and may generate
dispositions and expectations, but that is about all as for as the
future is concerned.

"anticipatory imaginings" are outputs of perceptual control loops that
are themselves perceptions.

Memory is such a familiar concept that we overlook a really amazing
feature, unique to life, by which events related as before and after can
be examined in relation to each other. It is a commonplace that memories
can be compared. The question is, what is the mechanism that makes this
possible. I think the answer lies in the formal logic of feedback
systems insofar as these are supported in living forms and retain their
identity through time and change. The required conditions involve many
loops and cycles but the logic of the negative feedback loop is the
prime requirement.

Bruce this reads almost as badly as Albus. You are, in my opinion,
describing what is "observed" using vague assertions. In doing so, I
believe that you are violating Bill Powers (and his is but an agreement
with Einstein) that the simplest explaination be pursued until it is
found not capable.

We don't know the limits for collections of control loops. The vast
majority of those that actually ARE experienced with engineered control
systems have themselves failed to recognize "ability" and
"characteristics" that have ALREADY been demonstrated with the
"simplistic" modeling that has so far been possible.

We humans seems to have two almost simultaneous mutually contradictory
actions that we frequently perform on observations that we do not really
understand. The first is that we "explain" the phenomenon with vague
generalizations containing unrecognized assumptions of vast complexity
and the second is that we attribute some observations to systems of
almost unimaginable complexity when as is often the case, the phenomenon
is not something special but only the normal course of events for the
operation of a simple system.

And I guess the statement will not make sense to anyone who does not
recognize the significance of the capacity of living creatures to live
in and deal with events in the dimension of time, or who does not see any
problem to be clarified in this regard.

Then I suppose that I am of the latter group. I accept that we don't
know how it is accomplished at this stage of our knowledge but I do not
see the problem as major problem. "Sequencing" and thus "sequence
recognition" are basic presumptions of HPCT.

Well, sure. But my point here, admittedly not too clear, was that error
correction entails evaluation, that purposes imply values necessarily.

The comparitor IS an "evaluator". It makes one single simple
"evaluation": Is the perception at the reference value?

Now I understand that PCT makes no judgement about particular values.

Now WAIT a minute! PCT makes no judgement about the "correctness" of
values and value systems with respect to such things as "ethics"
morality, "how should I live", etc. PCT does not say for example that if
a perception is not at its reference value that this is "bad", it mearly
states talks about what will happen as a result of the condition and
leaves the "good/bad" to the observer.

Yet I think that the feedback and error correction mechanisms not only
entail but in fact create the necessity for values, for standards, which
may in turn be modified by loops tuned to standards at higher levels.

This is PCT (a little sloppy I think) but then I am not sure that you
mean it that way.

Yes, we create a system of references for our systems concepts. Though
some of these may be "built-in" the approach is to assume that none are
and then research how they may come about through perceptions experienced
by the control system. That this concept entails "memory" is highly
likely though ALL suggested forms are still pretty tentative.

It then follows from pretty straight HPCT that subsequent "values" and
"standards" are a result of a control system just controlling it's
perceptions for it's systems concepts.

Here again I am trying to address a problem, which is that of the orgins
of any values at all, of the source of the general concept of value
independent of any specific individual or cultural manifestation.

The "pat" answer is somehow it all comes about as a result of a few
intrinsic references, experience with the environment including effects
of reorganization. The specifics are certainly still an open issue!

-bill

[From Bruce Buchanan (950228.1200- EST)
re [Bill Leach 950227.20:58 EST(EDT)]

Bill I think we are still often talking about somewhat different (if
related) matters and assuming differing reference levels and frameworks.

In my posts I have addressed at least three questions which are independent
of PCT and in your commentaries you have tried to apply PCT criteria and
found the results a very mixed bag, which is not surprising. It is perhaps
clear, but I might say it explicitly, that my objective is not simply to
clarify and improve my understanding of PCT (although room for improvement
is undoubtedly present) but to relate PCT to certain other problems. After
all, if we can build upon the premise that "everything is perception", then
the key to many conundrums may well lie in the processes of perception.

(1) In discussing metaphor and literary effects I have not been assuming a
model of science or a search for understanding, but purposes of emotional
and artistic expression. This is quite a different function of language.
The processes involve perception and abstraction but the purposes are not
those of science.

(2) In discussing the nature of Time, and the role of perceptual systems in
enabling human beings to perceive and deal with Time, I am addressing
problems that are not usually part of PCT. This is not the place to explain
why books have been written about the nature and the problems associated
with the experience of time. Suffice it to say that I think that PCT has
implications which may clarify the capacity to perceive time and hence the
meaning of time for human beings (see below). Obviously it may take a more
extended exposition to make this clear, and csg-l may not be the best forum
for this.

(3) In discussing the nature of values I am also addressing heretofor
unsolved problems. I am aware that social scientists perceive a need to
better understand the sources of values as well as the conditions under
which these change, and look for measures which can assist us to understand
behavior. There is a real lack of knowledge about these matters in all the
relevant areas of social science, which in my opinion approach the problems
from such an abstract level that an operational understanding of the
underlying mechanisms is almost precluded. In my opinion PCT and
cybernetics may have insights to contribute about the role of values in
guiding behavior, and I am trying to get at what I think these insights are
in specific operational terms. Here again a more extended presentation is
probably needed in order to assess the ideas.

Now to more specific comments.

Bill writes: (re Popper)

"thought tests" are not subjected to any experimental validation.
The 'falsifications" can be every bit as incorrect as the "theory".

The falsification tests described by Popper would be empirical, not
"thought experiments".

(I wrote:)

If the intention is to create a literary or dramatic effect the
evaluation is one of relative success rather than error.

You "blew this one by me completely". What is the significance of
"literary or dramatic effect" in a search for understanding?

A "literary or dramatic effect" has no significance for a scientific search
for understanding. It belongs not to science but to the category of art,
where the criteria of success are different from those of science, which
was the point I was trying to make.

There is no logic to a single step.

Being a reluctant student of Boole... there most certainly can be a
"logic" to a single step (as irrelevent as that might be).

Sorry, my error. What I meant to say was that there is no logic involved in
the concept feedback considered in isolation, without specifics as to the
factors and linkages involved.

The phrase was of the "logic of a feedback of information which occurs
after to first cycle".

I think that I will probably continue to have trouble with this one. In
control system theory, the actual process is considered to be continuous.

I was referring to a conceptual model in terms of which elements are
artificially isolated and analyzed in their relationships e.g. whether the
feedback is negative or positive in its application to the causal
processes.
I understand that this is a conceptual artifice and not an actual process.

I was describing the logical relations of effects which include feedback
of measures of error from a comparator as one of their causal input
factors.

I almost hate to say this but could you diagram this for me? Feedback is
considered to be something that comes from one source and goes to
another. It is usually not adequate to give even just the source and
destination but the rest of the loop is needed for even the most basic
understanding.

An example (since I do not know how to render a diagram with my email
program!): The thermostat measures the difference between the room
temperature and its set point. Among the causal factors that affect the
room temperature (e.g. outdoor ambient temperature, open doors and windows,
use of lights and oven, number of people, etc.) is also the furnace burner
and its time on and periodicity. The feedback signal goes from the
thermostat comparator to the burner switch, where it is applied with
negative sign, which is simply one of the causal input factors. Because the
feedback links levels, the operation of one component (the furnace) can be
integrated into a functional outcome of the whole system (room
temperature). This is one specific example of the model I had in mind. It
is also an example of the way in which a quantitative feature of a
superordinate system is precisely related to a quantitative aspect of a
component subsystem, i.e. relation of whole to part, which I recognize is
always an ongoing cyclical process if functional integration is to be
realized.

Memory is such a familiar concept that we overlook a really amazing
feature, unique to life, by which events related as before and after can
be examined in relation to each other. It is a commonplace that memories
can be compared. The question is, what is the mechanism that makes this
possible.. . .

Bruce this reads almost as badly as Albus. You are, in my opinion,
describing what is "observed" using vague assertions. In doing so, I
believe that you are violating Bill Powers (and his is but an agreement
with Einstein) that the simplest explaination be pursued until it is
found not capable.

The explanation will depend upon what one is trying to explain. I am all in
favour of Occam's razor, but I am not trying to describe memory in a vague
way. I am trying to clarify a possible mechanism by which events which
occur in different times can be recorded by the nervous system so that they
can be considered together (in fact by locating those records in different
places in the CNS - e.g. in different memory traces and perhaps regions).
In a sense time is translated into space and then managed in spatial terms,
always, as Bill Powers notes, in the Present.

... I am trying to address [another] problem, which is that of the orgins
of any values at all, and hence of the general concept of value
independent of any specific individual or cultural manifestation.

The "pat" answer is somehow it all comes about as a result of a few
intrinsic references, experience with the environment including effects
of reorganization. . . .

O.K. but, speaking more specifically, values in the large or at higher
levels must be related to, or perhaps identical to, controlled variables.
As understood by PCT these are perhaps not a problem. What is a problem to
my mind is whether they may cast useful light on the methods and problems
of value analysis addressed by social scientists, opinion researchers,
politicians, etc.

Well that is enough for now. I may return later. In the meantime I thank
both Bills for the feedback and questions which show up the inadequacies in
my ideas and their presentation and give me food for further thought :wink:

(Now I am off for a week of skiing with my son and grandchildren. A little
change of pace.)

Cheers and best wishes.

Bruce B.