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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Vladimir Fedorov: on 5/16/20 at 12:30pm UTC, wrote Dear Roger, Glad to read your work again. I greatly appreciated your...

Roger Schlafly: on 5/7/20 at 4:31am UTC, wrote I see where you say, "While the past is unchangeable, the future is open to...

Eckard Blumschein: on 5/6/20 at 0:00am UTC, wrote Dear Roger Schlafly, Did you overlook my argument that there is no...

Roger Schlafly: on 5/4/20 at 18:08pm UTC, wrote Positivism has mainly been rejected by philosophers of the last 50 years....

H.H.J. Luediger: on 5/4/20 at 9:12am UTC, wrote OK, I think I got the message... ...just ohne thing: Cantor's LOGICAL...

Roger Schlafly: on 5/3/20 at 22:08pm UTC, wrote There is a big field called Mathematics, and it has been using logic for...

Roger Schlafly: on 5/3/20 at 22:05pm UTC, wrote You say that there are many logics, all with foundational problems. I do...

H.H.J. Luediger: on 5/3/20 at 20:01pm UTC, wrote Dear Roger Schlafly, Logical/Empirical Positivism is a term notoriously...


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September 23, 2020

CATEGORY: Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability Essay Contest (2019-2020) [back]
TOPIC: Positivist perspective on predictability by Roger Schlafly [refresh]
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Author Roger Schlafly wrote on Mar. 20, 2020 @ 14:03 GMT
Essay Abstract

Mathematicians rely on rigorous proofs to know what is true. By analogy, there are positivist scientists who similarly confine their work to what can be empirically established. Under such views, physicists need not hope to predict everything, just as mathematicians do not hope to decide everything.

Author Bio

Roger Schlafly has a BSE from Princeton U, and a PhD in Mathematics from U California Berkeley, under I. Singer. He blogs at DarkBuzz.com.

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 21, 2020 @ 04:54 GMT
Respected Professor Roger Schlafly,

Amazing essay and wonderful conclusion words.............Positivism is a legitimate philosophical view. Mathematics has a long tradition of sticking to what can be formally proved from axioms. Physics would be enriched by popularizing a similar view, so that we can more easily distinguish established knowledge from speculation.

I am not trying to persuade anyone to stop speculating about the interior of black holes, but to understand that positivists can reasonably argue that such heorizing has no known scientific value..............................

I request you see the axioms of Dynamic Universe model where there are no Blackholes. See “A properly deciding, Computing and Predicting new theory’s Philosophy”

Best Regards

=snp.gupta

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Mar. 21, 2020 @ 05:55 GMT
Thanks. I don't have any quarrel with black holes. That is, I am convinced that large stars can collapse to the point where gravity prevents light from escaping.

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Martin van Staveren wrote on Mar. 21, 2020 @ 10:03 GMT
That is why I am a Bayesian, which I think is positivism. This means however that hypotheses for which there are no relevant data have nothing to do with physics. This attitude clearly conflicts with many worldviews, such as religions. Furthermore, many mathematicians do not care about usefullness; beauty should be enough. This attitude certainly The succes of the Standard Model (symmetry breaking etc) has attracted many mathematically inclined people. The idea that we can understand the Universe by pure thinking is 2500 years old, and apparently irresistable.

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Peter Warwick Morgan wrote on Mar. 21, 2020 @ 14:20 GMT
You invited us on DarkBuzz to comment on this, Roger, so, ...

Your statement that "The nature of positivism is to emphasize what can be known for sure, and to avoid speculation about other matters" seems to disregard the necessity to make predictions, which I take in mathematical terms to be interpolations or extrapolations from what is, so to speak, known for sure. Someone else could...

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Martin van Staveren replied on Mar. 21, 2020 @ 18:45 GMT
Extrapolation: a car or aeroplane moves at speed V, so after a not too long time interval T it will have traversed a distance VT. Such predictions are commonly performed: model based Bayesian Estimation. Is this pragmatism or positivism?

The formulation “known for sure” is unfortunate, as usually data are not 100% certain, e.g. a distance or speed measurement.

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Mar. 21, 2020 @ 21:04 GMT
You make some good points. How can we make any predictions, as the future cannot be known for sure?

All predictions come with some sort of confidence level. I can predict that the Sun will rise tomorrow. Am I 100% sure? No, but I have a very high confidence. Maybe I am 99.999999% sure. It has always risen in the past, and there is good reason to believe that will continue.

That is about as good as can be done in science.

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Martin van Staveren replied on Mar. 22, 2020 @ 06:46 GMT
We can make predictions although the present is not known with 100% certainty. Plus the model is usually only approximate, e.g the noise is assumed to be Gaussian.The prediction is then not 100% certain, either. But it may be good enough. This is standard practice, e.g we assume linearity. That is why I feel that the theme of this contest is a bit weird. So there are assumptions and data uncertainties. If you do not even know the present with 100% certainty, then what is meant with “predictability”? This is somewhat confusing, as some answers are binary: does something happen, eg in a collision between elementary particles, or not? This looks like an exact answer.

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Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 24, 2020 @ 21:04 GMT
Roger,

Another very readable and enjoyable essay. I'd thought I'd long understood logical positivism but your nuances and context were fascinating. I work hard on data driven analysis and not to have 'beliefs' but you've exposed that's not as founded in positivism as I'd assumed, as I apply that approach to poorly understood phenomena like the jet 'cusp' of an AGN (only room for a Mexican Hat potential not an old 'black hole'!

I also dive deep into QM and suggest a foundational error rendering it illogical (quntum spin wasn't required as Maxwell/Poincare already identified TWO inverse orthogonal momenta in OAM). Do those disqualify me? (not that I mind!)

And do we really know much at all 'for sure'? or do we fool ourselves picking some foundation? All good questions I too have raised.

But logic is another matter, and again I agree philosophy gets it wrong. Indeed I think I show it n badly misleads physics from foundations up, but I do hope you'll give me your view on that thesis I explore.

Great food for thought again Roger. Well done and thank you. A different slant but right on topic and right up there.

Very best

Peter

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John David Crowell wrote on Mar. 29, 2020 @ 21:36 GMT
Roger thanks for your essay. It is nice to see someone holding to “correspondence to measurements” as a guideline to judge aspiring theories. I would like your input on my essay. The essay’s theoretical projections correspond to “generally accepted” measurements for the visible universe and its important physical contents- Planck’s length and time, H atoms, Stars, solar systems, galaxies, etc. However, it introduces a very different process for the creation and functioning of the visible universe. The essay introduces a different beginning, a different progression, the same current situation and a different ending than current theories. As such it is metaphysical to current physics. It also changes the fundamental “unit” from an unchanging particle to the smallest unit of changing (C*s) and describes how quantities of C*s become the smallest Stable Self Creating Unit (SSCU). The original SSCU then self replicates which creates quantities of copies that self organize to become the physical world that we currently measure. In that progression, the process creates its own mathematics, its own self creating algorithms and “maps” them to the physical results. It creates its own mathematics and embeds it within its forms and functioning. “Amazing”. In this processing, as shown in the appendix of the essay, it determines the value in C*s between 0 and 1 SSCU and thus between the “real number quantities” of the processing.

In this Sucessful Self Creation case did it solve the “ continuum hypothesis” of mathematics? Also, the theory describes what happens in Black Holes and how they fit into the creation of the physical world. Anyway I would appreciate your comments as a mathematician and as a Positivist. Thanks John Crowell

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Robert Wilson wrote on Apr. 6, 2020 @ 18:59 GMT
Very nice essay. You make a very persuasive case for logical positivism, and although I had not previously thought of myself as a logical positivist, I can see its attractions, and I can see that it is hard to argue against. As a mathematician, I agree with you that mathematics says nothing about truth - what mathematicians call truth is what logicians call tautology, and has nothing to say about the truth or otherwise of statements about the universe. In mathematics, everything depends on the assumptions you start with. In theoretical physics, the same is true. Which is why I find it so hard to understand why physicists (at least in my experience) absolutely refuse to discuss their assumptions. Perhaps you might be interested in my essay in which I attempt to discuss such assumptions.

Robert Wilson.

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Flavio Del Santo wrote on Apr. 15, 2020 @ 14:37 GMT
Dear Roger (if I may),

Thank you for an interesting essay (and for citing me therein!).

I guess we have several element of convergence. I like your quotation: “If these numbers could be found in nature, along with methods for extracting arbitrarily many digits, then we would have to revise what weknow about the feasibility of computation.”

A few more comments: although I advocate the importance of operationalism which is a form of empiricism, I believe that defining an underlying ontology to theories could be extremely useful. Moreover, in my opinion, the criticisms against empirical positivism (e.g., against the method of induction) are sound and that position is not (at least fully tanable).

Anyways, I ranked you high. Best of luck for the contest,

Flavio

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on Apr. 16, 2020 @ 04:36 GMT
Thanks. I liked your comments about determinism.

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Jason W Steinmetz wrote on May. 1, 2020 @ 19:16 GMT
I found your essay to be one of the hardest to rate. This is partly because it is an essay and thus too short to do justice to the topic. And thus, your essay was hard to rate because it is a breath of fresh air that I completely agree with, however, I do not support logical positivism. But I can agree with this:

"Logical positivism ... I believe that it should not have died, and...

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on May. 2, 2020 @ 23:57 GMT
Thanks for your good remarks.

I actually do not agree that Godel refuted Russell's Principia, Hilbert's program, or the logicist program. Math today can be seen as working out the theorems of ZF set theory. It is true that we cannot prove self-consistency from within the system, but that is just a minor detail in the larger program of axiomatizing mathematics. These programs succeeded in axiomatizing math, and Godel's work contributed towards that goal.

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on May. 3, 2020 @ 00:48 GMT
Not sure what you mean by logic being "not sufficiently defined". If there is one field of study where everything is carefully defined, it is logic.

Yes, a lot of people believe that computers will someday wake up and become sentient. But do they believe the computers will be all-knowing? I doubt it.

I agree that the continuum beckoned a solution, as soon as transfinite numbers were discovered. It was a solution to find that it is independent of ZFC set theory. Maybe not a very satisfactory solution, but we cannot expect things to work out as we might like.

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Jason W Steinmetz replied on May. 3, 2020 @ 18:42 GMT
I tend to find that Logic is a term that everyone immediately understands but, despite that or maybe because of that, everyone is not always working with precisely the same definition. For example, are the LEM and LNC incontrovertible logical laws? Is logic fundamentally based on the syllogism? And since I do consider what I called the logicist program to have been refuted, the logical conclusion is that mathematics consists of what is logical (true by means of logic), illogical (false by means of logic) and nonlogical (inapplicable, or the application of logic is... illogical). Not surprisingly, this a violation of the LEM!

I definitely agree with the unequivocal importance of definition, but we certainly run into a myriad of problems when we try to define the undefinable... That might be going a bit too far.

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H.H.J. Luediger wrote on May. 3, 2020 @ 20:01 GMT
Dear Roger Schlafly,

Logical/Empirical Positivism is a term notoriously resisting clear definition. I agree that it has a number of interesting and even desirable facets, but overall, I think, that it has led (and under the cover of analytical philosophy still leads) science into a dead end.

Three criticalities:

POSITIVISM: The term implies analysis, affirmation and verification, which it inherited from the linguistic turn (e.g. Frege, Wittgenstein). But already the late Wittgenstein denied language to be positively=affirmatively tractable and Quine's confirmation holism kissed the idea of scientific Positivism goodbye. Only Lego-worlds are affirmatively tractable.

LOGICAL: Today there are more than a dozen of most varied logics in use. Which one is the right one? Moreover, all of them suffer from what is called the foundational or grounding problem of logic. The idea that logic represents something in the world goes into the face of philosophical tradition since Kant, who located it in the mind. This is why the '3-uns' of the contest theme are mere logical pastime and have no effect whatsoever in physics or elsewhere.

EMPIRICAL: Positivism, by discriminating metaphysical ideas like causation, elevated instrument readings, photon counter knacks, etc. to the level of empirical evidence. Ever since scientists verify theories by instrument readings (data). And don't absurdities attributed to data like entanglement, Big Bang and multiverses confirm Kant, i.e. that logical constructions have no existence in the world?

Overall, positivism (unfortunately) isn't dead but has survived in analytical philosophy, which emphasizes analyticity and hence logic, with the consequence that science has adopted the processuality of logic and hence become temporal itself. This - timelessness vs. time - in my opinion, is the key difference between classical and modern science and surfaces in the difference between law and model.

Heinz

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on May. 3, 2020 @ 22:05 GMT
You say that there are many logics, all with foundational problems. I do not agree with this. Godel proved his theorems with first order propoositional logic, and his system does not have foundational problems. ZF set theory also works fine.

Contradicting Kant and Quine is a plus, not a minus. Kant refused to accept that 7+5=12 is a logical truth. He was so completely wrong about this that his opinions on the subject are incoherent. Likewise with Quine. He wrote a silly essay on "Two Dogmas" where he gripes about problems that had been solved 100 years earlier.

I think that logical positivism has been rejected for ideological reasons, and not for any technical defect.

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H.H.J. Luediger replied on May. 4, 2020 @ 09:12 GMT
OK, I think I got the message...

...just ohne thing: Cantor's LOGICAL paradise is alive and kicking. So, which ideology has been rejected?

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on May. 4, 2020 @ 18:08 GMT
Positivism has mainly been rejected by philosophers of the last 50 years. You could ask them about their ideologies. Much of academia has been taken over by certain ideologies.

Outside of academic philosophy, I don't think many have rejected positivism. But of course most do not know what it is.

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on May. 6, 2020 @ 00:00 GMT
Dear Roger Schlafly,

Did you overlook my argument that there is no extended state "present" between past and future? FT introduced redundancy.

Are you aware of what I yesterday wrote on Klingman'n page concerning Einstein's SR?

Perhaps, missing practical relevance is a good indication of inapproriateness. Not just therefore I disagree with Luediger's claim that "Cantor's LOGICAL paradise is alive and kicking."

Best, Eckard

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Author Roger Schlafly replied on May. 7, 2020 @ 04:31 GMT
I see where you say, "While the past is unchangeable, the future is open to influences". I agree with that.

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Vladimir Nikolaevich Fedorov wrote on May. 16, 2020 @ 12:30 GMT
Dear Roger,

Glad to read your work again.

I greatly appreciated your work and discussion. I am very glad that you are not thinking in abstract patterns.

"The more welearn, the more we bump into limits of knowledge, and of what is possible. Trying to getpast those limits can get us lost. Our greatest progress has been from sticking to what canbe positively demonstrated, from either axioms or experiments

Positivism is a legitimate philosophical view. Mathematics has a long tradition of stickingto what can be formally proved from axioms. Physics would be enriched by popularizing asimilar view,"

"so that we can more easily distinguish established knowledge fromspeculation.I am not trying to persuade anyone to stop speculating about the interior of black holes, butto understand that positivists can reasonably argue that such theorizing has no knownscientific value".

While the discussion lasted, I wrote an article: “Practical guidance on calculating resonant frequencies at four levels of diagnosis and inactivation of COVID-19 coronavirus”, due to the high relevance of this topic. The work is based on the practical solution of problems in quantum mechanics, presented in the essay FQXi 2019-2020 “Universal quantum laws of the universe to solve the problems of unsolvability, computability and unpredictability”.

I hope that my modest results of work will provide you with information for thought.

Warm Regards, `

Vladimir

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