Entries by tag: ludwig wittgenstein

Conservation Of Information?
Posting again on a subject I don't understand and never will: what physicists mean by "information." My brain balks at mathematical symbols, but I'm good at concepts; so my guess is that if some articulate physicist were to wander by, he or she could explain "conservation of information" in a way that doesn't totally leave me at sea. Wikipedia hasn't succeeded*, but this passage from the entry on "Black hole information paradox" is useful:

There are two main principles in play:

--Quantum determinism means that given a present wave function, its future changes are uniquely determined by the evolution operator.
--Reversibility refers to the fact that the evolution operator has an inverse, meaning that the past wave functions are similarly unique.

The combination of the two means that information must always be preserved.
What I gather from this is that: (i) any present "state" must have a unique past; you can't have two pasts leading to the same present; and (ii) the present can't lead to multiple futures. Am I interpreting this right? So a quantum waveform (?) version of a Laplace Demon** could reconstitute the past or forecast the future (or maybe, this being quanta, could reconstitute past probability wave something-or-other and forecast future probability wave something-or-other) based on what's known now. Hence information is preserved. So, however you twist it, you'll always have the same information.

Black holes seem to pose a problem for the principleCollapse )

The question I posed last time is, "When physicists say that information is preserved even after everything's been absorbed into black holes that have subsequently evaporated, do they mean that, e.g., 'The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM' is preserved?" Certainly in my everyday use of the term "information," "the test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM" is information. So I can simplify my question down to this:

Is "The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM" preserved (by the principle of conservation of information)? If not, what is preserved?

Changed my mind since last timeCollapse )

I continue to have little idea what I'm talking about. But right now I'd reformulate the question as:

If all physical information is preserved, how can "The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM" not be preserved?

And a corollary to that one would be:

If all physical information is preserved, and this — somehow — does not include "The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM" being preserved, then how is it possible that "The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM" exists even now?

So, to convince myself that all information can be preserved while "The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM" is not preserved, I'd have to have an explanation for why "The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM" isn't preserved. And to do that, I'd have to have an explanation for how it can exist now without being physical information. We as physical beings sure seem to have the information that the test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM. So far I can't counter this, can't come up with an explanation of how physical beings can have nonphysical information, or what "nonphysical information" would even mean. I don't think physicists, to the extent that they've thought about it, disbelieve that "mental" and "cultural" information can be conveyed by physical information, or that the latter two sorts of information are different in kind from the former. Actually, I don't know what they think. But how would they even potentially explain the existence of "cultural information" at all if such information is not conveyable physically?

That's what I would need to explain, if I wanted to preserve the principle of "conservation of information" while denying the conservation of "The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM." Not that I necessarily want to deny that "The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM" can be preserved. What I'm saying is that I don't know how not to preserve it without destroying the principle of conservation of (physical) information — which for all I know is a wrong principle, but to half understand what physicists mean by it, I'm acting as if it's right. Quantum physics guys seem to believe it needs to be right. So, for the moment at least, I'm counting "The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM" as physical information, hence preservable by "conservation of information."

So, to reiterate, I think the crucial question here, this time in bold, is: How can "The test tomorrow is at 1:00 PM" exist now without being physical information?

I'm deciding for the time being that it can't, and that therefore it is physical information.

No dif in physical status between things and conventionsCollapse )

Social info has same physical status as any other infoCollapse )

FootnotesCollapse )

What do philosophers talk about these days?
I asked this of B. Michael over on Tumblr, so I thought I ought to ask it of you all as well:

What do philosophers talk about these days, post-Wittgenstein and post-Kuhn? I've not kept up. (Not that I ever kept up.) Kuhn's notion of "paradigms" gets rid of the need for super-deep universal foundations for the scientific enterprise, and Wittgenstein's "family resemblances" does the same for pretty much everything. So what's left for philosophy? Not that I think philosophy departments should disband, but if I were in one I'd transform it into the Department Of Roving Troubleshooters Who Have More Fun Than Sociologists Seem To Have, or something.

EDIT: Er, perhaps I should elaborate slightly, though that could end up in a tangle, since my elaborations will need elaborations. But, e.g., if you're saying as I do that people's musical tastes tend to cluster by their social class, you then (if you're me) have to explore what you mean by social class (and keep exploring). Now, one could ask a philosopher instead, "Dear philosopher, What do I mean, or what should I mean, by 'social class'?" But it seems to me that what the philosopher says is of no more import than what anyone else says, that if s/he has something to say it isn't because s/he's a philosopher but because s/he's just another person trying to figure out in certain instances what we mean or should mean by "social class" in those and related instances. And as with "social class," so with "meaning" and "language" and so forth.

The beats, the business model, the moon, and the stars
I really like this post by Jonathan Bradley about distinguishing genres by sound versus distinguishing them by culture. This was my response (I was fundamentally saying that the two interweave - sound is culture - and that the direction of his argument wasn't against using sound as a criterion but against reducing one's criteria to sound):

The beats, the business model, the moon, and the starsCollapse )

I also linked Wittgenstein excerpts about family resemblance and the ilX discussion of Superwords as both being crucially useful tools in understanding this issue. (The ilX thread didn't start off about Superwords, and when it got there the topic was just one among many, so you have to search "superword" and then keep searching.)

It would now be no use to say, "But can't you see....?" and repeat the old examples and explanations
Now—judged by the usual criteria—the pupil has mastered the series of natural numbers. Next we teach him to write down other series of cardinal numbers and get him to the point of writing down series of the form

0, n, 2n, 3n, etc.

at an order of the form "+n"; so at the order "+1" he writes down the series of natural numbers. —Let us suppose we have done exercises and given him tests up to 1000.

Now we get the pupil to continue a series (say +2) beyond 1000—and he writes 1000, 1004, 1008, 1012.

We say to him: "Look what you've done!"—He doesn't understand. We say: "You were meant to add
two: look how you began the series!"—He answers: "Yes, isn't it right? I thought that was how I was meant to do it."——Or suppose he pointed to the series and said: "But I went on in the same way."—It would now be no use to say: "But can't you see....?"—and repeat the old examples and explanations.—In such a case we might say, perhaps: It comes natural to this person to understand our order with our explanations as we should understand the order: "Add 2 up to 1000, 4 up to 2000, 6 up to 3000 and so on."

Such a case would present similarities with one in which a person naturally reacted to the gesture of pointing with the hand by looking in the direction of the line from finger-tip to wrist, not from wrist to finger-tip.

--Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, passage 185.

Kuhn 16: Like A Metaphor
Mark informs me that a well-regarded philosopher once said something somewhere linking "paradigm" to "metaphor." I haven't read this thing that the well-regarded philosopher said, but I felt like posting a caution anyway.

Not all resemblance is metaphoricCollapse )

Unexplained Noises
In my pragmatism writeup last month I deliberately buried the following paragraph for reasons that the paragraph itself makes plain.

I haven't yet mentioned philosophy, since I think that philosophy is a dead end, and pragmatism is better off liberated from philosophy. Of course the word "pragmatism" is associated with certain philosophers (Peirce, James, Dewey, Rorty, maybe Wittgenstein, some aspects of Quine). In any event, my pragmatism when applied to philosophy isn't a way of doing philosophy but just a critique of philosophy, one that attacks philosophy's sense of its own relevance. One form of attack is the sentence, paraphrased from my book, "As a philosopher I can say 'Nothing exists in isolation' and a minute later say 'I grew up in an isolated village' without contradicting myself, since the standards for isolation are different in the two sentences." And as with isolation, so it is with "autonomy," "independence," "essence," "necessity," "reality," and so forth. Which is to say that philosophy concerns itself with extremes that are rarely in effect but fools itself into thinking that in discussing these extremes it's dealing with the village - i.e., the world - as well. Note that this critique doesn't merely knock down philosophy: it also knocks down deconstructive and pragmatic attacks upon philosophy.

And I refer back to my Rorty post from last year (which I quite like and recommend you read in its entirety), a particularly relevant portion of it being:

What's going on when villagers make philosophy-like noises with their mouths?Collapse )

Memedog 1 Pragmatism: So What?
Major General dubdobdee gave me the following five subjects/things he associates with me, instructing me to elaborate:

pragmatism! r. meltzer! red dark sweet! call-and-response! the rolling stones!

Never have been asked about pragmatism before, so I will give it its own long post, and do the other four some other day.

pragmatismCollapse )

Kuhn 13: A Wittgenstein Saves Nine
I'm posting several passages from Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations today not only because they are immediately relevant to Kuhn's idea of "paradigm" (in the sense of "exemplar") but because Kuhn himself cites them in The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions when he talks about scientists using paradigms rather than rules. And I'll say it's a pleasure to read these Wittgenstein passages again, compared to the vagueness and babble that makes up most philosophy. Not only is Wittgenstein a great writer, he's probably the author of the clearest, easiest, sanest prose ever written by a philosopher. (Not that all of his writings are easy, since you often have to have a sense of what ideas he's reacting against to understand why he makes the points he does; but these passages are clear on that count as well.)

I've added some commentary of my own, some of which - the stuff about "essentialism" not being a force in the world much beyond philosophy, so deconstruction and philosophical anti-essentialism miss the mark, are aimed at men of straw - wanders away from today's topic, but eventually we'll make our way to those other topics as well, and I simply felt like adding my thoughts on them here. And I've included what Kuhn wrote about the Wittgenstein passages, and I added a bit more of my own commentary.

To repeat: don't think, but look!Collapse )

Philosophy keeps trying to change the conversation back to what it knows how to talk about rather than what really is at issueCollapse )

Scientists work from models, and because they do so, they need no full set of rulesCollapse )

So that's what Katy Rose looks like!
My Interests Collage!Collapse )

But they didn't have the right Paul Zimmerman, so here he is, Dr. Z:

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