Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Andrew Gelman — What you value should set out how you act and that how you represent what to possibly act upon: Aesthetics -> Ethics -> Logic.

Peirce is pronounced like "purse."
Peirce’s primary focus in his career was on logic. Until late in his career, he considered ethics and aesthetics to be largely frivolous topics. Then around 1900 he saw them as absolutely necessary to understanding logic. His thinking was that you first need to decide what you value above all, second how one should deliberately act to best obtain what you value and third how you should best represent what you plan to act upon prior to acting in the world. The “how one should best represent” to profitably advance inquiry being logic. So Aesthetics -> Ethics -> Logic.
As a sometime student of Peirce's works, I would agree with Professor Gelman's synopsis of his thought. C. S. Peirce was a fascinating thinker who combined enormous speculative range with mathematical and scientific rigor. He was a genuine "philosopher" in the Socratic sense of truth seeker. He was also careful to apply a rigorous approach to method to avoid fooling himself.

For a more complete summary, see Wikipedia. and for an even more in-depth summary see the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy articles, Charles Sanders Peirce and Peirce's Theory of Signs

The Charles S. Peirce site devoted to Peirce and his work. Probably the best place to start reading Peirce is with his best known articles for popular consumption, which are available there.
"The Fixation of Belief."
Popular Science Monthly 12 (November 1877), 1-15.
"How to Make Our Ideas Clear."
Popular Science Monthly 12 (January 1878), 286-302.
Peirce called himself a "pragmaticist" to differentiate himself from the other American "pragmatists," William James and John Dewey. 

Pragmatism is quintessentially American, although it has other representatives. American pragmatism is important in political thought since it has been concerned with the foundations of liberalism and making liberalism workable socially, politically and economically. American pragmatism is not only speculative (theoretical) but also applied.

Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science
What you value should set out how you act and that how you represent what to possibly act upon: Aesthetics -> Ethics -> Logic.
Andrew Gelman | Professor of Statistics and Political Science and Director of the Applied Statistics Center, Columbia University


Dan Lynch said...

I hadn't heard of Peirce, thanks for the post.

I am not much of a philosopher beyond the consideration of ethics, the "good life," and the "good society." Most other branches of philosophy strike me as abstract, hard to relate to.

But like George Carlin, I enjoy observing people and society and wondering why they are the way they are.

Tom Hickey said...

Most other branches of philosophy strike me as abstract, hard to relate to.

Unfortunately, this is the case unless one chances to be exposed to a good teacher than can frame it simply.

There are several aspects of philosophy that everyone engages in as part of life.

Different philosophies are articulations of world views using conceptual models. Everyone has a worldview that one takes to be the way reality "is." Generally speaking this world view is the consensus world view of one's culture and the subcultures to which one belongs. Most people are uncritical about this, so it is called the naive view. A good Phil 101 course has the objective of getting a person to be critical about this while providing the tools for critical and creative thinking about these issues.

The general method of philosophy is rational inquiry ("reason," or "reasoning"). Philosophy differs from science in not being formalized, or at least not as formalized in the sense of mathematicized, since observation and measurement are not applicable to most philosophical issues, which makes them philosophical rather than scientific.

But this doesn't mean that a significant degree of rigor can't be applied in addressing philosophical issues. Logic in the broad sense is chief tool of philosophy. In this sense, logic includes everything about using reason to gain knowledge and language to communicate it, not just formal logic, which overlaps with higher math.

In a broad sense philosophy is reflection on experience using reason, and applied philosophy is creative problem solving about "the important things in life." Every generation is faced with similar issues but in different historical and geographical settings and in terms of different cognitive-affective sets. But the methods employed are pretty much the same.

Philosophy is called the queen of the sciences (branches of knowledge), since other branches of knowledge spun off from philosophical speculation when appropriate methods were developed for addressing specific fields. Scientific method spun off from philosophy as rational inquiry for dealing with subjects that were open to close observation and measurement, therefore quantification.

Metaphysics deal with reality. It comprises ontology, or the study of being as being, and cosmology, or the study of being in terms of the whole of existence. Now cosmology is mostly the subject of natural science.

Epistemology deals with knowledge. Psychology and cognitive science spun off from this field of inquiry.

Ethics deals with human action. Anthropology, sociology, poli sci, etc. spun off from this field of inquiry.

Aesthetics deals with appreciation and sensibility. This is also studied empirically in psychology and cognitive science, and it is also treated in anthropology and sociology.

So the upshot is that everyone is "doing philosophy" all the time, although for most this is done naively and uncritically. Ideally, the debate among philosophers and related fields would serve to clarify the issues for the public and raise the level of critical and creative thinking.

Unfortunately, most of what happens now is sophistry aimed at persuasion making the worse argument appear to be the better, to paraphrase Socrates in the dialogue, The Sophist.

These issues are called "the enduring questions," since humanity has been dealing with them in one form or another since recored history, initially using myth, then rational inquiry, and finally scientific method. The use of myth is ancient. Rational inquiry began with the Axial Age, and scientific method in the Renaissance. This is not to say that rational inquiry using logic and conceptual models, or science based on observation and measurement were unknown in ancient times but their use was rather rare in comparison.

Myth (storytelling, narrative), relational inquiry, and science are all key aspects of dealing with knowledge and communication today, and their operation is studied in great detail.

Dan Lynch said...

FYI the current Ian Welsh post gives a shout out to Stephanie Kelton.

Democracy tames capitalism, or democracy and capitalism may both die.

Steve said...

Excellent summation TH!