Friday, March 20, 2015

"a keen ear for unwarranted analogies"

Gene Callahan quotes from computer scientist E. W. Dijkstra

It is probably more illuminating to go a little bit further back, to the Middle Ages. One of its characteristics was that 'reasoning by analogy' was rampant; another characteristic was almost total intellectual stagnation, and we now see why the two go together. A reason for mentioning this is to point out that, by developing a keen ear for unwarranted analogies, one can detect a lot of medieval thinking today.

I went to the source for more:

The usual way in which we plan today for tomorrow is in yesterday's vocabulary. We do so, because we try to get away with the concepts we are familiar with and that have acquired their meanings in our past experience. Of course, the words and the concepts don't quite fit because our future differs from our past, but then we stretch them a little bit. Linguists are quite familiar with the phenomenon that the meanings of words evolve over time, but also know that this is a slow and gradual process.

It is the most common way of trying to cope with novelty: by means of metaphors and analogies we try to link the new to the old, the novel to the familiar. Under sufficiently slow and gradual change, it works reasonably well; in the case of a sharp discontinuity, however, the method breaks down: though we may glorify it with the name "common sense", our past experience is no longer relevant, the analogies become too shallow, and the metaphors become more misleading than illuminating.

1 comment:

Greg said...

Hey Art

Found this article which I think you would like (you may have already found it)

A key quote from it is something you have said before regarding moral arguments, its from a guy named Nick Hanauer

" ...cited a recent “Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity,” sponsored by Center for American Progress [CAP] and co-chaired by former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, long a poster boy for that sort of thinking who has apparently begun to change his tune. The very notion of “inclusive prosperity” indicates a more hopeful policy direction, and the report itself recognizes the need for actions on multiple fronts, including stock buybacks. Overall, Hanuer said he’d give the report “a B or a B+, because it’s pointed in the right direction…. I don’t think there’s a policy in it I would change, I just think there’s a way to more forcefully articulate for people how you grow a modern economy, that is much less a moral argument, and much more a practical, growth-based argument.”