Registered: Feb 2004
Simple Programs In Explanation
SPIE. Note 4
Inquiry is a complex subject, and a lifetime of inquiry into it
seems barely enough to scratch the surface, so this is very much
an active exploration for me. I have been laying out what I call
"the pragmatic model of inquiry" -- let's hope that nobody reads
any connotation of uniqueness into my use of the article "the" --
but most of the concepts that I've outlined up to this point go
all the way back to Aristotle, with a lot of handy terminology
being added in the Middle Ages. As a result, these ideas form
the common core of what the pragmatic model shares with the
classical model, and thus with most other models of inquiry,
no matter what diversities of conceptual compartments may
be used by the various schools to organize the subject.
The abductive and deductive steps of the inquiry process seem
relatively straightforward and easy to understand, once again
being common to most other models of inquiry, at least, after
the vagaries of terminology are dispelled, but the next step,
tagged in the pragmatic model as the "inductive step", is one
that I do not understand very well at present, nor even with
complete confidence why it might deserve the name "induction".
C.S. Peirce, who is mainly responsible for hammering the pragmatic
model of inquiry into its current shape, expressed from the first
a preference for Aristotle's account of induction, but starting
from that material he worked such a subtle metamorphosis on it
that his readers cannot agree whether the change was radical
or continuous. My guess is that it was more gradual than
otherwise, but the proof of that sort of claim usually
depends on the luck of finding the missing links.
All of that makes it a good idea to slow down at this point
and to pick our way more carefully through the question of
what inductive reasoning might mean in the context of the
pragmatic model of inquiry, with especial reference to
the use of simple programs in explaining phenomena.
Before I forget, I probably ought to explain my twofold interest
in the connections between inquiry processes and simple programs.
First, computational programs, the effective descriptions (codes)
of effective procedures (computations), are evidently capable of
performing the offices that explanatory hypotheses need to serve
within the ordinary course of inquiry into real world phenomena.
Second, if we seek to support inquiry through computational means,
we have to inquire into what parts of the inquiry process can be
supported by effective procedures, and, if there are significant
portions of inquiry that can be supported by programs, what are
the computational properties of these programs, for instance,
what are the simplest programs that can do the required work?
To sum it up, how do systematic agents
that are capable of inquiry come to be?
What are the simplest parts from which
they effectively reassemble themselves?
CC: Inquiry, NKS, Principia Cybernetica, SemioCom Lists
Last edited by Jon Awbrey on 08-09-2004 at 07:54 PM
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