Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Missed Connection

I noticed you on the train to Brooklyn, because you are one of the cutest women I have ever seen on the subway.  When we left the train, I wondered if I would ever see you again.  But there you appeared, 10 feet from me on another subway platform, waiting for the next train.  We ended up in the same subway car again.

This thing we have going on between us, we both know what it is.  Call me when you're horny.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Missed Connection

Me, grabbing a pint of ice cream in the Associated.

You, also in the ice cream section of the Associated.  You look a lot like Eugene Mirman, or at least I thought I saw a strong resemblance.

I wanted to say hi and see if you were Eugene Mirman, but I didn't.

Friday, December 07, 2012

I Wrote a Poem

A Pint's a Pound the World Around

"Which weighs more," he asks.
"An ounce of feathers or an ounce of gold?"
I have heard this one before, but even if I had not
I would know the answer:  "They weigh the same."

His lip curls a little, and he says:
"Wrong.  An ounce of gold is heavier."

I imagine a silly argument about buoyancy or air friction.
But he continues:

"Gold is measured in troy ounces
And troy ounces are 480 grains each.
Feathers, on the other hand, are measured
In avoirdupois ounces.  An avoirdupois ounce—"

My fists fly into his face.
They don't make sounds like a Hollywood movie.
Just little plops, and
It hurts my hands more than I had imagined.
His front tooth splits open my knuckle
And I watch blood pump out of his lip in little waves.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he sobs.
And I accept his apology.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Truth and Science

So I want to start out by repeating my caveat that I am very untutored in philosophy.  These posts are definitely in the "idle speculation" category.  And while people seem to want to take this in a very sophisticated direction (see the back and forth between Sarang and Tarun), I don't really have that kind of ambition.  I am worried about what seem to me to be very low-level questions.

But so anyway, in comments on my previous posts, I think Sarang takes the following position:

1.  What we mean by "truth" is a relationship of ideas/statements to the mind-independent real world (correspondence theory of truth).  If we want to talk about some other concept of truth, we should find a new word, because "truth" is taken.

2.  The real world has no necessary connection to our observational data.  (That is, you can't rule out the possibility that a demon or whatever is fooling your senses—this is what I take to be a "Cartesian demon.")

It seems to me that an implication of this view is that science has nothing to do with the truth.  So for instance, Dave engaged in some discussion of the Ptolemaic model of the solar system.  The story, maybe not quite historically accurate, is that scientists had devised a model of circular motion of planetary bodies around the earth.  However, the models had to be heavily refined with more and more circles (epicycles), lest the models give wrong predictions about where we would observe planets to be in the sky.  The models became very precise but very convoluted, and, per Dave, they would not have given you much predictive power if you were to discover a new planetary body.  The Copernican model of planetary motion (with the Sun as the center of the planets' orbit), while less accurate at predicting the movement of known planets, was much simpler and could more accurately predict the paths of new planets as they were discovered (I am hazy on this part).  If you add the concept of elliptical motion to the Copernican system, you get a pretty simple and accurate model of planetary motion, or so I am told.

Okay, so that's an interesting discussion, but I don't see how the Copernican model can have any claim on the truth, if Sarang is right.  After all, the Copernican model is merely better at explaining/predicting empirical data, and empirical data has no necessary relation to the real world (see point 2 above) and therefore no necessary relation to the truth.  For all we know, the planets actually move according to the Ptolemaic model, but God or a demon or whatever distorts our visual data and makes us think that the Copernican model has more predictive power.  The Church was right and we have been fools.

Likewise, I don't see how you could believe that, say, it is true that global warming is happening, if our observations of temperatures, polar ice caps, etc. are suspect.  Again, the theory might closely fit the data, but the data themselves don't have anything to do with the real world.  Truth is transcendental, not empirical, and humans can access it only through, I don't know, divine revelation or something.  Certainly not through science.

So while Sarang finds my viewpoint inadequate because it doesn't allow for Cartesian demons, I find his viewpoint unappealing because it divorces truth from human understanding.  We have no grounds to say that A is true while B is false.  Maybe we are compelled to accept certain things as provisionally or apparently true (so that we can build bridges, navigate ships, etc.), but this is a concession to the exigencies of life, not a commitment to empirical truth.  While scientific theories can be coherent and useful and predictively powerful, none of this can make them true.  Likewise, a theory can be incoherent or useless or contradicted by the evidence, and none of this can make it false.  Which means, by the way, that we should not care whether scientific theories are true or false, but merely whether they appear to be true or false to us.  In this, it seems to me that our current linguistic conventions do not fit Sarang's view, since we behave as though the sine qua non of a successful scientific theory is that it not be "false."  Indeed we treat observations that contradict a theory as though they have some bearing on its truth!  We would do much better to focus on a theory's apparent or empirical truth (its relationship to empirical data), though per Sarang we really need a new word for this concept, since this is not what people mean when they say a theory is true or false.