[FRIAM] the role of metaphor in scientific thought

Vladimyr vburach at shaw.ca
Mon Jul 17 19:18:32 EDT 2017



This thread seems to have stalled out and just at a time when I have started to make some progress

toward answering Nick Thompson’s carefully crafted petition aimed at the Oracles of Delphi.


I have been on the look-out for anything that may prove helpful.

What I now have may seem as inscrutable as those ancient responses.


First Nick has so defined metaphor , that it seems only a literary concept. This may in itself be an accidental layer obscuring

the essential target of interest. The way we think creatively. It may be that many use literary elements for their

art, but in my peculiar case that is not true. Whether or not I am typical is unknown , perhaps not even important.


I recently re-discovered old worksheets of mine at solving a problem with mixed results. However there was a peculiar subroutine that

did work at projecting a Self Avoiding Walk in 3 space. At the time that I constructed this routine I had no idea what a self avoiding walk

actually was capable of doing or its relationship to anything remotely related to my own interests. In simple language this was a line growing

out in a path appearing quite random seeming to have no destination. Using some patience I waited and watched as it wiggled about resembling a worm writhing 

on a sidewalk after a downpour. It eventually found it’s origin and formed a closed loop only to repeat exactly the same gyrations and return to the start position.


This may be a defect of my mind but I was mesmerized as when as a child I discovered a rattlesnake in the woods behind our summer house.


Nick’s questions appear to be searching for a structure to support his desire to Understand Complexity and write that down. A most worthy if not dangerous ambition.

Nick is familiar with words and even comfortable in their presence, while I find images and math more reassuring. 


However, I may actually have on my desktop sufficient material to answer a substantial part of these ominous questions. Knowing that my cleverness

is untested in this arena I have been slow to jump into the melee. My own hesitancy comes from the fear that Complexity may be an artifact of mind as well

as reality and unravelling the knot will require more cleverness than my own. The Neurology Research suggests this is imminent.


Many of the arguments tossed back and forth in the congregation contain Circularity as one important article of contention. So too does the notion present itself in my

work on re-circulant matrices. I can’t escape this property so I must accommodate it somehow, usually in graphic animations. Glen’s arguments are often very astute even if 

 momentarily infuriating and he must be given much credit for herding the geese on the long walk to the market.


In 1992 I was given a copy of Artificial Life edited by C.G.Langton while still a student and was much impressed but preoccupied and very remote.


It is time for new effort , a quarter century has been long enough.


So Gentlemen where do we start …


I placed a video essay of sorts on my cloud site you are invited to comment , criticise but please no insincere flattery.

The point is to demonstrate some of the difficulties we can expect using New Media to convey ideas to a new audience.

It is my start and wholly inadequate, but that is as good a way as any to begin an adventure, my style is to start on the wrong foot,

then fix things later…







If possible text should be accompanied with video and presented as open material on the web.

I am sure that many of you can help guide/assemble such a work, 

Well its not like building an building an Alaska  Highway







From: Friam [mailto:friam-bounces at redfish.com] On Behalf Of Nick Thompson
Sent: June-23-17 4:31 PM
To: 'The Friday Morning Applied Complexity Coffee Group'
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] the role of metaphor in scientific thought


Thank you, Frank.  A really important point.


So bachelor implies unmarried, but unmarried does not imply bachelor.  Your message also contained some additional correspondence which, for some reason, I have never seen.  I have no quick answer to any of it.  I still think that there is an important peril in explanations of the form “A is the explanation for A” but I am way less confident of my ability to identify pernicious extensions of that form.  And it still seems significant to me that you complexitists have not identified and agreed upon a target for your explanatory efforts.  (Please remind me, I if I am wrong about that).  So, unless I have gone dozy, we have two outstanding questions:


1.       When complexitists speak of complexity, to what phenomenon are they referring? 

2.       What are the conditions that predict the occurrence of such phenomena.  

3.       Does anybody on this list believe that it is fair to include parts of your answer to question #1 in your answer to question #2


One more thing.  Back in the email midden several days ago, I said something to Glen that was inadvertently tactless and overtly stupid.  Glen responded with kindness, generosity,  and indefatigable focus on the main issues.   This is to announce my gratitude to Glen for being … well … Glen.  I am honored that you-guys let me sit on the edge of your pool and dangle my feet in it.  That’s a metaphor.  



Nicholas S. Thompson

Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Biology

Clark University

 <http://home.earthlink.net/~nickthompson/naturaldesigns/> http://home.earthlink.net/~nickthompson/naturaldesigns/


From: Friam [mailto:friam-bounces at redfish.com] On Behalf Of Frank Wimberly
Sent: Friday, June 23, 2017 9:52 AM
To: The Friday Morning Applied Complexity Coffee Group <friam at redfish.com>
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] the role of metaphor in scientific thought


Has anybody mentioned that there are lot of unmarried men that you usually wouldn't call bachelors?  There are widowers, priests, and nineteen year-olds, for example.  I learned the word because my father's brother was a thirty-five year old Major in the Air Force with no wife. He eventually got married and had children. Late bloomer?



Frank Wimberly
Phone (505) 670-9918


On Jun 22, 2017 11:34 PM, "gepr ⛧" <gepropella at gmail.com> wrote:

But the difference isn't merely rhetorical. If we take the setup seriously, that the unmarried patient really doesn't know the other names by which his condition is known, then there are all sorts of different side effects that might obtain. E.g. if the doctor tells him he's a bachelor, he might google that and discover bachelor parties. But if the doctor tells him he is "single", he might discover single's night at the local pub.

My point was not only the evocation of various ideas, but also the side effects of various (computational) paths.

On June 22, 2017 7:00:55 PM PDT, Eric Charles <eric.phillip.charles at gmail.com> wrote:
>Glen said: "So, the loop of unmarried <=> bachelor has information in
>even if the only information is (as in your example), the guy learns
>because the condition has another name, perhaps there are other ways of
>thinking about it ... other _circles_ to use."
>This reminds me that, in another context, Nick complained to me quite a
>about Peirce's asserting that that any concept was simply a collection
>conceived "practical" consequences. He felt that the term "practical"
>unnecessary, and lead to confusions. I think this is a good example of
>Peirce used that term, and felt it necessary.
>Perice would point out that the practical consequences of being
>are identical to the practical consequences of being "a bachelor."
>though the spellings be different, there is only one idea at play there
>Peirce-land... if we are thinking clearly). This is the tautology that
>is pointing at, and he isn't wrong.
>And yet, Glen is still clearly correct that using one term or the other
>more readily invoke certain ideas in a listener. Those aren't practical
>differences in Peirce's sense- they are not differences in practice
>would achieve if one tested the unique implications of one label or the
>other (as there are no contrasting unique implications). The value of
>having the multiple terms is rhetorical, not logical.
>What to do with such differences..............


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