[FRIAM] abduction and casuistry

Nick Thompson nickthompson at earthlink.net
Sat Aug 24 15:21:13 EDT 2019


Oh, by the way, I DID miss Dave's contribution.  Every once a while, just to keep me nimble, the FRIAM server doesn't send me something, so this may be a case of that.   Can you forward it to me?  



Nicholas S. Thompson
Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Biology
Clark University

-----Original Message-----
From: Friam [mailto:friam-bounces at redfish.com] On Behalf Of glen?C
Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2019 11:27 AM
To: friam at redfish.com
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] abduction and casuistry

First, did you miss Dave's contribution?  It was more on-topic than mine!

On Rigor: Yes, there's quite a bit of what you say I can agree with. But only if I modify *my* understanding of "rigor". I think rigor is any methodical, systematic behavior to which one adheres to strictly. It is the fidelity, the strict adherence that defines "rigor", not the underlying structure of the method or system. And in that sense, one can be rigorously anti-method. Rigorously pro-method means adhering to that method and never making exceptions. Rigorously anti-method means *never* following a method and paying (infinite) attention to all exceptions, i.e. treating everything as a single instance particular, an exception. I grant that "methodical anti-method" is a paradox... but only that, not a contradiction.

On monism vs. monotheism: The simple answer is "no". I'm not confusing the two. By reducing every-stuff to one-stuff, *and* talking about types of inference like ab-, in-, and de-duction, you are being (at least in my view) axiomatic, with a formal system based on 1 ur-element. Everything else in the formal system has to be derived from that ur-element via rules. To boot, your attempt to classify casuistry and abduction (same or different is irrelevant, it's the classification effort that matters) argues for some sort of formalization of them. A/The formalization of abduction is an active research topic. My use of the word "deontological" was intended to refer to this rule-based, axiomatic way of thinking. I'm sorry if that lead to a red herring off into moral philosophy land.

On inferring from particulars: While it's true that induction builds a predicate around a particular, it is a "closed" set. (Scare quotes because "closed" can mean so much.) Abduction doesn't build predicates and any explanation it does build is "open" in some sense. So, I would agree with you that one can't really *argue* from a particular using abduction. I tend to think of it more like brain storming, in a kindasorta Popperian, open way. Any proto-hypothesis can be brought to bear on the abductive target. And the best we can do is play around with the abductive target to see if it might kindasorta *fit* into that open set of proto-hypotheses. Once you land on a set of proto-hypotheses that's small enough to be feasibly formulated into testable hypotheses, then you reason by induction over those hypotheses.

In some ways, this would be very like what I, in my ignorance, think casuistry is. I'd argue that an experimentalist's focus on putting data taking in 1st priority and hypothesis formulation in 2nd priority falls in the same camp. So, I agree that casuistry looks a lot like abduction. But I don't think that that criminologist was doing either of them.

On ontology vs. rules *and* reasoning from particulars: The proto-hypotheses I mention above do not have to take the form of "rules to apply" to the abductive target. Think of the game "connect the dots", where the dots are particulars and they are/can be interpolated and/or extrapolated by an infinite number of lines between them. On the one hand, more dots can make it more difficult to find a pattern that includes the *new* dot, but perhaps only when you're already pre-biased with a set of lines that connect the old dots. On the other hand, if you're rule-free when you look at the old set of dots *and* rule-free when you look at them with the new dot included, you're open to any set of connecting lines.

Of course, in science, we do have an ur-rule ... that *all* the dots must be connected. So, that constrains the set of lines that connect the dots. And the more dots, the fewer ways there are to connect them. But practicality demands that we doubt at least some dots. So, we're allowed to throw out the weakest dots if that allows us to form more interesting connective patterns.

So, in this scenario, the proto-hypotheses are really just collections of old dots in which the new dot must sit.  We're not reasoning from *one* particular to testable hypotheses. We're reasoning from the addition of that particular to collections of other particulars.

On 8/21/19 9:40 PM, Nick Thompson wrote:
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Friam [mailto:friam-bounces at redfish.com] On Behalf Of u?l? ?
> Sent: Tuesday, August 20, 2019 6:06 PM
> To: FriAM <friam at redfish.com>
> Subject: Re: [FRIAM] abduction and casuistry
> Admittedly without more context -- and in my ignorance, my first reaction is to accuse you (and Gladwell) of a category error.
> [NST==>Ach! Hoist by my own petard, again! <==nst]
> The criminologist doesn't sound like he's advocating anything like casuistry (or what I'd argue is the inferential purpose of abduction). He seems to be arguing for something closer to non- or anti-deontological reasoning ... The only rule is that there are no rules.
> [NST==>Yes, I wondered about that.  Can a casuist be Rigorous.  Now, Glen, do you and I agree, or disagree, on the value of [and also on the perils of] rigor.  I think of rigor as something one tries out to see where one arrives.  One does something forced, automatic and counter intuitive for a while (think mathematics) in the hope that when one is done, the rigor delivers one to a more integrated, intelligible, articulable state of thought.  So, if casuistry is incapable of rigor, I probably don’t want any part of it. I am less certain about “meta-rigor”.  Do I have any fixed rules for when rigor “should” come into play.   Do you agree with any of that? <==nst]
> It's reasonable, of course, for a self-described monist
> [NST==>Ach!  No!  See below!<==nst]
>   to hunt for the Grand Unified Rule of Reality, the master equation that need only have all it's many (even countably infinite) variables *bound* to values for the answer to bubble forth like from an oracle.
> [NST==>Hang on thar, big fella!  Are you confusing monism with 
> monotheism?  There is nothing ethical about monism.  It is simply the 
> position that we will think more clearly if we postulate only one kind 
> of stuff (“experience”, in my case) and deriving all other “stuffs” 
> from organizations of that single basic stuff.  <==nst]
>   But people like me might react: "Of COURSE, you have to look at the particulars of every situation because *any* predicate you infer (by hook or crook) will always be wrong." This is why I'm a supporter of jury trials, as I've argued here in the past.
> [NST==>Glen, could you spell out for me how one reasons from a 
> particular, full stop? I can see how one reasons from the assignment 
> of a particular to a category, but I genuinely, honestly, 
> non-argumentativly cannot see how one argues from a particular without 
> knowing what it’s a particular OF and/or having some rule to apply. 
> <==nst]
>   [NST==>For me, you raise here, explicitly for the first time, the relation between the terms “ontological” and “deontological”.  I have always been confused about them, and your message has goaded me to figure it out.  It turns out that THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ONE ANOTHER!  Here from etymologyonline.com.
> DEONTOLOGY: "science of moral duty, ethics," 1817, from Greek deont-, combining form of deon "that which is binding, duty" (neuter present participle of dei "is binding") + -ology. Said to have been coined by Bentham, but it is used in a wider sense than he intended it. Related: Deontological.
> ONTOLOGY: metaphysical science or study of being," 1660s (Gideon Harvey), from Modern Latin ontologia (c. 1600), from onto- + -logy. ONTO- word-forming element meaning "a being, individual; being, existence," from Greek onto-, from stem of on (genitive ontos) "being," neuter present participle of einai "to be" (from PIE root *es- <https://www.etymonline.com/word/*es-?ref=etymonline_crossreference>  "to be"
> They come from entirely different Greek roots!  One is not the opposite of the other.  So, there is no hidden tension invoked by these words, however ever tempting it may be, between the world as it should be (deontology) and the world as it is (ontology).  I supposed if one believed that existence consisted entirely of obligations one would be a monist deontological ontologist.  Reminds me of that joke about the kid who could never understand the meaning of Dog.

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