PEIRCE-L Digest for Friday, November 29, 2002.

[NOTE: This record of what has been posted to PEIRCE-L
has been nodified by omission of redundant quotations in
the messages. both for legibility and to save space.
-- Joseph Ransdell, PEIRCE-L manager/owner]

1. Re: Thinking with a Manichaean Bent?
3. Re: Thinking with a Manichaean Bent?
4. Re: Thinking with a Manichaean Bent?
5. Re: Thinking with a Manichaean Bent?
6. Re: McGinn on Popper


Subject: Re: Thinking with a Manichaean Bent?
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 01:49:04 EST
X-Message-Number: 1

Grace wrote:

Yet another sad example of the widespread belief amongst some quarters of
American journalism that it's a good idea to write opinion pieces after
sucking down a few bowls of ganja...
----end quote---

I see. Apparently the appropriate reply to Pfaff is just to insult the person
instead of answering the argument or interpretation? In some contrast with
the view expressed above, Pfaff is widely regarded as an important
international commentator --not that anyone always agrees with him so far as
I know. His thinking in terms of Mani-chaean figures, seems pretty well
parallel to others thinking in terms of neo-Platonic figures. It is not that
I suppose such discussions inevitable, but we won't find a more positive
alternative by slinging insults. I believe the traditional description of
this is argumentum ad hominem. Right?

H.G. Callaway


Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 02:13:51 EST
X-Message-Number: 2

C. Thorne wrote:

Peirce clearly looks upon thought as dialogical. Where is the passage where
he roots thought in an internal dialogue: "I says to myself, says I"? But
what I find interesting in the later Peirce is the way in which he looks not
only at the con-straints of a community of serious inquirers but also at the
requirement of self-con-trol in thinking: an activity deeply ethical at
heart. This ethics of inquiry is inplicit throughout your [Joe's] paper.
----End quote-------

A very interesting theme. I wonder if Joe could say something more about this
aspect in particular, perhaps in relation to the idea of research traditions.
What comes to mind in the first place is the ethics of communication and
research as this connects with interactions of distinctive traditions of
inquiry or research --or intel-lectual/cultural traditions generally. We
would reasonably expect that as the differ-ences in common assumptions and
approach increase between distinctive traditions that the difficulties of
communication would also increase. Thus, the importance of self-control and
of the ethics of inquiry would also increase. Or, so it seems. What is looked
at as a reasonable constraint on inquiry from the perspective of one
tradi-tion may look quite different from the perspective of another. So, for
instance, the distinction between AI and IA may not be a constant through
such variations.

Generally, the posting to which I reply here strikes me as thoughtful and
worth considering.


H.G. Callaway


Subject: Re: Thinking with a Manichaean Bent?
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 05:10:47 EST
X-Message-Number: 3

Joe & list,

I am very sympathetic to your criticism of Manicheanism, so I will refrain
from trying to add to what you say. But I think you are a bit too harsh on
William James' "The Moral Equivalent of War." James, with his
Peirce-inspired pluralistic synechism is surely no Manichean. While I share
your critical attitude toward our American tendency to speak of everything as
a matter of a "war," and I think the "war on drugs" a catastrophe, largely
responsible for our having about the highest percentage population of
prisoners in the world, I also think that the terms "war on drugs," and "war on
terrorism," are abuses of the ideas of William James. (Perhaps President
Johnson's "war on poverty," was not an abuse of Jame's ideas, but there is
room to think that the U.S. States might often do better dealing with
criminal drug problems, since the Federal government seems inclined to
indiscriminate excesses in this area.) The "war on terrorism" is more
properly an international police action.

I do think that the James article is deserving of some criticism, especially
if consi-dered in isolation, because of too great an emphasis on the war-like
inclinations. But to make out a proper criticism of James, I think we would
have to have the entire article available, at the very least. I could make
the piece available to people on the list, and perhaps offer it to Arisbe,
since I have it at hand in electronic form. But it may also be available
elsewhere on the web, from Brock University in Ontario, perhaps.

The James is available in our book, Stroh and Callaway, American Ethics: A
Source Book from Edwards to Dewey
, (Lanham, MD, University Press of
America), 2000. See pages 249-258. (The book can be ordered directly from the
publisher by phone on via their webpages, and it is also widely available
from other book sellers on the web.)

For now, I have reproduced below the short Introduction which we wrote for
James's "The Moral Equivalent of War" in our American Ethics. I stand by
the criticism offered below. We wrote:

"The Moral Equivalent of War"

William James

This selection is William James' famous essay The Moral Equivalent of War,
published in 1910. The essay, based on a speech delivered at Stanford
University in 1906, is the origin of the idea of organized national service.=

James inquires whether there can be a moral equivalent of war where human
inclinations would be directed against nature, to harness its energies in
countless ways, instead of deploying these energies in war and killing. He
asks whether the military virtues of bravery, discipline, and patriotism
could be preserved and the destructiveness and horrors of war eradicated. He=

rejects the fatalistic idea that war is inevitable. However, he argues that a
reign of peace can only be meaningfully achieved by re-directing or
channeling man's aggressive impulses and finding constructive means by which
they can be released. Though James emphasizes the virtues of a military-like
organization and structure in fostering the virtues on which military men
often focus, it may be reasonably doubted that all virtues can be so
instilled. Arguably any thorough-going competitiveness of outlook is
incomplete without a complementary willingness to "turn the other cheek," on
occasion, in order to break cycles of destructive competition. This practice
needs to be counted, just as much as the competitive virtues of hardiness and
firmness, among the "absolute and permanent human goods."
----end quote--------


H.G. Callaway

H.G. Callaway


Subject: Re: Thinking with a Manichaean Bent?
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 05:26:40 EST
X-Message-Number: 4

Charles & list,

Thanks for your thoughts, Charles. As I understand it Manicheanism with its
absolutist dualism between between forces of light and forces of darkness is
rooted in ancient middle-eastern religion. Zoroastrianism, perhaps? There
certainly seems to be some resemblence to Ahura Mazda and his eternal
struggles against the evil spirit of Ahriman. I'd be interested to hear more
about what your find in Norbert Wiener and in C.S. Lewis. Let us know, too,
what you think of the Pfaff Op. Ed. article.


H.G. Callaway

Charles Rudder wrote:

Very interesting Howard. Thanks. I have a long standing and completely
(well not completely, I am impressed by Norbert Wiener's "Augustinian --
Manichean" distinction) idiosyncratic interest in the Manichaean dualism
which in its pristine form, as I understand it, is eternal--light and
darkness are forever in an irresolvable conflict that transcends human
destiny--a conflict in which human beings are mere pawns. It seems to me
that I recall seeing a reference to C. S. Lewis's having said something
to the effect that next to Christianity he found the Manichean doctrine
most appealing. I will take a look at Pfaff's article when I have more



Subject: Re: Thinking with a Manichaean Bent?
From: "Joseph Ransdell" <
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 07:39:57 -0600
X-Message-Number: 5

Thanks for the comments, Howard. The James paper on "The Moral Equivalent
of War" is available at a number of different sites on the internet, e.g.

so i don't think there is any need to add it to what is available through
the Arisbe website, unless there is some special connection with Peirce that
makes it Peirce-related. There is in fact quite a lot of James' work that
should be available at Arisbe because it definitely is Peirce-related
straightforwardly enough to make it questionable as to why it isn't already
there. But I don't see that particular paper as being in that category, and
in fact merely putting it up at Arisbe might cause people to embark on the
wild goose chase of trying to figure out what there is in relative to Peirce
that accounts for it being there. But of course I may be overlooking
something important in it that you are picking up on that would change my
mind on that.

Anyway, I re-read it quickly just now and I think you are right that I am
not sympathetic enough to what he is doing, and I should not have criticized
him in terms of his not having done his homework, so to speak, when it is
clear that he actually did read a lot of stuff by militarists, for example,
in preparation for writing it. Still, I think my basic critical point
holds, namely, that he does indulge the fallacy of explaining tendency to
war in terms of natural bellicosity or pugnacity, which is not only of no
help but also diverts attention from the actual causes of war. Hobbes'
account of the state of nature as a state of war is much more penetrating
philosophically, which is roughly to the effect that there are several
different human motivations that can set people at odds with one another,
but even the most peace-loving person has to realize that there are
situations in which war is inevitable, unless there is something to count
upon which will intervene to stop it, owing to the very nature of human
suspicion and trust. When each of two persons or two peoples (nations) find
themselves in a situation in which they have no good reason to count on good
will and some reason to have suspicion of the possible aggressive motives of
the other, it makes little difference how bellicose either of them actually
is: basic prudential thinking will dictate, in any case, that preparations
be made for at least a defensive response to the possible aggression of the
other; but the very taking of such precautions will cause the other person
to realize that, since the other is making defensive moves (which are in
practice often indistinguishable from preparations for offensive moves),
they may well be planning a pre-emptive attack, and It is -- it seems --
necessary to take defensive precautions at least as effective as the one's
taken by the other. But in making the defensive counter-response, the
impossibility of exact predication of what will be a sufficient defense will
make it only prudential to be on the safe side by making one's defense a bit
stronger than the mere achievement of parity. But then of course the same
quite reasonable line of thought will be adopted by the other when it is
perceived that the first is not merely seeking parity but superiority. And
so it goes, in the classic escalation pattern.

In this, bellicosity plays little role and does not explain the escalation,
which is not due to rising bellicosity but is rather due to the peculiar
indeterminacy of the situations of human beings in relation to one another
under certain conditions that cannot be avoided unless all concerned operate
on the basis of a PRESUMPTIVE trust. The importance of presumption in
certain matters can hardly be exaggerated. Even in simple matters of
cooperative activity, such as, say, the activity of two or more people in
moving a heavy object, where all must lift and move in unison in order to
lift and move the object at all, we have to have some artificial arrangement
involving presumption. For example, we might use a countdown for the
initial lift, so that all lift at once;or in extended and repetitious
physical labor of moving something or performing some other shared task, we
might attempt to insure that everyone moves in unison by having everyone
sing some work song so that the rhythm of the song enters into the work as a
unifying factor in it.

The point I wanted to make with this, though, is that this is, I think, what
Hobbes is really all about and why he is quite sincere in denying that he
regards men as inherently "evil". Be they as naturally good-natured as you
like, minimal prudential intelligence will generate warfare regardless and,
as he conceives it, the only way to break the escalation of suspicion into
aggression is to have a third factor -- the cop with the gun -- who says to
both parties, in effect, "I don't care whether you love or hate each other:
I'll trash whichever of you makes an aggressive move on the other.and I
don't require your agreement on that." Hobbes would have him add, in
effect, "And by the way, this is what you both hired me to do -- remember?",
assuming he is a real cop, i.e. truly represents government. The difference
between Hobbes and Locke is not that the one thinks people are naturally
peaceful and the other thinks they are naturally warlike. Locke's state of
nature is defined as obtaining wherever people obey the Natural Law by not
being aggressive and resorting to vigilante justice when somebody aggressive
has to be handled.. The obvious weakness in vigilante justice is, though,
that the vigilantes' aggression can only be handled by meta-vigilantes, so
to speak, and their aggression in turn, by meta-meta-vigilantes, etc. Hence
the adoption of government as the cop with the gun is required for just the
same reason that it is required in Hobbes' theory. There is thus no
difference between them in that particular respect, and the Lockean
limitations on government, where they differ from Hobbes, has to be
explained on some other basis.

When you think about the motives to war on the basis of such considerations
as these, James' idea that sublimating bellicosity is the problem to be
addressed in trying to figure out how to keep people from going to war seems
very naive in that context, and to be quite the opposite of a contribution
toward the solution of that problem. There are other and more valuable
aspects to what he is saying, which I am sure is what you are wanting to
emphasize. I probably wouldn't disagree with what you have in mind in that
respect. But in re-reading it, it still seems to me to be too badly
vitiated by the idea that the sublimation of bellicosity is the solution to
the problem of the tendency to war But that is certainly a questionable
assessment on my part.

One other point. There is a sort of remote but perhaps important tie-in
between the role of presumption in this context and the role of presumption
in inquiry, via the conception of a peer. In fact the conception of a
peer -- which is a conception of a presumptive status -- may be the single
most important unanalyzed conception in modern thinking. Or at least I have
had little success in finding any analysis of it at the philosophical
level.. i will have some more to say on that in the remaining couple of
sections of the paper i distributed recently, but I welcome any observations
or ideas anybody has on that topic.

Well, I just realized that I didn't directly address your points below,
though it seems to me that you do overlook the emptiness of the "war is due
to bellicosity" aspect of James' paper. But i have to run an errand right
now and had best get this off first.


Joseph Ransdell


Subject: Re: McGinn on Popper
From: Charles F Rudder <
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 10:20:40 -0600
X-Message-Number: 6


Thanks, Peter, for your response.

On Wed, 27 Nov 2002 11:48:21 -0800 "Peter Brawley"
peter.brawley[…]> writes:

I enjoyed your survey of Popper, and your analysis of McGinn's paper, and
in the latter I find just two trouble spots.

One concerns Popper's account of positive and negative facts. Apart from
the problem that distinctions between facts and theories can't be
complete (eg Duhem, Quine, methodologic underdetermination &c), Popper's
treatment of logical relations between theories and what he called "basic
statements" had problems. For example in section 28 of "The Logic of
Scientific Discovery" (LScD) he held that "a basic statement must have a
logical form such that its negation cannot be a basic statement in its
turn" and that "basic statements have the form of singular existential
statements...", not of singular non-existence statements, thus
disallowing statements like "there was no raven in spacetime region k'.
Disallowing negative facts makes for many problems in any account of how
evidence bears on theories. IMO it is part of a much larger problem in
Popper--his accounts of theory testing were too often pre-modern in their
emphasis on confrontations between theories and instances, and too often
failed to take into account modern methods of experimental verification
and falsification (methods his LScD had helped propel forward, eg through
its influence on Fisher).

Before commenting further on the issue of "basic statements" or
unimpeachable premises of empirical/experimental arguments in Popper's
logic of scientific discovery, I would like to review the broader context
of the section in LScD to which you refer. From what you say above, it
is not clear to me in what sense "there was no raven in spacetime region
k" is a statement of singular "nonexistence"--it is one thing to deny
"presence" (Jones is not in the next room.) and another to deny
"existence" (There is no Jones.).


The second trouble I have is your remark that McGinn ...
distorts the role of conjectures or guesses in
Popper_s thesis when he says that _it is absurd to
suggest that basic high school science consists
of mere guesses that no one has managed to refute._

You go on to say that Popper acknowledged that facts have a role in
theory building. Yes, but Popper is also on record that knowledge is
guesswork, eg in the introduction to "Conjectures and Refutations":

"The question of the sources of our knowledge, like so many
authoritarian questions, is a genetic one. It asks for the
origin of our knowledge, in the belief that knowledge may
legitimize itself by its pedigree. The nobility of the
racially pure knowledge, the untainted knowledge, the
knowledge which derives from the highest authority, if
possible from God: these are the (often unconscious)
metaphysical ideas behind the question. My modified
question, 'How can we hope to detect error?' may be said
to derive from the view that such pure, untainted and
certain sources do not exist, and that questions of origin
or of purity should not be confounded with questions of
validity, or of truth. This view may be said to be as old
as Xenophanes. Xenophanes knew that our knowledge is
guesswork, opinion - doxa rather than episteme - as shown
by his verses [quoted on p. 31 above]. Yet the traditional
question of the authoritative sources of knowledge is
repeated even today - and very often by positivists and by
other philosophers who believe themselves to be in revolt
against authority."

This view does not quite allow for what McGinn described in the sentences
leading up to his remark about high school science:

"...two other questionable Popperian theses. One is
that science does not consist of established facts but
of tentative conjectures. This is exaggerated and partial
at best: some of science is as solid as the plainest
statement of fact, such as that London is the capital of
England. It is not a tentative conjecture that water
consists of H2O molecules or that, at sea level, it boils
at 100 degrees centigrade: these are hard facts, if
anything is."

The primary emphasis above is on Popper's anti-authoritarianism and its
relation to his anti-foundationalism. My emphasis was principally on
McGinn's "mere" guessing. What I was driving at was that like Peirce,
Popper does not denigrate "guesswork," and, acknowledging the "dignity"
of guesswork, acknowledges the dignity or "nobility" of the human--the
anthropomorphic/anthropocentric--role in the growth of knowledge. The
human is "merely" human only in contrast to the demand that, in Popper's
terms, it be legitimated by an aristocratic "pedigree." At the same
time, I had in mind the circumstance that however brilliant, alluring,
and unfettering, guesswork is nonetheless guesswork which, apart from
restraints imposed by human encounters with something "real," can be or
become as debilitating as head in the sand dogmatism. Both Peirce and
Popper recognize that guessing is an affair that may on the one hand open
new and previously unimagined horizons, and, on the other, wander off
into flights of sheer fancy--in Peirce's terms, dogmatic allegence to
authority may, under the influence of unrestrained guessing, give way to
an equally irrational allegence to what is merely fashionable.
Pre-seventeenth and seventeenth century criticism of Scholasticism
opposed both its dogmatic authoritarianism to which Popper's political
philosophy is addressed and its irresponsible flights of speculation that
troubled Descartes, Bacon, and Hume and to which Popper's falsification
thesis is addressed.



From: "Joseph Ransdell" <
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 13:10:52 -0600
X-Message-Number: 7

In response to Creath Thorn, who wrote:

> Joe: Thanks for posting this provocative and interesting draft. I have
> the following comments/questions:
> 1. You speak of IA as "complementary in application" to AI. But
> isn't the program of AI so ambitious that it subsumes IA and, if
> successful, renders IA unnecessary?

As I indicate at one point in the paper (in sec. 3), I am not satisfied that
Peter Skagestad satisfactorily identifies IA in the sense of providing an
account of it which explains justifying calling all of the things he has in
mind as examples of it cases of the same thing. My original intention was
to leave it open whether or not IA is supposed to be a part of AI or the two
of them are supposed to be distinct but co-ordinate somehow. That is, those
were the two possibilities I had in mind, and I was not intending on forcing
any choice between them or intending to suggest any other possible
relationship. I don't think that Peter himself intended to give an account
of their relationship overall other than to say that they are based on two
very different ways of thinking about what computers are, the one stemming
from and expressive of the Turing Machine model and the other the Memex
model. In going ahead in that same section to suggest that what actually
got the IA view of the computer going was machine-human interaction of the
sort exemplified by games, particularly of the sort exemplified by the
adventure games, I was not at that time thinking of that as differentiating
IA from AI but rather as accounting for the way in which IA had developed on
the basis of what Alan Kay used to describe as the interface "user illusion"
and has critiqued in terms of the mistakes that might be made in development
because of the use of what he regards as bad metaphors, e.g. the idea of
desktop with windows on it.

My own thinking on this has been much influenced by my experience with the
illusions -- if that is the word for it -- at the basis of listserver based
communication, where use of a simple mechanism like an automated address
book plus mailer program gives the illusion of a public forum, which I
originally experienced myself as being like a large amphitheater or maybe a
three-ring circus, in which people get up and say something to whomever is
in the stands (the "lurkers", in that unfortunate metaphor), who might,
however, be attending to what is being said in another "ring" (= thread of
discussion) or might even have left the stands momentarily. Then when one
finishes another gets up and goes to the center of the ring from which the
person whom he or she is responding to was just using.

I don't know how I experience it now, strangely enough, because it has taken
on enough distinctive identity as a kind of experience that I don't any
longer think of it as a sort of illusion. However, it definitely did seem
to me to be illusion-based when I first got into it. I also realized
fairly early on, though, that others might not be experiencing it under the
same illusion that I experience it, and I do not actually know how most
people experience it, then or now. Every now and again someone expresses
the idea that this sort of communication is very impersonal, no real human
contact going on, etc., because you can't hear the voice, see the person,
etc., and sometimes they seem to be thinking of it as a rather ghost-like
way of relating! I have never experienced it in either way! I think this
may be because I tend to think of face-to-face conversation in a more
detached way, involving masks or misleading "fronts", to a greater degree
than a lot of people do. It probably has something to do with being a shy
person. But although I value the face-to-face relationship more than I do
this way of relating, at least for most purposes, though not all, and do not
regard this as an adequate substitute for that, I have never thought of this
as an inferior form of that or as a substitue for it but simply as another
kind of opportunity for relating, just as using a telephone is still another
kind of relating, as is corresponding by surface letter mail.. In fact, I
find both of the latter more "artificial" and remote than this, though most
people apparently do not.

But, anyway, the point I was trying to get at is that I think that my
thinking about the relationship of AI to IA got confused at a certain
point -- or perhaps I should just say that I lost my bearings -- because in
using Peter's conceptions as a basis for my own special interests in
semiosis construed communicationally, I was indecisive between regarding
what I was doing as presenting a third model, in addition to the Turing
Machine and the Memex models, or presenting it rather as a modification of
Peter's conception of IA as a special case thereof. I finally opted for the
latter, while thinking of IA as coordinate with AI rather than as a special
case of it.

I need to get clarity on this obviously, but the first thing that occurs to
me is to say that there does seem to be an important difference between the
IA understanding and the AI understanding insofar as the latter aims at
making the machine autonomously intelligent. I think that can be done. When
I find that i can only rarely beat the machine in a game of Reversi -- I
have little talent for games of that sort -- it seems natural enough to me
to say that the machine so programmed is more intelligent than I am when it
comes to playing Reversi. Why not? Since the machine can play with anybody
who wants to sit down and play Reversi with it, I think of it as
autonomously intelligent in that respect and a clear case of AI. Supposing
that is a just description then I think IA would have to be understood as
not being concerned with making machines intelligent but rather with making
people more intelligent in virtue of their use of the machine in doing
things intelligently. Now this could include using AI produced intelligent
machines, such as, say, software agents or bots that do this and that for
you. They are autonomous in some sense, I would say, and it does not seem
to be true that one gets more intelligent merely in using a software agent.
In fact one might get stupider. For example, I have found that string
searches are frequently more effective for my purposes than keyword searches
and I find it easy to imagine that if I had a software agent that went
around trying to find things out for me the results might actually make me
stupider than if I just used string searches. Now one would not be inclined
to think that a machine which can perform a string search is itself
intelligent simply because it can do that, and so I would not think of that
as AI, but I regard it as an IA accomplishment and value it more highly for
purposes of intelligence than i might regard an AI agent program. So there
does seem to be a difference there.

But that is enough for this message, and I will come back to further
questions you raise later.

Thanks for the very stimulating response, Creath.

Joe Ransdell


END OF DIGEST 11-29-02

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