Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Relevant Ontology


Okay, so you can slice and dice information up a few different ways. It's not terribly interesting to say there's more than one way to look at something. So why get excited about new kinds of ontological frameworks?

Well, one reason is for understanding something like religion. Being an atheist, I not only don't believe in a god, I also (if I'm being true to my claim) believe that everyone who does is wrong. There's two ways to be open-minded about this. The first is to accept that I might easily be mistaken, and the second is to say I'm not mistaken, but I don't mind if you want to believe in a god anyway. The point is that whichever group happens to be wrong isn't wrong enough that they can't get on with living somehow or another. Both groups, right or otherwise, are more or less equally able to reason about the world around them, get on in life, and do whatever people do.

It's provably true that you can come up with equivalent but different ontological frameworks which are internally consistent and predict correct results. It's my view that people do this when they take on different world views. The differing views are not equivalent exactly, but they are each close enough to the way that things really are that both are practical.

Next time you are having an argument with an irrational person, stop for a moment. They may mean entirely different things when they are reasoning to what you mean. If this is true, then your arguments will seem wrong and backwards to them.

Wittgenstein, along with his concepts about family relations, heralded a big change to the way in which philosophers understood the world around them. Initially at least, it was unclear what effect those kinds of fuzzy set would have on the consistency of any ontology which used them - in fact it wasn't even clear that it was going to be consistent with our normal ideas of logic.

To fast forward, this more or less explains why nobody is ever right. The more you learn, the more you notice that everyone can argue for their position (okay, not really, but a lot of people who you thought were raving loonies turned out to be at least internally consistent, despite the fact most of them aren't). You begin to notice that educated people don't converge to a monoculture. Philosophy ceases to give explanations, and starts to be the tool by which you better understand your intuitions.

Wittgensteinian family relations allows us to define sets in a way natural for human cognition. Developments in his ideas have also meant that now we can also use those sets formally. These ideas give us better descriptive power, allowing us to verify a greater range of ideas using reliable methods.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The old saying goes: you can never win an argument.

This holds especially true for belief systems, which are more encompasing to an individual than, say, which footy team is the best in the league. I've engaged many bible bashers over the years and at best you can only hope for a good discussion. My knowledge of physics is pretty good for an Average Joe, so I give them a run for their money - using some Socratic debate techniques and pointed questions, e.g. "So who actually saw Christ rise from the dead? And were they reliable witnesses? Oh, you mean no one saw him walk out, that the stone was just rolled to the side? And this is the basis for this whole resurrection legend? You think that evidence would hold up in court?" Etc and so on...

Another good post!

Rod Williams

11/10/2004 10:10:00 AM  
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