Friday, October 21, 2016

"Not even Wrong"



"Not even Wrong"; Believed to be first coined by physicist Wolfgang Pauli. It means that the premise fails at a fundamental level.

Isn't it interesting that not all statements are either right or wrong; a meaningless statement for example is neither true nor false. "Blue diamonds fall from Africa".

What else? The first thing that comes to mind are arbitrary statements. Like asserting that a god exists. Except lots of arbitrary statements can also be wrong and not merely arbitrary, right? (Please don't type undigested answers ok? It will drive me crazy and I will spend half an hour figuring out how to tell you it's awful without being too offensive. Too much hassle!).


"God created earth" is arbitrary, but isn't it also wrong? I think it's indeed just arbitrary and "not even wrong".

Ambiguous statements would also be "not even wrong"; if you are never clear about what you're saying then it can never be judged as correct or incorrect.

The statement "Art is everything" is "not even wrong" (but it can look good on a Tee shirt at a hippie concert). I guess ambiguous is just another form of "meaningless".

Lastly I plead you not to type stupid half digested comments. Because when you try to think of something seriously the last thing you want is to hear someone's attempt to feel smart without actually thinking.



I posted this online. One of my friends brought up a question: "My question is this. When someone who is indoctrinated into something like Christianity, they use what they have been taught as a filter through which to answer the question "Is there a god?" and respond "Yes God exists". Is that error in teaching/thought still "not even wrong"? Or is there some allowance for honest if incorrect thinking due to ones culture or upbringing or genuine ignorance?"



And I shall now just copy-paste my reply, because it contains some VERY interesting things about thinking (psycho-epistemology).

And actually, I feel that it should be the beginning of a philosophical research, on generalizing all the different ways in which thoughts can be "held". But anyway here is what I replied:



Hmm you know, your question brings up an interesting distinction. The distinction between the evaluation of truthfulness of a statement, and the evaluation of the mental process that lead someone to make a statement.

My point is that an idea may be evil, but still pronounced completely innocently. Right? I can easily imagine a little kid repeating something like: "sacrifice is great" (or whatever), if his parents taught him that.

But anyway to go back to what you brought up. I think we need different words/ concepts to identify someone's thought process. Something that corresponds to "arbitrary" (which describes a statement but not a thought process).

you know, it's actually VERY interesting to study the different ways in which someone can "hold" an idea. I don't think I ever read about that in depth/ detail.

For example, one way to "hold" an idea is by association. Like when people say "art is everything", and they feel that because many different things can be beautiful, and that art is vaguely about beauty, that the sentence makes perfect sense. There is no attempt to criticize or try to apply the idea to make sure it works as a general rule, and that's why people become convinced, or acquire the feeling of being convinced, that "art is everything" is perfectly logical.



What would you call that process? It's not logic, because logic involves applying a certain method of scrutiny to form conclusion, and here, it is based on partial logic only without the later, final parts of scrutinizing a generalization to make sure it is correct. But it is not entirely based on emotions either.
It is mostly based on loose association and much less based on logic. I think this is the most common method.

Another way in which someone can come to hold an idea is by being taught that idea from a young age... I'm not yet sure that this one is very different from the first, but let's entertain the option and see.
So say, at the beginning, you sort of repeat the word, and have something associated with them. It could even be a state of mind, an atmosphere, a mood or a personality trait.



Like say your mom always felt very calm and "clean" whenever she lit the candles on Saturday and said prayers. You then start associating certain sentences you hear (with religious meaning) with certain emotions.



So then the sentence stands in your mind as connected to those emotions, and maybe also some images, and bits and parts of concretes that the words stand for.
We need an example here. I'm trying to remember something from the bible. No luck. OK how about something like "Holy Sabbath", the meaning being, that this is the day blessed by god to be holy. Now what does it actually mean that the day is "holy"? It stands in our mind as an emotion, mostly, and also as something unique or important, maybe with calm and quiet. And maybe you imagine some entity deciding that something is more important than another, and that stands in your mind as the idea of "god blessed this day". It's vague, but it still works as a thought. It doesn't bother you that it's vague because you never adopted logic as a method.
And actually maybe it is not properly developed as a theory, what steps you actually have to make when thinking. Like: 1. observe similarities 2. form a generalization 3. test the generalization by reducing it to a new concrete case

It could be as simple as, were you exposed to this method of thinking as a kid by listening to one of your parents?



So then the sentence stands in your mind as connected to those emotions, and maybe also some images, and bits and parts of concretes that the words stand for.
We need an example here. I'm trying to remember something from the bible. No luck. OK how about something like "Holy Sabbath", the meaning being, that this is the day blessed by god to be holy. Now what does it actually mean that the day is "holy"? It stands in our mind as an emotion, mostly, and also as something unique or important, maybe with calm and quiet. And maybe you imagine some entity deciding that something is more important than another, and that stands in your mind as the idea of "god blessed this day". It's vague, but it still works as a thought. It doesn't bother you that it's vague because you never adopted logic as a method.
And actually maybe it is not properly developed as a theory, what steps you actually have to make when thinking. Like: 1. observe similarities 2. form a generalization 3. test the generalization by reducing it to a new concrete case

It could be as simple as, were you exposed to this method of thinking as a kid by listening to one of your parents?



Also, Roderick Fitts (one of my Facebook friends) wrote: "Ambiguous statements are arbitrary due to the fact that they aren't delimited to one specific meaning. They are closer to a meaning than meaningless statements; the meaning of a meaningless statement is infinite, but the meaning of an ambiguous statement is only several (perhaps more or less) meanings."

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