“How Can We Know What The Probability Is?” And Other Objections And Remarks

The following, of course, is not yet developed.

“Where did you get that 99% probability from?” someone may object.  “Did you pull it from your ass?”  Well, I did stipulate it.  But the general objection remains valid nonetheless:  it would seem that there is no way to come up with an objective evaluation of what the probability actually is unless it is 0 or 100%, these figures being based on the physical laws of the universe or the laws of probability.  Deal with this.  See if Dretske’s discussion of this works.

Inductive:  probability of less than 100% but greater than 0.  Deductive (or what supports deduction):  conditional probability is 100%.  Absolute reliability, absolute safety.  What makes the transmission a case of information is also what makes it something supporting deduction.

IF p THEN p — either a complete lack of transmission of information or the exact opposite — a complete surfeit of “transmission” (quote unquote) at the “zero point”.

 

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The Problem

The Problem:  What Does Relevance Consist In?  Following Relevant Logic, we can avoid Classical Logic’s paradoxes (or at least weirdnesses) of Material Implication, according to which the following statements are true…

1) If Cliff lives in Houston, Texas, then the earth has just one moon

2) If Cliff lives in Orange County, California, then Paris, Texas is the capital of France

…by insisting that the antecedent p be relevant to the consequent q.

But what is it that makes p relevant to q?  What is relevance anyhow?

 

 

 

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Next Snippet:  What Is Relevance Anyhow?

 

 
 
 
Edit Log: June 04, 2017: Made some minor changes.


What Is Relevance Anyhow?

But What Does ‘Relevance’ Mean? If (at the time of this writing) one googles for a definition of the word ‘relevance’, the gist of what they will get will be something like:  a state of affairs1 p is relevant to a state of affairs q when p is connected to q in some way and that connection is important to us in some way.  The connection matters.

Any given state of affairs will of course bear a very large (perhaps indefinitely large) number of connections to any other state of affairs.  I am trivially connected for example to all people in the world whose last name begins with ‘W’ (I bear a W connection to each of them); and I am trivially connected to everyone else in the world whose last name does not begin with ‘W’ (I bear a non-W connection to each of them).

But some connections matter to us, perhaps in relation to some particular goal, or in relation to some highly pervasive desire.  The importance of the connection selects out those cases in which p is relevant to q.

The Ice Example:  Warning — I Intend To Use This As A Metaphor For Implication:  For example, the thickness/thinness (or even complete absence) of the ice covering a river (state of affairs p)  is connected to my reaching the other bank of the river (state of affairs q) by way of enabling/hindering/rendering-impossible my reaching that other bank.  This connection matters to me when I have the goal of reaching the other side alive, or at least in some reasonable approximation thereto.  (And I have this goal because of something else that matters to me.  I need, say, to evade the secret police on this side, or the only food there is exists only on the other side.)  The importance of this connection, the place it has in the web of my goals, renders p relevant to q.

So when the Relevant Logician insists that p be relevant to q in propositions of the form IF p THEN q, they can plausibly be construed as asserting that there is some connection between p and q, and this connection is important to us.  What this connection is and why it is important to us may be suggested by the following examples.  The first example to follow (Madame Olensky) does not quite get us to this connection, but it is suggestive enough to put us on the right track leading to it (The Doorbell).

The Matter Regarding Madame Olensky And Professor Plum:  When Madame Olensky is caught standing over the body of Professor Plum with a smoking gun in her hand, this state of affairs (p) bears a definite connection to another (quite) possible state of affairs, namely, that Madame Olensky murdered Professor Plum (q). This connection consists in the fact that p‘s obtaining/being true increases the probability (in this case drastically) that q obtains/is true.  That probability is now somewhere greater than 0 but equal to or less than 1.  The connection matters to us whenever we are concerned enough to ask (say, out of a desire for justice, I should hope, or at least out of a general desire to get things right):  Did Madame Olensky murder Professor Plum?  Because this increases-the-probability connection matters to us, it renders Madame Olensky’s standing over the body of Professor Plum (whose last twitches ceased just one second ago) with a smoking gun relevant to the possible state of affairs comprising Madame Olensky’s just having murdered Professor Plum.

But the Relevant Logician will want something a bit stronger for the connection between p and q that will make p relevant to q in propositions of the form IF p THEN q.  For in propositions of that form, the obtaining/being true of q is guaranteed should p obtain/be-true.  In other words, the probability of q, given p, needs to be 1.  Not 0.86, not 0.9999, but 1.  Implication needs to be completely reliable.

In other words, the ice needs to be so solid that the chances of falling through, of losing one’s footing and plunging into deep cold water while trying to cross to the consequent q are zero.

Although Madame Olensky’s standing over the body of Professor Plum with a smoking gun definitely increases the probability that she is the murderer of Professor Plum beyond 0, that probability is doubtlessly not 1.  For a sufficiently competent writer of mystery novels can invent a scenario just barely within the realm of possibility in which, despite the bald fact that Madame Olensky is standing over the body of Professor Plum with a smoking gun in her hand, she is in fact not the actual murderer of Professor Plum.  The probability is, say, a mere 0.99999999999.

In the matter regarding Madame Olensky and Professor Plum, there is a minuscule, but real chance that one might fall through the ice, lose their footing, plunge into the deep cold swift water while crossing to the other bank of the river.

So the statement

1) IF Madame Olensky is standing over the body of Professor Plum with a smoking gun, THEN Madame Olensky is the murderer of Professor Plum

is false.  It is false because, although the state of affairs comprising Madame Olensky’s standing over the body of Professor Plum with a smoking gun is definitely relevant to the possible state of affairs comprising Madame Olensky’s being the murderer of Professor Plum, the connection which generates this relevance is not the right relevance-making connection.

The Doorbell (In Perfect Working Order):  The right relevance connection does exist, I think, taking a cue from Fred Dretske, in the case of a doorbell whose wiring is in perfect condition.  Given the condition of the wiring, the probability, when the doorbell is ringing (p), that someone outside is pushing the doorbell button, or that, at least, something is depressing that button (q), is 1.  The constraint created by the perfect condition of the wiring makes p a completely reliable indicator of q.  So this IF THEN statement:

2) IF the doorbell is ringing THEN someone or something is depressing the button outside

is true.  That someone or something outside is depressing the doorbell button is guaranteed by the doorbell’s ringing inside.

This particular increases-the-probability (to 1) connection between the doorbell’s ringing and someone-or-something’s depressing the button outside matters to (most of) us because there is, I should think, a pervasive desire to get things right, to know how things actually stand outside the room, to know what is actually the case among the things that are not immediately present to us, to be able to tell what is happening.  This mattering selects out this particular connection as a relevance-making connection between p and q.  Because of this relevance of p to q, 2) above is true.

The doorbell’s ringing (when the condition of the wiring is perfect) is, of course, the classic example of Information That, of informational content.  The ringing (r, for reception) is information that the button outside is getting depressed (s, for source), if we follow Dretske’s definition of informational content:

Informational content:  A signal r carries the information that s is F = The conditional probability of s‘s being F, given r (and k), is 1 (but, given k alone, less than 1)

Fred Dretske, KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION, Stanford, CSLI Publications, 1999, p. 65

I will dwell on the knowledge k part of this definition in some detail later.

That the conditional probability of the button outside’s getting depressed increases to 1 when the doorbell rings is both what makes the ringing a signal, information that the button outside is getting depressed and what makes p relevant to q in 2) above.  Therefore, it is tempting to identity the relevance-making relation between p an q with the information-that relation.   Implication, it is tempting to say, is always information that.  The following:

3) IF Cliff lives in Houston THEN the earth has just one moon

fails to be a true implication because Cliff’s living in Houston is not information that the earth has just one moon.  I will be returning to this point later.2

To revert back to the river ice metaphor, the antecedent in 3) is ice that never formed in the first place.  There is no chance one can cross to the consequent q on the basis of p.  One cannot even lose their footing here, because there was only ever swift cold water to plunge into.

However, there are of course a number of rather severe challenges to the notion that implication is always information.  I will consider some of these in the snippets that follow.

At the time of this writing, I am suffering under the delusion that once all the challenges that I have considered so far have been dealt with, one ends up with the concept of relevant implication as always to be made sense of in terms of the concept of information — sometimes as full-blooded information, sometimes as degenerate or denatured information, and sometimes as the radical absence of information.  Whichever is the case, there is always the reference to the concept of information.  We will see if I end up having to eat crow on this point.

Some Housekeeping:  First, however, I want to do some housekeeping.  The careful reader will notice that I keep shifting back and forth between talking about p and q as states of affairs and as propositions.  I will continue to shift back and forth because I will be following Roderick Chisholm in treating propositions as a subspecies of states of affairs.3  The state of affairs comprising this cat, Munti sitting on this Persian mat can obtain or not obtain at different times.  The state of affairs comprising ‘Munti is sitting on on this Persian mat on October 31 at 12:00 am’ either always obtains or never obtains according as it was true or not true October 31 at 12:00 am that Munti was sitting on the Persian mat.  The latter is a state of affairs (obtaining or not obtaining) that is also a proposition (true or false); the former is a state of affairs (obtaining or not obtaining) that is not also a proposition.

Propositions are true or false; a proposition can follow from another or fail to follow from it.  Implication, therefore, is a relation between sets of states of affairs obtaining/failing to obtain being true/failing to be true at particular times (the doorbell is ringing at times t0, t1, t2, t… tn) and the button outside is getting pushed at times t0, t1, t2, t… tn).

One Final Point:  I have defined relevance in terms of mattering.  Since in Relevant Logic p has to be relevant to q in implication propositions in order for those implications to be true, does this mean that no implication statement was true before any sentient creature existed to whom anything could matter?  (I don’t think so, but this still needs to be shown, of course.)  If so, is this a weirdness that is off-putting enough to make one prefer Classical Logic to Relevant Logic?

 

1 I will leave ‘state of affairs’ as an undefined primitive.
2 One reason p is not information that q here is, of course, that the earth has just one moon is “old information” and therefore not information at all. But the more important reason is that even if this were not “old information”, Cliff’s living in Houston would still not be information that the earth has just one moon because the former, by itself, leaves the probability of the latter at 0. This ‘even if’ is pertinent to my claim that implication is to be understood in terms of information even if a particular example of an implication proposition is not an instance of information that.
3 Roderick Chisholm, THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE SECOND EDITION, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1977, pp. 87-88.

 

 

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Edit Log:  June 04, 2017:  Made some fairly minor edits in an always-ongoing and never-fully-accomplished effort to avoid complete and total embarrassment.


The Role Of Informational Content In Establishing Relevance In Relevant Logic

“This current version of the notes is not yet complete, but meets I think the
usual high standards for material posted on the internet.”  (Link.  No, I have not read the paper apart from this snippet.)  Please feel free to comment if you have any corrections or objections to the disquisition below, or email me at cliffengelwirt@gmail.com. 

 

Logic first became interesting to me when I entered the DBA field and started reading the works of C.J. Date, Hugh Darwen, and Nikos Lorentzos on the foundations of relational databases.  While reading in logic, I became intensely interested in Edwin D. Mares’ book RELEVANT LOGIC A PHILOSOPHICAL INTERPRETATION, which seemed to tie in — I am apparently not the first to notice this! — in a very natural way with Fred I. Dretske’s classic work, KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION.  As an exercise in writing to learn Mares’ book I have been for a while entering posts on this blog on the topic of Dretske’s theory of informational content as it relates to Relevant Logic.

Up until now, these posts have been nothing except an effort to decide what my position is on the topic.  They pretend to be nothing more than efforts to get my own thoughts in order.  As a result, I have not been terribly afraid to be (just occasionally, I hope!) simply mistaken and (worse) unclear.

Basically, I was thinking out loud in order to decide what I do think about the topic.  Even though these exercises in thinking out loud were both tentative and preliminary, I have found it to be a useful discipline in performing them in public, where there is always the possibility that someone actually engaging with the posts (in other words, someone who is not merely a troll) may legitimately, pointing to specifics, exclaim ‘THIS IS SIMPLY WRONG!!!!’ or ‘THIS IS CONFUSED!’

Lions And Trolls Oh My! But now that I am suffering under the delusion that I do have my thoughts on the topic in something vaguely resembling order, I am now actively throwing them out to the lions in order to see what survives intelligent, informed criticism. ((I am assuming there are lions out there who are not only hungry, but also intelligent and informed. As regards lions I keep thinking about Ned Rorem’s LIONS (A DREAM) which I once heard on WFMT in Chicago… but I digress.)) Please consider this post and the the posts linked to here as a request for comment.

As each section of this disquisition takes (almost) final shape, the link to it will become active. Each section will be kept as short as possible partly as an troll-control device: the brevity of each piece makes it easier to force the troll to state a specific objection to a specific assertion ((has the troll misstated the assertion (most of the time intentionally but sometimes not)? If so, challenge them to state it in their own words — honestly this time. Once the troll has correctly stated it, do they think the assertion is wrong? If so, why?  Does the troll think the assertion is unclear?)) rather than allowing the troll to rely on abusive innuendo.

The Problem

What Is Relevance Anyhow?

The Relevance-Making Relation Is Not The Causal Relation

The example that at least initially makes treating the relevance-making relation in terms of Dretske’s notion of informational content attractive: Dretske’s Doorbell Example.

This seems to run aground on the tautology IF p THEN p. The revisions needed to accommodate this tautology.

The ‘peanut is under which shell’ example. Will this example end up making Relevant Logic at least as weird and bizarre as Classical Logic by making the truth of implication statements relative to what one knows?

The measles and wormy red apples example.

******

No post of mine can do without an homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM. Here the homage will take the form of Channing Tatum.

ChanningTatumTotalBeauty_0

Edit Log: June 04, 2017: Made some minor changes.

June 10, 2017:  Made some minor changes.  Removed a joke I think wasn’t                                                          working.

June 14, 2017:  Added quote at the top.


Doorbells, Rubies, Shell Games, And Implication: An Example That Makes Treating Implication As An Information-That Relation Attractive

The Problem:  What Does Relevance Consist In?  Following Relevant Logic, we can avoid Classical Logic’s paradoxes (or at least weirdnesses) of Material Implication, according to which the following statements are true…

1) If Cliff lives in Houston, Texas, then the earth has just one moon

2) If Cliff lives in Orange County, California, then Paris, Texas is the capital of France

…by insisting that the antecedent p be relevant to the consequent q.

Two questions immediately becomes pressing:  first:  what does ‘relevance’ mean?  Second, what is it that makes p relevant to q?

First Question:  What Does ‘Relevance’ Mean?  As I intend to use the term, ‘relevance’ in general is a relation/connection that exists between one situation/state of affairs and another and is important to our concerns.  In the case of relevant implication, the aforementioned relation is important to us because it underwrites a guarantee that we can infer q from p. That we can legitimately make inferences is one of our concerns.

Implication is a relation between propositions.  One infers one proposition from another. Following Roderick Chisholm, I will be identifying propositions with states of affairs.  For example, the proposition that this cat, Felix, is sitting on this Persian mat with MAT_ID 1123581321 is identical with the state of affairs consisting in Felix sitting on the Persian mat with MAT_ID 1123581321.  So I will alternate between referring to p and q as propositions and as states of affairs.

By ‘situation’ I mean, roughly, ‘a site comprising one or more connected states of affairs which are available from a possible perspective.  A perspective is always limited and therefore does not have available to it other states of affairs.   The room in which I am typing this constitutes one situation.  In this situation the doorbell’s ringing, when it occurs, is available to me.  The button which, when pushed, causes the doorbell to ring is on the wall outside.  This state of affairs is hidden from me in my current situation.  The immediate vicinity of a person who is about to press the doorbell button outside is another situation.  The states of affairs comprised by the room inside are not available to this person.

Second Question:  What Is It That Makes p Relevant To q?  One at least initially attractive answer to the second question is the following:  p is relevant to q when p is information that q.

Here is one issue that I want to bring out into the open from the very start.  The careful reader will notice, as they go along, that I am vulnerable to the charge of circularity.  I will be analyzing implication in terms of  information and information in terms of situations, which in turn I analyze in terms of perspectives.  But it would seem that perspectives need to be analyzed in terms of information.  You, my gentle reader, my fearsomely implacable  judge, will decide later whether I am successful in defending myself against the circularity charge.

In what follows, I will first state what makes treating relevance that way attractive.  After dealing with a counter-example that, at first sight, seems completely devastating, I will argue that the INFORMATION THAT relation remains the basis for understanding relevance as it pertains to implication — at least for the examples that I present or link to in this post.

To state the matter a bit abstractly at first, p is information that q when a channel exists through which information flows from a source site, an at least partially-obscured situation s0 (which includes the state of affairs that q), to a reception site, a situation s2 (which includes the state of affairs that p), making the information that q available in s2. Such a channel exists when some state of affairs that c in a situation s1 renders the conditional probability that q given p 11.

The channel may open up between s0 and s1 because s1 is a physical situation comprising states of affairs whose obtaining during a certain stretch of time makes it impossible without violating physical laws for that p to obtain without that q‘s obtaining.

To bring up an example into which I am about to go into much greater detail shortly, during the time that the wiring to a doorbell is in a certain physical condition, it would be impossible for the doorbell to ring without the button outside getting pushed by someone or something.  Suppose (as is surely the case) that the doorbell could ring without the button’s getting pushed only if a defective physical condition of the wiring, given the physical laws of the universe, could allow for events x, y, or z occurring (for example, an unwanted electrical pulse caused by a short the wiring).  Currently, the wiring is not in this defective condition and will not be so for a stretch of time.  (Nothing, for example, could cause a short, given the physical laws of the universe.)  Given this current condition of the wiring, the doorbell could ring without the button outside getting pushed only were the physical laws of the universe violated.

In the case of the doorbell, the channel is opened up by the physical condition of the wiring, a condition that functions as a constraint disallowing any doorbell ringing occurring without the proper cause — the button’s getting pushed.  This physical constraint underwrites, so to speak, a guarantee that the doorbell will never ring without the button outside getting pushed.

This is a physical, causal constraint.  There may be other constraints as well.  [Including knowledge, perhaps?]

Another factor that will turn out to be pertinent to p’s being information that q is one’s state of knowledge cum ignorance regarding q.  I will be asking later whether this factor poses a problem for regarding p‘s being information that q as the relation that makes p relevant to q by making the truth of an IF THEN statement relative to one’s knowledge.

 

Initially, the following doorbell example, taken from Fred Dretske’s KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION2 made this account of p‘s relevance to q highly attractive to me.  Warning:  what follows will be a veritable operatic doorbell aria.  Those who are not fans of operatic arias are advised to go elsewhere.

The Doorbell Aria:  You are in a room (s2 ) in which you are able to hear the doorbell.  The wiring of the doorbell comprises situation s1The state of affairs c regarding this wiring is such that in all possible worlds in which the laws of physics of this actual world hold, the doorbell will never ring without someone or something depressing the button outside.  (Situation s0  is the ‘outside’, including the button.)  This never happens, ever, no matter how much time goes by.

The doorbell’s ringing guarantees that someone or something is depressing the button.  There are no poltergeists inside the wiring, no sudden bursts of electrical energy ultimately caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon, or anything like that, that will cause the doorbell to ring without the button outside getting depressed.  If one takes each occasion on which the doorbell rings, rolls back the clock, then lets the clock roll forward again, but this time with just one tiny change in the world they find themselves in (say, the butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon has an orange dot on its wings rather than a maroon dot), and if they repeat this exercise for each possible world whose physics is the same as our actual world, someone or something will be depressing the button outside each time.  Rinse and repeat for each time the doorbell rings.  100% each time.

100% of the time, when the doorbell rings, the button outside is getting depressed by someone or something. Given the doorbell’s ringing, the conditional probability that the button outside is getting depressed is 1.

The wiring is burdened by a defect, however, that results in the doorbell’s occasionally failing to ring even when the button outside is getting depressed.  Let’s say that this failure to ring occurs in 0.001 percent of all the possible worlds in which the laws of physics are identical with those of this actual world.  Suppose that each time the button outside gets depressed the clock gets rolled back, then rolled forward again, but into a another possible world whose physics is the same as our actual world but has just one tiny change (for example, in the color of the spot on the wings of the butterfly in the Amazon).  In 0.001 percent of these possible worlds, the doorbell fails to ring.  Rinse and repeat for each time the button gets pushed.  0.001 percent each time.

0.001% of the time, the doorbell fails to ring when someone or something depresses the button outside.  The conditional probability that the doorbell will fail to ring even when the button outside is getting depressed is 0.001.   The button’s getting depressed does not guarantee that the doorbell will ring.

If we follow Dretske’s definition of informational content, we will see that the doorbell’s ringing is information that the button outside is getting depressed.  We will also see that the button’s getting depressed is not information that the doorbell is ringing inside. This (to anticipate) mirrors the situation in which 3) is true, and 4) is false.

3) IF the doorbell is ringing, THEN someone or something is depressing the button outside.

4) IF someone or something is depressing the button outside, THEN the doorbell is ringing.

Back to Dretske’s definition of informational content:

Informational content:  A signal r carries the information that s is F = The conditional probability of s‘s being F, given r (and k), is 1 (but, given k alone, less than 1)

Fred Dretske, KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION, Stanford, CSLI Publications, 1999, p. 65

Let me linger a bit on “but given k alone, less than 1”.  k must be your knowledge cum ignorance of the source situation s0 outside.  At the moment, the doorbell is not ringing.  You have zero knowledge of how things stand out there with regard to the doorbell’s getting pushed.  The value of k is therefore zero.  With just this “knowledge” aka ignorance, and in the absence of a signal that the doorbell is getting pushed, the conditional probability that this is happening will be the probability that the doorbell is getting depressed at any given time of the day multiplied by 0.001.  This figure, whatever it is, will be considerably less than 1.

Now the doorbell is ringing.  All of a sudden, the conditional probability that the button outside is getting pushed has leapt to 1.  The doorbell’s ringing is therefore information that the button outside is getting pushed by someone or something.

Correlatively, when I am pushing the button, my knowledge of what is happening inside is zero, provided I am not able to hear the doorbell ringing in any case.  Given this knowledge alone, the probability that the doorbell is ringing is 0.999.  Given my knowledge plus the button’s getting pushed, that knowledge stays 0.999.  Therefore, according to Dretske’s definition of informational content, my pushing the button in this case is not information that the doorbell inside is ringing.

If the INFORMATION THAT relation is what makes for the relevance of p to q in true IF p THEN q statements, then 3) is true because this relation exists between p and q, and 4) is false because this relation does not exist.  Likewise, 1) is false because ‘Cliff lives in Houston’ is not information that the earth has just one moon, and 2) is false because even if Cliff moved to Orange County, California, that item would still not be information that Paris, Texas is the capital of France.  1), 2), and 4) are all false because in each statement the antecedent is not relevant to the consequent.

— “Wait a second!” I hear someone objecting.  “You mean that ‘someone or something is depressing the button outside’ is not relevant to ‘the doorbell is ringing?”  I do think that the notion of degrees of relevance — a relevance spectrum — needs to be introduced here.  The truth of ‘Cliff lives in Houston, Texas’ presumably adds exactly 0 to the probability that the earth has a single moon.  The truth of ‘I am pushing the button outside’ adds 0.999 to the probability that the doorbell is ringing inside.  The truth of the former statement lacks any relevance at all to its consequent.  The truth of the latter statement … well, it is not exactly completely irrelevant to its consequent.  But I do think this is a matter of ‘close, but no cigar’.  The truth of ‘I am pushing this button outside’ is not relevant enough to ‘the doorbell is ringing inside’ to make 4) a true statement.

Assume that an INFORMATION THAT relation exists between p and q in the following truth table except, of course, when the truth value of q makes it impossible for such a relation to exist.  (When this happens, of course, the IF THEN statement is also false.)  In that case, we would get a truth table for implication that is exactly like the one set forth by proponents of Classical Logic.  Except now the truth table makes intuitive sense — even the last row.  This is the row in Classical Logic’s truth table for implication that seems absolutely counter-intuitive to anyone sane.

Truth Table For Implication
p q IF p THEN q
T T T
T F F
F T T
F F T

 

Let’s consider the rows one by one:

  1.  ‘Doorbell is ringing’ is true, as is ‘the button outside is getting pushed’  IF p THEN q is obviously true in this case provided that p really is information that q.
  2. ‘Doorbell is ringing’ is true, while ‘the button outside is getting pushed’ is false. That q is false while p true guarantees that p is in fact not information that q, so IF p THEN q is guaranteed to be false.
  3. The doorbell is not ringing even though the button outside is getting pushed.  p remains information that q when that p is the case, so IF p THEN q is true.
  4. The doorbell is not ringing, and the button outside is not  being pushed.  Nonetheless, p would be information that q should that p obtain.  So IF p THEN q is true because the INFORMATION THAT relation still exists between p and q.

In short, provided this treatment of relevance is correct (which it is not quite — but I will get to that later), IF p THEN q is true if and only if p is information that q.  When (on this treatment of relevance) p is not information that q, then IF p THEN q is false no matter what the truth values of p and q are. This means of course that IF p THEN q cannot be treated in relevant logic as equivalent to NOT p OR q, as it is in Classical Logic.

This, then, is what makes treating relevance as consisting in INFORMATION THAT initially so attractive. First, the INFORMATION THAT relation at work in the doorbell example mirrors in a satisfyingly intuitive way the truth of 3) and the falsity of 4). Second, this treatment provides an intuitive explanation for the fourth row of the truth table for implication given above.  Proponents of Classical Logic are notorious for coming up with nothing more satisfying in this regard than ‘If you believe a false statement, you will believe anything’.

As side note, I would like to add that what I discussed in this post is the INFORMATION THAT relation as stemming from physical laws.  Here (but this needs to be re-worked) I discuss the INFORMATION THAT relation as stemming from what at first looks like logical principles but which, I think, may be more aptly described as the laws of probability.  I do want, after all, to base logic ultimately on something similar to INFORMATION THAT in a non-circular way.

[To sum up:  the relevance of p to q is a relation — a connection — between the state of affairs p and the state of affairs q which is important to us because it underwrites inference by guaranteeing q given p.]

Incidentally, the shell-game example discussed in the post just linked to clearly shows that the relevance-making relation cannot be the causal relation, at least not in all cases.  Turning over shell #3 to reveal a peanut is a signal carrying information that the peanut is under shell #4, but this action does not cause the peanut to be under shell #4.

However, there is a fly in the intuitive ointment. How is one to deal with statements like the following:

5) IF there is a ruby exactly 2 kilometers underneath my feet, THEN there is a ruby exactly 2 kilometers underneath my feet

or, more generally, with:

6) IF p THEN p

?

It would be a bit strange to suggest that a channel exists between the situation s0 (the way things stand exactly two kilometers underneath my feet) and the exact same situation s0.  It would seem, then, the relevant-making relation cannot be identical with the INFORMATION THAT relation after all.3  Although an identity relation clearly exists “between” s0 and s0, it would seem there is never an INFORMATION THAT relation between “them”.

However, while there are clearly cases in which no INFORMATION THAT relation exists between s0 and s0, adopting Roderick Chisholm’s notions of direct evidence and self-presenting states of affairs suggests that, in some other cases, we can treat that p as information that p.  I won’t be implying that Chisholm is correct in thinking that there is such things as direct evidence and self-presenting states of affairs.  If there is such a thing, however, it would suggest that sometimes INFORMATION THAT is not always a three-place relation(source, channel, receiver), but sometimes a one-place relation.

Let’s look at Chisholm’s (simpler) statement of what direct evidence consists in:

What justifies me in thinking I know that a is F is simply the fact that a is F. 

Roderick Chisholm, THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE, SECOND EDITION, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, Inc., p. 21.  Henceforth TOK. 

For example, when I suffer a sharp pain in my shoulder to which I point and say ‘here’, what justifies me in thinking I know I am suffering a sharp pain here is simply the fact that I am suffering a sharp pain here.

Likewise, if someone asked me the (somewhat strange) question ‘how can you tell there you are suffering a sharp pain there?” I could only answer:

7)  I can tell I am suffering a sharp pain here because I am suffering a sharp pain here.

But information consists in what one can tell.  It follows, then, that:

8)  My suffering a sharp pain here is by itself information that I am suffering a sharp pain here.

A knock at the door (to use something other than the doorbell example for once) announces that someone or something outside is impacting the door.  Something not identical with this person or thing does the announcing.  The pain, by contrast, is self-announcing.  The information in this case doesn’t travel or flow from a source site to a reception site because the source and reception sites are identical.

If one insists that information has to travel from a source site to a reception site, so that self-announcing information cannot really be information, we still have something that is very much like information.  For to have information, or at least something that is like information, it suffices that one be able to tell something (that someone or something is depressing the button outside, that the peanut is under shell #4, that I feel pain here). One is able to tell something in all these cases, including the self-announcing case.

This gives another twist to:

9)  IF I suffer a sharp pain here, THEN I suffer a sharp pain here.

Here p is relevant to q because q (alternatively p) is a self-announcing state of affairs that is either a case of INFORMATION THAT, or is something very much like INFORMATION THAT.

….

Let me turn now back those cases in which s0 clearly is not information that s0. ….

I argue, however, that 5) (and, to generalize, 6) are true because, were a ruby to exist exactly two kilometers underneath my feet, the conditional probability that there is a ruby exactly two kilometers underneath my feet would be 1.

Compare with:  were the doorbell to ring (given c described above), the conditional probability that the button outside is getting pushed is 1.  The doorbell example describes a case of a signal carrying information that because two distinct situations are in play, a source situation that is at least partially concealed from those inhabiting a reception situation.  The (at least partial) concealment of a source situation from the perspective of a reception situation concomitant with the (at least partial) ignorance that is inherent in k is required for an INFORMATION THAT relation to exist.  Without this, any signal arising from s would be “old information”, that is to say, not information at all.

So I would like to revise Dretske’s definition of informational content to the following:

Informational content:  A signal r in reception situation s2 carries the information that t in source situation s0 is F = Because c is G in situation s1, the conditional probability of t‘s being F, given r (and k in s2), is 1 (but, given k alone, less than 1)

This guarantees the truth of IF p THEN q when p is information that q. When there is only a single situation, s0, knowledge (ignorance) k drops out of the picture because there is no longer any situation s2 from whose perspective one has (at least partial) ignorance of what is happening in s0. The signal r also drops out of the picture because we are no longer talking about INFORMATION THAT. What remains, however, is:

The conditional probability of t‘s being F in situation s0 is, given t‘s being F in situation s0, 1.

I think it requires only a moderately keen grasp of the obvious to grasp this point.

So what is common to both the doorbell and the ruby examples is a conditional probability of 1.  You get the ‘conditional probability is 1’ feature of the ruby IF p THEN p example by removing features from the INFORMATION THAT relation existing in the doorbell IF p THEN q (where p and q are about states of affairs in distinct situations).

I submit, then, that the two-place relation4 that makes p relevant to p in the statement IF p THEN p is a derivativedegenerate case of the INFORMATION THAT relation.  It is what you get by removing features from the IF THEN relation in order to accommodate the drastic simplification of a richer, complex situation s comprising s0, s1, s2 (and k in s2 ) into a more impoverished, simple situation s comprising just s0. This relation is degenerate enough to no longer count as INFORMATION THAT; all that remains of the INFORMATION THAT relation is the ‘conditional probability is 1’ feature;  nonetheless, INFORMATION THAT remains the touchstone for understanding all the cases of implication presented or linked to so far — the doorbell case, the shell-game case, and the ruby case.

Or so I am thinking at this moment.  We will see if this conclusion will survive consideration of further examples of implication.

 

 

 

 

1 I think this is identical with the theory of relevance developed by Jon Barwise and later by Greg Restall, as presented in Edwin D. Mares, RELEVANT LOGIC A Philosophical Interpretation, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press 2004, pp. 54-55. Henceforth RELEVANT LOGIC.  

I mention situations because I have in mind the Routley-Meyer truth condition for implication, to wit:

AB‘ is true at a situation s if and only if for all situations x and y if Rsxy and ‘A‘ is true at x, then ‘B‘ is true at y. (RELEVANT LOGIC, p. 28.)

What I, at least, am calling a situation is what comprises one or more states of affairs available to one (or more, if the situation is shared) sentient creatures whose limitations prevent them from having direct access (in the absence of a signal) to other states of affairs.  The room inside which a person is able to hear the doorbell ringing is situation s2 — the reception situation.  The area immediately outside, where another person may be pressing the doorbell, is situation S0. — the source situation.   The wiring to the doorbell, which perhaps a gremlin or poltergeist is inhabiting, is situation s1 — the channel situation.

Of course, the fact I am bringing both situations and possible worlds into the discussion is probably a signal, that is to say, a dead-giveaway that I do not yet sufficiently understand the distinction between situations and possible worlds. Keep in mind that this post is an exercise in writing to learn.  So I want to issue a warning to non-experts in the field:  I probably know less about this stuff than may at first seem to be the case.  Needless to say, the actual experts, won’t be fooled.

2 Fred Dretske, KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION, Stanford, CSLI Publications, 1999, pp. 54-55.

3 cf RELEVANT LOGIC, p. 55.

4 — “Wait”, you say. “This is a two-place relation? Isn’t p identical with p?  So why isn’t this a one-place relation?” Yes, p is identical with p.  But the relation in question is a two-place relation because p is getting stated twice.

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Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM is Channing Tatum, who is welcome to fix my pickup truck anytime. (In fact, I think I will buy a pickup truck just so that I can invite him to fix it.)

To distort Plato’s SYMPOSIUM just a little bit, pining after Channing Tatum is the first step on the ladder of Beauty that leads shortly thereafter to appreciation of the beauty of Classical Logic and Relevant Logic, and then, finally, to the form of Beauty — Beauty itself. Of course, my enemies say that I should avoid logic altogether and stick to pining after Channing Tatum.


We Are Surfaces

The following passage from Gaston Bachelard’s THE POETICS OF SPACE is extremely suggestive:

The phenomenology of the poetic imagination allows us to explore the being of man considered as the being of a surface, of the surface that separates the region of the same from the region of the other.  It should not be forgotten that in this zone of sensitized surface, before being, one must speak, if not to others, at least to oneself.  And advance always.

Gaston Bachelard, THE POETICS OF SPACE  (Beacon Press, Boston), p. 222

I do not pretend to have a very precise grasp of (certainly not a ‘maximal grip on) what Bachelard meant by the above paragraph, nor of what the best interpretation of that paragraph might be (regardless of what his author’s intention was).  In particular, I do not have much command over his phrase ‘the phenomenology of the poetic imagination’.

I am, however, reasonably confident that I do know what I want to do with many of the same words, namely, these:

Let’s explore the being of man considered as the being of a sensitized surface, of the surface that separates the region of the same from the region of the other.

There is more that I want to draw from Bachelard’s paragraph, but this is what I think (delusionally or not) I currently have the best grasp on.  In the not too distant future — the exigencies of my paid work permitting — I will be articulating what I intend to say with these words (whether or not my intention was also Bachelard’s).

To foreshadow what I want to say:  each one of us is a surface, not an interior space inside a physical cranium or inside the non-physical boundaries of a non-physical mind.  The mind bears a close analogy to the skin.  And once we see this, at least a few philosophical conundrums will come to seem at least a little bit less puzzling.  Maybe.

In articulating this insight (or is it a delusion?), I will be drawing on Berkeley, Leibniz, and Merleau-Ponty.  Will I come up with anything coherent?  We will see!

*****

Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM is Channing Tatum posing as a grease monkey.

Channing Tatum As Grease Monkey

Channing Tatum

 

Although the denotational power of words certainly fail me, I am able at least to fall back onto the expressive power of a rapturous sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Berkeley’s Direct Tactile Realism In His NEW VISION

Oddly enough for those of us used to thinking of Berkeley as a thoroughgoing idealist, Berkeley maintains in his AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION a direct realism regarding tactile perception.  Whereas the objects of vision — for example, the visible moon — do not exist outside the mind, the objects of touch — what is touched, tangible objects — do exist outside the mind in external space.  As George Pitcher puts it, speaking of what Berkeley is claiming in black and white in the NEW THEORY OF VISION:

What we feel are the tangible objects — i.e., the objects that are spread around us at various points in physical space.  What we see are objects that exist only in the mind.

George Pitcher, BERKELEY: THE ARGUMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS  (Routledge, London and New York), p. 28. Henceforth BERKELEY

Tangible objects, in the system of the Essay, exist around us in real physical space.

George Pitcher, BERKELEY, p. 43.

And from the Master himself:

For all visible things are equally in the Mind, and take up no part of the external Space.  And consequently are equidistant [in the next sentence Berkeley says ‘Or rather to speak truly…are at no Distance, neither near nor far…] from any tangible thing, which exists without the Mind.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraphs CXI and CXII, in The GEORGE BERKELEY COLLECTION: 5 CLASSIC WORKS, Amazon Print-On-Demand Edition, no pagination.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION. 

 

Perceiving for Berkeley (I will venture now…though I may end up chipping away at this claim) is always a two-place relation between a Mind that perceives something and the thing that is perceived.  In the case of vision, this relation is for Berkeley a two-place relation between the Mind and an entity that exists only in the mind, a visual Idea.  In the case of touch, this relation is a two-place relation between the Mind and a hard or soft or rough or smooth or sharp or rounded…object existing in external space (or at least this is what Berkeley cares to state explicitly in black and white in his NEW THEORY OF VISION.)

In the case of vision, I perceive extra-mental object existing in external space only indirectly, or mediately, in a three-place relation between my Mind (me), the Visibile Idea (e.g., the Visibile Moon) to which my Mind is related directly, and the external object (the physical, tangible Moon) for which the Visibile Moon serves as a sign.  So with regard to vision, Berkeley maintains (at least in what he sets down in black and white on the page) a representational theory of perception.  He is an indirect realist with regard to vision:  we see the physical object in external space just indirectly, in a way mediated by the mental object of color and shape that we do see directly.

But with regard to touch, Berkeley is a direct realist.  We perceive the physical object directly through touch.  We don’t perceive it by ‘touching’ or ‘feeling’ a mental object that represents the physical tangible object.  We are in contact with the object itself.  Put another way, our perception reaches all the way to the felt object.  In the case of touch, the perception is a two-place, not a three-place relation.

This direct realism in the case of touch comes as a bit of a surprise to those of us who think of Berkeley as a thoroughgoing idealist who thinks that everything is mental.  And in fact Berkeley apparently claimed in later writings that he theorized touch this way only to prevent his readers from freaking out from far too much counterintuitive idealism (Pitcher, BERKELEY, p. 28) which would only have served to distract his readers from what he wanted to focus on, namely, vision. In his own thoughts, ostensibly kept to himself at the time of A NEW THEORY OF VISION, he regarded the objects of touch as in fact mental.  But regardless of what the historical George Berkeley thought or did not think inwardly as he wrote that tract, treating touch in a direct realist fashion as involving direct perceptual contact with the touched/felt physical object is strongly motivated by how he conceptualizes the (ostensibly just mental) objects of vision.

As I have discussed in a previous post, The Truth Of Bishop Berkeley (Part 0),  Berkeley treats the visible object has properties.  The Visibile Moon, for example, is round, flat, luminous, and of a certain pale cheese-like yellow. If we think of the objects of touch as having analogous properties, those properties would be rough, smooth, hard, soft, and so on.  But surely no mental things can be rough etc.  Only physical objects — for example, the bark of a tree, the cool smoothness of marble — can have these properties.  Thus conceptualizing Ideas as having properties puts Berkeley straightway on the road to regarding physical objects existing in extra-mental space as the objects of touch.

Touch lends itself to a direct realist interpretation in a way that vision does not.  The seen object at least seems to be at a distance from the sensing surface of the see-er.  How can the visual experience include anything at a distance from this sensing surface?  It would seem prima facie that anything away from that surface would have to be outside the experience. The visual experience would therefore be confronted with the impossible-to-fulfill need to “reach out” to the seen object.  This, at least, is how I try to articulate the intuition that vision poses a problem for a direct realist interpretation of the seen object.

By contrast, there is zero distance between the sensing surface of my skin and the rough bark of the tree as I run my hand along the bark’s surface. Through touch, I am in contact with the physical object itself.  There is no question of the tactile experience having to “reach out” to the object because a physical me, engaging my physical hand, has already done the reaching out.  Touch is the direct realist sense par excellence.

And, as I hope to show (soon, or at least sometime before I die), the visual experience actually does reach out (in some sense of ‘actually does reach out’) to the physical object (Merleau-Ponty), or at least seems to so reach out (Berkeley) because of the way touch is implicated in the visual experience.  Touch informs the direct realist character (real or ostensible) of visual experience.

 

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This time my homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM takes the form of Brad Pitt in THE FIGHT CLUB.  This image seems appropriate for a disquisition on touch and brutal physical reality.

Brad-Pitt-Fight-Club

If Plato can have a thing for Alkibiades, I can have a thing for gorgeous rednecks.  This particular redneck needs to stop smoking, however.