# Tag Archives: Fred Dretske

## 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.

****************************

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.

## Re-Igniting An Old Flame

A few weeks ago my interest in the French Philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) suddenly got re-ignited upon finding out that a paper I published in a previous life (THE CONCEPT OF THE ECSTASIS, Journal Of The British Society For Phenomenology, 14(1):  79-90, 1983) actually got listed in the bibliography of Stephen Priest’s MERLEAU-PONTY:  THE ARGUMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS.

The sudden explosion of this renewed interest is a bit like the result of throwing a lighted match on a bunch of rags soaked in gasoline.  In its heat, I’ve decided to start a new category of blog posts comprising an attempt to gain a deeper, fuller understanding of the topic of that paper.  What positions stated in the paper do I still hold?  What positions must I mark to market?  (<yes I am being ironic>Doubtlessly none — surely my paper is sacred text.</yes I am being ironic>) What can be stated more clearly, argued for more carefully?  Doing this kind of thing is what blogs are ideal for:

…you can work around the edges of an idea over days and weeks and months [and years] and really   come to understand it. It’s this process that blogging does better than pretty much any other medium.

Anil Dash On Blogging

The topic of my paper is, essentially:

The question concerning corporeity connects also with Merleau-Ponty’s reflections on space (l’espace) and the primacy of the dimension of depth (la profondeur) as implied in the notion of being in the world (être au monde; to echo Heidegger’s In-der-Welt-sein) and of one’s own body (le corps propre).

Wikipedia Article On Maurice Merleau-Ponty

So in the months and years to come I will be re-reading, working through, and blogging on Merleau-Ponty (THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF PERCEPTION, THE VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE, and other works) in order to really come to understand, truly get my head around, get a maximal grasp of this notion of ‘the primacy of the dimension of depth as implied in the notion of being in the world and of one’s own body.’  As part of this effort, I will be re-reading and blogging on George Berkeley’s works as well, which, partly as foil, partly in a kind of concurrence, shed light in an interesting way on Merleau-Ponty.

These efforts will fall under the category ‘Primacy Of The Dimension Of Depth.’

Of course, I am far from having finished the other two main categories I have been working on in this blog, to wit: ‘The Argument That Tagalog Lacks A Subject’ (a thread inspired largely by Paz Buenaventura Naylor’s article), and ‘Material Implication And Information Theory’ (inspired largely by Fred Dretske’s KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION and by Edwin D. Mares’ RELEVANT LOGIC).  I intend to continue working on these threads at the same time that I am re-igniting an old flame, my crush on Merleau-Ponty.

If I bore anyone, tough.  You don’t have to read these incoherent/semi-incoherent ramblings.  I am writing largely in order to learn, to get as much clarity as I can in my own head regarding these topics.

Of course, it would be nice if someone else were interested in them, and, even better yet, had something useful and interesting to say about them, whether in disagreement or agreement with me.

It would also be nice if Ashton Kutcher gave me a call.

(No post even touching on philosophy would be completed without an homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM.)  I wonder if Alkibiades was as gorgeous.

## Some Boring MetaBlogging

Number 14 of this pretty much describes what I am trying to do here.  In particular:

…you can work around the edges of an idea over days and weeks and months [and years] and really come to understand it. It’s this process that blogging does better than pretty much any other medium.

This is what I am trying to do with the Relevant Logic/Material Implication/Information Theory viewed through the eyes of Fred Dretske stuff (repeated endlessly).  Who knows, I might even do some endless blogging someday to gain a ‘maximal grasp’ (Merleau-Ponty) on the Roderick Chisholm stuff.

## Shells And Peanuts Again (And Again…And Again…In A Never-Ending GROUNDHOG DAY)

So one more time — but this time with feeling:  following Relevant Logic, we can avoid Classical Logic’s paradoxes 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.  The question of course now is:  what is the relation that makes p relevant to q?  In my previous post, one can, if they are sufficiently drunk, just barely make out the answer:  ‘whatever condition c along with (in the case of subjective probability) knowledge k makes the conditional probability of q equal to 1 given p is what makes p relevant to q.   Sometimes this ‘whatever’ is identical with an INFORMATION THAT relation (p is information that q); sometimes it is not.

( When the relation is identical with the INFORMATION THAT relation, c is the channel of information that allows p to be information that q. When the relation is not identical with the INFORMATION THAT relation, c consists in background conditions, especially causal laws, which, just as in the channel-of-information case, make the conditional probability of q given p 1. My current claim is that even when the relation is not identical with an INFORMATION THAT relation, it has a structure in common with the INFORMATION THAT relation.)

What I propose to do now in the next several posts is go through the> various examples I’ve mentioned previously (shell games, children with measles, wormy red apples, the ringing of defective doorbells, and so on) and a) work out when, in the example, the IF-THEN relation is identical with an INFORMATION-THAT relation and when it is not, and b) see what strange conclusions arise from this account of the relevance-making relation.  Maybe some of these will be so awful that one would prefer Classical Logic’s paradoxes of Material Implication.

In this post I propose to work through Dretske’s famous shell game example.  In that example, one will remember, a peanut is hidden under one of four shells.  I know from whatever reliable means that there is a peanut under 1 of the shells.  This knowledge reduces the probability that (a | the ) peanut is under shell #4 from 1 in whatever billions to just 1 in 4. Maybe my waffling here between ‘a’ and ‘the’ opens up a can of worms; I am unsure. I turn over shell #1.  There is no peanut under that shell.  The conditional probability that the peanut is under any given one of the remaining shells is now 1 in 3.  I turn over shell #2.  Empty.  The conditional probability that the peanut is under any given one of the remaining shells is now 1 in 2.  I say:

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

And what I say is surely true!  True, true, twue!!!!!  For if shell #3 turns out to be empty, then the conditional probability that the peanut is under shell #4 is 1.  The condition c that makes this conditional probability 1 given p is the characteristic that objects have — at least those objects large enough to be immune to whatever quantum weirdness — of persisting in one place unless molested.  The electron (at least according my remembered ((and almost certainly garbled in my memory)) pronouncement of a chemistry TA I had as an undergraduate) one finds orbiting this or that particular atom could have been on the nose of the Mona Lisa before getting observed, and might be there again a moment later.  But the peanut is not going to jump around like that, leaping to shell #1 one moment while unobserved, and onto the nose of the Mona Lisa the next moment.  It is going to stay placidly and inertially where it is — under shell #4 — while one turns over shell #3 and observes it to be empty.  Given this background fact about objects the size of peanuts, shell #3’s proving to be empty rules out the possibility that the peanut is not under shell #4.

Here the relevance-making factor — what makes the IF-THEN statement I uttered true — is also that factor that would make shell #3’s turning out to be empty INFORMATION THAT the peanut is located under shell #4.

But let’s turn back the clock.  I am now back at the point at which I am turning over shell #1.  Empty.  If I now jumped the gun and said (as if this were the movie GROUNDHOG DAY ((which I have not seen, by the way)), in which one atrocious day gets repeated again and again so that…”The phrase “Groundhog Day” has entered common use as a reference to an unpleasant situation that continually repeats, or seems to.”):

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

what I say would surely be false. Or at least it must be false if what I said in my first paragraph is true.  For were I to turn over shell #3 and discover it to be empty, the conditional probability that the peanut is located under shell #4 would not be 1, but 1/2.  So the same IF-THEN statement would be true at one time, and false at another.  And it would be true relative to my knowledge k at one time (I know that shells #1 and #2 are empty), and false relative to my lack of that same knowledge at a different time.

Not coincidentally, the (possible) emptiness of shell #3 being information that the peanut is located under shell #4 is something that is true at some times and false at other times, and is relative to one’s knowledge (or lack thereof) in exactly the same way.  In this particular case, what makes the If p Then q statement true is identical with what makes p information that q.

Now turn back the clock yet one more time (I warned you that this is another iteration of GROUNDHOG DAY).  This time I already know from a reliable source of information, even before I have turned over any shells, that the peanut is located under shell #4.  I turn over shell’s #1 and #2 as before.  Both are empty, as before.

But now, shell #3’s proving to be empty upon turning it over would no longer be INFORMATION THAT the peanut is located under shell #4.  This is so for at least two reasons.  First, according to Information Theory, “old information” is an oxymoron.  It is not information at all.  Shell #3’s turning out to be empty is not going to tell me, inform me, show me, that the peanut is under shell #4 because I already have this information.

Second, to generate information is to effect a reduction in possibilities.  In Dretske’s example of an employee selected by a succession of coin flippings to perform an unpleasant task, the eventual selection of Herman out of 8 possible choices reduced the number of possibilities from 8 to 1.  The selection of Herman generates INFORMATION THAT Herman was selected because of this reduction in possibilities.  But in my situation, already knowing that the peanut is located under shell #4, the number of possibilities regarding where the peanut is located is already just 1.  Turning over shell #3 to prove that it is empty does not reduce the number of possibilities from 2 to 1 — that number was 1 in the first place.  So in my situation shell #3’s proving to be empty does not generate, is not information that, the peanut is located under shell #4.

That the number of possibilities is in my situation just 1, not 2 means of course that the conditional probability that the peanut is located under shell #4 is not 1/2, but 1.  This means that shell #3’s proving to be empty does not make the conditional probability that the peanut is located under shell #4 equal to 1.  For that conditional probability was already equal to 1.  We are supposing that I already know that the peanut is located under shell #4, but I would not know this if the conditional probability were not already 1.  The very strange conditions that would have to obtain to make the conditional probability say, 1 in 2 would rule out this knowledge.  The peanut would have to exist under both shell #3 and shell #4 at the same time while unobserved, then “collapse” to a single location under one of the shells upon turning over the other shell and observing its empty condition.  So to say that I already know the location of the shell is to say that the conditional probability the peanut is at that location equals 1.

Now in the first paragraph of this screed I said (maybe ‘pontificated’ is the better word):

…whatever condition c along with (in the case of subjective probability) knowledge k makes the conditional probability of q equal to 1 given p is what makes p relevant to q.

Here my knowledge k (the peanut is located under shell #4) presupposes certain conditions c (the peanut does not exist in a kind of locational smear when unobserved, only to collapse to a single location when an observation is made).  Here p (shell #3 proves to be empty) along with k and the presupposed c definitely does not make the conditional probability of q equal to 1.  This conditional probability was, given k and its presupposed c, already 1.  So in my situation, p is not relevant to q.

So were I, in my situation of already knowing that the peanut is located under shell #4, to  utter GROUNDHOG-DAY-wise:

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

My statement would be false for exactly the same reason that the following is false:

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

In both cases, the antecedent is irrelevant to the consequent by failing to make the conditional probability of the consequent 1, rendering the corresponding IF-THEN statement false.  The antecedent “If shell #3 is empty” is in my situation irrelevant to the consequent “the peanut is located under shell #4” in exactly the same way that “Cliff lives in Houston” is irrelevant to “the earth has just one moon.” (In exactly the same way?  Yes, at least according to the perhaps narrow definition of relevance I postulated above.  But does this narrowness weaken my claim?  Might the emptiness of shell #3 be relevant to the peanut’s being located under shell #4 in some ((perhaps)) vague way even given my knowledge k?)

To re-iterate (this is a GROUNDHOG DAY post after all), the shell statement is false in my situation for exactly the same reason that “shell #3 is empty” fails to be information that “the peanut is located under shell #4.”  In this particular case, the relevance-making condition which is lacking is identical with an INFORMATION THAT relation.

If so, however, one is faced with a consequence that may strike some as at least equally unappealing as the paradoxes of Material Implication.  (Warning:  I am about to wallow in more GROUNDHOG DAY iterations.)  For when I utter:

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

the statement I utter is false, but when you hear:

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

and your situation is such that you have seen both shells #1 and #2 are empty and you do not know that the peanut is located under shell #4, the statement you hear is true!  The same statement is both true and false at the same time, given different situations.  Put another way, what is true or false (at least for a certain class of IF-THEN statements) is not the statement, but the statement as it shows up in a particular situation.

At least in the case of subjective probability, then, truth is relative in much the same way that Galilean motion is relative.

On a purely autobiographical note, I am not sure this relativity bothers me any more than Galilean relativity (there is the possibility of an ultimate reference frame) or for that matter Einsteinian relativity (there is no ultimate reference frame which would assign a single value to the speed of a moving object) does.  The idea that a person walking inside a flying jet is moving at a speed of 1 mile per hour relative to the reference frame of the jet but at a speed of 501 miles per hour relative to the reference frame of the earth (suppose the jet’s speed is 500 miles per hour) is perfectly intuitive even though it means a contradiction is true (the person is both moving at a speed of 1 mile per hour and is not moving at a speed of 1 mile per hour).

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

Is both true and false at the same time seems to me to be intuitive if one casts it as a matter in which a conclusion’s following (not following) from its premise hinges upon what other knowledge or evidence one has (does not have).  But I do suspect that some would prefer to this relativity of truth and the attendant tolerance of contradiction the weirdness of Classical Logic’s Material Implication which arises from treating Implication as purely truth functional.

If shell #3 is empty, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

is variously true or false — even at the same time — depending upon the already-existing knowledge (or lack of it) of the person uttering or hearing the statement.  By contrast, the following statement is true regardless of what anyone knows, and true in any situation:

If the peanut is located under shell #4, Then the peanut is located under shell #4

In other words:

If p Then p

That the peanut is located under shell #4 clearly suffices to make the conditional probability that the peanut is located under shell #4 1.  So according to my account of what makes p relevant to q, p is relevant to p. p is relevant to itself.  p is in a relation to itself.  I am of course beginning to sound very weird (or maybe weirder) and very Hegelian…and I am beginning to wonder if I can get out of this weirdness by talking about 1-place relations, which are perfectly respectable mathematically.  (Not just 1-place relations!  0-place relations are also quite respectable mathematically!  What is more, Chris Date’s Relational Algebra recognizes two 0-place relations, TABLE DEE which is identical with the that weird proposition in logic TRUE, and TABLE DUM, which is identical with the equally weird proposition in logic FALSE!!!!!!!)

In this section of my post, I will decide that I am Relational-Algebra-weird by treating “If p Then p” as a 1-place INFORMATION THAT relation.  This in turn is part of my larger project to go through each example of IF-THEN statements I’ve adduced in previous posts and decide whether the relevance-making RELATION is in that particular case an INFORMATION-THAT relation or not.

Remember that to generate information is to reduce the number of possibilities to one.  When Herman is selected through 3 successive coin flips out of 8 candidates to perform the unpleasant task, the number of possibilities is reduced from 8 to 1.  The probability of Herman’s getting selected was initially 1 in 8, then became 1.  Whenever any event occurs, some states of affairs comes to obtain, some thing acquiring some property, the probability of that occurrence goes from 1 in (some usually gargantuan number) to just 1.  So any occurrence of p (Herman’s getting selected, shell #3 proving to be empty, a ruby having formed through whatever geological processes exactly one mile underneath where I happen to be sitting now typing this disreputable screed into a WordPress blog, the doorbell’s ringing) generates information.  Sometimes the occurrence of p generates information that q (that the peanut is under shell #4…that someone or something is depressing the button outside….).  But whatever else the occurrence of p generates information about, it generates at the very least the information that p.  Herman’s selection generated the information that Herman was selected, whether or not this information gets transmitted from the source situation in which the selection occurred (the room where the employees performed 3 coin flips) to the situation which is waiting for the information (the room where the boss is sitting).  When the information does get transmitted from source to receiver, the INFORMATION THAT relation is a 2-place relation comprising two situations, source and receiver.  When the information does not get transmitted, but stays where it is in the source, the INFORMATION THAT relation is a 1-place relation, comprising simply the source situation.

When the relevance-making relation that makes If p Then q true is an INFORMATION THAT relation, the occurrence (obtaining, existence) of p generates the information that q.  We have just seen that the occurrence (obtaining, existence) of p generates the information that p. So we get:

If p Then p

as a 1-place INFORMATION THAT relation.  Rather than saying, rather weirdly and rather Hegelianishly, that p is related to itself by virtue of being relevant to itself, we simply say that there exists a 1-place relation comprising the source at which the information that p was generated, and only that source.  This remains an INFORMATION THAT relation even though nothing ever tells me, informs me, shows me that, for example, a ruby exists exactly 1 mile beneath where I am now sitting, typing this disreputable screed into WordPress, or that the peanut is in fact underneath shell #4.  It is just a 1-place, not a 2-place relation, and an INFORMATION THAT relation to boot.

So in all of the following,

If a ruby exists exactly 1 mile underneath where I am now sitting, Then a ruby exists exactly 1 mile underneath where I am now sitting

If the peanut is located underneath shell #4, Then the peanut is located underneath shell #4

If Herman was selected to perform the unpleasant task, Then Herman was selected to perform the unpleasant task

the general relevance-making relation, i.e., the occurrence (obtaining, existence) of p making the conditional probability that p equal to 1, is identical with an INFORMATION THAT relation.  (My ((probably non-existent)) reader will remember that the relevance-making relation is not always an INFORMATION THAT relation.)

And this (after having brought in a ruby example and a Herman’s getting selected example) concludes my working through of most of the peanut-under-a-shell examples.  I still have one more peanut and shell example to work through, namely,

If I turn over shell #4, I will see the peanut

which I will work through in a future post.

Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM is Channing Tatum, who has recently appeared in MAGIC MIKE II.

Channing Tatum is the very walking, talking, breathing, living definition of the words ‘age 35 and beautiful and sexy.’  One of these days I will get around to contemplating Plato’s Form of Beauty itself.  For now, though, I will rest content just contemplating the form of Channing Tatum.

July 18, 2015:  extensive revisions made in probably futile attempt to hide the vastness of the extent of my confusion.

July 21, 2015:  made one more revision in order to try to hide the lack of control I have over the subject matter.

August 02, 2015:  made yet another revision for the same dubious reasons as listed above.

## Shells, Peanuts, And Doorbells: Subjective Probability And The Relevance-Making Relation

So far then, we have the following:  following Relevant Logic, we can avoid Classical Logic’s paradoxes 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.  The question now is:  what is the relation that makes p relevant to q?  I propose that this relation (henceforth the ‘CONDITIONAL PROBABILITY IS 1 relation) can be stated as follows:  given p, the conditional probability of q, (under conditions c, and possibly given knowledge k) would be, or would become 1.

We will see that this relation involves a dependency on p of the value of the conditional probability of q; this dependency though is different from the dependencies I’ve discussed in the previous posts. This dependency is the relevance-making relation we are looking for in our quest to escape from the evil clutches of the Classical Logician.

There are two items in the way I have just stated the CONDITIONAL PROBABILITY IS 1 relation that cry out for discussion.  The first item is the distinction between subjective and objective probability.  (I am a bit surprised that I have not yet seen so far a discussion of this distinction by Dretske, though perhaps I have run across such a discussion but forgotten about it.) The second item is the phrase ‘given that.’

OBJECTIVE VS. SUBJECTIVE PROBABILITY:  In the doorbell examples given in the post below, the CONDITIONAL PROBABILITY IS 1 relation is in both cases objective. In the non-poltergeist example, were the doorbell ringing, the conditional probability would be 1 that someone or something is depressing the button outside. This probability would be 1 regardless of what anyone thinks, knows, or feels. The probability is objective. Likewise, in the poltergeist example, the conditional probability that the doorbell is ringing inside were I to press the button outside would be 1, regardless of what anyone thinks, knows, or feels. In both the poltergeist and the non-poltergeist examples, the CONDITIONAL PROBABILITY IS 1 relation is objective.

By contrast, when I first come across the four shells (in a situation in which I already know that there is a peanut located underneath one of the shells), the conditional probability that the peanut is underneath shell #4 would become 1 in three were shell #1 to prove to be empty; would then become 1 in 2 were shell #2 prove also to be empty, and finally would become 1 were shell #3 to turn out to be empty.  In each case, starting from the very beginning, the conditional probability hinges upon what I already know about the situation and changes with the alterations in my knowledge.  The CONDITIONAL PROBABILITY IS 1 relation in this case is subjective.

Henceforth I will use the phrase ‘would be’ to suggest that the CONDITIONAL PROBABILITY IS 1 relation is objective, and ‘would become’ to suggest that the relation is subjective.  ‘Would be’ suggests that the conditional probability is set from the very beginning and does not change with changes in a person’s knowledge of the situation; ‘would become’ suggests that the conditional probability is not fixed from the very beginning, and does change with increases (or decreases) in a person’s knowledge.

If we allow both objective and subjective probability and identify the relevance of p to q with the CONDITIONAL PROBABILITY IS 1 relation, we then get the result that IF-THEN statements are relative when the relevance relation is based on subjective probability.  In your situation, when you have first come upon the 4 shells (and you may not even know that there is a peanut is located underneath one of the shells!), the statement:

1)  If shell #3 turns out to be empty, Then a (the) peanut is located under shell #4

is false, because in your situation the Conditional Probability that a peanut is located under shell #4 would clearly not become 1 were shell #3 to turn out to be empty.  But in my situation, given what I know, that statement is true.  The Conditional Probability would definitely, in my situation, become 1 were shell #3 to prove to be empty.  So at least those IF-THEN statements belonging to a certain class — i.e., those whose relevance relation is based on subjective probability — display a relativity similar to the Galilean relativity of motion.

If one wants to avoid this (possibly, for some — at least for me –) counter-intuitive, paradoxical-seeming result, they may want to rule out subjective probability and base IF-THEN statements only on objective probability.  But what would ‘objective probability’ be in the case of the shell game?  I think it makes intuitive sense to claim something like:  ‘given that the peanut was located under shell #4 from the very beginning, chances were always 100% (the conditional probability was always 1) from the very beginning that the peanut was under shell #4.  (In other words, given p, the conditional probability of p is 1.  OMG — If p Then p!)   But let’s take a closer look at the phrase ‘given that’.

GIVEN THAT:  ‘Given that p, the conditional probability of q is 1′ means, I take it, that what the conditional probability of q is hinges upon, depends upon, p.  In the non-poltergeist doorbell example, that conditional probability of the button outside being pushed is 1 hinges upon the doorbell’s ringing.  If there is no ringing, the conditional probability of the button’s being depressed is not 1, but 1/100, or 1/100,000, or whatever.  (Remember that the conditions c of the doorbell’s defective wiring are such that 1% of the time the doorbell does not ring when the button outside is getting pushed.)  No ringing, no conditional probability equaling 1.   In the poltergeist doorbell example, that the conditional probability of the doorbell’s ringing inside is 1 and not 1/2, or 1/10,000, or whatever, hinges upon my pressing the button outside.  (Remember that in this example the conditions c of the doorbell’s defective wiring are such that 1% of the time the doorbell rings even when no one or nothing is depressing the button, creating the impression that a poltergeist must be dwelling inside the doorbell apparatus.)  No pressing of the button, no conditional probability equaling 1.

Note that this is a case of the value of the conditional probability of q hinging upon p.  This is to be distinguished from, for example, the ringing’s causally depending upon the button’s getting depressed, or the fact that I am about to see the peanut causally depends upon my lifting shell #4 (plus other factors).

Now if we do not allow subjective probability, the only GIVEN THAT relation that holds in the case of the shell game example is ‘given that the peanut is under shell #4, the conditional probability of the peanut’s being under shell #4 is 1’.  This is the only case that does not depend upon what a person already knows.  So statements 1 through 3 below would all be false for exactly the reason that 4) is false:  there is no longer any relation that would make p relevant to q by p‘s giving the conditional probability of q the value of 1:

1)  If shell #3 turns out to be empty, Then a (the) peanut is located under shell #4

2) If shell #1 turns out to be empty, Then a (the) peanut is located under shell #4

3) If shell #2 turns out to be empty, Then a (the) peanut is located under shell #4

4)  If Cliff lives in Houston, then a (the) peanut is located under shell #4

But there are situations in which statements 1 through 3 are true — situations in which my knowledge and yours vary.  I submit then that the price of jettisoning subjective probability is one that is too high to pay.  We need to keep subjective probability, and along with it the Galilean-like relativity of those IF-THEN statements whose relevance-making CONDITIONAL PROBABILITY is 1 relation is an instance of subjective probability.

Let me see what I will make of all of this in the morning, when I am sober.

Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM comprises Sal Mineo and the guy he crushed on, James Dean.

Beauty so wonderful, so fleeting.

## My Attempt To Identify The IF-THEN Relation With The INFORMATION-THAT Relation Ignominiously Bites The Dust

Here is yet another challenge to the idea that ‘If p Then q’ is true when the occurrence of p is information that q.  Unfortunately, I think this challenge nails the matter. Consider Dretske’s shell game example.  The peanut is under shell #4.  So the following statement is true (given that my visual faculties are in sufficiently good working order, and that I am looking in the proper direction with my eyes open):

If I turn shell #4 over now (t0), I will see a peanut at time t1

(t1 being one millisecond or whatever later than t0.)  Is my turning shell #4 over at time t0 information that I see a peanut at t1? Certainly the situation largely fits Dretske’s definition of ‘information that’:

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

(k represents what the receiver already knows about the source.)  The conditional probability of my seeing the peanut at t1 is certainly 1 given my turning the shell over at t0 (and given the other conditions mentioned).  So the IF-THEN statement above certainly fits that part of the definition of informational content.

But is my turning the shell over at time t0 a signal that at time t1 that I see the peanut?  A signal is  “…any event, condition, or state of affairs the existence (occurrence) of which may depend on s‘s being F.”  (Dretske, p. 65.)  Does my turning the shell over now depend upon my seeing the peanut one millisecond in the future?  How can a present event depend upon a future event?  Clearly not.

A signal cannot occur before the event or thing or state of affairs the occurrence (existence, obtaining) of which it signals.  The smoke does not occur before the fire (or the smoldering).  The doorbell does not ring before the button is pushed.  The deer tracks in the snow do not appear before the deer show up.  Were the watchman in Aeschylus’ play AGAMEMNON in the ORESTEIA trilogy to light his fire before he spots Agamemnon’s ships, his fire would not be a signal informing Clytemnestra of the appearance of those ships on the scene:  Clytemnestra would be receiving false information.  Something cannot be announced before it occurs (exists, obtains).

“But the dark clouds signal the rain that is about to fall; the sports official signals the race that is about to start in one millisecond by firing the pistol into the air.”  Someone may object in this way to my (seemingly obvious) claim that a signal cannot occur before the thing it signals.  Yet, although we can doubtlessly “round up” the dark clouds and the firing of the pistol to the status of signals, they are not so in the very strictest sense of ‘signal’ that I intend to use here.  For the conditional probability that, given the dark clouds, rain will fall is perhaps only 99%, while the probability that the race actually will start given the firing of the pistol is perhaps only 99.9999999999% (the supernova that will hit us eventually may choose that exact millisecond to intervene by making its presence glaringly, searingly obvious, or a huge earthquake might strike at that very moment….).

A signal is  “…any event, condition, or state of affairs the existence (occurrence) of which may depend on s‘s being F” and therefore cannot occur before the occurrence (existence, obtaining) of s‘s coming to be F.   The examples I’ve just given are not signals because they occur after what they “signal”, and — surely not coincidentally — they do not depend upon what they “signal.”  Let me dwell a moment, perhaps a bit obsessively/compulsively, on this notion of dependence.  Let me say that an event, object, or state of affairs p depends upon an event, object, or state of affairs q when, given a condition c,  p would occur (exists, obtain) only because q occurs (exists, obtains).

Consider, for example, a doorbell whose wiring is defective in such a way that, 99% of the time when the button outside is getting depressed by someone or something, the doorbell rings.  But 1% of the time the doorbell does not ring when the button outside is getting depressed. (I state the example this way to make it mirror the fact that p does not follow from If p Then q; q.)  Also, there is no poltergeist inside the wiring that sometimes generates the ringing sound even when no one or nothing is pressing the button outside; likewise, there is never, ever any freak burst of electricity ultimately caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon that generates a buttonless ringing sound.  Nor (somewhat more plausibly) is there any defect in the wiring that would ever cause a buttonless ringing sound to occur. Let c be the condition of the defective wiring as just described (including the absence of ring-generating poltergeists).  Given c (which I will call the non-poltergeist condition), the doorbell would ring only because the button outside is getting depressed (even though the button’s getting depressed does not necessarily result in the doorbell’s ringing)*.  Given c, the doorbell’s ringing depends upon someone or something’s depressing the button outside and is therefore a signal.  (A signal, moreover, carrying the information that someone or something is depressing the button outside, because the conditional probability of this is 1 given the doorbell’s ringing under condition c.  Another way to put this is to make the perhaps obvious/tautologous point that to be a signal is to carry information.)

Consider another example, one which is perhaps belongs more to the realm of probability than to causality.  One has turned over shells #1 and # 2 and verified that both are empty. They have information that the peanut is located in one of the four shells.  So c is now the condition that either the peanut is located under shell #3 or under shell #4.  Given c, shell #3 would be empty only because it is shell #4 that is covering the peanut.  It is, in fact, difficult to come up with any clear idea of anything else that could be the reason why shell #3 is empty.  Shell #3’s being empty therefore depends upon the peanut’s being located under shell #4, and the former would be a signal carrying information that the latter.  (Conversely, given that there is only 1 peanut at play in the game and given the rest of c, shell #4’s turning out to have the peanut would be a signal carrying information that shell #3 is empty.  Shell #4 would have the peanut only because shell #3 is empty. )

Now consider again the turning over shell #4 example given above as an instance of an event, object, or state of affairs that very definitely is not a signal carrying information.  It would be difficult to give any meaning to the assertion:

my turning shell #4 over at time toccurs only because I will see a peanut at time t1

Such an assertion would not, I submit, make any clear sense, since the dependency aka only because relationship is a vector traveling forward (to speak metaphorically) in time.

Also consider yet one more doorbell example:  suppose that the doorbell’s wiring is screwy in such a way that every now and then little bursts of electricity get generated which produce the ringing sound even when no one or no thing is depressing the button outside.  (Or, if you prefer, there is a poltergeist residing inside the wiring that every now and then gets agitated by a freak burst of air pressure inside the contraption that is ultimately caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon….)  Nonetheless, the condition of the wiring is such that the doorbell always rings when the button is getting pushed.  100 percent of the time the doorbell rings when the button outside gets pushed, but 1% of the time the doorbell is ringing buttonlessly. (I state the example this way to make it mirror the fact that q does not follow from If q Then p; p.  And I am making it mirror this because, of course, the whole point of these interminable disquisitions is to dig into the nature of IF-THEN statements.)  Let me call this condition of the wiring c, as usual.  (In a moment I will be calling it the ‘poltergeist condition.>)  Given c, it would be difficult to give any sense to the following assertion:

My pressing the button outside occurs only because the doorbell is ringing.

Clearly, my pressing the button outside does not depend upon, and is not a signal for, the doorbell’s ringing.  Again, the pressing of the button does not depend upon the doorbell ringing because the dependency aka only because relationship is a vector traveling forward, not backward, in time.

“Feel free to come to the point when you finally have one,” my (possibly non-existent) reader may want to say.  Well, the point of all of the above is the following.  Given their respective condition c’s, each of the following IF-THEN statements is true:

1) If I turn shell #4 over now (t0), then I will see a peanut at time t1

2) If I press the button outside [given the poltergeist condition], then the doorbell will ring.

3) If shell #3 is empty, then the peanut is located under shell #4.

4) If the doorbell is ringing [given the non-poltergeist condition], then someone or something is depressing the button outside.

Although the antecedent p is a signal carrying the information that q in the last two examples, it is not such a signal in the first two examples.

These examples, I think, nail it:  IF-THEN statements cannot be identified with an information relation.  My attempt to identify the IF-THEN relation with the INFORMATION-THAT relation has ignominiously bitten the dust.  (Sob, sob.) Does this mean, then, that we are stuck after all with Classical Logic’s paradoxes of Material Implication, whereby both of the following statements are true?

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

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

(Please God, please God, please don’t let these statements be true.)  Well, maybe we aren’t forced to accept these horribly ugly statements as true after all.  For in each of the 4 numbered examples given above, the conditional probability of the consequent (given the antecedent plus the relevant condition c ((plus the relevant knowledge k))) remains 1.  It is just that in the first two examples the antecedent does not depend upon the consequent, and therefore is not a signal carrying the information that the consequent.  It is not a p only because q relationship.  Perhaps, then, we can identify the IF-THEN relation with a different (but similar) relation, which I will call ‘the conditional probability is 1‘ relation. If so, it would remain true that in examples 3 and 4 above, the antecedent p is a signal carrying information that q.  So whenever p does depend upon q in such a way as to be a signal for q the corresponding IF-THEN statements would, possibly, have the (at least to me) weird properties mentioned in a previous post:

Third, the informational relation is both intentional and relative, as described by Fred Dretske in his KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION.  Treating If p Then q as an information relation would make implication both intentional and relative.  The very same If p Then q statement would be true inside some frameworks and false inside others.  Rather than accept this, some would perhaps rather accept Classical Logic’s paradoxes of Material Implication.

(Sidenote:  Dretske’s measles example displays the intentional character of information.  By pure chance, all of Herman’s children happen to have the measles; moreover, one does not know this.  So when one discovers that a particular person is a child of Herman’s, they do not have information that this person has the measles.) Or are we truly stuck with this weirdness? Can we find a way to make implication non-relative and non-intentional even in those cases in which p happens to be a signal carrying the information that q?

Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM is this gorgeous young Asian Man:

It is hard to understand how anyone can get any work done at all with Beauty like this walking the earth, but somehow we do. How sleek all those black, white, and gray tones are!

Post Updated on June 27, 2015 to make the temporal vector nature of the dependency/only because relation clearer. (Or, if my reader is particularly suspicious, they are free to think I made the update in order to cover up some totally obvious mistakes, not simply to make a somewhat muddy post slightly clearer.)

## Measles, Wormy Red Apples, And God (And Peanuts)

In his Knowledge and the Flow of Information, Dretske argues that what information a signal carries is relative to what the receiver already knows about the possibilities at the source:

Fred Dretske, KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION, Stanford, CSLI Publications, 1999, pp. 78-79

The third shell’s proving to be empty when it is turned over is, for me, information that the peanut is hidden under shell 4.  But for you, it is not information that the peanut is hidden under shell 4.  What information a signal carries (here the signal is the third shell’s proving to be empty when turned over) is relative to what one already knows.

Let’s apply this conclusion to the measles and wormy read apple examples.

Suppose that one has received information that all of Herman’s children have the measles.  Should one then discover (say, a friend tells them this) that this layabout in front of one’s shop is a child of Herman’s, that this person is a child of Herman’s is now, all of a sudden, information that this person has the measles.  Before one knew that all of Herman’s children have the measles, that this person is a child of Herman’s was not information that the person has the measles.

The same reasoning applies mutatis mutandis to the wormy red apple example.  If one has information (say, received from a person who has previously examined all of the apples in the pile)  that all of the red apples in the pile are wormy, then that the apple in one’s hand drawn from this pile is red is information that the apple is wormy.  Before one has received the information that all of the red apples in the pile are wormy, a signal that the apple in one’s hand is red is not information that it is wormy.  In both the measles and the wormy red apples examples, what information a signal carries depends upon, is relative to, what one already knows.

So if one claims that If p Then q is true only when the occurrence of p is information that q, then the truth of these sentences (henceforth the ‘measles’ and  ‘wormy red apple’ statements)…

If this layabout loitering about on the front of my shop is a child of Herman’s, then this person has the measles.

and

If this apple (drawn from this particular pile) in my hand is red, then it is wormy

…is relative to what one already knows.  They will be true relative to the person who already knows that all of Herman’s children have the measles (without necessarily knowing that this particular person in front of their shop is a child of Herman’s) and that all of the red apples in this pile happen to be wormy.  They will be false relative to the person who does not already know these things.

In previous posts, I noted as an autobiographical fact that I had the strong intuition that both statements above are true, regardless of what one already knows.  But perhaps this intuition, in spite of its being my intuition, should not be regarded as totally sacrosanct.  For I will venture that most people would not be bothered by the relativity of this statement (henceforth the ‘third shell proves empty’ statement):

If the third shell proves to be empty, then the peanut is located under the fourth shell

Clearly (although I say ‘clearly’ with some trepidation, in the spirit of ‘let me throw this piece of spaghetti onto the wall, and see if it sticks,’ or, alternatively, ‘let me see if I can get away with this statement without too many screams of protest’), this statement would be true in the situation occupied by the person who already knows that the first and second shells are empty, and false in the situation occupied by the person who does not already know these things.

What can be learned from, inferred from, concluded from the third shell’s being empty, the apple’s being red, the layabout’s being a child of Herman’s, depends upon the situation one is in that is defined by what one already knows.  There isn’t, I think, anything controversial or counter-intuitive about this.  IF-THEN statements have everything to do with what can be learned from, inferred from, concluded from a given situation.  So the truth/falsity of the corresponding If p Then q statements is also relative to the situation one is in as defined by what one already knows.

And if one is still bothered by this, would one rather return to the paradoxes of Material Implication?

(Begin aside:  Remember that what is motivating this entire attempt to argue that If p Then q is true only when p is information that q is to escape from the paradoxes of Material Implication, which would count both of the following statements as true:

If Calypso music originated in Wisconsin, then the earth has two moons

and

If Paris is the capital of France, then the earth has one moon

To escape these paradoxes, we need to find a way to make p relevant to q in some way.  And the most plausible way to do this, I assert, is to insist that p be information that q.  End Of Aside.)

To undermine my initial intuition further, suppose that one has obtained information that all of the apples in the pile — both yellow and red — are wormy.  In that case, should one (blindfolded) handle each apple in turn and say ‘If this apple is red then it is wormy’, his statement would be (I venture) false.  For the redness of the apple is, in this situation, no longer what excludes the possibility that it is not wormy, or, put another way, is no longer the factor that renders as 1 the probability that the apple is wormy.  That factor is now the fact that the apple is from this pile, not that it is red.  Since the apple’s being red is no longer relevant to its being wormy (is no longer what makes the probability the apple is wormy 1), one cannot learn from, conclude from, infer from its being red that it is wormy. The apple’s being wormy no longer hinges on its being red. The statement is now false for exactly the same reason that ‘If Paris is the capital of France then the earth has one moon’ is false.

One might try to preserve a version of the intuition that the measles and wormy red apple statements are true regardless of anyone’s knowledge by proposing that these are true independently of what any finite intelligence knows or doesn’t know.  What if there were an infinite intelligence — a God who knows everything in general, and the measles status of Herman’s children, the worminess status of the red apples in the pile, and the location of the peanut under the fourth shell in particular.  One could then accurately say the ‘measles’, ‘wormy red apples’, and ‘the third shell proves empty’ statements are true objectively, that is to say, sub specie aeternitatis, even if they are true or false as the case may be, from the subjective standpoints of this or that finite intelligence.

The analogy would be with Galilean motion studied in High School physics.  An object may be moving at 10 miles per hour given one reference frame and 60 miles an hour given another reference frame; nonetheless, there was to be some absolute reference frame embracing all of them which would let one give an absolute, non-relative value to the object’s speed.

But the intuition cannot be rescued this way.  For clearly, nothing could ever be a signal, could be information-that, for an infinite intelligence that knew everything.  Such an intelligence with its penetrating x-ray vision would already know, for example, that the peanut was located under the fourth shell.  Given this knowledge, the third shell’s proving empty would not reduce to 1 for this intelligence the number of possibilities regarding the location of the shell.  For the number of such possibilities was already 1 for this intelligence.  Likewise, for this all-knowing intelligence, that this particular layabout is a child of Herman’s would do nothing to reduce to 1 the probability that this person has the measles.  Nor would the fact that this particular apple is red reduce for this intelligence the number of possibilities regarding the worminess status of the apple from 2 (the apple is wormy or non-wormy) to 1 (the apple is wormy).  With no reduction of possibilities, there is no signal carrying information-that in any of these cases.

God’s knowledge cannot serve as the equivalent in logic of the Galilean absolute reference frame.

Not only is information-that relative to what one already knows, it also requires finitude.  No limitation on one’s knowledge — no hiddenness — no information-that.  And if the truth of If p Then q statements requires that the occurrence of p be information that q, the truth of these statements also require finitude.

One final note:  how can one account for the illusion (if it is that) that both the measles and the wormy red apply statements are true regardless of what one already knows?  I think the answer lies in the fact that, after completely talking through one’s hat at time 1 with the statement “If this apple is red, then it is wormy,” one were later at time 2 to examine all of the red apples and discovered they were all wormy (and that just some of the yellow apples were), it would seem that, since the statement is true at time 2, it would have to have been true at time 1.  The truth value of a statement like this can’t change, can it?  Maybe we would prefer to accept the paradoxes of Material Implication after all.  But it seems to me that one should accept that, at least in the case of the ‘third shell proves empty’ statement, the truth value of that statement can change with time as one obtains more knowledge (you later get information that the first and second shells also proved to be empty).  So the truth value of the measles and wormy red apples statements changing over time should not prove to be an absolute obstacle.

*****

The entire point of this exercise is not just to make grandiose metaphysically-existentialist-sounding statements such as ‘logical implication requires finitude’ (although I must admit this is one of my aims), but also to escape from Classical Logic’s paradoxes of Material Implication by insisting that there must be some relation between p and q that makes p relevant to q, and that this relation consists in p‘s being information that q.

In the previous post, I noted two apparent counterexamples (the measles and wormy red apple statements) that would seem to preclude identifying this hoped-for relevance-making relation with information-that.  These statements seem to be true even though in these cases p is not information that q.  Also, identifying this relation with information-that would make the truth of IF-THEN statements relative to what one already knows, an implication that may make one prefer the paradoxes of Classical Logic’s Material Implication.

In this post, I employ the ‘third shell proves empty’ statement, as well as the close connection (I claim) that IF-THEN statements have with what one can learn from, infer from, or conclude from a situation to remove whatever counter-intuitiveness might adhere to the notion that the truth of IF-THEN statements is relative to what one knows.  (Of course what one can learn, infer from, conclude from a situation depends upon what one already knows.  Of course the truth/falsity of ‘the third shell proves empty’ statement depends as well upon what one already knows.)  If one can accept the relativity of IF-THEN statements, they will be in a better position to accept the idea that those cases in which p is not information that q (the redness of the apple sometimes fails to be information that the apple is wormy; that this person is a child of Herman’s sometimes fails to be information that this person has the measles)  are also cases in which If p Then q is false.

This leaves the third difficulty mentioned in the previous post:  what to do about the statement If p Then p?  Is a channel of information supposed to exist between p and the self-same p?

Do I have a song and dance that will eliminate this difficulty?

*****

Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM is the soccer player James Rodriguez.

From math teachers to soccer players…How can anyone get anything at all done with beauty like this walking the earth?