Formalism

Upon encountering passive and active resistance, and apathy regarding my persistent (- but I will be the first to note, of questionably formal precision -) focus on logic, rationality, limits, formalism: I ponder some more on the relationships of the above to emotions, building of opinions and changing of minds.

It was said that logic, formalism, rationality and evidence are all fine and dandy, but they do not comprise what it takes to influence minds into doing XYZ. It was said that people make up their minds, change them et. al. based on emotions and no strength of logic will get Joe/Jane to do something they wouldn’t do if it weren’t for another’s influence. In other words, an appeal to people’s reason is inconsequential. Shouting against the wind. Also, who is to say nonformal, haphazard, inconsistent or whimsical means, methods and frameworks do not contain truth or do not offer equally valid approaches at getting at answers.

There is a lot of truth in the above statements, and they contain little I would disagree with if presented as such. However, I have to state where logic, formalism, demonstration of evidence, appeal to reason etc. do play a role. Perhaps I will present this as a laundry list.

  • We are minds that do not start out with complete knowledge of everything. In other words, we need to learn to fill in the incompleteness in our knowledge.
  • We need to exchange information in order to learn.
  • If it were true that one needs to influence a mind in a write-only (or more write-only than read-write) fashion, then a formal system that uses logic, reasoning to build on established ideas and principles is probably not the most effective instrument.
  • I am more interested in the “read” part of “read-write” than in the “write” part.
  • The “read” part of “read-write” is important. This is what enables learning.
  • For the read part of read-write to be effective, demagoguery is not the right instrument. The below bullet-points on this.
  • If my mind were to provably advance in knowledge-update, it has to convey information to another mind in clear, transparent ways where the path traversed to labels are visible to the other mind. Elaboration in next bullet.
  • When a held position and its motivations are transparently exposed to another mind, that is when the other mind can offer checks and guidelines to further knowledge-update to my own mind. By occluding the traversed paths i.e. introducing any non-transparency, I may protect myself from criticism, but I will be stubbing out learning along that unexposed vector.
  • The above bullet point means that while an argument by emotion, or to emotion, such as appeal to emotion may hold truth value and may convey truth to a mind, this truth value may not be establishable in a framework where the path-transparency is guaranteed. In other words, this truth that may be felt is not provable leading to lack of transparency, leading to lack of utility in further guaranteeable knowledge update.
  • This is why, while a statement such as “I’ll vote for Clinton, because I feel good about her” may hold intrinsic appeal and may be above reproach, and that is how people may decide on their voting, its intercommunicability-value with another mind is low. Lack of transparency means lack of communicability on a commonly establishable basis.
  • The role of logic, formalism and reasoning is to provide a framework which if accepted by minds engaging in answer-seeking, lead to establishable ideas the trails to which remain transparent, and further provide transparent trails to other ideas following the same system that led to the labeling of intermediate nodes.
  • This, in my opinion is the value of reasoning and frameworks. It is “establishability” of meaning that can be held common across minds.
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5 comments
  1. pseudopseudointellectual said:

    “The role of logic, formalism and reasoning is to provide a framework which if accepted by minds engaging in answer-seeking, lead to establishable ideas the trail to which remain transparent”

    This presumes the existence of a communication infrastructure in which the logical, formal and reasoning constructs can be exchanged without ambiguity.

    The points you raise are germane to education. IMHO, it is far more important to teach ‘how to think’ rather than ‘what to think’.

  2. pseudopseudointellectual said:

    Perhaps that is what you meant by ‘framework’ in the first place?

    I don’t understand the word framework ! Is it an abstract concept or a concrete implementation of something?

  3. Unawoken said:

    Yes, the framework is a the arena where the rules are agreed upon, if not explicitly, but implicitly. From a rigorous point of view, this is presumptuous – it raises the “who is to say” red flag. However, even the simplest of communications involve presumptions of protocol/framework. What if I responded to your question in a language I just made up, for example?
    It is true that the axioms of a framework may be rejected by a party. In that case, formalized communication breaks down.

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