Re: Natural Propositions
Jon Awbrey <jawbrey <at> att.net>
2014-09-03 20:16:57 GMT
Re: Gary Fuhrman
That selection from W.S. McCulloch is one of several that I seem to find find myself citing on a
periodic basis, most recently including it in a series of historical watershed statements that are
widely misunderstood, or at least whose significance is widely missed.
One of the passages that I find so paradigm-shifting is here:
In 1923 I gave up the attempt to write a logic of transitive verbs and began to see what I could do
with the logic of propositions. My object, as a psychologist, was to invent a kind of least psychic
event, or “psychon”, that would have the following properties: First, it was to be so simple an
event that it either happened or else it did not happen. Second, it was to happen only if its bound
cause had happened — shades of Duns Scotus! — that is, it was to imply its temporal antecedent.
Third, it was to propose this to subsequent psychons. Fourth, these were to be compounded to
produce the equivalents of more complicated propositions concerning their antecedents.
Here we have a psychic embodiment or a neural representation of a logical proposition that implies
its temporal antecedent. That is to say, the logical arrow is going in the opposite direction from
the causal or temporal arrow.
Now, no one has to buy WSM's model of an "embodied mind" any more than one has to buy CSP's model of
a physio-logical syllogism, but a critical comparison of the two models sampled here does open up a
wide field of possibilities beyond the knee-jerk view.
Gary Fuhrman wrote:
> Jon, Edwina, lists,
> Yes, I read McCullough a few decades ago and learned a lot from him, long
> before I started reading Peirce). But I think part of the problem here is
> that for Peirce, and I think for his contemporaries, "physiology" is closer
> to "phenomenology" than it is to "physics". It is the study of forms and
> sturctures generally, not only of physical forms and biological structures.
> For instance, in his classification of sciences where he's discussing
> phenomenology, esthetics and ethics, he writes:
> "The true principal purpose of these sciences is the Classification of
> possible forms. But this must be founded on a study of the Physiology of
> those forms, their general elements, parts, and mode of action. Thereupon
> should follow the Classificatory part, including the general discussion of
> what is good and what bad; and this should be followed up by a study of the
> principles that govern the production of such forms" (EP2:272).
> The same applies to the usage of "physiology" in the 1883 quote I posted
> today. Peirce is talking about the physiology of *logic* (i.e. of semiosis
> as he would put it later on), not primarily about biology or physics or
> psychology. That excerpt is about the connection of syllogistic logic with
> primitive forms of *cognition*, but Edwina reads it pansemiotically as
> applying to physical "organization of matter" all the way down to the
> molecular (maybe the atomic?) level, and thus doesn't distinguish between
> cognitive and physical processes. But for purposes of NP, we don't need to
> engage in the endless debate over pansemiotics; primitive cognition is as
> far down as we need to go in theorizing its continuity with reasoning.
> gary f.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jon Awbrey [mailto:jawbrey <at> att.net]
> Sent: 3-Sep-14 9:18 AM
> To: Gary Fuhrman
> Cc: biosemiotics <at> lists.ut.ee; 'Peirce List'
> Subject: Re: Natural Propositions
> This "knee-jerk view" of logic and thought is one of many places where
> Peirce makes interesting suggestions worth pursuing but where the pursuit
> almost immediately runs into a host of problems.
> These issues have been discussed, here and elsewhere, many times before, and
> I cannot begin to sum it all up at this time, but here is one hint from a
> modern fore-runner with a deep knowledge of Peirce's work and its potential
> applications to AI, cognitive science, and neuroscience:
> Excerpt from Warren S. McCulloch,
> “What Is a Number, that a Man May Know It, and a Man, that He May Know a
> Number?” (1960)
> Please remember that we are not now concerned with the physics and
> chemistry, the anatomy and physiology, of man. They are my daily business.
> They do not contribute to the logic of our problem.
> Despite Ramon Lull’s combinatorial analysis of logic and all of his
> followers, including Leibniz with his universal characteristic and his
> persistent effort to build logical computing machines, from the death of
> William of Ockham logic decayed. There were, of course, teachers of logic.
> The forms of the syllogism and the logic of classes were taught, and we
> shall use some of their devices, but there was a general recognition of
> their inadequacy to the problems in hand. […] The difficulty is that they
> had no knowledge of the logic of relations, and almost none of the logic of
> propositions. These logics really began in the latter part of the last
> century with Charles Peirce as their great pioneer. As with most pioneers,
> many of the trails he blazed were not followed for a score of years. For
> example, he discovered the amphecks — that is, “not both … and …” and
> “neither … nor …”, which Sheffer rediscovered and are called by his name for
> them, “stroke functions”.
> It was Peirce who broke the ice with his logic of relatives, from which
> springs the pitiful beginnings of our logic of relations of two and more
> than two arguments. So completely had the traditional Aristotelian logic
> been lost that Peirce remarks that when he wrote the Century Dictionary he
> was so confused concerning abduction, or apagoge, and induction that he
> wrote nonsense. Thus Aristotelian logic, like the skeleton of Tom Paine, was
> lost to us from the world it had engendered. Peirce had to go back to Duns
> Scotus to start again the realistic logic of science.
> Pragmatism took hold, despite its misinterpretation by William James. The
> world was ripe for it.
> Frege, Peano, Whitehead, Russell, Wittgenstein, followed by a host of lesser
> lights, but sparked by many a strange character like Schroeder, Sheffer,
> Gödel, and company, gave us a working logic of propositions. By the time I
> had sunk my teeth into these questions, the Polish school was well on its
> way to glory.
> In 1923 I gave up the attempt to write a logic of transitive verbs and began
> to see what I could do with the logic of propositions. My object, as a
> psychologist, was to invent a kind of least psychic event, or “psychon”,
> that would have the following properties: First, it was to be so simple an
> event that it either happened or else it did not happen. Second, it was to
> happen only if its bound cause had happened — shades of Duns Scotus! — that
> is, it was to imply its temporal antecedent.
> Third, it was to propose this to subsequent psychons. Fourth, these were to
> be compounded to produce the equivalents of more complicated propositions
> concerning their antecedents.
> In 1929 it dawned on me that these events might be regarded as the
> all-or-none impulses of neurons, combined by convergence upon the next
> neuron to yield complexes of propositional events. (McCulloch 1965, 7–9).
> Warren S. McCulloch, “What Is a Number, that a Man May Know It, and a Man,
> that He May Know a Number?”, Ninth Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture,
> General Semantics Bulletin, Numbers 26 and 27, Institute of General
> Semantics, Lakeville, CT, 1961, pp. 7–18. Reprinted in Embodiments of Mind,
> MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1965, pp. 1–18. Online.
> Gary Fuhrman wrote:
>> For those who haven't yet obtained the book or read the introduction,
>> I'd like to present here a quotation from Peirce which shows that long
>> before he developed the famous ten classes of signs (diagram EP2:296),
>> he was already thinking (as Frederik put it yesterday) that "the main
>> phenomenon is reasoning, the chain of arguments - and the whole of the
>> semiotic machinery is developed to understand the physiology of
>> reasoning - so icons, rhemes, etc. refer to specific aspects of the
>> chain of reasoning." For Peirce, this "physiology of reasoning"
>> extends from the formal syllogism all the way down to the most
>> primitive forms of cognition, and NP p.5-6 quotes this example from 1883:
>> The cognition of a rule is not necessarily conscious, but is of the
>> nature of a habit, acquired or congenital. The cognition of a case is
>> of the general nature of a sensation; that is to say, it is something
>> which comes up into present consciousness. The cognition of a result
>> is of the nature of a decision to act in a particular way on a given
>> occasion. In point of fact, a syllogism in Barbara virtually takes
>> place when we irritate the foot of a decapitated frog. The connection
>> between the afferent and efferent nerve, whatever it may be,
>> constitutes a nervous habit, a rule of action, which is the
>> physiological analogue of the major premiss. The disturbance of the
>> ganglionic equilibrium, owing to the irritation, is the physiological
>> form of that which, psychologically considered, is a sensation; and,
>> logically considered, is the occurrence of a case. The explosion
>> through the efferent nerve is the physiological form of that which
>> psychologically is a volition, and logically the inference of a
>> result. When we pass from the lowest to the highest forms of
>> inervation, the physiological equivalents escape our observation; but,
>> psychologically, we still have, first, habit--which in its highest
>> form is understanding, and which corresponds to the major premiss of
>> Barbara; we have, second, feeling, or present consciousness,
>> corresponding to the minor premiss of Barbara; and we have, third,
>> volition, corresponding to the conclusion of the same mode of
>> syllogism. Although these analogies, like all very broad
>> generalizations, may seem very fanciful at first sight, yet the more
>> the reader reflects upon them the more profoundly true I am confident
>> they will appear. They give a significance to the ancient system of
>> formal logic which no other can at all share. ("A Theory of Probable
>> Inference", 1883, 2.711 )
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