Lonergan Forum

Main Forum Topics => Insight => Topic started by: Richard Moodey on October 23, 2012, 11:42:56 AM

Title: Emergent Probability
Post by: Richard Moodey on October 23, 2012, 11:42:56 AM
I have started this topic in the hope that Mounce will report on some of his criticisms of emergent probability.  This is a feature of Lonergan's thought that I have used rather extensively in my teaching of sociology.
Dick Moodey
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: mounce.d on October 23, 2012, 05:58:12 PM
Thanks Dick, you might find an essay or two in Google Groups from the Lonergan listserv, but I guess I could begin by asking how Lonergan might have viewed the nature of probability.  That might provide a foundation, and perhaps even a recommendation, for why emergent is a useful modifier.
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: Richard Moodey on October 31, 2012, 07:16:06 PM
I have never thought that Lonergan's notion of probability -- the probability of an event -- was any different from that which is taught in any elementary statistics class.  The probability of a toss of an unbiased coin coming up heads is .5, etc.   Is your interpretation of him different?
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: mounce on November 01, 2012, 01:57:17 PM
Hi Dick, these first steps are delicate.  We have introduced two words with complex meaning, "event" and "probability", but I understand what you are roughly saying that the more you "toss" an unbiased coin the closer you expect to get to an average binary distribution.  If we do this a thousand times, for example, then we might employ a quantitative analysis to propose qualitative features that would help us place a bet on one event, or perhaps a series of events.  I think Lonergan deferred from explaining the nature of probability with Insight, and relied on this inferred sense.  His specific idea about a single event was not-quite-right, but his idea about predicting aggregate events is pretty-good.

"Ludwig Boltzman, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics. Perhaps it will be wise to approach the subject cautiously."  (Opening lines of "States of Matter", by D.L. Goodstein).     :)
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: Richard Moodey on November 04, 2012, 07:29:44 AM
Hi Mounce,

I believe that your analogy to making a bet on a game of chance is an appropriate move in these delicate first steps.  There is another move that Lonergan associates with statistical heuristic structures, and that is the inverse insight.  What do you think of the idea that asking about the "nature" of probability must lead eventually to the inverse insight that probability does not have a "nature" in the same sense as can be discovered in classical inquiries?

My work as a teacher of research methods in sociology was informed by Lonergan's notion of the complementarity of classical and statistical heuristic structures.  I have been very critical of sociologists who assume that the descriptive techniques of correlation and regression will lead to laws analogous to the classical laws of physics.  This is one of the reasons I have used the much simpler device of contingency tables to explain the theoretical significance of correlation and regression.  Each time that a new independent variable is added as something upon which the dependent variable might be contingent, there is a change that the researcher might learn something about the relative probabilities of the occurrence of a each of the values of the dependent variable.

I have used Whitehead's analysis of "events" as "actual occasions," "prehensions," and "concrescences" to fill out my notion of event.  Perhaps some followers of Lonergan would object to this, but, up to this point, I have not been convinced that there is anythng about Whitehead's analysis that contradicts Lonergan's.  Whitehead's analysis has entered into my understanding of the "empirical residue."  I like Whitehead's claim that it is more accurate to say that an event has both duration and volume than it is to say that an event is "located" in time and space.  For Whitehead, time and space are then constituted by the totality of events, which is to say the totality of durations and volumes.  Events constitute the "bottom line" of concreteness. 

The inverse insights that ground statistical method involve a recognition that there is a certain "opaque" quality of the empirical residue that cannot be grasped by direct insights.  To employ a statistical heuristic structure is to anticipate a different kind of intelligibility than that anticipated by a person who employs a classical heuristic structure.   My criticism of some of my fellow sociologists is that their central model or prototype of a scientific inquiry comes from inquiries that have produced the classical laws of physics.

Best regards,
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: mounce on November 08, 2012, 01:55:47 PM
Hi Dick, I agree, Lonergan's presentation of the inverse insight is profound.  It opens-up fields of inquiry by setting principled limits, and underlies scientific collaboration as a law of nature (engineers love limits!). 

"There has to be a part in the empirical presentations that is *just given* and that does not correspond to any insight."  On this level, the empirical residue has no explanation. 

"Chance," in Ch VIII, however, "is a residual defect of intelligibility," but if no one knows the nature of chance or probability, then I'm not ready to conclude that it necessarily is a defect.  Newton faced a similar challenge trying to understand mass, for example, and now we don't argue about mass in terms of lengths.  Maybe we'll never know this goddess Fortuna, but you are right that all the correlation and regression studies won't be enough to unravel the Humean problem; if understanding is possible (ha ha) then we will need a genius like Maxwell.

PS - Maybe you can start a thread on space and time.
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: Richard Moodey on November 10, 2012, 03:24:41 PM
Hi Mounce,
ISTM that an inverse insight, like a direct insight or a reflective insight, can be mistaken.   You seem to be suggesting that the inverse insight that denies direct intelligibility to chance could be mistaken, and that you hope that it is.

A thread on time and space might be interesting, but I have much more than I can handle reading the posts on the threads that are already up.

Best regards,
Title: Sociologists and Classical laws
Post by: Artfulhousing on November 12, 2012, 05:12:32 PM

You write “My criticism of some of my fellow sociologists is that their central model or prototype of a scientific inquiry comes from inquiries that have produced the classical laws of physics.”

My criticism is not so much that sociologists seek to produce classical laws but rather that they don’t know what a classical law is and don’t know what a physicist is doing when they discover a classical law. Sociologists tend to caught up in some form of statistical analysis thinking that when they can generalise their analysis to other populations, they have produced a ‘classical law’. When they are doing this they are generalising place/time associations between elements. Insight is involved here but it is not the insight that gives rise to classical laws.

A classical law, however, is discovered in the creative moment of insight when the intelligibility of something is grasped, when this whole and its elements are systematically related to one another (or, what I call a theory - it is abstract, invariant, universal and normative). The key thing here is the grasp of systematic relationships. In other words, (i) these elements are the significant, essential and relevant ones – the insignificant, unessential and irrelevant elements are thereby excluded; (ii) the elements and their relationships together constitute this something.

Classical laws are answers to what-is-it questions. So a mathematician asks what is circle? and discovers through the creative moment of insight that it is constituted by certain elements which are systematically related to one another, viz. “a locus of coplanar points equidistant from a centre” (Insight 31). In this creative moment, they leave aside as insignificant, unessential and irrelevant the size of the circle, the different planes in which a circle can be drawn, the ‘dimensions’ of the central point and the coplanar points.

In a similar way, the sociologist can ask what is a society? what is sociality? What is an organisation? What is an economy? Etc. and discover the set of systematic relationships that constitute it, i.e. the set of sets of activities and practices that constitute a society – a theory of society etc. They can leave aside the interests, motivations, attitudes, beliefs etc. of social agents (whether individuals, groups or institutions). Unfortunately, it is the occurrence of these and their associations with something else (‘discovered’ through statistical analysis) that tend to be the focus of too many sociologists. (By the way, in my view, Lonergan outlines his theory of society on page 47-52 of Method as he explains the diagram on p.48)
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: mounce on November 14, 2012, 01:09:33 PM
Hi Dick (and Art!), Adrial has done some work on the inverse insight that might be useful.  I think Lonergan only uses it to illustrate a principled limit, but there is a sense in the two types that some operations in the field of falsification are included at the level of judgment when you have the outcome of an inverse insight.

That is a little different from finding a, "defect of intelligibility" given that no one understands the nature of probability.

In any case, it might be easier to consider his dialectic in this regard.  The, "events of determinate character," also underlies his notion of emergent probability and the presentation of history.  I think it is picked up again in Chs. IX and X with the upper and lower blades, wise choosing, and propositions turned into wine (I mean principles - ha ha). 

old joke, "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them, well, I've got others"  Groucho Marx
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: Richard Moodey on November 14, 2012, 07:44:14 PM
Hi Art,
Are you saying that every good answer to a question of the form "What is the nature of x?" yields a classical law?  Your use of the answer to "What is the nature of a circle?" to illustrate classical law suggests to me that you are.  I have always used that example to illustrate the difference between a nominal and a real definition.  But I don't take every real definition to be a classical law.  I generally use the law of gravitation as my example.  The abstract qualities of mass and distance determine the force of gravitational attraction: the attraction between two bodies is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.  This differs from the definition of a circle, both in that it specifies dynamic relationships among measurable quantities, and in that it fails to provide any insight into the internal "nature" of the attraction, even though it can be measured.

Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: mounce on November 15, 2012, 02:02:37 PM
When Newton and his editor Cotes were struggling with the concept of mass, Newton was trying to capture mass in terms of lengths as a way to discredit Descrates.  When measuring the proportional attraction between two bodies, do you measure from the center, the surface or somewhere in-between, and are those lengths important?  They understood mass in the same way we understand probability.
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: Richard Moodey on November 15, 2012, 05:20:51 PM
Hi Mounce,
In response to your question about where the distance between two bodies is measured from, I don't know.  Perhaps someone with a better knowledge of Newtonian physics than I might be able to answer.  As to your final sentence, am I wrong to read it as a bit ironic?
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: mounce on November 15, 2012, 06:20:49 PM
Ironic, perhaps, but I don't mean to be cynical.  It comes from a quote by  Suppes in 1956 that I think is still valid today, and the author turned it into a statement that would have been valid in Newton's time but is no longer; I continue to test its validity by saying (in a variety of conversations with a variety of people), `no one understands the nature of probability.'

In any case, what do you think about Lonergan's definition of dialectic beginning with, "events of a determinate character,"?
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: Richard Moodey on November 22, 2012, 07:13:14 AM
Hi Mounce,

In my classes, I spend a good bit of time with dialectic -- I believe it is an important heuristic for sociology.  I generally begin with Marxian dialectic, since most contemporary sociologists consider Marx to be one of the "fathers" of sociology.  I then contrast Lonergan's notion with that of Marx, following Lonergan's section on "The Dialectic of Community."  I modify Lonergan's second point, however, because the main kinds of events I focus upon are episodes of social interaction.  In these kinds of events, the "principles" are persons, and there can be more that two participants in an episode of interaction.

I treat dialectic as one of three heuristic structures for thinking about social and cultural change.  The other two are what I call the "embryonic model" (Lonergan's genetic heuristic structure) and the "variation-selection model," which is prominent in classical micro-economic theory, operant conditioning theory, and evolutionary theory.  I disagree with those sociologists (including Talcott Parsons) who use an embryonic model to explain what they call social or cultural "evolution."

This is a long-winded response to your question about what I think of Lonergan's definition of dialectic.  I think his definition in this section of Insight is related to his discussion of dialectic as a functional specialization, but in "The Dialectic of Community" he is talking primarily about a social process, and secondarily about a way of thinking.

Best regards,
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: mounce on November 23, 2012, 10:35:51 AM
Thanks Dick, Lonergan's use of dialectic is dynamic.  I think the introduction with Insight derives from Fernand Braudel's concept of the longue duree, but in regard to probability what do you explicitly think about, "events of a determinate character,"?
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: Richard Moodey on November 24, 2012, 09:08:41 AM
Hi Mounce,

Let me break your question down into two parts: what do I think about events? what do I think about the "determinate character" of events?

what do I think about events?
I think of events in terms of Whitehead's terms "actual occasion," "prehension," and "concrescence." Actual occasions are concrete, and have duration and volume.  I agree with him that this is preferable to saying the events occur at a "point" in time and a "point" in space.  I do not deny, however, that for the purpose of some mathematical calculations, it is useful to treat events "as if" they occur at a "point"  in an abstractly conceived space-time continuum.  But Whitehead argues that rather than "containers" for events, space and time are constituted by the volumes and durations of events.

Prehension signifies the way an actual occasion "grabs backward," incorporating prior events into itself.  Concrescence points at the same process, but from a "moving forward" perspective.  Immediately past events concresce or "grow together" to constitute a present event.

I studied Whitehead only after I had been working for a couple of decades with Lonergan's notion of emergent probability, and found them to be consistent enough for my purposes.   It is possible that a genuine scholar of either Whitehead or Lonergan would be able to point out inconsistencies, but I am primarily a sociologist who thinks that sociological work requires me to engage in philosophical reflections.

A further addition to my thinking about events came with my reading of Lakoff and Johnson's Philosophy in the Flesh.   They present the following basic structure for an event:

Initial State: Whatever is required for the event is satisfied
Start: The starting up process for the event
End of Start: The end of the starting up process and the beginning of the main process
Main Process: The central aspects of the event
Possible Interruptions: Disruptions of the main process
Possible Continuation or Iteration: The perpetuation or repetition of the main process
Resultant State: The state resulting from the main process (p. 176)

They argue that this is how a person thinks about his own bodily movement, and that we think about events in the world by using bodily movement as the source domain for thinking metaphorically about other kinds of events.  Again, I don't find this inconsistent with either Lonergan or Whitehead.

what do I think about the "determinate character" of events?
There are two parts to my answer.  First, when an event occurs, it has a determinate character.  It is this economic exchange between thisbuyer and this seller on this day in this store.  It is also determine in that on the previous day the probability that this determinate event would occur was less than 1.  Once the buyer had left home intending to buy this article, say a "left-handed monkey wrench," the probability increased, but was still less than one.  When this store manager in this town decided to stock left-handed monkey wrenches, that was a prior event that increased the probability of the event occuring, and when this clerk went to work in this store on this day that further increased the probability of the event.  When the probability of the event reached 1, the event occurred; each actual occasion is determined to occur once its probability of occurence is 1.  Second, We create conceptual categories within which we put events.  We would probably all put the event I just described into the category of an economic event.  If the buyer had gone to Mass before setting out on his shopping trip, we wold probably all put his participation at Mass into the category of a religious event.  If he had eaten breakfast with his wife and children before going to Mass, we might have put that into the category of a family event, but an economist might put it into the economic category as an act of consumption. 

My point is that all actual occasions are "determinate events," but that to categorize an event as one kind of event rather than another, I have to have a set of categories to which I can assign events.  This relates to what I said in my post on "data construction" as my name for what Lonergan called "research."  I construct data by assigning events to categories.  When the categories to which I assign events consist of the cardinal or ordinal number scales, I often call this "measurement."

Best regards,

Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: mounce on November 25, 2012, 09:28:47 PM
Wow, thanks Dick, thanks for everything here.  I think Lonergan's understanding was a little simpler, but that's as far as my criticism goes. 

I like that feature of dialectic where L says the result modifies what came before, and the determinate beginning doesn't obstruct that interesting dynamic result.  And yes, the body is intimately involved in an *a priori* understanding of space and time (a quote on Kant from Hamann  regarding the, "Metacritique of the Purism of Reason" which I will actually post here as an event on which you can depend!).  I can't help taking this "occasion" as an "event," where my stated determinate desire is to continue carving hares (for dinner-you're invited!).

In any case, I appreciate these new words: concrescence and prehension.  I obviously like your conclusion that you call this measurement, because, of course,  "Lonergan called," "I... assign," we all collect data, be intelligent, responsibly act, etc. yours, Doug
Title: Re: Emergent Probability (in terms of space and time)
Post by: mounce on December 07, 2012, 05:59:42 PM
As promised...

"If then a chief question indeed still remains - how is the faculty of thought possible?(1)  the faculty to think right and left, before and without, with and beyond experience? - then no deduction is needed to demonstrate the genealogical priority of language, and its heraldry, over the seven holy functions of logical propositions and inferences.(2)  Not only is the entire faculty of thought founded on language, according to the unrecognized prophecies and slandered miracles of the very commendable Samuel Heinicke,(3) but language is also the centerpoint of reason's misunderstanding with itself,(4) partly because of the frequent coincidence of the greatest and the smallest concept, its vacuity and its plenitude in ideal propositions, partly because of the infinite [advantage] of rhetorical over inferential figures, and much more of the same.

"Sounds and letters are therefore forms *a priori,*(5) in which nothing belonging to the sensation(6) or concept of an object is found; they are the true, aesthetic elements of all human knowledge and reason.  The oldest language was music, and along with the palpable rhythm of the pulse and of the breath in the nostrils, it was the original bodily image of all temporal measures and intervals.  The oldest writing was painting and drawing, and therefore was occupied as early as then with the economy of space, its limitations and determination(7) by figures.  Thence, under the exuberant persistent influence of the two noblest senses sight and hearing, the concepts of space and time have made themselves so universal and necessary in the whole sphere of understanding (just as light and air are for the eye, ear, and voice) that as a result space and time, if not *ideae innatae,* seem to be at least *matrices* of all intuitive knowledge.(8)

(1) Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, A xvii: "For the chief question is always simply this: - what and how much can the understanding and reason know apart from experience? not: - how is the faculty of thought possible?"
(2) Kant identifies twelve logical functions of the understanding in judgment (A 70 = B 95), arranged under four heads, each in three moments (perhaps Hamann added the four heads and three moments to yield seven, a numerological indication of perfection).
(3) Samuel Heinicke (1727-90) founded the first school for the deaf an dumb in Germany in 1778.  Heinicke insisted on the priority of the spoken language for both deaf and hearing people.
(4) For Kant, not language but errors in the non-empirical employment of reason set "reason at variance with itself"; he claims to have solved the problem by "locating the point at which, through misunderstanding, reason comes into conflict with itself" (A xii).
(5) For Kant, space and time are the pure forms; see A 22 ( B 36): "there are two pure forms of sensible intuition, service as principles of *a priori* knowledge, namely, space and time."
(6) A 20 (B 34): "I term all representations pure...in which there is nothing that belongs to sensation."
(7) A 32 (B 48): "every determinate magnitude of time is possible only through limitations of one single time that underlies it."
(8) The theory of innate ideas was opposed to the theory of the "tabular rassa," the blank slate. "Matrices" are wombs.

--quoted from Kenneth Haynes translation, Metacritique on the Purism of Reason, Georg Hamann
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: Richard Moodey on December 11, 2012, 03:00:51 PM
Hi Mounce,
This quotation from Kant causes me to be aware of my philosophical limitations.  I have had courses in which Kant's critiques have been explained, have read some things by Kant and some things about Kant, but he does not speak to me.  I find him more readable than Heidegger, for example, but that's not saying much.  When I read Plato, Aristotle, Lonergan, Polanyi, or Whitehead, doors open up that promise to lead to interesting journeys.  When I read Kant, doors seem to close.  I feel shut in, with no paths to follow.
Best regards,
Title: Re: Emergent Probability
Post by: mounce on December 12, 2012, 10:17:20 AM
no problem Dick, maybe we'll raise Heidegger in terms of Ricouer's interpretation of Augustine's view on time (whew!)  I'll just-mention that this is not a Kant quote, but a critique of Kant by his acquaintance Hamann, and Hamann is like the late Maxim Faust who tended to force a personal experience with every reader.  cheers!