oh, just shut up about Aristotle already

May 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Final post on the Scholastics — and this one will be short, because doing it properly would require enough research to lose myself in a library for a week. I’m very big on the defensibility of reasoning by analogy, in partial (prob. exaggerated, tbh) opposition to a Popperian understanding of science by development of hypotheses in a vacuum. The scholastic idea of analogy is a very limited and specific one, intertwined with the theology of man created in the image of god, and they’re sceptical of metaphor in general.

Again there’s an ancient Indian parallel to be drawn here, and again I’m too wooly-minded to make the case. But here is an article giving the basics of Nyaya ogic, and the classic example is easy enough to follow:

There is fire on a hill (called Pratijna, required to be proved)
Because there is smoke there (called Hetu, reason)
Wherever there is fire, there is smoke (called Udaharana, i.e. example)
There is smoke on the hill (called Upanaya, reaffirmation)
Therefore there is fire on the hill (called Nigamana, conclusion)

In brief: analogy good, mmkay?
And so to bed

Robot theology

May 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

While I’m on the subject of scholastics (I’ve just been listening to a lecture on the subject): had Ken Macleod been so minded, he could have found plenty o material in medieval theology to justify robot religion — perhaps starting with ideas of grace. In Aristotle’s conception, Grace is a form within the soul. That means it’s a shape, a pattern. The material in which it is embedded is irrelevant, just as a pot is a pot whether wooden or ceramic. Grace in silico would not be inferior to Grace in vivo**: robots would be as capable as humans of faith, hope and love.

* bear in mind, this entire concept remains somewhat new and alien to me; I’m almost certainly butchering some carefully-considered principle. In all honesty, I don’t much care.

** Doubtless you could concoct other arguments for robot inferiority, perhaps arguing that they weren’t created directly by good, and so are merely a shadow of a shadow of his Goodness. After all, Christians have plenty of experience justifying racism; justifying discrimination against machines would be an order of magnitude easier.

Science Envy

May 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

“Science envy” and “math envy” are perennial problems across huge swathes of the academic world. Mathematics and the hard sciences are seen as having achieved great leaps forward in understanding the world, and thus become objects for emulation whether applicable or not. Greek symbols start to fill up journal pages. It doesn’t matter if they demonstrate the argument more rigorously, they just need to look impressively sciency. Economics is currently the most seriously-afflicted discipline, although the other social sciences are rapidly succumbing as massive datasets become available online.

This is nothing new. As their name suggests, the social sciences have been built up by wave after wave of this imitation throughout the 20th century. Or even further back. The scholastic theology of medieval Christianity was largely a centuries-long case of ‘logic envy’. Theologians discovered Aristotelian logic in the 12th century, and proceeded to apply it to the bible in mind-numbing detail.

The indian case is even more interesting. Here the discipline to be emulated was grammar, then far more advanced than any other branch of knowledge (and pretty damn impressive even in a modern context). Grammatical terminology and forms of argument cross over into most other disciplines.

February 13th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

From Bruce Sterling’s compellingly-annotated Flickr set studies in atemporality, presumably a companion to his Transmediale speech:

What I love about this is that it’s obviously part of that Strychnin aesthetic of steampunk victoriana and Gaimanesque fairy-tales, but has managed to bridge the gap between there and the real world. Oh what a world, where introducing punk into steampunk can be a revelatory gesture.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the art history category at Dan O'Huiginn.