Some personal life… postulates?

Any comments on any of these?

1. Justifications are always with respect to some underlying set of customs for what constitutes an adaquate explanation. These customs aren’t a priori “correct” and differ between cultures and individuals.

2. Failure to justify oneself adaquately, or failure to comply with customs in other ways, results in punishment or attempts at correction.

3. People often invent explanations of behaviour which are inconsistent with their behaviour or the actual causes of their behaviour.

4. The concept of “cognitive processes” comes from the particular viewpoint that it’s helpful for explanatory purposes to abstract away from the exact medium in which data enters a human, so ignoring photons, neurotransmitters, ion flows. Neisser comments that “cognition is involved in everything a human being might possibly do” but that “[o]ther viewpoints are equally legitimate and necessary.” The other viewpoints relevant to human psychology include fMRI, animal studies, genetics, sociological theories. Many interesting studies combine multiple viewpoints.

5. More generally, choosing a particular style of explanation does not rule out the possibility that one believes other styles of explanation are necessary and useful.

6. Given someone’s past experience he may decide that, for him, certain classes of explanation are inadequate.

7. All models are incomplete, otherwise they’re not models. So we do “miss something every time” [I wish I could remember who I’m quoting here] by chosing to model, in fact by chosing to describe anything. From a Koan: “If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call this a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you want to call this?”

8. Theories aren’t used only to make predictions, they also give a framework in which to discuss things with a common language.

9. That something we enjoy, e.g. music, art, love, is given a scientific explanation (in a particular framework, cognitive, whatever) does not necessarily mean that we can no longer enjoy experiencing that thing. Does a musician who understands the fast fourier transform lose anything when she performs a piece of music?

10. Evolution by natural selection does not explain “Why we are here.” It explains how organisms which reproduce, communicate (by genetic material as well as language, education), and vary, can adapt to their environment and continue to reproduce.



  1. mydigest

    Evolution has led to us mind-kind and our opportunity to improve the quality of our lives. I do not see a sudden switching point twixt ‘natural’ and ‘human-made’, only a smooth flow from little self-replicating boobs to clever blokes, like you and Darwin, for examples. We are the masters now and must decide a good ‘why’ for our beng here, one that does not involve an imagined guy in the sky with a thorns, thistles and roast lamb fixation. Sorry, you know all that. Cy Quick at

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