[FOM] methodological/rigorous systemization

Steven Ericsson-Zenith steven at semeiosis.org
Sat May 3 15:55:25 EDT 2008

It was ironic that the thesis of Friedman was more clearly stated, in  
my view, in a short phrase of plain English that applied some rigorous  
systemization, than in the symbolic method he chose to use. That  
sentence would have read:

	"Papers that use rigorous systematization subsume informal  
philosophical papers on equivalent subjects."

This irony is compounded by his restatement that is an attempt to  
clarify with prose.

But I am not unsympathetic toward Friedman's objective. However, he  
treats all communication as though the methodology of interaction were  
purely symbolic and best combined by known formal mechanisms. His  
thesis is then that all argument is reducible to symbolic logic and  
that nothing is missing by such a reduction.

He asks for counter examples and those given contain much argument  
that is qualitative. Friedman himself appeals to a qualitative measure  
"intellectual progress" without proposing how such a measure can be  
quantified. I suggest that such a measure can be quantified by simply  
enumerating the accurate predictions that are made by rigorous  
systemization against those made otherwise.

But it should be clear that the ambiguity of the qualitative argument  
leaves many many more predictions for exploration that the rigorous  
argument Friedman proposes. Hence, ambiguity stimulates creativity  
while Friedman's approach potentially stifles it. Which is simply to  
say that ambiguity is necessary for intellectual progress.

With respect,

On May 1, 2008, at 10:45 PM, Harvey Friedman wrote:

> I don't think that the phrase "formal methods" is a good one for what
> I mean. What I have in mind is far broader than the current narrow -
> and incorrect - image that "formal methods" has among philosophers.

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