Jumping Conclusions Scientifically: Reading IF Reviews

As a boy, when I learned the difference between induction and deduction, I was deeply impressed, and went looking for instruction on how to do induction.  Everybody knows how to do deduction:  Socrates is a man; all men are mortal; therefore, Socrates is mortal.  — But where do you get the rules?

You get them, of course, from induction.  But all the material I found on induction was really stupid.  One explained that, you look at Mercury and determine it’s sphereoidal; and at Venus, and determine it’s sphereoidal; and so on to Pluto; and from this you determine “inductively” that all planets are sphereoidal.

Which is useless, of course.

John Stuart Mill, of intro philosophy course fame for his ethical theory, identified and formalized the rules we intuitively use to work from specific cases to general ones.  Get good at them and you can work with fuzzy, non-quantifiable data scientifically. 

These are the basic rules that Jared Diamond used to organize his historical observations in Guns, Germs, and Steel.  I’m writing them up to encourage you to use them for cross-comparison of IF Comp reviews this year.

Key.  We’ll have A, B, C, D, E, F, G refer to properties of the game being reviewed, and t, u, v, w, x, y, z refer to opinions of the reviewer.  The question is, what game properties reliably elicit what reviewer opinions. (more…)

Mill’s Methods (toward insight)

John Stuart Mill is known for his creation of the ethical system of utilitarianism.  The basic idea of utilitarianism is that an action is good (it has utility) to the extent it makes people happy.  There follows a complicated bit of hand-waving whereby happiness is (conceptually) measured and actions are ranked by the predicted amount of happiness they will produce in sum across the population.

What J. S. Mill is not known as well for are his rules for inductive reasoning.  And that’s a shame, because induction is a remarkably important part of the reasoning process, and it’s usually not taught at all, or taught badly. (more…)

Published in: on July 9, 2009 at 11:31 am  Comments (3)  
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