On 1/12/2014 12:55 AM, LizR wrote:
On 12 January 2014 19:53, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net <mailto:meeke...@verizon.net>> wrote:

    The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they 
    make models. By a model is meant a  mathematical construct which, with the 
    of certain verbal  interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The 
    of  such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is  
expected to work.
        --—John von Neumann

How does one know which mathematical construct to try out, to see if it will work? Surely interpretation becomes necessary at some point.

Von Neumann recognizes above that some interpretation is necessary for the application of mathematics, "the addition of certain verbal interpretations". Which mathematics to try may be suggested by the interpretation of some earlier theories, which is what I see as useful about metaphysics - it may suggest improved physics.

But the interesting thing about this quote, which I think is generally overlooked, is that even those theories/models we think of a providing "good explanations" only seem that way because of familiarity. We think easily of gravity as explaining the orbit of the Moon. But in the 17th century it prompted the question, "But what is pushing on the Moon to provide the force?" Now we say there is no force, it's just a distortion of space, so the Moon is just going in a "straight line". So the observable facts stay the same, the predictions become a little more accurate, but the ontological "explanation" varies drastically.


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