The more we are discussing ideas, the more interesting the discussion is. The more we are fighting over word choice the less interesting. (Unless, say, we have already established full agreement about ideas, and are working on idea-marketing.) To get past this we need to drop as many problematic words as possible, with "problematic" defined by their creating resistance from those in the current conversation. Then we try to talk about the ideas, to see if we can forge agreement using different words.
Glen and others are right that, as presented, the "epiphenomenon" discussion can be easily replaced with a discussion about degree-of-modularity and about statistician coupling of variables. And yet Nick can't seem to see it that way. Either Nick completely doesn't get the alternative, or there is something he hasn't quite articulated clearly that makes the offered alternative not fully sufficient to meet his needs. I propose that Nick has failed to adequate include two factors in his presentation: 1. The things he is talking about are all speculative labels until the-fact-of-the-matter is determined by experimentation. 2. He is talking about systems that are the way they are for reasons (which we might reference with the word "intention" with a "t"). This gets a bit muddled because: - Some of the systems are human systems, i.e., systems of humans doing things, and we could figure out the reasons they are doing those things through a bunch of experimentation or by getting the relevant people to give accurate answers to "Why are you doing that?" questions. - Some of the systems are systems designed by humans, and in those cases we could get at the reasons by doing a bunch of experiments on the designers, or by getting accurate answers to "Why did you build it that way?" questions. - Some of the systems arose through natural processes, without involvement of human in the past or the present. In those cases, we don't have a verbal community to interact with, so we can only get at the reasons why the system is the way it is through experimentation. Example: We see three kids playing in the yard, each playing with a magnifying glass. We ask each the reason why they are doing what they are doing (and for the sake of this example, we assume they all answer honestly). Kid 1 says, "I am playing with the magnifying glass because it can make small things look larger, allowing me to visually explore them better." Kid 2 says, "I am using it to invert images, because it is funny to look at things upsidedown." Kid 3 says, "I am playing with the magnifying glass because it can focus light rays towards a spot on the ground, to heat it up." Of course, as the kids play, all of them do all three things at some point (make image bigger, invert image, heat ground). But for each, only one of them is the reason they are playing with the magnifying glass, and the other two effects are coming along for the ride. If we could provide a device that magnified without inverting the image, that toy would work just fine for Kid 1. If we could provide one that inverted images without magnifying, that toy would work just fine for Kid 2. If we provided something that heated the ground with one of those other factors, that toy would work just fine for Kid 3. Etc. If you aren't interested in that distinction, that's fine, but surely it is a legitimate distinction for someone to be interested in. <echar...@american.edu>
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