A couple of phrases have stuck in my mind from my earliest days of reading about abductive inference and hypothesis formation. One has to do with the puzzle of “giving a rule to abduction” and the other alludes to “the reticular formation that marshals our abductions”. The first derives from Peirce, of course, but I’ve been trying to remember the details of when and where I first encountered it, as I think it was another writer who first impressed its significance on me. The second is clearly Warren S. McCulloch but again there was something about the context that kept eluding me.
After a few days rummaging through link and library I was lucky enough to happen on several old volumes with my original notes on the texts, so I think I’ve got the passages in question pinned down to the following places. To my way of thinking, no one writing in the last century understood Peirce’s treatment of hypothesis and its applications to cognitive and cybernetic systems better than Chomsky and McCulloch.
Charles S. Peirce
- “The Logic of Abduction”, Chapter 13 in Essays in the Philosophy of Science, Vincent Tomas (ed.), Bobbs–Merrill, 1957. Selections originally published in Collected Papers, “Hume on Miracles” (CP 6.522–536), “Eighth Lowell Lecture of 1903” (CP 5.590–604), “Seventh Harvard Lecture of 1903” (CP 5.195–200).
Warren S. McCulloch
- “What Is a Number, that a Man May Know It, and a Man, that He May Know a Number?”, Ninth Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture, General Semantics Bulletin, Numbers 26 and 27, Institute of General Semantics, Lakeville, CT, 1961, pp. 7–18. Reprinted in Embodiments of Mind, pp. 1–18. Online.
- “What’s in the Brain That Ink May Character?”, International Congress for Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, Israel, August 28, 1964. Reprinted in Embodiments of Mind, pp. 387–397. Online.
- Embodiments of Mind, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1965.
- “Linguistic Contributions to the Study of Mind : Future”, in Language and Mind, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego, CA. First edition 1968. Enlarged edition 1972. Online.