Representation is a concept we find at the intersection of cybernetics, epistemology, logic, mathematics, psychology, and sociology. In my studies it led me from math to psych and back again, with sidelong glances at the history of democratic governance. Its time come round again, I find myself returning to the scenes of two recurring questions.
Scene 1. Pragmatic Theory Of Truth • 18
We do not live in axiom systems. We do not live encased in languages, formal or natural. There is no reason to think we will ever have exact and exhaustive theories of what’s out there, and the truth, as we know, is “out there”. Peirce understood there are more truths in mathematics than are dreamt of in logic — and Gödel’s realism should have put the last nail in the coffin of logicism — but some ways of thinking just never get a clue.
That brings us to Question 1 —
- What are formalisms and all their embodiments in brains and computers good for?
Statistics were originally the data a ship of state needed for stationkeeping and staying on course. The Founders of the United States, like the Cybernauts of the Enlightenment they were, engineered a ship of state with checks and ballasts and error-controlled feedbacks for the sake of representing both reality and the will of the people. In that connection Max Weber saw how a state’s accounting systems were intended as representations of realities its crew and passengers must observe or perish.
That brings us to Question 2 —
- What are the forces distorting our representations of what’s observed, what’s expected, and what’s intended?