Re: complexity and heat, an analogy in the history of science

Mark Crosby (crosby_m@rocketmail.com)
Fri, 15 Aug 1997 09:11:27 -0700 (PDT)


This message appears to have gotten lost on the Net, so I'll send it
again....

Eric Watt Forste wrote:
<All the really good discussions of "complexity" I've seen on this
list seem to point toward a developing taxonomy of different types of
complexity. There are several different competing definitions, and
like the three definitions of "heat" they may all be right. That means
each one of them will need a name of its own, so we can stop
inadvertently confusing them, and if we can't agree which one is the
"real" complexity, it may very well turn out that complexity is as
chimerical as caloric, a half-baked idea that has played its role in
the history of science to date, but, turning out to have no referent,
must now be discarded.>

Iím not mathematically inclined enough (either), to debate the margins
of each type of complexity mentioned previously but suspect that they
might hinge on structural, contextual or communication, and functional
differences.

Eliezer and JKC have recently dissected different Ďtypesí of emotions
quite nicely. Your line of reasoning might also be applied to another
abused concept, namely consciousness. This is what Ned Block does in
his essay "On A Confusion About A Function Of Consciousness" at
http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/bbs/Archive/bbs.block.html from which I
quote:

<The concept of consciousness is a hybrid or better, a mongrel
concept: the word `consciousness' connotes a number of different
concepts and denotes a number of different phenomena. We reason about
"consciousness" using some premises that apply to one of the phenomena
that fall under "consciousness", other premises that apply to other
"consciousnesses" and we end up with trouble. There are many parallels
in the history of science. Aristotle used `velocity' sometimes to mean
average velocity and sometimes to mean instantaneous velocity; his
failure to see the distinction caused confusion (Kuhn, 1964). The
Florentine Experimenters of the 17th Century used a single word
(roughly translatable as "degree of heat") for temperature and for
heat, generating paradoxes. [Snip] These are very different cases, but
there is a similarity, one that they share with the case of
`consciousness'. The similarity is: very different concepts are
treated as a single concept. I think we all have some tendency to make
this mistake in the case of "consciousness".>

Mark Crosby

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