Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-11-07 - 6:04 p.m.

I didn’t want to drive home in the dark on Friday evening and I badly needed a haircut - there is a nice barber round the corner from my flat in Leantown. Vita and Yvonne had gone to see Kingston Art Foundation Year Open Day on Saturday morning - discovering that Peter Blake’s daughter had done the course but you have a one in nine chance of getting in. After the barber I dropped in on the Oxfam bookshop which I realized I have been missing badly. Its so easy to spend money in there and there’s the good cause element too to encourage acquisition.

A philosopher must have been having a clear-out. I got a copy of Max Black’s 1961 Models and Metaphors which launched the interaction view of metaphor which I got banged into me about 30 years ago in Edinburgh. Also Geach’s Reference and Generality. Geach was married to GEMA - the world’s greatest ever female philosopher and he taught at Birmingham U. R&G purports to be an examination of certain medieval theories of logic - needless to say that is not the whole story. Chapter 1 roughs up Keynes on how undistributed general terms refer . The surprising thing is that besides innovating in economics and probability theory Keynes had time to make mistakes in logical theory.

Here’s one of the tricks:

Some cat has one more tail than no cats have;
Three tails is one more tail than two tails;
No cats have two tails
Therefore some cat has three tails.

In addition to the Collected Poems of John Berryman . Of course this could be quite a respectable poem.


I also bought a book by Brian Cantwell Smith on object-oriented computer programming. Object-oriented languages have been around for quite a well and OOL is just a phrase that gets bandied about (as far as I was aware before picking up the book). BCS explains that behind the phrase are some very serious unresolved philosophical issues about the connection between a programming language, an item in that language, say an object, running the programming on a computer and whatever may or may not happen elsewhere in the world. People happily imagine that ‘mind’ might be a programme running in the brain. Well they imagine this - and when they imagine this they also imagine that the thought has a determinant meaning. BCS thinks otherwise and believes that the problem lies in understanding what a computer ‘object’ might be - and how it relates to other objects like Tony Blair, the number 5, the rainstorm I drove through last night etc. There is an ancestral relation to the stuff that Geach wrote on the medieval logicians.

BCS refers in one of the Chs I skimmed to ‘Science Studies’ - which is not a term I expect to see very often, although it was something I spent a lot of time on in the early 70s - a kind of extension of the philosophy of science. Anyway he says that he is drawn in the direction of David Bloor who is the prof of Science Studies at Edinburgh, I believe. I have sitting on this computer a copy of Bloor’s book about Wittgenstein which I bought as a PDF. Wikipedia is good on this stuff and I learn that Bloor had a punch-up with Latour in the 1980s - I know nothing of Latour. Its nice to BCS approaching this stuff from a fresh angle.

It seems people get confused whether Latour is from a wine making family in Burgundy or Bordeaux. Anyway here’s a chunk from Wikipedia on Latour:

‘Latour develops the methodolocial dictum that science and technology must be studied "in action", or "in the making". Because scientific discoveries turn esoteric and difficult to understand, science has to be studied where discoveries are made in practice. For example Latour turns back time in the case of the discovery of the "double helix". Going back in time, deconstructing statements, machines and articles, it is possible to arrive at a point where scientific discovery could have chosen to take many other directions (contingency). Also the concept of "black box" is introduced. A black box is a metaphor borrowed from cybernetics denoting a piece of machinery that "runs by itself". That is, when a series of instructions are too complicated to be repeated all the time, a black box is drawn around it, allowing it to function only by giving it "input" and "output" data. For example a CPU inside a computer is a black box. You do not need to know it's inner complexity, you only need to use it in your everyday activities.’

I think black-boxes are a bit like Objects in OOL - they seem to run by themselves. I suppose there is a risk in letting a black-box do its stuff if you don’t know what its referring to. The whole premise of Science Studies was that you shouldn’t just let science run by itself without thinking about it at a higher level.

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