Saturday, May 12, 2007

Where is Karl Popper when you need him ?

A small point on Klein on Klein

Ezra Klein is too kind to Joe Klein
who discovers a remarkable tautological regularity.

There have been six elections in which control of the presidency has switched parties during the television age. In five of those six, starting with John F. Kennedy's victory over Richard Nixon in 1960, the less experienced candidate won. The other four were: Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford in 1976, Ronald Reagan over Carter in 1980, Bill Clinton over Bush the Elder in 1992, Bush the Younger over Al Gore in 2000. The one exception to the rule was a toss-up: Nixon and Hubert Humphrey had similar levels of experience in 1968.


Joe Klein's result is almost perfectly tautological as incumbency of one's party and experience are almost perfectly correlated (perfectly correlated if one claims that 5 = 8 as he does in the case of Nixon and Humphrey). Thus, since 1960, we have known before election day that a switch of party would logically imply the election of the less experienced candidate. The observation that, surprise surprise, after election day, it became clear that when there was a switch of party the less experienced candidate won adds nothing to our knowledge whatsoever. Joeseph Klein has presented an un-falsifiable hypothesis and drawn conclusions from the failure of the data to refute it. He demonstrates only that he does not reason well, but we already knew that didn't we ?

The answer to the question in the title is "taking credit for ideas due to Charles Sanders Pierce and Rudolf Carnap by inventing a neologism more snappy that 'abduction' which did not set a very high standard".

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,5288647-103680,00.html

September 19, 2005

Not Even Wrong
By Oliver Burkeman - Guardian

This is the principle of falsifiability, famously associated with the philosopher Karl Popper. Hypotheses that might be wrong are the lifeblood of science: you test them, find evidence to support or undermine them, and learn something in the process. But hypotheses that can't even be wrong, Popper maintained, can't tell you anything.

Popper went further. Knowledge only progresses, he argued, when falsifiable claims about the world get proven wrong. In his classic example, you can never confirm the statement "all swans are white", because there might always be some non-white swans you haven't seen yet. But it only takes one black swan to falsify the claim definitively. At that point, you really know something for certain: not all swans are white....

anne

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/30/books/review/30HOLTLT.html?ex=1164517200&en=62c58d08af50e1a6&ei=5070

December 30, 2001

'Wittgenstein's Poker': Reconstructing a Legendary Debate
By JIM HOLT

ENCOUNTERS between great literary figures are often anticlimactic. The one time that Marcel Proust and James Joyce crossed paths, for example, each reportedly inquired of the other whether he liked truffles, received an affirmative answer, and that was that. When great philosophers bump into each other, however, the results can be more dramatic. Take the sole encounter between Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) and Karl Popper (1902-94). It occurred the night of Oct. 25, 1946, during a meeting of the Moral Science Club in a small and crowded room in Cambridge, England. Though lasting only 10 minutes, it ended up becoming a famous bit of philosophical lore. Wittgenstein was presiding over the meeting; Popper was the invited speaker, addressing the question ''Are there philosophical problems?'' Supposedly Wittgenstein got so angry at Popper's remarks that he picked up a poker from the fireplace and began waving it around in an intimidating way. Then he stormed out of the room. At some point Popper, pressed to give an example proving his claim that there were valid moral rules, said something like, ''Thou shalt not threaten a visiting lecturer with a poker.'' ...

anne

Anonymous said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,5288647-103680,00.html

"I use 'not even wrong' to refer to things that are so speculative that there would be no way ever to know whether they're right or wrong," says Peter Woit, a mathematician at Columbia University who runs the weblog Not Even Wrong (www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog/).

anne

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/08/books/08MASL.html?ex=1133413200&en=e396e6dcf925c6d8&ei=5070

November 8, 2001

From a Clash of Titans, a Window on a Century
By JANET MASLIN

On Friday, Oct. 25, 1946, the Moral Science Club at Cambridge University assembled in rooms called H3 for its weekly meeting. The group was to hear its guest speaker, Dr. Karl Popper, deliver a paper entitled "Are There Philosophical Problems?" The answer was a demonstrable yes, since it took only 10 minutes for the club's chairman, Ludwig Wittgenstein, to brandish a fireplace poker while announcing "Popper, you are wrong." At this point Bertrand Russell may or may not have exclaimed, "Wittgenstein, put that poker down at once!"

The authorship of that remark is unclear, no matter how much it sounds like the work of Woody Allen. Witnesses to the confrontation — including C. D. Broad, a faculty member who began his first lecture after a sabbatical by saying "Point D . . ." — passionately disagreed about the details of what transpired. And as the BBC journalists David Edmonds and John Eidinow point out, there is a "delightful irony" to be found there, since everyone present was well versed in epistemology. But it is one thing to contemplate the nature and origin of truth and quite another to concur about facts....

anne

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/08/books/08MASL.html?ex=1133413200&en=e396e6dcf925c6d8&ei=5070

He paid a visit to John Maynard Keynes and his new bride, Lydia in 1925. "Lydia remarked to Wittgenstein, no doubt brightly, `What a beautiful tree,' " Keynes's biographer Robert Skidelsky wrote. "Wittgenstein glared at her: `What do you mean?' Lydia burst into tears."

anne

Anonymous said...

I will never threaten Joe Klein with a poker. I'm not saying that I would never be tempted to do so, but, I think I can resist, since I think that I will never meet Joe Klein and pokers are as rare on the ground in recent decades as are extremely experienced Presidential challengers (Cleveland had 4 months more experience as President than Harrison did in '92.

Robert Waldmann

Anonymous said...

Notice how cleverly Robert Waldmann has been in assuring us that he can probably, just probably, be trusted within poker range of Joe Klein given the likely unavailability of pokers even in unlikely event that Joe Klein were to seek him out. Empirically, we have a lot to work with here and that is the point.

anne

Anonymous said...

Karl Popper was an empiricist much as Ernst Gombrich in criticizing art even though art is an illusion to begin with. Wittgenstein would have been wrapped in analyzing the nature of illusion, each illusion in itself absent the cultural history of artistic illusion.

anne

Anonymous said...

http://matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/05/casualty_rates.php

Beyond a few blogs, I have not been much interested. But, I looked at Ezra Klein's blog as a sort of after-thought and found a curious graph, not by Ezra Klein, showing a sorry rise in deaths of American soldiers recently with relatively little corresponding rise in wounded.

Matthew Yglesias had picked up the graph. No one though, questions how odd the data is since February and I was saddened by the lack of questioning even by Matthew or Ezra.

I am highly skeptical of the reported finding, but why would there be no questioning?

[Thinking of logic and empiricism....]

anne