Carl Leichter wrote:

I think you and I have different concepts of social context. To me, everything you were describing was social context. I think it’s because of our views on metaphysics and epistemology. You’re taking a very metaphysical view: that principles exist independent of human thought. I take the epistemological view, that the principles we “discover” do not exist independently of human thought.

Brilliant! After so many discussions you have got it spot on – I think the difference is exactly in the position we place humans in. However, it is not that simple, because it is not just ontology vs. epistemology. I think if we push it far enough, we will discover that our positions are actually not that different after all. It is true that I do not place humans in a central position, and I claim the world works and would work exactly the same way with or without human existence. You take everything anchored to humans – epistemologically. Note however, that I am somewhat different to typical platonists, who claim that the ideas humans come up with are the ones that actually exist in the world – I do not think that. In fact I take quite epistemological stance myself. I think that science as such is a social activity, like telling stories, and the real phenomena and real “laws” always escape science same way as children stories always deviate from the reality itself. The reality is somehow beyond generalisations.

We use conceptual tools to discover new principles, then we use those new principles to invent new conceptual tools. The tools themselves shape the principles we discover and they are all part of our common culture.

Yes – I agree with that. And, having it all linked up, it adds extra “burden” to our understanding of the world because it is not only the reality itself that shapes the theories and science, but it is also all this “luggage” that we carry on with our common culture that shapes it too. Without that “luggage” we would have much harder to get where we are today, but, at the same time, it would be much easier to arrive at some other conceptualisations. We are either making it more efficient locally, but locking ourselves in a long evolutionary valley, or, we spread our ideas more widely and explore more but move with a slower pace. Depth-first vs. breadth-first search?

I think the best programmers and scientists are more like artists than inventors. The best solutions to problems always have an aesthetic appeal to them.

Yes. I think that too.

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