Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Empirical Psychologists vs Armchair Philosophers 2

Some weeks ago in this post at his blog, Andrew was complaining about philosophers threatening to be irrelevant with their out-of-this world thought experiments and imaginary scenarios and the like.  So, being the small-minded person that I am, I'm pleased to find Runeson, of whom Andrew appears to have a decent opinion, has borrowed to some degree from philosophical work.
In a philosophical analysis of the information in signals, Dretske (1981) is explicit on this:
The fact that we can imagine circumstances in which a signal would be equivocal, the fact that we can imagine possibilities that a signal does not eliminate, does not, by itself, show that the signal is equivocal .... To qualify as a relevant possibility, one that actually affects the equivocation of (and therefore information in) a signal, the possibility envisaged must actually be realizable in the nuts and bolts of the particular system in question. (p. 131) (Runeson, 1988, p. 298)
In truth, I think that this relevant alternatives idea might have begun with an Oxford don, J.L. Austin, a chap who was, I think, not very much interested in science.

J. L. Austin, Runeson's Hero?
As an essentially irrelevant aside, my frequent partner in crime, Fred Adams is a Dretske student.  (He's even mentioned in the front matter of Knowledge and the Flow.)

Tomorrow I'll try to get back to some serious posts on Runeson.

Dretske, F. (1981). Knowledge and the Flow of Information.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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