Monday, 28 June 2010

Toronto Life

It isn't every day/week/year that an earthquake and G20 riots shake Toronto.  I thought it best I document what I was doing as I will likely want to recall this week years from now.

I'm disappointed to report that during the earthquake, I was at work watching my monitor shake, and yesterday during the riots, I was home sifting through personal documents.

I probably wouldn't even have checked-in with the world had my sister and mom not stopped by for dinner.  When I turned the radio on to hear about all the commotion, I was so disappointed that I wasn't down there taking videos.  Except for perhaps Immigration issues, I don't think there was any bandwagon that I would have jumped on, and even then, I wouldn't have because I don't think  that a protest is the right forum.  I just wanted to be in the heart of the rare action that Toronto sees.  Oh well.  I'm safe?  I'll find consolation in that.

//

I've finally decided to sit down and go through all of my filing.  They have been in disarray since I moved in with Daniel (September 2008).  Well, "disarray" as in "divided": there are the pre-Daniel files, and the post-Daniel files.

In setting out about this task, I had wanted to merge them into one huge unified system.  But I changed my mind.

I cracked open the filing cases, and found neatly organized bank statements, credit card statements, bills, pay stubs, tax documents,  and more, all dating to as far back as 2001 - the year I started University.   Well, there were my bank statements from high school, but I changed banks before starting University, and I had no interesting documents until 2001.

So, I peeked through them all.  I looked at what I spent money on.  I expected to find generally irresponsible purchases reflecting youth and negligence, but what I actually found was lists of transactions resembling my current spending, except now I have perhaps 5x the income.  Ok, so maybe it was negligent to spend that way without the income I have now..  But it was still interesting to see that I haven't changed very much: I love to watch movies, eat out at least once per week, I buy electronic toys, and I like to go away on one big trip every 1.5-2 years.  I'm ... predictable.  And apparently, I've been so for many years.

I suppose this shouldn't be a big surprise.  It just is because I felt like the last 10 years of my life were very formative, and that I'd grown and changed a lot, and further that a lot of things in my life had changed.  But I guess some things never do.

As for the files, I'm scrapping most of them.  I admit that it's hard to just discard my neat and well-kept files, but ... why keep them?  Without them I can entertain the myth that my metamorphosis into adulthood was more interesting than the documents would declare.

Optimism

I was reading an old Chatelaine magazine today in the waiting room of my mom's eye specialist.  There was a full article on being happy, and a bullet-pointed list of the things that happy people do to keep themselves happy.  I read it skeptically, but I figure, well, there's no harm in doing some of these things.  I have been, after all, pretty miserable for a long time now.

There was the obvious one which said to get exercise.  Sure, no problem.  Another thing they recommend we do is list a couple of things that went right and things that I enjoyed every day/week.  Seems simple enough.  Except on weeks where my laptop unexpectedly dies when I'm trying to write a paper, I discover I owe more money to cover the cost of incidental fees for class, I get into an auto collision that's not my fault but that I could be blamed for because there were no witnesses, etc... [and OMG does "etc" really mean "et cetera"], it's hard for me to dig through and find the things that went well.  I have this sneaking suspicion that they're numerous but tiny, including such things as "I ate" and "I woke up", and that that's why I can't find them.  They're such normal parts of every day that it's hard to give them any credit as being something worth being happy about.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

The Problem Of Induction

The problem of induction was introduced by David Hume (1711-1776) and started with the question of whether or not induction is justified. This is a genuine concern since predictions about the unobserved/future that are derived from experience are made through inductive inference, and are not deductively closed arguments (i.e. not a priori knowledge).

To illustrate the problem, let us begin with the following example:

In my experience, all F's are G's, and no cases of F's have been found to not be G's.

I arrive at the general statement that "All F's are G's" through inductive reasoning.

Is this generalization "justified"?  It is immediately clear that the generalization does not necessarily follow from the premise, since it is not arrived at deductively (that is, it is not entailed).  So it appears that we take a leap from premise to generalization when we reason inductively.

Upon careful examination of the above example, the generalization can be justified by the apparent "Uniformity of Nature", as discussed by Bertrand Russell in The Problems of Philosophy, Chapter VI.  "The belief in the uniformity of nature is the belief that everything that has happened or will happen is an instance of some general law to which there are no exceptions."  Herein lays the problem: uniformity of nature is a premise that can only be arrived at inductively, so it cannot be used to justify inductive reasoning.  It is a circular argument.

//

P. F. Srawson attacks this problem from a linguistic standpoint, claiming that the question of whether or not induction is justified is nonsensical.  He says that it is "the absurd wish that induction should be shown to be some sort of deduction."  His argument is illustrated as follows:

To be rational is to use induction and deduction.

Deductive and inductive reasoning are mutually exclusive.

The word "deductive" describes closed arguments that lead to a priori knowledge.

Deductive propositions are therefore either valid, or invalid on the basis of being either justified or not justified.

The word "inductive" describes the reasoning that leads to degrees of belief that are supported by experience.

So, questions such as "Is there reason in believing in deductive arguments?" and "Are inductive arguments justified?" have no meaning for Strawson.

//

Karl Popper attempts to show that "the belief that we use induction is simply a mistake. [...] The whole apparatus of induction becomes unnecessary once we admit the [...] conjectural character of human knowledge."  He discards induction with his notions of the following:

1. Although we cannot employ induction to acquire a necessary truth, we can necessarily conclude the falsity of a generalization with falsifying evidence, and this is purely deductive.

2. Laws arrived at inductively were based on "unconscious, inborn expectations" or "scanty material, i.e. the few observed instances upon which the law may be based."

He proposes that conjectures (hypotheses) are arrived at arbitrarily, either through myths, or inborn expectations, and that testing (trying to find refutations) is how one arrived at conjectures with (degrees of) corroboration, as opposed to inductive inferences with (degrees of) probability.  So, he discards induction, but only to appeal to it in different terms.

//

Neither attack of the problem is satisfying.  No one said it better than Russell when he said that "we must either accept the inductive principle on the ground of its intrinsic evidence, or forgo all justification of our expectations about the future."  And all the while philosophers who attack this problem tragically become Kierkegaard's Knights of Infinite Resignation: afraid and too calculating to take the leap that they miss the point.

___________________

Postscript:

This was my first assignment after returning to school after an extensive hiatus . This means it was written around.  It's just a short little ditty, and I stumbled upon it while going through my old class notes.  I was awarded a 90%, and a comment regarding my criticism of criticisms on the problem of induction.  I don't think the T.A. who marked it appreciated that I called people in his profession Kierkegaard's Knights of Infinite Resignation. I was hoping he'd get a kick out of it.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Flashback

I saw a couple of ghosts from my past yesterday evening.  It was nice, and I was really happy to see them.  They reminded me of my early 20's, and what it felt like to feel valuable in a job, as if what I did had a real and tangible impact on the broader community, and my effort was rewarded and recognized.  It has been a long time since I felt rewarded and recognized, or even appreciated.

Then there were the questions.  How have you been?  What have you been up to? And I always pause before I give some generic answer suggesting that all is well, and that everything is perfect.

It was nice to see them.  For an evening, I felt youthful as I smiled and laughed and maneuvered the crowd as I once had done so regularly so many years ago.  But all I could think was What did I do for the last five years?

I've reviewed the past five years, I know, numerous times since September 2009, looking at the general upward trend in my standard of living, the stability I've developed,  the things that I have, and the people I have around me.   There were a lot of things that got done; things that happened.   All positive things.

So why...

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Spoiler

I hate to admit it, but a lot of days, I look at my life and just don't want to continue on this path that I've laid out for myself.  It feels impossible - as if there are too many potholes, bumps in the road, and unanticipated detours and pit stops that push the destinations indefinitely further from my reach.  There is no end to the unexpected obstacles that I need to overcome to get to what I have envisioned to be a realistic endpoint.

At least there is a path.  Five years ago, I didn't have one, and life felt meaningless and empty.  Now I have direction and meaning, and it all feels impossible.

What I'm clinging desperately onto these days is my curiosity to know how the stories end.  Do certain initiatives begin to pay off, or do they continue to suck me dry?  Will I reach the next milestone?  Or any of the ones after? Will this effort all have been for naught, or will I someday reap the rewards of the pain that I currently endure?

Only time will tell.  I just wish I had a spoiler.
There was an error in this gadget