Most Holy Wars Tied To Psychology

Many lengthy disagreements on this wiki can be directly or indirectly traced to differences in personal psychology or general models (assumptions) about human psychology. I don't know of a single HolyWar topic that was eventually settled by objective information. It would be nice if math or science directly guided us toward the "correct" approach, but that is not going to happen. At best, math might tell that something is inconsistent or needs more work.

Sometimes. If the argument is whether uppercase keywords (ala SQL, COBOL) or lowercase (ala C++, Java) are better, I would agree that there is no correct answer; nor is science likely to provide one. If the argument is whether or not quicksort is O(n*log n) in the average case, science has a definite answer - and anyone who says otherwise is a fruitcake (or had better present a formal proof).

Many of the questions argued about on Wiki - many of the HolyWars - I think science could eventually weigh in; however, much of that research hasn't been done yet. In the mean time, lots of folks here like to extrapolate their personal preferences into sound engineering principles, often claiming "science" as their ally when it's convenient (even when science has far less to say on a topic than they claim); and dismissing well-established scientific findings that they find inconvenient, often on grounds of psychology. The former is simply bad science; the latter frequently ventures towards PostModernist anti-science. Both are ScientificSins.

Wikizens must learn to face this fact. It is inescapable. No software model can perfectly represent the entire world, and thus must make some assumptions (abstractions) to simplify information enough to be able deal with it as human beings. But since AllAbstractionsLie, we have to pick the most UsefulLie among many alternatives. So far there are very few useful metrics to chose among them. And, even the metrics that do exist often depend on assumptions about the path and probability of future changes. Since no one can predict the future, estimating the future depends on studying the past. But, humans have selective memory, and which memories a person selects to make decisions from is all part of psychology. Most of us have at least a few memories of being reprimanded or faulted for problems that popped up due to unanticipated changes. We are more likely to remember those occurrences, and adjust our behavior (and memories) in a reverse-Pavlov sense to avoid them in the future.

Complicating this even more is that the psychology of each human being is vastly different from individual to individual. Thus, finding and deciding on which human to use as the reference for study or decision making is basically a political process, and politics depends heavily on psychology.

{Moved discussion related to "types" into TopOnTypes.}


It's wise to have respect for others, instead of fighting. For example, I respect many programmers who use different languages. The fact is: you really only have time to master one or a couple languages. So respect the other people, rather than fighting and debating whose view is better. There are, however, some situations where some solutions are just not the best solution to a problem at present, and proof (or science) really helps out. Example: If you see someone completing a project in 5 days using one tool, and the other guy takes 2 years using another tool, you should make a point and offer facts or explanations about why it took you less time. If is far better to point out facts or explanations, and hopefully real world examples, than it is to fight.

There might be a few people who can master many languages and paradigms. However, those are probably rare and difficult to tell from the pretenders. Related: MindOverhaulEconomics.


(moved from MultiParadigmDatabase)

You mean like: "There is an objective definition of 'classification'".

Yep. Exactly like that. And that one would be easy. The definition of classification I use is quite objective: any computation performed with intent or purpose of making a decision as to whether a something (no matter what that something is - object, behavior, phenomenon, etc.) belongs inside or outside a group of somethings (no matter what that group of somethings is). Of course, I'm quite sure that explaining this to someone who's proven to be an utterly HostileStudent (and who thumbs his nose at academics) would be a rather pointless exercise in frustration. Hmmm... I seem to have done it again... I habitually explained a claim, an action you call "meandering". I'm trying to avoid making claims, for now, and just tear apart your fallacious arguments. It's a lot more direct.

You do realize that "intent" and "purpose" are highly subjective things. I don't thumb my nose at academics. I thumb my nose at people who hide behind academics. They remind me of contractors who convolute stuff out of purpose or habit for the sake of job security or kingdom protection. Gorbedef, tear down these walls!

I don't believe you. Can you support your statement that "intent" and "purpose" are highly subjective things? Or are you just blowing more hot air? Intent and purpose being "subjective" would imply that, given a person who performed an action, whether that action was performed intentionally or on purpose woud be literally be "subject" to the opinion of whomever you asked (right along side: "Was what he did 'good' or 'bad'? Did it make you 'happy' or 'sad'?"). But it seems to me that, unlike the questions of "good" or "bad" and "happy" or "sad", there's exactly one authority on this question of "intent" and "purpose": the person who performed the action. The opinions of others do not affect this reality. Thus, 'intent' and 'purpose', to my understanding, fall quite squarely in the "objective" category.

Yet another pedantic UselessTruth. A software engineering definition is not very useful if it depends on asking the person who made something. That means if the author died in a plane-crash, there may be no objective way to see if their work has a certain intent. And even if they describe alleged intent, there is no external way to verify it.

If you put aside your HostileStudent hat, you might learn something: Intent and purpose are relevant because, in any implemented computation, you have representations of things. You cannot prove that an operation is or is not integer-addition, for example, without knowing whether the the objects involved are intended to represent integers. Same truth applies to the act of classification. It is true that you often cannot deductively prove intent (even your own). I'm supposing you've never heard of abduction and induction? Deductive reasoning isn't the only sort available. We have access to induction, abduction, evidence, and probability - and we can verify intent as it exists within a computation or specification with exactly the same approach we utilize to discern every other truth about our physical universe.

One can prove that an operator results in integer addition (for all tested scenarios) regardless of where it came from. Something with identical behavior as an integer adder is for all intent and purposes an integer adder. But human intent in a definition renders it a subjective definition. Otherwise, an alien compiler from a long-dead civalization may not qualify for "types" or "classification" even if it does stuff (has behaviors) that we normally associate with types. I am not against subjectivity-linked definitions. However, one shouldn't be so insistent that it is the only approach if alternative and useful psychological models can be provided. You sell TypeTheory with the haughtiness of purity and singularity, when in fact its in the same subjectivity boat as TypesAreSideFlags.

Re: "One can prove that an operator results in integer addition (for all tested scenarios) regardless of where it came from." - but can you prove the opposite? not knowing the intended integer representations, can you prove that an operator doesn't result in integer addition? Please give this question some thought before reading on.

Identifying something as an integer adder is a less difficult task than proving that addition has occurred or is occurring in arbitrary computation systems (consider that most computation systems that perform addition don't tell you what they think the answer is when they're finished... they just store the result away and allow it to subtly influence future behavior; it's rather difficult to prove they're doing addition). Showing that something is an adder requires first identifying a representation for the integers that the adder-device happens to utilize when performing addition. Unfortunately, you will need to eventually face the issue that there exists an infinite set of possible representations for integers. This can make it remarkably more difficult to take a device and prove that it is not an adder - because you can't ever be completely sure you're not just representing the inputs or interpreting the output incorrectly. And that's even before you deal with such questions as: might the representation for the output integer depend upon the representation or values of the other two? might the integer-representations differ for the two input integers? And is an adder that decrypts the inputs and encrypts the result still an adder? Dealing with representation borderlines as between bignums and smallnums is quite difficult enough even without resorting to systems designed to confound you!

Knowing intent (in this case the intended representation for integers) solves this otherwise undecidable problem. As mentioned above, where 'intent' as to this representation is not specified directly, it can be obtained via non-deductive inference (induction, abduction, evidence, probability - one traditionally expects certain bit-orders for integer representations because that's how one has seen them before).

As a note, I said nothing of human intent. When a compiler transforms a higher-level programming language into a lower-level one, the intent to which the compiler pays attention is well codified in the semantics of the higher-level programming language. Even higher-level intent and purpose can be inferred from the comments and overall structure of the code... e.g. whether or not the code is supposed to describe an FTP server. This approach towards inferring of intent can be applied even to systems that were NOT made by humans. For example: what is the purpose of the gastrointestinal system? why do bears hibernate? etc. But often, inference isn't heavily required. Intent can be described and codified, turned into specifications, or specifications for specifications, or specifications for specifications for specifications. Intent does allow for hypothetical infinite regression and (in practice) unbounded arbitrary regression. Why? okay, but why? okay, but why? (...) but eventually you'll always reach a "just because". A codified intent (i.e. a specification) is likely to be far more precise and far less mutable (though no less "objective") than an intent held wholly in someone's head.

And, if an intent or codification thereof sayeth: "make unto this object a decision as to whether it be IN or OUT" (e.g. in the group of 'TRUE' things, or not), then it's clearly an intent to classify said object.

RE: "But human intent in a definition renders it a subjective definition. Otherwise, an alien compiler [...]" - I appreciate you presenting your reasoning here. However, to be a pedantic logician who can't stand fallacy, your reasoning doesn't support your statement. If 'human intent' is needed, then 'alien intent', very objectively, doesn't qualify (excepting human aliens). It'd be wiser to say that use of the 'human' qualifier should be avoided except in defining those words that demand it (e.g. man-made). Stick with plain, unqualified "intent" and "purpose" which are quite objective for the reasons I've already described.

I wonder, do you iron your socks?

I wonder, do you ever concern yourself with more than a superficial veneer of analytical thought?

Yes, but not for the sock comment. Anyhow, weaving purpose or intent into a definition is poor form in my opinion even if its possible to somehow claim those are objective. One could perhaps argue that there are no alternatives to linking to those, but they are a consolation prize. We'll just have to AgreeToDisagree and move on.

It isn't very intelligent to disagree with an argument just because you don't like its implications.

One can make a definition be anything they please. However, existing and being a usable definition are two different things. Definitions tied to measuring human intentions are ripe for HolyWar status. The less a definition is tied to personal psychology the easier it is to agree on and measure. It also begs the question: Does the definition of X need to be tied to intentions/pyschology? If so, why? Given a choice, it seems logic to avoid/reduce such ties.

One can assign arbitrary meaning to arbitrary sounds or sequences of characters if there are no other constraining factors. However, under the constraints of discussing any particular subject, one is NOT free to "make a definition be anything they please". Very simply, one's definitions determine that which one is talking about, thus if you wish to talk about something in particular, you cannot have arbitrary definitions. And every part of your argument is (once again) misleading and unsubstantiated.: (A) "Definitions tied to measuring human intentions are ripe for HolyWar status" - this isn't self-evident, top, and needs more support than your word (I certainly don't believe you; the difference between Murder and Homicide is one of intent. The nature of a tool is one of purpose. Semantics for a programming language are direct codifications of intent and purpose.) (B) "The less a definition is tied to personal psychology, the easier it is to agree on and measure" - this I'll agree with, but find completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. I've already established above that intent and purpose are NOT tied necessarily to personal psychology. If you're going to argue that the opposite is true, don't rely upon an assumption that it is true. (C) "It begs the question: Does the definition of X need to be tired to intentions/psychology? [...]". So what? maybe X is necessarily tied to intent, maybe not; it depends on the concept described by "X". I agree that such ties should be avoided where possible (under the general principle that ALL unnecessary coupling should be avoided), but you shouldn't get all fussy simply because the coupling turns out to be necessary. And, for "representation" and "murder" and "classification", ties to intent and purpose are, indeed, quite necessary.

I find it interesting that you use court-room juries as an example being that I find the jury system the opposite of logic and clarity. But to narrow the discussion for now, can you please elaborate on "I've already established above that intent and purpose are NOT tied necessarily to personal psychology". What is an example of them being clearly not tied? (See comments above about adder example.)

I find it interesting that you make shit up all the effin' time; I recall saying nothing of court-rooms or juries. And one example of intent and purpose being clearly not tied to personal psychology: codification of intent and purpose within formalized semantics of a programming language.

Why don't you simply clarify your "homicide" statement instead of act like I snuck taco hot sauce up your ass while sleeping. The communication problem is mostly yours in this case. Accept your fault instead of project it onto me.

You silly little idiot. The meanings of homicide vs. murder have little to do with courtrooms and juries; the concepts they represent have been recognized (under a variety of names) since long before juries were invented, and the definitions for these concepts do not depend upon courtrooms or juries. As far as clarity: murder (by definition) requires intent, whereas homicide does not - this is accepted and is not particularly "ripe for a HolyWar", and thus offers one counter-example (among several others) to your previous unjustified statements. Now, I think it reasonable to assume that any moderately educated and intelligent English-speaking person from Europe or the Americas would know such things as "murder" and "homicide", their connection to intent, and the fact that they are defined (and even possible) without "courtrooms" or "juries". But if that reference was beyond your ken, either above your level of intelligence and education or completely outside your culture or vocabulary, then I'll accept fault for the communication problem. Which of those do you admit to?

Again, where's the universal algorithm for determining "intent"?

Again, one is not necessary. You have this notion in your head that a "universal algorithm" is somehow required for definitions, but that's simply untrue. It's another made-up notion on your part, top.

I never claimed it was. You keep implying it, but stop short of outright admitting that you believe this.

Despite what you've inferred, I've never implied an algorithm must exist (especially an "official" or "universal" one). What I've said is that, for a definition to be practical (usable in practice), it must be possible to formulate a computable algorithm that can decide whether or not (don't forget the "or not") something meets that definition. Some definitions (like that for "halting property") deductively imply that any such algorithms will be undecidable, for example, and this would make it unusable in practice. The same was true for your initial attempts to handle "adder". However, the definition is NOT the algorithm; indeed, there can be many algorithms that work for one definition, and (when algorithms allow for false positives or false negatives, or have a high resource cost) some may be better than others. But the definition clearly precedes the algorithm. Perhaps, with your tendency to think of things backwards (from implementation to definition, as with TypesAreSideFlags), you find this confusing?

I've asked before that you try to establish it on some grounds, and you failed utterly. I've provided counter-evidence to this notion in the course of a previous argument, and it has gone unanswered. Definitions can imply requirements for or properties of an algorithm (e.g. some definitions, like that for "termination property" imply that any algorithm, no matter how you build it, will be undecidable), but definitions do not imply an algorithm exists. What makes you think that demanding this "again" will make it any more relevant than it was last time you demanded it?

What is "it" in "establish it"? I'm just asking for rigor if you make a strong claim. The form of that rigor doesn't have to be an algorithm nor a formal logical proof. Those are the most common, but you haven't offered an alternative sufficiently rigorous device.


I am confused!! Dont we have anything else to discuss?

Nope, this is it :-)


Ahh, but why not MostHolyWarsTiedToPsychiatry?. Then think of WherePsychiatryMatters?, just try not to LaughOutLoud.

I'm not sure what your point is. If you mean most debates are caused by nutcases, you may have a point. However, each side thinks the other side is the nutcase. This brings us to the psychology of nutcaseness. There may be some correlation with being a nutcase and holding an intense position.

Why would it bring you to the psychology of the nutcaseness rather than the psychiatry of the nutcaseness?
See also: DisciplineEnvy, WherePsychologyMatters, WhatIsIntent, TopsLaw
SeptemberZeroSeven, SeptemberZeroEight (is this the SeptemberThatNeverEnded?) No that was 1993 if you follow the reference to the MeatBall page.

CategoryPhilosophy, CategorySubjectivityAndRelativism

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