skepticism (skèp´tî-sîz´em), philosophic position holding that the possibility of knowledge is limited, because of either the limitations of the mind or the inaccessibility of its object. The term is used more loosely to denote any questioning attitude. The earliest skeptics included the Greek Sophists (5th cent. B.C.) and Protagoras. Hume is famous for his theoretical skepticism, but more closely linked to skepticism was the agnosticism of Kant, who demonstrated that certain problems are insoluble by reason. Descartes used skepticism as a methodology. The scientific method, which demands that all assumptions be questioned, is skeptical to a degree, although the positivism of scientists assumes that material effect is impossible without material cause.
Here, in Quantonics, we read many books. Too, we read many journals and magazines. We focus in two large areas of study: philosophy and quantum scihænce.
Our philosophical studies compare Western philosophies. One Western philosophy compares well with quantum scihænce. It is Robert M. Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality. It shows many ills of now predominant objective, rational reason which Pirsig calls SOM or Subject-Object Metaphysics.
In our studies we found a major problem with SOM. SOM boldly declares our humankind, with finite sentience, under select classically-scientific circumstances may know or ascertain absolute truth. To do so we infer SOM presumes a single reality, and we call it One Global Truth, or OGT.
We started looking for tells, give aways, which show SOM's innate bias toward one, i..e., one truth, one reality, one context, etc. We think we found an example. It is 'science's' over use of the. The is a tired word!
Most 'scientists' consider themselves skeptics. They tell us the 'scientific' method, if nothing else prescribes skepticism.
However, in most of our reading, we find 'scientists' writing in non-skeptical ways. Our latest dented fender is their overuse of the and what we perceive as implicit skepticism-antithetical semantics. We see this as a powerful tell of most scientists' objective views of nature and their analogues of reality.
Also, we see unnecessary and wasted use of the, often in an inconsistent grammatical manner.
In English, we use the most frequently as a definite article, a possessive adjective equivalent, an adverb, a prefix, or wasted. (Students of Quantonics will note how 'definite' denies 'uncertainty.' Definitions are intentionally 'definite,' not uncertain. Doug - 12Nov2001.)
Thus you may anticipate our use of four types of criteria for assessing misuse of the: article, possessive, prefix, and wasted.
As you proceed reading here, we hope you intuit a connection twixt 'particular noun' and 'particulate substance.' To objective scientists they are one and same.
We studied recent journals to see how scientists are using the. We want to show you specific examples and show alternatives. We think you may want to compare: actual and intended semantics to affects of use.
Most of our material comes from two of our favorite journals, of whose societies we are members: AAAS' Science Magazine, and NYAS' The Sciences. (Note NYAS' use of the in their title. Is that, "Our sciences, or The only/particular sciences?" It is ambiguous. As even SOMitic realist G. E. Moore might ask, "What exactly do they mean?")
We want to compare potential scientists' and philosophers' misuse of the. To do that, we want to use an article by Freeman J. Dyson titled, 'Miracles of Rare Device,' from The Sciences, Mar/Apr99 issue, and we choose an essay by David Miller titled, 'Being an Absolute Skeptic,' from Science Magazine, 4Jun99 issue. We choose these two examples because they are recent, and they both grabbed our attention. Also, both authors discuss a famous ruse-scientific paper written by Alan D. Sokal, titled, 'Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,' published as legitimate in a journal, Social Text.
Finally we want to use six responses to Miller's essay. Those aggregate our material for our tiny study of over- and mis-use of the. We chose these examples because Dyson represents what we call a consummate scientist, and Miller is a superb philosopher whose own analogues of reality map both partially to SOM and, in our opinion, partially to Pirsig's MoQ. A larger, comprehensive study of our topic here is out of our scope and reach, but we know it could be automated formally and produce dramatic results about Western societies' current misuse/abuse of the.
Before we start, we want to give one quick example of what we want to do here. We will use Dyson's first sentence from paragraph two of his article. It says,
"Almost all the mathematicians and scientists were away, helping to fight the Second World War."
Here we notice Dyson using the twice in one sentence. His first use is wasted. His second use is possessive. We could interpret his second use as article or prefix, but we assume those semantics diverge from Dyson's local context too extremely. Also note his odd choice to waste one use on mathematicians and not waste one use on scientists. Hmmm... Arbitrary? Are mathematicians more 'objective' than scientists? We thought most mathematicians claim subjective-idealism.
We think one way to improve Dyson's sentence looks like this,
"Almost all mathematicians and scientists were away, helping to fight our Second World War."
Do you agree? Now this is just one sentence and one example. If you read Dyson's whole article, you will find ~312 individual misuses of the. His article has about 38 paragraphs, 186 sentences and 4150 words, so he misuses the on average at least ~8 times per paragraph, ~1.6 times per sentence, and once every ~13.3 words (including single character words, initials etc.).
His article contains some quotes which we did not count separately, but we estimate his statistics would not change dramatically if we discounted his few quotes.
An interesting aspect is if Dyson misuses 90% of his 'the's, and half of those wasted were corrected, his text word efficiency would improve about three percent. Character efficiency would improve less because an average word is longer than three characters.
But what about overall semantic improvement? This depends on your philosophy. If you tend toward absolute truth and absolute objectivism, you may want Dyson to stay just as he is. However, if you follow Pirsig, Dewey, Wittgenstein, Peirce, James, and/or Bergson, et al., you may wish Dyson to correct his misuse and delete his waste. (Personally, overuse and misuse of the is a dented fender. I catch myself transposing and correcting misuse/abuse as I read. Unfortunately, nearly all Western writers do this. Ridding Western culture of predominate object-based philosophy and 'science' will be long and arduous.)
Try doing these statistics on a current book or article you may be reading. You will be amazed! For even further amazement consider how many other legacy SOM terms currently infect our Western languages. Peruse any English dictionary. A large percentage of term's definitions depend upon SOM's assumed objective, substance-based reality. Further, many depend upon SOM's axiomatic subject-object dichotomy. Our conclusion: linguistically, English-speaking people are in trouble. This is only a small part of what we call our Millennium III Problem, M3K (Millennium ending in year 3000.).
Let's examine a few more sentences from Dyson's article. He wrote one sentence with seven uses of the. He wrote four sentences with five uses of the. He wrote fifteen sentences with four uses of the. (No sixes, did not count threes, twos, and ones.)
By contrast Dyson wrote 43 sentences without using the.
Allow us to quote Dyson's seven-the and five-the sentences, discuss them, and show our versions of corrections.
First Dyson's seven-the sentence, "And the way to maximize success, as Paczynsky noted, was to point one's telescope toward the richest possible background star fields; the best candidates were the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy visible only from the Southern Hemisphere, and the central region of the Milky Way."
You may choose to interpret each of our assessments differently, in your judgment.
We would write his sentence thus, "And a way to maximize success, as Paczynsky noted, was to point one's telescope toward richest possible background star fields; best candidates were Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy visible only from our Southern Hemisphere, and a central region of our Milky Way."
Note how Dyson chose not to use the in "a nearby galaxy" above.
Next Dyson's first five-the sentence, "The editors of Social Text missed the joke and published the paper in the spring of 1996; Sokal soon exposed it as a fake in an article for the magazine Lingua Franca."
Our version is, "Editors of Social Text missed his joke and published his paper in Spring 1996; [and] Sokal soon exposed it as a fake in an article for Lingua Franca magazine."
In your opinion, so far, are we doing better or worse? Let us know. Keep asking yourself why most writers do this. Why? Why? Why? Our view is legacy SOM language.
Next Dyson's second five-the sentence, "Zwicky observed that the galaxies in clusters move around randomly with high velocities and that if the galaxies were bound only by the gravitational attraction of the visible mass, the clusters would quickly fly apart."
Our version is, "Zwicky observed that galaxies in clusters move around randomly with high velocities and that if galaxies were bound only by gravitational attraction of visible mass, clusters would quickly fly apart."
Next Dyson's third five-the sentence, "She has set up a project called PLANET, with the collaboration of four small telescopes that, taken together, have good views of the Large Magellanic Cloud and the center of the Milky Way twenty-four hours a day at certain times of the year: one is in South Africa, one in Chile, one in western Australia and one in Tasmania."
Our version is, "She has set up a project called PLANET, with collaboration of four small telescopes that, taken together, have good views of Large Magellanic Cloud and a center of our Milky Way twenty-four hours a day at certain times of Earth's year: one is in South Africa, one in Chile, one in western Australia and one in Tasmania."
Finally Dyson's fourth five-the sentence, "If the disadvantaged people of the world can connect to the Internet, they will have access to the information they need to develop their talents and participate in the global economy."
Our version is, "If disadvantaged people of our world can connect to WWW's Internet, they will have access to information they need to develop their talents and participate in our/Earth's global economy."
Clearly waste is not an enormous problem, but semantic is an enormous issue. When use of the implicitly confines semantic of phrase or sentence to only one possible interpretation, SOM is exercising implicit authority perhaps unintended by an author. Examples are:
Ask why we use the specifically rather than generally? When you see the used this way so often, and so ubiquitously it takes on an eminence, an almost god-like reverence, a the-Logos.
Especially when 'scientists' use the, one senses an habitual, perhaps unintended, obfuscatory self-aggrandizement. It almost appears 'scientists' use the as a linguistic badge of authority. The carries an innate expert pseudo ambiance of certainty from which 'scientists,' no doubt, garner fake authority-enhancing security. But once you compare their extreme overuse of closed and limiting 'the's to other more open possibilities, like ones we show above, our skeptical scientists appear more as lettered and titled obscurantists than as fonts of natural law.
The tends to close off consideration of other options. Would scientists (or anyone) want to do that? Why? (We leave endless possibilities for you to consider, but hint at just a couple of possibilities: control, retention of legacy, retention of authority.)
With their overuse of the and their apparent appeals to a higher authority, should we reposition scientists and give them a new sobriquet? Do you think they might like it if we called them generically, in addition to their plethoric other appellations, thelogosists? The church might not like that. And skeptics, especially absolute skeptics, still continue an ever growing use of the?
Are philosophers abusers of the too? We must say yes, but in our single example, using David Miller's essay, 'Being an Absolute Skeptic,' from Science's 4Jun1999 issue, we found Dr. Miller abuses the much less than Freeman J. Dyson does above.
If you read Miller's whole essay, you will find ~89 individual misuses of the. His article has about 11 paragraphs, 83 sentences and 1950 words, so he misuses the on average at least ~8 times per paragraph, ~1 time per sentence, and once every ~21.9 words (including single character words, initials etc.) Miller does not use/misuse the in 31 of his 79 sentences.
We can readily see Miller's misuse of the is roughly half (61%) as frequent as Dyson's. Here is a table which may assist comparison:
Let's examine a few sentences from Miller's essay. He wrote two sentences with five uses of the. He wrote five sentences with four uses of the. (We did not count threes, twos, and ones.)
We want to look at both of his sentences with five misuses as we did for Dyson's article above.
Miller's first five-the sentence,
"Faced with such reverence, philosophers can only reiterate the skeptical argument of David Hume (1711-1776) to the effect that reports from the past provide not the slightest reason to suppose that any one thing rather than any other thing will occur in the future. Science offers no security." P. 1925, top of second column. A Doug note on Hume: Doug found, in reviewing Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature, and his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, that Hume understood probability philosophically, but he rejected probability (using classical negation) based upon his own interpretations of dialectical logic. He felt latter offered a higher standard of judgment, than statistical (stochastic) approaches. Hume's rejection of probability had an unintended consequence of rejecting both quantum~theory and Qabala. We see, eidetically ad occulos, one hugest mistake of philosophy. Doug - 27Aug2012.
Our version is, "Faced with such reverence, philosophers can only reiterate a skeptical argument of David Hume (1711-1776) to an effect that reports from our past provide not a/any slightest reason to suppose that any one thing rather than any other thing will occur in our future. Science offers no security."
Next Miller's second five-the sentence,
"But if you will allow some oversimplification in my depiction, today's crucial battle lines are drawn as I have drawn them: the realists, the stalwart defenders of science and of science's authority, ranged against the skeptics, the illuminati, the postmodernists." P. 1925, bottom of third column.
Our version is, "But if you will allow some oversimplification in my depiction, today's crucial battle lines are drawn as I have drawn them: realists, stalwart defenders of science and of science's authority, ranged against skeptics, illuminati, [and] postmodernists."
On whole, we prefer Miller's work to Dyson's. Dyson's overuse of the became irritating after only a few paragraphs. Perhaps a significant point we might make is scientists like Dyson are closer to a physical world. We might expect them to use SOM's the more often. For them the is substantial. Dissimilarly we might hope to see less abuse of the by philosophers. It is good for them to be further removed from a tiny philosophical box like SOM and envision larger reality with many boxes commingling both substantial and insubstantial phenomena alike.
Seldom do we see philosophical essays like Miller's in science magazines and journals. We send our deepest thanks and heartfelt gratitude to Science Magazine for publishing Miller's essay. Nor have we seen so many letters from interested scientists on a topic of philosophy. We did stats on all six readers' letters, and Miller's final response to them from Science's 9Jul1999 issue. Here is a table of our results:
Note how Miller's response misuse ratio is even lower, by one percent than his essay misuse ratio. His average score from our two samples is 4.1%. Also note how six scientists split comparatively using Miller's average score: three above and three below. So perhaps our idea that scientists tend to more classical and physical language is not a good idea. However, our sample is so small, we likely do not know. It would be fun to do a large sample and cover more parameters like demographics, discipline, education, schools, etc.
Paul A. Roberts comes closest, in our opinion, to stating a policy of balance quantum-like both/and mediated by uncertainty interrelationships among all constituents of reality. He enunciates both skepticism and nonskepticism used apropos context/situation. He writes and thinks like a philosopher. His words sound more like MoQ than others above.
Paul Odgren sees science leading philosophy and philosophy as passé. Odgren is clearly a classicist he believes in falsifiability.
Christian de Duve believes science works. He tells us it works by experiment, hypotheses, and objective observation. We know he is right in a macro view, but wrong in a larger, more general view.
John R. Skoyles cites, "Popper's key insight that the rational authority of science comes from its search for errors." (We know classical science's most primal foundation is faulty and it deludes itself that it can be rational.) Note Skoyles' emphasis on one, global, absolute rational authority.
William S. Barnes, like Paul A. Roberts proselytizes balance. We agree. His last sentence, "Why should philosophers be more hesitant, or less clever, than scientists at modifying old theories when they no longer meet the case?" Sounds like our, "Flux is crux."
Kevin T. Kilty avers Popperian philosophy but argues for balance. We liked his letter. Kilty asks a critical question, in answer to Miller's "Absolute skepticism is correct." Kilty responds, "How do we know?" Excellent!!
Our email to Miller broached a position of uncertainty relations, but Miller responded to us on 11Jun1999, [quote deleted at Miller's request as personal, and acknowledging lack of expertise in quantum notions - Doug - 25Jan2003] Miller apparently denies quantum coherence and quantum superposition. Amazing in light of recent/current experiments with Bose-Einstein Condensates.
So we still do not have a firm landing, but our effort did enlighten us regardless. It is doubtful we will ever have or should want a "firm landing." We want science to retain its magical unending enigmatic pursuit of nature's architecture and infrastructure.
We did learn that misuse of the is needlessly high overall. Too, Western culture adheres classical language and predominate formal and rational thinking.. All, from our perspective, are significant problems for Millennium III.
Bottom line: consider use of the as a measure of one's entrapment in SOM's Church of Objective Reasonings (COORs ). Today, sadly, most classical scientists and philosophers aren't just trapped in COORs, they are floating in it, "blunderingly," blindered and anchored by Aristotle and a lot of classical Boole.
We think absolute skeptics who use the, except in specific and intensional situations, diminish their skepticism via an innate anchorage in SOM legacy.
Our statistics, from a very limited set of data, offer potential to show higher skepticism and lower use of the appear to correlate.
Are there major consequences of misuse of 'the?' We think there are, and they are myriad. One relevant example is Dr. David J. Foulis' connection to John von Neumann's misuse of the in a seminal paper which resulted in quantum logicians making serious errors in judgment in their own subsequent works. Note Foulis' own thelogos in our sentence marked with a red arrow.
Thanks for reading,
PS. As an exercise you may wish to count 'the's in Columbia's definition at page top.