Everyday Theories

 

There is a set of “images, stories and theories” in our minds, which we use when we encounter some new events, when we organize our experiences, when we plan to do something, when we make everyday decisions, etc. We use them, expend them, modify them, link them with other “images, stories and theories” – this is how we think. In any conversation, we seamlessly exchange and modify these “images, stories and theories” - this is how we talk. These “images, stories and theories” are social creations - members of the society contribute to their introduction, correction and transmission.

 

Everyday Theories – a System of Patterns

We will call these “images, stories and theories” “everyday theories” because we:

·        perpetually use them during almost every activity – they are our everyday companions;

·        perpetually update and polish them that they better “reflect” or “describe”, what we are dealing with;

·        pick the “theory” according to the situation, with which we are dealing at the moment - different “theories” deal with the world from different points of view and we select one, which fits the situation;

·        try different combinations of “theories” to get better understanding of the situation.

Not all “everyday theories” are tightly bound with logic. Some are vivid memories. Some are bound with a story. They all are helpful, when one wants to get a grip on the situation. However, “everyday theories”, which are bound with logic are powerful, they could be used as ready building blocks to create an overall picture, and could be used to convince others. They are compact, memorable, and easy to apply in new situations.

 “Everyday theories” are creatures of the mind. Individual minds and minds of social groups are actively engaged in their initial creation, modification and development.

However, the mind deals with patterns: patterns of the stream of signals, which it gets from sensory organs, and patterns of structured information, which it gets from other minds. The mind deals with patterns. Patterns are the field of operations of the mind - we store in memory nothing more but patterns.

The mind is very peculiar in its choice of patterns.   

The mind can reason only about objects of finite structure and only about finite number of them. The objects’ structure could grow and the number of objects could grow step-by-step, but, on every step of such growing description, they have to be of finite structure and number of them has to be finite.

Using the technique of “building a growing finite scaffold”, the mind can think about infinite objects in terms of creation such “scaffolds” and comparing “scaffolds” instead of comparing objects. The “scaffold” is built simultaneously in the object (properties of the concept) and around it (relationships with other concepts). This “scaffold” could grow without bounds, but the “scaffold” should be finite on each step of its growth.

Hence, “everyday theories” is a growing “finite system of finite patterns”.

This is an important observation. Based on it, we could attempt to build a meaningful theory of the ways we think based on finite patterns.

However, feelings are an integral part of our thinking, and we cannot have a meaningful theory of thinking, which ignores feelings, bat it is hard to imagine feelings described with finite objects. Use of feelings during thinking should be characterized as an “infinite” step. Seemingly, this would prevent any construction of a theory of thinking, based on finite patterns.

There is a way around this problem, though, because when we build new theories, we use feelings in a special way. While we are thinking, we could “feel” something and could use this “feeling” to guide our thinking. However, we use this “feeling” only to help us arrive to conclusion faster, to avoid dead-ended paths of thinking. Hence, in our analysis of the nature of mind’s working with theories or patterns, we could ignore existence of “feelings”. They are just helpers to arrive to results faster.

We could assume that each our task of thinking is accomplished in finite number of steps. These steps include selection of the ways to:

·        perceive something as a concept,

·        perceive concept’s properties and structure,

·        communicate about this concept,

·        manipulate and change this concept.

This way, we use essentially finite system of thinking to operate something, which, as we understand, is infinite. The tools of thinking, which we use to operate that infinite something, are our theories or patterns.

We use the name “theory”, when we think about something we made and the name “pattern”, when we think about something that exists and we just learnt it. However, we have no way to differentiate one from the other and we will call them Patterns/Theories.

Using these finite Patterns/Theories we operate “infinite”.

This is how we think and operate. It is remarkable, because there is an infinite gap between something, which we operate, and our knowledge about it, which is finite.

Our knowledge about the world is our tool, which we use to change the world. This tool has to be adjusted and improved each time we use it. We need to perceive each and every attempt to change the world, as an experiment and we should learn from it as much as possible. We have to share this newly acquired knowledge and form common knowledge.

This perpetually developing knowledge of the world is a tool of Humanity.

Note, that we do not learn “internal structure of the world”, we even do not know, if such “structure” exists. We just develop our tool – the knowledge.

We figure out, which changes of the world we want to make, in the process of using/developing this tool. Often, we even do not know which changes are possible, before we develop more knowledge, before we work for awhile with our tool and improve it.

This works. Why it works, we do not know.

 

Guiding Light

In the process of development of our Patterns/Theories we perpetually communicate with other people. This communication reduces amount of “experiments” which we have to make with our potential Patterns/Theories before we accept them as something useful and kind of outline their area of applicability. We could say that the society as a whole develops these Patterns/Theories. This is the activity, where it is almost impossible to differentiate between an individual and the society.

We learn how to work with Patterns/Theories, we like results, and we are not concerned with theoretical justifications. We work together to remove useless and misleading Patterns/Theories and to add Patterns/Theories, which help in making acceptable decisions.

It is possible that there are some limitations on the set of Patterns/Theories, which we choose in our perpetual refinement of them, we have no mechanism to detect them. For example, we have no idea, if there is some “underlying reality”, which limits our freedom of working with Patterns/Theories.

This conclusion is scary, and some people need a basis for understanding of why entire system could work. They try to build the foundation of understanding of this phenomenon based on a set of theories relying on concepts of “underlying reality” or even “underlying material reality”. Note, that there are other theories, relying on concepts of “not material reality”, or even “not knowable reality”. Often these “material”, “not material” and “not knowable” reality theories coexist nicely in the same personal system of views. It is impossible to prove or disprove any of these theories.

The System of Patterns/Theories is developed by the society through perpetual application of this System to decision-making. Patterns/Theories, which help achieve wishes of the society in various situations, are kept and enhanced. Those, which do not support achievement of the wishes of the society, are modified or discarded. There are no absolutely good, or absolutely bad, Patterns/Theories.

Successful use of the System of Patterns/Theories is the Guiding Light of the development of this System.

 

Basic Patterns

Our System of Patterns/Theories should have a subset of Patterns/Theories, which cannot be constructed using other Patterns/Theories. We call them Basic Patterns/Theories. Other Patterns/Theories are constructed from them. New Basic Patterns/Theories are formulated by creative individuals in the society, this is their major contribution to the operation of the mind of the society.

Basic Patterns/Theories are included as elements in other Patterns/Theories and sometimes could be extracted from these other Patterns/Theories. The society perpetually reorganizes Patterns/Theories and remembers methods of such reorganization – construction, deconstruction, etc. This way, Patterns/Theories exist in a dynamic system and this assures their longevity and ease of use.

 

Role of Logic in the System of Patterns/Theories

Especially attractive are Patterns/Theories, which bind together other Patterns/Theories, which, at some point, looked unrelated. These Patterns/Theories allow faster learning, better recall, faster discovery of mistakes of reasoning, and provide a richer set of examples of descriptions of situations and associated decisions. They are so attractive that some members of society specialize in their development: mathematicians, scientists, writers, story tellers, etc.

Logical binding of some groups of Patterns/Theories is especially useful.

Creation of a unified logical view on a situation is a powerful and convenient tool of thinking. It helps to get to the decision quickly, and to convince others to agree with us. However, sometimes such “unification” cannot be achieved. In such cases, we need to use a few “logical views”, provide careful logical analysis in bounds of each such logical view, and after that arrive to a decision relying on “intuition”, “feeling” and “experience”.

However, usually, during decision-making, we operate with a few potentially logically incompatible views.

 

Logically Incompatible Views

    Forming a set of Logically Incompatible Views during decision-making is natural and used broadly. Most importantly, having a set of Logically Incompatible Views on the world is very natural. For example, many scientists, who dedicated their life to theories corresponding to a view on the world as a material one, faithfully hold religious views. Logically incompatible Views are rather a norm than exception. However, in bounds of some narrow task, logical coherence of theories is desirable, because it simplifies work with theories and communication of ideas.

    Systematic work with Logically Incompatible Views contributes to growth of understanding, to ability to incorporate information from seemingly unrelated fields into the decision-making.

Attempts to use logic, where it does not belong, could be disastrous. For example, people with bad memory often try to logically reconstruct events, which they forgot, and this leads to “wrong memory” instead of “weak memory”. Sometimes, people see dreams, remember some of them, but do not remember that their memories are memories of dreams. They often try to logically “embed” these memories of dreams into memories of real events and this causes problems for them. Logic is a powerful tool, however, one needs to be careful with it.

Our world view consists of Logically Incompatible Views: scientific, religious, poetic, etc., each contributing to our better understanding of the world. We have to be comfortable with this.

 

Decision-Making

    When one needs to make a decision, he selects a few General Views relevant to the situation and outlines Special Views corresponding to the situation. For each such Special View, he formulates a set of constraints and goals – a set of Patterns to which the decision should conform. He combines them into one clearly defined problem. Most likely, right on this step, there is no logical compatibility between some of these goals and constraints and this is not and should not be an impediment to the decision-making.

He proceeds with some analysis and experimentation with these goals and constraints and modifies them, because in the process he learns something new about the problem.

Eventually, he outlines a set of potential decision candidates, and he does not have enough knowledge to reduce this set any further. This is a natural point in the process. At this point, one relies on own intuition, relies on something, which goes beyond patterns and knowledge, and makes and implements a decision.

This way, new knowledge emerges about Patterns/Theories and new manifestation emerges of something, which we call intuition, which cannot be described in terms of Patterns/Theories. Both phenomena are important.

   

Patterns and Stream of Sensory Information

    We organize the stream of information from our sensory organs using a System of Patterns/Theories. We select a group of Patterns/Theories and use logic to bind some of them. Usually we make a few attempts to do that and could end up with a few variants of chosen groups of Patterns/Theories “describing” given stream of sensory information from different points of view. This is acceptable and often desirable, especially, when we face a particular difficult decision.

Chosen variants of groups of Patterns/Theories are everything we know about the situation, everything we perceive in that situation. This knowledge depends heavily on the System of Patterns/Theories in our possession. The rest in the stream of sensory information we perceive as “noise”. We do not perceive as meaningful anything, which we cannot describe using existing System of Patterns/Theories.

Let us repeat – we do not perceive something as existing, if we cannot construct a Pattern/Theory and match it to the stream of sensory information, while another person could have such perception associated with the same stream of information.

Fortunately, there are some individuals and groups of individuals, who perpetually expend the System of Patterns/Theories. Sometimes, they do that in the process of analysis of some streams of sensory information and sometimes through analysis of the System of Patterns/Theories. Normally, a System of Patterns/Theories grows. For each Pattern/Theory in this System, the set of associations of it to some stream of sensory information also grows. This is the strength of this System, the System, which we use it to get better “grip” on the world.

Alexander Liss 4/21/2020