Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Writing Efforts

Sunday, 5 July 2020

For several months, just two manuscripts were in the listing of manuscripts accepted by The Review of Symbolic Logic, one on an application of modal logic to set theory which article had been listed on 4 October and mine on probability which had been listed on 20 February. On 25 June, another was added, followed by nine more on 29 June; on 2 July, four more.

I don't know why the oldest two on the list have still not been typeset and moved to the FirstView list. And I don't think that my article will find many readers before it has, further, been assigned to a specific issue. It seems unlikely that the last will happen before 2021.


I have been working on a paper concerned with De Morgan's contribution to an area of probability theory. I had wanted to mention that contribution in the introduction to my probability paper, but saw no way of doing it that would be succinct without seeming occult. I began the new paper thinking that I would finish it in a very few days, but as I engaged in some of the requisite research I found that the task of properly explaining things was going to be still more challenging than I had anticipated.

In the end, the paper on De Morgan will be seen as a minor contribution to the history of thought. Had I known at the beginning how troublesome would be the task of writing it, I would have postponed the undertaking.

Stick That in Your Lexicon!

Saturday, 23 May 2020
bru·to·ri·al /bruːˈtɔːriəl/ adjective & noun
A. noun. An otherwise useless tutorial that one is not permitted to forgo.
B. adjective. Of or pertaining to a brutorial.

Quotations Containing Hanging Paragraphs in LAΤΕΧ

Monday, 4 May 2020

In a paper on which I'm working, I needed a block quotation, within which there were hanging paragraphs — for each every line except for the first was indented — effected in a way that naturally complemented ordinary block quotations as defined in article.cls. Not being a master of LAΤΕΧ, I made a search for how to do this, but I did not find anything that quite did the job. I arrived at this

\newenvironment{hangquotation}
    {\list{}{%
        \setlength{\itemindent}{-1.5em}%
        \setlength{\listparindent}{\itemindent}%
        \setlength{\rightmargin}{\leftmargin}%
        \addtolength{\leftmargin}{1.5em}%
        \setlength{\parsep}{\z@ \@plus\p@}%
    }%
    \item\relax}
    {\endlist}

which I am posting for the benefit of someone which the same problem, or with a problem sufficiently similar that my solution is readily adapted to his or to hers.

Here's an example of the output: [screenshot]

To use the code, place it in the LAΤΕΧ preamble, and then nest each block of paragraphs for which it is to be used between \begin{hangquotation} and \end{hangquotation}.

Voigt and Value

Friday, 10 April 2020

In a previous entry, I asserted that Voigt's Zahl und Mass in der Ökonomik contain[s] more error than insight. Here, I'll discuss one of the more egregious errors. In section V, Voight writes

An die Spitze der Erörterung dieses vielberufenen Begriffes sollte gestellt werden, dass es Einheiten des Wertes giebt, dass man also untersuchen kann, wievielmal so gross ein Wert als ein anderer ist und Güter gleichen Wertes durch einander ersetzen kann, dass also der Wert ein eigentliches in einer Kardinalzahl ausdrückbares Mass hat.

which may be translated as

At the forefront of discussion of this much used concept should be placed that there are units of value that one thus can investigate how many time as large a value is as another and can replace goods of the same value with each other, that thus the value has a real measure expressible in a cardinal number.

I'll deal first with the point that it seems that one can investigate how many times as large a value is as another.

Numbers are used in many ways. Depending upon the use, what is revealed by arithmetic may be a great deal or very little. Sometimes numbers are ascribed with so little meaning that we may as well consider them strings of numerals, the characters that we use for numbers, and not numbers at all. Sometimes numbers do nothing but provide an arbitrary order, good for something such as a look-up table but nothing else. Sometimes they provide a meaningful order, but one in which the results of most arithmetic operations are meaningless, as when items produced at irregular intervals are given sequential serial numbers. (The difference between any two such numbers tells one which was produced before the other, but little else.) Sometimes the differences between the differences are meaningful, as when items are produce at regular intervals and given sequential serial numbers. And so forth.

Monetary prices are quantities, but they are more specifically quantities of money; that does not make them quantities of value nor proxies of quantities of value. One would have to show that the results of every arithmetic operation on such a quantity of money said something about value for it to be shown that value were itself a quantity.

The second part of Voigt's claim is that one Güter gleichen Wertes durch einander ersetzen kann [can replace goods of the same value with each other]. But an equivalence between things corresponding to the same numbers doesn't make results of the application of arithmetic to those numbers meaningful. (Consider lots of items produced at irregular intervals, with each item in the lot given the same serial number, unique to the lot but otherwise random.) And we should ask ourselves under just what circumstances we can and cannot ersetzen one set of commodities of a given price with another of the same price.

Nor does somehow combining the use of quantities of money for prices with a property of equivalence imply that value is a quantity.

Voigt is unusual not in making this unwarranted inference, but in so clearly expressing himself as he does. From the observation that prices are usually quantities of something, which quantities increase as value increases, most people, and even most economists blithely infer that value itself behaves as a quantity.

A Translation of Voigt's Zahl und Mass in der Ökonomik

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

In early 2013, I made freely available a transcription of Zahl und Mass in der Ökonomik: Eine kritische Untersuchung der mathematischen Methode und der mathematischen Preistheorie (1893) by Andreas Heinrich Voigt. I have to-day completed a first pass of a translation of this as Number and Measure in Economics: A Critical Examination of Mathematical Method and of Mathematical Price Theory. Although I believe that there are many errors to be corrected in that translation, I am making it available. I do not plan to use a different URI for corrected versions.

I have been very disappointed by my reading of Voigt's article. I regard it as containing more error than insight.

In the course of translation, I found and corrected extremely minor errors in the transcription of the original. A name was at one point misspelled by me, and I failed to capitalize a word beginning a sentence. I also marked a die die as questionable which I've since concluded was deliberate. I do not believe that anyone could have been led to a mistaken reading as a result of those errors, but I have naturally corrected them.

I may change the URI for the transcription, moving it from another domain to place it amongst the uploads for this 'blog. If so, then I will edit entries to reflect that change.

Published

Thursday, 20 February 2020

On 20 February 2020, a year to-the-day after I submitted my paper Formal Qualitiative Probability to The Review of Symbolic Logic and nearly five months after I was notified that a revised version had been accepted, Cambridge University Press published the manuscript on-line.

(I believe that an unchanging DOI 10.1017/S1755020319000480 will be used for whatever is the latest version of the article, as it is type-set for paper publication and eventually assigned to a specific issue.)

This work was badly treated across journals of philosophy. Regardless of whether any of my future work is perhaps best regarded as philosophic, I will henceforth avoid submitting to such journals.

Lost in Translation

Sunday, 9 February 2020

I recently started reading Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, a translation of Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt[e] by Franz Brentano. My copy happens to be of the 1973 Humanities Press edition.

In the translation of the 1874 foreword, I hit a sentence

I was prompted to undertake a rather detailed study of these opinions because at the present time they enjoy an undue popularity and exert a lamentable influence upon a public which, in matters of psychology even less than in other fields, has not yet learned to demand scientific cogency.

This sentence is a muddle, with restrictions and negations working to say something contrary to what Brentano must surely have intended. A scan of the original is available on-line, the German reads

Und was mich dazu trieb, auch auf sie weitläufiger einzugehen, waren nur eine ungebührliche Verbreitung und ein beklagenswerther Einfluss, welche sie gegenwärtig auf ein Publicum gewonnen haben, das in sachen der Psychologie weniger noch als anderwärts auf wissenschaftliche Strenge Anspruch zu machen gelernt hat.

That refers to

a public, who in matters of psychology less still than elsewhere have learned to make a demand for scientific rigor

So the muddle is not in the original, but is an artefact of translation that doesn't strive to be as close to the original as possible while conforming to the conventions of the target language.

I checked a scan of the 1995 second edition of the translation, and found the same muddle as in the 1973 edition.

Naturally, I'm wondering to what extent I can reasonably trust the remainder of the translation. I reälize that passages recognized as crucial will probably have been treated with greater care and received more scrutiny, but there may be passages the importance of which has not been recognized. And even passages whose importance were recognized might be poorly translated. (I certainly saw such cases in translations of the work of Aristoteles.)

Dead in the Water

Friday, 3 January 2020

Although my paper on probability was accepted by The Review of Symbolic Logic on 22 September, it has since been stalled at that journal.

Acceptance was conditioned on my making a reply to the reviewer and my providing a final version of the paper. On 23 September, I uploaded the reply, a copy of my paper in PDF, a LAΤΕΧ source file for the text of the paper, and a BibLAΤΕΧ database. At the private page for my submission of articles to ASL journals, the status of the paper was reported as Waiting.

Some days later, I discovered two errors in one of the entries of the BibLAΤΕΧ database, which errors affected the bibliography. I initially thought that I should wait for galley proofs before attempting to effect a correction; but, on 17 October, I submitted a revision of the database, along with redundant copies of the other files because it was not possible simply to submit a new copy of the database.

From 22 September until then — indeed until 30 November, I'd received no communication from the editors nor from other staff. So I contacted the handling editor and requested information. She had not replied as of 2 December, so I contacted the coördinating editor and requested information. He replied on 4 December with a recommendation that I contact the handling editor, and said that he'd sent a copy of his reply to her. She had not replied as of 9 December, so I sent a copy both to the coördinating editor and to the handling editor, presenting a time-line, noting the lack of communication, and again requesting information.

On 18 December, the handling editor told me that she would contact the typesetters and then communicate with me soon. On 20 December, at 21:06 UTC she sent e.mail reporting that the typesetters needed for me to upload a final version of the paper. I responded that I had done so on 23 September, and that I'd also submitted a revised BibLAΤΕΧ database on 17 October. However, I returned to the website to repeat the process, and found that there was a previously presented option entitled Upload Final Versions; I used this option. and the status became Finals Uploaded. The option continues to be offered. Evidently, when I was told to upload a final version, an editor or some other member of staff failed to do something that would have caused that option to be presented to me on 23 September or on 17 October. And, since none of them were paying attention, no one noticed that months were passing without movement on the paper.

I mention the time-of-day that the handling editor replied to me because it was late at night in England, on a Friday, with Christmas coming in the middle of the next week. There was no discernible action taken on my paper in that next week, nor has there been in the week after it; I imagine that the typesetters have all been on vacation.

On 3 January at 21:44 UTC — yes, again at night on a Friday — the handling editor replied to my message of 20 December, saying that she would again contact the publishing team. I quickly notified her that, on 20 December, I had again uploaded a final version, but had not heard since from them.

Up-Date (2020:01/05): I received e.mail from the handling editor telling me that the publishing team could now access the files. I don't know if, for them to be able to do so, still more had to be done by the editorial staff. In any case, my paper still isn't publicly listed as accepted.

Ideas of Choice

Monday, 11 November 2019

I have been more actively working on the decision-theory paper off of which the probability paper was spun. And this effort has me thinking about the meanings of choice.

As I noted in an earlier entry to this 'blog, my paper on indecision used choice to mean no more or less than selection. I defined relations of preference in terms of choice functions, which are functions that select a subset from a set of options. Defining relations of preference in this manner seems to explain preference in terms of something called choice rather than explaining the thing called choice in terms of preference. But something called choice is often said to result from preference. Certainly, we want somehow to explain selection by persons of alternatives (even if that which explains cannot itself be observed directly!), and some notion of preference represents an attempt at explanation.

(However, if preference is the proper explanation, then preference must be very changeable; much of real-world behavior does not conform to a constant set of preferences. And people do such things as regularly selecting {A} from a set {A, B, C} yet consistently selecting {B} from a set {A, B, D}; perhaps in such cases we can still contrive an explanation in terms of preference, but we should be dubious of such explanation. I don't think that we should reject the word choice if the selections that people actually make aren't driven by preference. If preference does not provide a proper explanation, then perhaps some more general concept does. And perhaps by teasing-out what people intend by the word choice when they intend something narrower than selection, we can arrive at that generalization. That's one of the reasons that I sometimes press some people, especially fellow economists, to tell me what they intend by the word choice or by coördinate terms, when they reject its application where it seems to me to fit. I'm not trying to catch them in error or Socratically to teach a lesson to them; I'm trying to engage with them in an important investigation. But, important doubts about the use of preference in descriptive theory not withstanding, preference makes considerable sense in prescriptive use. Indeed, that sense in prescriptive use is one of the reasons that we so easily accept it in descriptive use, and even assures us that it must at least approximate a realistic description fairly well, because unreasonable behavior is costly.)

Identification of a preference is sometimes itself called choice; but sometimes preference is instead expressed in terms of whom or of what one would choose, if given the choice; and, sometimes, after a preference is expressed, the response is something such as You don't get to make that choice! In conscious identification of a preference, one selects an ideation; in reporting such an identification, one selects an utterance; and these ideations or utterances are selected in a way different from the way in which their subjects are, except in odd, self-referential cases.

In discussion of decision-making in a world of uncertainty, I've found use for an idea that I call practical choice, by which I mean selection of an option which selection causes that option to be effected with certainty.

In a world without uncertainty, there would be a simple division between what one could attain and what one could not. Preference amongst the unattainable would ex definitione be without practical significance. Discussion of preference amongst the possible would be operationally equivalent to discussion of practical choice, and rational agents would always attain that possible state-of-the-world that they most desired.

When we begin to speak and write of uncertainty, we are actually speaking and writing of cases in which we may make practical choices amongst options that would, in turn, affect the state-of-the-world in imperfectly predictable ways. Hypothetically, I might not care about those effects; I might only care about the options that I can practically choose; but, with those options properly identified, that hypothetical is highly implausible and sterile. And, otherwise, it now becomes quite relevant to consider the difference and relationship between preferences amongst things that are subject to practical choice and preferences amongst things that are not subject to practical choice. Preferences amongst things that an agent cannot practically choose will determine preferences amongst things that she can.

(Our practical choices are more limited than some might at first realize. An agent has practical choice of no more than some mental states; and selecting amongst these mental states delivers no more power over other possibilities than to increase or decrease the probabilities of those possibilities. Given the selection of one mental state, one's arm is more likely to move, but there is at least some terrible possibility that it will not. Indeed, given the selection of one mental state, one is more likely to recall a desired datum, but there is a possibility that one will not. Still, in many cases we might, without doing too much violence to realism, pretend that our practical choices include operations that we think almost surely to follow upon our exercise of actual practical choice. For example, one might calculate as if one had a practical choice of whether to propose marriage, while acknowledging that one did not have a practical choice over whether one would marry the other party.)

The concern of my paper on indecision was in identifying a difference in observable behavior distinguishing indecision from indifference, and I didn't want that distinction to be simply self-reported. When an agent was undecided between X and Y rather than indifferent, I needed a difference in selection from a set in which X and Y options, rather than a difference in selection amongst utterances or somesuch. In hindsight, I wish that, in that paper, I'd discussed conceptions of choice more than I did, and had explicitly written of practical choice. Perhaps accordingly I will someday revise the working version of the paper.

Acceptance

Monday, 23 September 2019

On 22 September, I was informed that my article Formal Qualitative Probability had been accepted for publication by The Review of Symbolic Logic. I do not yet know in what issue it is to be published.

Up-Date (2019:11/03): I have not yet received a galley-proof of my paper nor a copyright-assignment form. I have learned that the journal publishes papers on-line before scheduling them to a specific issue of the journal, so I will probably be in the odd position of having a DOI and a URI before I know the issue in which the paper is to appear.