How we construct our realities: #3

Posted on October 3, 2011

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In the last post we introduced two models that Peter acquired in high school. First, mathematics, an artificial, relatively neat and tidy, ‘man-made reality’ constructed using shared axioms or assumptions. Second, history, a relatively messy reality,  with different mind-sized realities constructed from different schools, paradigms or models of historical thought.

After high school Peter completed one year of engineering before joining the navy. Engineering involves learning additional  math models and their applications to constructing ‘realities’ in the physical sciences. Peter’s class of  year engineers were also required to take an introductory class on English Literature – additional messy models and fuzzy realities:

 Let not young souls be smothered out before 
They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride.
It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull, 
Its poor are ox-like, limp and leaden-eyed.
 Not that they starve, but starve so dreamlessly; 
Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap; 
Not that they serve, but have no gods to serve; 
Not that they die, but that they die like sheep. 
A poem by Vachel Lindsay.
There were several fourth year engineers taking this required first year English Lit class for the fourth time - having failed it the three previous years. Some people

Messy Models - poetry

who excel in neat and tidy math models employing clear axioms or presuppositions, and the resulting 'artificial realities', have trouble with the messier models and assumptions employed in constructing the 'realities' associated with history and english lit. 
For example Peter did better in English lit that in calculus.
After one year of engineering  and joining the Navy Peter is introduced to various World War 2 realities. Although he doesn't appreciate it at the time both the math and history or english lit models are relevant to his navy experiences. The neat and  tidy math model is similar to the neat and tidy official naval model in that they both deal with artificial worlds. The math model deals with the behavior of numbers according to certain rules, and the official navy model ( rules and regulations) deal with the behavior of imaginary officers and crew following selected 'idealized' rules. Like 'blackboard math' this is a blackboard navy - an artificial world. Another instance of relying upon 'mind sized' constructions of 'reality', another instance of Hawking's 'model dependant realism", another way of creating confidence. Subsequently the artificially confident but naive young officer is sent to his first ship where he gradually constructs a more functional model to deal with the messy experience he encounters, a model in which he has sufficient confidence to make decisions, and sufficient plasticity to accommodate the messy flow of experience.  

Messy Models: .flickr.com/photos/34757743@N08/6203051409 
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Posted in: Sciencing