Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Definitely yes and not at all

I read a job description the other day that the employee sought must be able to "handle multiple and sometimes conflicting priorities."  Sometimes theoreticians in various disciplines are interested in listing a set of rules or axioms by which a system or a theory operates. In 1932, Kurt Godel, an Austrian-American, proved that some systems exist or can be constructed in which it is not possible to have a set of axioms that completely describe all aspects and operations in the system and yet do not contradict.

Herbert A. Simon, an American professor (1916-2001), was an outstanding and prolific thinker and writer in many fields.  He won a Nobel prize in economics and contributed to several other subjects, including artificial intelligence (AI).  He noted that common rules-of-thumb and proverbs often contradict each other.  "Look before you leap" but "strike while the iron is hot".  From The Human Beast by Nigel Barber in Psychology Today: "Home is where the heart is" but "Familiarity breeds contempt."

If I say "Please remain standing but please sit down", it is going to be difficult to do what I say.  If Mom says I can have the car but Dad says I can't, maybe I will ask Grandma.  People run into contradictions and totally incompatible rules, laws, plans and pleas all the time. We can try to alternate between complying with one and then the other.  We can shrug and do what we want.  We can hide in back where we can't be seen.  We can choose between the issuing authorities on various bases: who punishes harder, who we actually want to go along with, who we paid attention to before when this sort of thing happened.

Sometimes, an academic or scientific picture of living is based on a very definite, even rigid picture of human thinking or activity.  Such clarified, simplified, abstract models of thinking or being or acting can be very helpful in giving us insight into our lives or into a new way of thinking or acting.  However, we find eventually that the clarity and simplicity is inadequate for a full picture of what we are, or do, or want.  At that point, we construct a new model of our beliefs or our science.

It is lovely that human judgment and desires are such that we can handle contradictions in love and life.  We are quite used to facing contradictory goals, where we want the "best" but can't afford its price, or want to be active and efficient while snoozing a little longer.  We know that it is when we face contradictions that things are getting rich and interesting.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Twitter: @olderkirby

Popular Posts

Follow @olderkirby