Re: A comment

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Posted by alan nagel on January 25, 1999 at 18:06:59:

In Reply to: Re: A comment posted by Yon Bard on January 25, 1999 at 13:53:39:

snipping out N. Salingaros' comments to skip to Yon Bard's response:

: Your comments are dotted with terms such as 'correct judgment,' Of course the trouble is that there is no such thing. What is correct for one person at one time or place is incorrect for another person, time, or place.
: While neural networks or other expert systems may, with sufficient effort, be trained to emulate certain aspects of human judgment, there is little evidence that this actually represents how the mind works (I have spent my career in computer science and have dabbled in expert systems and the like).

: I would like to ask one question: Does anybody seriously believes that the set of rules in our checklist, or anything at all like them, can capture the esthetic perceptions of the human mind?

: Regards, Yon

Yon has two crucial points here. One, the lack of _predictive_ value and two, the unpalatability of _regulatory_ value. Just citing Alexander's rules will not help us predict the next good judgment (auction price, scholarly plea, ...). Nor will citing such rules any more satisfactorily give us reason to dismiss X's contribution to the discussion or to canonize Y's.

If "capture" for Yon must carry predictive or regulative values, we'll all have to answer 'no,' I think.

There remain descriptive values, and the consequences of understanding. The rules can certainly help us reflect on what and how it is that we're doing not only when we hold a strong evaluative opinion, but also when we get that satisfaction of finding it shared with [some of] our colleagues. And those rules may specifically pick out some analytic criteria we can use, say to agree that "this pattern has a symmetry and vitality that is inseparable from its quirkiness and imperfection according to the strictest application of the rules."

Now in that sense, I think we do indeed "capture esthetic perceptions of the human mind" very well indeed. Not prescriptively or regulatively. Even if we grant some mushy probabilistic values of 'kind of predictive' and 'sort of regulatory' effectiveness, the variation is what counts. The larger shift from what this or that culture likes now and then may sometimes seem unbridgeable (maybe it is).

But still something gets captured, doesn't it? And Saligaros/Alexander ask us to consider the really hard question, about whether the kind of relativism I'm defending might not still have a common neural or other such base that a mathematician can well help us describe most simply of all.

Just remember that the power of its simplicity comes hand in hand with some limits as to its utility.


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