Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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MrMacSon
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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by MrMacSon » Mon Oct 09, 2017 11:56 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:
Mon Oct 09, 2017 8:40 pm
MrMacSon wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 3:43 am
For me, Bickerman found likely primary information in a an unusual way.

For you, MrMacSon, what is a "primary source"?
.
Material created in the time under question, or material created soon after by a person present at or involved in the event.
  • ie. contemporaneous

Peter Kirby wrote:
Mon Oct 09, 2017 8:40 pm

And is that different from "primary information"? If so, how?
.
I was somewhat tongue-in-cheek referring to Bickerman's detective work to come up with what happened [information] without having a contemporaneous source.

Paul the Uncertain
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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:50 am

Neil, I see no evidence that you value disagreeing with somebody's ideas without also offering your unflattering estimates of their personalities, habits, thoughts and plans. It's not just something between the two of us, either.

I make no claims about the quality of my English. I do, however, say what I mean and mean what I say, and that can only be done in my own words. Similarly, fidelity to what you mean can only be achieved in your words.

You've told me that the late I. Bernard Cohen is a children's book author. You've asked me what the word heuristic means, in this your thread which is about a heuristic. You've asked me what I meant by a word chosen by somebody else, a word which you had quoted with approval, and which I had placed inside quotation marks (inverted commas).

Of course you don't understand what I write. There's nothing surprising about that.

For all your fluster and bluster, our on-topic disagreement is that you believe that there is such a thing as a heuristic whose use and application are necessary for successful inquiry into the human past, while I believe that there isn't such a thing. Everything else is detail.

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spin
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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by spin » Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:42 am

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:50 am
Neil, I see no evidence that you value disagreeing with somebody's ideas without also offering your unflattering estimates of their personalities, habits, thoughts and plans. It's not just something between the two of us, either.

I make no claims about the quality of my English. I do, however, say what I mean and mean what I say, and that can only be done in my own words. Similarly, fidelity to what you mean can only be achieved in your words.

You've told me that the late I. Bernard Cohen is a children's book author. You've asked me what the word heuristic means, in this your thread which is about a heuristic. You've asked me what I meant by a word chosen by somebody else, a word which you had quoted with approval, and which I had placed inside quotation marks (inverted commas).

Of course you don't understand what I write. There's nothing surprising about that.

For all your fluster and bluster, our on-topic disagreement is that you believe that there is such a thing as a heuristic whose use and application are necessary for successful inquiry into the human past, while I believe that there isn't such a thing. Everything else is detail.
Your use of the term "heuristic" is somewhat puzzling to me. You haven't elucidated your use of the term here, sidestepping the request for clarification. The term involves a learning process which features feedback from earlier experience to augment that learning process. That doesn't seem to come out of your usage, so let me ask you what you mean in the hope that you can make your thoughts clear. It may not be a problem with Neil's understanding of what you write, but a problem of you not writing what you hope to communicate. And please don't get all defensive on the subject: the problem of thinking one is communicating an idea while they are not successful in doing so is an old problem (transmission =/= reception) that can require my editing what I write to try to be more communicative of my ideas. So, please help your readers out.
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Paul E.
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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by Paul E. » Tue Oct 10, 2017 4:57 am

Peter:

The primary source vs. primary information distinction is helpful to clarify in some circumstances, I think. With some materials, though, the precise definitions get in the way, imo. With some materials, the heuristic might better be set out as "generally speaking, though not always, the earlier the material the better." So trying to determine whether there is an earlier Greek source for stuff in Josephus or an earlier Aramaic source for stuff in Mark or whatever is a "good" exercise (varying exercises will have varying outcomes of course) because you are seeking earlier material, whether defined as a source or as information. This then avoids any possible definitional arguments between "source" and "information" which could otherwise be significant.

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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Tue Oct 10, 2017 5:34 am

spin
You haven't elucidated your use of the term here
Sure I did; perhaps you missed it.

Dateline: Mon Oct 09, 2017 5:04 am (site time)
What do you mean by "heuristic", exactly? Do you mean "method" or something that could be expressed more simply and plainly?
It is the standard term for any procedural advice which is inadmissible for use in a demonstration (a mathematical proof, for example), but which is sometimes used in uncertain decision or inference. "Procedural advice" may be a method, but it may be other things. For example, it may be negative ("Don't accept any wooden coins").
Back to the present:
The term involves a learning process which features feedback from earlier experience to augment that learning process.
"Procedural advice" covers a wider swath than your explanation (is that what you meant that to be?) allows.

But sure, I suppose in a humorous way, if you don't follow the advice when it is good, then there will be feedback and you will learn something. So, too, if you do follow the advice when it's less good.

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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by spin » Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:00 am

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 5:34 am
spin
You haven't elucidated your use of the term here
Sure I did; perhaps you missed it.

Dateline: Mon Oct 09, 2017 5:04 am (site time)
What do you mean by "heuristic", exactly? Do you mean "method" or something that could be expressed more simply and plainly?
It is the standard term for any procedural advice which is inadmissible for use in a demonstration (a mathematical proof, for example), but which is sometimes used in uncertain decision or inference. "Procedural advice" may be a method, but it may be other things. For example, it may be negative ("Don't accept any wooden coins").
Missed it, but really? Procedural advice certainly doesn't get to the gist of the term. Your one example seems to be what one might call "a rule of thumb". If that is correct, feeding it back into your discussion, are you saying that the approach to primary sources you are trying to criticize equates to a rule of thumb??
Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 5:34 am
Back to the present:
The term involves a learning process which features feedback from earlier experience to augment that learning process.
"Procedural advice" covers a wider swath than your explanation (is that what you meant that to be?) allows.

But sure, I suppose in a humorous way, if you don't follow the advice when it is good, then there will be feedback and you will learn something. So, too, if you do follow the advice when it's less good.
This is not helpful in its lack of communication. My guess is that you just seem not to be using "heuristic" in a standard manner. Human beings inherently proceed heuristically with previous knowledge, behaviors, decisions influencing the present ones and so on as we pass onto new situations. Confronted with a similar situation we will use our efforts in the previous ones to deal with it. A lot of scientific endeavor is heuristic, for the recognition of errors feeds back into the investigative process to improve theories.

For me your usage is not standard though it may be domain specific and, if so, you haven't spelled out the domain or why you use it in a general context.
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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:31 am

spin
Missed it, but ...
So, I didn't sidestep the issue, contrary to your false claim in the previous post.
Your one example seems to be what one might call "a rule of thumb".
Could be. Americans (and others? I don't know) call some heurstics "rules of thumb." I reckon few Americans, however, would refer to the following as a rule of thumb:

If A implies B, and B is observed, then A should become more credible than it was before B was observed.

It is a heuristic. It sometimes works. (Example: let A = Panetta's password was "password." Let B = somebody logged-in successfully to Panetta's account using that password.)

Other times it doesn't work. (Example: the famous ravens paradox: Let A be "all ravens are black" which implies "all things that aren't black aren't ravens." Let B = the observation of something that isn't black - vanilla ice cream, for instance - and confirming that it is not a raven.)
If that is correct, feeding it back into your discussion, are you saying that the approach to primary sources you are trying to criticize equates to a rule of thumb??
No, see above.
My guess is that you just seem not to be using "heuristic" in a standard manner.

Then you seem just to have guessed wrong.

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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by spin » Tue Oct 10, 2017 12:42 pm

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:31 am
spin
Missed it, but ...
So, I didn't sidestep the issue, contrary to your false claim in the previous post.
This is typical of your communication problem. I cited the full post I was responding to. You gave no help in understanding your whacked notion of "heuristic" in what was cited, the "here" of my comment. Your assertion of falseness can only be true if you ignore what I wrote and are playing oneupmanship.

And, yes, your prior attempt at explaining your use of the term "heuristic" was unhelpful and actually obscured the notion.
Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:31 am
Your one example seems to be what one might call "a rule of thumb".
Could be. Americans (and others? I don't know) call some heurstics "rules of thumb." I reckon few Americans, however, would refer to the following as a rule of thumb:

If A implies B, and B is observed, then A should become more credible than it was before B was observed.

It is a heuristic. It sometimes works. (Example: let A = Panetta's password was "password." Let B = somebody logged-in successfully to Panetta's account using that password.)

Other times it doesn't work. (Example: the famous ravens paradox: Let A be "all ravens are black" which implies "all things that aren't black aren't ravens." Let B = the observation of something that isn't black - vanilla ice cream, for instance - and confirming that it is not a raven.)
If that is correct, feeding it back into your discussion, are you saying that the approach to primary sources you are trying to criticize equates to a rule of thumb??
No, see above.
My guess is that you just seem not to be using "heuristic" in a standard manner.

Then you seem just to have guessed wrong.
OK, I understand your inability to play with other people. It is also clear that you have little interest in the topic of primary sources. Feel free to respond, but, as I don't find any reason for your obscurity, I see no point in the effort of fathoming it.
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MrMacSon
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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:01 pm

Paul E. wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 4:57 am
Peter:

The primary source vs. primary information distinction is helpful to clarify in some circumstances, I think. With some materials, though, the precise definitions get in the way, imo. With some materials, the heuristic might better be set out as "generally speaking, though not always, the earlier the material1 the better." So trying to determine whether there is an earlier Greek source for stuff in Josephus or an earlier Aramaic source for stuff in Mark or whatever is a "good" exercise (varying exercises will have varying outcomes of course) because you are seeking earlier material, whether defined as a source or as information. This then avoids any possible definitional arguments between "source" and "information" which could otherwise be significant.

1 I have been wondering if adjectives such as 'earliest' or 'first' [source] might also be appropriate.

We have 'extant' but that refers to text in/on a real, hard-copy of a document or tablet. An extant object with Christian text on it is hardly the primary source for or of the text.

Bickerman has worked out what I have called 'primary information' without a primary source, and seemingly without an extant document containing that information (qualifier: I haven't investigated exactly what Bickerman did).

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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by Paul E. » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:26 am

MrMacSon wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 3:01 pm
Paul E. wrote:
Tue Oct 10, 2017 4:57 am
Peter:

The primary source vs. primary information distinction is helpful to clarify in some circumstances, I think. With some materials, though, the precise definitions get in the way, imo. With some materials, the heuristic might better be set out as "generally speaking, though not always, the earlier the material1 the better." So trying to determine whether there is an earlier Greek source for stuff in Josephus or an earlier Aramaic source for stuff in Mark or whatever is a "good" exercise (varying exercises will have varying outcomes of course) because you are seeking earlier material, whether defined as a source or as information. This then avoids any possible definitional arguments between "source" and "information" which could otherwise be significant.

1 I have been wondering if adjectives such as 'earliest' or 'first' [source] might also be appropriate.

We have 'extant' but that refers to text in/on a real, hard-copy of a document or tablet. An extant object with Christian text on it is hardly the primary source for or of the text.

Bickerman has worked out what I have called 'primary information' without a primary source, and seemingly without an extant document containing that information (qualifier: I haven't investigated exactly what Bickerman did).
Thank you for the response. Yeah, I'm not familiar specifically with Bickerman so I'm not sure what criteria he used to determine the "authenticity" of that material in Josephus. I don't have any objection to the usage of "primary information" as you've described it, btw. Some of the confusion arises not from the terms themselves but the value judgments that come along with them, so maybe it's better sometimes just to use different terms. Thanks again.

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