Monday, April 05, 2010

Inference from Signs

People long ago -- in the ancient Greek world -- talked much about inference from signs. Indeed, what we today call factual inference was not discussed under the heading "evidence," which then had a quite different meaning. See James Allen, Inference from Signs: Ancient Debates about the Nature of Evidence (Clarendon 2001). By the late 19th century talk about inference from signs was largely passe [accent over the "e"]. However, Charles Saunders Peirce revived talk about signs. The strange breed of theorists known as semioticians aside, scholars today do not think about signs the way the ancients did. Rather, theorizing about signs is viewed an adjunct to abductive inference. However, the ancient debates about inference from signs -- or, in any event, some of those debates -- may be pertinent to modern theorizing about drawing inferences about matters such as human writings and utterances. Moreover, although we do not want to import "intelligent design" theories into modern theorizing about inference, some sort of talk about evidence as some sort of cosmic "sign" may be necessary -- because, as Einstein and others have noted, that the universe is or can become (to some degree) intelligible to the human mind is a great mystery (and it is doubtful that crude forms of evolutionary biology will resolve this mystery in a non-circular way).

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The dynamic evidence page

It's here: the law of evidence on Spindle Law. See also this post and this post.

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