I first posted this basic material on this thread 22 May, 2001 - - and this text is modified from Mankind's Inhumanity to Man and Woman - as natural as human goodness?

When complicated negotiations are necessary - - when we must build shared space - and come up with solutions that are at least good enough - the question "what would a good solution be, from the point of view of the people involved" is both an aesthetic and a technical question. A very practical question. Lchic and I have worked to make the technical aspects of that question sharper - in ways that I think can be useful, and fit here.

rshowalter - 08:16pm Feb 5, 2001 BST (#128 of 138)  | 

I posted this on There's Poetry -and I'm posting it here. It comes from the "hypothesis ...." thread in Europe, started by Beckvaa . It represents, we believe, a reframing of the notion of scientific theory, that, if it were adopted, might much reduce the probablility and seriousness of paradigm conflict impasses. . .

rshowalter - 09:44am Feb 4, 2001 BST (#95 )

We dance together in our work as partners.

Here is something we did as partners. And it shows reasons why I think she's beautiful as a partner.

WE did this.

I couldn't have done it without her.

She couldn't have done it without me.

I'm proud of it, and think it is is important.

rshowalter - 08:17pm Feb 5, 2001 BST (#129 of 138)  | 

rshowalter - 09:44am Feb 4, 2001 BST (#96 )

I'll call it, for now:

An operational definition of Good Theory in real sciences for real people. "Partnership output of a Dawn Riley and Robert Showalter.

In "Beauty" http://www.everreader.com/beauty.htm Mark Anderson quotes Heisenberg's definition of beauty in the exact sciences:

"Beauty is the proper conformity of the parts to one another and to the whole."

SUGGESTED DEFINITION: Good theory is an attempt to produce beauty in Heisenberg's sense in a SPECIFIC context of assumption and data.

Goodness can be judged in terms of that context,

and also the fit with other contexts
that, for logical reasons,
have to fit together.

The beauty, and ugliness, of a theory can be judged,

in terms of the context it was built for, and other contexts, including
the context provided by data not previously considered.

Words, pictures
and math have to fit together
comfortably and workably,


as far as
internal consistency goes,

and in terms of fit
to what the theory
is supposed to describe.

Theories that are useful work comfortably in people's heads.

Both the "beauty" and "ugliness" of theory are

Both notions are contextual, and cultural.

Ugliness is an especially interesting notion.

To make theory better,
you have to look for ways
that the theory is ugly,
study these, and fix them.

The ugly parts are where new beauty is to be found.

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

( Note: Dawn thinks "dissonant" is nicer than "ugly", and she's right, and I think that "ugly" is sharper, and closer to the human interest, and that seems right, too. So we're weighing word choices here. )

A lot of people think Bob Showalter is ugly. He's always pointing out weaknesses, uglinesses, of other people's theories.

But the reason Bob gives (which is maybe, from some perspectives, a rationalization, but may be right in onther ways) is that the ugly parts provide clues to new progress -- hope that new, more powerful kinds of theoretical and practical beauty can be found.


And I think my partner is beautiful.

rshowalter - 08:19pm Feb 5, 2001 BST (#130 of 138)  | 

rshowalter - 09:58am Feb 4, 2001 BST (#97)

Here's a part were I did more work than she, though she was indispensible:

To make good theory, in complex circumstances, beauty coming into focus must be judged, and shaped, in a priority ordering - and even though the priorities may be shifted for different attempts at beauty, the priorities need to be remembered, and questions of "what is beautiful" and "what ugly" have to be asked in terms of these priorities.

She has been completely indispensible, and mostly responsible, here, and has been a world intellectual leader, here, for years:

Intellectual work, and scientific work, is an effort to find previously hidden beauty , and this is what moves people, and warms people. This need for beauty must be remembered, and not stripped away.