Re: Mentomology: a new field? LO2695

Fred Reed (
Thu, 07 Sep 95 08:43:12 EST

Replying to LO2662 --

John Warfield wrote in part:

*begin quote*
This note is to propose a new field of study called "Mentomology". It is
the identification and classification of "Mindbugs". The name has been
chosen to be in line with the growing tendency to make computers and
people relatively compatible or congruent in sociotechnical systems.

So far twenty-five Mindbugs have been identified. They have been
tentatively distributed among four categories:

o Mindbugs of Misinterpretation: occurring where concepts are
misconstrued or misattributed, because of faulty interpretation

o Mindbugs of Clanthink: occurring where concepts are widely believed to
be correct, but which can be demonstrated to be wrong, based on empirical

o Mindbugs of Habit: occurring where certain types of behavior persist,
apparently without conscious thought

o Mindbugs of Error: just plain mistakes
*end quote*

I find John's proposal somehow out of sync with his recent series of
postings extolling the virtues of our mutually admired philosopher C.S.
Peirce. Perhaps it is the "borrowed" term "bugs" that caught my eye.
Somehow, this leaves me with the impression that the user implies that
human thought and action *SHOULD* be "bug"-free akin to a perfectly
rational computer program, a position I find hard to reconcile with John's
previous posts.

In particular, some bugs would seem to fall into the catagory of
"necessary" considering the nature of scientific inquiry and semiosis as
proposed by Peirce. For example, "Mindbugs of Habit" are an unavoidable
natural consequence of habit-taking in general, a key element of Peirce's
theory. Habits are established because they serve the end of effective,
timely behavior by an entity of finite resources. The fact that they
sometimes are not perfectly appropriate to the case at hand is an
unavoidable consequence of their necessary generality (i.e., applicable in
a generally defined class of cases). Eliminating such "bugs" by
eliminating generality would exact too high a price.

(This reminds me of Stafford Beer's example of the British rail system
eliminating "unprofitable" routes. As it turns out, these routes serves
as necessary connectors and so forth for riders using the more profitable
routes. When the "unprofitable" routes were eliminated, ridership on the
formerly profitable routes went down, making them unprofitable as well.
This process obviously could continue until *all* rail lines (unprofitable
at some point) were eliminated. Beer uses the image of a snake slowly
eating itself from the tail up.)

On the other hand, certain "Mindbugs of Clanthink" might be interpreted as
shortcomings in humanity's fulfillment of Peirce's "ideal" process of
scientific inquiry. When people act "unscientific" and adhere to beliefs
that have not withstood the pragmatic test of truth (allowing one to act
with reliable results), there is in fact a "bug" to be exposed and
exterminated. I gather from the past discussions of Dialogue Processes
that admonitions such as letting go of pride of ownership, hidden agendas,
and so forth at intended to bring the social process more in line with
Peirce's ideal.

Fred Reed