Starting Dialogue LO6223
Mon, 25 Mar 1996 15:19:08 -0500

Replying to LO6208 --

John Paul said:

>> Dr. Deming said something like, "without theory there are no
>> questions; without questions, no learning; hence without theory there
>> is no learning." In relation to trying to follow the guidelines of
>> TQM, it made much more sense - real sense - to me after I learned
>> something more toward the theory of TQM rather than the "14 points"
>> and "the general idea".

James added:
>Here is the Deming quote from "The New Economics":
>"Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no
>questions to ask. Hense without theory there is no learning" Dr. W.
>Edwards Demings

Rick said:

>I think Peirce's philosophy of knowledge creation through
>application of the scientific method supports this notion very
>strongly, unless I'm mis-reading Peirce. When I introduce this
>idea in management seminars, it's seen as radical; most people
>seem to believe that there are unambiguous answers in the data
>that don't depend on any theory. Or, that if there are to be
>answers upon which we can depend, they should be unambigious
>answers from data.

To build on the foregoing, I want to mention that in my 1994 book A
SCIENCE OF GENERIC DESIGN, I introduce the idea of "Universal Priors to
Science". There I argue that there are four "priors" to ANY science. I
will say what they are and why I call them that later in this memo.

Responding to Rick's experience, for tne non-philosophers on the list,
there is something in philosophy called "positivism" which describes the
behavior of those who believe that there must be "unambiguous answers from
data". These people need to rethink their positions. The Universal
Priors show why these people are in trouble.

There are four of the Universal Priors identified so far. They are:

o The Human Being
o Language
o Reasoning Through Relationships
o Archival Representation

The Human Being is a Universal Prior, because the human being creates
science. Anyone who wants to believe conclusions from data must
understand that the data arose from human endeavor. Peirce discusses
human fallibility at length. Once the human being presents the results,
whatever shortcomings the human owns may be embedded in that presentation.
Those who accept it without qualification are, in effect, making this

ASSUMPTION 1. The human being was infallible in the situation that
produced the results.

This assumption might be satisfied, but cannot be generally taken as true.

Language is a Universal Prior because all science is expressed in
language. Anyone who accepts unquestioningly the results of any form of
analysis without qualification, are, in effect, making this assumption:

ASSUMPTION 2. Language is unambiguous, and is perfectly satisfactory to
express precisely the results of experiments (or any other ideas that may
be set forth.

This assumption is clearly false, as every dictionary testifies. Morever,
as West Churchman pointed out, there are such things as "ineffables",
things that are beyond articulation.

Reasoning Through Relationships is a Universal Prior, because there is
virtually no product of science that does not embody relationships. Try
to say something without using a relationship and see how far you get.

Yet today's superficial scientist is constantly bombarding us with things
like equations that are presented as fact; even though the linkage between
the underlying language and the equations is often obscure.

Notice how often analyses embody multiple relationships and how often the
precise relationships are obscure. Without very careful definition of the
nature of the relationships underlying pronouncements, ambiguity is
virtually certain to be present.

Archival Representation is a Universal Prior for the reason often
expressed by Peirce to the effect that all science relies upon continued
re-testing by a "community of scholars", yet how can this be done if the
archival representation is not made or is not of sufficiently high quality
to communicate across the decades?

Given that all four of these are typically ignored by many (if not most)
of todays proponents, is it any wonder that there is so much bad
information going around.

Those who read Polanyi will know that the Human Being is a Universal
Prior. Those who read Peirce will recognize his acknowledgment of all of
these Universal Priors. Those who read Warfield will be able to get a
distilled, if somewhat distorted, version of Polanyi and Peirce. Those
who don't read any of these people are not only in some trouble, but they
are part of the network that sustains bad information.

John N. Warfield

P. S. That is not to say that one can unambiguously deal with all those
Universal Priors, but it's a heck of a lot better to try than to just
ignore them.


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