Monday, 3 August 2015

Viewpoints 4: deduction vs. induction

Charles Sanders Peirce
originator of semiotics
You might think that teaching an activity would consist of influencing and instructing people to follow methods that have proven to be successful in the commission of said activity. The scientific method is inductive: after examining each of the details through observation and experimentation, a theory is developed which will account for the whole. If we wanted to use deduction, instead, we would examine the same details to see how well they will fit into a previously constructed theory.

To influence people thus, it really helps if you stress what has gone on before, but the problem with that is that the actual technique of the scientist is never recorded. What does get recorded are the techniques which were successful and a student imagines that the right path was walked by the scientist and if only the student could come up with such a hypothesis then the same results would follow as a matter of course. It never does. The important part of the process is eliminated: learning from errors and finding inspiration from wherever it can exist. The academic method lacks Zen.

There is a world of difference in originating a theory and following one: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had his character Sherlock Holmes tell everyone that once you have eliminated the impossible, what remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. This is induction: from the details grows the theory. Yet one of the first things you notice about any Ph.D thesis is a review of the literature. Then you see (with archaeology) great debates between rival theories, and with all academic subjects, acceptance of the new through peer review. If you wanted to impede discovery, these would be great ways to accomplish that goal.

Aaron Lynch reveals that the problem starts as soon as you neatly arrange school desks in rows and have an authority figure standing in front of them: a space is created which will direct thought thereafter. It also reflects the Apollonian and Dionysian: the Apollonian is stressed while the Dionysian is neglected, or even suppressed. We might also remember how Impressionism was originally received by both the public and the Academy. Other pertinent dichotomies include Mythos and Logos; and the Jungian conscious and unconscious where the latter acts in a compensatory manner to the former.

Charles Sanders Peirce created semiotics as a classification of meaning for science. He was a philosopher, and this is the sort of things that philosophers do. When it came to how science was actually practiced, he stressed the cable as opposed chain method of reasoning which could include such apparently "unscientific" methods as hunches or getting solutions from dreams.

David Castriota handles the motifs and elements of Celtic art in the same way that Peirce takes on the general topic of semiotics, but uses the structures of language as its basis. In his classification method, all possible shapes are accounted for, not just those that are identified as part of the Celtic visual vocabulary. As his study includes Classical ornamentation in general and reveals the background as well as Celtic developments from it, there could be no better approach. However, from the researcher's point of view in dealing with a specific application, following it might, at the very least, be overkill.

A good (and rare) example of using the inductive method in archaeology with motifs and elements is in Jeffrey May's The Earliest Gold Coinages of the Corieltauvi? (BAR British Series, 222, 1992, p. 113-121) where he says:
"Many of these minor elements of design occur elsewhere on Iron Age coins, both in Britain and on the Continent, although they have never been studied systematically. An admittedly cursory look at the continental coinages reveals regions where none, or some, or many of these symbols were used. It would appear that one limited area of northern Gaul (the tribal territories of the Ambiani, the Veliocasses, and the Senones) has at least six of the minor symbols, and only one area, that of the Meldi, has all seven. One should hesitate to imply specific connexions between Lincolnshire and particular areas of the Continent. But supposing that these symbols meant something to the moneyers or die cutters who chose to use them, and were not random in decoration, we might see here a hint at least of traditions that these regions held in common."
More about this view tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment