'Hypo-thesis'­ ex hypothesi

Hypo - thesis (under - stand/place)

An hypothesis allows us to advance while in ignorance, and as part of the scientific method it is a necessary component of scientific activity. But, what is an hypothesis? Tonight we will explore that question.

In elementary school, hypotheses were guesses we would make at outcomes. That is, we already had certain possible outcomes set before us, and the hypothesis was something of a choice between them. In this way, it may seem problematic why hypothesis is such an important step: why guess? Just do the experiment and get the result. If this is really how an hypothesis works, then how do we understand something proved ex hypothesi (by hypothesis): how does a guess show anything?

Instead of seeing hypothesis this way, I want to venture this: that hypo-thesis (placing under) is a way of proceeding in answering a question while in ignorance. The hypothesis changes or constrains (the way we think of) the environment. When we place something under something else (hypothesis, place under) we allow it to stand on new ground (a new foundation) or alter how it looks (change the sort of contrasts it has); by this procedure, we also cover other things up.

In Plato's Meno, the interlocutors fail to understand what virtue is, but, ex hypothesi, they come to understand that virtue cannot be taught. Some people balk at this conclusion while overlooking that the conclusion depends upon, and should be restricted to, its hypothetical basis. What are the limits on such a hypothetical foundation?

In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant disallows all hypotheses - he tries to have a new science without hypothesis allowed. What does this mean? By not constraining the environment with hypotheses, Kant attempts to let things be simply what they are, and tries to perform an analysis on how things 'give' themselves to us. This is the birth of Critical Philosophy, as well as the soil for Phenomenology. Also, by removing all hypothesis, Kant sets the stage for those nihilists and existentialists who will wonder if the removal of all hypothesis (showing how things 'really are' themselves) reveals a great abyss which must lead to the despair of humanity and reason, or to demand faith as a foundation.

What other activities do we humans do that also operate analogously to hypothesis? Painting, for example, gives us a new way of seeing an object, or the entire world. How does this relate to hypothesis?

As a 'tool', does hypothesis develop out of some more basic kind of activity? Is this related to the possibility of language: the already organized character of the way things are 'given'?

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  • Erik C.

    For me, one thing that came out of last night was wanting to consider much more the notion that hypo-thesis first establishes negation.

    Aristotle's physics concerns, most directly, kinesis (movement). Movement is something immediately 'sensible' to us. Aristotle's Physics becomes a 'science' when it it founded on the hypo-thesis that relates kinesis to it's negation: stasis.

    The relation of kinesis to stasis is that of negation. The hypothesis establishes this relationship. It isn't obvious why we couldn't take the negation of kinesis to be anti-kinesis (counter-movement), or change in direction, or returning to the same point. In each case the hypothesis that establishes the domain is different, and suitable to different concerns.

    All of this could shed light, perhaps, on the peculiar way Aristotle wonders if there is only one science of negation, or one science of negation for each science.

    1 · January 31, 2014

    • jerry

      If abduction is comprehensive, insofar as science operates with hypothesis and abduction encompasses all of science, then you are talking about what I say you’re talking about but you just don’t know it. If you are, indeed, talking about something other than what is included in discussions of abduction, then you have created a topic that falls outside the idea that abduction is all-inclusive of hypothesis. Therefore, we have a disagreement, which goes against the notion that you agree on everything.

      February 3, 2014

    • Erik C.

      RE: relation of hypo-thesis and ground-laying: They are identical. I just decided to translate hypothesis (very literally) to differentiate it from hypothesis, since it was getting too confusing.

      RE contexts embedded in contexts: I certainly recognize that, but I think abduction operates on a ground, while ground-laying opens new ground, and that making a guess (and even a guess that builds on a guess) is different from opening (or narrowing) a field through ground-laying.

      RE not being in agreement: I don't consider it disagreement to say that I agree with what you're explaining and merely want to add another consideration. If you were to deny that there was some possible other consideration, perhaps you may disagree, but then we could both join in the common search for showing that there is or couldn't be something like a ground-laying.

      February 3, 2014

  • K. Scot S.

    The point is well taken that many have tried to apply Godel's incompleteness loosely/wrongly. Having recognized that, it is compelling to ask where one would have to stand in order to absolutely disqualify ALL possible intuitions/analogies/implications beyond its first application or significance. On even minor research, it seems some quite 'native'/advanced/well-recognized mathematical thinkers do acknowledge parallels relevant to features of CPMU's fairly typical 'ships unawares' scenario (oil & water relating of 'more grammatical' and 'more emergent' notions of validity). I hope to enter one or two examples below.

    January 31, 2014

    • Erik C.

      I'm always wary of the extraction of some finding in a discipline for the purposes of using it in metaphysics/ontology/phi­losophy. What is proper to a system of mathematics is what will set up the possibility of such an incompleteness theorem to begin with, and so to export it into another domain of thought risks imposing the 'essence' of the mathematical onto that other domain.

      I do think that forms of thought can be used, but this always involves, ultimately, borrowing the manner of speaking. It seems it becomes 'poetical' in a certain way after this point.

      January 31, 2014

    • K. Scot S.

      On one hand, we're prone toward poor analogies - on the other, toward unrealistic compartmentalizing. Between these is an opportunity for possibly valuable heuristics; we may honorably take soundings,' grope toward possible, and possibly helpful, Venn overlaps, so to speak. There may be serious if provisional contact points amidst authentic/important distinctness.

      January 31, 2014

  • K. Scot S.

    The mid-20th century scientist-become-phi­losopher,­ Michael Polanyi, may be helpful here. His various projects, including THE TACIT DIMENSION, partly study the way that [quasi-intuitional] 'subsidiary knowledge' becomes 'focal awareness' (the latter being what we more typically see as knowledge proper).

    January 31, 2014

  • K. Scot S.

    '...The Logical Positivists of the Vienna Circle proposed the Verification Principle that the meaning of a proposition was its method of verification; Witgenstein held that meaning was constituted by use, and use has often been construed as "assertibility conditions". But if truth outruns provability, then the meaning of a proposition claimed to be true cannot be given by its method of verification...'

    January 31, 2014

  • K. Scot S.

    (from John Lucas) '...However far we go in formalising our canons of proof, we shall be able to devise propositions which are not, according to those canons, provable, but are none the less, true. So it is one thing to be provable, and a different thing to be true. Truth outruns provability...'

    January 31, 2014

  • Erik C.

    Concerning 'implicit' hypotheses:

    Keeping this in mind: hypothesis is not a guess, it is a way of letting things show themselves, or differentiate themselves, according to a separate rule of looking for them.

    If an explicit hypothesis is one that we literally state for ourselves, and even preserve in a manner. Implicit hypotheses can be the unstated way that we can be guided by a hypothesis.

    Through training in sciences/arts we are brought into maintaining many hypotheses implicitly. This essentially means that we already have a way of viewing things that is narrowed by the ways we are trained to do so in order to carry out many useful tasks.

    However, learning doesn't appear of of nowhere, and there had to be an original way that we were able to 'bring things into view' or into a certain order, in order to begin dealing with them. This is an implicit hypothesis of a different order than one we are trained to have, and few actually examine our implicit hypotheses at this level.

    1 · January 30, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Of course, this kind of discussion of hypotheses is a different one than could have taken place even ten years ago...

      The relatively recent introduction of Google Scholar enables us to challenge and/or confirm our own and others' hypotheses quickly and with an ease never before possible.

      January 30, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      jerry... I'm looking forward to the meeting because I'd like to clarify these issues for myself. I understated what I believe about this. My "intuition" tells me that Epigenetic Mechanisms are the Key Driver of our most serious health disorders. So if Curcumin, that herb prescribed for health thousands of years ago and now found in studies to trigger positive Epigenetic change, helps with Alzheimer's, my Implicit Assumption is that is must do so through Epigenetic Mechanisms....

      I think that formulation is a more Implicit Hypothesis and now I've gotten myself out on a limb, that I feel pretty comfortable being out on... ;-)

      January 30, 2014

  • George

    My delayed return to Chicago on Friday leaves me dreading my absence (vs. my usually tardy appearance) at this most excellent choice of topic.
    I 'd compromise my faith in philosophy as a live and present human practice for some or any record of this discussion, cuz it's bound to be a great one.

    1 · January 28, 2014

  • Brian

    Let's see if I can add to this interesting topic by expanding on the Meno: When we converse about a thing (e.g., virtue) we generally have the same object before our minds, but see it more or less distinctly. Although we are ignorant in relation to its 'essence' we nonetheless manage to go about our lives on our implicit notions. When the question is put "What IS virtue?" we respond with what we think we know. These hypotheses can then be criticized, perhaps by deducing consequences conflicting with other opinions we hold, resulting (hopefully) in deliverance from false conceit of knowledge and paving the way finally for a revitalized cooperative search.

    January 19, 2014

    • Erik C.

      Maybe when we respond to something through what has naturally presented itself to us we can call that an implicit hypothesis (some may not want to use 'hypothesis at all in this case, but we can have some differences in how we want to talk about this and still be successful, I think). It's clear that things have some way of showing themselves to us (or our understanding) - perhaps this is due to our constitution or upbringing. It's interesting to see the relationship between these sorts of implicit hypotheses and explicit ones. It seems the implicit hypothesis for virtue doesn't allow virtue to be 'seen', even if it's understood. But the hypothesis they do generate lets them see (make sensible) in some limited way 'virtue' in its being taught or not.

      1 · January 20, 2014

    • George

      If I were present, I would advocate for the "implicit hypotheses" you suggest, and ask if some might meaningfully call them a kind of intuition or, should the more adamantly rational decry such a fluffy term, at least some kind of pre-lingual (if not pre-articulate) notion.

      1 · January 28, 2014

  • jerry

    "[I intend] to make a philosophy like that of Aristotle, that is to say, to outline a theory so comprehensive that, for a long time to come, the ENTIRE (my emphasis) work of human reason, in philosophy of every school and kind, in mathematics, in psychology, in physical science, in history, in sociology, and in whatever other department there may be, shall appear as the filling up of its details." ~ C.S. Peirce, "A Guess at the Riddle", 1887

    January 25, 2014

    • jerry

      "If you carefully consider the question of pragmatism you will see that it is nothing else than the question of the logic of abduction. That is, pragmatism proposes a certain maxim which, if sound, must render needless any further rule as to the admissibility of hypotheses to rank as hypotheses, that is to say, as explanations of phenomena held as hopeful suggestions; and furthermore, this is all that the maxim of pragmatism really pretends to do..." CSP, Logic of Abduction

      January 25, 2014

    • jerry

      If Peirce was correct, I would argue that all concerns posted below are addressed in abduction.

      January 25, 2014

  • K. Scot S.

    '...But Peirce gives no systematically coherent account of abduction...'
    (my earlier comments related to this quote didn't quite 'take' -'sorry!)
    This quote indicates a real and worthy problem: the question of how systematically one may account the importantly non-systematic aspects of understanding. There is a risk, of course, in thinking about things like 'abduction' in a way altogether devoid of anything like abduction. This is not the same thing as saying that there is nothing systematic and meaningful that might be said about serious-if-non-systematic perception/thought/processing. The danger is in not understanding how something essential will have necessarily been lost by virtue of the only-systematic representation of the [importantly] non-systematic.

    January 25, 2014

  • Alex

    When there is a hypothesis, there are trusty tools to check it. Logic, statistics, instruments. This part is easy. I guess, the real question here is where it comes from.

    How about this "new" NLP thingie that we do not quite know the reality, that we just map it? Surely, this intuitive truism has always been a logical problem. Perhaps, it is because the logic is the map?

    Can a new hypothesis be just a dare to map it differently, or to boil it to the simple terms - to see it differently? Laughably, many tried and died. Few succeeded. The best example I know is the Rutherford hypothesis of nucleus. 1% error in measurements that has always been perceived as normal.

    I never read Pierce, but to force your own personality to see beyond the map, you have to abduct it. Sometimes with cruelty. Definitely, he must be right.

    January 25, 2014

  • jerry

    "In his writings on the logic of science, Peirce refers frequently to a mode of inference which he calls "abduction" and to which, along with induction and deduction, he ascribes an important role in the process of scientific discovery. But Peirce gives no systematically coherent account of abduction; although he is invariably talking about hypotheses when he speaks of abduction, it is not at all plain just what he intends to say about them...

    January 20, 2014

    • Brian

      How should I analyze this? Hypothesis develops out of a more basic activity called "abduction"? Sorry, lots going on in that passage.

      January 20, 2014

    • jerry

      :) Yes, but it structures both yours and Erik's comments into a coherent thing. Abduction can be very simple or very confusing. All it really is, is setting up a syllogism (please look up online) then going through the steps. To do this, you have to structure the observation (C, e.g., virtue) and then formulate (put under) a hypothesis (A). At early stages, the hypothesis is intuition. With recursion, it becomes a simple yes/no statement of testability and reasoning. A single hypothesis may exclude other hypotheses, so we may be heading down the wrong road...etc...

      January 20, 2014

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