7 October 2012

In praise of error...and elephants

Fourth in a series of notes and comments on The Book of Barely Imagined Beings

Chapter 1: Axolotl

page 2: The first epigraph is from Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart, written between 1759 and 1763 during his confinement for insanity in St. Luke's Hospital in London.

page 2: The second epigraph is from a report by Benjamin Franklin and others into an investigation of animal magnetism undertaken for the King of France in 1784.  David Deutsch recently argued that error remains a vital to knowledge:
genuine knowledge, though by definition it does contain truth, almost always contains error as well. Thinking consists of criticising and correcting partially true guesses with the intention of locating and eliminating the errors and misconceptions in them, not generating or justifying extrapolations from sense data. 
A pleasing example of a correct conclusion derived from incomplete evidence is the proof by elephants attributed to Aristotle:
When one travels west from Greece, one finds [African] elephants . When one travels east one finds [Asian] elephants.  Therefore the Earth is round.
More posts relating to elephants here.

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