First things First - Pirkei Avot

Seven traits characterize an uncultured (golem) person, and seven a sage. A sage:

(5) deals with first things first, and last things last;

Pirkei Avot, 5.7.(5)

Bartenura on Pirkei Avot 5:7:6

and he speaks to the first [point] first: And so did we find with the Holy One, blessed be He; since Moshe said to Him (Numbers 3:11), "'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh'" - that is the first - "'and that I should bring out the Children of Israel'" - behold, the second. And the Holy One, blessed be He, answered about the first (Numbers 3:12), "'Since I will be with you'"; and about the second, "'in your bringing the people out from Egypt, you will serve God.'"

Rabbeinu Yonah on Pirkei Avot 5:7:7

and he speaks to the first [point] first and the last [point] last: And its explanation is not that he should answer about the first thing first, and about the last question last. Rather that if the first question is clarified by the last thing, he should elucidate that first, and then elucidate the first; so as to understand and clarify his answer and [so] that the thing will be assimilable for his listener. And that is why it is called first, [even if] it is last - because it precedes it [logically] and the first thing is clarified by it. And if the matter is the opposite, it is called last. And about this is it said, "to the first [point] first and the last [point] last." And this is from great wisdom and understanding of things. And the golem does not know from all of these [things].

Rambam on Pirkei Avot 5:7:1

And the third virtue is that he organizes his study and puts first what is fitting to put first and puts later what is fitting to put later. As this approach is very helpful in study. And that is his saying, "he speaks to the first [point] first and the last [point] last.

Measure what can be measured

Measure what can be measured. Incorrectly attributed to Galileo:

Cournot wrote:

La vraie physique a été fondée le jour où Galilée, rejetant des spéculations depuis si longtemps stériles, a conçu l’idée […] de préciser la forme générale à donner aux expériences, en leur assignant pour objet immédiat la mesure de tout ce qui peut être mesurable dans les phénomènes naturels. (Cournot De l’origine et des limites de la correspondance entre l’algèbre et la géométrie. Paris/Algier: Hachette, p. 375)


True physics was founded the day when Galileo, rejecting the long sterile speculations, conceived the idea […] of specifying the general form to be given to experiments, assigning them as their immediate object the measure of all that can be be measurable in natural phenomena.

Similar to the more famous dictum by Kelvin:

In physical science a first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and methods for practicably measuring some quality connected with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.


  • Andreas Kleinert Der messende Luchs: Zwei verbreitete Fehler in der Galilei-Literatur. (
  • Kelvin, ELECTRICAL UNITS OF MEASUREMENT. A Lecture delivered at the Institution of Civil Engineers on May 3, 1883" (

Borges - the virtues of other writers

"como todo escritor, medía las virtudes de los otros por lo ejecutado por ellos y pedía que los otros lo midieran por lo que vislumbraba o planeaba. Todos los libros que había dado a la estampa le infundían un complejo arrepentimiento."

El milagro secreto (Artificios, 1944; Ficciones, 1944)

"like every writer, he measured the virtues of other writers by their performance and asked that they measured him by what he conjectured or planned.  All of the books he had given to the press infused him a complex repentance."

We live in deeds, not years - Philip J. Bailey

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; 
In feelings, not in figures on a dial. 
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives 
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best. 
And he whose heart beats quickest lives the longest: 
Lives in one hour more than in years do some 
Whose fat blood sleeps as it slips along their veins. 
Life's but a means unto an end; that end, 
Beginning, mean, and end to all things—God. 
The dead have all the glory of the world.


Moral Fabric of American Citizenry - James Madison

With regards the moral fabric of the citizenry, James Madison, 4th president of the republic, stated his view:

I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.

Judicial Powers of the National Government, [20 June] 1788


Schools of Economic Thought



Differences between men's intellects?

Thesis 1: Men are equal in intellectual abilities (British Moral Philosophers)

Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations, book 1, Chap. 2)

The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, 

when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause as the effect of the division of labour. The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature as from habit, custom, and education. When they came into the world, and for the first six or eight years of their existence, they were, perhaps, very much alike, and neither their parents nor playfellows could perceive any remarkable difference. About that age, or soon after, they come to be employed in very different occupations. The difference of talents comes then to be taken notice of, and widens by degrees, till at last the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance... By nature a philosopher is not in genius and disposition half so different from a street porter, as a mastiff is from a greyhound, or a greyhound from a spaniel, or this last from a shepherd's dog.

David Hume (Of the Original Contract 1752) nearly equal all men are in their bodily force, and even in their mental powers and faculties, till cultivated by education;

Thesis 2: Men are not equal in intellectual abilities (Enlightenment Philosophers)

John Locke (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. book 4: chap 20, sec. 5)

affirm that there is a greater distance between some men and others in this respect than between some men and some beasts

Denis Diderot

He has not seen the insurmountable barrier that separates a man destined by nature for a given function, from a man who only brings to that function industry, interest and attention.


The Sages taught: One who eats in the marketplace is comparable to a dog, as he disrespects himself through his lack of embarrassment over eating in public. And some say he is even disqualified from bearing witness.

Talmud, Kiddushin 40b


 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (painted portrait).jpg

Where there is no effect, it is idle to look for a cause: but here the effect is certain and the depravity actual; our minds have been corrupted in proportion as the arts and sciences have improved. Will it be said, that this is a misfortune peculiar to the present age? No, gentlemen, the evils resulting from our vain curiosity are as old as the world. The daily ebb and flow of the tides are not more regularly influenced by the moon, than the morals of a people by the progress of the arts and sciences. As their light has risen above our horizon, virtue has taken flight, and the same phenomenon has been constantly observed in all times and places... 

Take Greece, once peopled by heroes, who twice vanquished Asia. Letters, as yet in their infancy, had not corrupted the disposition of its inhabitants; but the progress of the sciences soon produced a dissoluteness of manners, and the imposition of the Macedonian yoke...

It was not till the days of Ennius and Terence that Rome, founded by a shepherd, and made illustrious by peasants, began to degenerate...


Rousseau, J. The Social Contract and Discourses (1761):

Praise of Alacrity

qui observat ventum non seminat et qui considerat nubes numquam metet 

Freedman's Paradox

An interesting definition:
"In situations where limited knowledge of a system exists and the ratio of data points to variables is small, variable selection methods can often be misleading. Freedman (Am Stat 37:152-155, 1983) demonstrated how common it is to select completely unrelated variables as highly 'significant' when the number of data points is similar in magnitude to the number of variables.
Lukacs, Burnham, and Anderson (2010).


Freedman, D. A. (1983). A Note on Screening Regression Equations. The American Statistician, 37(2), 152-155.

Variations of the Observer Error

observer error: An error of observation or measurement due to failure of the observer to identify, measure accurately, or interpret some aspect of the phenomena that are being observed. This can have many reasons and causes, including careless or hasty measurements, faulty instruments, erroneous or illogical interpretation, and/or any of many possible sources of bias. It erodes the credibility of science when it occurs. Oxford Reference

Lucas critique argues that it is naive to try to predict the effects of a change in economic policy entirely on the basis of relationships observed in historical data, especially highly aggregated historical data. (Wiki).

Lucas critique (version 2): "Any statistical relationship will break down when used for policy purposes". Danielsson's corollary: A financial risk model breaks down when used for regulatory purposes.

Campbell's law: "The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."

Goodhart's Law: "Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes." (Wiki)

Calculated Risk - Machiavelli

Né creda mai alcuno stato potere pigliare partiti sicuri, anzi pensi di avere a prenderli tutti dubbi; perché si trova questo nell’ordine delle cose, che mai non si cerca di fuggire un inconveniente che non si incorra in un altro. Tuttavia la prudenza consiste nel saper riconoscere le qualità degli inconvenienti, e nel pigliare il meno tristo per buono.
Different translations
Translation 1: Indeed, it had better recognize that it will always have to choose between risks, for that is the order of things. We never flee one peril without falling into another. Prudence lies in knowing how to distinguish between degrees of danger and in choosing the least danger as the best. (Donno transl.)

Translation 2: Never let any Government imagine that it can choose perfectly safe courses; rather let it expect to have to take very doubtful ones, because it is found in ordinary affairs that one never seeks to avoid one trouble without running into another; but prudence consists in knowing how to distinguish the character of troubles, and for choice to take the lesser evil.

Translation 3: No government should ever think that it can choose perfectly safe courses of action. Every government should expect to have to run risks, because in the ordinary course of events one never tries to avoid one trouble without running into another. Prudence consists in knowing how to weigh up troubles and choose the lesser ones.

Translation 4: In general, a ruler must never imagine that any decision he takes is safe; on the contrary he should reckon that any decision is potentially dangerous. It is in the nature of things that every time you try to avoid one danger you run into another. Good sense consists in being able to assess the dangers and choose the lesser of various evils.
The Prince, XXI

The past is a foreign country

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” ― L.P. Hartley,

Objectives always in sight

"Keep your important objectives always up, paramount in sight."

All Hands to the Pumps!

All Hands to the Pumps
Henry Scott Tuke
Around 1888


"Keep your mind thinking on what's really important"

Reason teacheth and experience evidenceth

Reason teacheth and experience evidenceth in Miller, P. (1939) New England Mind, p. 7

Operational concepts of Evidence

The philosopher P. Achinstein (Speculation, p. 16ff) developed a helpful concept of evidence. Four concepts are presented: potential, veridical, ES, and subjective.
(A) Some fact e is potential evidence that a hypothesis h holds, iff the probability of there being an explanatory connection between e and h, p(E(e,h)|e) > 1/2. (with e := true, e ⊬ h). 
* Notes to potential evidence
  • the inequality probably means that p(E) ≠ 1/2, i.e. not indifferent or know-nothing situation,  because it'd be nice to have a 0% or 100%.
  • The "explanatory connection" between e and h seems to be given by an additional list of assumptions (p. 194-195) which include correlations grounded in empirical data, etc.
  • The "explanatory connection" E(e,h)|e explained in terms of a threshold probability of 50%, is maybe related to a statistical type of explanation (i.e. a la Wesley Salmon)?

Portraits of Collingwood

Image result for robin collingwood
Image result for robin collingwood philosophyImage result for robin collingwoodImage result for robin collingwoodImage result for robin collingwood philosophy

Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas

Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas, atque metus omnis et inexorabile fatum subiecit pedibus strepitumque Acherontis avari.

"How blest the sage whose soul can pierce each cause
Of changeful Nature and her wondrous laws;
Who tramples fear beneath his foot, and braves
Fate and stern Death, and hell's resounding waves!"
⁠Sotheby's translation.

Dichoso aquel, que con valor notable
las causas de las cosas supo claro,
que todo miedo, y hado inexorable
pisa, y el Reyno de Aqueronate avaro;
Christoval de Mesa's translation (1618)

Quan bienaventurado es el que pudo
Conocer los secretos de las cosas,
Y que ni al hado teme, ni amenazas,
Ni de Aqueronte avaro se da un pelo;
Juan de Guzman's translation (1586)

!Feliz aquel que las ocultas causas
Penetro de Natura, y sin cuidarse
De lo que traigan los futuros dias,
Cual polvo vano los temores tristes
Huella, y los ecos de Aqueronte avaro!
F. de Hidalgo y M. A. Caro's translation  (1897)

¡Feliz aquel a quien fue dado conocer
las causas de las cosas, y hollar bajo
su planta los vanos temores y el inexorable
hado y el estrépito del avaro Aqueronte!
Ochoa's translation (1869)

System of Knowledge and Explanation

"Organized knowledge of a subject and the interrelationship of its various parts, is superior to disorganized knowledge – just as a beautiful garden arranged with beds of flowers, paths and rows of plants is superior to a chaotically overgrown forest...A person should always endeavour to grasp general principles...When a person understands one principle he automatically understands a great number of details."
Introduction to R. Moshe Luzzatto (Ramchal) Derech HaShem.

Wesley Salmon (Four Decades of Scientific Explanation, 1990) argues a description of what "explanation" is:
Wesley C. Salmon[explanations] show how empirical phenomena fits into a causal nexus (paraphrase p.121)... the explanation of events consists in fitting them into the patterns that exist in the objective world. When we seek an explanation, it is because we have not discerned some feature of the regular patterns; we explain by providing information about these patterns that reveals how the explanandum-events fit in.... explanation reveal the mechanisms, causal or other, that produce the [events] we are trying to explain. (p 121).  
The challenge is when we're aware that we don't know adequately or completely the regular patterns, or mechanisms that produce the events, and we know that we never will know them completely. 

The Gadol HaDor

Image result for Moshe Feinstein
Moshe Feinstein
The Gadol HaDor is the greatest rabbi of his generation. This position is attained, not by a process or a career, but rather by consensus. The Gadol HaDor is the one able to respond the most difficult halakhic problems of his generation.

Each major Jewish group may have its own Gadol HaDor.

A list of indisputable Gedolim HaDor:

  • Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986)
  • Joseph Soloveitchik (1903-1993) ?
  • Aharon Lichtenstein (1933-2015) ?
  • Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (1910-2012)
  • Aharon Leib Shteinman (1914-2017)
  • Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg (1910-2012)
  • Ovadia Yosef (1920-2013) Sepharadi
  • Rashba (Shlomo ben Aderet) (1235–1310)
  • Shmayah (1st c. BCE)
  • Avtalyon (1st c. BCE)


Scientists and Governments

Image result for platoImage result for wolfgang panofskyPlato wrote an entire book to argue that Philosophers would provide the best governments that societies can aspire.

However, history provides cases where this assertion is simply wrong. Thus, Wolfgang Panofsky purportedly stated that: "confidence that science can perform on command is unwarranted."

Who was right most of the time?


Panofsky, W. (1993) Particles and Policy. AIP

The Separation Effect and the Wakeby Distribution

Houghton argues that "It is possible to fit a single distribution, the Wakeby, with many combinations of parameter values that are easily compared, rather than several distribution functions, each with a different analytical form. The Wakeby distribution is a grand parent."

In traditional estimation procedures, the smallest observations can have a substantial effect on the right-hand side of the distribution. But the left-hand side does not necessarily add information to an estimate of a quantile on the right-hand side. 
In fact
Indeed, since floods are not known to follow any particular distribution, it seems intuitively better to divorce the left-hand side from the right... the Wakeby does exactly that.

The separation effect:
Matalas et al. (1975) [sampled] most of the commonly used distributions, repeated the plots for 10-year and 20-year records, and found that none of the distributions could reproduce as high a standard deviation as that found in nature. This has been termed the "separation effect". Thus, nature has skews that are even more unstable than those generated by common distributions. Moreover the authors showed that this separation effect cannot be explained by small sample properties or by auto-correlation.
And so:
The Wakeby distribution was originally introduced to account for this effect.
Moreover Kundar and Chander, p. 28 in Singh Ed.
The right the left hands of distribution can be modeled separately. The parameters a and b govern the left hand (low flows) tail while the parameters c, d and e govern the right hand (high flow) tail


Houghton () HERE

Allen Hazen

Allen Hazen 1911 Pres NEWWA.jpgC. Winslow observes:

"Allen Hazen was of very different mold. Tall, angular, somewhat precise and pedantic, he had a mind which I think might fairly class him as an intellectual giant. Even before taking his degree at MIT he assisted Hiram F. Mills in preparing the plans for the Lawrence filter, and he was in charge of the Lawrence Experiment Station from 1888 to 1893. He developed the procedures for the mechanical analysis of sand, in use to this day. He planned the sewage disposal system for the Chicago Exposition in 1893. As a consulting engineer in Boston and later in New York he built the Albany (N.Y.) filter and consulted with many municipalities (including Brisbane, Australia) on water problems. His studies on hydraulics, on hydrography, and the runoff of streams were basic in the development of these areas of engineering."

Winslow, C. E. (1953). There Were Giants in Those Days. American Journal of Public Health and the Nations Health, 43(6_Pt_2), 15-19.


HAZEN ALLEN A high speed gravity filter bed XXXV 60 Bacteria and other organisms in water XXXIII 455 Centrifugal pumps and fans LI 231 Consumption and waste of water XXXIV 218 Dams on sand foundations LXXIII 199 Decolorization of water XLVI 162 Depreciation of public utility properties LXXVII 809 Design of masonry dams LXXV 153 Filtration of water LIII 245 Filtration works L 444 Flood flows LXXVII 626 Flow of water in irrigation channels LXXX 1672 Flow of water in pipes LI 316 Gravity sand filters at Nyack NY XLV 493 Groined arches XLIII 61 Hydraulic Fill Dams LXXXIII 1713 Jordan Level Erie Canal XLIII 582 Lawrence Mass Filter XLVI 309 of proportioning concrete LIX 9 utilities Municipally LXXXI 435 Nomographic solutions for LXXVIII 1381 On Sedimentation LIII 45 Purification of sewage and water by filtration XXX 702 Purification of Water for Domestic Use erican Practice LIV Part D 131 7 Sewage disposal LIV Part E 236 Storage to be Provided in Impounding Reservoirs for Municipal Water Supply LXXVII 1539 The Albany Water Filtration Plant XLIII 244 The Bohio Dam XLVIII 277 Theory of concrete XLII 125 Tidal phenomena in New York Harbor LXXVI 2094 owned public formulas

Translation of paper by M Bechmann LIV Part D 183 Washington water filtration plant LXXII 362 Water and sewage works Columbus Ohio LXVII 399 w supply for Panama Canal LXVII water supply of the San Francisco Metropolitan District LXXX water works valuation LXIV 85 Weir measurement of stream flow LXXVII 1287 Works for the Purification of Water Supply of Washington DC LVII 307

Historical Explanation

Good resources are offered in:

  • Bennet and George (1997) Process Tracing in Case Study Research. MacArthur Foundation Workshop on Case Study Methods. HERE.
  • Clayton Roberts (1996) The Logic of Historical Explanation. Pennsylvania State UP.

Two types of Education

Stout elderly man in his 60s with long white hair, facing partway leftwardJohn Adams once said,
There are two types of education. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.
 “I must study Politics and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy.”
– John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780.

“You will ever remember that all the end of study is to make you a good man and a useful citizen.”
– John Adams


Vico: True and Fact are Equivalent for the Latins

Image result for giambattista vicoLatinis verum et factum reciprocantur, seu ut Scholarum vulgus loquitur, convertuntur.

The problem of "influences" in the history of ideas

Image result for robin collingwoodThe problem of "influences" in the history of ideas is another perpetual problem. "Action at a distance" seems to be admissible in the  field of intellectual influences

Collingwood's pronouncement:
"...these methods of description are characteristic of that frivolous and superficial type of history which speaks of ‘influences’ and 'borrowings’ and so forth, and when it says that A is influenced by B or that A borrows from B never asks itself what there was in A that laid it open to B’s influence, or what there was in A which made it capable of borrowing from B. An historian of thought who is not content with these cheap and easy formulae will not see Hegel as filling up the chinks in eighteenth-century thought with putty taken from Plato and Aristotle." Idea of Nature, 128
Claudio Guillen
to ascertain an influence is to make a value judgment, not to measure a fact. The critic is obliged to evaluate the function or the scope of the effect of A in the making of B, for he is not listing the total amount of these effects, which are legion, but ordering them. Thus "influence" and "significant influence" are practically synonymous.
Very interesting insights from Hyrkkänen (2009):
  • according to the influence model, to explain some element of the thought of a writer A is to maintain that A has been influenced by an earlier writer B, i.e. A has adopted an element into his thinking from the works of B, or from discussions with B, or, indirectly, via C, or in some other way.
  • According to Hermerén, the influence model is misused if research is ‘totally dominated by the search for influences’ – if, in other words, ‘the billiard ball model of artistic creation’ is followed.
  • Adopting an influence entails reflecting on alternatives, which is a process of weighing more or less consciously the available influences.
  • If we perceive an adopted influence as an answer to a question, or more generally, as a solution to a problem, it becomes understandable why human beings are receptive only to some but not to all possible influences.
  • The cases of Vico and Hegel illustrate how people set apart by time can be reunited by similar problems they happen to share. Moreover, for the very reason that human beings may share similar problems, they may arrive at similar solutions.
  • would be more promising to try to explicate and understand the reasons for the similarity of problems.
  • In the case of independent invention, the interpreter has to consider or imagine the alternative solutions to the problem the inventor had in mind. In the case of an influence being adopted, the task of interpretation is to understand why the agent happened to select a certain influence from the available alternatives. In both cases, the central task of the interpretation is to answer the question of why an idea has, more or less consciously, been adopted.
Concepts (The Formative Years of R. G. Collingwood by William M. Johnston, p. 87)
  • Intellectual debts
  • Source of stimulus for his own philosophizing
  • parallels and similarities of doctrine
  • ideas traceable to x
  • "Collingwood ask us to focus not on what was borrowed, but on what led the borrower to select what he did. Intellectual borrowing tells us something about the borrower only if we go on from there to examine how it fits into the body of his thought. A corollary of this view, which Collingwood does not spell out but which he implies throughout his analyses of other men's thought, is that to borrow is to interpret... It was the multiplicity of his interests and his command of many fields of learning which made Collingwood "capable of borrowing" from Croce, Gentile, and Vico. It was his almost unique intellectual versatility which "laid [Collingwood] open to their influence." p. 87
  • "If the source of specific ideas in Collingwood is obscure, the inspiration behind his life-work is clear. He is the fully-educated man, full according to the ideal of John Ruskin... One might say of Collingwood, as of Ruskin, that he is himself the greatest influence on his own thought." p. 89-90
  • Hyrkkänen's All History is, More or Less, Intellectual History: R. G. Collingwood’s Contribution to the Theory and Methodology of Intellectual History.
  • Claudio Guillen's The Aesthetics of Literary Influence, p. 38-39

Huygens: The Rationale of Games of Chance

Image result for huygens
"Even though in games moderated purely by chance, events tend to be uncertain, the odds to win or lose can be determined with certainty. Thus, inasmuch it is uncertain to verify for true or false if someone asserts that will get a six upon the first throw of a die, it nevertheless does submit to calculations and assessment how much likely it is for him to loose or to win. "



De Ratiociniis in Ludo Aleae (page 521ff)

Natura quidem suas habet consuetudines

Utilissima est aestimatio probabilitatum quanquam in exemplis juridicis politicisque plerumque non tam subtili calculo opus est, quam accurata omnium circumstantiarum enumeration. Haec a Te tractata non primum a Dno. Fratre Tuo, sed aliunde me discere memini. Cum Empirice aestimamus probabilitates per experimenta successuum, quaeris an ea via tandem aestimatio perfecta obtineri possit. Idque a Te repertum scribis. Difficultas in eo mihi inesse videtur quod contingentia seu quae ab infinitis pendent circumstantiis per finita experimenta determinari non possunt; natura quidem suas habet consuetudines, natas ex reditu causarum, sed non nisi os epi to poli. Itaque quis dicet, an sequens experimentum non discessurum sit nonnihil a lege omnium praecedentium? ob ipsas rerum mutabilitates. Novi morbi inundant subinde humanum genus, quodsi ergo de mortibus quotcunque experimenta feceris, non ideo naturae rerum limites posuisti, ut pro futuro variare non possit.

Leibnizens Mathematische Schriften, Drite Folge, Driter Band. 1855 Halle. p. 83-84

Leibnizens Mathematische Schriften herausgegeben von C.I. Gerhardt. Erste Abteilung, Band III, Halle. HERE.

Writing Bad Habits

Interesting list of counterproductive habits for writing, by Dianna Booher

* Waiting for inspiration rather than approaching the task like any other
* Waiting until you're under pressure from a deadline
* Interrupting yourself from the task to check email way too frequently
* Starting to write before you've collected all the necessary information you'll need to put in that document
* Writing before thinking
* Starting to draft before you've even identified your key points
* Starting to draft before you've determined what you want the reader to do
* Starting over continually, trying to "get it right" the first time
* Trying to write in "bits and spurts" (15 minutes here and 30 minutes there)
* Allowing other people to interrupt you while writing
* Writing when you're angry or otherwise upset
* Editing and rewriting sentence by sentence as you go rather than after you finish a draft
* Checking a thesaurus to find and use complex words for simple ideas
* Trying to string together long, complex sentences
* Failing to allow a cool-off period before you proofread
* Sending out a document without first editing it or proofreading it

Social Media and the Right to Speak (Umberto Eco's view)

Italiaanse schrijver Umberto Eco , kop.jpg"Social media gives legions of idiots the right to speak when they once only spoke at a bar after a glass of wine, without harming the community [...] but now they have the same right to speak as a Nobel Prize winner. It's the invasion of the idiots."

Flesch–Kincaid Readability Score


Real Dice Data

  1. Walter Frank Raphael Weldon (1860 - 1906) performed dice rolls on 12 dice 26,000+ times. The data was used by Pearson to develop the Chi square test.
  2. During WWII, John Kerrich, a prisoner at a German prison in Denmark, conducted similar experiments for 10,000 throws of coins. 
  3. In 2009, Zac Labby (Chicago), developed a machine to repeat Weldon’s experiment.

A sample from Kerrich's data from Stackoverflow:

00011101001111101000110101111000100111001000001110 00101010100100001001100010000111010100010000101101

Techniques for Generating/Eliciting a Hierarchy or Network of Objectives

When structuring an ill-defined problem, eliciting the underlying objectives is fundamental. The task is subjective, but it certainly help to follow a formalized strategy. Evans p. 45 lists some existing approaches.

Clemen and Reilly (2017) p. 52 ask: "How do we first separate means and fundamental objectives and then construct the fundamental-objectives hierarchy and the means-objectives network?" and suggest four guiding questions, techniques, for organizing means and fundamental objectives:
  • Why Is That Important? (WITI)
  • How can this objective be achieved?
  • What do you mean by that?
  • Of what more general objective is this an aspect?

Buede (1986) proposes two structuring methods: top down and bottom-up approaches.
  • Top-down method: it's objective-driven (close to Keeney and Raiffa 1976); "the analyst begins by ascertaining the global objectives of the decision maker and proceeds to a value structure by subdividing the objectives, sub-objectives, and so forth until a final set of attributes is obtained."
  • Bottom-up approach: it's alternative-driven. "The analyst begins by questioning the decision maker for a reasonable set of alternatives, each of which might solve the problem. Once the alternatives are defined, the analyst generates a value structure by probing the decision maker for the major differences between the identified alternatives. The analyst then categorizes these differences into groups corresponding to objectives so that a hierarchical value structure can be systematically constructed. The identified differences comprise the set of attributes."
Manheim and Hall (1967) reject the method which hinge on too much mathematization of decision components (e.g. cost-benefit analysis, and utility theory: von Neumann and Morgenstern) because they "it tends to obfuscate the issues of choice by concealing them in the mathematics of utility". Which is reasonable. The method is:
  1. goal fabric analysis: list all the known goals for the project and then identifying the various relations among the goals.
  2. utilize the goal fabric analysis to rank the alternatives. This entails mapping each new alternative onto the goal fabric (i. e., predicting the performance of the alternative with respect to some of the goals) and then, using this mapped information and the structure of the goal fabric, comparing the new alternative with one previously ranked, to fit the new one into the ranking.
"The method operates on only two alternatives at a time. Any attempt to formulate a list of goals runs into problems of consistency, overlap and varying degrees of detail of the goals. These problems are usually approached by trying to state all the goals in a uniform way. In the method we propose, however, this is precisely what is not done: the list of goals can contain overlap and different degrees of detail. We propose analyzing the list to identify explicitly all the relations among these "non-uniform" goals. The goal analysis is intended to structure the goals by identifying the relations among them that are relevant to evaluation of the alternatives." There are four relations of importance (the first two guide expansion of the goals list in order to clarify the vague goals)
  1. specification: entails explaining in more detail what we mean by the general goal. 
  2. means-end: describes how a goal can be accomplished
  3. value-wise dependence: are those goals that can be evaluated only in conjunction with other goals.
  4. value-wise independence: can be evaluated on their own, without regard to any other goals
Evans, G. (2017) Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis for Industrial Engineering. CRC.
Clemen and Reilly (2014) Making Hard Decisions with DecisionTools. CENGAGE
Keeney (1992), Value Focused Thinking. Harvard, p. 57ff
Keneey and Raiffa (1976) p. 31ff
Buede (1986) Structuring Value Attributes. Interfaces, 16. 2
Manheim and Hall (1967) Abstract representations of goals. MIT