Since we want to Move up and down in the system hierarchy, a useful Strategy is to build epistemic connections between very abstract and very concrete Models, that is an easy-to-climb ladder of abstraction.
At the ends of this ladder, we do different things:Manual DeLanda’s reconceptualisation and use of
Deleuze’s ontology (DeLanda 2002) is an example for such a strategy: an
abstraction of the general ideas behind the most advanced
scientific thinking that informs very concrete, materialist
analyses and explanations.
- We look for large-scale Attractors, “high up” on the ladder, where models have a wide scope and high generality – this leverages Causal Emergence to make the most efficient use of the available information. s, i.e.
- We create hard-to-bias reality checks “far down” on the ladder –
this means immersion into
Dynamics to generate data for constructing and testing more abstract
models instead of modelling the lower-level dynamics in a detailed
way.This is an expression of the strategies to
system descriptions top-down and
exploration over exploitation.
The construction of the ladder has to be done carefully:
it’s really easy to do sloppy work when you jump recklessly from small scale textual analysis to high level societal claims, and … the moments of your argument when you make such a jump are moments when you slow down and work carefully.Sandifer (2021)
Scale-free Abstractions help us on all steps of the ladder and reduce the cognitive cost of switching between them.
In addition to levels of description, there is a more fundamental difference between certain steps on the ladder: There are models of varying scope and generality on the different object-levels – and then there is the meta-level of theoretical reflection, on which, e.g., this note or Conceptual Engineering are operating. This reflection informs and critiques the work on the lower levels and should act as a constant check on it.
- DeLanda (2002): Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy
- Sandifer (2021): “The Beigeness, or How to Kill People with Bad Writing: The Scott Alexander Method”