The informal strikes back

The hope is that we could get all that informal stuff out of the way quickly and get to things for which we have algorithms or operational definitions. In speaking about energy we wave our hand at “the ability to do work”, and then grab some equation for work. But was there really nothing to notice in “Ability”? Causes are abilities, but so are effects. You could leap down on top of me from ten feet off the ground or be straightjacketed and dropped on me by someone else, but in both cases you have the ability to harm me. Does it matter whether energy is a cause or effect?

there are a lot more informal descriptions where ability, cause and effect come from. There’s exists, is a set, is true, is false, is a definition, is informal, or even is an algorithm or is defined operationally or is an experiment.

All this suggests that getting past the informal is not a long term solution. Sooner or later the confusions will start accumulate beyond what we can handle, and we’ll have to go back and get clear about the informal stuff that we brushed aside at the outset.

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