8.2 Low-Confidence Articles
What about the other direction? Which articles is the model most uncertain about. This is a bit more of a stress test of the model. The high-confidence articles all look pretty much right for the topics they are in. (Not least because I named the topics after the high-confidence articles.) But if the model throws up its hands at articles that are easy to place, that’s relatively bad. So let’s look.
There are more or less sophisticated ways to measure how unsure the model is about an article. I’m going to go with one of the less sophisticated ways, because it is easy to understand and provides clear enough guidance. Implicitly in the previous section, I measured the model’s certainty about an article by the maximal probability it gives to the article being in any one topic. I’ll say it is most uncertain about an article if that maximal probability (for that article) is lowest.
By that measure, here are the ten articles the model is most unsure about.
|Alan Donagan, 1970, “The Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” Philosophical Review 79:83–138.|
|Jay L. Garfield, 1989, “The Myth of Jones and the Mirror of Nature: Reflections on Introspection,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 50:1–26.|
|J. H. Kultgen, 1956, “Operations and Events in Russell’s Empiricism,” Journal of Philosophy 53:157–67.|
|Harry Prosch, 1972, “Polanyi’s Ethics,” Ethics 82:91–113.|
|C. J. Ducasse, 1936, “Mr. Collingwood on Philosophical Method,” Journal of Philosophy 33:95–106.|
|Wilfrid Sellars, 1973, “Actions and Events,” Noûs 7:179–202.|
|R. Harré, 1973, “Surrogates for Necessity,” Mind 82:358–80.|
|Donald W. Rogers, 1947, “Philosophic Method,” Philosophical Review 56:656–69.|
|R. Edgley, 1956, “Critical Notice,” Mind 65:551–7.|
|Roy Wood Sellars, 1941, “A Correspondence Theory of Truth,” Journal of Philosophy 38:645–54.|
Did the model get it right? Should it be uncertain about these articles? Let’s look at some cases, starting with the one it is most uncertain about.
|Meaning and use||0.0660|
|Faith and theism||0.0439|
|Promises and imperatives||0.0336|
|Propositions and implications||0.0310|
|Universals and particulars||0.0303|
For reasons best known to them, the editors of the Philosophical Review commissioned a critical notice (Donagan 1970) of the eight-volume Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It could be called a book review I guess, but it’s fifty-six pages long, so it feels like it should be in our study.
And I’m fairly happy that this was the article the model had the greatest trouble with. How could it classify a critical notice of an encyclopedia. What topic could it not be in? The answer seems to be the very late topics—there is no wide content or quantum physics there—and the very early topics. I’m actually a little surprised that idealism doesn’t turn up.
So far so good—the model threw up its hands exactly when it should have done so. It would have been wrong to confidently place Donagan’s article. What about the second one?
|Theories and realism||0.0837|
|Minds and machines||0.0505|
|History and culture||0.0445|
|Meaning and use||0.0222|
And this is a bit more depressing. Garfield’s article (1989) is wide-ranging, covering a number of big questions at the heart of philosophy of mind and epistemology. But still, it isn’t that hard to say what it’s about broadly. And to be sure, the model does recognize that this isn’t a philosophy of physics article, or a political philosophy article, or an ancient philosophy article. But still, it should do better than this.
What’s happened, in a picturesque sense, is this: the articles are arranged in a feature space. The feature space has many, many dimensions, and the articles do form clusters within it. What the model does is pick ninety points in that space such that as many articles as possible are reasonably close to one of the points. Now some articles, like the Donagan, are going to be so idiosyncratic that they aren’t near a point. But the Garfield isn’t like that. The model could have decided that Sellarsian theories of mind/epistemology are a focal point. It just didn’t do that. Instead, articles like these ended up falling between many many different points.
I think it isn’t a coincidence that there is another article by Wilfred Sellars on the list. I think it is a coincidence that there is an article by his father though. That one is weird. Here is its table.
|Dewey and pragmatism||0.0972|
|Propositions and implications||0.0909|
|Theories and realism||0.0784|
|Universals and particulars||0.0514|
In this paper (R. W. Sellars 1941), Sellars is operating at a fairly high degree of abstraction, and considering the ways in which the big philosophical views (idealism, pragmatism, realism, etc) have characteristic theories of truth. The theory of truth he wants to offer is a correspondence theory that isn’t so closely tied to general forms of realism. And we can see why the paper looks, to the model, like it could be about all sorts of things. I’m still a bit surprised that the model didn’t just lump it in with other works on truth. It doesn’t mention the paradoxes, and has no formalism, and maybe that was enough. But it’s surprising.
Anyway, I’m pleased that the article it was most uncertain about was a really impossible-to-place article, disappointed that it couldn’t do a better job with Sellarsian philosophy, and not surprised that it also threw up its hands at various methodology articles. It’s not a perfect model, but it did fairly well.