The Dialectic of Statistics

“Hegelian” dialectic (which some claim did not originate with Hegel at all, but with Fichte) consists of three parts:

Thesis:  one side of the argument

Antithesis:  the other side of the argument

Synthesis:  Resolution of the tension between thesis and antithesis.

These have exact counterparts in statistics (and the philosophy of science):

The “mean” (the “predictions” or the original model):  A “simple” description of the world that necessarily falls short of describing the real world.

The “variance” (or the deviations):  Where the observations drawn from the real world deviate from the predictions generated from the model.

The improved model:  A revised version of the original model that can better account for the observed reality than the original model.

In this sense, the dialectic is an epistemological tool, the means whereby the user is enlightened of the reality’s workings, the “truth” as it were.  This, of course, is what Socrates had argued.


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