“Often, the things which are most familiar to us turn out to be the hardest to understand.”

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According to E. T. Jaynes

In trying to understand common sense, we shall take a similar course. We won’t try to understand it all at once, but we shall feel that progress has been made if we are able to construct idealized mathematical models which reproduce a few of its features. We expect that any model we are now able to construct will be replaced by more complete ones in the future, and we do not know whether there is any natural end to this process.

The analogy with physical theories is deeper than a mere analogy of method. Often, the things which are most familiar to us turn out to be the hardest to understand. Phenomena whose very existence is unknown to the vast majority of the human race (such as the difference in ultraviolet spectra of Iron and Nickel) can be explained in exhaustive mathematical detail — but all of modern science is practically helpless when faced with the complications of such a commonplace fact as growth of a blade of grass. Accordingly, we must not expect too much of our models; we must be prepared to fi nd that some of the most familiar features of mental activity may be ones for which we have the greatest difficulty in constructing any adequate model.

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