The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0964  Tuesday, 27 April 2004

From:           Marcus Dahl <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 27 Apr 2004 00:05:26 +0100
Subject: 15.0948 Stylometrics
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0948 Stylometrics

 >or at least know that they cannot

According to my non-mathematician's understanding of Godel he
demonstrated that there is no fundamental axiom for all mathematics thus
putting pay to about 30 years of work by Russell and Whitehead et al who
were trying to show just the opposite in (I think) their 'Principia
Mathematica' (or some such pseudo Newtonic title). My comment was then
intended to refer to certain negative outcomes of Stylometry and one

(1) Rather than making a positive demonstration of authorship it may be
possible to 'prove' instead that we cannot know who wrote certain texts
attributed to certain authors. i.e. there may be a limit to either the
theoretical or empirical evidence avilable to 'prove' positive authorship.

(2) That such negative apriori or apostiori proofs may be non-the-less
formally acceptable as 'proof'. Thus it may be possible to make some
priori requirements for evidence and statements about that evidence
before surveying that evidence which would formally curtail our ability
to demonstrate positive proof.

(3) That this situation could be beneficial to Attribution Studies

Now: I am to some extent conflating two things here (but I know I am) -
the possibility of mathematical proofs (i.e. in a closed language
system) and the possibility (imagined or real) of empirical proofs (or
sets of statements etc for which falsifiable and repeatable evidence
exists or might exist).

My essential point remains the same - it is sometimes better to show
that 'you don't know' by some form of universally acceptable proof or
evidence than it is to show that 'you might know' by a set of
non-universally accepted proofs or evidence.

This is my fairly off the cuff response so will reflect more on any
wider significance of rather my hand wavey Godel reference. I am sure
Ward Elliott's collaborator Robert Valenza would know lots about this
... Gabriel is of course right to pick me up on this!


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