While looking at the discussion after my last post--for those who missed it, I made a really dumb attribution mistake that was thankfully corrected, and it was forcefully brought to my attention that my original example relied on an understanding of conditionals deeply controversial among precisely the same sort of people likely to find Impressive Scientist X examples compelling, but I argued that the same point could be made without bringing in the material conditional, and that there are simpler explanations of e.g. Bohr's failure to derive random crazy things from his inconsistent atomic theory than that he was somehow unknowingly working with an "underlying paraconsistent logic"--something closely related occurred to me.
There's a phrase that's used a lot in these discussions as if we all knew what it meant. I'm not sure that it's so clear. That's "interesting but inconsistent theory."
(The phrase "non-trivial," often appended to "interesting but inconsistent," adds bupkis. All it means is that not everything will follow from the theory, i.e. that interesting but inconsistent theories should be reasoned about paraconsistently or not at all. OK. If you believe that the moon is both made of green cheese and not made of green cheese, that theory will be "non-trivial" in precisely the same sense, but I doubt anyone would call it "interesting" in the relevant sense.)
Well, what is an 'interesting' theory? I mean, I think I know what it means before modified with "but inconsistent," but after that's there, I'm not so sure any more. Normally, when talking about consistent theories, I would take "interesting theory" (in the sense that seems to be driven at, not "interesting" as in "crazily unexpected" or anything like that) to mean "plausible theory," i.e. one that might very well turn out to be true. Or, applied to out-dated theories, one that it would have been rational to regard as quite possibly true given the evidence available at the time, even if we now understand that it is false.
Now, full-blown dialetheists banding about the phrase "interesting but inconsistent theory" might mean exactly this, since they think it's possible in principle for something to be inconsistent but true. What I'm interested in at the moment is what this "interesting but inconsistent phrase" means to people who bandy it around who are on the 2nd Grade of Paraconsistent Involvement discussed in the last post, the "I'm not a dialetheist, but..." crowd who are still holding back from the 3rd Grade where you admit that some of these theories may be true.
So, if you aren't a dialetheist, you still believe in the Law of Non-Contradiction, hence you believe that it is categorically impossible for an inconsistent theory to turn out to be true and there has never been a situation where it would have been rational on the basis of any sort of empirical evidence to believe that an inconsistent theory was true, what does "interesting but inconsistent theory" mean?
Interestingness also can't just boil down to a degree of predictive accuracy*, right? If so, interesting-but-inconsistent theories would be too easy to generate and lose the aura of respectability they gain from Bohr-type examples. After all, for any hotly disputed scientific area, where one theory predicts a bunch of effects with a certain amount of experimental support, and an obviously logically inconsistent competitor theory predicts a bunch of other effects, and there are a certain amount of experimental support for those two, if someone blandly asserted that the disputed phenomenon both existed and didn't exist, and was thus able to claim the experimental successes of both competitors for this claim (like, "if X exists, we expect to see some Y's and if it doesn't, we'd expected to see some Z's, so I expect to see both Y's and Z's..."), would that make the new conjunctive theory "interesting"?
Anyway, I'm throwing this open to the floor. On the assumption that it's never rational to believe an inconsistent theory to be actually true, what does it mean to call one 'interesting'?
*...although why we'd be interested in predictive accuracy, except as an indicator of truth, is for the most part mysterious to me.