Dictionary definitions

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Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 24th, 2017, 8:32 pm 

How should we understand a definition found in the dictionary? If, for example, the definiandum is "X", and the definiens "blah blah blah", does X mean (i.e. just is) what the defieniens says? Are the two synonymous?

Might sound silly, but this stuff gets hugely complex, and Hilary Putnam is dead.

If, say, we look up "water" in the dictionary and find "a clear, colorless, odorless liquid that wimps drink", do we have an analytically true statement? In other words, anything satisfying the description in the dictionary is water.

What if we subsequently learn more about water (oops, just begged the question. Don't suppose anyone will notice), likesay, its chemical composition is H2O? Has the meaning of "water" changed? (after all, H20 did not appear in the original definition). Or has the meaning remained the same and we've just learned a bit more about it?

What if we find a "clear, colorless, odorless liquid that wimps drink" that does not have the composition H2O? Is it water?

I find this topic enormously difficult, but fascinating. Hoping you might help me gain some measure of clarity.

P.S. sorry about the Latin. They all do it, though.
Last edited by NoShips on June 24th, 2017, 8:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 24th, 2017, 8:46 pm 

Consider a "label" theory:

Whatever is in that jar of medicine just is what the label says. The semantic value of the label is nothing more than its referent. Denotation without connotation, as they say.

But then we could never be wrong about what's in the jar. Right?

And a person aware of two labels denoting the same medicine (known only to us thus far) must know that they denote the same thing.

Oh gosh, you can always rely on Frege to ruin a good day.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on June 24th, 2017, 9:52 pm 

What if we subsequently learn more about water (oops, just begged the question. Don't suppose anyone will notice), likesay, its chemical composition is H2O? Has the meaning of "water" changed? (after all, H20 did not appear in the original definition). Or has the meaning remained the same and we've just learned a bit more about it?


We would just have another use for the term, right? Same reference, different sense.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 24th, 2017, 9:57 pm 

Sivad » June 25th, 2017, 10:52 am wrote:We would just have another use for the term, right? Same reference, different sense.


Well, this is the issue before us, comrade. In virtue of what does a term "refer"?

If reference means nothing more than the object referred to, we can stop now.

Frege's gemütlichkeit may be ruined though.

What you're saying is various definitions may refer to the same term.

Sounds good to me. But how do we know if two terms refer to the same referent?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on June 24th, 2017, 11:58 pm 

Sounds good to me. But how do we know if two terms refer to the same referent?


Investigation. That's how we figured out that both Hesperus and Phosphorus refer to Venus. Is there a better way?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 7:49 pm 

Sivad » June 25th, 2017, 12:58 pm wrote:
Investigation. That's how we figured out that both Hesperus and Phosphorus refer to Venus. Is there a better way?



Oooh, you read Frege too? Or are you an ancient Babylonian?

Yes, yes, but our question here pertains not to how we find out stuff through empirical investigation. Sounds like too much hard work to me (that's why God invented scientists). The question is purely semantic. What exactly is a dictionary definition?

If the definition and that defined are the same, how can we be wrong?

If we come to believe that the defum and the defiens are different, then they were not synonymous. Right?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on June 25th, 2017, 8:27 pm 

NoShips » June 25th, 2017, 4:49 pm wrote:
Sivad » June 25th, 2017, 12:58 pm wrote:
Investigation. That's how we figured out that both Hesperus and Phosphorus refer to Venus. Is there a better way?



Oooh, you read Frege too? Or are you an ancient Babylonian?

Yes, yes, but our question here pertains not to how we find out stuff through empirical investigation. Sounds like too much hard work to me (that's why God invented scientists). The question is purely semantic. What exactly is a dictionary definition?

If the definition and that defined are the same, how can we be wrong?

If we come to believe that the defum and the defiens are different, then they were not synonymous. Right?



So you're talking Kripke? I'm fuzzy on initial baptism and rigid designators , it's been a while.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 8:30 pm 

Yes, friend. Kripke, Putnam, Russell, and other hoodlums.

Yes, I agree, my designator is somewhat flaccid too.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 8:40 pm 

Putnam has some wonderful arguments.

E.g. Let's take some disease or other which we now define by its cause ( a virus or whatever) whereas previously defined in the dictionary by its symptoms.

So what? Well, if we take the 18th century dictionary definition of syphilis (or whatever) as being synonymous with its definiendum, then a hapless whorehouse victim showing the symptoms of syphilis, but without the underlying cause, did have syphilis.

I suppose semantics were the least of his concerns. But we're us, and this is Sparta!
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on June 25th, 2017, 8:47 pm 

NoShips » June 25th, 2017, 4:49 pm wrote: The question is purely semantic. What exactly is a dictionary definition?


They're never complete or binding, or closed. They're always tentative, forever subject to update or revision. Only as useful or accurate as they happen to be, no guarantees. Also prone to becoming altogether obsolete. What exactly is a dictionary definition? Ideally it's the best we can do, but sometimes it's determined by other considerations.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 8:48 pm 

So we can say:

(i) The whoremonger did have syphilis, or

(ii) The meaning of "syphilis" has changed
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 8:50 pm 

Sivad » June 26th, 2017, 9:47 am wrote:
They're never complete or binding, or closed. They're always tentative, forever subject to update or revision. Only as useful or accurate as they happen to be, no guarantees. Also prone to becoming altogether obsolete. What exactly is a dictionary definition? Ideally it's the best we can do, but sometimes it's determined by other considerations.


Exactly the point, clever lad. But now you're wearing a Kripke hat.

The worry here is (um, for losers like me) a term is not synonymous with its definition.

Don't believe a word!
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 8:52 pm 

My dictionary says "a bachelor is an unmarried male of a certain age (see also Cliff Richard)"

Could we come to learn this is false?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on June 25th, 2017, 8:58 pm 

NoShips » June 25th, 2017, 5:52 pm wrote:My dictionary says "a bachelor is an unmarried male of a certain age (see also Cliff Richard)"

Could we come to learn this is false?


No, it's analytic.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 8:59 pm 

But you said above...

They're never complete or binding, or closed. They're always tentative, forever subject to update or revision.


See the prob now? :-)

Damn Quine
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 9:02 pm 

Is anything safe? LOL
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 9:06 pm 

Yes, we might learn that Cliff Richard is not a bachelor. Not coz he marries some chick though.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on June 25th, 2017, 9:22 pm 

NoShips » June 25th, 2017, 5:59 pm wrote:But you said above...

They're never complete or binding, or closed. They're always tentative, forever subject to update or revision.


See the prob now? :-)

Damn Quine


Quine's point wasn't that obvious, his problem with analyticity is the lack of distinction between universal information and definitional truths.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 9:28 pm 

Why the two orders, Colonel?

1. "They're never complete or binding, or closed. They're always tentative, forever subject to update or revision."

2. "No, it's analytic."

I want the TRUTH!!!

Tee hee. Hey seriously, Sivad, thank you for helping me think more about this. Bless ya.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FnO3igOkOk

I think I'm entitled to answers. *giggle*
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on June 25th, 2017, 9:36 pm 

NoShips » June 25th, 2017, 6:28 pm wrote:Why the two orders, Colonel?

1. "They're never complete or binding, or closed. They're always tentative, forever subject to update or revision."

2. "No, it's analytic."



It's not hard, definitions expand, narrow, or become obsolete. If you want a hard and fast rule you're out of luck.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 9:38 pm 

It's hard if you're me. Didn't ask for luck; it's your sympathy I want; not your gentle caress.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 9:40 pm 

So the dude with syphilis symptoms but not the syphilis virus (if there is such a thing) had syphilis?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on June 25th, 2017, 9:40 pm 

NoShips » June 25th, 2017, 6:38 pm wrote:It's hard if you're me.


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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 9:41 pm 

Well, if you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em. Was that Harry Truman? LOL
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on June 25th, 2017, 9:42 pm 

NoShips » June 25th, 2017, 6:40 pm wrote:So the dude with syphilis symptoms but not the syphilis virus (if there is such a thing) had syphilis?


Depends on the definition. He appeared syphilitic so they called it as they saw it.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 9:43 pm 

This is a lot more stimulating than teaching English to people who can't tell "he" from "she" even after 10 years of instruction. Think I'll call in sick again.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 9:45 pm 

Sivad » June 26th, 2017, 10:42 am wrote:
Depends on the definition. He appeared syphilitic so they called it as they saw it.


Gosh, gotta be careful with you. You're far cleverer than the other animals.

No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the whole point. If syphilis = the symptoms, then he had syphilis, right?

Not what you said, Colonel!!!
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 9:45 pm 

I can have the court reporter read back to you....
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on June 25th, 2017, 9:46 pm 

The quandary here isn't about definitions, it's about how is it that we transcend definitions. It's Kripkenstein rule following. If you got a novel solution to that I'd love to hear it.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on June 25th, 2017, 9:50 pm 

Oh gosh, have you read Colin McGinn on the Kripke thing? He thinks Kripke was fulla shit. Not really my forte, but...

The quandary is about definitions. Does the definition contain the same semantic content as the defieniems (damn Latin). You say yes and no.
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