Dictionary definitions

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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 2nd, 2017, 10:02 am 

Put simply... you'd better hope there's more to pencils than wood and graphite and a rubber at the end *snicker*

Oops, you guys say "eraser"

at least conceivably. Now why did God give you that brilliant imagination of yours again? :-)

Can't you see I'm having fun. I love this. A meeting of minds. *barks like a sealion*
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 2nd, 2017, 10:03 am 

I've never been clearer than I am right now. Gosh, this is a lot more fun than pulling wings off bees :-)
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 2nd, 2017, 10:27 am 

However, at the end of the day -- yes, literally -- what do I think about the putative analytic/synthetic distinction?

Ans: Haven't the foggiest.

But it's been a good day. Isn't it amazing what deep thinking can do for deep vein thrombosis?

Thank you everyone. Gosh, I'd marry you all if I was a Mormon.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 3rd, 2017, 8:56 am 

@ Dandelion

By the way, are you a natural kind? :-)

I've been reading through that paper again. It covers topics that don't receive much attention in the philosophical literature that I tend to bury my beak in, but fascinating nonetheless. One thing that came to mind was the issue of "countable" nouns (dog, leg, dandelion, etc) vs "uncountable" (or mass) nouns (beer, money, justice, etc) in a language like English. Although the boundaries can be a bit hazy (cf. "Two beers, please").

Living in Taiwan, the only other language I can claim any competence in is Mandarin Chinese. No such distinction exists between countable and uncountable nouns: they all require a "measure term".

For example, In Mandarin, a cup of water is 一杯水 (yi bei shui - literally: one cup water), much as in English, except with no preposition ("of") required. We both require the measure term ("cup"), or some other, to individuate samples of water. But, as noted, English can get murky -- "two waters, please".

On the other hand, whereas in English we can simply say "a cat" or "one cat", Mandarin, as with the entire family of Chinese languages, I believe, requires a measure term, in this case 隻 (zhi) - a cat, thus, is rendered into yi zhi mao (one um-measury-kinda-thing cat).

Now this wouldn't be so bad if the same measure word was used for all nouns. Alas, we foreigners should be lucky. Generalizations can be made -- most measure terms apply to a variety of vaguely related objects -- but the number of these measure terms beggars belief. They even have one specifically for corpses!

You can't just say three corpses. Pfft! You have to say three 具 (ju) corpses. Otherwise they either look perplexed or giggle LOL.

This is one, among many reasons, why Chinese is so hard for native English speakers to master, and vice versa. But hey, we don't do these things because they're easy, eh?

By the way, the measure word for flowers is 朵 (duo). Nice to meet you, Ms one-duo-Dandelion.

Thanks again for a good read.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 3rd, 2017, 9:35 am 

NoShips » July 2nd, 2017, 12:09 am wrote:
Let's bring this all together now...

How about fitness? "The survival of the fittest"

Can we learn that the less fit outdo the more fit? Of course. Compare "The casino always wins".

Individual achievement...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy3MtznDeqg

True or not? Can't purple haired grannies have a good night?

You bet they can. But that would be like (to exaggerate) all the molecules of air meeting up in a corner of the room while we suffocate. That's the good thing about statistical laws: the Chens can be wiped out.

Next question: Given enough time can the purple haired grannies win?

Ans: Depends what you call winning. In Scotland we call it a "moral victory" when England thrashes us 10-0.

Get it?

Didn't think so.

I don't post movie links for no reason, folks. When a man becomes preeminent, he's expected to have enthusiasms. Yes, enthusiasms. Not San Diego dolphin parks. You're here to think. If not, feed the sealions.

Which we grant, is hard with Al Pacino around...

Those who find thinking an obstacle to progress are invited to feed the orcas. I'm told they adore decadent unthinking biologists.

(You asked for it)

Yes, you're being asked to feed to the whales. And why? You tell me.


Q: Don't you mean Al Capone, dumbass? Was that a typo or are you stoopid or something, boy?

(and no one noticed anyway)

Reply to critics: No, um, er, ahem, squirm, I mean what I said. We've just come to learn more about Al Pacino.

The Chicago star = the movie star

Call it an a posteriori necessary truth
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Lomax on July 3rd, 2017, 1:10 pm 

NoShips » July 2nd, 2017, 2:44 pm wrote:Time to recap, ladies:

If a pencil just is what the definition says ("a writing implement"), then we cannot come to learn more about pencils. It's analytic.

If gravity just is what the Newtonian definition says it is ("an attractive force and all the rest"), we cannot come to learn more about gravity. It's analytic.

Sorry to cross behind enemy lines but I don't think this follows. Definitional statements can take two forms:

(1) A is identical to B
(2) All A are B

The difference is that while (1) is biconditional (All A are B and all B are A), (2) is only conditional. It could be true by definition (if anything can be true by definition) that gravity is an attractive force ("Phwoar! Look at the globes on that!"), and yet contingently true that it has loads of other features too.

I think the real problem is that after centuries of the greatest minds wasted, still nobody can tell us just what the hell meaning is, how we measure it, or - to get to the point - how we match it up.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby wolfhnd on July 3rd, 2017, 4:14 pm 

There is a lot of room for error in an evolved system. Sometimes animals and even humans try to mate with inanimate objects but most of the time it works out in the end. We are not privy to the inner workings of our own minds and instincts so we should not expect that our theory of mind projected on to others would be perfect. For many things close enough is fine.

Meaning is derived from purpose so the first question is for what purpose is a definition being used. The next question is what degree of precision and accuracy is sufficient to meet that purpose.

There are proximate and ultimate purposes a synthesis of proximate purposes can achieve an ultimate purposes. All our measurements and definitions are approximate. Math could be seen as a language of abstract absoluteness but when applied to a purpose it loses that characteristic.

The scientific process has been one of reduction to simplest definition but complex chaotic systems such as language resist the traditional approach. Random generated models is a relatively new technique to tease out the nature of evolved systems I don't know if that process has been applied to spoken language or not. The point is however that an evolved system such as language can't be said to have purpose. It has reasons without a reasoner. Purpose is imposed artificially by a reasoner. Perhaps the purpose of definitions is to allow artificial intelligence to replicate itself until it consumes the entire universe. That may not be the purpose of any reasoner but ultimate explanations require infinite information. Stick with close enough and you will be happier and more purposeful.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 3rd, 2017, 9:13 pm 

wolfhnd » July 4th, 2017, 5:14 am wrote:Sometimes animals and even humans try to mate with inanimate objects but most of the time it works out in the end.


Even SPCF members too. No annoying pregnancies at least.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on July 4th, 2017, 5:18 am 

Sorry, I think you answered me and I didn’t see it; I make even more mistakes with quick discussions! Thank you for the information about measures in Mandarin, I find this fascinating. And that is so nice, that dandelion measures are duo! Thanks. :)

I should have mentioned that paper might describe notions like Lomax suggested, and I could have mentioned elsewhere. Maybe like others mentioned, I wonder about greater flexibility in correspondence, perhaps like- a bachelor is a person whose marital status is differentiated, along with spinsters, maybe also singles, etc.?

To add to other comments too, with all sorts of differently accepted types of marriage or unions, like de facto, gay, etc., some may be recognised in some countries and by some institutions and not others, so e.g., a man recognised as married in a country or by an institution may not be recognised as such elsewhere.

Also, from the paper, I think bachelor may be a stage-level predicate noun for individuals, like president, passenger, batter, etc. “Yesterday’s bachelor is married” sounds ok, I think. “Today’s bachelor is married” might work considering geographical and institutional conditions. I think it has already been suggested in the thread that alien status affects marital status. Perhaps this also works for “Yesterday’s bachelor is a triffid”? “Today’s passenger is a triffid”, I think sounds fine.

But also to do with more flexibility, I was wondering if it would help at all if more terms, say more typical or functional artefact nouns, were treated like stage-level nouns- not bound but varying. E.g., if functional articles varied more according to some more express relationship with function, like a pencil might instead be termed variously as write-er, draw-er, point-er, or correct-er, and could this sort of flexibility help with any of the problems raised?

Incidentally, I don't know much about it, but am a bit interested in some arguments I've read about Chinese poetry, is there anything about topics like that that you'd find interesting?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 4th, 2017, 6:54 am 

@ Lomax - G'day moite!

If I understand you correctly, your type (1) is simply a statement of identity: the names or designators "A" and "B" refer to the same entity. Thus we might find in the dictionary under "water" -- "the substance with chemical composition H2O" (or simply "H2O"), and in the encyclopedia under "Thomas Jefferson" -- "the third president of the USA".

Now, assuming Kripke is right, then if the former statement is true at all (i.e. the chemists didn't screw up), it is necessarily true, since both desinators are rigid. It is true in all possible worlds.

The latter, on the other hand, represents a contingent truth, on just about everybody's account I think. Jefferson is the third president in the actual world, even though there are possible worlds where the third president is Joe Lomax, forced to step down midterm due to a sex scandal.

You might wanna turn the other way, but for most of us riff-raff, the former statement is analytic; the latter synthetic. And if Kripke is right, the truth of both can only be known a posteriori. In other words, we have come to learn that "water = H20" is an analytically true statement, and that "Jefferson is the third president" is a true synthetic statement.

Now, as you point out, and assuming for the moment that Kripke is right, water may have many other properties -- non-essential properties -- the truth of which, unlike being H20, is merely contingent. E.g. being colorless, odorless, etc. Thus

"Water is a tasteless liquid"

is true, but only contingently so. Creatures much like ourselves on Twin Earth might taste water (yes, real water, not XYZ) like we taste Grolsch. (What can I say? The local supermarket has a special on right now and this good Samaritan has decided to give the beleaguered Dutch economy a boost :-) )

So what's the point? Well, on this account, it might indeed be the case that gravity has some non-essential properties too; those properties that do not make gravity what it is. In such circumstances, it would be "contingently true that it has loads of other features too". Who knows: maybe it guzzles Grolsch in some worlds and Fosters in others.

But who cares? Gravity is still, given the Newtonian definition and the descriptivist account (Russell et al) of names, "an attractive force with such-and-such properties" that (purportedly) uniquely identify it. If nothing in nature matches this description, as science now tells us, we must conclude (Newtonian) gravity is not real. Newton was talking about nothing. Thus, we cannot come to learn more about Newtonian gravity. It was never a definitional truth to begin with. Nothing true can be said of a non-existent entity (except perhaps that it does not exist). Bad tidings for the scientific realist!

Despair not, young Werther and scientific realists. On the Kripke/Putnam causal account of naming and reference, "gravity", even as the term was used by the Newtonians, may still pick out something real in nature; successful reference being achieved through a causal link with gravity's essence, as opposed to an associated description. "Gravity is an attractive force with such-and-such properties" is not true, definitionwise or anywise, but that's ok! It never was analytic to begin with; simply something for us to get a grip on the referent.

Therefore, we can come to learn more about gravity, Newton and Einstein were tracking the same suspect, and, assuming a realist position and Einstein's incorrigible brilliance (he himself vacillated between an instrumentalist and realist position), we now know exactly (i.e. essentially) what it is. Not "close enough" pace Wolfhnd. What we see, then, under this account, one that will keep the scientific realists grinning (hiya BiV), is that science, successfully perpetrated, uncovers the underlying essence of natural kind terms, and when the marriage between science and gravity is consummated, the definition becomes analytic -- true by definition. "Gravity is the curvature of spacetime". An a posteriori analytic truth.

If Albert is right.

Oh finally, your type (2) doesn't seem to me the kind of thing we'd call a definition. E.g. "All American presidents are men". Wouldn't a statement like this be what we might call a generalization? And in some cases, a law -- "all copper conducts electricity".

To reiterate, I find this material very hard, Lomax, my head's spinning again, so don't place too much credence in anything I've said. I'm almost certainly confused all over the joint. Thanks anyway for helping me think more about these issues. You may now re-don your "Quine is mine" apron.


@ Wolfhnd -- Thanks for a thought-provoking post.


P.S. Oh gadzooks! While preparing for publication, I just spotted something in my post that might make me the laughing stock of SPCF, if I wasn't already. Sigh! Never mind. If I'm lucky I'll have collected the Nobel dosh and be living the vida loca at Ipanema Beach before anyone notices. Too tired to think any more. The bastards don't pay me enough LOL.

Hint: Newton allegedly, towards the end of his life, claimed that his greatest achievement was lifelong celibacy. Ahem, Well, in that case, he consummated nothing.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 4th, 2017, 7:26 am 

Lomax » July 4th, 2017, 2:10 am wrote:I think the real problem is that after centuries of the greatest minds wasted, still nobody can tell us just what the hell meaning is, how we measure it, or - to get to the point - how we match it up.



Weeeeelllll...

I'm not sure I'd agree that time has been wasted simply because an answer has not been forthcoming. Philosophy, at the very least, we'd like to think, can deliver some measure of clarity, if not knowledge or definitive answers.

Put another way, we at least now are able to bore people to death at parties with talk of Mill, Frege, Russell, Strawson, Donellan, Kripke, Searle. Davidson and Putnam on meaning. ("What was that you said, miss Hot Chick? You need to visit the loo? Weak bladder, eh? I'll wait.")

Searle, as always, cracks me up on this: contemptuously dismissive of his bumbling peers investigating the philosophy of mind -- "Bunch of morons" -- to paraphrase, more or less. Tee hee!

Philosophy of language, on the other paw, and meaning in particular, is, everyone agrees, bloody hard, mate. There seem to be two main strands, inimically opposed to one another: literal (or sentence) meaning vs speaker meaning.

Searle, of course, nails his underwear to the latter mast, nonetheless hugely respectful of his peers.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby dandelion on July 4th, 2017, 7:34 am 

(This is just because I thought I'd edited, and thought I'd re-posted, but it hasn't worked for me. I'll try again- today's bachelor here may be married somewhere else, or today's bachelor according to some institution may be married according to another institution, but still not good)
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 4th, 2017, 7:52 am 

dandelion » July 4th, 2017, 6:18 pm wrote:
Incidentally, I don't know much about it, but am a bit interested in some arguments I've read about Chinese poetry, is there anything about topics like that that you'd find interesting?


I'm afraid I know almost nothing about it, Dandelion. Seems I didn't get that poetry gene.

But what kind of arguments did you have in mind?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Braininvat on July 4th, 2017, 9:46 am 

Newton may not have been talking about nothing. GR didn't erase all the classical properties of gravity. Just some, like instantaneous action at a distance.

Imagine a planet where it never gets freezing cold, and alien scientists haven't figured out the technology for refrigeration. They also lack fire, so they can't boil anything. They would find the definition, "Water is a clear, odorless liquid," valid. Absent any way to observe phase changes (the science jargon for going from one state, like liquid, to another, like gas), the idea of solid water would be considered fodder for modal realists and other eccentrics. An alien Kripke would announce that all definitions of water as a liquid are contingent, that "liquid" is not a rigid designator, that liquidity is not the essence of water. The only rigid designator would be H2O. IOW, on that planet, science is also reductive in its narrative of what is essential to a substance. Liquid is, both here and there, a weakly emergent property that is not inherent in just having an oxygen atom and hooking it up to a couple H atoms.

Modal realism is very useful in keeping scientific definitions open to revision. In Newton's universe, no observation had suggested that you could collect enough matter to form black hole. For the 17th century, the BH did not exist.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 4th, 2017, 10:01 am 

Thanks BiV. Need time to digest this.

First thoughts... the liquid thing was kinda irrelevant. I just stuck it in there. "Water = H20". I don't think the states of water are of any consequence to the issue.

It's like when I said earlier "A pencil is a writing implement" being analytically true. It was careless of me, coz I assumed it would be obvious, that this would have to be fleshed out a little further, coz as described thus far the description does not uniquely identify a pencil (pens and porcupine quills satisfy the description too). On the descriptivist account, it would be something like... Um, I have a better idea, let's consult dictionary.com...

pencil
[pen-suh l]
Spell Syllables
Examples Word Origin
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
noun
1.
a slender tube of wood, metal, plastic, etc., containing a core or strip of graphite, a solid coloring material, or the like, used for writing or drawing.


More tomorrow, and another great, thoughtful post. Too nebulous to think right now LOL.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 4th, 2017, 10:08 am 

Therefore, we can come to learn more about gravity, Newton and Einstein were tracking the same suspect, and, assuming a realist position and Einstein's incorrigible brilliance (he himself vacillated between an instrumentalist and realist position), we now know exactly (i.e. essentially) what it is. Not "close enough" pace Wolfhnd. What we see, then, under this account, one that will keep the scientific realists grinning (hiya BiV), is that science, successfully perpetrated, uncovers the underlying essence of natural kind terms, and when the marriage between science and gravity is consummated, the definition becomes analytic -- true by definition. "Gravity is the curvature of spacetime". An a posteriori analytic truth.



Couldn't we just take gravity to be the effect and say gravity is due to the curvature of spacetime?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 4th, 2017, 10:11 am 

Sivad, if Einstein is right, is it not correct to say "Gravity just is the curvature of spacetime"?

As opposed to "due to".
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 4th, 2017, 10:14 am 

Gravity, surely is the (putative) cause; not the effect.

The effects include people like me falling down a lot lol.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 4th, 2017, 10:41 am 

Braininvat » July 4th, 2017, 6:46 am wrote:Imagine a planet where it never gets freezing cold, and alien scientists haven't figured out the technology for refrigeration. They also lack fire, so they can't boil anything. They would find the definition, "Water is a clear, odorless liquid," valid. Absent any way to observe phase changes (the science jargon for going from one state, like liquid, to another, like gas), the idea of solid water would be considered fodder for modal realists and other eccentrics. An alien Kripke would announce that all definitions of water as a liquid are contingent, that "liquid" is not a rigid designator, that liquidity is not the essence of water. The only rigid designator would be H2O. IOW, on that planet, science is also reductive in its narrative of what is essential to a substance. Liquid is, both here and there, a weakly emergent property that is not inherent in just having an oxygen atom and hooking it up to a couple H atoms.


Or we could take water to be any essential solvent and that would be different stuff for different kinds of life.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 4th, 2017, 11:05 am 

NoShips » July 4th, 2017, 7:11 am wrote:Sivad, if Einstein is right, is it not correct to say "Gravity just is the curvature of spacetime"?

As opposed to "due to".


Is saying 'gravity is the phenomenon of things with mass moving towards one another, the effect of mass on spacetime' incorrect or less accurate?
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 4th, 2017, 11:08 am 

It's late here.Go to Princeton cemetery, bring a shovel and smelling salts, and ask him.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Braininvat on July 4th, 2017, 11:12 am 


Or we could take water to be any essential solvent and that would be different stuff for different kinds of life.
- sivaD

Well, sure. I was going at the Kripkean idea of a scientifc "essence" of something. Different solvents (perhaps some aliens have cells that are filled with liquid ammonia), in the "fine-graining" of science, would have different essences. One would be H20, another would be NH3. We can't know any more exactly what ammonia and water are, in their essential nature, than what atoms they have and how they are connected. (we could go down a level, even more fine-grained, and look at their quarks and gluons and such, but all atoms have those, so they wouldn't really add anything useful....science tries to get at the functional level that best distinguishes the essential properties of something)

Contrast that with the much higher-level place we must go to define consciousness, say. For those who argue Strong Emergence, we would have to go all the way up to whole-brain holism. Atoms, molecules, cells, electrochemical signals....not finding "I feel creepy about overly clean litterboxes" anywhere in those fine-grain lower levels. (either the cat is constipated or he's going in the neighbor's asparagus bed again...)

Definitions seem so critically dependent on functional levels, when it comes to science. You can't talk about beta decay at the level of a single atom of a radioisotope - it just comes out nonsense. You need a statistical analysis of a big bunch of atoms to get at the essential features of beta decay. There's no causal scheme at the level of a single atom, for that emission of an electron and a neutrino.

Sorry, I rambled.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 4th, 2017, 11:52 am 

Didn't ramble, dude. As always a post that makes we think "Gosh, this fellah is very clever, wattle notwithstanding, and why didn't I think of that?"

This stuff is hard. No place for flaccid members. This ain't no disco.

BiV, I'll write more crap tomorrow, depending on Grolsch prices.

Thanks to all for contributing.

In short: so, BiV, you're not as dumb as you look? Tee hee. You know I'm kidding. A sincere thank you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DblvhECdws0
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 4th, 2017, 1:06 pm 

Braininvat » July 4th, 2017, 8:12 am wrote:

Or we could take water to be any essential solvent and that would be different stuff for different kinds of life.
- sivaD

Well, sure. I was going at the Kripkean idea of a scientifc "essence" of something.


I'm not so sure the causal account makes sense, I tend to view reference as fluid and determined more by intension than fixed definitions. Two-dimensionalism is a sort of compromise between descriptivism and causal semantics, on that account water=H2O is actually two separate propositions, the primary intension is water-like stuff, and the secondary is the stuff specific to this world. That seems closer to reality and less metaphysically burdened than the Kripkean idea.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby wolfhnd on July 4th, 2017, 3:33 pm 

As I stated earlier one of the reasons science has been so successful is it reduces complexity by dividing reality into it's simplest components. It necessary to do so because of human limitations. It is not just a question of intellectual limitations but the limits of experience. Experience can be extended by technology one of those technologies being languages. Language could be thought of as a component of abstract reality. Abstractions such as numbers for example are real but are not part of what we generally think of as physical reality. If you believe in the information theory of reality perhaps numbers do have physical existence but that I think we can ignore for now. At the very least abstractions do not seem to play by the same rules as what we generally consider to be physical reality. On the other hand our grasp of language is confined by the abstract environment it is experienced in.

The meme concept of language evolution has been heavily criticised undoubtedly for many good reasons but it has some utility as a thinking tool. Definitions do mutate in response to the abstract environment they evolve in. Fitness as in the physical analog is measured by survival of the offspring of the original definition. The usefulness of the definition is imposed by our presuppositions about purpose. Purpose however does not seem to have a physical analog. The question then is if overly complicated definitions are not an expression of the nihilism that follows the realization of the lack of ultimate purpose.

Purpose is perhaps the ultimate abstraction. It is unavoidably a spiritual question. It exists outside of reality yet it is real. We are more than just the product of physical evolution because we are also the product of abstract evolution. I don't like the analogies of more than the sum of it's parts nor in conventional concepts of spirituality. I do however think that scientific realism as currently conceived is to simplistic to answer the question imposed by the original post.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 5th, 2017, 12:42 am 

Putnam Goes Pragmatist
Above all, the realist about ‘natural kinds’ – like Putnam in his own earlier writings – had a problem explaining how such kinds could be taken to exist as a matter of real-world, objective fact quite apart from our various interest-specific interpretations. For instance, they would have to say that a term such as ‘jade' had no proper application since it conflated the two quite distinct natural kinds jadeite and nephrite, or that various traditional species-attributions as regards plants and animals were illicit since they lacked any reputable basis in the latest genetic research. This seems to go against a more common sense idea of realism. Thus rather than ‘cutting nature at the joints’ (in Plato’s rather gruesome metaphor) such categories should instead be seen for what they are: different framework-relative modes of classification which pick out just those features which count as salient for some particular descriptive purpose.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Sivad on July 5th, 2017, 3:15 am 

NoShips » July 4th, 2017, 4:26 am wrote:Philosophy of language, on the other paw, and meaning in particular, is, everyone agrees, bloody hard, mate. There seem to be two main strands, inimically opposed to one another: literal (or sentence) meaning vs speaker meaning.

Searle, of course, nails his underwear to the latter mast, nonetheless hugely respectful of his peers.


I'm inclined to go commando right along with him but I have some doubts. I can't accept that meaning is metaphysically coded into language, that's too far, but it's obviously not entirely subjective either. Meaning is mostly intersubjectective, external factors constrain meaning, but don't necessarily determine it. Meaning isn't simply use, it's the agreed usage. More Habermas than Wittgenstein.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 5th, 2017, 5:59 am 

Sivad » July 5th, 2017, 1:42 pm wrote:Putnam Goes Pragmatist
Above all, the realist about ‘natural kinds’ – like Putnam in his own earlier writings – had a problem explaining how such kinds could be taken to exist as a matter of real-world, objective fact quite apart from our various interest-specific interpretations. For instance, they would have to say that a term such as ‘jade' had no proper application since it conflated the two quite distinct natural kinds jadeite and nephrite, or that various traditional species-attributions as regards plants and animals were illicit since they lacked any reputable basis in the latest genetic research. This seems to go against a more common sense idea of realism. Thus rather than ‘cutting nature at the joints’ (in Plato’s rather gruesome metaphor) such categories should instead be seen for what they are: different framework-relative modes of classification which pick out just those features which count as salient for some particular descriptive purpose.



Ah yes, the jade example -- or counterexample, depending where you stand -- nicely illustrates the rare kind of case where science (putatively) discovers not one underlying essence (as in the textbook cases like water = H20), but two. The vernacular term (jade) nonetheless survives unscathed, or unjaded, you might say, but no longer regarded as denoting a natural kind.

Putnam seemed to take it for granted that in a case like Twin Earth where a substance with all the superficial properties of our terrestrial water (clear, tasteless, odorless, falls as rain, fills the seas and lakes, quenches thirst, etc.) but not the same underlying chemical composition, though likely to be mistaken initially as water (H2O) by astronauts arriving from Earth, would be later deemed not to be water upon chemical analysis.

Is it not conceivable, though, that we might conclude instead: "We have discovered a new kind of water". Under such a scenario, the name "water", like "jade", would then denote two chemically distinguishable substances.

Who gets dibs on these decisions anyway? Seems like we could go either way we please (i.e., say the water-like stuff on Twin Earth is/is not water), although my own intuitions suggest that we'd follow Putnam's path.

Similarly, the existence of isotopes seems to cast doubt on a Kripke-esque claim of science discovering a posteriori necessary truths about natural kinds. Who's to say that our vernacular names (gold, or whatever) had to denote all isotopes of the element with that atomic number? In other words, rather than us carving up nature at elemental joints, it might have been carved at isotopic joints. The natural kind, then, would be isotopes, as opposed to elements.

After all, on their (Kriptnum) own account, the so-called "initial baptism" names "any stuff like this". Might not "this" have named a particular isotope of gold, presumably the most common one?

(I dunno whether gold actually has isotopes. If not, choose another element.)

By the way, if you're not already aware, Sivad, there's a terrific collection of essays on all this -- "The Twin Earth Chronicles" -- starting with Putnam's original "The Meaning of Meaning" paper, followed by a series of responses from other contributors.
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby Lomax on July 5th, 2017, 6:59 am 

NoShips » July 4th, 2017, 11:54 am wrote:So what's the point? Well, on this account, it might indeed be the case that gravity has some non-essential properties too; those properties that do not make gravity what it is.

Okay, but that wouldn't mean we hadn't learned anything else about it. And if it did, we'd have the same problem with synthetic definitions, wouldn't we? ("Sure dem globes are attractive, but I heard they're synthetic. Musta cost 'er a bomb!")
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Re: Dictionary definitions

Postby NoShips on July 5th, 2017, 7:07 am 

Oh I see now. Globes = boobs.

Duh!

LOL

(Scuse me. I live a sheltered life)
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