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Re: [ontolog-forum] Separating Pragmatics And Semantics -- Or Not

To: Ontolog <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Jon Awbrey <jawbrey@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 09 Aug 2007 12:40:17 -0400
Message-id: <46BB4371.5B2B4E59@xxxxxxx>
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EB = Ed Barkmeyer
JA = Jon Awbrey
JU = Jenny Ure
PH = Pat Hayes    (02)

Ed et al.,    (03)

Continuing from where I left off,
with current comments unindented.    (04)

Thesis Under Examination:    (05)

PH: Exchanging terms defined using an assertional language at least
    holds out the hope of allowing information to be separated from
    the processes which use it, which seems to be a prerequisite for
    useful information exchange.    (06)

EB: So "semantics" is about "meaning" in a context of pure knowledge?    (07)

JA: I don't have much experience with any form of knowledge that I'd dare
    call "pure", but it's certainly a rule of thumb to say that semantics
    is about meaning.  The road forks at that point -< some people saying
    that meaning is a matter of the relation that a sign bears toward its
    objects, some folks thinking that meaning is a matter of the relation
    that a sign bears toward its intended concepts or qualities, and then
    the road forks again -< what in the world do we intend by our notions
    of "concepts" and "qualities", anyway?  Then there are those pilgrims
    that jump on their donkeys and ride off on all of those paths at once.    (08)

JA: The first path out of the first fork is usually described clearly enough
    as the path of "denoting objects" or "referring to referents" -- Frege's
    "Bedeutung", more or less -- while the second path is rather more hemmed
    and hawed about under the lights of the "connotative" concept of meaning.
    The varieties of logic and semiotics that follow Peirce will tend to try
    various different ways of integrating these two or more aspects of sense.    (09)

EB: And is there such a thing?  I understand "semantics" to be
    the meaning that a body of speech or text (or some other
    communication form) is intended to convey.  To the extent
    that we can use a formal language and define precisely
    the meaning of its terms and terminological assemblies,
    we can be just that sure that the intended semantics
    of the producer is the same as the received semantics
    of the consumer.    (010)

JA: Lo! Yet another bifurcation!  No matter what meanings we give to "meaning",
    denotative, connotative, and Peirce as you might guess would have to add a
    third, one that he called "informational" and that he intended to integrate
    the other two facets of meaning -- or something altogether different as yet
    unimagined -- we can clearly distinguish the meanings that a "sign", taking
    that as a sufficiently all-inclusive term, actually has from the meanings
    that its source or transmitter or "end-user" intend or wish it to have.    (011)

JA: The meaning that a sign actually has in practice will then have something
    to do with the "practical effects" that it has on a given interpreter in
    a given setting, while the meaning that a sign is intended to have will
    have something to do with practical effects that a given interpreter
    desired it to have.    (012)

EB: So semantics-the-discipline is about getting precision in the
    relationship between communication forms and intended meaning.
    But it is still all about what the producer WANTED to convey.
    Semantics is about achieving intent.  So the question is really
    about the relationship between "intent" and "process".    (013)

JA: When it comes to actual effects we are reduced to observation
    and description of what those actually are.  When it comes to
    intended effects we are reduced to hunt and pick -- abductive
    plucking of this or that plausible hypothesis out of thin air,
    followed up in due course by the deductive projection of what
    else we should expect to observe on the basis of our best bet,
    and the inductive comparison of that expectation with what we
    do in fact observe.    (014)

The thing that I notice again at this point -- having once co-authored
a paper about it around about the time when I think I first noticed it:
http://www.chss.montclair.edu/inquiry/fall95/awbrey.html -- is the fact
that the process of ''interpretation'', here using the word to mean the
detection of what meaning there might be in a sign assemblage, is every
bit as hypothetico-deductive-and-testy as any other process of inquiry.    (015)

JA: [With regards to Pat's thesis at the top of the page.]
    I think it makes sense to do this as much as possible,
    but the hope of making an absolute separation is what
    I would consider a delusive hope.    (016)

EB: And at the same time, I think it is not necessarily a hope of many.    (017)

EB: Aristotle and "academic ontologists" may capture knowledge for its own sake.
    But most governmental and industrial organizations have much more 
    motives -- they capture only the knowledge they believe is relevant to a set
    of classes of processes they believe they will/may perform.    (018)

JU: Very telling then that a distinguishing characteristics of
    social systems, communities, is shared purposes and processes.    (019)

EB: *A* common characteristic is correct.  And I would have said "shared 
    and joint/interactive processes".  The individual processes of the 
    members may be enacted to achieve individual goals as well as, or instead 
    common goals.  But subprocesses of those processes, whatever the overall
    objectives, involve interactions with other members of the community toward
    a local objective that somehow relates to the goals of the interacting
    participants.  When I buy from a shop, my purpose in the acquisition is my
    own; and when the shopkeeper sells, his purpose is to earn his livelihood.
    And yet a town is an effective community precisely because the roles of
    different individuals fill one another's needs, even though no one's
    particular objective is to make the town, or each other, succeed.    (020)

EB: (It seems to be innate in humans to form emotional bonds that cause us to
    assist one another even when we don't see a direct benefit.  But ultimately
    that makes us take actions that help the community succeed without having 
    need to rationalize it that way.)    (021)

Actually, I can't think of anything more to add to that --
well, not right at the moment.    (022)

Jon Awbrey    (023)

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