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Re: [ontolog-forum] CL, CG, IKL and the relationship between symbols in

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 26 Dec 2007 11:56:45 -0500
Message-id: <477287CD.2070303@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Christopher and John B.,    (01)

I'm traveling now, and I don't have time for a long reply,
but I'd just like to make some quick comments.    (02)

JB> I was wondering if you had ever heard of 'Interactivism'
 > promoted by Mark H. Bickhard.    (03)

I hadn't heard of it, but thanks for the reference.  I just had
a chance to skim through the paper.  Some preliminary comments:    (04)

  1. The word 'representation' has been bandied about in many
     different ways, and it's easy to raise objections to many
     of them.  But there are ways of using the word that avoid
     the objections.    (05)

  2. But instead of responding to critiques of representationalism,
     I prefer to follow Peirce and use the word 'sign'.  That is
     an all-inclusive term that includes images, words, symbols,
     signals, perceptions, representations, encodings, anti-encodings,
     etc., etc., etc.  The advantage of the word 'sign' is that it
     is impossible to find any alternative to it because it includes
     everything that can affect or influence any living organism.    (06)

  3. Of course, something that includes so much doesn't say much.
     That brings me to the next point:  any theory of signs must
     include an ontology of the types of signs, and that is something
     that Peirce developed in quite a bit of detail.  If anyone claims
     that images are more fundamental than symbols, they are merely
     talking about differences between two different kinds of signs.
     In fact, Peirce explicitly said that symbols evolve from
     conventionalized ways of using icons (which include images).    (07)

  4. I haven't examined Bickhard's interactivism in detail, but it
     reminds me of Wittgenstein's language games (or more generally,
     'language activities', which I prefer as a translation of
     W's Sprachspielen because it does not imply the notion of
     competition).  In any case, I like the general idea of focusing
     on activities or interactivities as a basis for pragmatics.    (08)

CS> we can do nothing more than try to use images which more or less
 > adequately - depending on the context, of course - address the
 > relevant aspect of the problem in whatever situation we find
 > ourselves.    (09)

There is nothing wrong with focusing on images, since they are close
to the primary sources of information about whatever is out there.
But it is important to recognize that even images are highly processed
signs.  What we "see" for example is a composite of multiple retinal
images that are assembled by the brain into what seems to be complete
picture.  But that picture is highly dependent on "percepts" or
whatever one might want to call the collection of patterns extracted
from previous experience.    (010)

Furthermore, those internally constructed "images" are assembled
from more than one sensory modality -- inputs from touch, hearing,
and sight are all combined with previous experience to form what
seems to be a directly received image.  And such processes of
combining multiple inputs happen in much more primitive animals
than humans or even mammals.  Just consider the compound eye of
a fly, which transmits multiple retinal images to a tiny brain
that somehow combines them in a very effective guidance system
for avoiding birds and fly swatters.    (011)

So I would say that all knowledge derived from any sensory source
(including enhanced sources such as microscopes, telescopes, and
X-rays) involves complex processing.  To ensure that such "knowledge"
is more than an illusion or fantasy, it's important to test any
hypotheses by repeated experiments.  People (and other animals)
have been doing that for millions of years.  The ones that have
successfully adapted their perceptions and actions to meet the
requirements of survival in a frequently hostile world can be
said to have acquired some fairly reliable knowleedge of whatever
could be called "reality".    (012)

John    (013)

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