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Re: [ontolog-forum] What words mean

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2008 22:54:25 -0500
Message-id: <47B11871.2010007@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Rob,    (01)

You can't attract new adherents to a new theory by confusing them.    (02)

PH>> In either case, to ignore such usage in a technical forum such
 >> as this, and especially when referring to the technical usage
 >> itself, is almost certain to cause misunderstanding.    (03)

RF> I was talking about a community of peers which broadly agrees
 > on a _new_ theory, Pat.    (04)

Before you can get anybody to agree with you, you must get them
to understand what you're saying.    (05)

As an excellent example, I suggest that you note how Newton
presented his revolutionary theories:    (06)

  1. He had developed his theories by using the new fangled Cartesian
     coordinate systems.  But to persuade people who were more familiar
     with the old style of Euclidean diagrams, he translated all his
     results to the old style of geometry.    (07)

  2. English was not a language that most continental European
     scientists could read.  Therefore, he wrote in Latin.    (08)

  3. Only after he had made his major presentation did he switch
     to the more convenient Cartesian coordinates in his later
     publications.    (09)

RF> But if you want to say anything new you have to abandon
 > technical meanings.    (010)

No.  Newton, Einstein, and everybody else who successfully got
new adherents for their new ideas showed their readers how
their new terms were related to the old ones.    (011)

RF> Is the "technical" meaning of Newton's word "gravity" the
 > same as Galileo's, or Einstein's?    (012)

Actually, yes!  For the full range of measurements of gravity
that Galileo and his generation had done, Newton's agreed.
But Newton showed how to measure the gravity of things like
planets that could not be measured by the old methods.
And Einstein did exactly the same in relating his theories
to Newton's.    (013)

RF> One might say that Newton should have abandoned the word
 > "gravity" and used something new to refer to his new concept.    (014)

No.  Pat and I are asking you to do the same kind of thing that
Newton and Einstein did:  write something that your audience
can relate to without getting hopelessly confused.    (015)

RF> "Vague analogies based on word usage" sums up my understanding
 > of understanding rather well.    (016)

I agree that people are capable of working with vague ideas and
using that information when it's adequate to the task.  But they
are also capable of making their ideas as precise as necessary to
deal with problems that require precision -- either for baking
a cake, designing an airplane, or stating a theory of language.    (017)

John    (018)

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