On Feb 16, 2009, at 10:51 AM, Steve Newcomb wrote:
John F. Sowa wrote:
1. Any classification that captures aspects of nature in a
discrete set of predicates is nearly always an approximation
intended for a particular purpose.
2. It is irrelevant whether those predicates are labeled by
words in a natural language or by artificial symbols.
The source of vagueness is in the subject matter, not
in the choice of language.
That formulation confuses things, because it blurs the crucial
distinction between the kind of existence that a thing has, and the kind
of existence that a subject of conversation has. Even when a subject of
conversation (e.g. a particular rock) is a thing (e.g. the same rock)
that has the first kind of existence, its existence as a subject of
conversation is not that kind of existence. The two kinds of existence
are not separate, but in some sense they are independent, because either
can exist without the fact of the other.
This is utterly muddled. First, there are not two kinds of existence. Existence means being real, and (like being pregnant) this isn't something that comes in degrees. Second, you have missed the key point that John was making, as illustrated by your begging the entire question. When you say "..a thing (the same rock)..." you are assuming
that this phrase, "the rock", names a particular piece of reality. But that is exactly the point. Physical reality does not come pre-divided into separate pieces (or at any rate, if it does, they are more like quarks and leptons than rocks and trees). The very word "thing" itself presumes that the world has been carved up conceptually into this thing
versus that thing
, but this carving is done by us to suit our own conceptual purposes, and its often not done with any great degree of precision. In many cases, it can't
be done with a high degree of precision. Which is exactly John's point.
The source of the vagueness is in the kind of existence that subjects of
No, its not.
It is not in the particular subject of conversation
-- the "subject matter", as you put it, John. *All* subjects of
conversation are vague, because every human consciousness is very much a
world unto itself, whose isolation is relieved only by the signs it
interprets and emits.
I strongly disagree. I think I know what you mean, but this way of phrasing it is mistaken, because it denies the single reality that underlies all our perceptions of it. If there is no world that we are all perceiving, then our perceptions are of nothing.
And in any case, this isn't why "all conversations are vague".
Every such isolated awareness-world is all about registering change.
It's a verb. Every subject of conversation is a work in progress. Is a
subject of conversation inherently vague? We'll never know, but I'd say
"not necessarily"; it really depends on what's meant by the word
"vague". Does the vagueness emanate from the changeability of the
No, not in the cases that John is talking about. It emanates from the fact that we use discrete terminology to classify a continuous world, and from the fact that for most pragmatic purposes, the exactness of the boundaries may not be critically important (where are the edges of Everest?) but for other purposes, we have to presume boundaries. So rival arbitrary boundary-conditions (definitions) get adopted, and they tend to clash with one another.
but it's worse than that: it emanates from the changes
that are ongoing in all the subjects of conversation that provide the
context in which it has its identity. And yet worse: it emanates from
the fact that the awareness-world itself is undergoing maintenance and
re-organization by its human host. Any of these changes can
revolutionize or even demolish a subject of conversation, rendering all
that has been said about it obsolete, moot, or misleading.
No doubt largely true, but peripheral to the point that John was making.
Anyway, a sign-interpreting (and sign-emitting) awareness is more like a
world than it is like a world-view
If this means anything (which I doubt), its false. There is only one world, and we collectively know a lot about it. One thing we know for sure is that its not very much like most of the views of it that we use in everyday life. It is way bigger and more complicated, for a start.
, because the identities of all
subjects of conversations depend on the identities of other subjects of
conversation within such a world. And their identities do not actually
depend on anything outside that world: not even on the kinds of things
that have the first kind of existence.
Most of the effort in the ontology space is (rightly, I think) motivated
by the goal of increasing the scopes of overlapping regions of groups of
individual awareness-worlds, by means of rules. The rule-oriented nature
of this work assumes a top-down approach. That is: the rules are prior
to the overlaps.
I keep thinking that there should *also* be a bottom-up approach, in
which the overlaps are prior to the rules. In such a bottom-up approach,
the subjects of conversation are prior to everything, because they are
the loci of overlap. They can act as de-facto wormholes between
awareness-worlds, which is frankly what fascinates me about them. The
existence of such wormholes is not necessarily supported by rules. After
all, there can be no enclosing universe of rules within which all
wormhole-connected universes are co-extensive.
But there can be rhetorics for asserting wormholes, that do not tread on
the semantic spaces whose points they connect. I argue that a rhetoric
for knowledge interchange that does not constrain rules or identities or
rules for identification, and that permits a single subject of
conversation to be seen as having different identities in different
awareness-worlds, is desirable and useful. It's simple to do, and there
are at least several ways to do it.
Can you point to some? I've never seen such a way described.
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