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Re: [ontolog-forum] Inventor of the Web Gets Backing to Build Web of Dat

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 04 Apr 2010 21:37:53 -0400
Message-id: <4BB93EF1.3070809@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ali,    (01)

I already responded to Chris P's comment.  My point is that we
are in violent agreement about the effects of culture on how
we think and what we think about.  The only point I was trying
to make is that illiterate people can still be very smart.    (02)

AH> I'd like to reinforce Chris' point - I don't think there's
 > anything to be gained in minimizing or mitigating the effects
 > of "cultural" or technological interaction on how we come to
 > understand the world.    (03)

Certainly, I would claim that culture has an overwhelming effect
on how and what we think.  In fact, I claim that I put *more*
emphasis on the effect of culture than you or Chris.    (04)

What I was trying to say is that culture has an even stronger
effect than the ability to read and write.  I was pointing out
that civilization developed in the river valleys from Egypt
to China for thousands of years before the Sumerians or any
others had invented a written language.  Even afterwards,
only a tiny percentage of the population learned it.    (05)

Examples of pre-literate cultures:    (06)

  1. Stonehenge with its sophisticated astronomical alignments and
     the technology that required a large number of people with
     sophisticated methods for moving and arranging huge stones.    (07)

  2. The oral preservation of both stories and technology over
     many centuries in pre-literate cultures around the world.
     Examples:    (08)

     a) The 500 years of oral tradition from the Trojan war in
        the 13th century BC to the transcription of Homer's
        recitations in the 8th c. BC.  Both the location of Troy
        and the detailed descriptions of the Bronze-age weapons
        were verified by modern archaeological excavations.    (09)

     b) The oral traditions of the Inuit, which preserved details
        about European explorers, some of whom returned while
        others perished.  The details of the oral tradition were
        verified by comparison with contemporary written records
        and later archaeological excavations.    (010)

     c) Other oral traditions by modern, but illiterate story
        tellers in Africa, Asia, and Europe have also been
        verified by similar comparisons.    (011)

  3. Methods of counting at least to 100 (and probably a few
     hundred) as preserved in the Indo-European languages.
     Those languages diverged from a common source several
     thousand years before any of them had a written form.    (012)

  4. The ability of the Polynesian people to navigate across
     thousands of miles of the Pacific from Vanuatu to Tahiti,
     Hawaii, New Zealand, and Easter Island.  They may have
     used some kinds of charts, but they did not have a written
     form of their language.    (013)

I certainly believe that writing is an important part of
culture, and it certainly does have an important influence.
But I was just trying to say that illiterate people can still
have highly sophisticated ways of thinking.    (014)

AH> Consider the basic inference rule - Modus Ponens... When
 > written, Modus Ponens is much more intuitive and reasonable.    (015)

I am strongly in favor of using logic, and I emphasize the point
that logic is an abstraction from language (ex. words like and,
or, not, if-then, some, and every).  I also believe that diagrams,
counting sticks, charts, and stones (i.e., 'calculi' in Latin)
are extremely valuable as memory aids and reasoning aids.    (016)

But modus ponens is not a good example of how people think.
Euclid's diagrams and tools such as the abacus are far, far
more important.  Even modern mathematicians don't think in
words.  They think in spatial patterns.    (017)

AH> what we eat affects our disposition...    (018)

Yes.  That's another effect of culture.    (019)

AH> McLuhan says that the conventional pronouncements fail in studying
 > media because they pay attention to and focus on the content, which
 > blinds them to see its actual character, the psychic and social
 > effects.    (020)

I agree.  That's another effect of culture.    (021)

AH> Television de-emphasises the quality of information...    (022)

Yes, TV can have bad side effects.  As I said in a previous note,
TV watching by infants can have a detrimental effect on their
language skills -- they get less chance to practice talking.    (023)

I also suspect that modern "multitasking" has a similar effect.
It's an attempt to get more quantity at the expense of reducing
the quality, depth, and accuracy of thinking.  (It certainly
degrades the quality and accuracy of driving a vehicle.)    (024)

John    (025)

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