Discussion World Forum  


Go Back   Discussion World Forum > Discussion Forums > Science

Science From your kid's science project to relativity, this is the place to discuss it.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #41  
Old Jul 12th 2010, 09:02 PM
Michael's Avatar
Michael Michael is offline
Administrator
Herder of Cats
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Toronto
Posts: 14,835
Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
Words are not science. Or else we would not need science, or formal languages such as propositional or predicate logic, or more descriptive ones such as montague grammar or lambda calculous, etc, to express and communicate sicentific information. By drawing up a wishy-washy metaphor between expression and reaction of human interactions, with that of chemical/physical causal-effect relations, does not equate them on the same level of verifiability, precision, or objectivity. Human behavior is not the same as atoms or plate tectonics. It's like economics is not high school algebra, one always add up in the end, there is right or wrong for your teachers to grade, the other is about human behavior which nobody could predict for certain over the course of years into the future, and is usually ideologically driven (likewise with political "science"). Margot wants to drive her point with the metaphor in the op- well, philosophers like Feigl, Ayer, Popper, Kuhn, etc, all in fact drew up a bunch of criterias one simply had to check em up before open one's clueless mouth (all these names and terms I'd be happy to explain in a new thread after Germany wins FIFA, before that I am strained on time). Natural language does not pass any of them, this is not even factoring in that people often deliberately lie. That is why Frege had to come up with something more precise, based on bivalency in his Sinn und Bedeutung. These (Frege's and others after him) formal languages are partial in the sense that they describe only a fraction of the meanings that are available in human interaction, and a very small fraction, so there are certain statements in our languages which can be classified as analytic/a priori truths or empirical/posterori truths, as per logical positivism for example, and so on. Religious beliefs and its classifications, happens to not belong to them. I should also say, Margot's definition of Atheism is her own, and insufficient if not outright wrong as a standard definition compared to what is currently available, but that is another topic.
I'm not familiar with Feigl at all, but quite familiar with the others. I've actually been re-reading some Popper lately. I really like some of his ideas.

And yes, I agree that many words certainly do have formalized meanings and that this is necessary for formalized interpretations (i.e. science and/or philosophy). What is most annoying is that when these words appear in popular culture (such as "atheism") they tend to take on whole new meanings quite apart from their scientific or philosophic definitions. This causes no end of confused discussions on forums!

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
There are ofc people who had to use their limited knowledge in one field to claim authority over all the others. People in PR does it for a profession, but an occational charlatan here and there, or just an ignorant kid trying to prove something. I suppose if you can write beautiful prose with fancy metaphors and flash around buzz words one only find in an SAT study brochure, suddenly science is everything you say it is, and the laws of gravity is reduced to Virginia Woolf. Pseudo science is just that. Congratulations.
When they are good at it, it is called sophistry.
__________________
Remember what the dormouse said: Feed your head!
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old Jul 12th 2010, 09:04 PM
Michael's Avatar
Michael Michael is offline
Administrator
Herder of Cats
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Toronto
Posts: 14,835
Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margot View Post
Enough people saying something doesn't mean that they are correct, or coherent. Just look at Sarah Palin et al.
No, it doesn't prove coherence. But it will eventually get an entry in the dictionary regardless.
__________________
Remember what the dormouse said: Feed your head!
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old Jul 12th 2010, 09:11 PM
Michael's Avatar
Michael Michael is offline
Administrator
Herder of Cats
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Toronto
Posts: 14,835
Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Quote:
Originally Posted by JHC View Post
As to the artistic usage of gooey-ness, I can not find fault with Margot's argument; It only works when the audience understands the rather less gooey definitions and usage. In essence, the agreed upon context, usage, and spelling, are requisite to carry off the art.
And would not 'scientific precision' of language require rules and laws to make this universal?

English is the only language free of language cops. I think that is its greatest virtue and its only claim for beauty.

Liberty is sweet, no matter where it is found. Liberty of language is necessary for liberty of thought.
__________________
Remember what the dormouse said: Feed your head!
Reply With Quote
  #44  
Old Jul 13th 2010, 12:35 PM
Michael's Avatar
Michael Michael is offline
Administrator
Herder of Cats
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Toronto
Posts: 14,835
Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

I have just deleted the last four posts in this thread for being entirely offtopic and adding nothing to the discussion.

Any post that isn't about the thread topic itself will be deleted.

Lets keep this thread focused on the topic itself please.
__________________
Remember what the dormouse said: Feed your head!
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old Jul 15th 2010, 07:29 PM
Michael's Avatar
Michael Michael is offline
Administrator
Herder of Cats
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Toronto
Posts: 14,835
Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Quote:
Originally Posted by JHC View Post
I was reading a thread similar to this one on another discussion forum. The author posted an article from some Catholic authority who proposed that the problem with inadequate language use was one of increasing lack of faith.

Being me, I mulled that over for a while. I'm still mulling. Last night, while mulling all the possible problems with our communication, I gave a little more thought to our word gooey.

Anyone else find that an interesting homophone?

I'm talking about GUI of course. Graphical User Interface - pronounced gooey.
Back in the day, I worked for a large property developer. They would build golf course communities and then sell the entire community association to the homeowners over time.

Anyway, part of my job was to help select and purchase the software and hardware that would tie golf shops, restaurants and club houses, bar carts, just about everything, to accounting/finance department. This was sooooooo long ago that we were on the cutting edge when we chose GUI software for the restaurants so that they could track their inventory and report sales all by having the servers touch a screen with a picture.



The point I'm working around to is what may be a trend away from phonemes and graphemes and toward pictures. Perhaps the Chinese have language right and yet, what happens to precision?

When we want to communicate precisely are we left with math? It is hard to argue that there is no connection there when logic in language and logic in math use very similar equations and definitions.

Don't panic! That's what my dad used to tell me about nearly everything. He was right. The more critical the task, the more important it is to be clear headed and clear in communication. Once you've mastered that, the art of language follows. No good language artist is so haphazardly.
How does one explain Shakespeare then? The ideas conveyed are certainly important ones, yet the method of communication is quite convoluted - yet all the more popular for being so. Translating Hamlet's famous soliloquiy down to "should I kill myself?" doesn't quite capture the feeling of it all. Sometimes a surfeit of 'gooey' words seems to improve the message.
__________________
Remember what the dormouse said: Feed your head!
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old Jul 15th 2010, 09:14 PM
Michael's Avatar
Michael Michael is offline
Administrator
Herder of Cats
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Toronto
Posts: 14,835
Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
The chief distinctions between atheism and agnosticism rests on the status of knowledge, or as some philosophers further points out, the moral consequences of belief with knowledge and belief without (e.g. Clifford's Ethics of Belief has a story of the ship sailing to the New World, and Huxley's Agnosticism) (The_Drunk_Guy: you can look em up easily yourself, I certainly am not just touting names and literatures here- I just don't want to change the subject all the time trying to explain everything). The central claim being- regardless of your level of sincerety in what you believe, some which may or may not be self-serving, belief without certainty in knowledge is always immoral, and therefore we cannot be either theists or atheists, as both of these makes a claim on not just one's belief, but a belief that necessarily rests on knowledge. Only with justified belief, or belief with full knowledge, can we make religious statements such as "there is a god", or "there is no god" that are moral, since our belief in god often entail exhortations or imperatives relating to other people. (And if one can always keep one's religious belief completely private, then the moral argument is irrelevant- except for when one is harmed by one's own false beliefs). ...
I can't accept this because atheism itself does not constitute a claim of knowledge. Atheism, in strict philosophical terms, is simply a lack of belief in theism (or God). A lack of belief does not constitute an actual claim of knowledge (other than knowledge of one's conscious self).

Theism on the other hand, as a statement of belief, certainly does entail a logical claim of knowledge ('God exists', or 'scripture/theology is truth').

As for agnosticism, I've always considered that term to be as confusing as the common misunderstandings about the word atheism, though rather less contentious.

In practical terms, I find 'agnosticism' is the label many 'atheists' retreat to when they are challenged by aggressive theists and lack the ability to stand the intellectual ground. (I'm not accusing you WFCY at all of this, just making a common observation here that this approach seems common amongst the less eritrude/serious types and thus VERY popular. )

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
There is a related but independent second point here- for some people such as the empircists (like Hume, or Mill), or later the Modernists and Logical Positivists, justified belief is significant not based on moral grounds, but based on the principles in which statements' truth value can be derived. Both theism and atheism suffer the same problem in that statements such as "there is a god", or "there is no god" cannot be verified scientifically. They are in a sense, nonsense, this is another ground for someone to be agnostic.
I certainly won't disagree with Hume.

And I certainly agree about what you say regarding justified belief.

I just get hung up on the idea that atheism represents a claim of knowledge (other than the self knowledge of a lack of presence of belief).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanford, cited above
ĎAtheismí means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.
If this definition of atheism is to stand uncontested, that means that the number of intelligent atheists is zero. End of discussion.

In my opinion, denial of the existence of God is as absurd as the assertion that God does exist. Without proof either way, no claim of knowledge is possible and it is all just conjecture.

I lack all interest in the question of God and theology. God might exist for all I know, but I still have no reason to believe in the whole concept so I don't. I don't believe in God/god/gods/theology/afterlife/etc at all. None of it, nothing. I lack any belief at all in this respect.

I think, therefore I am, and one day I will die. The End. That's all I can claim to know. There may be more to it than that, but I have no reason or knowledge to believe/justify that.

(My philosophical position here is epistemologically consistent with Hume)

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
So an atheist is either- someone who claims to know there is no god, or who does not know, but nevertheless believes the non-existence of a god. An agnostic lacks such belief. This is consistent with the definition provided in my previous post.
As noted above, I just can't accept this definition of atheism. That (Sanford) definition of atheism makes atheism as absurd as the God-claims of the theists.

Atheism is a rejection of God-belief. That can not be considered the same as a positive assertion that 'God does not exist'. That's the contemporary popular definition of the term that intelligent atheists reject by definition because it constitutes the same principle of faith that is rejected in the first place. This Sanford definition of atheism makes atheism into a religion and that's absurd.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
The above does not seem to be a wholly satisfying or clear enough distinction, but it does make justified beleif, or belief with knowledge, a key criteria that sets agnostics apart from atheists.
I agree with the significance of justified belief, but I don't see how that applies to the issue of atheism since there is only a lack of belief.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
Again, the demonstrations by the author above seems unsatisfactory- The only reason I could attribute to this is precisely because natural language is not scientific and not precise enough. A statement such as "There is a god" or a statement such as "There is no god" is a matter of probability when justified belief, aka, knowledge, is involved in the evaluation of such statements- As the author suggests, we ought to apply methods of verification, external to the natural languages we speak, which contrary to natural languages, are scientific in nature, in order to determine the meaning or truths of those statements. There are further problems in applying scientific methods to prove the non-existence of things, which is why statements of existence is either positively proved, or matters of probabily when positive proof is absent.

The external methods of verification mentioned by the author and me, such as Bayesian/Confirmation theory, or the Demarcation problem mostly attributed to Positivists such as Ayer, will be extensively discussed in another thread which I intend to follow up in the near future.
I just can't get past the big strawman of this 'religious' definition of atheism making knowledge claims that seems necessary to this definitional distinction for agnosticism.

If agnosticism is valid, it needs to stand on its own feet with a definition that doesn't include a direct reference to atheism. Atheism takes its name from theism for good reason. Agnosticism is derived from a different traditional line of thinking that goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, not a reaction against monotheism.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
As we can see, the discussion of Atheism vs Agnosticism touches upon several philosophical issues. On the one hand, it deals with morality, which is phasing out in philosophical discussions of the modern and postmodern era. On the other hand, it deals with philosophy of language, the way in which we evaluate truth or falsity of statements in natural language, statements which are intrisically very imprecise, ambiguous and by no means suitable for communicating scientific knowledge.
And at the core of it, a poor and wildly abused and misunderstood word!

I think we really need to agree on a functional definition of atheism - one that doesn't seek to turn atheism into a reverse form of theism, otherwise it will be a religiously biased definition and that's non-functional for philosophic purposes.

I also think we need an "Atheism & Agnosticism" thread to discuss this as we are probably moving way beyond the issues of "literalism".

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
There are however, pragmatic and practical grounds for making a clear distinction between atheism and agnosticism, which will be continued in my next post.
I hope you won't base it upon this [flawed] Sanford definition.
__________________
Remember what the dormouse said: Feed your head!
Reply With Quote
  #47  
Old Jul 15th 2010, 10:20 PM
WFCY's Avatar
WFCY WFCY is offline
Citizen
 
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 487
Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
If this definition of atheism is to stand uncontested, that means that the number of intelligent atheists is zero. End of discussion.

In my opinion, denial of the existence of God is as absurd as the assertion that God does exist. Without proof either way, no claim of knowledge is possible and it is all just conjecture.

I lack all interest in the question of God and theology. God might exist for all I know, but I still have no reason to believe in the whole concept so I don't. I don't believe in God/god/gods/theology/afterlife/etc at all. None of it, nothing. I lack any belief at all in this respect.

I think, therefore I am, and one day I will die. The End. That's all I can claim to know. There may be more to it than that, but I have no reason or knowledge to believe/justify that.
The first paragraph of the above quote makes your point succinctly and very potently, and pretty much sums up your whole criticism of one of my posts. So forgive me for not quoting in full, but I will address this.

First of all, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (not "Sanford"), is a very reliable source of terms used in philosophy. The other authority I would fall back on is the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, which is only available in print, and this was why I did not resort to it.

But since I have a copy, I will type the entry out for you manually, and if you have a copy too, go check it (in case of minor differences- I am using the Second Edition):

Quote:
(p.59) Atheism: The view that there are no gods. A widely used sense denotes merely not believing in God and is consistent with agnosticism. A stricter sense, denotes a belief that there is no God; this use has become the standard one. In the Apology Socrates is accused of atheism for not believing in the official Athenian gods. Some distinguish between theoretical atheism and practical atheism. A theoretical atheist is one who self-cosciously denies the existence of a supreme being, whereas a practical atheist may believe that a supreme being exists but lives as though there were no god.
(theoretical vs practical is just the strong vs weak, explicit vs implict contrast I mentioned already)

I don't need to tell you, perfectly consistent with what I said about Atheism. These two sources are about as authoritative as it gets in the field of philosophy before one is prompted to look into the individual literatures and beyond standardized sources. Wiki btw, although not as respected by philosophers, nevertheless echos these two, and echos my definition (wiki link already in my prior post).

So, enough with "appeal to authority" you say. What do I have to say about:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
If this definition of atheism is to stand uncontested, that means that the number of intelligent atheists is zero. End of discussion.
Actually, you are right, end of discussion.

It is correct that if we go by the strict definition- No atheist is holding his belief based on certain knowledge (certain, as opposed to probable). But if the existence of god is a matter of probability, as I mentioned before, and so did the author of the Stanford encyclopedia- then when the probability of his existence is low, we might as well regard ourselves as atheists instead of an agnostic. In fact, this was the argument given by Richard Dawkins.

Of course, human beings' self identification is not purely based on reason. There is still a leap to make from 0.001% of god existing to asserting 0% of god existing. Then there would of course be some emotional, or anti-theistic grounds behind making such leaps (refer to what I said about antitheism). These things are not mutually exclusive, which is why words are not science.

There are a few other ways to get around but I will just talk in the confines of the concepts that I have set up so far until it becomes necessary to bring in new concepts.

Now, why would we want to use the narrower sense of the word "atheism" ever? A meaning which implies ignorance, or assertion beyond one's knowledge, you may ask.

Because in a discussion about "atheism vs agnosticism", this distinction becomes important. Without agnosticisim, atheism can mean a lot of things- I deny the existence of god, or I simply lack belief in god, etc. But when it's "atheism vs agnosticism", agnosticism already took the "I lack belief in god" part. How else would you be able to distinguish the two? So you may as well attribute the unfortunate attachment of ignorance (saying "there is no god" while not knowing for certain) onto atheism to the development of philisophy of religion. I mean, agnosticism is only a very recent term compared to atheism. Atheism used to subsume agnosticism until agnosticism came along as a philosophical term. Now that atheism needs to distinguish itself, in a conversation when agnosticism is involved. And unfortunately, atheism has got the rotten left-overs. Agnosticism took away the good stuff.

Margot wants to go strictly by the morphlogical roots of words. It does not work after a while, when the concepts denoted by these words have been discussed and developed by philosophers.
__________________
"Dťjeme decirle, a riesgo de parecer ridŪculo, que el revolucionario verdadero estŠ guiado por grandes sentimientos de amor. Es imposible pensar en un revolucionario autťntico sin esta cualidad."


Ernesto 'Che' Guevara

Last edited by WFCY; Jul 15th 2010 at 10:33 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #48  
Old Jul 18th 2010, 11:04 AM
Michael's Avatar
Michael Michael is offline
Administrator
Herder of Cats
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Toronto
Posts: 14,835
Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Moderator's Note: It does appear that this thread has been thread-jacked by a discussion about the 'proper' definition of atheism. Since it is relevant to the issue in the OP, and because I really don't want to do thread-surgery to move this specific discussion between WFCY and myself off to another properly labeled thread, I'm just going to continue this discussion here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
The first paragraph of the above quote makes your point succinctly and very potently, and pretty much sums up your whole criticism of one of my posts. So forgive me for not quoting in full, but I will address this.

First of all, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (not "Sanford"), is a very reliable source of terms used in philosophy. The other authority I would fall back on is the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, which is only available in print, and this was why I did not resort to it.
My apologies for the typo on Stanford. I'm quite familiar with them and have read dozens of articles from it - it is by far the best source available on the net. This is the first time I've seen anything there I consider objectionable or questionable.

Re-stating your quotation (that you kindly transcribed) from above for reference:
Quote:
(p.59) Atheism: The view that there are no gods. A widely used sense denotes merely not believing in God and is consistent with agnosticism. A stricter sense, denotes a belief that there is no God; this use has become the standard one. In the Apology Socrates is accused of atheism for not believing in the official Athenian gods. Some distinguish between theoretical atheism and practical atheism. A theoretical atheist is one who self-cosciously denies the existence of a supreme being, whereas a practical atheist may believe that a supreme being exists but lives as though there were no god.
1st bold: Socrates was accused of lacking belief in the official Athenian gods. Socrates was not accused of denying their existence.

2nd bold: An atheist does not (or can not) believe that a supreme being exists (theoretically or otherwise). That's a logical contradiction. An atheist only has to acknowledge that it is possible that one might exist as one's own knowledge of the issue is limited by definition.

It would appear that there is a major distinction within atheism, but that seems to be between a 'moderate' type that claims only a lack of belief in God, and an 'extreme' type that will assert the claim that God does not exist. There is a substantial epistemological difference between these two points (as we have already noted and agreed upon).

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
(theoretical vs practical is just the strong vs weak, explicit vs implict contrast I mentioned already)
As I've consistently stated, I just can't accept that the statement of atheism (stating a lack of belief in theism) must logically entail the positive assertion that 'God does not exist'. That just seems to add extra baggage to the word (and an impossibly unjustifiable claim at that!).

I agree that there are two varieties of atheists, but there shouldn't be two varieties of atheism. Some atheists certainly do make the claim that 'God does not exist', but that is ill-educated nonsense and shouldn't be considered philosophical. If anything, that is a religious-type claim.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
I don't need to tell you, perfectly consistent with what I said about Atheism. These two sources are about as authoritative as it gets in the field of philosophy before one is prompted to look into the individual literatures and beyond standardized sources. Wiki btw, although not as respected by philosophers, nevertheless echos these two, and echos my definition (wiki link already in my prior post).
I certainly am aware that this 'Stanford' definition is widely disseminated and widely supported, and for all intents and purposes, definitive in contemporary society.

But as one who has always claimed to profess a complete lack of any faith in any theism of any kind, I just can't accept it. That (Stanford) definition seems like it was written by a Christian - or an anti-atheist at the very least. It is religiously biased.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael
If this definition of atheism is to stand uncontested, that means that the number of intelligent atheists is zero. End of discussion.
Actually, you are right, end of discussion.

It is correct that if we go by the strict definition- No atheist is holding his belief based on certain knowledge (certain, as opposed to probable). But if the existence of god is a matter of probability, as I mentioned before, and so did the author of the Stanford encyclopedia- then when the probability of his existence is low, we might as well regard ourselves as atheists instead of an agnostic. In fact, this was the argument given by Richard Dawkins.

Of course, human beings' self identification is not purely based on reason. There is still a leap to make from 0.001% of god existing to asserting 0% of god existing. Then there would of course be some emotional, or anti-theistic grounds behind making such leaps (refer to what I said about antitheism). These things are not mutually exclusive, which is why words are not science.

There are a few other ways to get around but I will just talk in the confines of the concepts that I have set up so far until it becomes necessary to bring in new concepts.
But I'm not playing game theory here to optimize or hedge my position with respect to any theoretically potential existence of God (or afterlife). That doesn't interest me because I lack belief (and thus lack interest).

Lack of belief in God is just that. God might exist, but that's none of my business and I don't really care if God actually exists or not, because it doesn't matter to me, since I don't believe it. (Unless some physical evidence becomes available, then I'm interested!)

As for the probability of God's existence, I consider that moot. I possess the same lack of belief in the 1% probability case as I do in the 99% probability case.

Agnosticism seems to be a hedge statement, trying to cover all one's bases and claiming optimal superiority to all of them. Indeed, from the perspective of 'covering all of one's bases', this does appear to be the optimal approach.

But I think atheism ought to represent just the plain and simple lack of belief statement that the word is identified by (a-theism).

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
Now, why would we want to use the narrower sense of the word "atheism" ever? A meaning which implies ignorance, or assertion beyond one's knowledge, you may ask.

Because in a discussion about "atheism vs agnosticism", this distinction becomes important. Without agnosticisim, atheism can mean a lot of things- I deny the existence of god, or I simply lack belief in god, etc. But when it's "atheism vs agnosticism", agnosticism already took the "I lack belief in god" part. How else would you be able to distinguish the two? So you may as well attribute the unfortunate attachment of ignorance (saying "there is no god" while not knowing for certain) onto atheism to the development of philisophy of religion. I mean, agnosticism is only a very recent term compared to atheism. Atheism used to subsume agnosticism until agnosticism came along as a philosophical term. Now that atheism needs to distinguish itself, in a conversation when agnosticism is involved. And unfortunately, atheism has got the rotten left-overs. Agnosticism took away the good stuff.
How do you reconcile the two bolded statements?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WFCY View Post
Margot wants to go strictly by the morphlogical roots of words. It does not work after a while, when the concepts denoted by these words have been discussed and developed by philosophers.
I agree that the morphological roots of words cannot be always taken absolutely definitive.

However, I do believe that the one place that the morphological roots of words is most relevant and authorative is in respect of philosophy. Popularity ought not to be used to determine philosophic definitions.
__________________
Remember what the dormouse said: Feed your head!
Reply With Quote
  #49  
Old Jul 23rd 2010, 08:30 PM
Margot's Avatar
Margot Margot is offline
World Citizen
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Florida
Posts: 1,044
Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
I just found this little gem hiding on the first page of the thread. It explains a lot.

While I certainly will assert that words (like people) are always variable, I most certainly wouldn't dream of pretending that this is efficient or effective for anything except variety itself. I think it is just in the nature of these things themselves (people and words) that they are variable.

Now if you are asserting that words ought not to be variable, that's another issue entirely, but on the question of whether words are, or are not, actually variable, I don't think there is any doubt that they in fact are quite variable, malleable, flexible and prone to morph-like behaviors. Whether or not this is a good thing or a bad thing is yet another issue as well.

(Indeed, to judge whether any given thing is a "good or bad thing" requires that we initially define the moral compass or measuring scale to be used and that, more often than not, is even more challenging than the initial question itself! )

As for scientific precision, I think that's impossible to achieve using written words alone. Words, by definition, are symbols that represent other things. You have used the example of "moose", but that is only the word-symbol that represents a specific type of large mammal - the word itself is not an actual moose. Likewise with "atheism", that is only a word-symbol that represents an idea or social construct - it is not a thing in itself (other than as a word-symbol).

And symbols, by definition, will often admit of alternative interpretations. How can one be certain that one is reading the 'correct' interpretation of any given symbol? (since one sees/hears only the 'word-symbol' or 'word-sound') that represents a moose, not a moose itself).

And if words really do have some intrinsic or fundamental meaning specific to each word, how come we have such oddities as "leading" being the word used in the art of typography to precisely define the size of the space between two lines of type? Please keep in mind of course that the word (originally) specifically referred to the layers of actual strips of lead being used for the spacing in the ancient art of manual printing (Gutenburg style).

That is to say, if the meaning of a word is intrinsic to itself, the meaning of "leading" ought to pertain to the use of lead, not the digital use of spacing on a webpage design (for example).

I certainly don't have a problem with words behaving oddly or having anachronistic origins. Indeed, I think that is what gives them character.

Btw, the term "boy" used to mean something entirely different than what we use that word for nowadays - a male child. That's a relatively modern application of that particular word (of no known origin!). Same is true of "girl".

Generally speaking, I find the history of the changing meanings of words over time to be very interesting. If words must be read with scientific precision, then I'm afraid that we will need a law against the use of the English language itself. As I've argued in other threads previously, the English language originates as a bastard language - which won out over time against Latin and French, which are both better suited for scientific precision.
Ah. I see our problem!

I think the problem here is the distinct poststructuralist overtone. Derrida would be very proud. Derrida, for those of us who haven't taken Literary Theory (>.<)

What I'm asking is for people to quit looking at words in the "endless chain of signifiers,"--outside the realm of Diffťrance.

If we say that words are inherently mutable, then it's a moot point. And by "it," I mean all of communication. If language is inherently mutable, then where do we draw the line? What stops us from all arbitrarily redefining words? I've just decided that "Michael" now means "people from Canada." Later I may decide it also means, "all smart people on the internet," and, after that I could again change it to mean "moose." Don't forget, however, that "Michael" has also always meant "Margot's first boyfriend, and all the baggage that goes along with that (including breaking-and-entering, digging cow-traps, climbing fences, discussing white phosphorous, being used, being crushed, being angry, etc.)"

Does "Michael" have a different meaning for you? If so, then we might as well just make sounds at each other and hope for the best, because all communication is lost at that point. Trying to regulate the amount of arbitrary re-defining that goes on in a language is just more arbitrariness on top of everything that is already arbitrary.

The system that you advocate puts a greater value on the speaker-signifier relationship than the relationship between the signifier-signified. However, as speakers, as the creators, we have created that signifier-signified relationship. We created it so that we could come to an agreement. If, however, we place a greater relationship on the speaker-signifier relationship, it can easily become speaker-signifier-signifier-signifier-signifier relationship--a relationship inherently more complicated than the less arbitrary signifier-signified relationship.

As for "leading:"

1. AWESOME. I didn't know that, and that's EXACTLY why I made this thread. (when I go to my text document and select "double-space," is that the poor-man's version of leading, right? God! I LOVE learning new words!)

2. "Leading" reminds me of the previously mentioned example of "humors." Again I ask, what is the strength or value in redefining a pre-existing word? Variety has been lost, and a chance at variety has been lost.

Finally, I loved this:

Quote:
And symbols, by definition, will often admit of alternative interpretations. How can one be certain that one is reading the 'correct' interpretation of any given symbol? (since one sees/hears only the 'word-symbol' or 'word-sound') that represents a moose, not a moose itself).
Have you read Jean Baudrillard's The Spirit of Terrorism? In it, Baudrillard addresses the power of symbols and, more importantly, the power in destroying symbols. The essay is about September 11th, but more importantly, the modern terrorist. “Never attack the system in terms of relations of force,” is Baudrillard’s understanding of the modern terroristic mind, instead “shift the struggle into the symbolic sphere” (17).

I agree with Baudrillard: symbols are not only fragile, they're prone. They're susceptible to attack. The best way to shore up our communication--our symbols--against attack is to treat them as a science. Treat them as something immutable. If we treat our words as mutable symbols, it is, at least in my opinion, an act of terrorism against communication in general.
__________________
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!

For a good time call Judges 19:24-30

Last edited by Margot; Jul 23rd 2010 at 08:41 PM. Reason: too much esoteric snark
Reply With Quote
  #50  
Old Jul 23rd 2010, 08:40 PM
Margot's Avatar
Margot Margot is offline
World Citizen
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Florida
Posts: 1,044
Default Re: Literal isnít Lazy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
No, it doesn't prove coherence. But it will eventually get an entry in the dictionary regardless.
I BEG TO REFUDIATE!
__________________
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!

For a good time call Judges 19:24-30
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 03:13 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ©2008 - 2017, DiscussionWorldForum.com