Re: 1 Year Till New Millennium

From: Joseph Sterlynne (
Date: Mon Jan 03 2000 - 20:23:26 MST

> Lee Daniel Crocker

> Definitions aren't knowledge, and arguments about definitions are
> masturbation.

Arguments about definitions occur all the time in rational inquiry. In
order to possess a practical understanding of ornithological ecology bare
names are certainly not enough (or even, as you imply, ultimately
necessary). We argue over definitions because they do or at least should
contain knowledge; in fact, they sometimes represent fundamental bits of
knowledge within some science. We might say, for example, that our
understanding of the nature of light is represented in a definition of
light. And if we cannot agree on the names of things our discourse will fail.

> "The Millennium" isn't a thing, it's just the name of a thing. An arbitrary
> human convention utterly without real substance, and beneath the dignity of
> rational argument.

Yes, "The Millennium" is a name. And the Millennium is also a thing,
namely (in
this case), the third millennium of the Gregorian calendar. The name is
properly attached to the thing; people are just wrong about the status of the
thing. My criticism was not about whether or not the turn of the millennium
(and century and decade) was worthy enough about which to argue but mainly why
people abandon these relationships between things.

It is perfectly legitimate to question the acceptance or validity of a
convention. How is a convention not something of real substance? As I said in
my first note, social facts, however ephemeral or uninteresting, still exist as
memes in real people's heads.

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