Re: semantics, Reading ranting grunting
Tue, 23 Sep 97 08:32:57

** Reply to note from Richard Plourde <>
Tue, 23 Sep 1997 00:32:20 -0400

>Richard Plourde wrote:

>Without recognizing what we do, [without being "conscious" of
doing it] >most of us make language fixed,
>and use it as a criterion for "what makes sense" rather than
>allowing our senses (and our sensory extensions, such as
>microscopes, voltmeters, etc.) to declare what "makes sense" and
>adapting our language to express what we sense.

I would add that the symbology of language has a "cookie cutter"
effect upon our perceptions of "reality." Whenever we use a word,
it encapsolates the concept of certain piece of "reality."

But once a certain word creates a certain "cookie cut," in most
people it becomes a static phenomenom. As a result, a certain
perception becomes ingrained,essentially creating a "perceptual

This leads to static thinking; that is, people end up
only being able to think about things one way - which is dictated
by the words they use. Once a "mental rut" has been created
by the association between a word and some aspect of "reality,"
that word can be used to create an almost Pavlovian effect
in people who are not semantically astute. This is how
propoganda is done. And I believe that this is a major part
of what the NSPIC thread is about.

As Richard Plourde pointed out in his message, a far more
pragmatic technique is to approach words as symbols that are
flexible in meaning. Since all words are mearly **approximate**
descriptors of "reality," as we learn more about "reality,"
those old approximations become obsolete, and thus we must come
up with new symbols (words/terminology) to better represent
our new perceptions of "reality." This is why each scientific
field comes up with new terminology specific to their field -
Being a specialist provides a more precise perception of "reality"
that requires more precise symbols (language/terms).

One commonly refered to example of using more precise words is
how eskimos have 12 different words to describe "snow."

>Once language gets recognized as a symbology, and a symbology not
>inherently able to represent all relationships that we can
>characterize, then the need for a revised and extended symbology
>becomes evident

This is part of the point I wanted to make in my previous paragraph.

>-- **unless we fall into the all-too-common trap of
>assuming that if our language doesn't cover it, it ain't there.**
[emphasis added]

I think this a major obstacle to all areas of human advancement.
We get stuck in semantic traps that prevent us from becoming
conscious of new solutions. **WE CAN'T LET OUR WORDS DICTATE

A related but seperate topic is that the meaning for all symbols
(and therefore all words) is subjective. That is, symbols only
have meaning in a person's brain, and only because an individual
assigns a certain meaning to a symbol. If the word "tree" means
a tall wooden brown thing with leaves to me, it only means that
because I give it that meaning *for me*.

Language is possible only because people agree (to a certain extent)
on what various symbols represent. That is how dictionaries are created.
Dictionary makers do massive public research to see what all the various
symbols (words) mean to a large number of the population, and that
becomes the "concensous meaning" for a word.

>Anders Sandberg wrote:

>I'm convinced that it is true that if you cannot explain
>your field of study to an interested 10-year old, then you haven't
>understood it yourself. So I really think we scientists have an
>obligation to explain things simply to anybody interested in what
>we have to say.

I agree. I think this is even more important when you consider
how many "adults" have the intellectual capacity of a 10-year old.
If we want civilization to *seriously* extropically evolve, it will require
having a larger number of people (dare I say "mainstream populace?")
gaining a greater understanding of the types of things discussed on this list.