Re: The Copy Paradox

Wesley Schwein (
Sat, 15 Nov 1997 16:07:58 -0500 (EST)

On Fri, 14 Nov 1997, Nick Bostrom wrote:

> > >you are a noun, you are an adjective.
> >
> > I'd say I'm a verb.
> You are both making category mistakes here. The sort of things that

I apologize wholeheartedly; I'll ask your permission next time I want to
make a flip metaphor.

> are verbs or adjectives or nouns are words and perhaps concepts. But
> human beings are not words or concepts, although there are words that
> denote human beings and at least one concept of human being. To say
> that you are a verb is to imply that you are not alive, because
> neither words nor concepts are living things.

No, to say I'm a verb is a metaphor based on the important role verbs play
in syntax. It's inaccurate to think of parts of speech as "being"
concepts; nouns and words of description "point" to sections, categories,
of our world-knowledge. Verbs, however, are _not_ "names of actions."
How is "to be," "represent," "accept" an action? A verb is best defined
as a unit which does verby things... show agreement with subjects, govern
objects, hold sentences together. Verbs are, perhaps, the best indicator
of the _autonomy_ of language from the rest of thought; verbs are purely

> IMHO, if one is afraid of being mentally imprisoned by language
> patterns, one is better advised to read Carnap and W. V. Quine than
> to study this e-prime stuff.

Agreed; e-prime and general semantics are wastes of time which perpetuate
the ludicrous (in its strong form) Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. If you're
interested in language, try linguistics. Steven Pinker's _The Language
Instinct_ is a good start; it pretty much sums up everything I learned in
undergrade linguistics in a highly readable form. Pinker, a
psycholinguist who is the world's leading child language acquisition
researcher, is also one of the loud proponents of evolutionary psychology.
He makes a number of points that readers of this list should find

Wesley Schwein Art is not a mirror; art is a hammer.