Re: Guessing?

From: Brian Selzer <>
Date: Fri, 11 Jul 2008 10:30:58 -0400
Message-ID: <J8Kdk.17072$>

>> >> Consider the following statements:
>> >> 1. Susan is an electrical engineer.
>> >> 2. Susan is a mechanical engineer.
>> >> 3. Susan is an electrical engineer or Susan is a mechanical engineer.
>> >> Now, suppose you have a base relation P whose members map to
>> >> individuals
>> >> that exemplify the property of being an electrical engineer, a base
>> >> relation
>> >> Q whose members map to individuals that exemplify the property of
>> >> being a
>> >> mechanical engineer, and a virtual relation (a view) R (P UNION Q)
>> >> whose
>> >> members map to individuals that exemplify either the property of being
>> >> an
>> >> electrical engineer or the property of being a mechanical engineer or
>> >> both.
>> >> The presence of a tuple in the virtual relation with a value that maps
>> >> to
>> >> Susan tells us only that Susan exists and that she is either an
>> >> electrical
>> >> engineer or a mechanical engineer or both. It does not tell us which.
>> >> It
>> >> is only the fact that the value that maps to Susan appears also in
>> >> both
>> >> of
>> >> the base relations that tells us that in fact Susan is both an
>> >> electrical
>> >> engineer and a mechanical engineer. So here we have three relations,
>> >> two
>> >> base, one derived, that draw their values from the same domain, but it
>> >> is
>> >> where a particular value appears that imparts different aspects of
>> >> meaning
>> >> to that value.
>> > Values don't have meaning. That would indicate they somehow
>> > "contained" that meaning. Meaning is conferred upon values by
>> > isolation of the context in which they have been described (here the
>> > relation they are contained in and its associated predicate), followed
>> > by interpretation of that description by a human (with their
>> > subjective understanding of the world).
>> I'm not sure I agree. Symbols don't have meaning apart from
>> interpretation.
>> Nor do combinations of symbols. Consider the combination MIX:
>> Does it represent the act of combining things?
>> Is it a representation of the number 1009?
>> Is it the name of Donald Knuth's mythical computer?
>> Only under an interpretation is an instance of that particular
>> combination
>> of symbols assigned meaning.
> So without an interpretation the word has not been assigned a meaning?
> Hence the word /alone/ is meaningless. That's exactly what I said. You
> appear to have just checkmating yourself.

A word without an interpretation is just sqiggles or noise. Only under an interpretation does it convey meaning. Also, a word is not a value. See below.

>> And when a symbol or combination of symbols
>> has been assigned meaning, the object in the universe that it maps to is
>> the
>> value it is associated with. A value, therefore, is in a very strict
>> sense
>> what a symbol means. So you're right in saying that it doesn't /have/
>> meaning or /contain/ meaning: it is what is meant.
>> > I recommend reading Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations",
>> > Dreyfus' "What Computers still can't do" and Clancey's "Situated
>> > Cognition" for related analyses. Better to stand on the shoulders of
>> > giants than the toes of midgets I say.
>> Here's a quote from Wittgenstein's /Philosophical Investigations/. Page
>> 2
>> in fact:.
>> These words [a quote from Augustine, /Confessions/], it seems to me, give
>> us
>> a particular picture of the essence of human language. It is this: the
>> individual words in language name objects--sentences are combinations of
>> such names.--in this picture of language we find the roots of the
>> following
>> idea: Every word has a meaning. This meaning is correlated with the
>> word.
>> It is the object for which the word stands.
>> <<<
>> Funny how the first recommended reading supports my position in just the
>> first few pages.
> That doesn't seem the case.
>> To be sure, Wittgenstein argues that words have meaning, and they do,
> No, he clarifies his everyday use of the term "have" by specifying
> that he is positing that meaning is "correlated" to a word - that
> meaning is conferred /upon/ words.

That's not how I read it, but it's not worth fighting about.

>> but not until it has been assigned under an interpretation.
> Yes exactly as I said. Take the word, isolate the context in which it
> has appeared, and then interpret it. Meaning is the end result. It is
> not there at the start, and every stage of the process must occur for
> it to come into being.

Not exactly what you said: you were speaking of /values/ not words. There is a difference. A value is what a symbol or collection of symbols stands for. It is the object in the universe that under an interpretation the symbol maps to. It is what is meant.

>> Nevertheless, the object that a symbol maps to is the value correlated
>> with
>> that symbol, and is per Wittgenstein, what is meant.
> Your argument is tying itself in knots. If you are equating values =
> real-world objects (which is a new one I have to say), then you are
> forced to conclude that a database, not containing real-world objects,
> therefore contains no values. This is of course madness.

Not necessarily real-world objects, but those in the universe of discourse--whatever that happens to be.

Isn't it true that the following all represent the same value: four, IV, 4? So here we have different symbols and combinations of symbols that map to the same object in the universe--the same value; so here we have different symbols and combinations of symbols that under an interpretation mean the same thing.

It is not madness: A value is not a symbol. It is an output of the function that maps symbols and combinations of symbols to objects in the universe. A database contains symbols and combinations of symbols that only under an interpretation have values, but since there should always be an intended interpretation, a database should always contain symbols and combinations of symbols that have values. So it is imprecise, though understandable, to say that a database contains values.

It is important to keep separate symbol from value--representation from meaning--because what is represented in a database can mean different things at different times. A database is just a proposition, and under an interpretation that proposition is assigned a truth value, and as part of that assignment, every symbol and combination of symbols in that proposition is instantaneously correlated with an object in the universe and thus is assigned a value.

[snip] Received on Fri Jul 11 2008 - 16:30:58 CEST

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