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Language, Reference, Families and OLP [message #676] Tue, 01 September 2009 18:17 Go to next message
Sean Wilson is currently offline  Sean Wilson
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Registered: August 2009
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... I don't think its the case that there is a right or wrong way to talk about it. I think what happens is that the talking in the way we choose begins to baptize another cousin in the family resemblance. And so people say, e.g., Johnny engages in "behavior" whenever he elects to play football. But then a researcher begins saying that the cortex "behaves" when it "does" something.  One cannot object that either he or language does this -- this is what family resemblance is all about. The same is true for the ideas that computers will someday have or create "consciousness," or saying that a frog is "conscious."  All that is happening here is the lexicon is finding another cousin in the family resemblance. If our brains are "processors," they are only processors in a sense.

Imagine one day a philosopher had a wickedly interesting idea. Imagine that he thought that "theories" or "logic" or "concepts" were less the driving force behind it all compared to something more like "learned conditions of assertability." And imagine further that the philosopher named his idea "grammar." It would NOT be correct to say to him, "you are not using grammar in an ordinary sense.  I'll show you want grammar is ... [citing an English-class example]." Therefore, one would never say here, "you have created a false issue by playing an ordinary-sort of term outside of its normal purpose or function, and are therefore playing games with speaking conventions."

On the contrary, we would want to know how the new expression works in language and what its implications are over the other forms of expression. In short, we would need to CONJUGATE the expression.  And once we did this, we may find it to be a more useful idea (an advancement of some sort). Or we may find it to be a confusion, a facile sort of grammar (like a game within a game). In this way, it is the language and the grammar that shows the value of the idea (making "truth" a derivative).  And so what we want to do with expressions of the sort "consciousness is caused by computational process" is the same we would do with expressions like, "the cortex is behaving" or "the dog is happy" or "the frog is aware." We would never dispute these things on the basis of definitions -- and nor would we accept them on the basis of information. Rather, we would simply want to know how the grammar of the expressions work, what information is actually
entailed, and what the speaker does in this language game when faced with ordinary-sense expressions, ostensive counterfactuals, competing ideas and so forth.   When we did all of this, we would know how the expression "played" within the existing lexicon and would know whether it enhanced the things we can exchange with one another about experience generally and the form of life in particular.

Regards and thanks.
Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
Assistant Professor
Wright State University
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From: kirby urner <kirby.urner@gmail.com>
To: Wittrs@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Friday, July 17, 2009 5:08:26 PM
Subject: Re: [Wittrs] Representations - Was Re: Homeostasis as a Source/Mechanism for Mind (to Neil)

On Fri, Jul 17, 2009 at 12:44 PM, iro3isdx<xznwrjnk-evca@ yahoo.com> wrote:

So now the computer has an internalized representation of something (a
room say) and is following it (like one of those robot vacuum
cleaners, good example). The computer becomes the subject, the
beholder, fits into the grammar in a slot previously reserved for
humans, other "sentient beings" (as Buddhist translators like to

So that's about when a Joe the Philosopher intrudes and says
(sarcastically) : "Oh, so you really think computers can 'represent to
themselves' do ya? Does that mean they have consciousness then? Are
you *sure* about that?" (sneering tone).


The bottom line here: there just *isn't* a "one right way" to talk
about these things, as computers are fairly new and different
subcultures work differently to incorporate them.

There's a *design responsibility* here, not a quest to "uncover the
hidden truth" (wrong picture).


Re: Language, Reference, Families and OLP [message #6880 is a reply to message #676] Thu, 25 August 2011 05:04 Go to previous message
zettel is currently offline  zettel
Messages: 5
Registered: August 2011
Location: United Kingdom
Junior Member

It is harmless enough to talk about the cortex behaving in certain ways and doing certain things if you are referring to neurons firing etc. It is even harmless to talk about (eg) the brain (or parts of it) "understanding" certain stimuli in certain ways so long as you make it clear that this is a metaphorical use of language, or a specialised use only pertinent to a narrow field of activity.

The problems arise when scientists start taking their own metaphors literally, or forgetting that their specialised use of a word doesn't have general application in the language.

That's when you get (eg) Richard Dawkins announcing that we are selfish because our genes are selfish, or Crick claiming that "What you see is not what is really there; it is what your brain believes is there". Both have forgotten that they were using ordinary words ("selfish", "see") in specialised ways and then made the blunder of describing a conceptual confusion as an empirical fact.
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