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Re: Fuzzy Fallacies


Perhaps this is a suicide mission, but I can't resist trying one more time
to make a fundamental point clear.  Adjectives such as tall, bald, heap,
etc. are not objectively defined, and not objectively used.  They aren't
*meant* to be.  They are (brace yourself!) subjective terms.  There's
nothing wrong with subjectivity... it works quite well for many things,
and has done so for a very long time.  The reason for this has to do with
how we acquire language, and how we refine our understanding of language.

As well as subjective communication works, objective measurements are
desirable for certain areas such as science, commerce, engineering, etc.
so methods of communicating objective data have been devised.  External,
objective standards have been created... sticks with marks on them,
standard weights, etc.  You see?  Remember when you gave an example
earlier of using a hammer to type on a keyboard?  Using subjective terms
for communicating objective data is analogous.

I'm really sorry I don't have a reference or a citation for you on this
point... One would probably also have difficulty finding a citation to
prove that water is wet or that fire is hot.  Same sort of problem,
really.  If I said that fire was hot, would you want a reference?
Probably not.  If I said it was cold, would you?  Probably so.  The claim
that words like "tall" and "heap" are objective words is really the
remarkable claim here, and should be supported if at all possible.  Keep
in mind that any objective definition you might present must be composed
of objective values.  The statement that tall means "higher than average"
suffers from recursion because "average" is being used in the subjective
sense (after all, we don't actually calculate the objectively-defined,
mathematical average before deciding whether something is tall).

So, did you have any plans to respond to Jorge's message?  I think this
would be a valuable intellectual exercise.

Peter Schuerman                                    plschuerman@ucdavis.edu
                        Co-editor, SPECTRA Online
          for back issues: http://www.well.com/user/phandaal/