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Re: Fuzzy Fallacies

Peter L. Schuerman:

   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.

Yep, you have gone on a suicide mission.  :-( You have run into the
ack-ack of the `other places'.  :-) As John Cowan mentioned, this is

Let's talk about George's tallness in Lojban:

    .i la djorj cu condi

One could translate this as `George is tall.' but that is misleading.
The utterance is actually a predication concerning four arguments.

A less misleading translation is:

    There is a relationship of depth/height/tallness among:
    x1, entity that is high or deep:    George
    x2, in direction/property:          <<elliptical/unspecified value>>
    x3, away from reference point:      <<elliptical/unspecified value>>
    x4, by standard:                    <<elliptical/unspecified value>>

Bear in mind that unless you use the much deprecated {zi'o}, *every*
Lojban utterance includes all the places of the selbri.  Some places,
however, may have a value that is not overtly specified, as in this

Fundamentally, in Lojban, when you talk of George being tall, you are
*also* saying "by standard x4".  There is always a standard.

The standard may not be expressed overtly.  There are two ways the
standard is kept covert.  One is to leave out the sumti for the
standard, which is what I did in the example.  The other way is to use
the cmavo {zo'e} for the sumti.

In either case, the presumption is that the listener knows enough so
as to be able to fill in what is useful in that place.  If not, the
listener can ask for further information.

To use your example regarding fire, the presumption is that the
listener knows that fire is hot, and what the listener thinks of as
`hot' is sufficiently similar to the the speaker thinks of as `hot'
that the two manage to communicate well enough.

Put another way: regardless of whether the standard for tallness or
hotness or baldness is `subjective' or `objective', it is *shared*.

The appropriate Lojban term for my response to your message is {na'i},
which is the metalinguistic negator.  The distinction between
`subjective' and `objective' that you are making is not really
relevant to the issue at hand.

The relevant issue is whether Lojban has the tools needed to
communicate all that people might want to say about a standard.
(I think it can, as I have said elsewhere.)

(Bear in mind also that if a selbri lacks a regular place for the
standard, a speaker can attempt to express a standard using {ma'i},
"in reference frame".  Even a selbri without a `by standard' place,
such as {claxu} or {gleki}, has the possibility of being incorporated
into an utterance that does express a standard.)

People often want to communicate subjective notions.  These may be
hitherto uncommuncated or hard to communicate.  One standard way to
communicate a subjective notion is to invent tools to measure it, and
convert it to an objective notion.  This is hard to do.

A second standard way to communicate a subjective notion is to point
to examples that illustrate what you mean.  Humans are sufficiently
similar that your interlocutor can often figure out what you mean,
even when you don't spell out what you mean, even if you cannot say in
words what you mean.  (Of course, the pointing and learning may not be
conscious or organized: adults are often unaware what children are
learning from them, and the children are not reflecting on how they
are learning.)

Lojban incorporates `by standard' into the meaning of a selbri.  What
this does is decrease the salience of the subjective/objective
distinction, and increase the salience of the question "how do I
successfully communicate this subjective notion?"

This leads me to a prediction: because of the difference in salience,
I predict that Lojban speakers will be more likely to focus on how to
communicate emotions rather than on the implications of a
subjective/objective distinction.

    Robert J. Chassell               bob@gnu.ai.mit.edu
    25 Rattlesnake Mountain Road     bob@rattlesnake.com
    Stockbridge, MA 01262-0693 USA   (413) 298-4725