Re: teleology and language

From: Trupeljak Ozren (
Date: Wed May 01 2002 - 00:31:04 BST

  • Next message: Wade T.Smith: "Re: teleology and language"

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    Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 16:31:04 -0700 (PDT)
    From: Trupeljak Ozren <>
    Subject: Re: teleology and language
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    --- "Douglas P. Wilson" <> wrote:
    > Natural languages are, I think we would all agree, something vitally
    > important but terribly hard to understand. So I concentrate
    > instead on
    > various kinds of artifical languages, e.g. the lower predicate
    > calculus,
    > Fortran, C, Python, the Colon Classification, deontic logic, and so
    > on.

    This is what I call "optimised languages". They are really really good
    at what they do - but their general usefulness in everyday life is
    significantly below the one of the language you use when you go
    shopping or courting or teaching your children ethics.

    > I am quite fluent in a few of these language-like things, and writing
    > in
    > them seems quite a lot like writing ordinary text, as I am doing here
    > and
    > now, so I do think of them as languages, and in my mind they have
    > started to
    > replace natural languages as defining paradigms for the word
    > language.

    So you are aware that the languages you use very often actually change
    the way you think, right? :)
    If you are mostly working with languages that are good at expressing
    discrete logic of some kind or other, no wonder that "natural"
    languages seem clutered and non-efficient. Happens to me every time I
    try to explain physics to someone without appropriate math skills. :)

    > Before long I find myself measuring natural
    > languages
    > against these new paradigms, and finding they don't measure up very
    > well.

    Obviously not. You are measuring the difference between the apples and
    oranges, while using the apples standard. Oranges make very poor
    apples. :)

    > Before long I find myself saying that English, Russian, and Walpiri
    > are not
    > actually languages at all, they are, as Wade Smith said, culture --
    > memetic
    > content expressed in some underlying mathematical ideal language.

    True. But the same thing is true of your artifical languages, including
    the worldwide (universal?) language of mathematical symbolism. It is
    still a culture-memetic content expressed through some formal system.

    > At which point even the dullest philosophy undergraduate will surely
    > say
    > that all of the above points notwithstanding, English, Russian, and
    > Walpiri
    > must be languages because they are precisely what the word "language"
    > denotes.

    In their language, yes. :)

    > Oh, Semantics, Semantics, god of communication, why do you torture me
    > thus?
    > dpw

    Personaly, I would blame Godel. He pointed out the first that you can't
    have *the one Universal Perfect System*. :)

    There are very few men - and they are exceptions - who are able to think and feel beyond the present moment.

    Carl von Clausewitz

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