Re: Information

From: wilkins (wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU)
Date: Mon May 07 2001 - 03:28:22 BST

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    From: wilkins <wilkins@wehi.EDU.AU>
    Organization: The Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
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    Mark Mills wrote:
    > John Wilkins wrote,
    > At 10:30 AM 5/7/01 +1000, you wrote:
    > >There is a philosophical conundrum known as the "linguistic prison" - in
    > >order to discuss things we must cast them in liguistic terms, but we are
    > >discussing in the areas of truth and mind matters that cannot be so cast
    > >without prejudicing the argument - in short, whereof one cannot speak,
    > >thereof one must be silent (and as some wag had it, "and you can't
    > >whistle it either"). How meaning is encoded is very much context
    > >relative - see Dretske's book. The encoding protocol used determines the
    > >meaning of a message at receiver.
    > This seems to presuppose the externalist premiss that there is nothing but
    > a blank slate from the skin in.

    Not so.
    > If all people have a similar set of conceptual dispositions, dispostions to
    > create stories for instance, then one can lead a 'listener' through an
    > exercise in perceptional chains with somewhat predictable results. The
    > message may not be one that can be 'spoken,' but a predictable mental state
    > may be replicated (communicated) to the listener.

    Sure - but this is not memetics; it is evolutionary psychology. Within
    the generalised constraints of being human, memes are propagated in
    similar (enough) ways to all humans irrespective of biology, and so the
    operant protocol is what counts for meaning. Since this is not relevant
    to SW information (or, indeed, AIT) and memes propagate as behavioural
    propensities (whatever else they may be), it means (forgive the pun - it
    gets really hard not to make them in this sort of discussion) that
    memetics is, in the end, a matter of tracking observables.

    > In Wittgensteinian terms, 'of what one cannot speak, one must be
    > indirect.' Wittgenstein was a confirmed externalist, so he would naturally
    > disagree. Example of this are mass marketers in great multitudes. Eastern
    > spirtual advisors do the same thing, too.

    Wittgenstein was a semantic behaviourist (is that what you mean by
    externalist?) - I am too. This is not to say that all meaning is
    behaviourally determined, only that what varies in meanings is a matter
    of community convention. We can treat human "nature" as a background
    against which memes propagate and evolve.
    > BTW, I thought you hated the 'encoding' notion...

    Only absolute protocols - no such things exist... All measures of
    information rely, in the end, on relative contextual protocols (IMNSHO).

    John Wilkins, Head, Communication Services, The Walter and Eliza Hall 
    Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia
    Homo homini aut deus aut lupus - Erasmus of Rotterdam

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