From: Tennessee Leeuwenburg (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Mar 07 2005 - 22:29:08 MST
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Had a few more ideas.
Your metaphor idea resonates with me. I have been reading Wittgenstein
- - or more accurately I have had the highlights pointed out to me. He
talks about the way in which we use language in many senses, and calls
the different ways which we use language to be "language games".
For example "I have a pin in my foot" versus "I have a pain in my
foot". Nobody gets these mixed up, but the surface grammar is the
same. His idea was that there is also a depth grammar, which means
something deeper than mere syntax. Our knowledge of what is being
referred to also helps us not to make mistakes about whether you could
just take the pain out of the foot, or whether you could interact with
the pain using physical objects etc. Consider you have a sore foot,
and then it seems to get better, but a short while later it becomes
painful again. The doctor may ask you "Is it the same pain?" to which,
if it feels similar, you might reply "yes". However, this is meant in
a totally different sense to asking if two different pins are actually
the same pin.
This is just one tiny example of where humans are able to use similar
sentences to mean quite different things (where meaning is defined as
the interpretations given by a person, the way in which they use
something etc etc). What Wittgenstein terms "language games" have been
taken by many to reflect not just how humans use language, but more
deeply how humans think.
Some people have said that human thinking is *precisely* this, but I
think that's false. I think there is indeed a difference between
thinking and speaking. Your description of metaphors being formed
through some interaction of a normative system (I dislike using
morality/value because it doesn't seem to me to be describing what you
are saying) and some kind of laws-of-physics rationality seems to be
similar to language games and idea-creation. From our existing
metaphors (equated henceforth with the language games we understand)
and experience, we acquire knowledge of the world, either
understanding facts in terms of existing metaphors, or sometimes
building new ones.
This has some startling implications, not least that our ability to
*actually think* is limited by the language games which we correctly
understand. For example, we could never understand psychology without
the metaphors which study has produced. It is not merely the case that
we could naively understand psychology perfectly, the only limitation
being our expression. Rather, without the pre-existence of certain
metaphors, there are some things which we cannot even think. We could
not grasp the implication of Artificial Intelligence without metaphors
This is nowhere reflected better than the attempt to build one. First
we must build the metaphors, then we can acquire knowledge.
As a complete idea of thinking however, this might rankle. Nobody
wants to be reduced to little more than speech software.
I hope that has been interesting...
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