Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I hold it to be rediculous to have fluid definitions. The entire point of defining a given term is to be able to talk about it unambiguously. The moment you allow for "fluid definitions" you also allow for ambiguity. A given definition must alway be rigid; otherwise, it's not really a definition.

To put it another way, such that we define some arbitrary term A using definition D. Then, in order to have at the very least any useful definition of A, D must be such that it is never unclear as to what it is that D refers. If it is the case that it is never unclear as to what D refers, then it must also never be unclear as to what it is that A refers. Therefore, it must also never be unclear as to what it is that A refers. But if that is the case, then D must be rigid. Therefore, D is rigid. Since that argument holds for any arbitrary term A and for its definition D, it must hold for all A and all D - that is, it holds for all terms and all definitions.

Dictionary.com defines the word "definition" like this: "The act or process of stating a precise meaning or significance; formulation of a meaning." I believe that this definition of "definition" makes it clear that what I say above is true; that is, definitions are precise formulations of the meaning of a given term, and do not allow for "fluidity" (i.e. ambiguity.)


Blogger kipepeo said...

I would argue that because of possible downfalls of semantics it may not be possible to have so rigid a definition as you really want.

For example, when I assert that an apple is red, I don't specify what shade, hue, intensity etc that apple is. Just that it is red. Perhaps you would take this to mean that the apple is not actually red at all since we can't specifically pin down what kind of red it is. I would once again argue that perhaps our names for colors are simply conventions to allow us to understand what we see. So, what we call red may be blended with another color in another culture, but the fact remains that all of the colors that we see are part of the visual spectrum. Taking this into account it seems not to matter that the colors don't always line up perfectly with our preset linguistic definitions.

Furthermore, I know that some may argue that colors are simply constructs of the human imagination, or require the observation of a human to exist, but as Maund says in his, Colours, "Objectivists can legitimately point to the fact that colour vision is a biological endowment not only for humans, but for many other animal species. It seems plausible that if we possess it, then there is some objective feature in the world that color vision picks up. That is, it is plausible that our colour vision is colour-catching (and not colour generating."

So,it is possible that colors or something about the wavelengths which are ilicited by them are not specific to humans, and that colors do not require humans in order to continue being.

I would conclude that because of our use of semantics, there are certain differences in interpretation even if we get really nitpicky. People have preconceptions about their world and they tend to color their perception and interpretation of reality and semantics.


2:58 AM  
Blogger linford86 said...

There is are a number of problems with your argument about colors.

First of all, colors are uniquely determined by anything other than the human eye. To explain what I mean, there is a simple optical experiment that illustrates that what we see as orange, for example, is actually two different kinds of light. To furher explain, I'll first say that I'll refer to one type as A and the other as B and I will also say that they will look identical to the human eye; that is, they are the exact same color.

You can make orange light by mixing two parts red light and one part green light. The result will be orange, and we will call this A.

Ok, now take a single beam of white light and seperate it out into a spectrum using a prism. Find an orange that is identical to A on that spectrum. Call this spectral version of A by the name B.

Now, take B and put it through a prism again. You get B again. You can't break up B any more than it already is; that is, it isn't "made" from any other color.

Now take A and try splitting it up. Guess what? It splits up into the orange and red that you made it from.

Thus, the light in A is not identical to the light in B, despite the fact that they are the same color.

So, how do we explain this? Basically, its due to the fact that your eye can't distinguish between certain combinations of wavelengths of light and single, pure wavelengths of light.

By the way, I'm not arguing that color doesn't exist, or that other animals can't percieve it. What I am arguing is that it is a product of biology. As further proof of this, consider the fact that color does not have physical meaning; that is, color is not actually an optical property of light. We humans have a real problem accepting this because color is so central to our lives; but it is true none the less, and can be empirically shown to be so through numerous experiments.

An apple is perceived to be red only because normal human color vision perceives light with different mixes of wavelengths differently and we have language to describe that difference.

2:16 PM  

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