Tuesday, May 02, 2006

what if we defined people individually, so that i might have a definition of Eric thats different than Rebecca's, or Chad's definition. This definition could come from how WE interpret the person as we interact with them over a period of time. This would suggest that the definitions are based on a personality, or feeling you got when you saw or talked to, or interacted in any way with the said person. So i might define Eric Bluestein in my head, so that no where in the world existed an Eric Bluestein as I, personally defined him.

This would also, suggest that our definitions change with time, because as you learn more about a person, your definition of them might change.

Ok so that still doesnt get us out of this rigid vs. fluid definition thing, but it is an interesting thought none the less


Blogger acceber said...

sounds good to me. i mean, the world is however we percieve it, so that means any definitions one individual feels are relevent, could be true that person, and not necessarily to the next. this is why we all have different opinions! i guess this could be applied to how we percieve people or anything in general.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Undercover Sheep said...

But does this mean that people have a right to believe whatever they want EVEN IN THE FACE OF indeniable evidence that goes against their beliefs?

People tend to seek out information which confirms their beliefs and opinions, and tend to ignore other information which goes against their beliefs in order to minimize cognitive dissonance.

I agree that the world is how one percieves it, but I wonder how far you can take it. We are not naturally rational animals. Our mental processes work at finding shortcuts and the fastest ways to conclusions.

At some point, I think it is important to recognize that individual perception should not be the ultimate be-all end-all answer. Logic and reason should dominate over it.

*Cough* Creationism *Cough*

10:19 PM  
Blogger linford86 said...

In the context of a formal argument, a definition is meant to be something that everyone agrees with for the purposes of the argument. Thus, in formal arguments, definitions are entirely independent of the human mind, or are at least intended to be so.

Also, there is no reason for your definition to change with time. Comming to know additional information does not change the definition of any given term, because otherwise definitions in mathematics and physics would be impossible to make.

In mathematics, when we define a given term, we do so in order to have any universal agreement that what we are refering to is the same object as that which everyone else is refering to. For instance, when I refer to a triangle in the context of a mathematical proof, there is a universal agreement as to what I am refering to. I could then derive additional information about some particular triangle or about triangles in general. But deriving this additional information does not force us into changing our additional definition.

Take for instance another example - the Peano axioms of arithmetic, which state (quoting from wikipedia):

"1. 0 is a natural number.

2. Every natural number a has a successor, denoted by Sa or a'.

3. No natural number has 0 as its successor.

4. Distinct natural numbers have distinct successors: a = b if and only if Sa = Sb.

5. If a property holds for 0, and holds for the successor of every natural number for which it holds, then the property holds for all natural numbers. This axiom of induction legitimizes the proof method known as mathematical induction (induction over the naturals)."

From these axioms, and these alone, it is possible to derive basically all of arithmetic, with a few technical exceptions. Take for example the statement that "1+1=2". This is trivially derivable from the above axioms, although I'll leave you to do a google search if you don't believe me on that one...

In any case, the above axioms do not make mention of "1+1=2", but we are able to derive that statement from them none the less. That's how mathematics works - you start with statements whose logical value is assumed to be "true" and deduce conclusions that are inescapable. In mathematics, under any given set of axioms, whatever is deduced must be true if it is the case that the axioms are true.

I see no reason why such things could not also be true of physical objects. This is one of the assumption central to physics - that the physical universe exists independently of mankind, and that it is possible to formulate definitions and mathematical statements about that universe which do no change from person to person. That it is possible to deduce the universe from some small set of mathematical laws. What those laws are is a question I don't think anyone can actually answer - but that they exist is something whose negation appears to be rediculous.

In any case, I think that it is the case that definitions do not change from person to person since definition, used in the sense to which I am refering, appears to be entirely independent of mankind.

12:38 PM  
Blogger kipepeo said...

I would argue that definitions can and do change from person to person, and within a single person over time. Furthermore, those definitions are not so powerful as to actually effect the object of definition. Consider this:

Person A's definition:
Coconuts are a hard shelled fruit with white pulp and a clear liquid in the center.

Person B's definition:
Coconuts are nuts that grow on palm trees and are impossible to crack open.

Now, whether or not A and B's definitions coincide exactly or not, we know that they both refer to a coconut, and even if we didn't call it a coconut it would still have the same properties. Lexical categorization, as far as we know is a human invention. Remember, "A rose by any other name would be just as sweet."(Shakespeare)

Personal definitions may differ from what is actually true of whatever is being defined, but it does not mean that a person's perception, and then definition of something remains static even with the addition of new information. Language is not as straightforward as math is. Which may or may not be as straightforward as it proclaims itself to be, but that is another matter. There are many different languages, over 6000 languages and dialects, and each one has the components necessary to explain things. This means that not only may people have different definitions of the same thing, but they may have different definitions in different languages. All that this goes to show is that there is something out there which we want to define. It does not come into being only once we define it.

So, people can have many definitions of the same thing, but in the long run it will only affect their perceptions, and not the actual object being so defined.

2:20 PM  
Blogger johnnyrobe said...

I tend to agree with linford86 (dan?) on this one. The first two comments of this post make a claim that I strongly disagree with: "the world is however we perceive it." Perhaps those that made this claim did not mean what the sentence literally implies. As phrased, claiming that the world is however we perceive it implies that the true nature of the world is however we perceive it. This is unlikely to be the case, as multiple people have different perceptions of the same thing. Consider, for example, a person A and a person B, where person B is color blind. If person A perceives grass to be green and person B perceives grass to be blue, does this mean that person B is justified in believing that grass is blue? Presumably he is not. However, it is important to note that person A isn't entirely justified in believing that grass is green either, even if this seems to be the perception of many. In fact, he can not even feel fully justified in believing that grass exists at all, as there is no formal proof for this. He can feel justified in believing that he is perceiving grass that is green, but this is different from asserting that there IS grass that is green.

Ultimately, it is crucial to understand that perception and definition are completely different and that they quite possibly have nothing to do with eachother. If this were not the case, then there would be little purpose in studying philosophy.


11:27 PM  
Blogger kipepeo said...

If a color blind person couldn't see green, then they would see a shade of gray as far as i know. Furthermore, while it is true that we may never know for certain that anything exists, there are still things beyond what may not exist. Perhaps green grass does not exist, but if it doesn't, then where does our perception come from? Suppose that the reason that the grass isn't actually green is because there is no grass. The fact still remains that we are perceiving something over and above the grass. That thing would be greenness. If greenness didn't exist, then how would we recognize it?

As far as justifiability for beliefs, there are many things that we believe that may be outright falsities, but I think that we need to be able to consider other possibilities and be openminded. Without openmindedness, supposing something true were to present itself to us, we would most likely miss it because we were too full of preconceptions. On the whole, I agree that people shouldn't necessarily feel justified in thinking that very much of what they think that they know is true. At the same time, I think that as humans, we have a hard time letting go of our preconceptions.

On that note, I think that I may have contradicted myself, but I think that both thoughts maybe work together...? I'm not sure...


8:01 AM  

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