virus: MS Weapon

Reed Konsler (
Mon, 13 Oct 1997 09:41:46 -0400 (EDT)

>Date: Sat, 11 Oct 1997 21:39:46 -0600
>From: Nathaniel Hall <>

>Once again I'm called to battle to defend the existence of universals!

Well, if you like. ;-)

>I will concede that the word used and the
>substance it represents are two different things. A Chinese speaking
>person may
>show me his word for a "tree" and I would have no idea what he was talking

An interesting thing about Chinese is that the characters have so many meanings.
There is a modern "reading" with two separate pronuciation systems. The
system was exported to Japan and Korea, each with their own pronunciation and
often a different (though usually loosely related) meaning. The meaning change
over time. So if you read the character for "tree" knowing a little Chinese
you might not recognize that it actually meant "book" as it was used.

But in our native language we seem to believe that the words have some
cannonical MEANING that is held in a dictionary. We insist that things must
be consistent. "Good" always means and has always meant the same thing,
right? There is a word for it in every language, therefore there must be some
essential "good" ideal that all of our words about it are poor reflections

Have you read Plato?

>Consider this: is there any language out there that does not have a word for
>"tree"? The reason why you'd have a hard time finding such a language is
>that "tree"
>is a form which has existence independent of anyone's particular word for
>it's form

How do you know? Your evidence is cultural. Perhaps we have simply
found words in other languages we choose to translate as "tree". Is
Bonzai a tree? Is bamboo? There are bamboo forests. How about a
"shrubbery" (Ni!)? Is an evergreen a tree? Why do we categorize plants
by size (evergreen TREE, decidious TREE) and not by morphological
and genetic kinship (EVERGREEN tree, EVERGREEN bush) What,
exactly, are the requirements of "treeness".

I don't mean to play semantic games with you. I agree that things seem
to exist and that some of them I recognize as trees. You have chosen
a pretty concrete word (unlike "good", "justice", "love", or "truth").
My point is not that trees don't exist, but that the word is a non-natural
(artifical, fabricated, mental) category which we superimpose on a
reality. "Tree" is a map which is suitable for some uses and not others.

There is *something" there. At least, it appears so. But what we percieve
as "real" is a question of what we choose to emphasise. Hence: "can't
see the forest for the trees".

Perhaps there is existence independent of anyone's particular word for it.
But is there the existence of "trees" independent of anyone's word for it?
Who makes meaning?

>The word for the form makes it possible for the mind to know of the form.

That's very well put.

> BTW what is ROFL? I'm not familiar with that *form*.

ROFL: Rolling On the Floor Laughing. [kind of like "ha ha ha" or a
big :-)


Reed Konsler