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pne (661)

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Honourary member and involuntarily prolific poster. Self-taught Perl hacker. Language geek.

Journal of pne (661)

Thursday March 07, 2002
11:02 AM


[ #3349 ]

Yesterday, we talked about intelligence and truth. One of the points that was made was that intelligence is basically applied knowledge -- that is, it doesn't help someone if he knows a lot but doesn't apply this knowledge in his life. We also talked about how truth basically is the knowledge of unchanging principles.

An interesting parallel was drawn between knowing a gospel principle and knowing a secular principle such as grammar or mathematics -- if someone knows a gospel principle and applies it in his life, then that is often termed "obedience". Yet the action is basically the same as when someone takes a grammatical rule and uses it to string along words to make a sentence, or someone who takes two mathematical laws and uses the principles of logic to derive a third law from the two of them. In both cases, there is knowledge of a truth, and the application of that knowledge. So in a way, a person who writes a grammatical sentence is obeying a rule or an underlying principle in the same way that someone who observes a gospel principle is doing so -- or an architect who obeys certain rules in designing a structure, or (I suppose) a programmer who implements an algorithm.

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  • There is a fundamental difference between a Mathematical "truth" and a gospel "truth".

    A Mathematical "truth" is one that a vast majority of people with a sufficiently good background to understand the point will agree upon as true. (It might still be false, or incomplete. Non-Euclidean geometry changed the "truth" that had been agreed upon for thousands of years. Nowadays it is accepted that Euclidean geometry is a useful special subset of a more complete "truth". The old accepted "truth" falls when an
    • Well, since this discussion was in the context of a religious class, it was posited that there *is* an absolute truth -- but that all gospels only understand part of it (a bit like the elephant and blind men story, perhaps): some understand, say 80% correctly, others 55%, others perhaps 92%, with overlaps and so on. This would imply that if two gospels have different views on the same subject, they could not both be completely correct at the same time.

      (And about not fighting a war over mathematical truths,

      Esli epei eto cumprenan, shris soa Sfaha.
      Aettot ibrec epesecoth, spakhea scrifeteis.

  • Was it Wittgenstein who said that the opposite of a mundane truth is merely false, but the opposite of a great truth is also a great truth?
  • It may interest you to know that one school of thought in linguistics, the functionalists, says that there are no grammatical rules/principles -- at least not in the sense you're thinking of.

    Instead of supposing that generating sentences works by following rules for assembling the parts, the functionalists would say that there's instead a bunch of neural networks that say how much a given sentence looks like ones it's heard before; so [the functionalists argue] actually producing a good sentence is a matter

    • In that model, any actual generalizations like "pronouns should have a clear antecedent" are not the operational principles of the system, but merely generalizations that we would make about the behavior of the system.

      While I might agree in principle, this to me seems like a bad example, since without a clear antecedent the pronoun is vague; so this is not merely a matter of proper form, but of adequate function ...
      • Case one:
        Say you and the wife are at a restaurant. A guy comes in and the waiter leads them to the empty table next to you. The guy takes his jacket off and puts it on the back of the chair. He picks it up, and in doing so, somehow spills the water glass all over himself. You and your wife both see this. As the guy goes off to the bathroom to towel off his clothes, you look at your wife and say "wow, /he's/ having a bad day!". Voila, a pronoun with no antecedent -- but a clear referent.

        Case two:

        • I guess when I was thinking "clear antecedent" I was thinking of referents as well; that is, that in case one, we clearly know what the referent of the pronoun is. Me use word bad.