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   Linguistic Philosophy Reading and URI Related Reading Material

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  • To: "Jeff Rafter" <jeffrafter@defined.net>,<xml-dev@lists.xml.org>
  • Subject: Linguistic Philosophy Reading and URI Related Reading Material
  • From: "James Governor" <jgovernor@red-monk.com>
  • Date: Wed, 29 Jan 2003 08:08:30 -0600
  • Thread-index: AcLHl2Nlk/DPXiMtTAWOADQ58tLq6wABRyGg
  • Thread-topic: Linguistic Philosophy Reading and URI Related Reading Material

Ok jeff- I get the hint. Let me find some time to make a list and précis.

For a quick jotting however:

I believe Wittgenstein is so interesting philosophically in the signified signifier debate because during the course of his career he went from asserting a strong position that words had meaning according to an underlying essence, a representation of reality (the picture theory of meaning), in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, to the OPPOSITE position, that words had meaning only in the context that we use them, that the meaning of a word is a function of its "use", rather than any underlying essence. The later work, the Philosophical Investigation is a really good read, and tackles many of the issues that I see discussed on this list.

The fact that he strongly held *both* positions during his career provides some salutary lessons for us all.... and also indicates that an appreciation of ambiguity might be rather helpful (he suffered from mental illness, perhaps as a result of "thinking too hard".)

Wittgenstein's use of game theory and explanations of what he means by "meaning as use" are exemplary, in that they make the reader think, rather than telling them what to think. The notions that he builds out, that we understand each other because of shared experience, rules for use and so on, in the context of a community, has some obvious implications for how we think about resources and how they can be shared and used.

One of Wittgensteins most famous paradoxes is that of the "beetle in the box"--which shows that for sense and perception data, we are doomed to failure if we look for the essence of that feeling. It makes no sense for example to ask whether someone who is in pain is "really in pain". We see they are in pain and we KNOW they are in pain. Acting brings some wrinkles to that thinking--but can't we usually tell when someone is acting. There is no need to know what is "in the box" to know there is something there--outward behaviour and description is all we really have to go on. [sorry for the poor explanation, he does it much better!] This argument is specifically about sensory datum.

In summary--rather than asking what this object is, we should ask how it is used. If we know how it is used, then we know what it is, and probably what to do with it. 

What I like about his game theory is that it allows for evolution of language--and evolution of use. We use language differently. The Past is another Country....

The same goes for application repurposing, doesn't it? We may not have intended the app to be used in this way when we built it, but this is how we're using it now. We are surely doomed to failure if we try and identify all possible use cases for a set of data. On the other hand, if we do describe how we are using it, then someone else is in a position to innovate around that data, because they understand the "meaning" of the data, its "use" in the language or system.

The aim of this email is just to point to what might be interesting reading for those on the list that want to think about this conceptually and philosophically. Sorry if you feel it is inappropriate to XML Dev.

James Governor
(+44) 207 254 7371

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Rafter [mailto:jeffrafter@defined.net] 
Sent: 29 January 2003 13:13
To: Leigh Dodds; xml-dev@lists.xml.org
Subject: Re: [xml-dev] URI Related Reading Material

> If you think of anything else then send 'em in and I'll add them
> to the page (or feel free to add them in comments).

Looks great (and thanks to Jonathan for the links as well)! Now, while I am
feeling even more ascetic, I had a great conversation offlist that made me
think I needed more reading. Maybe you could add some classics to the list
(more philosophy/theory based)-- Wittgenstein, Moore and Russell? I am not
sure which is the most applicable or the most accessible as I am just
beginning on them now. It just seems like every three months they also come
up. If you do add them to the list I would add a little note that says Drink


Jeff Rafter

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