• unenlightened
    6.8k
    1. Essential properties - These are properties which are absolutely necessary to the word. A tree is a plant.
    2. Accidental properties - Properties that the definition can contain, but are not essential to its identity. "A tree can have branches".
    Philosophim

    These trees have roots and branches, but are not plants. https://medium.com/@gp_pulipaka/an-essential-guide-to-classification-and-regression-trees-in-r-language-4ced657d176b

    Are there trees without branches?Benj96

    Palm trees tend not to have branches.

    Then there are tree ferns, tree heathers, tree peonies, etc.

    In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated stem, or trunk, usually supporting branches and leaves. In some usages, the definition of a tree may be narrower, including only woody plants with secondary growth, plants that are usable as lumber or plants above a specified height. In wider definitions, the taller palms, tree ferns, bananas, and bamboos are also trees.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree

    It is a fact, that even within botany, 'tree' is not strictly defined. Some philosophers will attempt to impose a definition, and complain when folk use the word differently or point out difficulties. But the rest of us know that where the boundary of the word is is unimportant except when it becomes important and that's when a specification is appropriate. I have some birch trees in my garden that are less than an inch tall. I am growing them from seed.They are dwarfed by the heather - a shrub with the structure and woody stem and branches of a tree. But they will catch up.

    In engineering, a plant is machinery. In politics, a plant is something else again.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    For me, definition means to place separations/ delineations, limitations or parameters around a concept or thing which divides it into A “the defined” - the content within the parameters, and B “all other things” ie. “it” and “not it”. Definitions separate things by character or relationship to one another. By “contrast” essentially.Benj96
    Right, so the opposite of a word would be what constrains that word. So,

    However this immediately leads to some issues especially at the extremes.
    If I take the word “everything” how do I define it? You cannot “divide” the concept of “everything” as it is parameterless. Any parameter to u try to place around the set/ content is also included in the set/content.

    Similarly you cannot define nothing as it’s contentless. You can’t place a parameter around an empty set.
    Benj96

    https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/everything

    Seems like "nothing" and "everything" contrast each other. Everything = the opposite of nothing. To illustrate, think about the memories you have since you were born and the memories you have before you were born.

    This would mean that if we define “shoe” as the Oxford English Dictionary does as “one pair of objects usually made of leather or plastic that you wear on your feet” , a shoe can never be a). something you don’t wear on your feet, b). A non physical object or c) something that doesn’t come in pairs. Do you thing that’s a good definition of a shoe?

    Because that definition permits someone to be wearing a pair of plastic watering cans they have never removed from their feet, they’ve always been there, and if they were to lose one they will have violated some law about not being in pairs and the watering-can would reappear magically.

    Obviously this is an absurd and overly literal interpretation of “shoe” but it highlights the degree of assumptions we require in order to appreciate a definition correctly. Is a good definition then really one where no assumptions have to made?

    It seems that the more specific you make a definition, the more possibilities you omit, that is to say the more inaccurate the definition it gets as most things can be made in an endless myriad of styles, shapes, forms, and even functions and from multiple materials in any number of combinations.

    What then do all the millions of shoes in the world have in common? Some are graphics on paper or in media, some are described concepts from peoples minds and some are on your feet but all of them can be defined easily by anyone as a “shoe.”

    The most accurate definition of a shoe could be said to be “something”. It’s likely that this definition will indeed contain the set of all possible shoes. However no that the definition is accurate it is completely non-specific.

    So it appears that specificity and accuracy in language are inversely related. Definitions can be specific but inaccurate or non-specific and accurate.
    Thoughts?
    Benj96

    The fact that you used the term, "watering cans" instead of "shoes" shows that there is a distinction between watering cans and shoes. Can shoes hold water? So you can add, cannot hold water to the definition of shoes. We only need to be as specific in our definitions as the goal requires. Most people understand what one means when we say "shoes". This usually meets the requirements to achieve the goal of communicating what one intends to communicate.

    You then go on to describe this use of "watering cans" as "shoes" as "absurd". What does that mean if not that it would be absurd to think of watering cans when someone uses the word, "shoes". What you have done is define "shoes" in a way that excludes watering cans. To be absurd means that if you thought of watering cans as shoes then you are not using the proper definition of "shoes".

    I think that there is a reason why there is difficulty in defining say "consciousness" or "god" as opposed to "shoes". What do you think that reason could be?
  • Philosophim
    1.2k
    reply="unenlightened;693306"]
    You neglected to note the point I made about context.

    3. Context - A societal or intentional situation that changes the essential and accidental properties of the definition. "That plaster statue is a tree." (It is not essential that a tree be a plant, as we are within the context of artistic representations, and thus plaster).Philosophim

    The context within "botany", (textbook definition) botany determines what are the essential and accidental properties. If of course different areas of botany have different contexts, they'll define the essential and accidental properties as different. It may very well be that several groups have great difficulty agreeing on the "correct" context the entire group should take. But, there has to be some meaning to the word that is essential to that word. If there was nothing essential to the word within the context, then a tree could be equivalent to a bus.
  • Banno
    17.9k
    lhe Identification of Eucalypts

    There are almost a thousand recognised species of Eucalypts. While some few are readily identified, there are innumerable mutations, mixtures, hybrids, and unstable populations. There can be significant variation within an individual tree. One tree might be reasonably categorised as belonging to more than one species.

    Eucalypts simply do not choose to fall into neat categories for the benefit of botanists and foresters.

    The various trees do not have essential characteristics that mark them as members of this species or of that.

    All of which should serve to show that the picture some folk have of a world that can be neatly divided by essences is just wrong.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    I received an an alert that your link was blocked due to a Trojan virus so I didn't go any further in trying to read it.

    While I agree that there are natural things that challenge our definitions and categories, there are far more objects that fit neatly in and outside of those categories than lie in the grey area of Eucalypts and not-Eucalypts, and that must mean something. There must be a reason that our categories are useful and that reason is that most objects do fit neatly inside and outside of our categories. Errors in DNA replication are rare, not common, and that must mean something.
  • Philosophim
    1.2k
    Eucalypts simply do not choose to fall into neat categories for the benefit of botanists and foresters.

    The various trees do not have essential characteristics that mark them as members of this species or of that.
    Banno

    This. The world does not determine the essential characteristics that mark them as members of a species. We do.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    You just killed yourself OP! Memetic suicide.
  • Hillary
    1.9k


    That's no pipe!
  • Banno
    17.9k
    ...that must mean something.Harry Hindu

    It means we construct useful categories, nothing more.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    That's no pipe!Hillary

    No, that's the piper. He wants his money!

    :snicker:
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    I received an an alert that your link was blocked due to a Trojan virusHarry Hindu

    A new variant showing up?

    No, that's the piper. He wants his moneyAgent Smith

    Does he pipe for money?

    "pijpen: whistle; blow; hum; give a blow-job; suckpijp: tobacco-pipe; pipe; piping; pipage"
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    Does he pipe for money?

    "pijpen: whistle; blow; hum; give a blow-job; suckpijp: tobacco-pipe; pipe; piping; pipage"
    Hillary

    I dunno! :snicker:
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    It means we construct useful categories, nothing more.Banno
    What does it mean to be useful if not that it carries some element of truth (as in what is the case)? All of your statements are about what is the case. Either we construct useful categories or we don't. You can use scribbles, "we", to refer to we. Are we just more scribbles, or are you using scribbles to refer to things that are not scribbles, like a group of humans?
  • Banno
    17.9k
    What does it mean to be useful if not that it carries some element of truthHarry Hindu

    That's been explained to you repeatedly: performative utterances.
    All of your statements are about what is the case.Harry Hindu
    No. Some of them make something the case.

    But that is apparently beyond your comprehension. So be it.
  • Harry Hindu
    4.9k
    That's been explained to you repeatedly: performative utterances.Banno

    No. Some of them make something the case.

    But that is apparently beyond your comprehension. So be it.
    Banno
    Why so snarky? You've repeated yourself many times to many others on this forum, and I'm sure they have repeated themselves to you, and then you ignore what they said and end up repeating yourself without acknowledging what others have said.

    Repeating myself here:
    Commands don't make something the case if the person being commanded refuses to do what was commanded. Commands are shortcuts for expressing the utterer's wants and needs (just imagine "I want/need you to" preceding every command), not making something the case because the one being command can refuse.

    Greeting someone isn't making something the case other than your intent to start a conversation because the one you greet might not greet you back.

    You don't seem to comprehend that the listener or reader needs to participate in making it the case and there is a chance they might not, so just saying it doesn't make it the case.
  • Banno
    17.9k
    You cherry pick examples.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    What's the goddamned difference between essence and definition?

    Essences are those qualities of a thing without which that thing wouldn't be that thing e.g. a lupine ancestry is a must for a dog.

    Definitions contain essences (necessary qualities), but the difference is that the conjunction (logical AND) of the discovered essences constitute a criterion for identifying that which has been defined (sufficiency of the definitions). For example, being descended from wolves (one essence/necessary) and being tame/domesticated (the other essence/also necessary) together make up the sufficient conditions for a dog.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    And yet we use words without being able to provide suitable definitions.

    Consider that a child does not learn to use a word by being told its definition. They learn by imitation, trying out new expressions, getting it wrong and getting it right.

    The definition comes only after the word had been used.
    Banno

    Could it be that this is a case of Rumsfeldian unknown knowns? You do know but you don't know that you know! A crude but easy way to test this hypothesis would be to introduce a person to a new word, then give them the definition and ask "does the definition make sense/does it feel right?" If the reply is in the affirmative, something really interesting is going on, oui? From reincarnation to time travel, the possibilities are limtless.
  • Banno
    17.9k
    What's the goddamned difference between essence and definition?Agent Smith

    A definition sets the essence of some thing in words.

    The essence is that aspect of the thing that makes it what it is, and not something else.

    The idea comes from an antiquated Aristotelian logic such that the world could be divided up by Genus and differentia. It was found wanting.

    Could it be that this is a case of Rumsfeldian unknown knowns?Agent Smith

    I don't think so. It's more that neural networks are able to use words without using a symbolic representation. You know how to use the word "tree" despite not being able to say what a tree is.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    Gracias Banno for clarifying what essence means. It basically means definition. Yet the definition of essence I provided isn't exactly wrong is it? If water loses its essence, it ceases then and there to be water.

    A definition tends to be applied in whole; essences can be in parts. There is, should be, one definition but there could be many essences.

    Coming to neurolinguistics, I'd say it's a hairy problem. Our brains are capable of using a word correctly without knowing the definition of the given word. Reminds me of LaMDA (check out the thread, it's active).
  • Banno
    17.9k
    Gracias Banno for clarifying what essence means.Agent Smith

    I'll try again. The essence is in the thing. The definition is in the words.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    I'll try again. The essence is in the thing. The definition is in the words.Banno

    :lol: Having trouble with thick-skulled people again, Banno?
  • bert1
    1.2k
    A definition sets the essence of some thing in words.Banno

    I don't think that's what dictionaries intend. The definition of 'tree' on dictionary.com uses qualifiers such as 'usually' and 'ordinarily' to indicate central unproblematic cases without implying an essence.

    Philosophers might insist on essences, but that doesn't reflect lexicography.

    Stipulating an essence is sometimes useful in a discussion when an important point depends on extreme clarity to be made. But usually identifying a usage is good enough for accuracy.

    I like dictionaries. They're fun. And they contain definitions, which are also fun. Don't spoil the fun by saying that lexicographers peddle essences, or that definitions always stipulate essences.

    Definitions describe usage, which I would have though you approve of.
  • Banno
    17.9k
    :lol: Having trouble with thick-skulled people again, Banno?Agent Smith

    Always.


    sure, all that. The point was to distinguish essence from definition for Smith. A definition is a statement. An essence isn't. Nothing more was intended.
  • Janus
    12.6k
    However this immediately leads to some issues especially at the extremes.
    If I take the word “everything” how do I define it? You cannot “divide” the concept of “everything” as it is parameterless. Any parameter to u try to place around the set/ content is also included in the set/content.
    Benj96

    I'd say that any particular thing, or collection of particular things, does not qualify as 'everything' so it or they do not fall within the parameters that define the concept.
  • Janus
    12.6k
    I'll try again. The essence is in the thing. The definition is in the words.Banno

    And yet we may have essential definitions.
  • Agent Smith
    6.2k
    AlwaysBanno

    :up: Sorry about that. Hang in there!
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