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  1. #31
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    Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    I'm not sure I understood Dawnstorm's last comment, though. Would you mind explaining it to me?
    First off, I agree that the "hard sciences" don't get around the perception problem.

    I'm not sure the perception problem matters much in the hard sciences. You said it very well:

    They go so far as to believe they can divest themselves of philosophical reflection, because such reflection is considered to contribute nothing toward the advance of scientific knowledge.
    Now, this philosophical reflection is more problematic in social sciences.

    All scientific knowledge is ultimately knowledge about relations (object level). And knowledge itself is a relation of mind to world (subject level).

    Since the hard sciences deal with relations of matter to matter, there is no mind-problem on the world side. "Mind" only comes into the relation between mind and world. That's why you can have different theories: Newtonian, relativity, quantum mechanics, chaos theory etc.

    For sciences that deal with products of human activity, mind comes in at the object level. To get back to the phoneme-examples: phonemes are objects that are defined by a relationship between mind (interpretative habits) and matter (sounds). Mind comes in again at the subject level, the level of examining.

    Since mind-part on the object level (i.e. the mind-part of the phoneme; the distinction part of the distinctive features) is not directly accessible, but has to be reproduced via intuition to have data at all, there is an element of potential equation: part of the data is assumed by intuitive experience.

    This wouldn't be all that important, if there wasn't the possibility of a feedback loop. Any hypothesis (subject level) may change the way you conceive of the "mind-part" on the object level - because you have no (direct) corrective in the physical world.

    If you sit alone in a room, with only your memories and without outside input, you may be able to convince yourself that the phoneme "æ" does not exist, and re-map your mind, until you stop perceiving the range of sounds that made up "æ" as a coherent sound. By that time you have redistributed all the sounds towards "neighbouring" sounds. You might still utter the same phones on occasion, but - if you do - you hear different phonemes. Since you're alone in that room, the phoneme "æ" has - for all practical purposes - ceased to exist. (It's a very hard task, and it has no value at all. That's why I said it's impractical.)

    If you sit alone in a room, no amount of mindwork can switch off gravity.

    Basically, it's why we can speak of "language change", but not "gravity change". Because cognition is not involved on the object level. Whether we have gravity or curved space, the object behaved the same, behaves the same, and will behave the same. What changes is merely the theory; the subject level.

    The matter part of the object level doesn't change either. We are physically capable to utter the same sounds (please allow me to ignore individual variety and evolution; my head's already spinning!), but the mind part of the object level can change.

    Now, once you realise that, by researching language, you place yourself within the concrete here and now, the huge ongoing process of language change, you can't - with a clear conscience - ignore the "mind-problem". Unfortunately, there is no obvious way to tackle it.

    An example: Currently, many native speakers of English view the suffix -ise/-ize as a dialect marker of British/American English. They're often surprised to see the Oxford English Dictionary, the British resource in the popular mind, prefer -ize. You cannot tackle the question on a fact-level, alone. History might help: Britain has moved on, America hasn't. The OED (a) favours variety, and (b) is - where possible - traditionalist. But what does this mean for variety within both American English and British English? Are all those people mistaken? Are we observing language change? Will the OED ever prefer "-ise"? Whatever you say will influence the way it turns out, however small your contribution may be. Viewed like that research is not only finding out facts, it's creating facts. Research is not only discovery, it's also politics.

  2. #32
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by Dawnstorm View Post

    Basically, it's why we can speak of "language change", but not "gravity change". Because cognition is not involved on the object level. Whether we have gravity or curved space, the object behaved the same, behaves the same, and will behave the same. What changes is merely the theory; the subject level.
    Can objects exist independently of cognition, or the mind level? Is that what you mean? Aren't objects composed of ideas? If gravity for instance occurs independently of cognition, than it also exists above sense-perception. Or, can things beyond human thoughts and speech be recognized as objective at all?
    The falling apple could just as well be an idea (subject level).
    Last edited by bianca; 13-Aug-2007 at 06:46.

  3. #33
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    Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    Can objects exist independently of cognition, or the mind level? Is that what you mean? Aren't objects composed of ideas? If gravity for instance occurs independently of cognition, than it also exists above sense-perception. Or, can things beyond human thoughts and speech be recognized as objective at all?
    The falling apple could just as well be an idea (subject level).
    Objects aren't objects, if no subject perceives them. In so far "objects" are composed of ideas. But that's on the subject level.

    No subject has direct access to the object, i.e. the object level is ultimately an unresolvable mystery. Still, on the subject level we construe objects so that they have "constituents". Some of these "constituents" involve matter (according to the subject's concept of the object), and some involve meaning.

    For example, you have a rock and a nutcracker. You can use both to crack open a nut. The nutcracker function of the rock is imposed on the concept of the rock by the subject. The nutcracker function of the nutcracker is what makes the nutcracker a nutcracker. We have no name for a nutcracker viewed as a thing without inherent nutcracker function. The intention, the meaning, of the object is inherent to the concept.

    The object level is not the "thing level". Nutcrackers and phonemes don't exist on the "thing level". Rocks and trees do. The operative difference is that we create nutcrackers and phonemes with specific goals in mind. If we didn't want to communicate, there would be no phonemes. If we didn't want to crack nuts, there would be no nutcrackers.

    We can, of course, doubt the existance of everything; there are no things at all. We can doubt away things and objects, until all that remains is faint glow of the dubter (subject), doubting. I don't see, though, how that is relevant to science. Science doesn't care about things; it's all about "experience" - empirical science, at least (is there any other kind?). "Experience" always already involves an object and a subject, "tainted" things - if you will. As long as you manipulate the relations between object and subject in a way that maximises communication and minimises subject-subject conflict ("rules of the game"), science works.

  4. #34
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    "Objects aren't objects, if no subject perceives them. In so far "objects" are composed of ideas. But that's on the subject level." - this means that objects or truths cannot exist beyond meaning (intention). Are truths subjective? Are they mental representations, or metaphors?

    "No subject has direct access to the object." - this means that the existence of objects or of truths requires that we go beyond mere intention (meaning). Can an object exist outside of the mind? Phenomenologists mean that the existence of objects requires that we have evidence and evidence is provided by intuition. Objective truths, then, are provided by intuition. Is that what you mean?


    I am sorry for being so inquisitive. I learn so very much from you, even if it is not directly about language. But language is philosophy, isn't it?
    Last edited by bianca; 13-Aug-2007 at 16:02.

  5. #35
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    Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    I am sorry for being so inquisitive. I learn so very much from you, even if it is not directly about language. But language is philosophy, isn't it?
    I find the questions interesting. It's good to have to structure your thoughts. I'm learning things, too. :D


    "Objects aren't objects, if no subject perceives them. In so far "objects" are composed of ideas. But that's on the subject level." - this means that objects or truths cannot exist beyond meaning (intention). Are truths subjective? Are they mental representations, or metaphors?


    1. I wouldn't use the word "truth" in this context at all. "Truth" is a property of statements. Objects aren't statements.

    2. The word I'd use instead is "reality", or "real".

    3. "Dragons breath fire." The statement is true, but dragons are not real. Dragons are objects, though, with the property "unreal". The "concept of dragons" exists, but thinking about the "concept of dragons" is not the same object as thinking about "dragons". "Thinking about the concept of dragons" is turning the subject level of the object dragons into an object of its own. This process can go on indefinitely, but brains don't have unlimited capacity.

    4. The subject/object distinction points towards a point of view, with subjects and objects being two aspects of the same point of view. A subject views an object from a point of view. The object has no point of view. (Although, from a different point of view, the object may well be a subject.)

    5. This is akin to the grammatical notion of transitivity: [Subject] -verb-> [object].

    6. "Real" is a relationship between "object" and "set1 which contains or doesn't contain object"; or, in short, between the "object" and the "world". "Truth" is a relationship between a "statement" and "conditions within a system" (say logic, maths, common sense).

    7. Both "real" and "true" can be objects of their own right, but this is far from easy, and many different takes on that exist.

    "No subject has direct access to the object." - this means that the existence of objects or of truths requires that we go beyond mere intention (meaning). Can an object exist outside of the mind? Phenomenologists mean that the existence of objects requires that we have evidence and evidence is provided by intuition. Objective truths, then, are provided by intuition. Is that what you mean?
    Pretty much. I'm making the assumption that there are things behind objects, even if they're just the physical representation of "memory" in the brain. (It's quite possible that memories are themselves relations between things; I don't know enough about the brain, to judge.)

    It's a methodological assumption, though. I don't think much beyond the subject/object distinction; I don't care much about "reality" or "truth" beyond specific contexts.

  6. #36
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Thank you, Dawnstorm. Now, I need to sit down and take my time parsing your answer. This is going to be really interesting!

  7. #37
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Dawnstorm,


    Starting from your description of concept versus object, I want to see if theories can be 100% objective and why yes/not.

    First, let me see if I got this right:

    The concept of the dragon exists independently of our sensory modalities, while the object meaning of the dragon (the "real thing") would emerge/come to exist through verification in sensory and real activity. In programming for instance, the object designer has to look beyond the current application to see the object as an entire concept, independent of any one application.
    I hope I got the difference between concept/object right.

    Conclusion: Theories are about objects, while hypotheses about concepts. Is that so??

    In other words, theories build on perception (perception of the properties of the object, or "visual" thinking) plus reason (another kind of "thinking"), which is the faculty only of indirect, demonstrative knowledge achieved through praxis (verification in sensory and real activity). At the same time, there are object meanings which cannot in principle be sensually perceived by the subject, and cannot be verifiable through sensory activity. These referential meanings are in principle abstract meanings. Like, you know that smth exists, but you cannot prove it. Intelligent people (but less wise) know that something is so but do not know why; the others know why (logically) and apprehend the cause.

    That means that, in order for them to be objective, scientific theories must also "ring true" emotionally. Which, to me, is a paradox - per definition, objectiveness is matter-of-fact, isn't it? Theories cannot be 100% verifiable in praxis due to this abstract meaning of sensuous texture. This could explain a bit the "intersubjectivity" you named previously and the controversies among theoreticians. They can probably pinpoint concepts, but not objective objects. Is that so? If so, is there a major difference between hypotheses and theories?

    You claim that: "I don't care much about the "reality" or "truth" beyond specific contexts." I believe you mean you care only about rational knowledge, but not much about imagination. However, it is through imagination (born out of experience), that the rational knowledge comes about. Real objects can emerge from fictitious contexts to which one can only reach with a little imagination. Don't you believe in aesthetic knowledge, or in the "intuitive" mind, Dawnstorm?

    Sorry if I've messed you up. I know I could have expressed myself a little better, but I have been upside-down lately...
    Last edited by bianca; 16-Aug-2007 at 11:54.

  8. #38
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    Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Arrgh! I've just typed up a post, took me about two hours, and it isn't here!

    I don't have the time or energy for a repeat performance; I'll get back to it later.

  9. #39
    bianca is offline Senior Member
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    Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    So, you really are messed up

  10. #40
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    Re: linguistic theories (grammar, language)

    Quote Originally Posted by bianca View Post
    So, you really are messed up
    Yup, more than the posts (or lack thereof) show.

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