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Everyday logic

  1. Mar 18, 2004 #1
    All that is needed to establish a vase as existing is the fact that it can perform a function in accordance with its definition. Names, it can hold and pour water.

    Anyone who disagrees must explain why this is not a sufficient reason.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2004 #2
    What if I disagree on the function of a vase? You may argue that my vase does not exist because it does not suit your purpose and I may argue that your vase does not exist because it does not suit my purpose. On another hand, a third person may come in and throw both our vases and say their purpose was to shatter into a bunch of pieces, which doesn't suit either of our purposes!

  4. Mar 18, 2004 #3
    The proper definition of a vase is the one first given to it by someone. After this point it is conventionally accepted as the definition.
  5. Mar 18, 2004 #4
    So what about vestigial organs (e.g. the appendix)? They served some kind of purpose in the past, so therefore they previously had a definition. They no longer serve a purpose and so have been redefined. Which definition is correct? The first or second? Do they cease to exist because they can no longer satisfy their primarily defined purpose?

    Either way, it does not answer my question. Who's to say who defined it first? Whoever holds the patent? Whoever ran around Times Square screaming "I hereby define the purpose of this vase!"? What happens if the first definition is lost to time?

    Additionally, what if I don't agree with that definition? What if I don't use the vase for that purpose and would never consider using the vase for such a purpose?

  6. Mar 18, 2004 #5


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    My beer mug also holds water. Is it also a vase?

    My mouth also holds water...

    A puddle also holds water...

    Now, abstractly, you are right about the purpose of a definition, but clearly a definition must be extremely specific and unambiguous to be useful.
  7. Mar 19, 2004 #6
    The definition of anything is what is conventionally agreed upon. Because it is not inherent to the object, but based on convension, as conventional standards change so does the definition. The reason you establish the definition based on who firsted defined it is that you need a starting point. The point of my statements is that there is no inherent definition of an object. It is defined in relation to what is conventionally accepted. In western philosophy, this type of thinking can be found in Wittgenstein.
  8. Mar 19, 2004 #7
    Re: Re: Everyday logic

    Sure you mug or mouth can hold and pour water but that is not their primary function.

    What my argument is an attack upon is the idea of some inherent meaning to words beyond their conventional use. For example, the word vase does not identify some kind of object that is inherently a vase from its own side, that is, exists independent of its parts. The only reason a particular object is a vase is because conventionally it is agreed upon that the object is a vase. There is nothing objectively 'out there' that is the vase independent of our labeling it so. There is no thing that exists independent of its parts that we can identify and say for sure that this is the vase.
  9. Mar 19, 2004 #8
    Re: Re: Re: Everyday logic

    But if words have no inherent meaning beyond their conventional usage, how can children learn language? Can you ever learn the meaning of a single Chinese ideogram if you read all Chinese texts ever published? I very much doubt it. So there's got to be more to words than their usage.
  10. Mar 19, 2004 #9


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    There is a certain elegent symmetry to the definition of words.

    The more effort you expend in making the definition narrow, the more accurately that word can be used. At some point, though, it is no longer worthwhile to have a more narrow definition, and instead it is better to use combinations of words.

    In this case, a vase is not just something that holds water. We have different words for vase, pitcher, bottle because they perform different funtions. We don't however, have different words for glass vases, cheap vases, blue vases etc.

    This might just seem like common sense, but it doesn't always work this way. Does anybody here wear khakis? If they are different colors, they are blue work pants, or black work pants, but if they are khaki, they are not khaki work pants, they are just khakis.

    If half of all the vases in the world were made of translucent pink glass, we would have a single word to call it. A vase of translucent yellow glass would still have a multi-word name, but the "pinkie" wold be a single word.

  11. Mar 19, 2004 #10


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    Re: Re: Re: Re: Everyday logic

    While words have no inherent meaning beyond convention, there are other forms of communication. There are meanings hard-wired into the human brain. The meaning of a smile, of eye-contact, of a hug etc. These are the tools used to bridge to the first words.

  12. Mar 19, 2004 #11
    Are you trything to prove the existance of a vase, or its definition? Establishing the definition of something is a simple thing, proving the existance of a specific thing is not.
  13. Mar 19, 2004 #12
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Everyday logic

    The fact that people can learn different languages is an indication that the words are merely conventional. Otherwise all people would have the same word for father.
  14. Mar 19, 2004 #13
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Everyday logic

    I wasn't talking about that; of course the six letters what make up the word 'father' are completely arbitrary. But isn't it also a fact that all languages have a word for what we in English call 'father'?

    By the way, what we in English call 'father' happens to be the meaning of the word 'father'. That is not arbitrary at all.
  15. Mar 19, 2004 #14

    Tom Mattson

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    And what if you fill the vase with concrete and let it set? Does the vase stop being a vase just because it can no longer hold water?

    This seems like a trivial exercise in semantics to me.
  16. Mar 19, 2004 #15
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Everyday logic

    Even animals have the ability to recognize their parents. The fact that that most cultures have a word for father is nothing special. What I am arguing against is an object that exists independent of its parts that is the referent of the word 'father'.
  17. Mar 19, 2004 #16
    Re: Re: Everyday logic

    I'm with you on this one...what if it is a hollowed-out TV with water in it, it is a vase?
  18. Mar 20, 2004 #17
    New borns does not have the ability to recognize their parents.

    The word father is nothing special, but it does not mean that there can not be an interpretation of it.

    An object that exists independent from its parts only occurs when its parts are learned from the senses. Seeing an object and remembering the word that associates with the object classifies the object to be that specific word. If another person were to look at a different object, and associate the same word to it, what would be the outcome?
    Once the word is said, it will be recalled to be that object. Different people will interpret only the object that they have learned. An object is defined by its shape, size, orientation, texture, etc...

    If I were to name an unknown part, such as a $!#$!@, only a selected few would understand what it is. People who do not understand, will say that it does not exist? But it does to those who understand.

    Even if a word were accepted conventionally, there will still be a different interpretation of it. Everyones' brains are different from one another.


    Now, back to the topic.

    It is true that a vask can be defined by the specific functions. However, it can also be defined by its physical appearance.
    The term existing is too vague. I can have an object that looks like a vask, but never know its function. It "exists" solely because of our interpretation of what it is, and not primarily because of its function.
  19. Mar 21, 2004 #18
    Yes they do because they have memory.
  20. Mar 21, 2004 #19
    Sorry protonman... I think I should have been more clear on what I have meant.

    A newly born animal, even with a memory capacity, does not have the capability to recognize its own parents without being taught who the animal's parents is. It can recognize its parents after it has been taught.

    What i was referring to when I quoted "New borns does not have the ability to recognize their parents.", was when the new born had just been born (hence the term "new born"), before it can gain any information on who its parents are.
  21. Apr 15, 2004 #20
    my view, is that if you were to change an object, then you have every right to strip it of its original definition if it no longer satisfied the criteria, and at the end of the day, no definition is perfect, as nothing is abslute in this case, all relative.
    Even the english language is composed of words which are all defined by other words, which are defined by other words etc etc. so it all self references.
    I'm not so sure that language is a good way to illustrate logic really, but I could be missing something.

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