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Re: Terms and statements (was: consensus and ownership)

From: Bijan Parsia <bparsia@isr.umd.edu>
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 13:47:52 -0400
To: Graham Klyne <GK@ninebynine.org>
Cc: "Thomas B. Passin" <tpassin@comcast.net>, public-sw-meaning@w3.org
Message-Id: <7d4c8ddc.d3cd23f4.8166300@isrmail.isr.umd.edu>

On Thursday, October 16, 2003, at 09:52  AM, Graham Klyne wrote:

At 08:47 16/10/03 -0400, Thomas B. Passin wrote:
Graham Klyne wrote:
This idea of meaning being based in consensus also appears in the work by 
Quine that I mentioned the other week [1].
A possible difference in position would be that you talk about the meaning 
of a URI, where Quine's analysis suggest that it's not the individual terms 
but complete statements that have meaning.  (I think that's a point that Pat 
has been trying to press, too.)

I think that individual terms _do_ have meaning for people.

So what? I mean, you may think that, it may be useful to think that (e.g., in 
teaching language), but its a very hard thing (impossible, according to 
many!) to establish.

Oh wait, I was reading you a bit too strongly. see below.

 For example, the word "gravity" certainly has meaning for me.  It may well 
be that my sense of its meaning comes mainly from a large collection of 
statments that I have heard or uttered in the past - along with personal 
experience - but nevertheless the term itself carries meaning for me.

You may associate meaning with the term but what *gives* it is meaning? 
In other words, in what *makes* have the meaning it does? Also, the 
Quinian notion is more that statements (or sets of statements) are the 
*primary* fonts of meaning. That's compatible with terms having meaning.

Of course, this is in tension (surface tension, at least) with the 
compositional theory of meaning, i.e., for truth functional logic that the 
truth of the statement is a function of the truth of its components.

However, I think this is a blushing herring. Holism and consensus focus are 
somewhat distinct.

So, while I agree that consensus based meaning, in some sense, is present 
in some of Quine's work, I don't agree that his Holism (or *just* holism) 
requires consensus or perhaps even uses consensus. (For example, 
sentences telling me that I'm wrong in my use of a term needn't have my 
assent, or even lack of opposistion.)


Bijan Parsia.
Received on Thursday, 16 October 2003 13:48:46 UTC

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