Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
One of the problems, with which I am much exercised, is the disjunction between the referent and the referenced.

If I deploy 1010 - define a semiotic - to be "the knowledge contained in the British Museum" and write:


Have I communicated the knowledge contained in the British Museum?  Of course not.  I've communicated the text string "the knowledge contained in the British Museum."  But ...

Marx used 1010 to write Das Kapital.

And, since 1010 is the same as, can be equated to, the hexidecimal numeral A:

Marx used A to write Das Kapital.

NASA, we've achieved communication.

We do this sort of thing all the time.  In fact this is an example of how our brains physically work.

There is a problem.

Symbols do not reside in splendiferous isolation but are associated, in the Mind, with other referents, references, and emotive tags.  If you're terrified of the People's Commissary Number 12 nationalizing your toaster then "Marx used A to write Das Kapital." is a Bad Thing.  Should you have the psycho-epistemology of a retard ligonberry this will lead you to arm yourself to protect your specific right to individually sorch bread slices.  A man's toaster is his castle - by God! - and the rights and privileges thereof shall not be abridged.

In this situation a modus tollens can be constructed:

If someone wants to take my toaster then I will shoot them.

Someone is trying to take my toaster.


Logically, this argument is True and Valid.  The American Psychological Association, the spoilsports, defines this as "Straight from La-La Land," the diagnosis as "Crazy as a Fruit Bat," with a suggested course of action of "Throw this Whacko in the Nut-Hatch."

While an extreme example, this is how it all works.  As the symbol moves deeper into abstraction the emotive tags tend to become more basic: fear, anger, sexual, etc.  "British Muslims" are no longer "Muslims living in Britian" but 'a bunch of wogs screaming There is No God but Al-lah ... who to nationalize my toaster.'  Or blow me up with a bomb.  Or make me wear a veil.  Or.  Or.  Or.  Someone coming along and pointing out, quite rightly, the chances of any of this happening to the average Brit is much smaller than them being hit by a metorite is simply ignored.  Unfortunately, there is a real-induced feedback loop from the fact there are some, small, sub-group of British Muslims who have blown people up with a bomb, want all women to wear veils, or whatever particular Or is the hysteria du jour.

Is "The West" the West of the Renaissance or the Crusades?  The answer, of course, is Yes.  The choice, and it is a choice, of which to focus upon is not only the thing itself but also the sum total of a person's experience, education, psycho-epistemology.  And the person's qualia of and on all of these.

What to do about all of this?

Epistemologists (Yeah us!), among others, have tried for millenia to get people to arrange the festing pile of goo inside their minds.  In that effort tools and techniques have been painstakingly developed.  It hasn't worked.  It hasn't even worked among Epistemologists as anyone who has attended an All University All-Comers Inter-Mural Multi-Disciplinary Sneer Fest & Faction Fight can attest.  

<Insert snappy conclusion here.>

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 03:15:29 PM EST

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