[Ads-l] qoty possible

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 27 03:00:54 UTC 2022

The mention of category membership and "bachelor" reminded me of an
influential article by computer scientist Terry Winograd that I heard
about when I began learning about artificial intelligence many years

Year: 1976
Journal: Revue Internationale de Philosophie
Volume 30, Number 117/118
Article: Towards a Procedural Understanding of Semantics
Author: Terry Winograd
Start Page 260, Quote Page 276
Database: JSTOR


[Begin excerpt – check for typos]
Consider the following exchange:
Host: I’m having a big party next weekend. Do you know any nice
bachelors I could invite?
Friend: Yes, l know this fellow X . . .

The problem is to decide, given the facts below, for which values of X
the response would be a reasonable answer in light of the normal
meaning of the word “bachelor”. A simple test is to ask for which ones
the host might fairly complain “You lied. You said X was a bachelor”:

A: Arthur has been living happily with Alice for the last five years,
They have a two year old daughter, and have never officially married.

B: Bruce was going to be drafted, so he arranged with his friend
Barbara to have a justice of the peace marry them so he would be
exempt. They have never lived together. He dates a number of women,
and plans to have the marriage annulled as soon as he finds someone he
wants to marry.

C: Charlie is 17 years old. He lives at home with his parents and is
in high school.

D: David is 17 years old. He left home at 13, started a small
business, and is now a successful young entrepreneur leading a
playboy’s life style in his penthouse apartment.

E: Eli and Edgar are homosexual lovers who have been living together
for many years.

F: Faisal is allowed by the law of his native Abu Dhabi to have three
wives. He currently has two and is interested in meeting another
potential fiance.

G: Father Gregory is the bishop of the Catholic cathedral at Groton upon Thames.
[End excerpt]


On Sat, Mar 26, 2022 at 8:24 PM Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> Some time ago (in the 1970s, to be more or less precise) Hilary Putnam
> argued persuasively for what he calls the division of linguistic labor,
> which among other things makes the point that the extension of natural kind
> terms (like "tiger", "water", or "whale", or "gold") is determined by
> "experts" in the relevant field within the linguistic
> community--zoologists, chemists, botanists, whatever. And that the result
> is more like an encyclopedia entry than a true definition of the kind
> available for "one-criterion" words in which there are necessary and
> sufficient conditions for category membership like "bachelor" or
> "touchdown".  His idea is that we can have theories about what it takes for
> something to be water or a whale, for example, and that these theories can
> change over time without the "definition" changing. We can discover we were
> wrong about water being an element, or a whale being a large fish, but we
> can't discover that a touchdown really countis for 5 points or that
> bachelors were really secretly married all along.  For natural kind terms,
> as he puts it in the title of one of his papers, "meanings ain't in the
> head"--to know that something is or isn't an X, or an instance of X, is not
> to have the relevant concept. (Saul Kripke provides parallel arguments for
> proper names not having true meanings.) It's plausible that biological
> theories of "woman" (to the extent that this is a natural kind term) would
> be a case in point.
> LH
> On Sat, Mar 26, 2022 at 6:38 PM Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
> > Do biologists get to define words, or linguists?
> > ________________________________
> > From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Mark
> > Mandel <markamandel at GMAIL.COM>
> > Sent: Saturday, March 26, 2022 12:03:44 AM
> > Subject: Re: qoty possible
> >
> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> > -----------------------
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       Mark Mandel <markamandel at GMAIL.COM>
> > Subject:      Re: qoty possible
> >
> > -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > Fair enough!
> >
> > MAM
> >
> > On Fri, Mar 25, 2022, 12:55 PM Bill Mullins <amcombill at hotmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > Ketanji Brown Jackson Mar 22, 2022.
> > >
> > > When asked if she can provide a definition of the word "woman," she say's
> > > she can't, "I'm not a biologist."
> > >
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> > >
> >
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> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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> >
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