Sunday, April 12, 2009

Strings and Meanings

I'm reading Alva Nöe's so far (page 90) delightful Out of Our Heads. He makes much more concisely a point I tried to make earlier, which goes back to Hilary Putnam:

I am not myself, individually, responsible for making my words meaningful. They have their meanings thanks to the existence of a social practice in which I am allowed to participate.

This is the same whether the words are in my speech, in my writing, or strings in some data structure, maybe an ontology. Ontologies do not have magical powers. Their value is in their practical communicative success, as is the value of any other means of communication.

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