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poke comments on GAZP vs. GLUT - Less Wrong

33 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 07 April 2008 01:51AM

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Comment author: poke 07 April 2008 08:18:02PM 4 points [-]

Personally my response to the one would be similar to Caledonian's; perhaps more extreme. I think the linguistic analysis of philosophers is essentially worthless. Language is a means of communication and the referents a word has a matter of convention; meaning is a psychological property of no particular value. What concerns me is the person doing the communication. Where have they been and what have they done? You can, of course, follow the improbability on that. But my maxim is just,

Maxim: Language is a means of communication.

If somebody comes to you with just words; ignore them. Even if they're words about things. There isn't some metaphysical relation of reference reaching out from the noises leaving their mouth and connecting them to physical objects. There isn't some great Eternal Registry where "the problem of the chocolate cake in the asteroid belt" is suddenly registered as soon as somebody mentions the possibility of a chocolate cake in the asteroid belt. We do not, from that point on, have to solve the mystery of the chocolate cake or, and this is important, account for it in any way.

Philosophy and religion are very similar in their reverence for language. They both make the same essential mistake: they confer language with a power it does not have. It's the same view of language the shaman and the witchdoctor have. Language does something. It establishes something. The mere utterance of a word has some effect in this world or some other. For the shaman it's the spirit world; for the philosopher it's the non-actual possible world (or whatever happens to be in fashion this week). We know all this is not true as an empirical point of fact; language only effects the listener. This is why I reject philosophy outright.

Comment author: Peterdjones 21 November 2012 03:04:46PM 0 points [-]

Philosophy and religion are very similar in their reverence for language. They both make the same essential mistake: they confer language with a power it does not have.

I think you will find that philosophers are very well aware of the limitations of langage. More so than just about anyone else.

Language does something [..] for the philosopher it's the non-actual possible world.

Philosophers currently talk about PW's, but that does not mean they reify them. (What would non-actual mean)? And don't forget that some scientiss, and some less wrongers, and EY himself, do believe in alternate worlds. You need a better example. Or a different theory.