Saturday, February 28, 2009

Substituting Words, Applying New Metaphors

There are plenty of ways to describe the same fundamental phenomena. In some sense, as a friend of mine says "you can call it banana if you want, I don't care". But though in a purely formalistic frame of mind this is true, in actuality what terms you use can be crucial to your interaction with the concepts being described. Calling something a banana when your language traditionally uses the term dog, or even worse apple, will confuse not just a listener but yourself as well.  It will inhibit you from effectively juxtaposing the concepts meant to be embedded  in the chosen symbols.

In my efforts as a software engineer, when creating new systems, I consistently explore metaphors to gain a better understanding of what I'm attempting to achieve. And then I transpose those metaphors onto my virtual system by using terms related to that metaphor in my code. Literally, this means naming variables, classes and functions things like "Path", "Node", "Walk", "Disease" and "Create". Choosing the wrong words has time and again thrown me off in the wrong direction. 

I could chose such abstract symbols as A, B and C rather than any terms with implicit meaning. But this would prevent me from quickly exploring and attaining a new understanding of what I am doing through the powerful tool of metaphors. Choosing the right metaphors and terms can result in an unexpected creative explosion.

When it comes to how we comprehend the world, I could use terms like "mind" and "memory" and "physical reality". But if I did, I would be potentially trapped in the classical interpretation of such words. Sometimes I I find it more useful to shift, if not entirely replace such terms in order to better grasp  the world through new and improved metaphors. Sometimes, of course, an old perhaps quasi obsolete word is the key to understanding our lifeworld

What is for certain from my perspective is that words and symbols make a difference. If I were to use PSI instead of EPSILON for an negligible float point I would initially confuse myself on encountering my code at some future time. I would have to recalibrate, relearn my own terminology.

So, summa summarum: words matter.

2 comments:

tsquare21 said...

One more

It's not the terminology that maters but the origin that resides the meaning for example

Lion- all nation call a lion a lion except it could just as easily be called an apple.

You can go in many language's and the same root is in many of the words. yet no one can determine when any language was formulated. I not relies that English is a subset of a number of languages. with the root being Anglo-Saxon or germanin-french (I think).

So languages has no beginning as well many names of creatures. So the question is what was the first instance. Remember I not talking of some subset but the bas or root of the initial language.

take our most ancient past Egypt, summaria, Chinese, Korea, Japanese they all must have been brought or a part of another, Yet that not the case. For all these languages were present at the same time in history. These were only a few examples and if we extrapolate that this root spawned this the time frame would never be long enough.

Then of course we need to take into consideration that all this languages had according to there peoples only that root without any secondary originis.

Finally we also have to take into consideration that al peoples would appear to have a common root. This root is had three branches and it's out of these branches that all languages can relate to. They are Orientals, Europeans. and Africans. With three distinctive groups we should expect languages types based on these three races. If distinct languages on these three groups then can we not expect diverse communication methods or writings. We see exactly that in the different method of writing

-Representative Chinese characters
-pictorial- hieroglyphic
interpretive or the alphabet

to further bring your point in perspective. The words must mean what they mean from the point of time before diverse languages was giving. This must be true for if every different languages named everything then the lion would be interpreted as an apple. This is not the case a lion is a lion in all languages. Yes pronunciation and spelling is different but the meaning remain and crosses languages, unchanged.

Dreas said...

I'm sorry but I don't understand much of what you're saying tsquare21. A lion in japanese, I believe, is "shishi", which is quite different from "lion". I'm not an etymologist and I don't know the speculated origins of the japanese word "shishi". But, regardless, the words are today so different that an English speaking person will have to be taught what "shishi" means.

I can only guess at the meaning of your phrase "the origin that resides the meaning". If you are saying that what matters is the intentionality of words, I would have to agree. I don't think my writing claims the contrary. I believe the intentionality of a word is historic and contextual as well as arbitrary. Though a few words are so called onomatopoeic, i.e. rooted in the sound of a phenomenon (such as "to squeak"), after several generations of use most words loose their similarity to the sounds that gave them their intentionality.

What I meant to say in my article was that the historicity of a word does matter. Even though the intentionality of words and symbols (in their evolved form) is largely arbitrary, being mindful of a word's or symbol's historicity leads to clearer thinking and better both science and engineering.