12.0359 primitive delight

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 20:40:59 +0000 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 359.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999 20:35:38 +0000
From: Ken Litkowski <ken@clres.com>
Subject: Prime primitives

The search for primitives is greatly complicated by the complexity of
language and semiotics, which have so much data that it is mind-boggling
to get a handle on it. As a result, we are left with speculators (great
philosophers and AI types) who advance their positions.

Today, quite wonderfully, we have a profusion of ontologists, who are
laying out their own individual carvings-up of the world. Their very
plethora advances our thinking, because now we must find out how to deal
with so many world orderings. I think we must follow Eugene Nida in
recognizing that an ontology is a matter of perspective, and you can
slice it in whatever way is appropriate for the task at hand.

What I believe is that the slicing reflects the characteristics of each
concept, not just its lexicalization or verbalization. The more we
populate our concepts with their components and other properties, the
more we will be able to home in on the primitives. But, we won't find
atoms, but entities that only have meaning in their manner of relating
to one another. And we still have the problem of conveying by Internet
(as Robert Amsler often says to me) primitives of smell, touch, and

'Tis a delightful exercise.


Ken Litkowski                     TEL.: 301-482-0237
CL Research                       EMAIL: ken@clres.com
9208 Gue Road
Damascus, MD 20872-1025 USA       Home Page: http://www.clres.com

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