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The philosophical language fallacy (was Re: Evanescence of information (was Re: Going NOMAIL: Honeymoon))

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Thursday, July 3, 2008, 15:08

On Thu, 3 Jul 2008 00:06:29 +0100, And Rosta wrote:

> Jörg Rhiemeier, On 02/07/2008 15:52: > > I once thought I had an idea for a qualitatively > > better search engine and made it the subject of my PhD thesis - but > > it turned out that my idea was not really that brilliant (I had fallen > > victim to what was essentially a variant of the philosophical language > > fallacy), and I had to abandon the project because things turned out > > to be way more difficult than they seemed to be. > > Would you tell us a bit more? What is the philosophical language fallacy, > and how did it confound your ideas about search?
The philosophical language fallacy is the (in my opioion fallacious) notion that a language deriving its vocabulary from a general taxonomy of ideas was superior over a language of arbitrary lexemes. The problem is that such taxonomies, outside certain well-defined semantic domains such as plants, animals and languages (which can be classified genealogically), or chemical compounds (where such a taxonomic vocabulary is indeed in use, though with all but the simplest molecules, the taxonomic names grow to unwieldy length, and - shorter - arbitrary names are used instead), are themselves to a large degree arbitrary, and any taxonomy may be obsoleted by new discoveries. If you look at the taxonomies used by Dalgarno or Wilkins, you will find many things which now appear either quaint or even flatly out of date. How it confounded my work was that I thought that a classification (something like DDC, though I had some ideas that went beyond that, but it still was a classification) would actually be useful for building web search engines. Such classifications of course have a venerable tradition in libraries, but that was before the digital age, and pigeonholing the vast range of topics that exist in this world into such a classification is no mean feat. Perhaps the idea I had was not completely worthless, but I found that I was running into difficulties which I had not foreseen when I started the project. ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf


Herman Miller <hmiller@...>