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Kinds of knowledge

From:Yahya Abdal-Aziz <yahya@...>
Date:Tuesday, September 27, 2005, 13:29
Hi all,

Thank you to all who replied to me on this topic.

I suspect that tossed you all a red herring by mentioning Gödel!
:-)  Sorry about that ...    I do particularly like the notion of
"paraconsistency" that Patrick Littell mentioned; it seems a
usefully human approach to logic, given the limitations of our
memories and mental grasp - must look it up!

But I am less interested at the moment in the incompleteness
question (or indeed any question of logic) than the one I ended

"Without losing contact with the natural world in which natlangs
have their ground, I would like to create a conlang that encodes
various kinds of knowledge in an eminently logical, perhaps even
calculable way.  Doing so would lead to making certain kinds of
implication quite direct and natural to such a language.  I believe
this to be possible, but the primary question must be:
   What kinds of knowledge would it be most useful to encode?"

Perhaps I should emphasise that I want a language usable by
sentient beings, such as humans, that are not themselves
eminently logical.  IOW, it would be not a loglang, but rather a
language that provides its speakers with more support for
logical argument than most natlangs do.  By encoding different
kinds or modes of knowledge, it would readily give rise to
proverbs that entail whatever rules of entailment are accepted
by the society that speaks it.  I most emphatically do NOT want
to reconstruct the first-order predicate calculus! :-)  I'm more
interested in "varieties of experience" and "modes of learning".

As a simple example, most bony fishes have a sense that all
mammals lack - the movement-sensing abilities of the lateral
line that runs the length of each side.  Another example is the
heat-sensing pits of the pit viper, which effectively allow it to
see infra-red.  A third example is the fact that a bird of prey,
such as a hawk, has not one but two foveas in its eyes - one for
monocular, sideways distance vision, and the other for binocular
(hence stereoscopic), forwards close vision.  This gives it two
neurologically distinct modes of seeing.

There's no reason why intelligent nonhuman creatures might not
enjoy entirely different senses than we do.  A fun scenario
would be a culture that incorporates members of two or more
intelligent species, each with its own array of senses, but with
a common language that has evolved respecting those
differences.  (Come to think of it, Clifford D Simak had a
pretty good stab at almost this kind of situation in his
wonderful novel "City", perhaps half a century ago already!
The City has gone to the dogs, by the way ...)

So with this explanation, may I ask you all once again:
   What kinds of knowledge would it be most useful to encode?"

Any suggestions (the wilder the better)?


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