[ExI] fermi question alive and well

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Sun Mar 31 17:30:50 UTC 2019

On Sun, Mar 31, 2019 at 12:06 PM William Flynn Wallace <foozler83 at gmail.com>

How did Pluto get kicked out of the planet category?

As we learned more about Pluto we realized it didn't fit the examples that
the other 8 planets set.

> Starting with examples is an excellent idea.  You observe your example
> and make a list of the features of it and come up with a name for that
> overall list.  To use your example:  tree.  Leaves, bark, etc.  If it has
> those qualities it is a tree, by induction.  Or you can turn it around and
> give examples of trees - deduction.

All that is true especially the very first part, you always start with
examples of use, the lexicographers who write the definitions know that
better than anyone. Take a look at "The Professor and the Madman " by Simon
Winchester, it entertainingly tells the story of the early days of the
greatest dictionary of them all, The Oxford English Dictionary.

> > I fail to see how a list of qualities, or criteria, or any other word
> you may want to use, is anything different from a definition.

By itself a definition in a dictionary just associates one ASCII sequence
with another string of squiggles, if you want to make a link between one of
those strings and something in the real non-squiggle world you're going to
need examples.

> > And - of course you can define consciousness.  Just give a list of its
> features and bingo - definition.

And the definition of consciousness is being aware, and the definition of
aware is being sentient, and the definition of sentient is being conscious.
And round and round it goes.

> > Consciousness is no more abstract than 'tree'

It's easy to point to a tree, it's harder to point to consciousness.

> > IF you tie your criteria (definition) to observable things we can agree
> on are objective reality.

That's what you and I and everybody does, we tie consciousness in others to
something we can observe, intelligent behavior.  That's why we don't think
our fellow humans are conscious all the time, not when they're sleeping or
under anesthesia or dead.  That's also why I find life after death to be
questionable, dead people don't behave very intelligently.

> EEG readings, for instance.

Why do you think EEG readings have anything to do with consciousness?
Because when those wave have a certain form people don't behave

> > So who is right?  The majority - they set the definition (criteria).
> Subject to change,

Yes. A good lexicographer doesn't set the rules he discovers them from
examples of language use.

John K Clark

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