Posts tagged ‘category’

September 11, 2017

John Wilkins and heretical philosophy

by Neil Rickert

Wow!  Just Wow!

To be clear, I am not accusing Wilkins of heresy.  I’m the heretic.  However, John has new post where much of what he says is where I see philosophy as going wrong.

I’ll note that I haven’t posted much over the last few months.  That’s largely because I am frustrated at my difficulty in communicating my non-standard viewpoint.  Perhaps this will help me make a fresh start.

I’ll quote parts of John’s post where I disagree, then say a little about why I disagree.  I will probably say too little.  Filling in the details can come in future posts.

John uses “conceptual confusion” in the title.  I agree.  But I expect that where I see conceptual confusion is not where John sees it.

Sapir (a student of Boas’) and Whorf (Sapir’s student) proposed a thesis, known obviously as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, that our categories determine how we experience the world.

Hmm, that’s not how I understand Sapir-Whorf.

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May 16, 2016

Information systems

by Neil Rickert

As suggested in the previous post, I think of a cognitive system as an information system.  In this post, I want to look at a particular information system, namely a video camera.

Let me be very clear here.  I do not think that a cognitive system is very much like a video camera.  Rather, I see them as very different.  However, by looking at a video camera, we can examine some basic principles that seem to be common to all information systems, including human cognitive systems.

In particular, we want to look at:

  • the input phase, where data is gathered;
  • the organization phase, where the data is assembled together;
  • the output stream — the final output information.

The input phase

For the video camera, the data is gathered into a pixel map.  I am going to describe this as categorization.  That might seem a strange term to use for generating a pixel map, so I should first explain why I am using that term.

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February 16, 2014

Individuals and categories

by Neil Rickert

If I say “there’s a stray dog in our garden,” you will understand “dog” as referring to some member of the dog category, rather than to a particular dog.  Of course, it is referring to the particular dog that is in the garden, but it is only its being in the garden that makes it particular.  We might say that it is a reference to a member of the category of dogs in the garden.

At another time, I might say something that seems to single out a very specific entity, so I might seem to be talking about a particular individual.

In this post, I want to argue that most ordinary language use is really about categories rather than about individuals.  And, moreover, when it seems to be about an individual, it is really about a very small category.

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November 9, 2013

Convention (4) – Biological species

by Neil Rickert

This series of posts on convention originated with my comment to a post by John Wilkins, that I see species as being determined by convention.  See the first post in this series for links.  John disagrees with me, and gave reasons for his objections.  I plan to discuss those objections in the next in this series.  Today’s post will discuss why I take the designation of species to be conventional.


Biological classification is an example of categorization.  I take categorization to be a dividing up of the world into manageable parts.  This is often described as “carving the world at the seams.”  However, there aren’t enough seams to account for how we carve up the world.

As an example, consider the dividing of the USA into fifty states.  Some of the state borders are along rivers.  Some are survey lines.  We could perhaps think of rivers as natural diving lines, or seams, except that we often don’t use them even when rivers are available.

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January 8, 2013

Perception – categorization

by Neil Rickert

I have mentioned categorization in earlier posts, suggesting that it is important.  The trouble with the words “category” and “categorization” is that people use them in different and conflicting ways.  And that is perhaps why the importance of categorization is not well appreciated.

Ian, over at his “Irreducible Complexity” blog, has just posted something about categories that illustrates the different ways that categorization is used.

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August 13, 2012

Symbols and categories

by Neil Rickert

In earlier posts, I have preferred the Shannon notion of information, according to which information is a sequence of symbols.  And I have emphasized that symbols are abstract objects.  The symbols are usually considered to be intentional objects, because it is only on account of our intentions that we consider them to be symbols.

In this post, I want to relate the idea of symbol with that of category.  I’ll start by assuming that the readers have at least an informal idea of what we mean by category.

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