[lit-ideas] Re: What is information?

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2006 11:57:47 +0100 (BST)

> > This view is contrasted with non-essentialism which states 
> > that for any given entity there are no specified traits 
> > which that entity must have to to be defined as that entity.
> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essentialism
> > 
> W: Regarding the last sentence: But isn't that property one that is being
> claimed to be essentially shared by all entities? The claim identifies a
> property all entities have in common: all entities exhibit the property of
> having no traits necessary for their being the entities they are. 

This is not correct a paraphrase I fear. 

It may be that certain entities must have certain traits in order to be that
entity: for example, an entity like a universal law must have the 'trait' of
having universal rather than more localised application; a certain element
must have the 'trait' of a certain atomic number; light must have the trait
of a certain speed if it is to be light etc. 

What does not follow is that these entities *must be defined* this way. They
may be defined this way. They may not. The point about entities not having
any necessary definition is not a point that they necessarily always lack any
definite traits (depending on how we define them or theorise them) but that
it is not the case that a certain word or concept or term must necessarily be
used to refer to those entities or that the terms etc. we normally use to
refer to such entities cannot be used in a different way (I might call my
partner 'my light' though s/he moves slightly slower than the speed of light
as used a physical constant).

Walter's attempts to discern a kind of Russellian paradox here (a la 'Is the
set of sets that are not members of themselves a member of itself?') and a
kind of incoherence (a la 'If all entities necessarily lack any necessary
qualities then that is a quality they possess of necessity') seems to me
unsuccessful. Entities, such a light, may have necessary 'traits' or they may
not (depending how we use the term 'light', our theories etc.). 

Whatever. Essentialism in terms of "definition" is that there is a kind of
*conceptual necessity* here. Anti-essentialism denies there is such a
'conceptual necessity' while admitting that we can (if we want) approach
entities *as though* their character is established by 'conceptual necessity'
(although this is in fact not true necessity but merely stipulation as to how
to use words) and that we can theorise that certain entities have necessary

As a result I do not think Walter has shown that anti-essentialism must be
wrong because it is a denial of a claim that 
> itself presupposes the truth or necessity of
> the
> claim being denied, 

Also I don't know who "Martin" is or what profundity or otherwise lies in
Walter's suggestion that:- 

> Perhaps language and/or reason thinks us more than we think it/them (to
> borrow
> and turn a remark by Martin).
I mean what "thinks us"?

Thinking of blaming my thinking on what "thinks us" if I can only think what
this thought means
while feeling Walter's post, like earlier ones of his and Phil's, arises from
confusion about the difference between language and non-linguistic reality

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