[lit-ideas] Why the "Compressor" Shorts to "Ground"

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2007 11:48:54 EST

The Concept of a Cow
 
Phil Enns:
 
"Hearing what a cow is is not the same as understanding what a cow is.
I  presume that Mike could give a reasonable account of what it means
for a  compressor to short to ground but the mere fact that I heard it
doesn't mean  that I understood.  Understanding requires something more
then mere  'hearsay'."
 
I will assume familiarity with Geach's discussion of Gotlob Frege on the  
'concept 'horse''.
 
My reference was to the Homeric Hymn, where Hermes is asked twice whether  he 
stole the cows, and twice he answers:
 
    "I never saw one. I don't know what a cow is.
     In any case, whatever they are, cows, I never saw  them
     or know what 'cow' means. I just _heard_ about  them."
 
This is reported by Apollo to Zeus along the same lines. The Greek is  
tricky, but there are expressions like 'hearsay', etc. 
 
My approach to this would be via whole-statements, rather than parts of  them 
-- such as 'cow'.
 
So I would rephrase it as:
 
"The cow was pleasantly grazing on the meadow".
 
According to C. A. B. Peacocke, sometime Waynflete Professor of  Metaphysical 
Philosophy at Oxford, the analysis of a simple clause like that in  terms of 
'internalized' concepts can become pretty convoluted.
 
Peacocke -- and I following him -- would analyze the statement in predicate  
terms:
 
"C", "P", "G", "M" -- for, respectively, 'cow', 'pleasantry', 'graze', and  
'meadow'.
 
To assume that a subject grasped that proposition we need to assume that  the 
subject _understands_ each predicate. This, for Peacocke, means that the  
subject would need -- as part of a transcendental argument -- to engage in a  
conversation where he or she would be required to provide _proof_ for what he 
or  
she claims to understand. This can be taken as granted as implicit most of 
the  time. For 'cow', the subject would need to have incorporated that 
'concept' 
in a  network that incorporates at least _another_ concept (e.g. ruminant, 
animal,  quadruped, mooing, etc.).
 
I agree that 'hearsay' possibly won't do. But then the scenario, in the  
Homeric hymn, is not realistic. Since most of the interactions that Hermes had  
so 
far had have been with his mother Maia, we may assume that (if Hermes's story 
 were true) Maia would have 'explained' to Hermes what a 'cow' is, or else 
Maia  has been heard by Hermes as using the word in conversation -- e.g. upon 
the  milkman delivering, "The milk you brought on Tuesday must have been from 
very  bitter cow. It tasted ugly" "'Bitter cow'? Mom, what's that?". 
 
Now, to Geary's example:
 
It's very trying to explain why a compressor shorts to ground to a person  
who never heard of a compressor nor of shorting.
 
Since words are arbitrary, Geary cannot be meaning that he expects his  
customer to _know_ his technical vocabulary. For the sake of the argument, any  
word may do. He could call the compressor the thingamajig and 'short' as  
'whatsyoudoneit'.
 
Geary: I'm finished!
CUSTOMER: What was it, Mister Geary?
Geary: Oh, the thingamajiggy whatsyoudoneit.
CUSTOMER: But _why_
GEARY: Well, maintainace -- the fan motor was rotten, the cables  
disconnected, as if by a rodent, and the coil was eaten by moths. What do you  
expect.
 
Cheers,
 
JL
 
 
 





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