A few of you may recall that I often claim that Dictionairies rule the world. I bought one the other day. It was on special. It cost $8. Its worth… $8.

Dictionairies are essentially a massive cirular reference. If you look up the definition of a particularly tricky word, you oft have to look up a word used to define the original word you where researching. Dictionaries use words to define other words. If you didn’t have a vocabulary already (you know no words) a dictionary would be useless to you. How do we then learn our first word?

Lets make a romantic assumption that the first word we all learn is ‘mum’. There are essentially a couple of ways we could learn it, the most likely in my mind, is by sound association. We learn of the object ‘mum’ through experience and then we associate the sound ‘mum’ with the object that feeds, cleans and takes care of us. From the sound association we eventually learn to spell the word ‘mum’ and vola, we have our first word.

A more likely example is ‘aaaaaarrrrrrgggwhaaawhhaaaa’ which we associate with the possibility of getting fed, or cleaned, or not-being-held-in-that-particular-way-that-makes-my-nappy-go- right-up-my-bum. of course we wouldn’t know any of this right? It would more likely be an association with x, y, z. Where x, y, z represent those things. Do you see the problem here?

Unless we have some innate ideas when we are born, we are not going to know anything. We will not know what hungry is, we are not going to know what x, y, and z stand for. How do we even know to go ‘aaaaarggggghhhhwhhhaa?’

6 thoughts on “Cirularity

  1. man, i miss our chats of life, politics and meaningless rants while having beers. you always raise an interesting point.

  2. Ok, the biological thing is a good point. However, if we argue that we begin our learning and thinking process from a biological viewpoint, then we are may be ruling out an alternative concept of the mind (< HREF="" REL="nofollow">Dualism<> )and following Monism: We are and always will be a bunch of chemical reactions, nothing but the brain exists.Unless, we wish to argue that the mind develops at some later stage in life. From all public indication,it certainly doesn’t exist in teenagers. Never seen a better example of a bunch of chemical reactions running round.

  3. Have you never heard of Banduas’ “learning by doing”? At first we dont know if we’re hungry, we just know somethings wrong so we cry. We get fed and we learn that next time we cry mum “fix it”. Sometimes its not easy for a mum to know what’s wrong ’cause the baby doesn’t know either.Can tell you more about Bandura on the phone someday. have an eassay about it. Might translate it just for you;)Puss & Kram!

  4. Hmm.. I don’t think they are innate ideas. A baby learns where breast milk comes from because when the baby gets hungry and cries the mother feeds it.That incident (a post-birth incident) sets the precedent. From then on the baby knows that if it cries it will get a teat shoved in it’s mouth and nice warm liquid will fill its belly.It learns this fact <>after<> birth.Now, hunger, on the other hand, may well be one of these innate ideas. But I wouldn’t call it an innate idea. I’d just call it a natural/biological instinct or need. The baby doesn’t <>know<> before it is born that screaming will get it what it wants. Screaming is just it’s natural reaction to hunger. It’s not a pre-conceived notion, it’s a just a biological response. I think that’s what I’m tryin’ to say. Does it make sense?I think I like the world unsolvable.

  5. To clarrify; an innate idea is a pre-birth conception of some aspect the real world. ie, knowing what hunger is, or where breast milk comes from, or knowing that if we scream loud enough we will get taken care of. As a new-born baby who has never experienced these things, how could they have these conceptions without innate ideas? This all ties into cirularity how? Circularity is a big problem when it comes to learning and arguments. If circularity exists to the extent that I proposed, then the world is issentialy unsolvable, because it has no begining which we can describe without being circular. Innate ideas are a possible begining to the circle.

  6. And who wrote the dictionaries? Men, of course. But let’s not get into THAT debate.I’m a little confused by your post. I think I know what you mean, but I’m not entirely sure.Anyway, just thought I’d say this – yes, we learn the word ‘mum’ or whatever our first word might be through sound and object association. If you’ve ever seen a mother with their baby they will often point at an object and repeat the name of it a number of times or even just include it in a sentence, ie ‘where’s the cat? Is this the cat? What’s he doin?’ This is how we learn. Other people, outsiders/visitors etc are constantly reinforcin’ the same thing. They will point to the child’s mother and say ‘who’s that?’ or ‘where’s mum’. If the baby has siblings, it’s my assumption that the child would learn even quicker. (That’s why you’re the smartest one of us Damo! 🙂 And also the one who makes the least sense! Hee hee).With more people around associating a certain sound to a certain object, I would assume it would be easier for the baby to pick up on the words. For example siblings constantly calling their mother, or harassing her – ‘mum, can I have this?’, ‘mum, Rhian stole a choccy biscuit,’ ‘mum, I need to do a poo poo,’ etc, etc.I think that’s what you’re gettin’ at, but I don’t think I know what it has to do with dictionaries or circularity (not cirularity).Cheers

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