Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The sematically unabiguous frame

Originally from here, I'll strip it of being about a particular individual and instead describe a particular mindset. Hopefully this mindset is purely a work of fiction on my part!

To this mind, there are no semantically ambiguous words. When he sees a word or phrase which could be interpreted in two or more ways, he sees only one interpretation (his). Seriously I’m betting he couldn’t give any example of a ambiguous sentence – to him everything is ‘obvious’ and ‘clear cut’. How long is a piece of string? This mind will tell you. You can’t even appeal to ambiguity in words and try to establish between parties a definition both use in the same way – because he doesn’t recognise ambiguity occurring in the first place. It’s like one of those optical illusions where a few lines make it look like a triangle is there, because you're mind completes the form of a triangle. But you’re aware you’re doing it. This mind isn’t. Indeed I wonder if, even over that image he’d be going “For gods sake, it’s a triangle!”.

He then ‘catches out’ others ‘switching’ use of a definition. When it’s just a matter of them not using his definition, to which is like that idea of him being a slave of his interpreter, unable to see the wording could be interpreted another way.

Even that ‘catching out’ isn’t that big a deal or bad boo boo if the second party recognises alternative interpretations are possible and will work with the first party towards a definition they both use the same way.

But we’re stuck at the ridiculous ‘switching’ stage, where he treats his own interpretation as some sort of wonderful revelation of how the other person is wrong. Like someone looking at the woman illusion and cackling about how the other person is wrong and switching their definition in the age of the lady they saw.

Of course if just a handful of examples of ambiguously worded sentences that could be interpreted in two ways or more were given by the suspected mind in question, that puts a hole in the hypothesis this applies to them. Hopefully you'd get such examples!