X-Message-Number: 21622
Date: Sat, 19 Apr 2003 09:21:39 -0400
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: CryoNet #21616 - #21618

For Bob Ettinger (and others):

The fact that we work a great deal with symbols does not imply
that other creatures do. When you say that "brains do operate
symbolically" just which brains do you refer --- and for that
matter, how does the symbolic operation of ANY brain imply 
that the universe itself can be expressed symbolically. But
as for brains, do you mean those of chickens? mice? frogs?
fish? ants? 

As for the possibility of a language which has only one interpretation
even that would not show that every living thing works symbolically
--- if such a language were indeed possible. I do not have nor claim
a proof that such a language is impossible, but simple words such
as "right" and "left" make me seriously wonder. Sure, if we had
someone who told us just which the two words meant, then there 
would be no problem --- but we'd need someone to tell us. Moreover
interpreting such a language would also need considerable knowledge
about the world and how it works: "up" and "down", "big" and "small",
virtually every pair of opposites requires knowledge of the world
to interpret. And if we grew up in weightlessness then "up" and
"down" would give us similar problems to "right" and "left".

It is certainly true that WE work a lot with symbols, and doing
so has lots of advantages. Yet the world itself is symbolic only
because we impose our own symbolic languages upon it, and most
brains (looking at the range of life forms) do not work symbolically.

              Best wishes and long long life,

                 Thomas Donaldson

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