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Thread: “The Role of Categorization in Truth”

  1. #1 “The Role of Categorization in Truth” 
    Forum Ph.D.
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    “The Role of Categorization in Truth”

    We must categorize to live. We categorize that which is meaningful for us. We categorize things and actions; some categories emerge directly from experience. The categories emerging from experience are dependent upon the nature of our bodies and the environment in which we are placed. There are natural dimensions to our categories of objects: a perceptual dimension depends upon our senses, a movement dimension is dependent upon the motor characteristics of our hands and legs, and likewise there are functional and purposive dimensions.

    Our categories for objects, events, activities, and all kinds of experiences are gestalts, i.e. a complex array combined together in some coherent fashion constituting a functional unit.

    “A categorization is a natural way of identifying a kind of object or experience by highlighting certain properties, downplaying others, and hiding others.” When we categorize an object we highlight some properties and push to the background certain other properties.

    I’ve invited a sexy blond to the party.
    I’ve invited a ballerina to the party.
    I’ve invited a conservative to the party.
    I’ve invited a lesbian to the part.

    All of these properties are characteristics of the same person. I can highlight any one of these properties and can be talking about the same person. Every true statement I might make about this person leaves out something important about this person.

    The natural dimensions of categories, i.e. the perceptual, functional, etc., are a function of how the world interacts with that person. Likewise we categorize in the same way. The properties that determine the ones we use to categorize are not necessarily the properties of the object but are the properties that interact with the world.

    “It follows from this that true statements made in terms of human categories typically do not predicate properties of objects in themselves but rather interactional properties that make sense only relative to human functioning.”

    What this shows is that truth is dependent upon categorization in four ways: 1) the truth of a statement is relative to some comprehension of it; 2) comprehension always involves human categorization; 3) the truth of a statement is relative to the properties highlighted; and 4) categories are not fixed, they are defined by prototypes.

    Light consists of particles. Light consists of waves. These are just two of a potpourri of celebrated examples to “show that sentences, in general are not true or false independent of human purposes.”

    How might a teacher categorize Italy to her class examining a globe looking for various countries?

    Quotes from “Metaphors We Live By” Lakoff and Johnson

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