Где проводить границу?

Eliezer Yudkowsky, “ Where to Draw the Boundary? ”, public translation into Russian from English More about this translation.

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Where to Draw the Boundary?

Где проводить границу?

History of edits (Latest: Muyyd1 1 month, 3 weeks ago) §

The one comes to you and says:

Long have I pondered the meaning of the word "Art", and at last I've found what seems to me a satisfactory definition: "Art is that which is designed for the purpose of creating a reaction in an audience."

Долго я размышлял о том, что же значит слово "искусство", и, наконец, нашел то определение, которое показалось мне удовлетворительным: "Искусство - это то, что предназначено для создания реакции аудитории".

History of edits (Latest: Rina_B 3 weeks, 3 days ago) §

Just because there's a word "art" doesn't mean that it has a meaning, floating out there in the void, which you can discover by finding the right definition.

It feels that way, but it is not so.

Wondering how to define a word means you're looking at the problem the wrong way—searching for the mysterious essence of what is, in fact, a communication signal.

Now, there is a real challenge which a rationalist may legitimately attack, but the challenge is not to find a satisfactory definition of a word. The real challenge can be played as a single-player game, without speaking aloud. The challenge is figuring out which things are similar to each other—which things are clustered together—and sometimes, which things have a common cause.

If you define "eluctromugnetism" to include lightning, include compasses, exclude light, and include Mesmer's "animal magnetism" (what we now call hypnosis), then you will have some trouble asking "How does electromugnetism work?" You have lumped together things which do not belong together, and excluded others that would be needed to complete a set. (This example is historically plausible; Mesmer came before Faraday.)

We could say that electromugnetism is a wrong word, a boundary in thingspace that loops around and swerves through the clusters, a cut that fails to carve reality along its natural joints.

Figuring where to cut reality in order to carve along the joints—this is the problem worthy of a rationalist. It is what people should be trying to do, when they set out in search of the floating essence of a word.

And make no mistake: it is a scientific challenge to realize that you need a single word to describe breathing and fire. So do not think to consult the dictionary editors, for that is not their job.

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