Semantics with Spiritus Mundi

Here is the thread. http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=76383

In the process of clearing up my misconceptions, which are apparently popular misconceptions, about moral relativity I come to a point in the argument where I am using the word “absolute” in the meaning similar to “as good as it gets.” I get this response:

This is my response to that, which I almost put into the thread but realized that this was going beyond a discussion and into the realm of argumentatively obscure insults.
So:


I’m sorry, but I consider this bullshit. I am not above arguing even semantics, however.
Absolute zero. The lowest possible temperature. The point at which all motion stops. Nothing could be colder than this.
"I am absolutely pissed off." Every part of me is pissed off. There is not a single part of me that is not pissed off. The only emotion I have is “pissed.”
Absolute ethyl alcohol. 100% ethyl alcohol; no impurities.
I am absolutely right. There is not one part of me that is wrong. It is impossible to show that I am wrong.

By the laws of quantum mechanics the vacuum of space will never, ever, be absolute zero. It cannot be due to random fluctuations. Absolute zero is a misnomer. It is a false standard.

I can not be completely pissed off, as one particular emotion is the desire to share my feelings, which, were they absolute, would not be able to be expressed. Absolutely pissed off is a misnomer. It is a false expression.

Absolute alcohol is not 100% alcohol. No grade of reagent, solvent, etc, is 100% anything. Another misnomer.

I am absolutely right. By definition. As mentioned in the last post, and in the usage above. There is nothing here to show me I am wrong, and so I must be right.

Of course, these are only misnomers if ew use the words absolute as synonamous with “perfectly.”

I am aware of the idea of perfection, in terms of “absolute.” In terms of the common usage of absolute, it surely does mean “as near as I can tell,” or, as I put it, “not able to be shown otherwise.” In fact, my latter definition fits the dictionary definition more closely than common usage, which surely does mean “as near as can be told.”

Perhaps your idea of absolute involves “not able to be imagined otherwise,” as in, an absolute ruler which, in all conceivable cases–even those which we cannot demonstrate to exist–gives the same reading. If we were discussing Plato’s forms I would agree with this version of the meaning. However, since we had rejected perception of perfection, even if perfection exists, this cannot possibly allow absolute morals to exist by that definition. That didn’t bother me in the slightest since we hadn’t mentioned anything about the idea of perfection itself, other than its non perception, so I thought you meant another meaning of absolute, namely the non-platonic one we so commonly use in English. In other words, I didn’t think we were discussing impossible things. The funniest thing is that I didn’t even have to mar usage of “absolute” as it is commonly used.

You posit that absolute morals are perfect morals, and so belief in which must be illusory since we cannot perfectly perceive. Fine, you may stick with that idea of perfection in a system which doesn’t allow for it; it is surely very easy to brush opinions aside that way. I find that as begging the question of what is wrong with absolute morality, however. In this case, your note that people with absolute morals are in a state of active denial is simply being rude; you postulated axiomatically that such an absolute doesn’t exist, and then criticize its idea. In fact, you are criticizing the existence of something based on the idea that something exists that you can’t perceive and does not affect you. That is the poorest demonstration I have ever seen for anything.


Spiritus. I am not going to mince words. You are one of my favorite posters on this board, not because I feel a special closeness to you but because you have many important things to say. This thread, and the thread that spawned it, have not changed that. But that doesn’t change my perception of this retreat as unrefined bullshit.

REASONABLY SUPPORTED? OF COURSE NOT, because you posited that I am in a closed reference frame! To me, no other perception exists except my own, so how could it be fucking wrong? It is a damn definition! To which I get:

Yes, and we may discuss our morals and understand that another moral system exists. But it cannot possibly prove me wrong because it is not my standard. Really, how could your system be my standard? If I were to accept your system as my standard then I would really be believing in an illusion: the illusion that I can perceive your fucking system, which goes against the postulated closed fucking frames, as you mentioned when you said that it wasn’t possible for humans to share frames.

Or am I instead to see that because I may hypothesize the existence of a flaw which I cannot perceive or test that absolute morals are an illusion?

[okay, calm down erl]
Again, I remain in awe of the many times you have shown either me or other posters a depth of thought and wit that has made you a respected member of the board. This just pissed me off and I have to say it.

[fin]

Absolutely.

Oh Boy!

A catfight between two epistemologists! This should devolve into righteous (dare I say, “absolute”) incomprehensibility with the first couple of posts.

I’ll go pop som popcorn and prepare to have my brain melted.

Don’t start without me!

Well, if human language is capable of expressing truth the idea is that it already has. :frowning:

I’m not going to get into the issue of morality here (that’s better discussed in the original thread), but I second SM’s position. The word “absolute” means:
permanent
independent of human existence
superlative; without a superior
theoretical; not necessarily ever achieved

To say that “absolute” depends on our limits and can change if we get better instruments or learn more or whatever, and that we may find something which surpasses our current absolute, and that it is always achieved, is to contradict all of these meanings.

All of your examples show SM’s point. For instance, “absolute zero” is not simply the lowest temperature we can achieve. In fact, absolute zero has never achieved, and remains a purely theoritcal concept.

Furthermore, simply because you have not been proved wrong, that does not mean you are right. I do not see why you expect SM to accept your ridiculous definition when you can give no reason more than “well, that’s what I think it means”.

erislover, the fact that those usages of “absolute” make it refer to an impossible state doesn’t mean that the word is meaningless. The word “unicorn” is not meaningless.

The word “absolute” is useful precisely because it refers to an impossible state. To call something that isn’t absolute zero (i.e. anything at all) “absolute zero” perverts the meaning of that expression. That would render the expression meaningless.

You are correct to state that no solution is 100% pure. Absolutely pure means 100% pure. Therefore, no solution can be called absolutely pure.

Absolute does not mean “in perfect accordance with my perception”. In fact, it is quite an antonym for that, whether you believe that the absolute is unattainable (as you and I seem to) or not.

Bullshit . . . a valid point . . .given your precise use of the English language I suppose I should not be surprised that you get them confused.

No, it is the point at which molecular motion in a crystaline structure stops (it has 0 entropy). Even this, from what I recall, is a slight oversimplification. You will note, however, that it is not defined: “as cold as I can presently make something”. Shall we look at an example of your abuse of language?

So – your definition of absolute cold is either 0 K or the ice in my freezer, whichever suits your needs at the time of posting. Nice of you to demonstrate the inconsistency of your position right off the bat.

Your grasp of physics and chemistry is every bit as impressive as your grasp of language. Quantum mechanics does not prevent us from reaching absolute zero. The third law of thermodynamics prevents us from reaching absolute zero. (Well, in practical terms heat leak from outside an experimental system is more of a concern, but at a theoretical level the Third Law is a barrier.)

I have to take a moment more on this point, though, because it displays so concisely your penchant for taking two unrelated points and declaring a causal relationship.
(1) Space is not as cold as absolute zero.
(2) Absolute zero has a definition which in no way requires space to be as cold as absolute zero.
(erl-logic)
Therefore, absolute zero is a false standard.

What was that word you liked again? Oh yeah, bullshit. (don’t translate it. I was speaking English.)
Absolute zero has a precise definition. Scientists have achieved states within a few billionths of a degree of absolute zero. (Ever heard of Bose Einstein Condensation?) Just because you misunderstand or misapply a standard does not mean the standard is false. Some people actually use words to mean the same thing every time they use them, especially precise words like scientific labels.

BTW – if you are paying attention you will realize that when “nearly absolute zero” was reached under laboratory conditions, nobody said “we have reached absolute zero”. that’s because they weren’t using erl words.

Ah, yes, the colloquial or hyperbolic use. Well, if you meant to use the term to convey exageration rather than the actual situation it surely would have been kind of you to say so. Let’s look at some of those uses again:

So – either all of these statements were intended exagerations for hyperbolic effect, or you actually meant them to be taken at face value. Either you were using a false expression then, or you are raising a red herring now in the hopes that people will miss the flaws in your argument. This was a weak effort. “Bad” can mean good, but nobody gets confused about the expression “bad form”. Well, nobody else does. Erl, it doesn’t mean the form was good.

Not even Absolut vodka?
I’ve already eaten one herring this post. I think I’ll just let this one sit here and stink for a while. Gotta save room for the meat of this meal.

Let me repeat that. By definition. That’s an erl definition for those of you playing at home, not to be confused with a recognizeable definition.

absolutely right: noun 1a Perhaps wrong. b Not yet proven false. c Good enough for guvmint werk. d What erl says.

Let me try this again in itty bitty words.[list
[li]A is an idea.[/li][li]A might be right.[/li][li]A might be wrong.[/li][li]We can’t prove A is wrong.[/li][li]We can’t prove A is right.[/li][li]A seems kind of right right now.[/list][/li]Logic --> We ain’t sure about A.
erl logic --> A is absolutely correct.

Wait – I think I see the problem. Absolutely has more than two syllables. Damn! It’s kind of hard to address the OP without using it. If only erl knew what it meant . . .

IF? When I asked you which definition of the word you were using you said: Absolute 1 a : free from imperfection
Free from imperfection!! In other words (that’s English words, not erl words) PERFECT. In fact, if we look at http://m-w.com we see perfect listed as a synonym for exactly the definition you chose to cite!

If you now try to tell me you never meant “absolute” to have the connotation “perfect” I will call you a damned liar and an idiot, too.

You’re a damned liar and an idiot, too.[sup]1[/sup]
Perhaps you remember writing: once a problem is found, then the system is corrected and is, again, a perfect system, by any standard of measure that I have available.

So which is it: perfect or not perfect? (Wait, I know – it’s erl perfect.) That isn’t really a joke. You qualified “perfect” in the above passage precisely so that you could defend that connotation of absolute. Now you want to distance yourself from the connotation because it makes your position untenable. How perfect.

Really? After I questioned your use of the word how many times? After I asked you specifically to offer the definition under which you were working, and you said “free of imperfection”. Not “without demonstrated imperfection”. Not “as close to perfection as we have at the moment”.

While we’re here, just for fun, let’s review some of those uses you say are so common in English.
[li]Am I still absolutely right in what I am doing? Of course, because there is still no standard by which to judge other than mine.[/li][li]I cannot be absolutely sure that I can’t be absolutely sure.[/li][li]whatever extant copy [of erl’s autobiography] exists is absolutely correct because there is nothing else to compare it to.[/li][li][the autobiography] must be [tautologiically] correct because, again, there is no standard to compare it to.[/li][li]The upshot is, at any given moment, I know everything.[/li]Sure – everyday colloquial usage, there, without a hint of “perfection” or “flawlessness” in teh connotations. :rolleyes:

I assume you mean “didn’t even have to mar” in the erl sense. I shall mentally edit it to “twist beyond recognition” so as to avoid confusion.

No. This is not an accurate statement of what I posit or of what I conclude. If this were posted in the GD thread I would perhaps post my actual position in a reasoned matter.

This is the PIT. Learn to read or learn to shut up.

I see, if you can’t develop a reasoned rebuttal to an idea you paraphrase it and call it rude. How compelling.

For those at home, what I said was, “Absolute morality (as a quality available to men) is also not an escape from the limitation of human understanding. It is a denial of it.” Gosh, with me making statements like that I can see how you thought I meant absolute in a colloquial, not-to-imply-actually-absolute sense. :rolleyes:

Well, I can hardly be responsible for teh fables that you see with erl vision. I have, in fact, not criticized the existence of an absolute moral standard. I have specifically noted the distinction between perceiving the existence of a thing and sharing the reference frame of that thing. (hint: one is possible for humans the other isn’t.) And I have never accepted the absurd position that external factors cannot affect me.

Of course, I was using English so I’m not surprised you have failed to understand. If only I had studied erl instead of German.

checks erl-to-English dictionary
Bullshit: a valid point.
Let’s see. The argument goes like this:
Givens: (All statements which were explicitely accepted by erl):[ul]li Human moral perception is bounded.[/li]li Other humans have moral systems.[/li]li Erl can learn about individual elements of those moral systems and can potentially evaluate those elements as superior to corresponding elements in his own system.[/ul][/li]Becuase we have no reason to restrict the specific character of another person’s morality, it is possible that person X has a moral system identical to erl’s except for precept P. By (iii) we know it is possible that P is superior to the corresponding element in erl’s morality. Thus, our givens directly allow for the possiblity of a person with a moral system superior to erl’s and it is not reasonable to assert that “no better moral system exists”.

From tedious experience I now feel compelled to point out that this is not the same thing as saying that we have proven a better morality does exist.

From tedious experience I predict that erl will not appreciate this distinction.

(1) No argument that I have ever made was reliant upon “proving you wrong” about your own morality.
(2) You can perceive my system, indirectly as my analogy demonstrated to our English-speaking audience. What you cannot do is perceive my system directly (share my reference). It os possible that you understand this distinction and continue to use phrases like "the illusion that I can perceive your fucking system" out of some perverse inability to use language precisely. Or maybe the concept just doesn’t translate to erl

No. You are supposed to respond to arguments I actually make instead of the scarecrows that dance in your brain.

You are welcome to call your morality absolute. If you say that in English, though, it carries certain implications. One of those implications is that if you accept the limited nature of human moral perception you cannot reasonably assert that your morality is absolutely correct.

I swear to you, that is the last time I am going to repeat myself on this issue. If you won’t write precisely, at least try to read precisely. The language is English. Try it, you might like it.

[sup]1[/sup][sub]Insult for rhetorical effect. I don’t actually think you’re either. I do think you are weaseling so wildly you’ve becoome entangled in your own evasions.[/sub]

You’re absolutely correct, Spiritus.

[sup]::running away like mad::[/sup]

This was over my head from the get-go. Now that I have read it, I need to lie down.

Abso-freaking-lutely

That’s funny…I thought absolut meant vodka.
:smiley:
[sub]covers head with arms and runs like mad[/sub]

Memo to self Remember to add Spiritus Mundi to the list of people ‘never piss off’.

BETTER? You’ve got to fucking kidding me! BETTER TO WHO? You forgot to mention point (iv) that we are bound in our own reference frames. The only way it could be a better system is if I had access to that entire system, that is, if I shared that person’s frame. This is forbidden. The only system that can exist at any point to my perspective is mine once you bring “better” into it (or yours, if you were saying “better”).

I may speculate that at the center of every star is an ice cream cone made of strange matter which emits cosmic rays as it melts, but otherwise does not interact with matter. Now we may simply toss the rest of science aside; they obviously don’t have the best understanding available of the composition of stars.

I would happily appreciate it as soon as we remove the bound frames from individual existence. But since that is a quality you mentioned, I felt I should act inside of it. As such, any valuation with the word “better” means “better inside my frame.”

Noooooooooo. Have I truly become DITWD?!?!

As far as “changing the meaning of absolute,” I am going to make a new tackle at this for those who are not seeing straight.
Firstly, since we are not able to perceive that something is absolute, the “perfect” definition is meaningless inside the construct of moral relativity. Much like, I might add, the idea of a perfect ruler is inside of general relativity. Fine; do we then throw our hands in the air and say “you can’t measure that!” NO. Instead, we subtly adjust the meaning of “length” as being measured from within the frame. Thusly, I have adjusted the meaning of the word absolute to correspond to the idea of locked frames of existence. It can only mean the best there is. Any other meaning goes against what is axiomatically removed from understanding.

The upshot is, you would know the absolute truth in any frame if it smacked you in the face. I find this to be amusingly true; one, because it is postulated we couldn’t know “the perfect ruler”; two, because the analogous structure just smacked you upside the head.

COMMON ENGLISH IS NOT DEFINED EXCLUSIVELY WITHIN A MORAL STANDARD. If your moral standard takes different liberties with existence due to epistemological assumptions then QUIT PRETENDING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS ABSOLUTE. You broke that camel’s back yourself.

See? Told ya.

Three posts, and already I can’t figure out what they fuck they’re on about.

Popcorn, anyone?

erl take a step back for me a sec. I’m not sure of what you’re trying to do:[list=1][li]Establish what you meant by “absolute”[/li]
[li]Trying to establish that “absolute” always means that.[/li]
[li]Berating Spiritus for a perceived slight (not sure what that would be)[/li]
[li]all of the above[/li]
[li]none of the above[/li]
[li]come to think of it, erl doesn’t know either :D[/list=1]Seriously, dude. What I got out of you OP was an explosion of fury at… I’m not sure what. Just what are you pissed off about? Spiritus, the word “absolute” and its nuances or “other”?[/li]
Not that it really has anything to do with me. But, you know, I consider you both friends on this board so I hate to see you fight. Especially when the fight is as easy to grasp as a solipstic’s friend.

pan

You two are both nuts.

Language is an imprecise and fluid tool (at least within the copntext of a message board.)

You both knew what the other meant, that is the point of language, n’est ce pa?

So stop trading thesis at each other and lets see some profanity.

Of course, in my furor I meant to say “you wouldn’t know…”

This is so important to me that I must continue to ramble on about it.

The perfect ruler doesn’t exist in general relativity. It isn’t that you can’t conceive of one, you con’t conceive of one within the framework; ie-it has no way to express it. In a similar vein, the idea of absolute/perfection does not exist in moral relativity. It is expressely forbidden.

You may make a claim that it is still possible that such a thing exists. That claim is not made from within the framework of moral relativity. Moral relativity has no way to express that particular concept. What way does it have? Well, it has “the best available.”

In a purely mathematical interpretation of general relativity we have “perfect” rulers for each frame. They are arbitrarily precise. They are as good as one wants to make them. They are the standard on which everything is based, they are absolute. This changes the meaning of the word from our “common” understanding of it is “perfect”, but this must be the case. Implicitly if not explicitely it is the case that this ruler only applies in this frame.

In an envisioned framework of moral relativity we have absolute morals in a similar vein. What seems to hold a person back from seeing this is refusing to admit that the definition of absolute must necessarily change since we have imposed an entirely new way of looking at the phenomenon of existence as it applies to morality. Dictionaries are not perfect rulers either. Fuck.

Wow. I’m so overcome with all this, I have to go lie down (or lay down…whichever the hell is right) and yell for SuperGirlfriend to bring me a beer.

scylla

Damn – has reading comprehension dropped all over the SDMB. Read the fucking thread. We manifestly did not each know what the other meant. Yes – language can be an imprecise tool. That is why I asked erl repeatedly to use it carefully; that is why I asked him to clearly define a term that he was using in a manner inconsistent with standard English. The point of the English language is to communicate. The point of erlish is to obfuscate.

Look, Ive been dropping clues for erl all over this thread. Try picking one up. He isn’t using them, and you seem to need one.

Try a mirror.

wring

Aw – I ain’t mad. I’m just following the rules of teh house.

erislover

No. I didn’t. I mistakenly thought that you might actually remember your own position. You were the one who stipulated that you could find an element of a foreign morlity superior to your own. Here, since your memory apparently stopped working at the same time your common sense did, let’s pull up some erl quotes:

Silly me, I thought that this pretty clearly established that “better” was defined for you by you within your moral frame. I even stated so explicitely. Perhaps you recall seeing these words before? "The key point, of course, is how one defines “better”. For yourself, you have stipulated that someone else might have a particular element of morality which would be better (under your own definition) for you."

Really, this would be so much easier if you could understand written English.

This analogy is not apt. You have alresady stipulated that you can be aware that other humans have moral systes and that those moral systems can have a measurable effect upon you. Of course, you have also stated that you are bound by solipsism and connot perceive any morality other than your own.

One day I expect the ideas and anti-ideas in your head to collide with catastrophic results.

Sometimes being right is a curse.

Distinctions in logic do not disappear because your moral perception is bounded. Demonstrating that ~(A) is an unsound assertion is not the same as demonstrating A. If we use logic, that is. Here’s another example.
I cannot prove that no erl logic is the most twisted misconception of reason on this board. That does not mean a more convoluted abortion of rationality exists.

No shit. How many times do we both have to repeat it before you will understand that the point is not under contention.

Right.
Other people aren’t seeing straight because they think that you should use words consistently. :rolleyes:

I think I will notice, just in passing, your stunning failure to address the actual responses people gave to your twisted treatments of such ideas as absolute zero.

I wonder what erl word would be used to describe such a tactic?

In English:* The meaning I said I was using doesn’t help my case. Though other people have noted that language contains many concepts which cannot be perceived materially I am going to ignore their position and continue on in the assurance that I am absolutely correct.*

Hmmm, as long as we are talking about meaningless, let me recycle something else you have seen fit to ignore:

[li]For most English speakers, “I am right” does not reduce to “I am”.[/li][li]For most English speakers, words like “perfect” and “infallible” and “correct” do not become redundancies of the verb “to be”.[/li]
Since I am certain you will not be able to connect the logical dots, let me be explicit. In redefining abstract concepts to be nothing more than material facts, you remove all meaning from the words.
[li]“I am right”[/li][li]“I am perfect”[/li][li]“I am the best”[/li][li]“I am absolute”[/li][li]“I am omniscient”[/li][li]“I am the most ___”[/li]
In erlish, all of these things have identical meaning. They mean “I am”.

Hey – it’s your language, fill it with as many redundancies as you please. But don’t expect anyone else to find it useful or agree with your bizzarre semantical constructs.

You know, I cannot recall ever seeing the phrases “perfect measure” or “absolute length” in the context of general relativity. You know why? Because in English those words have meanings which cannot be rigorously supported under a relative context.

If you had a clue how to frame an analogy, you would realize that the word in our discussion which corresponds to length is “good”. Absolute good is impossible to assert from a bounded moral frame, so we understand “good” as a relative term. When I say “we”, of course, I mean the rest of the world. Erl prefers to turn “absolute” into a word without meaning so that he can assert the indefensible.

In English:* Thus I have removed all meaning froim absolute. The accepted meanings would clarify concepts and prevent me from pretending that what I am saying makes sense.*

[sub]I will assume for a moment that the word “absolute” actually functions as a restrictive descriptor–you know, as if you were writing in English.[/sub]
I have no way of recognizing (or demonstrating) an absolute truth, whether it smacks me in the face or dribbles down your chin in a flood of drooling inanity. Your statement (why dooesn’t this surprise me?) caanot be rationally supported.

I am beginning to reconsider the acccuracy of my idiot remark. I cannot remember the last time I saw somebody so perversely resistant to the application of simple logic to his ideas.

You know – shouting idiocy does not make it sound sensible. Ask your therapist to remind you of that occassionally. Here’s an example: REATIVISM IMPLIES SOLIPSISM. See? Those playing at home can read that and see it as idiocy, even though it was written in capital letters. I know erl vision makes it seem like good reason. I’m afraid that is a cross you will just have to bear. There appears to be no cure for your condition.

now, since you won’t be able to figure out the implications above, let me give you an explicated version to misunderstand.

I have never argued that the English language is absolute. I have argued that words have consensual definitions, which you are violating. If your head weren’t stuck so far up your assumptions you might be able to respond to the words I actually post. I doubt that it would make your arguments more cogent, but it might at least help you avoid masturbatory shadow-boxing.

Spiritus:

I don’t get it.
(bitchslapped me kind of hard there, huh?)