Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Treachery of Language

One of the things I like about mathematics is that it valiantly attempts to deal with (and mitigate) the ambiguity and vagueness that is inherent in language. Most sciences, particularly the life sciences, often seem somewhat oblivious to the imprecision of words they employ, and the degree to which concepts routinely discussed are either tautological in nature, or else simply vaguer than is implied by the discussion. Mathematicians, more than most, recognize the problem and are willing to face it head on... even when there is no resolution.

Anyway, below a post from "CTK Insights" well-illustrating the treacherous nature of language and meaning when it comes to even simple mathematical terms, in this case inquiring "is a point a part of a line?"... and the answer ain't easy!:


(On a side-note, I'm now getting around to reading William Byers' new book, "The Blind Spot," which I've referenced before, and so far it's as good or even better than I expected, delving into many of these same issues of meaning and ambiguity. A fuller review probably somewhere in the future.)

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