Re: virus: meta-talking
Sat, 6 Mar 1999 11:59:37 EST

In a message dated 3/5/99 11:14:26 AM Central Standard Time, writes:

<< I have a hard time seeing how the memes <Communication with Other Human Beings is Important> and <Equivocating is Undesirable> can be held together without the obvious conflict the real world imposes.

All communication is an equivocation of one form or another.

-Prof. Tim >>

This is an interesting thesis. I would be delighted for you to show us how this is the case. As far as your statement, "All communication is an equivocation of one form or another." at this moment, I simply cannot agree. But at the same time I will respect a reality that I think you may be trying to allude to, though I think your statement is literally wrong.

In fact, I have always understood that equivocations in otherwise straightforward communications increases the level of misunderstanding between people. The only thing that I see equivocations doing that is beneficial is perhaps providing some random variation for culture as a whole. But like copying errors and other mutations in the biological world, too many of them and and the organism fails, and in the cultural world the communication fails.

Straightforward Communication:

This is the situation as I see it. Equivocation will happen regardless of our best efforts not to. There is no need to intentionally equivocate. While any instance of equivocation may have marginal evolutionary value in the larger picture, any accumulation of equivocations in a particular straightforward communication will increase the chances that the particular communication will fail. We do not attempt straightforward communication with the intention of failing to communicate at all. Therefore in that we should not intentionally equivocate if we are wanting to communicate.

Other Communication Conventions:

Furthermore, aside from straightforward communication, there are conventions where capitalizing on and perhaps accentuating ambiguous or impartial meanings is exceptable and expected, in the course of expanding the field of meanings, such as poetry and literature. Also we can legitimately escape the rigid convines of unambiguous straightforward language by employing metaphors and analogies. So if you want to tell me a story, write poetry, or introduce a metaphor or analogy, then by all means do so. But if we are going to pretend to communicate in an otherwise straightforward manner, intentionally equivocating is destructive of communicative purposes.

Perhaps I have anticipated some of your points? In any case, I hope you understand my position that intentionally eqivocating without employing the appropriate conventions is destructive of communicative purposes. And if I have misanticipated or left something out, please elaborate. I would be interested to hear about it.