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Punchinello writes...

<<You say you don't have the full answer. I'm just not clear what the question was. I don't disagree with anything you said, except for the notion that Punchinello and I were defining sentience as simply the ability to communicate. I don't think either of us ever did that.>>

Neither of us did. I should stress however, that I disagree with Vanity, strongly. I take this very seriously. Maybe that appears strange. As I read Vanity's thesis though, I think I detect an effort to base a prescription for moral behavior on what he believes sentience is. And if we're going to do that we need to be very careful. It won't be enough to guess at who we judge worthy of some investment of our ethics. We can't limit the moral worth of some creature because we have a feeling. I imagine people couldn't be bothered to have a disagreement over an obscure philosophical issue. Perhaps if it were just a normative argument being made, I wouldn't care either. That's the problem though. Philosophies are never purely normative. They're always potentially prescriptive.

And since you have opened the floor Greg, to really have an exchange about what sentience is, and by extension, what thought is, responding to this provides a good opportunity to do that.

<<(note if you were in Madrid when you first seen Gargoyles and they spoke in Spanish and of course you did too you might argue they thought in Spanish and you would most likely be right mi amigo). But not as an English Man but and English Gargoyle again not as a nationality but as a tongue. Still Lex's moral judgements can be made too stand on thier own and can communicate with anything Man or Gargoyle or Oberon's Child that also speaks English, whether they think "English" or not. >>

<<Language is not merely a tool for communication it is a way of thinking >>

<< Punchinello and yourself discussed "sententiousness"
in quite lenghty detail. If I remember right the main buckling of the topic of one's being sentient was ultimately his ability to communicate ideas. I don't seem to remember any talk about awareness of thought and decision.>>

Well I've reviewed what I saved of that thread, and I cant find any indication that anyone participating intoned that sentience relied upon communication of ideas. _I_ certainly never did. The idea you're describing in your thesis, that thought depends on a faculty for language, arguably originates in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the work of Boas and Humboldt. I'm familiar with this work, and I've never been persuaded that it possessed any kind of intellectual legitimacy. Particularly where Whorf is concerned. The magnitude of error in his thinking is almost comical. Also, while I am unsure of how you are treating the Sapir Whorf hypothesis here, Vanity, it sounds like you suppose that it is not seriously contested by anyone. If that's the case, then you need to understand that it has been the subject of alot of scholarly level criticism among cognitive scientists. In fact, there has been harsh critique in the literature from both the cognitive-neuro camp and the linguistics camp. It's reliability as an hypothesis is alot more tenuous than you might suppose.

<<If a Russian speaker was adopted into your household, and could not understand nor speak a single word of English, you cannot communicate with him on any level of aphroristic expression>>

Aphoristic expression?

Greg responds...

Okay, I'm lost. The problem, as usual being the long gaps between when questions are posted and when I actually see them. That and my poor memory. Even with all the words you quote above, I don't really have enough context to add anything relevent. But I'm happy to give you guys a forum for back & forth and hope that some day the back and forth won't take years.

Response recorded on April 01, 2005