Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Who cares about semantics.



Language affects perception. Perception affects reality. Especially in human constructs like law and culture.


I logged in today just to upvote this comment. I have long wondered about people who dismiss concerns over semantics. How can we communicate clearly and honestly with each other if we can't agree on what words mean?

Here is an anecdote about just how much language can affect perception:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Korzybski#Anecdotes

One day, Korzybski was giving a lecture to a group of students, and he interrupted the lesson suddenly in order to retrieve a packet of biscuits, wrapped in white paper, from his briefcase. He muttered that he just had to eat something, and he asked the students on the seats in the front row if they would also like a biscuit. A few students took a biscuit. "Nice biscuit, don't you think," said Korzybski, while he took a second one. The students were chewing vigorously. Then he tore the white paper from the biscuits, in order to reveal the original packaging. On it was a big picture of a dog's head and the words "Dog Cookies." The students looked at the package, and were shocked. Two of them wanted to vomit, put their hands in front of their mouths, and ran out of the lecture hall to the toilet. "You see," Korzybski remarked, "I have just demonstrated that people don't just eat food, but also words, and that the taste of the former is often outdone by the taste of the latter."


>I have long wondered about people who dismiss concerns over semantics.

There is no doubt language is frequently misused to further ideology. In fact, this is exactly what OP is doing. He's trying to redefine a universally understood term to fit his particular ideology ("IP is not property" or maybe "information should be free").

There are problems with current laws around IP, but redefining terms is not a way to fix them. Furthermore, most people would not agree with the extreme position that that OP is taking (no IP laws) either, so arguing for semantics is either detrimental, confusing or pointless.


I think that the use of the word property isn't properly aligned with the current law and also isn't the right word to use. That doesn't mean that I believe that all information should be completely free from the moment of creation. A balance is needed and the word 'property' implies too exclusive and permanent a state for either the current law or to an even greater extent my view of a better balance.

I don't believe once published/played/performed the artist/creator has a total exclusive right over the material. The public, fans and anyone that hears or sees the work gain some right over it as it affects their mind and thoughts. This isn't to say that the artist immediately should lose all control and protection but that the people of the culture they put the work into also gain some rights to it. The balance is probably best struck by a duration of exclusive rights and then release although those exclusive rights themselves may have limits.

If you want to keep intellectual property as your own personal property in perpetuity you need to keep it in your own head or otherwise privately secured.


"Semantics" refers to the way we assign substantive meanings to the words we use. So, to answer your question, anyone who wants to have an honest and productive conversation, using precise words to describe coherent ideas, is someone who must necessarily care about semantics.


Yes, lemurs are indeed amazing animals.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: