Thursday, May 13, 2010

Basic Definitions and Core Meaning Elements

What I want to see is whether, beginning with the definition of a single term, I can build the entire set of ultimate and irreducible conceptual terms.

What is a distinction? What does it mean to "make" or "draw" a distinction?

The free dictionary says its the act of distinguishing, or differentiation. So we're down to distinction, difference, distinguish. Let's look up distinguish. Percieve or recognize as distinct. Distinct means readily distinguishable from all others.Note that here we meet up with the first real repetition beyond the meanings of different forms of the same root word.

Or discrete, a new term. So we see now a set of stubbornly basic terms emerging that are in some sense and to some extent cross-defined.

Now putting aside the "readily" issue, which itself is interesting and significant to our story, we're still on the word distinct. Clearly defined. Unquestionable. Again, and although these are evolved meanings, we have to bypass such interesting questions for now and ask a question. Notice the new core term?

Define means to state the prescribed meaning, nature, or basic qualities. To explain. To delineate the outline or form of. To specify distinctly. Now we're getting somewhere!

A number of new key terms have now emerged. Explain is interesting. State. Delineate. Form. Outline. Specify. I'm going to skip prescribe for now.

So with the different forms of a word, we arrive at some peripheral terms in their respective definitions. The definitions of peripheral forms of a root word are peripheral precisely because they introduce terms that are not in some way as closely synonymous with the original root word. So let's go back and include only the root words in the definition of the original word, and root terms of those originally defining words.

Distinct is basic because the word distinguishable in its definition is mere repetition. Discrete is separate. Connect, a core defining term is negated. Separate is apart or disunited. Part. Unite. Two core defining terms are negated.

So far, then, distinct, discrete, and separate are basic according to their definitions, although separate may not be basic because it is not repeated in the other two definitions like distinct. So it's distinct and discrete for sure. But we'll still keep separate in mind because it still does seem to have some unique differences that are difficult to deal with right now.

But in defining distinct, we ran into the word define itself. And once we looked up define, we found explain. To explain is to state differences in meaning, nature, or basic qualities. State.

State differences. Difference. Differ. Differ means to be dis-similar or un-like. So Differ is basic. and therefore, as noun form, difference is basic. But let's look it up too, to make sure. Yep, same thing. Negations including dis-parity.

distinct
discrete
define
difference
I just realized that these words themselves are negations, so I'll have to go back and look at their etymologies.