IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: Extension & You
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 12:47 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Ben, by now you should have realized, from the discussion, that your statement, "Verbally, extension seems to work like this: Say you have the word moral. Kind to animals, pro-life, God-fearing, etc., might serve as the extension of moral in one context. In another context, pro-American, kind to the elderly, good, sympathetic, etc., might serve as the extension." is not correct. You have listed "properties" or "characteristics", but these are NOT the extension of a term. The "extension" of a term is the real objects (things) that are example of the term, not abstract properties. You cited defining "intensional" characteristics that may be attributed to the word 'moral', but you did not cite its extension. Since "moral" is an adjective, you must apply it first. The set of "moral persons" would include (and give names). These are in the extension of "moral person". See Morality. My laptop and my linux box are both in the "extension" of "computer".

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 08:37 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Dear Ben,

There are certain words the extension of which is other words, for example, the word 'word', but these are not different "kinds" of "extension"; the difference is in the "kind" of territory, "real" or symbolic. Not all terms have extensions.

You seem to have mistaken "extensional definition" for extension. The extensional definition is the list of names; the extension is the corresponding actual prime ministers themselves. The extension of a term is the territory that the term is a map name of, not the list of names of the items in the territory.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, March 21, 2007 - 09:00 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Ben: From what I understand, extension involves the listing of values associated with a particular variable. The extension involves the actual values, not the names.

Say you have the variable x. 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., might serve as the extension of x in one context. In another context, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc., might serve as the extension.

This is NOT the same as saying that the set of '1', '2', '3', '4', etc. might server as the extension of x in one context.

Your statement above refers to the "real" (or "virtual") actual numbers that the names of the numbers, the symbols themselves, refer to.

1 is not '1'. '1' is the token we use to refer to 1. Failure to distinguish between these two distinct notions is an example of identification - of confusing levels (or orders) of abstracting.

Writing about the whole affair is also problematic, because we are unable to non-verbally hold up and point at most extensions. I can, for example, point at myself and assert that what I am pointing at is the extension of the proper name "Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr.". But I am reminded of the following hazard when performing most (non-verbal) indications.

"You need a finger to point at the moon,
but woe to he (or she) who takes the finger for the moon."

Brain research has talked about "mirror cells", the funcion of which seem to enable us to fairly reliably detect what another person is looking at. This capability has been noted in many organisms holding lower positions en the phylogenetic scale. "Birds do it. Bees may do it. We all do it." (Usually quite well).

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, March 22, 2007 - 12:51 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

When you treat "extension" and "extensional definition" as synonyms you equivocate, you identify two distinct levels of abstraction, the very ones that general semantics demands that we do NOT identify - namely map and territory. It is not a "mere bickering"; it is fundamental to understanding and applying general semantics, and you appear to be missing this distinction.

The definition you cite: Logic. The class of objects designated by a specific term or concept; denotation. does not back up your claim. That definition specifically specifies that the extension of a term is the class (set) of [actual] objects [thing in the world] designated (referred to) by a specific term [the term in question] or concept (general semantics eschews the use of 'concept'; it advocates the use of 'formulation'); denotation.

The "denotation" of a term (map) is the thing it points to (territory).

An extensional definition is the list of names of objects (map) while the extension is the set of objects themselves (territory).

No, you have not offered an (the) extension of the term (whole). You have offered examples from the extension of the term (part), and you have left it up to the listener to form his or her own abstraction - extrapolation - inductive inference - as to what was meant by the term.

Unless you exhaustively provide all possible cases, you do not provide "the extension", and whenever you do not provide "the extension", the listener will have an incomplete set of examples.

To be precise, we can say that you offered examples from the extension. It would not be correct to say that one offers "an extension", because the ontological commitment in the notion of extension holds that any term with an extension has a unique and complete set of objects that make up the extension. There's no room for fuzziness or relativism, because it's a metaphysical notion about what is; not what or how we know. Communication about it, however, brings in the epistemological problem of "knowing" when one "knows".

An extensional definition is a formulation - a map while the extension is the territory, and never shall general semanticists be allowed to identify or confuse the two.

When you offered the lesson, you offered words describing example actions (extensional definitions of instances or examples) from the extension (territory) [tell and show]; if your gestures show an example of crying and then crying more, then you showed an actual example from the extension. You only gave examples of heightened crying; you gave no examples of heightening applied to anything else.

In communicating we, as Don Kerr says, choose our words to evoke the desired experiential elements the listener already has. In the context of acting, the "author's message" must be abstracted and figured while all else is to be backgrounded. In order to accomplish this, the actor must use multiple devices that all focus on the desired characteristics - abstracted "for the audience" and draw the audience into the message, by appealing to simple high level abstraction and commonalities likely to be shared by many. The word caricature comes to mind as as an example of increasing the distinction between the desired message / audience response and all the other interpretations that could be made. Technically we might describe it as increasing the signal to noise ratio. Many metaphors are possible. All these describe how we want the student actor to begin to behave, but all the words we use are the extensional (and intensional) definitions designed to evoke examples or instances of the extension from the student actor.

How can general semantics help you in accomplishing this task? Remembering that the word (extensional definition) is not the thing (instance of extension) and that many different words can evoke the behavior (relative to different students), [as well as many undesired behaviors]. With corrective feedback (extensional orientation on your part) - observe, compare, communicate and correct - you have more flexibility than those who think there is only one way to say something or to elicit a behavior.