DEFINITIONS

Tim Ruhnke truhnke at esu.edu
Fri Feb 17 10:39:47 EST 1995


hey folks,
  i've been reading these posts regarding defintions of parasitism, and 
suddenly it reminded me of readings of sir karl popper that i did some 
years back.  he put forth that definitions seem for the most part to be 
the province of SCHOLASTICISM.  in popper selections (ed. david miller) 
he leads off chapter 6 with a quote from f.p. ramsey's the foundation of 
mathmatics, "the chief danger to our philosophy, apart from laziness and 
wooliness, is scholasticism, ... which is treating what is vague as if it 
were precise."  popper posits that much of scholasticism is only so much 
empty verbiage and is in fact an impediment to the growth of thought.
  that said, let's look at what we do.  we study parasitic animals.  when 
i talk to the folks in my place of employment, they seem to generally 
grasp what a parasitic oranism.  sure, one can engage in semantic 
discussions (arguments?) about THE definition of parasitism, as if there 
might be one.  no, a ship's hull is not a host, neither is a petri dish.  
insofar as they might FUNCTION in some way as a host in order for us to 
learn something about our animal of study is simply the use of available 
resources.
  the whole issue reminds me of some of the discussions i've seen in the 
systematic/evolution literature.  someone advances a rather interesting 
idea about an issue/concept.  others then argue points about definitions, 
as if that might vitiate the idea raised.  of course, most of the 
interesting arguments i've heard (and participated in!!) along this line 
have been in bar rooms, not class rooms.  so i guess we know there proper 
province.
  any comments??
have a great day!!
tim ruhnke



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