Partial Communication

Submitted by Treatid on Sat, 12/23/2017 - 17:24

We can be reasonably sure that the first person to use wood as a tool didn't have a detailed knowledge of cellular biology, DNA, atomic binding forces and the mechanism of photo-synthesis.

Yet we can easily imagine that person communicating how to hit an antelope over the head with a branch, or covering some branches in leaves to make a rudimentary shelter.

We were building multi-storey buildings, ocean going vessels and mechanical tools of all kinds from wood years, centuries and millenia before we understood atomic matter, molecules and cells.

It was enough to understand that wood is relatively tough, and that wood from this part of this tree is harder than wood from this other part of this other tree.

A skilled carpenter remains a skilled carpenter even without a doctorate in physics, chemistry and biology.

Clearly we don't need to explain wood in order to work with it. So long as we can point to some instances of wood, and describe the relationships between different woods and our use for those woods the atomic structure of wood is of little relevance.

If a precise knowledge of all aspects of wood was necessary to communicate we would never have gotten past hitting antelope over the head.

Wood has always been a meaningful concept to humans - but not because we have defined what wood is - because we have a relationship with wood.

There are no exceptions to this principle. Provided we can point to an example, we don't need to define that example down to the most fundamental physical properties.