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« Liberman's a crazy mad linguist | Main | Dump your MP3 player for dried DNA »

April 28, 2004

Comments

Henry IX

Seeing that new entrances to known caves are sometimes discovered - and quickly blocked, lest they be used - I don't find it at all odd that the fire chief made the statement he did.

Remember the second, "unknown" entrance to the "McDougal's Cave" in which a significant part of the action occurs "Tom Sawyer?" The second entrance was unknown to the general public, but was known to Injun Joe and his associates. After Tom showed it to the public, it was blocked.

Semantic Compositions

It's not odd that he made the statement, because we are used to reasoning like this. But considering that it's an assertion of a fact which can never be falsified, I think it's surprising that we have so little difficulty accepting it as true, and recognizing it as a reasonable statement to make.

Henry IX

"Never be falsified" is probably inaccurate. In theory, one could locate all the entrances and exits to any given cave with enough time, money, and persistence. I am excluding openings too small to allow ingress or egress.

In regard to "accepting it as true," I would suggest that the public would accept it as *likely* to be true, although stated as absolute, and most people would be surprised - I would - if it were to be demonstated that there are no other entrances or exits.

I would also suspect that if the statement had been a negative, asserting the non-existence of ins and outs, the public would be less likely to accept it as likely to be true.

I suppose what I am saying is that, based on what we know of the nature of caves, the positive assertion the chief made is more likely to be true than its negative, and that our acceptance of the former and our doubt of the latter is informed by knowledge external to the specific cave being discussed.

NW

Two ways this is quite reasonable. First, if the existence of exits can be inferred from something other than finding them. The caves are the only known source of Gas X, yet Gas X is still leaking into the outside atmosphere even after all known exits have been blocked.

Second, 'we' means some subgroup, the authorities, but we know others have been going in and out, because samples of Rock Y (found only in the caves) continue to appear on the black market.

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