Description, Definition, Denomination and Explanation: The Bases of the Knowledge Process

By Piero Mella.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Starting from Bateson’s insight that our mind acts by identifying differences and filtering these through successive levels, a simple formal symbology is proposed to represent the basic elements of knowledge and communication – description, definition and denomination – in order to demonstrate how the cognitive process can be linked to a succession of acts entailing distinction, description, definition and recognition.
After defining the notion of the Observational Universe as a vector of dimensions through which the observer filters reality, we construct a technical description (not yet adopting specific language) as a vector of the determinations of those dimensions for a specific object “O”. Thanks to the innate process of analogy and analogical generalization, we start from descriptions repeated for a set of objects – held to be analogous, though different – in order to arrive at the technical definition of a “general object O*”, which in fact represents the concept (idea) of O* as well as the meaning (signified) of the signs that denote it.
Gaining knowledge of the world means carrying out descriptions of “O”, constructing definitions of “O*” through which the observer gains knowledge of “O*” as a class of all “Os” and recognizes the latter as elements (examples) of “O*”.
The same symbology is applied to define the basic elements of the process of linguistic denomination and the formation of languages through a signification process that couples a technical definition of “O*” – which represents the signified of the “general sign S*” – to the technical definition of “S*”, which represents the signifier of “O*”.
Communication is the basis for the arguments made in the final part of the paper, where it is demonstrated that even the the Tarskian correspondence-truth «“the snow is white” is true if and only if the snow is white» requires processes of definition and description which are at the basis of knowledge.

Keywords: Knowledge Process, Signification Process, Explanation Process, Technical Description, Technical Definition

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp.483-494. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.288MB).

Prof. Piero Mella

Chair of Business Administration, Department of Management Research, Faculty of Economics, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy

Born in Pavia, graduated in March 1969 with a first class degree in Industrial administration, in 1985 I won a chair as a full professor and lectured in Business Economics and Administration at the Faculty of Economics of Pavia. In 1986 I was elected Head of the Department of Business Research at the University of Pavia. From 1987-88 to 1992-93 I was Dean of the Economics Faculty at the University of Pavia. Since it was founded in 1990 I have been the scientific Director of the Masters in Accounting, Budget and Financial Control in profit organizations, set up by the University of Pavia. In 1997 I became Co-ordinator of the Doctorate in Business Research at the University of Pavia. In 2000 I created the scientific web site www.ea2000.it. My interests also deal in the fields of Complex and Holonic Systems and of Networks. In 1997 I have proposed the Combinatory System Theory, described at the web site: www.ea2000.it/cst.

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