Is this even in the book? If it is, it would be a "semantic" device (symantec is a software company.)

But I don't think they even talked about these.--Bradtem 07:52, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

You are correct about the spelling - sorry about that. I am a terrible speller and often use google as a spell check, and this time it did not serve me well. This is in the book. Early on (I will try to find a page number, but that may take some time) there is a discussion about the difference between semantic and syntactic devices. The crux of the conversation was, as I stated in the article, semantic devices do not understand the context. I will try to find the passage, but it is a big book and I don't remember exactly where it was. Perhaps on the walk to Bly's Butte? I am not sure the term "semantic device" was ever used, but there was definately a conversation about the difference between semantic and syntactic thought. -Armaced 14:43, 18 November 2008 (UTC)
OK - here is something about the comparison. It is in the glossary on page 907 of my book. The term Semantic Faculties is compared to Syntactic Faculties. -Armaced 14:50, 18 November 2008 (UTC)
But do they ever talk about a device? They often talk of computers as syntactic devices, but the whole point (of the Halikaarnians) is that they don't understand meaning. I don't recall any "semantic devices" in the book. Brains would not count.--Bradtem 09:10, 19 November 2008 (UTC)
I see - you oppose the use of the word "device". That is fair. In the book, there is a discussion where they contrast the abilities of the human brain (semantic) with the abilities of a computer (syntactic). I wanted to get the meat of that discussion in here. I will try and find a different way of expressing this. Let me know if you have any ideas. -Armaced 14:08, 19 November 2008 (UTC)


I am still thinking about how to rebuild this article. I will probably end up deleting it and merging it's contents with the syntactic device article. However, I did find another reference to semantic devices, this time with emphasis on the "device". Page 29 - Orolo is talking to Artisan Quin... "Is it common to have things that can think, but that are not human?"
It is not clear that Orolo is specifically talking about semantic thought, but given the remainder of the book, it seems likely. I like the quote because he specifically says "things", and then clarifies that these things do not include humans. This implies that, if not specifically exempted, the term "things" does include humans. "Things" is an abstraction for "Humans". From there, it is not much of a stretch to say "devices" is an abstraction for "brains".
Not just human, but animal brains as well. In fact, non-human animal brains are good examples of devices that are semantic but much less syntactic. They have a much harder time following rules (other than the rules provided by their instincts), but are much better at understanding meaning than a syntactic computer. This implies that, unlike a syntactic device, animal brains are much better tuned to the feedback generated by their extra-cosmic alternate versions. -Armaced 19:50, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
Still, you are reading implications. The "semantic device" is not a concept from the book, so best belongs as a footnote in articles about syntactic devices (computers, which is all that Orolo is asking about in his thousand year old list of questions) or on proc vs. halikaarn.--Bradtem 22:13, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
I agree that it belongs in the syntactic devices article and, as I said, I am working on it. I disagree that it is not a concept in the book, but that is probably a semantics argument. -Armaced 17:24, 7 December 2008 (UTC)
I really didn't see it in the book, and don't see it in the pages and quotes you are talking about. In fact, I saw the reverse as the attitude in the book. They call computers syntactic devices, and make a point of doing so, to show that their opinion is that they are not semantic devices, that they do not deal with meaning in the way they think human brains do. This turns out to be more than a minor point, as the plot of the book revolves around a special role that human brains have as observers in the polycosm. So I would hope you could show us some pages where they refer to semantic devices, or some of the characters argue that computers understand meaning. I personally think they should be able to, but in this book, they don't seem to, so I would not put my own personal interpretation into the wiki.--Bradtem 03:14, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

I did not find the term semantic device, but there is related stuff in chapter Orithena.

First of all a dictionary excerpt:

Semantic Faculties: Factions within the mathic world, in the years following the Reconstitution,

generally claiming descent from Halikaarn. So named because they believed that symbols could bear

actual semantic content. The idea is traceable to Protas and to Hylaea before him. Compare Syntactic


—THE DICTIONARY, 4th edition, A.R. 3000

Starting on page 538 at the bottom to 541 in my paperback there is a fascinating conversation between Erasmas and Samman about aboutness.

Erasmas has bad dreams. He worries that the geometers ship might have been abandoned for a long time, only the remaining “machines” of the ship causing the observable givens, like their orbit changes etc.

Samman is delighted by the thought. His idea is that such a system would be a fully deterministic syndew (computer). To graspe the workings of the syntactic program running by a sort of code breaking effort – the Ita would initiate their own convox to do that.

Then Erasmas suggested, (“half serious”): “You could solve the Aboutness Problem (AP) once and for all,..”

Samman is kind of stunned that E. knew about.

So E. says the following:

“Between the followers of Saunt Proc and the disciples of Saunt Halikaarn.”

“Yeah. Though it’s a little unfair to call one group followers and the other disciples, if you see what I

mean. Anyway, that’s what we call the Split.”

“Procians were more friendly to the syntactic point of view…or maybe I should have said


Sammann seemed a little shaky here, so I reminded him: “We’re speaking, remember, of Aboutness.

You and I can think about things. Symbols in our brains have meanings. The question is, can a syntactic

device think about things, or merely process digits that have no Aboutness—no meaning—”

“No semantic content,” Sammann said.

“Yes. Now, at the Concent of Saunt Muncoster, just after the Reconstitution, Faan was the FAE of

the Syntactic Faculty—followers of Proc. She took the view that Aboutness didn’t exist—was an illusion

that any sufficiently advanced syndev creates for itself. By this time Evenedric was already dead but he,

like Halikaarn before him had taken the view that our minds could do things that syndevs couldn’t—that

Aboutness was real—”

“That our thoughts really did have semantic content over and above the ones and zeroes.”

“Yes. It’s related to the notion that our minds are capable of perceiving ideal forms in the Hylaean

Theoric World.”

It seems he is getting at the Qualia-Problem as it is called on Earth.

Also in that line of thougt is the

Chinese room thougt experiment

I think to click around those terms is very satisfying – there are relations to i.e. fly bat worm and other parts of the book as well. 14:15, September 9, 2011 (UTC)

sorry - I do this the first time, seems I need some editing lessons..