Language and the idea of categories

Self-indulgence can, occasionally, produce an idea of value. Maybe this is one of those times.

While trying to figure out exactly why I like the music I do, it helps to look at two predictive models: the music genome project (Pandora) and the purely associative method. The genome method uses common traits (genes) to identify new music of interest. The associative method relies on a huge database of simple relationships; if you like A and lots of other people who like A also like B, you probably like B also.

Both approaches are related to the way we perceive classes of objects and ideas, corresponding to denotations and connotations respectively. Denotations allow us to use adjectives, like “red”. The word red describes a class of objects sharing an abstract quality (a physically precise one, at that). Connotations allow us to use adverbs, which describes a class of objects having similar value judgments*.

Returning to music for a moment (and restricting the discussion to metal), I’ve noticed that I need to use the genomic method and the associative method in conjunction to have any success in predicting someone’s music tastes (or my own!). For instance, there is no genomic reason for me to enjoy War of Ages as much as I do, and yet spurn Unearth. Even within the highly restricted set of possible metalcore styles, these two bands are more alike than any others I’m familiar with. In fact, Unearth has a (slightly) more proficient guitarist, which appeals to me. But I don’t enjoy their music much.

Similarly, the associative database says I should enjoy For Today. They’re even religious**! But I don’t. Both methods also make type II errors, so that I have to manually seek out music from All That Remains and Between the Buried and Me.

From this discussion, I think I’ve finally teased out the linguistic logic behind these two types of words. (This also takes care of most of the nouns, because those are just things plus modifiers. ({A racist} = racist{A man}.) The trick is to combine them in a consistent logical framework, which is one of those odd intellectual challenges that we resolve every time we open our mouths.

*Note that these are subjective, which combined with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis implies some other interesting ideas.
**The significance of this will escape nonMetalheads. For reasons I have yet to fathom, almost exactly half of metalcore bands are Christian, and the rest are secular (often atheist). It’s like American politics; there’s gotta be a rational mathematical principle hiding in there. I have yet to see a theory for this, much less a good one.

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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