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Crystal Leonard's picture

The question of why we

The question of why we categorize is an interesting one, so I brought it up at dinner with my friends tonight. They are from very different fields, so they brought an interesting perspective to the conversation. One of them brought up the idea that language itself is a categorization of abstract ideas into specific symbols such as words. Thus, in order to communicate our thoughts with anyone else, we automatically must categorize those thoughts. Even the concept of a thought is a categorization of one possible result of a neuronal excitation that does not have a physical output. My friends decided it was impossible to do anything without some form of categorization, so it is useless to try. Instead they were more interested in accepting some basal level of categorization and looking more deeply at the usefulness of more refined levels of categorization. I don't often actively think about the assumptions and categorizations that I am making, both as a scientist and as a person in general, so this was a fun, yet frustrating conversation.

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