[Haskell-cafe] Category Theory woes

Richard O'Keefe ok at cs.otago.ac.nz
Thu Feb 18 23:07:45 EST 2010

On Feb 19, 2010, at 2:48 PM, Nick Rudnick wrote:
> Please tell me the aspect you feel uneasy with, and please give me  
> your opinion, whether (in case of accepting this) you would rather  
> choose to consider Human as referrer and Int as referee of the  
> opposite -- for I think this is a deep question.

I've read enough philosophy to be wary of treating "reference"
as a simple concept.  And linguistically, "referees" are people
you find telling rugby players "naughty naughty".  Don't you
mean "referrer" and "referent"?

Of course a basic point about language is that the association
between sounds and meanings is (for the most part) arbitrary.
Why should the terminology of mathematics be any different?
Why is a "small dark floating cloud, indicating rain", called
a "water-dog"?  Water, yes, but dog?  Why are the brackets at
each end of a fire-place called "fire-dogs"?  Why are unusually
attractive women called "foxes" (the females of that species
being "vixens", and both sexes smelly)?  What's the logic in
doggedness being a term of praise but bitchiness of opprobrium?

We can hope for mathematical terms to be used consistently,
but asking for them to be transparent is probably too much to
hope for.  (We can and should use intention-revealing names
in a program, but doing it across the totality of all programs
is something never achieved and probably never achievable.)

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