Traits and/or states

SKÁLA Zdeněk skala at INCOMA.CZ
Tue Nov 4 09:10:55 CST 2003

Dear Dr.Fitzhugh
thank you for your explanation. Perhaps the only problem is in the words? In the cladistic terminology the use of character/state seems to be exactly the same you are proposing, i.e. "char.:flower color | state:red" means "flowers are of red color". Would you propose to replace 'character' with 'object' and 'state' with 'character'? It would be surely possible but, in my humble opinion, not much useful in taxonomic practice. By the way, not all 'characters' are 'objects' in the general sense - a character can be, for example, preference of soil type with acidic/alcalic soils as states, presence of a taxon in different community types etc.

Best regards!
Zdenek Skala
skala at

-----Original Message-----
From: Kirk Fitzhugh [mailto:kfitzhug at]
Sent: Monday, November 03, 2003 9:30 PM
Subject: Re: Traits and/or states
..What concerns me is that the representations of our observation statements are not accurately conveyed by the distinction of character and state. What we observe are objects, and our ability to discern such objects is by way of what can be referred to as their properties, characters, traits, states of affairs, etc. We represent our perceptual beliefs by the conjunction of those named objects with some predicate language. An object, or even a part of an object, is therefore not the same as a character; a state is not a subset of a character. There are no hierarchical relations of properties since there can be no properties of properties. The relations we speak of are those of objects (or subjects) and their properties, characters, traits, states of affairs, etc. (as predicates).

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