sentient
Posted: 10 June 2017 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve always understood sentient to mean capable of rational thought. I just watched a video where Neil deGrasse Tyson uses the word in this sense. But the OED (old entry), Merriam-Webster, and American Heritage all limit the definition to capable of sensing, perceiving, feeling.

Are Neil and I wrong, or are the dictionaries not capturing the current usage?

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Posted: 10 June 2017 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’m with you and Neil, and I’m surprised the dictionaries haven’t caught up.  Brave New World (the OUP sf dictionary) has sentience in that sense going back to 1947 and sentient to 1965.

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Posted: 11 June 2017 03:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’m rather afraid I need to catch up too. I hadn’t noticed the shift in usage. Perhaps it’s more common in the US?

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Posted: 11 June 2017 04:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Looking at the Shorter OED (2007) and it has for sentience: “the condition or quality of being sentient; consciousness, susceptibility to sensation.” The word consciousness stands out there. The definition of sentient, however, is all about the senses and perception.

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Posted: 11 June 2017 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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"Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively”, per Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience

Cambridge Dictionary has this on “subjective”: “influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings, rather than based on facts”: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/subjective?q=subjectively.

I would think that one would require some rational though to arrive at their “personal beliefs or feelings “ at some point in their life. Some sort of thought process has to take place to get there. “Facts”, on the other hand can be “false”, as we have discovered lately.

I see we were posting at the same time, Dave. Just took me longer to get it all together. Your post requires me to ask if Wikipedia has it wrong.

[ Edited: 11 June 2017 04:34 AM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 11 June 2017 06:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Forgot to add: Or do I have it wrong?

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Posted: 11 June 2017 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I don’t know why one source should “have it right” and another source should “have it wrong”.  Lots of us have definitions of given words, which differ from person to person.  Ideally, it might be a good thing for one word to mean exactly the same thing to everybody: but in practice, I don’t think that is at all the case. Everybody attaches different nuances of meaning to the same word, especially in the case of words like “sentient”.  When we were discussing “perfect synonyms”, it became very clear that each of us attached his/her peculiar meaning to the same word, with the result that we couldn’t find a single pair of perfect synonyms.

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Posted: 11 June 2017 01:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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This issue crops up occasionally among fans of science-fiction, where the word has a long history of use to mean “capable of rational thought”, self-aware, or in other respects equivalent to (or greater than) human in terms of intellectual capacity,and entitled to the moral status of human on that basis. (It’s used as both an adjective and a noun.) I’m sure the sfnal use has influenced both you, Dave, and NdGT. But as you note, that doesn’t really match the dictionary definition, which would include anything that flinches when you poke it.

Some fans and writers have adopted the term sophont (noun) instead.

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