I want to try looking at sentences with “or” in them to see how easy it is to tell whether “or” is meant as inclusive or exclusive and to get an idea of how often and in what contexts each meaning is used.
I took the sentences with “or” from this essay:
If you want to try doing this yourself before reading what I wrote, search for “or” on that page.
> People think you should debate or explain stuff yourself, not cite books or articles.
First “or”: inclusive. If people think you should debate or explain stuff yourself, they’d also be okay with you both debating and explaining stuff yourself.
Second “or”: inclusive. If people think you shouldn’t cite books and you shouldn’t cite articles, they’re also going to think you shouldn’t do both.
> But the truth doesn’t depend on what ideas are in my head or what I remember.
> Even most of what Rand, Mises or Reisman said about it wasn’t new.
Inclusive. There could be something that two of them both said, and this sentence would apply to that something.
> Then when you debate someone, your idea is a book or article that you can cite.
Exclusive. A cite couldn’t be both a book and an article.
> So it’s just like citing a Mises book, it’s pointing at the existing literature and trying to figure out what the discussion tree looks like, what is answered and unanswered, refuted or not, etc.
Exclusive. Something can’t be both refuted and not refuted.
> • Citing stuff you don’t understand or haven’t read.
> • Judging cites by the author’s name or what his conclusion is.
> There’s a ton of socialist literature and a socialist is a good person to help guide me to the best stuff and also, simultaneously, to the key stuff to criticize (or cite criticism of) to change his mind.
> If you’re just trying to practice explaining stuff, not actually trying to reach a conclusion in the field, then using little or no literature can make sense.
Exclusive. “little” and “no” can’t both be the case at the same time.
> This is especially true for complicated, established fields like economics or philosophy.
> It’s less true for a very new field like AGI, but even then you shouldn’t be e.g. reinventing algorithms, data structures, or programming languages – there’s lots of existing stuff that’s worth using (even an imperfect programming language is generally far better than trying to make a new one).
> Yeah maybe if you reinvent 100,000 points from scratch there will be a big chunk there someone could use and combine with some existing knowledge, but if that’s what’s going to happen you might as well do that yourself (develop in, from day 1, as an improvement on some existing knowledge – as something that can be added to some existing knowledge and/or some changes to some existing ideas with problems – rather than ignoring existing knowledge and leaving it to someone else to convert your work to be relevant to other ideas humanity has).
Inclusive. Is “and/or” a way of saying “inclusive or”?
> Then you’re trying to outcompete thousands or millions of people’s cooperative efforts by yourself.
From these examples, it seems that “or” is inclusive unless both things are not possible. However, this wouldn’t work for the ice cream and cake example in the logic course. It would be possible for the child to eat both ice cream and cake, but that’s not what the mother is saying.
How about sentences where “either” is used with “or”? I’m going to make that a separate post.