Re: Sapience versus Sentience is another way of saying Reasoning versus Sensing.

#1

Let's start at the dictionary.
Merrim-Webster Wrote: Sapience: Wisdom, Sagacity

Sagacity links us over to Sagacious:
Merrim-Webster Wrote: 1a: of keen and farsighted penetration and judgment : DISCERNING
b: caused by or indicating acute discernment

Discerning gets us a definition of "showing insight and understanding" and that's as far down that rabbit hole as I care to travel just right now.
On to Sentience
Merrim-Webster Wrote: 1: a sentient quality or state
2: feeling or sensation as distinguished from perception and thought

Merrim-Webster Wrote: Sentient:
1: responsive to or conscious of sense impressions
2: AWARE
3: finely sensitive in perception or feeling

With aware getting the full cap treatment,
Merrim-Webster Wrote: 1: having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge
2archaic : WATCHFUL, WARY

And, again, we can keep on dancing down the rabbit hole, but let's not.

Now, let's expand a little more on the core concepts.

Sentience is the ability to sense. In layman's terms, full sentience is the ability to feel pain, with a lot of the moral philosophers defining sentience as the ability to suffer: there's no need to protect non-sentient rocks from pain, but if one accepts that suffering is a universal "bad thing" then that's all the reason you need to protect a sentient being -- like your dog -- from unnecessary pain.

I like to think of sapience as a "trainability" characteristic. For a lot of sentient and semi-sentient beings, they've got a kind of genetically hard coded response: "if I detect food then I eat it." The more sapient a being is, the more capable they are of overriding that instinctive response and learning a new one. A dog that has been trained to sit while its master fills its food dish is an example of sapience in action. Full sapience -- which is often shortened to just "sapience" when talking outside of an academic setting -- includes the ability to create mental models and extrapolate mostly accurate predictions: "If I tell Sally she's fat, then she will slap me."

Let's take a look at that definition of "aware".
Merrim-Webster Wrote: 1: having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge


That chain that links sentience to knowledge is, I think, the reason a lot of people confuse sentience and sapience. Knowledge that something exists does not mean you know (or care to know) how it came to be or why it exists in its current state. And yet, the stand-alone concept of knowledge possess a strong cultural context that link into wisdom, which gets us into the pool of "keen … judgment" and "acute discernment" that are sapience's balliwack.

So, yeah. Sapience and sentience may be closely related, but they are not the same thing.

Re: Sapience versus Sentience is another way of saying Reasoning versus Sensing.

#6
Yeah largely I agree with the factual definitions here. Howerver, I think that there is always a little leeway in stories and there will always be pedantic readers with regard to word usage in any story. I do use 'sapience' in my story, but its less about exacting language than it is to just use the word that I wanted to use. Language evolves, is elastic, and requires constant context. 

In fiction, the world is defined by the words used. I am excited to use the term 'bodega' in my fantasy setting, not because its anachronistic, but because it provides a sense of how the city works, how people interact with it, and what modern conventions can be conveyed to build a world that wouldn't otherwise need such definitions. 

Sentient, Sapient, Self-Aware, Cognizant, Significant, Complex, Intelligent, Cognitive, Rational, Civilized, Ambitious, and Self-Improving are all different terms that I've seen and heard used to describe "reasoning individuals or species". 

I do think that if the argument over those two words being used in the same context in a story might actually bear some fruit, but I am not going to throw stones at an author using any of them to denote their "Not animals vs animals" in the context of their world. 

In our world, we largely agree that there is only one "Sapient" species largely legally defined as Humans. Terms and conditions apply according to individual beliefs and legal definitions in more monstrous places, but... it's not something often up for open debate today. 

Maybe if we manage to get our facial recognition and block-chain AIs to request individual rights, or aliens to visit Earth, that argument of what word is most appropriate will become suddenly very important. 

Re: Sapience versus Sentience is another way of saying Reasoning versus Sensing.

#7

Hadassah Wrote: Yeah largely I agree with the factual definitions here. Howerver, I think that there is always a little leeway in stories and there will always be pedantic readers with regard to word usage in any story.

I own that I am the "overly concerned with details"  type of pedant, and it's part of what makes being social hard for me. The thing is, words matter. They are the way we convey meaning -- especially over the internet. If you're using words that don't mean what you're trying to say, well, then you're not saying what you think you're saying.

I do agree that the difference between sapience and sentience is a minor matter, especially given that mixing up the two concepts is pretty widespread among native English speakers. And, yeah, if the story is good enough then readers can forgive a lot of minor mistakes. Those mistakes do still take away from the story.