• Metaphysician Undercover
    3.7k
    I'm not saying the interpreter must try to do anything, btw. I'm saying the interpreter has a choice to match the writer's intention through the writing. They don't have to choose that though. They can choose to interpret the writing any way they want. That's what I meant by these earlier statements:numberjohnny5

    OK, so what you are saying is that anything written can have absolutely any meaning whatsoever, depending entirely on the interpretation. What the written thing means is whatever any individual who interprets it thinks it means.

    Do you recognize that this means that the written material cannot communicate any information from one individual to another? The interpreting individual gives the written material any meaning whatsoever.
  • numberjohnny5
    128
    OK, so what you are saying is that anything written can have absolutely any meaning whatsoever, depending entirely on the interpretation. What the written thing means is whatever any individual who interprets it thinks it means.Metaphysician Undercover

    Well, since meaning is mental events, then anything that is not mental events has no meaning or cannot produce meaning. This is because ontologically, meaning, as mental events, is not materially non-mental events. So a piece of writing, say, on a white piece of paper in black ink, is not ontologically the "same kind" of stuff as the 'intention' of the writer who wrote on that paper, intentions being mental events. In other words, the properties of brain/mind states are not the "same kind" of properties as ink on paper. Interpretations are also mental events.

    If you had learned the conventional uses of the words and phrases in the piece of writing and were also assigning those conventional uses to the writing, then you or others could "accurately" interpret what the writer intended with the writing (assuming the writer wasn't lying, pretending, etc.). If you were using unconventional uses of the words/phrases in the piece of writing and assigning those unconventional uses to the writing, then you or others wouldn't be as "accurate" re the writer's intentions.

    Do you recognize that this means that the written material cannot communicate any information from one individual to another? The interpreting individual gives the written material any meaning whatsoever.Metaphysician Undercover

    I'm not sure how literal you're being there. Do you recognise that "written material" doesn't actually "do" anything like an intentional mind does?

    In a nutshell, communication, in my view, is person A expressing their mental events via various mediums or "representational forms" (as Wayfarer put it) (e.g. symbols, sounds) to person B, where person B interpret's person A's mental events via the various forms. This communication is possible if both persons have learned (i.e. they have learned the conventional uses of the language they're using, and therefore assign those conventional meanings onto "representational forms") how to assign meanings onto "representational forms", and how to interpret another person's intentions/beliefs from those representational forms. The more conventional both person's assigned meanings onto said forms, the more likely they are to accurately interpret their intentions/mental events.

    Again, it all depends on whether the individual is attempting to accurately interpret another individual's intentions via language and behaviour. I think you're misunderstanding me. I'm not saying an individual just arbitrarily gives the "written material any meaning whatsoever" when trying to interpret the writer's intentions. An individual can interpret any meaning about the writing without caring about what the writer's intention was/is. The writer's intentions might not be valued by the individual interpreter. They might not care what the writer was trying to communicate. That's up to the individual. They can't be right or wrong about that if that's what they want to do. It's their free choice. But if they're trying to interpret the writer's intention as accurately as possible, they can make well-reasoned guesses; and it would be possible for these guesses to be confirmed as accurate or not by the writer.
  • numberjohnny5
    128
    This thread was opened over 6 months ago, and all of these issues have been canvassed in depth.Wayfarer

    What if you spun the situation around? That instead, it was you who posted on this thread after it began 6 months ago, and you disagreed with the OP and some other posters. Would you be persuaded that just because "the issues have been canvassed in depth" that either, say, (a) your views must be mistaken, and/or (b) that it wasn't worth trying to argue your views?

    However, and I'm not going to argue the point beyond this post, if there was 'no objective meaning', then nobody could ever be correct, or incorrect, about anything.Wayfarer

    There's no need to be objectively correct/incorrect (not that it's possible with meaning). All that's sufficient is instrumental utility. Guesses/speculations/assumptions/agreements/etc. demonstrate that they are good-enough for communication to be effective. It's not an either-or issue, and that's where your problematic thinking lies.

    You couldn't write down instructions for how to build a computer, or specify how TCP/IP works, or how information is routed across the internet. All of these things work, because there are successful ways of making them work, which can be communicated via specifications and instructions, which are accurate.Wayfarer

    I agree, they are successful methods of communication. This is because language is (very often) a successful means of communication. Language-users are generally aware of the conventional uses of their language, and when language-users employ those conventions, communication can be very accurate (in the sense of "matching" what language-users intend with their methods of communication) and useful.

    And if they were not accurate, and the technological solutions they refer to did not actually exist, then there would be no computers nor an internet. So the fact that you're able to participate in a debate, on the internet, using a computer, contradicts the point you're making - which, incidentally, is not a point at all, but simply a very long-winded way of saying that 'meaning is whatever you want it to be'. Or, in short - whatever.Wayfarer

    I'm sorry that you fail to understand my stance on this. Maybe that's my fault. But your representation of my stance isn't accurate. I never said "meaning is whatever you want it to be". That's not the definition I use. Rather, I think that if a person wants to interpret any piece of writing/sounds/etc. in any way they prefer, then that's their prerogative if they're not interested in trying to "understand" what the intentions are that produced a piece of writing/sounds/etc. If the interpreter is not trying to be "correct" with matching the intention of the writer, then they can't be "correct/incorrect" with their interpretation. They have chosen to assign the meaning they have for whatever reason they have.

    On the other hand, if a person is attempting to "understand" what the intention behind a piece of writing was/is, then they might assume the writer/speaker is using language conventions, and then assign language conventions to what the writer/speaker is expressing. In the latter case, though, because meaning is not a non-mental event/thing, there's not any objective (as in, non-mental) thing to try to match. So it's a category error to assume you can actually be objectively "correct/incorrect" with regards to getting meanings right/wrong. All you can do is try to make well-reasoned guesses via the writing/sounds/etc. re the writer's/speaker's intentions. And it helps if both writer and interpreter are using language conventions (that's the utility of conventions in general).

    I hope what I've written there is clear in helping you "understand" my views a bit better, even though I am aware you're not interested in continuing this convo with me.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    3.7k
    If you had learned the conventional uses of the words and phrases in the piece of writing and were also assigning those conventional uses to the writing, then you or others could "accurately" interpret what the writer intended with the writing (assuming the writer wasn't lying, pretending, etc.). If you were using unconventional uses of the words/phrases in the piece of writing and assigning those unconventional uses to the writing, then you or others wouldn't be as "accurate" re the writer's intentions.numberjohnny5

    This is what I was trying to bring to your attention, the existence of conventions. I don't think it's the case that the meaning you derive "wouldn't be as accurate" without the use of conventions in interpreting, I don't thjink you could get any meaning at all without the use of conventions, because the interpretation would be completely random.

    In any case, you recognize the importance of such conventions in relation to meaning. What type of existence do you think conventions have? They are not in an individual's brain, because they are shared by many brains. Where are they?
  • ProcastinationTomorrow
    39
    Metaphysician Undercover has pinpointed one of the problems with your position - what you assume about conventions:
    On the other hand, if a person is attempting to "understand" what the intention behind a piece of writing was/is, then they might assume the writer/speaker is using language conventions, and then assign language conventions to what the writer/speaker is expressing. In the latter case, though, because meaning is not a non-mental event/thing, there's not any objective (as in, non-mental) thing to try to match.
    If your aim is to align with conventional practice, then those practices themselves provide the objective grounds for whether you succeed or not.
  • numberjohnny5
    128
    I don't think it's the case that the meaning you derive "wouldn't be as accurate" without the use of conventions in interpreting, I don't thjink you could get any meaning at all without the use of conventions, because the interpretation would be completely random.Metaphysician Undercover

    Btw, in my view, what makes something meaningful to a person is that it is a coherent set of beliefs (mental associations) that are assigned/imposed upon things.

    I'm considering the cases of "feral children" and how they were able to assign meaning without having any human contact. In these cases, there were no conventions per human communication, and yet, under my definition of "meaning", I believe they were able to assign (non-random) meaning onto things. This is probably because they learned the predictability/consistency of the environment and non-lingual "conventions" of the non-human animals they were interacting with. So I would agree that some kind of "conventionality" is important for coherence re beliefs and meaning.

    In any case, you recognize the importance of such conventions in relation to meaning. What type of existence do you think conventions have? They are not in an individual's brain, because they are shared by many brains. Where are they?Metaphysician Undercover

    I'd use the entry from Wikipedia as a starting point:

    "A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom."

    So conventions are comprised of (a) mental events in the form of agreements, stipulations, standards, etc., (i.e. involving more than one brain) and (b) the manner/method in which those forms of mental events are consistently replicated (i.e. "representational forms", e.g., written language, speech-sounds, non-verbal behaviours, and the organised construction of materials/objects). People learn what these norms are within a community, and then try to imitate these norms. But conventions are a combination of non-mental things (the actual conventional patterns of behaviour and methods of conventional reinforcement) and mental things (conventions are essentially based on intentionality, and how people consistently think about and do/reinforce particular things).
  • Akanthinos
    617
    I'm considering the cases of "feral children" and how they were able to assign meaning without having any human contact.numberjohnny5

    There are no case of feral children. The few cases which have sparked the myth are about rejected youth afflicted by developmental and mental problems, which managed to survive on the outskirts of society thanks to scavenging and occasional charity.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    3.7k
    But conventions are a combination of non-mental things (the actual conventional patterns of behaviour and methods of conventional reinforcement) and mental things (conventions are essentially based on intentionality, and how people consistently think about and do/reinforce particular things).numberjohnny5

    OK, so to get to the point, I think conventions are essentially non-physical things. As you say, they are based in intentionality. Intentionality is a view toward what is wanted, and what is wanted is a state apprehended which has no physical existence. How do you reconcile this with physicalism?
  • numberjohnny5
    128
    If your aim is to align with conventional practice, then those practices themselves provide the objective grounds for whether you succeed or not.ProcastinationTomorrow

    My aim wasn't to say that one can't observe behaviours/forms of communicating as objective to try and determine what the intentions of a person are. My aim is to say that one can't observe people's actual intentions (their mental events) to determine what their intentions are. We can only make observations of an individual in the third-person; we cannot have first-person experiences of others' first-person experiences.
  • numberjohnny5
    128
    There are no case of feral children. The few cases which have sparked the myth are about rejected youth afflicted by developmental and mental problems, which managed to survive on the outskirts of society thanks to scavenging and occasional charity.Akanthinos

    Thanks for clarifying/correcting.
  • numberjohnny5
    128
    OK, so to get to the point, I think conventions are essentially non-physical things. As you say, they are based in intentionality. Intentionality is a view toward what is wanted, and what is wanted is a state apprehended which has no physical existence. How do you reconcile this with physicalism?Metaphysician Undercover

    Sure, but I'd also like to know from you how non-physical things exist if they have no properties, and therefore no spatio-temporal location? I can't make sense out of non-physical things having properties and no location.

    Intentionality is a mental state in my view, and mental states are brain states. Brain states are physical states. Brain states are comprised of properties and therefore, have location. If that's not enough, obviously ask me for more...
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    3.7k
    Sure, but I'd also like to know from you how non-physical things exist if they have no properties, and therefore no spatio-temporal location? I can't make sense out of non-physical things having properties and no location.numberjohnny5

    Ask yourself what is a property, and maybe you would realize that a property is itself a non-physical thing.

    Intentionality is a mental state in my view, and mental states are brain states. Brain states are physical states. Brain states are comprised of properties and therefore, have location. If that's not enough, obviously ask me for more...numberjohnny5

    Intentionality is a view toward the future, and future things do not have physical existence. So let's consider a simple choice. I am deciding whether or not to shut down my laptop now. How is it that a physical sate, my brain state, can choose to bring about the existence either one of these two possible physical states, my laptop being shut down, or my laptop remaining on? How does a physical state have a choice concerning which physical states will follow from the present physical state?
  • ProcastinationTomorrow
    39
    You seem to be assuming that intentions lie behind the conventions rather than intentions actually being manifested in those conventions. You may be right, you may be wrong, but you would need to address the quasi-behaviourist line of thought that sees intentions as things actually displayed by objective conventional practices, not as things that lie concealed behind those practices and somehow giving rise to them.
  • numberjohnny5
    128
    You seem to be assuming that intentions lie behind the conventions rather than intentions actually being manifested in those conventions. You may be right, you may be wrong, but you would need to address the quasi-behaviourist line of thought that sees intentions as things actually displayed by objective conventional practices, not as things that lie concealed behind those practices and somehow giving rise to them.ProcastinationTomorrow

    It doesn't make sense to me to suppose that, literally, "intentions lie behind" anything, apart from skulls, since intentions are mental phenomena. Intentions as mental states/events are not the same kind of thing as non-mental states/events, like behaviours, language formalisms, etc. Intentions can't be displayed because mental events are first-person experiences. We can only express intentions via observable methods of communication or action, but those methods are not intentions.
  • ProcastinationTomorrow
    39
    OK, so let me ask you a question: why can't behaviour be mental? Just saying that it cannot be doesn't answer that question. There seems to be a dualistic metaphysics lying behind your position, and if that is the case, then that dualism needs to be brought out clearly and defended, not just stated.
  • numberjohnny5
    128
    OK, so let me ask you a question: why can't behaviour be mental? Just saying that it cannot be doesn't answer that question. There seems to be a dualistic metaphysics lying behind your position, and if that is the case, then that dualism needs to be brought out clearly and defended, not just stated.ProcastinationTomorrow

    Sure. Behaviour involves the (autonomic and voluntary) motor movements (exhibition/inhibition of muscles via efferent pathways) as processed by nonconscious and conscious phenomena. Mentality refers just specifically to the conscious phenomena. There is a relationship between voluntary motor movements and mentality, of course, but they ain't the same. One major distinction is that motor movements occur in multiple sites in the body e.g. limbs, hands, feet etc., whereas mentality only occurs in the brain.

    And I'm strictly a physicalist.
  • numberjohnny5
    128
    Ask yourself what is a property, and maybe you would realize that a property is itself a non-physical thing.Metaphysician Undercover

    Three thoughts came to mind when reading that sentence:

    (1) Why you're deflecting the question back to me?
    (2) It seems you're implying that I haven't done enough philosophising because if I had, I would share the same conclusions re properties being non-physical as you do.
    (3) Why is it that in the handful of times I've asked anyone how to try and explain to me that non-physical existents obtain, they never actually try to accomodate me or give me a straight answer in terms of ontology? (That's rhetorical, but I'd be open to an answer.)

    It doesn't make sense to me to suppose that, literally, "intentions lie behind" anything, apart from skulls, since intentions are mental phenomena. Intentions as mental states/events are not the same kind of thing as non-mental states/events, like behaviours, language formalisms, etc. Intentions can't be displayed because mental events are first-person experiences. We can only express intentions via observable methods of communication or action, but those methods are not intentions.numberjohnny5

    It's not clear to me in what capacity you'd like an explanation of a physical brain state making a choice. I'll make a first attempt though. (Btw, when I refer to anything that exists, even when I mention "state", I do not presume they are static things. They are constantly changing/happening.)

    The kind of physical state that can make a choice is a mental state that has will and makes choices within particular contexts. For example, the physical state of thinking "I want to shut down my laptop" can (it doesn't have to) result in other conscious processes causing particular motor (efferent) pathways to move (exhibit/inhibit) particular body parts to shut down the laptop.
  • ProcastinationTomorrow
    39
    Sure. Behaviour involves the (autonomic and voluntary) motor movements (exhibition/inhibition of muscles via efferent pathways) as processed by nonconscious and conscious phenomena. Mentality refers just specifically to the conscious phenomena. There is a relationship between voluntary motor movements and mentality, of course, but they ain't the same. One major distinction is that motor movements occur in multiple sites in the body e.g. limbs, hands, feet etc., whereas mentality only occurs in the brain.

    And I'm strictly a physicalist.

    Perhaps I'm not sure what you mean by physicalist - it's an unclear label for a wide variety of views. Do you mean that mental things simply are physical things, we just don't know it yet? Or do you mean that mental things are caused by physical things, but are distinct kinds of things nevertheless? Or something else? I can only really get to grips with the rest of your response once this is cleared up.
  • Johnny Public
    13
    Intangible things exist. My thoughts are in exsistance. Are they a matter of fact? No. They can't be proven but they still exist.
  • numberjohnny5
    128
    Perhaps I'm not sure what you mean by physicalist - it's an unclear label for a wide variety of views. Do you mean that mental things simply are physical things, we just don't know it yet? Or do you mean that mental things are caused by physical things, but are distinct kinds of things nevertheless? Or something else? I can only really get to grips with the rest of your response once this is cleared up.ProcastinationTomorrow

    I mean that mental things are identical to physical things, namely, "types" of brain states. Physicalism is pretty much the same as materialism for me. Everything that exists is physical or is made of matter.
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