• Mr Phil O'Sophy
    966
    Please read the following quote:

    “The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?” - Zhuangzi

    I am leaning towards thinking of meaning as something separate from the words they are attached to. Meaning clearly has existence, and it can be shared. I can't help but see it as something transcendental. As real as any object is, yet not made from atoms.

    What are your thoughts on this?


    I wrote the following poem on the subject last year at some point which I would like to share with you all, and I look forward to hearing your responses on the matter; you intriguing bunch of strangers you!


    My poem:

    The Language Sandwich.

    Words are to meaning,
    Like pictures to places.
    They can be deceiving,
    Like masks upon faces.

    Each word an overly simple symbol,
    For something so very far beyond.
    The meaning so slippery, so nimble,
    As it transcends beyond the tongue.

    Each word a broken puzzle piece,
    In quite dire need of bandage.
    Distortion of meaning will increase,
    A damned language sandwich.


    -----------------------------------------------
    And a quick poll to clear something up:
    1. Whats your favourite colour? (2 votes)
        Tartan
          0%
        Opaque
        50%
        Transparent
          0%
        Zebra
          0%
        Gherkins
        50%
  • ArguingWAristotleTiff
    3.2k
    @Banno @unenlightened
    If I remember right you two have an understanding of this topic. :up:
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    966
    Banno unenlightened
    If I remember right you two have an understanding of this topic. :up:
    ArguingWAristotleTiff

    Would be great to hear what they have to say on the matter.
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    Yes. Meaning = significance. And plenty of things - the majority of things - are significant without words. Words just have the advantage of precision - a rigorous syntax - even as they pay the price of semantic richness for it (i.e. consider the words required to describe even a basic sensation).
  • Ciceronianus the White
    786
    “The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?” - ZhuangziMr Phil O'Sophy

    A poor choice of an analogy. We won't be satisfied by a single fish or rabbit. As long as we want them, we won't forget about the trap or the snare; we may even improve them. So we'll continue to use the trap and the snare and it's rather foolish to claim that we can or should "forget" them. And so it is with words, and talking. We don't forget words, as we'll use them again, as long as we want to talk (communicate). Zhaungzi must have been having a bad day.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    966
    A poor choice of an analogy. We won't be satisfied by a single fish or rabbit. As long as we want them, we won't forget about the trap or the snareCiceronianus the White

    once you have what you want, you can forget about it. By forgetting about it, that doesn't mean you will forever neglect it or never return to it. I think you're focusing on the words too much and missing the meaning ;) lol the irony.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    966
    Meaning = significance.StreetlightX

    is it only significance? is there nothing more to meaning than that?
  • StreetlightX
    3.2k
    What more do you want?
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    Caution! The word "meaning" has more than one meaning.


    The Meaning of Meaning (1936) p. 186

    The following is a representative list of the main
    definitions which reputable students of Meaning have
    favoured. Meaning is—

    A. I An Intrinsic property.

    II A unique unanalysable Relation to other things.

    B. All The other words annexed to a word in the
    Dictionary.

    IV The Connotation of a word.

    V An Essence.

    VI An activity Projected into an object.

    VII (a) An event Intended.
    (b) A Volition.

    VIII The Place of anything in a system.

    IX The Practical Consequences of a thing in our
    future experience.

    X The Theoretical consequences involved in or
    implied by a statement.

    XI Emotion aroused by anything.

    C. XII That which is Actually related to a sign by
    a chosen relation.

    XIII (a) The Mnemic effects of a stimulus. Associations acquired.
    (b) Some other occurrence to which the
    mnemic effects of any occurrence are
    Appropriate.
    (с That which a sign is Interpreted as
    being of,
    (d) What anything Suggests.
    In the case of Symbols.
    That to which the User of a Symbol actually refers.


    XIV That to which the user of a symbol Ought
    to be referring.

    XV That to which the user of a symbol Believes
    himself to be referring.

    XVI That to which the Interpreter of-a symbol
    (a) Refers.
    (b) Believes himself to be referring.
    (c) Believes the User to be referring.
    — C.K.Ogden&I.A.Richards

    And that doesn't include the disreputable students, or even Wittgenstein. And still it took them 186 pages just to get that far, having excluded its use in such phrases as 'the meaning of life' as incoherent.

    Personally, I'm more in favour of forgetting meaning as something that looks after itself; I have a friend who punctuates every other sentence with 'D'you know what I mean?' It doesn't clarify what he says, and I never bother to answer.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    966
    I don't know. Considering meaning is so significant, I was expecting a little more than a brief couple of sentences.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    966
    I will read and reply to that soon.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    I have seen pictures of these mythical black and white horse-like animals in books and on television. Apparently there are photoshop applications that can apply stripes to a horse (or ponies, more likely), even to herds of them in videos. Clearly no such animal exists. Animals that stood out so dramatically on the Serengeti would have all been eaten a long time ago.

    Even though they are not real, it is quite straight-forward how meaning, which is derived from something real--"real" in many senses of the word, get's attached to a word:

    We have experiences which are consistent over time, and we associate these experiences with words. So the feeling we have when we encounter large snakes in our beds is variously called "fear", "shock", "horror", and so forth. Or when we get home from work there is this happy, large furry animal that puts its dirty paws on our white shirts to signal its great pleasure that we are back -- dog.

    Back to Zebras:

    tumblr_p5hic31WEN1s4quuao1_500.png

    I might be blind from birth and might never have seen a picture of this fake animal, or things called "horse", "stripes", or things called "black" and "white". I could still know about it, though, from consistent references to a "black and white striped horse-like animal that lives and dies on the Serengeti in Africa called a zebra".

    Experience comes first, then thoughts about things experienced, then terms. Or, we hear a term, we don't know what it means (it's meaningless to us), so we look it up, then realize that "Yes, we have knowledge that matches that term. It's meaningful, after all. Like Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. You know exactly what those words mean, you urban sophisticate you, don't you. Don't you?

    Of course, terms can be very confusing when used loosely. For instance, there are
    "individually wrapped, unlubricated monocles" which are used for protection. "You don't use monocles? Reckless of you, I must say."

  • Ciceronianus the White
    786
    once you have what you want, you can forget about it. By forgetting about it, that doesn't mean you will forever neglect it or never return to it. I think you're focusing on the words too much and missing the meaning ;) lol the irony.Mr Phil O'Sophy

    Well, he refers to the trap and the snare, not the fish and the rabbit. We wanted the fish and the rabbit. The trap and the snare are the means by which we get what we want. Once we have the fish and the rabbit (what we wanted) and have, presumably, eaten them, we can forget about them certainly, and we may forget about the trap and the snare as well--until we want another fish or rabbit. Then, if we're lucky, we'll remember the trap and the snare.

    So, I use words to express or communicate (trap?) a meaning. If I want to do so again, I hope that I'll remember the words by which I did so.

    Just working within the analogy.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    What are your thoughts on this?Mr Phil O'Sophy

    Meaning is coded in brain states. The word does not carry the meaning in a literal sense, nor is the meaning "out there" is some sort of mystical way. We learn words and their meaning through practice, but each of us carries the meaning of that word in a unique way in the fabric organisation of our brain (mind if you like).
    Words are so obviously separate from the meaning it's hardly worth pursuing. There are plenty of dead languages and scripts that exist to testify to that.
    Even where the meanings are thought to be known, that which a word denotes is far removed from that which it originally connoted.
    But look at the most simple word in a living language.
    "Cat" denotes a 4 legged furry mammal.
    But the lion-tamer, the cat lover, and the cat hater all have different meanings for this word. The biologist would have the connotation of mammal, whilst thousands of others would not think of a cat that way.
    Cat therefore has no perfect, unitary formal meaning. It does not exist in the Platonic ether, but is intricately related to each of our experience.
    Move forwards 10 million years when human civilisation is no longer a memory in the hyper-intelligent dogs that now reign in the planet and the word "Cat" is a synonym of evil.
  • BlueBanana
    900
    Words just have the advantage of precisionStreetlightX

    Quite the opposite, I'd say. No word can precisely catch the exact meaning, the idea, behind it.
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    Meaning is coded in brain states.charleton

    Shame it's not coded in posts. :nerd:
  • Galuchat
    482
    I am leaning towards thinking of meaning as something separate from the words they are attached to. — Mr Phil O'Sophy
    I agree.
    A word is a sign.
    A sign is an object (actuality) associated with semantic information.

    Different objects can be associated with the same semantic information.
    For example:
    1) The combination of phonemes which comprise the speech sound "cat".
    2) The combination of graphemes which comprise the written symbol "cat".
    3) A photograph of a "cat".
    4) A nonverbal mental representation of a "cat".
    5) The combination of sign language hand gestures and facial expressions which designate "cat".
  • charleton
    1.2k
    Quite the opposite, I'd say. No word can precisely catch the exact meaning, the idea, behind it.BlueBanana

    One man's idea is an other man's confused nonsense. There is no "exact" meaning. There is the meaning I have of it, the meaning you have of it, and the meanings held by anyone else that has been infected with that meme.
    I'm not sure that thinking of the "Idea behind it" is useful at all. Einstein might have a good meaning of "star", any any savage that looks longingly into the night sky can also have a meaning for the word star. That is not to say there is an "idea behind" the sign.

    We do have agreement, however. I can look at a point in the sky and say "star" and another can agree. In the end the star does not give a damn, and might not even exist. In another day that same dot of light can go Nova, and the worlds that once surrounded it ten thousand years ago teeming with intelligent life might also have had a word to describe their 'sun'. One thing is for sure it was not "star", or anything like it.
  • BlueBanana
    900
    One man's idea is an other man's confused nonsense. There is no "exact" meaning.charleton

    There is for each person using the word.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    There is for each person using the word.BlueBanana

    Not even that. What a word denotes can change, and what it connotes changes constantly.
    Since you are not even the same person you were last week, the meanings you hold change with you.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    966

    So does that mean we shouldn’t keep people in prison for longer than a week? Considering it won’t be the same person...
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    739
    Hello.
    To demonstrate that words are separate things from meanings.

    (1) If x = y, then changing the value of x would change the value of y proportionately, and vice versa, changing the value of y would change the value of x proportionately. If not the case, then x is a separate thing from y.

    (2) Words are made of letters. The word 'bridge' in english and 'pont' in french have the exact same meaning, and yet are completely different words, for they are composed of completely different letters.

    (3) Similarly, the word 'bank' has a completely different meaning in the proposition 'river bank' and 'bank account', despite being the exact same word both times.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    I can't help but see it as something transcendental. As real as any object is, yet not made from atoms.

    What are your thoughts on this?
    Mr Phil O'Sophy

    The fact that the same idea can be represented in any number of languages, or many kinds of media, does indeed imply that the semantic content of a statement is separable from the syntactical form that it takes.
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    The fact that some countries drive on the left and others on the right by no means implies that one can drive on any side of the road. The side of the road one has to drive on is arbitrary in one sense, but certainly not separable from the road. You can use 'separable' to mean 'banana' if you like, but don't expect much mutual understanding to ensue.

    Or to make a catchphrase: meaning is shared.
  • Mr Phil O'Sophy
    966
    The fact that some countries drive on the left and others on the right by no means implies that one can drive on any side of the road.unenlightened

    amazing point! lol

    Its strange how these different threads seem to converge. this point seems to link into the question of gender.
  • Banno
    3.8k
    The fact that the same idea can be represented in any number of languages, or many kinds of media, does indeed imply that the semantic content of a statement is separable from the syntactical form that it takes.Wayfarer
    Pay more attention to @unenlightened.
  • Wayfarer
    6.9k
    Why? Is he feeling neglected?
  • csalisbury
    1.5k
    @unenlightened

    The fact that some countries drive on the left and others on the right by no means implies that one can drive on any side of the road. The side of the road one has to drive on is arbitrary in one sense, but certainly not separable from the road. You can use 'separable' to mean 'banana' if you like, but don't expect much mutual understanding to ensue.

    Or to make a catchphrase: meaning is shared.

    yes sure, yeah definitely, but when people come on here and grouse about the inadequacy of meaning - well they're probably coming from somewhere more frustrating than driving regulations. People start talking about the failure of language, usually, when language has failed them. When there's something needs expression that linguistic expression just isn't up to.

    "yeah but wittgenstein' yeah but, c'mon

    What isn't being said? And why can't it be said? That's the heft and substance of what's being talked about. Even if the tortured road leads from the village, thru the crocodile thing, real bad, then back to the village - even then, talking about the village in a different, more abstracted way, isn't enough.

    what side of the road. it's like your dad saying 'what do you mean you saw the [weird, disrupting thing] we got plenty of stew in the pot!

    wittgenstein isn't a shaman and common sense isn't profound just bc you've flirted with the weird stuff.
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