• Harry Hindu
    1.3k
    All right Harry. If you are not going to read what I write. there's not much point in my writing it. Have a good day.Banno

    Its you that isn't reading my post. As I have already said words come in the form of visual scribbles and sounds. Hearing a word spoken is no different than hearing the wind blow or a wave crash. It provides information about what is happening in the outside world. In fact hearing the wind blow and hearing me say, "the wind is blowing" is redundant - obvious.
  • Arne
    295
    Are you suggesting that all must agree upon certain definitions of terms before the discussion can even begin? Who would decide what terms needed to be agreed upon? And who would decide the definitions of those agreed upon terms, if any there be? I find that the important thing in discussing philosophy is that you (as in this case me) have a definition for the terms I use that I can clearly articulate to those who ask. In addition, it is equally important to know when someone is using a term that is inconsistent with your definition and that you press them to define their term. In my own experience, the most interesting of philosophical discussions are among people who do not agree about which terms are most important and do not agree how those terms are to be defined. And beer helps.
  • Tomseltje
    148
    Perhaps we can agree that your desire for definitions has its roots in a certain theory of meaning, one more or less in line with the ideas that Harry espouses and that I have discussed elsewhere. That theory of meaning was closely critiqued during the middle of last century, by philosophers from diverse backgrounds.Banno

    I don't know, I'm not sure what you are referring to. My point about providing definitions, especially on an international accessable forum, is that I think it's rather relevant to know when someone sais the word 'mile' wether its a landmile or a seamile since they are not the same , and preferably just translates the quantity to si standard, So i can just substitute the given definition for the word that may have several different meanings, or in case the word used is new to me.
  • Tomseltje
    148
    Are you suggesting that all must agree upon certain definitions of terms before the discussion can even begin?Arne

    No, I'm saying that I need to know the definition the OP apllies in his/her statements in order to understand his/her statement, wich is required to determine whether or not his/her statements make sense to me.
    Especially if the OP is using a different definition of the word than the definition(s) I am familiar with.

    The discussion wether it's the 'right' definition is a complete seperate one. I even don't mind if the OP made up a word used in his/her statements, as long as he/she can define it to me using more familiar, less ambiguous words, so I become able to understand his/her statement.
  • Tomseltje
    148
    I find that the important thing in discussing philosophy is that you (as in this case me) have a definition for the terms I use that I can clearly articulate to those who ask. In addition, it is equally important to know when someone is using a term that is inconsistent with your definition and that you press them to define their term.Arne

    On this we seem to be in agreement. My frustration that caused me to start this OP, was that I didn't get the definitions when I asked for them on several occasions. Or got a two word definition that was equally non informative.
  • Arne
    295
    indeed. if we were live, so to speak, you could simply ask for them. But given the nature of this particular medium, having them in advance would be best.
  • Tomseltje
    148
    Although the age of a tree can be measured by tree rings, this isn't what they mean. I submit that they have no meaning at all. Clouds have no meaning either. Nor do black holes. They just are.Pattern-chaser

    Nonsense, if as you stated

    I prefer philosophy that is useful and meaningful to humans, and I prefer to consider matters relevant to humans, from a human perspective.Pattern-chaser

    following it's logical conclusion, you'd have to admitt that to humans for who the age of a tree is relevant and know about how trees grow, the three rings indicating the age of the tree have that meaning.

    Perhaps you meant that it has no meaning to the tree, but why would you with your preferance to consider matters relevant to humans?
  • Arne
    295
    Meaning is the same thing as information.Harry Hindu

    I disagree. Data is the same as information. Meaning is essentially derived from the context of the available data/information.
  • Tomseltje
    148
    indeed. if we were live, so to speak, you could simply ask for them. But given the nature of this particular medium, having them in advance would be best.Arne

    My main point wasn't even we should get them in advance, though I agree in this medium it can be usefull, especially for disambiguous words used. My point was mainly about that the definitions at least should be provided when asked for, rather than ignoring or refusing the request in the following response.
  • Arne
    295
    definitions at least should be provided when asked forTomseltje

    it is anti-philosophical to not respond to a request for definitions.
  • Pattern-chaser
    462
    Although the age of a tree can be measured by tree rings, this isn't what they mean. I submit that they have no meaning at all. Clouds have no meaning either. Nor do black holes. They just are. — Pattern-chaser

    Nonsense, if as you stated

    I prefer philosophy that is useful and meaningful to humans, and I prefer to consider matters relevant to humans, from a human perspective. — Pattern-chaser

    following it's logical conclusion, you'd have to admit that to humans for who the age of a tree is relevant and know about how trees grow, the three rings indicating the age of the tree have that meaning.

    Perhaps you meant that it has no meaning to the tree, but why would you with your preference to consider matters relevant to humans?
    Tomseltje

    I meant that it has no meaning. Not to a tree, and not to a human. As I said, the age of a tree can be determined by examining its rings. But this is not their meaning. They have no meaning. They are a physical attribute of a tree, but you assign meaning to them. Why, and on what basis?
  • Arne
    295
    I meant that it has no meaning. Not to a tree, and not to a human. As I said, the age of a tree can be determined by examining its rings. But this is not their meaning. They have no meaning. They are a physical attribute of a tree, but you assign meaning to them. Why, and on what basis?Pattern-chaser

    I would agree that we have no concept of meaning that would attribute to the tree any meaning regarding the number of rings a tree has. But from that it does not follow that there are no beings for whom the rings have no meaning. In addition, I would also suggest the possibility that beings for whom the rings might have meaning may be deriving meaning from the rings rather than assigning meaning to the rings.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    ...the outside world...Harry Hindu

    Perhaps you would be better named "Harry Homunculus"?
  • Banno
    3.4k
    SO yes, there is a use for definitions in any conversation, as you describe.

    Note that the Socratic Dialogues themselves are discussions about the meaning of various terms; working out what we mean is pivotal to philosophy. If we begin by simply stipulating meaning, then arguably we are not actually doing any philosophy.

    It seems from the discussion above that @Harry Hindu thinks meaning is something one has in one's head, that is then translated into "visual scribbles and sounds", transmitted and them decoded by someone else. It's a tempting view of language, but it's wrong. Meaning is constructed in the interaction of people using those "visual scribbles and sounds"; it does not exist only in individual minds, but in their interaction. Settling on shared definitions, shared understandings, is part of that process.
  • Banno
    3.4k
    @TomseltjeThat's also where @Pattern-chaser goes astray, rightly noticing that we impart meaning to tree rings while also concluding that this means tree rings have no meaning at all- apparently without noticing this contradiction.

    DOn't look to meaning, look to use: tree rings can be used to dermin the age of a tree.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.3k
    I disagree. Data is the same as information. Meaning is essentially derived from the context of the available data/information.Arne
    The context is the causal relationship. What something means is what caused it. What tree rings mean are what caused them, which is how the tree grows throughout the year. Even alien visitors would understand what tree rings mean. The causal relationship is objective in the sense that there is only one correct interpretation of tree rings. Any other interpretation would be subjective and therefore useless to others - that is unless you find arbitrary and anthropomorphic interpretations useful.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.3k
    DOn't look to meaning, look to use: tree rings can be used to dermin the age of a tree.Banno
    Thanks to how the tree grows throughout the year.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.3k
    Perhaps you would be better named "Harry Homunculus"?Banno

    Perhaps you would be better named, "Banal"?
  • Pattern-chaser
    462
    TomseltjeThat's also where Pattern-chaser goes astray, rightly noticing that we impart meaning to tree rings while also concluding that this means tree rings have no meaning at all- apparently without noticing this contradiction.

    Don't look to meaning, look to use: tree rings can be used to dermin the age of a tree.
    Banno

    OK, I'll phrase more carefully: Tree-rings have no intrinsic meaning. Meaning is assigned arbitrarily to them by humans. Even using tree rings to determine the age of a tree is a human thing: we kill the tree to see how old it was. The rings simply reflect the way the tree grew. They have no intrinsic meaning, and they were not put there for the use of humans.

    Better, surely, not to assign meaning or use, but simply to observe and enjoy? :chin: :up:
  • Tomseltje
    148
    it is anti-philosophical to not respond to a request for definitions.Arne

    I'm glad we agree on this. I wished all on this forum would. Perhaps it could be included in the site guidelines.
  • Tomseltje
    148
    but you assign meaning to themPattern-chaser

    once meaning has been assigned, it has meaning I'd argue.
  • Tomseltje
    148
    Note that the Socratic Dialogues themselves are discussions about the meaning of various terms; working out what we mean is pivotal to philosophy. If we begin by simply stipulating meaning, then arguably we are not actually doing any philosophy.Banno

    It's the kind of meaning I was referring to. I'd say that we can't sensibly start going into a philosophical discussion without those being clear. Whether the defining is part of the philosophical discussion or preceeds it, I don't really care, as long as it happens.
  • Tomseltje
    148
    TomseltjeThat's also where Pattern-chaser goes astray, rightly noticing that we impart meaning to tree rings while also concluding that this means tree rings have no meaning at all- apparently without noticing this contradictionBanno

    You seem to be non specific regarding build-in meaning and assigned meaning. In case of the tree rings, they may not have a build-in meaning, but they may have an assigned meaning. If you don't differenciate but just say meaning in general we won't be able to tell wich kind you are reffing to, and we will just keep disagreeing.
  • Tomseltje
    148
    Tree-rings have no intrinsic meaning. Meaning is assigned arbitrarily to them by humans. Even using tree rings to determine the age of a tree is a human thing: we kill the tree to see how old it was. The rings simply reflect the way the tree grew. They have no intrinsic meaning, and they were not put there for the use of humans.Pattern-chaser

    Glad you demonstrated to be able to make the differenciation needed here, I tried to point out to Banno. Thank you for substanciating my position.

    "and they were not put there for the use of humans"

    I'm just not sure about this last part, I don't know why they were put there, do you? I can't logically exclude the possibility that they were put there for the use of humans just yet.

    Having cleared up this conundrum, I'd like to point out that I started this topic about the definition of words. Definitions of words used in a statement clearly are not about intrinsic meaning but about assigned meaning.

    ps.
    No offence intended, but seeing your statement

    I prefer philosophy that is useful and meaningful to humans, and I prefer to consider matters relevant to humans, from a human perspective.Pattern-chaser

    I would have expected you would opt for assigned meaning rather than intrinsic meaning, yet you chose differently. I wonder why, got any thoughts on that?
    (note, I realize this is a rather personal question, so I'm not expecting you to express the thoughts you may have on this, just whether you gave it some thought yet or not)
  • Arne
    295
    Note that the Socratic Dialogues themselves are discussions about the meaning of various terms; working out what we mean is pivotal to philosophy. If we begin by simply stipulating meaning, then arguably we are not actually doing any philosophy. — Banno
    It's the kind of meaning I was referring to. I'd say that we can't sensibly start going into a philosophical discussion without those being clear. Whether the defining is part of the philosophical discussion or preceeds it, I don't really care, as long as it happens.
    Tomseltje

    Well said by the both of you.

    They are called dialogues for a reason.

    In my experience, people unwilling to define their terms when asked do not know what they are talking about and when the discussion gets tough, they will be the first to call you a name while they are running for the exit.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.3k
    OK, I'll phrase more carefully: Tree-rings have no intrinsic meaning. Meaning is assigned arbitrarily to them by humans. Even using tree rings to determine the age of a tree is a human thing: we kill the tree to see how old it was. The rings simply reflect the way the tree grew. They have no intrinsic meaning, and they were not put there for the use of humans.

    Better, surely, not to assign meaning or use, but simply to observe and enjoy? :chin: :up:
    Pattern-chaser
    Tree rings DO have intrinsic meaning. Humans could never have "assigned" the meaning of the tree rings as the age of the tree if the tree didn't grow that particular way throughout the year.

    The tree rings are the result of how the tree grows throughout the year, so not only do the tree rings mean the age of the tree, but also how the tree grows throughout its lifetime.

    Words mean that someone wrote them, just as finding a watch means that someone made it. But the words also mean something else, which is some idea that the writer intended to convey. The pattern on the face of a watch means the time of day, which is what the watchmaker designed it to do. So any effect, whether it be tree rings, words or watches, carries information, or meaning, from all of its subsequent causes.
  • Pattern-chaser
    462
    but you assign meaning to them — Pattern-chaser

    once meaning has been assigned, it has meaning I'd argue.
    Tomseltje

    Yes, but the meaning is in your head (mind) and mine. It has no existence in the scientific space-time universe (outside of our heads), and it has no association with the trees (outside of our heads).
  • Banno
    3.4k
    my first reaction is that the notion of built in meaning is in error. Meaning is assigned. But you might argue that a screwdriver has a built in meaning.
  • Pattern-chaser
    462
    "and they were not put there for the use of humans"

    I'm just not sure about this last part, I don't know why they were put there, do you? I can't logically exclude the possibility that they were put there for the use of humans just yet.
    Tomseltje

    That was me broadening the context considerably, and commenting on the ravage and plunder that humans have perpetrated on the world we live in, which seems to stem from the understanding that the entire world (universe?) is there for humans to use as they see fit. Not quite on-topic. :wink:

    Oh, and I like the way you allow for a possibility you can't yet rule out. Not many people practice mental hygiene that thoroughly. :up: :smile: And no, I don't know why God put them there. I'd ask Her, but I suspect She wouldn't answer. :wink: She must be very busy. :grin:

    No offence intended, but seeing your statement

    I prefer philosophy that is useful and meaningful to humans, and I prefer to consider matters relevant to humans, from a human perspective. — Pattern-chaser

    I would have expected you would opt for assigned meaning rather than intrinsic meaning, yet you chose differently. I wonder why, got any thoughts on that?

    (note, I realize this is a rather personal question, so I'm not expecting you to express the thoughts you may have on this, just whether you gave it some thought yet or not)
    Tomseltje

    Offence? Personal? No, I'm fine with that. I was confused, briefly when I saw these comments. In the Other Forum where I used to live, before I came here to TPF, courtesy was rare, and usually reserved for sciencists. So thank you for your courtesy. A refreshing change. :smile:

    As for the question you ask, I was confused there too for a while, but I think I've got it now. Yes, I prefer a human-centric philosophy, and perspective on life, the universe and everything. But I want an honest view, so I would avoid projecting the meaning I see onto the world. Meaning is in the eye of the beholder, it is not part of the thing we assign or ascribe it to. That kind of projection seems to be very easy for us to slip into, as we do it a lot. I try to avoid it whenever I can, or comment if it seems someone else is doing so.

    Does that answer your question? :chin:
  • Harry Hindu
    1.3k
    Yes, but the meaning is in your head (mind) and mine. It has no existence in the scientific space-time universe (outside of our heads), and it has no association with the trees (outside of our heads).Pattern-chaser
    Wrong. If meaning only existed in our heads and not outside of our heads, then how does the meaning in words get from the writer or speaker's head to the listeners' heads?

    When someone writes something, those scribbles mean something independent of anyone looking at them. The meaning is what the writer intended to convey. The reader simply tries to get at what the writer intended to convey. If the reader wanted to impose his/her own meaning on the scribbles, then they wouldn't be getting at the meaning of the words. Instead they would be interpreting them incorrectly.

    We often find that we have identified the wrong meaning in some thing that we perceive. How can we ever be wrong in our meanings if they only existed in our heads? The "meaning" in your head is just an idea (a representation) of the meaning out there, just like everything else in your head. You're confusing the picture with the real thing.

    You could say that your experience itself carries meaning about all the causes leading up to it. This is why doctors can diagnose the conditions of your eyes based on the description of your visual experiences. Your body's state is as much a cause, if not more so, of your experiences as the things you are perceiving.

    Every effect points back to a string of causes, with each effect carrying information/meaning about every cause leading up to it. Meaning/Information is the relationship between cause and effect.
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