• macrosoft
    381
    If we can identify and agree about the features of public entities (which we certainly seem able to do), what more is required for shared meaning?Janus

    I think you are ignoring the complexity involved. And really identification-in-common is already mysterious, already a form of shared meaning. We don't see different patches of sensation. We see the same chair and know that we see the same chair. And this is the small stuff.

    Science itself is an intelligible discourse. Did Einstein's consciousness exist? How could his ideas be shared? I'd say something like 'brains are networked,' and the individual human brain is to some degree an abstraction, at least if we are concerned with the brain in its 'natural' (social) condition. But this is to speak a lingo or organs, when I am really pointing at something that we are doing right now --imposing on some imperfectly public meaning-space.

    Since this is a fundamental part of being human, it's hard to imagine not addressing this space (from within this same space.) And discourse about experience as a whole must take it into account since such a discourse lives in this space. We can ignore this space and look outside at more reliably shared public objects, but we still move in this space even as we reason about these objects and illuminate their nature. It's mysterious and yet utterly familiar.
  • Janus
    5.9k
    And of course all of this is fine, but (from a philosophical angle) how does this unseen something exist?macrosoft

    What point exactly are you wanting to make when you say "of course all of this is fine'? Given that the question cannot by definition be answered the way you are wanting to ask it; is the question really of any use?
  • macrosoft
    381
    Given that the question cannot by definition be answered the way you are wanting to ask it; is the question really of any use?Janus

    That itself is a good question. And it brings me back to the ultimate authority of science being grounded in utility, public utility, the things that everyone wants, including me. An earlier issue I brought up was the tension between the pragmatic/instrumentalist monkeys-using-tools vision supported in some sense by science with a more passionate concern with what is 'really' there that is almost always at work in philosophy. Does utility = truth? I have defended such a position before, but I no longer think it makes sense. Truth cannot be pinned down like that. Our sense of 'true-for-us' eludes exact conceptualization, it seems. Meaning is not atomic or explicit. Proof? No proof, if meaning as it exists for us is not recognized as 'real' in the first place. Otherwise I'd say just examine your consciousness as you read.

    I have been trying to light up the mysterious in what is easily taken for granted. It is 'obvious' that meaning isn't public, such is one of many public meanings. It is 'obvious' that science doesn't address meaning, and yet it is obvious that science exists as meaning. If all the scientistic philospher is saying is that science reveals some part of public existence extremely well, then who could disagree with that, except maybe to obsess over the words and miss the spirit of the remark?

    Not only do I not deny the elusiveness of the word 'meaning,' I suggest that this elusiveness is there for the taking generally in language --which only exists distributed across a time that seems different than physics time (which itself exists within this kind of meaning-time.)

    It's been fun talking tonight. I finally have to go to bed. Hope there are no hard feelings despite our slightly combative discussion.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    It's been fun talking tonight.macrosoft

    Goodnight. And FWIW I think the depth of your posts has improved considerably over the years. ;-)
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    Is that so clear?macrosoft

    Yes. It couldn't be more clear in my view.

    How does one distinguish between mental and non-mental in the first place?macrosoft

    Mental phenomena are such as thoughts, ideas, concepts, etc. They're only first-person observable. They're what it's like to be a brain in particular states. Non-mental is all phenomena outside of that, phenomena that are outside of brains, outside of persons' bodies, etc.

    What is sensation? How do we learn to distinguish between dreams and the rest of experience?macrosoft

    Re "sensation" you'd have to be more specific. What sort of sensation, or a sensation of what?

    Re dreams/other stuff, for one, for me at least, dreams have a very different phenomenal quality compared to anything else.

    Why don't we just start with that, since that's already potentially at least four different topics.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    By the way, certainly some people might have difficulty sorting out what is mental phenomena and what is other stuff, might have difficulty sorting out their dreams from other things, and so on. They have my sympathy, because that must be very problematic to deal with. But I think--sincerely--that if we're talking about someone even, say, 7 or 8 years old who is having difficulty with that, it suggests that they receive medical and/or psychiatric attention. Something unusual is going on with that person medically.

    Some info/resources that might be helpful:
    http://healthland.time.com/2011/10/05/reality-check-why-some-brains-cant-tell-real-from-imagined/
    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01393/full
    https://www.sharecare.com/health/schizophrenia/what-is-schizophrenia
  • macrosoft
    381
    Mental phenomena are such as thoughts, ideas, concepts, etc. They're only first-person observable.Terrapin Station

    Of course I know what you mean in the everyday sense. Who doesn't? We start from this what-everybody-already-knows. IMV, you are repeating this as if it's an insight or a kind of progress in the discussion. I, on the other hand, am problematizing a distinction. If you uncharitably read philosophy as insanity, this would only support my point (not really mine) that paradigm-shifts are unintelligible nonsense at first. In this case, the paradigm-shift is mostly old news, since I am really just working through insights that are more than 100 years old.

    So I'm crazy, Hegel is crazy, Heidegger is crazy. Everyone not immediately intelligible is crazy, because they try to extend and enrich 'common sense' by rooting out its blinding presuppositions. As we see the limitations of our current way of talking, we can only express these limitations to others in this same limited language. Argument is secondary to the disclosure of new concepts/entities that can only be argued about once they are grasped (become sufficiently public.) The space of shared meaning (which you haven't really accounted for as far as I can tell) is enlarged by metaphors and distinctions. We do not compute on some fixed, finite set of atomic meanings. Such a grasp of the object assumes that philosophy can work like that most normalized of discourses, mathematics. What is ignored in this pursuit of an ideal epistemology (math's) is that it comes at the cost of completely ignoring what is being talked about. A theorem is certainly true, but what it means 'floats free.' The epistemology is perfect at the cost of ignoring meaning altogether. The object is fit to the criterion, which 'truncates' what is living in it.

    If we really take our own difficultly to grasp new ways of thinking and talking as the insanity of that new way of thinking, then our poor quantum physicists are crazy (or were crazy.). And every schoolchild's calculus teacher is a lunatic. Surely most would be ashamed to call these disciplines crazy. Why? Primarily because science and math are directly associated with worldly power. Even if no one 'really' understands QM (per Feynman), it gives us the internet. The complacency of well-fed common sense may well scoff at the funny way their apparently useless philosophers talk about talking. And, indeed, there are crazies enough out there. And one is free to sleep through what is awkwardly mysterious or problematic in one's default method. This is even the rule. We might even say that philosophy is the ecstatic self-mutilation of encrusted common sense. It hurts to think in new ways and yet it brings joy.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    Of course I know what you mean in the everyday sense.macrosoft
    Ohhhkay . . . so maybe try to make clear the "non-everyday sense" you're asking about? Whatever that might be?

    Who doesn't? We start from this what-everybody-already-knows.macrosoft

    Personally I'm not comfortable speaking for what everyone knows.

    IMV, you are repeating this as if it's an insight or a kind of progress in the discussion.macrosoft

    I was answering a question you asked. You asked "How does one distinguish between mental and non-mental in the first place?" If that question isn't what it appears to me to be, how am I supposed to know that? You seem to be literally asking how one distinguishes between mental and nonmental, as if you might not know. What am I supposed to be answering instead of what it seems like you asked?

    I, on the other hand, am problematizing a distinction.macrosoft

    "Problematizing"? I would guess that means "trying to make a problem out of"? Why would you be doing that? Boredom?

    If you uncharitably read philosophy as insanity, this would only support my point (not really mine) that paradigm-shifts are unintelligible nonsense at first.macrosoft

    You're referring to my comments later in the post I take it.

    I sincerely believe that some people have problems delineating mental from nonmental, dreams from reality, etc. That's a medical issue, often a mental illness issue. You're not arguing that some people don't have those problems or that it's not a medical issue, are you?

    that paradigm-shifts are unintelligible nonsense at first. In this case, the paradigm-shift is mostly old news, since I am really just working through insights that are more than 100 years old.macrosoft

    What paradigm shift, what insight, exactly are we talking about?

    So I'm crazy, Hegel is crazy, Heidegger is crazy. Everyone not immediately intelligible is crazy, because they try to extend and enrich 'common sense' by rooting out its blinding presuppositions.macrosoft

    "Enrich common sense"? I hope they're not endorsing some vague notion of "common sense." I'm certainly not.

    What "blinding presuppositions" are we talking about? Why don't we get specific?

    The space of shared meaningmacrosoft
    Yeah, I don't believe there is any such thing per se.

    Anyway, we're again doing like a laundry list of different topics, and what exactly does any of this have to do with what we were just talking about? Why can't we focus on one thing at a time instead of flitting about from topic to topic like a squirrel with ADD? (And where the different topics are like nuts that we're desperately trying to build a huge store of prior to winter.)
  • Gilliatt
    21
    Well, what you mean with "idealism"? Fichte? Schelling? What else?
  • Janus
    5.9k
    It's been fun talking tonight. I finally have to go to bed. Hope there are no hard feelings despite our slightly combative discussion.macrosoft

    It has been fun! These kinds of subjects always offer a good bit of a mind workout. They can be somewhat frustrating though, due to the "ordinary language on holiday" syndrome they often embody! Certainly no hard feelings on my part, despite the fact that my tone can seem strident at times.

    Does utility = truth? I have defended such a position before, but I no longer think it makes sense. Truth cannot be pinned down like that. Our sense of 'true-for-us' eludes exact conceptualization, it seems. Meaning is not atomic or explicit.macrosoft

    I think Aristotle's answer suffices: "To say that that which is, is not, and that which is not, is, is a falsehood; therefore, to say that which is, is, and that which is not, is not, is true." This can be taken in a deflationary sense as equivalent to Tarski's formula; not much progress over 2000 years!

    The word 'truth' is itself polysemous, so none of this is exactly apt when it comes to thinking about so-called poetic or religious truths.

    But to return to the OP; when a question like "Is idealism irrefutable" is asked, then we are dealing with the kind of logic that strictly propositional notions of truth operate within, because there is really no sensible question at all of "refuting" poetic or religious truths. I believe this is a source of great confusion in philosophy; which is amply demonstrated on these forums by the proliferation of superficial religious topics and posts.
  • macrosoft
    381
    It has been fun! These kinds of subjects always offer a good bit of a mind workout. They can be somewhat frustrating though, due to the "ordinary language on holiday" syndrome they often embody! Certainly no hard feelings on my part, despite the fact that my tone can seem strident at times.Janus

    Well said, and I feel the same. I try to be forceful in pursuit of clarity, but sometimes in retrospect I'm afraid I verged on rudeness or being too strident. Frankly philosophy excites me so much at times that I can't stop thinking about it. And I only 'want' to stop because the real world demands other things from me --intellectual things, fortunately, but not as wild and free as philosophy.

    The word 'truth' is itself polysemous, so none of this is exactly apt when it comes to thinking about so-called poetic or religious truths.Janus

    I think we agree quite a bit here. Part of me even wants to radicalize this. Even thinking of a finite set of meanings seems to betray the phenomenon of meaning to some degree. I am tempted to say that meaning is better modeled by R than N, and that individual word meanings or sets of meanings are still just useful abstractions, potentially misleading us in other contexts. Wittgenstein's 'language on holiday' is a great insight, but perhaps one retort would be that it sometimes accomplishes something to experience a word present-to-hand.

    But to return to the OP; when a question like "Is idealism irrefutable" is asked, then we are dealing with the kind of logic that strictly propositional notions of truth operate within, because there is really no sensible question at all of "refuting" poetic or religious truths. I believe this is a source of great confusion in philosophy; which is amply demonstrated on these forums by the proliferation of superficial religious topics and posts.Janus

    I agree that that is what the OP presupposes, that questions about idealism are sufficiently sharp for an equally sharp notion of truth to be applied. But in my view we can only get this in mathematics. Even in mathematics we get this by ignoring meaning altogether epistemologically. Perhaps my fundamental point is that a typical ambition to do math with words ignores in its lust for certainty that language is far too slippery and flexible for that. I advocate a holism that I see as our usual mode of understanding/using language, which lies inconspicuous in its closeness to us.
  • macrosoft
    381
    Why can't we focus on one thing at a time instead of flitting about from topic to topic like a squirrel with ADD? (And where the different topics are like nuts that we're desperately trying to build a huge store of prior to winter.)Terrapin Station

    Since the central theme is language/meaning in which all of these topics appear, we have really been talking about one thing, something like the being of meaning. If certain common-sense assumptions about the way that language/meaning is 'supposed' to work are 'seen around' by returning to the phenomenon itself (just look at the living process in your own mind), then a kind of background know-how is foregrounded along with an essentially historical 'connectedness of mental life.' I can say this with confidence if not with proof because the shared meaning space includes this sense of shared-ness.

    I think you misunderstand me because you are trying to fit the terms I use into your fixed metaphysical meat-grinder. You want them to have sharp atomic meanings to correspond to the very fantasy that they deny, which is that words have ever had sharp atomic meanings independent of context. Context sharpens meaning (but never to perfect resolution) and such context is necessarily historical, caught up in a time that is not the simple time of the clock. This is made clear not only by phenomenological investigation ('first-person' is an imperfect pointer here) aided by 'formal indications' (the pointers to these inconspicuous or 'covered-over' phenomena contributed by others) but also by a sincere wrestling with the problem of interpretation. One has to care about understanding the other (grasping new ideas that don't coddle your lingo) more than one cares about playing a kind of argumentative sport. I am quite capable of playing that sport, but it's an inferior way to spend time IMO. Let's leave uncharitable misreading (misreading itself may be the only kind in absolute terms) to the politicians.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    Since the central theme is language/meaning in which all of these topics appear, we have really been talking about one thing, something like the being of meaningmacrosoft

    Hmm, I sure haven't been talking about language and meaning, aside from my comment about "shared meaning." So this is a good example of why your approach may not be as fruitful as you might want it to be. If you want me to talk about language and meaning, just say, "Hey, so what do you think about language and specifically meaning?"

    Re meaning, my view of what it is/how it works is this:

    Meaning is the mental phenomenon of making what are basically conditional, implicational associations--in other words, both connotational and denotational assocations that mentally function in the manner of "if this <input>, then that <association>." It's important to keep in mind that meaning is not the associations themselves. Non-mentally, there isn't even any way to make an association. Simple correlations can't do it. Instead, meaning is the dynamic, inherently mental phenomenon that is the act of associating. The things associated can be any other mental content--perceptions with respect to any sense (sight, sound, etc.--or in other words re perceptions, we're assigning meanings to external objects and events etc. in the world ), concepts, words a la sounds or symbol/text strings, concepts, etc.

    Meanings, as something inherently mental, the inherently mental act of associating, can't literally be made public. They're not identical to sounds we make, gestures we make, strings of letters or symbols, etc. And they can not literally be shared, either in the sense of display, or in the sense of two or more people possessing the same one.
  • fdrake
    1.5k
    It doesn't mean, as the quote I provided above says, that the Universe sprang into existence only when it became perceived; what I think it means is that, any coherent or meaningful statement about what is real, always must include or assume the existence of an observing mind, which synthesises all of the data and percepts into a meaningful whole within which the statement about the reality of anything is real. And this manifold of perceptions, judgements, and so on, is what constitutes 'the world'. But that is a philosophical, not a scientific, observation - science assumes the reality of a mind-independent world, which it can safely do. It's only when it then treats that as a metaphysical principle, and not a methodological assumption, that the problems begin! (And that is quite compatible with Kant's declaration that one can be both an empirical realist and a transcendental idealist, for which see this blog post.)Wayfarer

    Broadly speaking, since your position largely follows correlationist tropes Meillassoux deals with in After Finitude, I'll continue my exegesis of his critique rather than writing my own with my own idiosyncratic concepts.

    I would not be so sure that the thought I quoted is consistent with Meillassoux's project; rather, he seeks precisely to demolish the idea of the conditioning subject within it that appears as given within every apprehension. While you have positioned your idea as essentially Kantian in nature, it is only Kantian in heritage. Thought of the regularity in nature has obviously changed through the history of philosophy; from the atomists who dared to think the being of nature and its regularity speculatively - as attempts at conceptualising the real, to the 'Copernican turn' from Kant onwards which grounds the possibility of empirical science through the (transcendental) regularity of our perceptions. Though the post Kantians expanded the emphasis on finitude (a lot), the critical correlationist argument is codified in Kant (but best exemplified in early Wittgenstein and Heidegger). So, for Meillassoux, there is a transformation which occurs to thought of the real in the change from speculative metaphysics to the critique of reason which has a dual character.

    (1) The annihilation of the ability to conceive of absolutes; laws, regularities; in the real (even the real of ideas) except through the indexing of their conception to the reciprocal relation of the subject and being/world. This position encourages thinking the existence and behaviour of entities as extrinsic to all conception, but their being remains given within apprehension. This has an effect of denying the autonomy of the real.

    So, dually:

    (2) Meillassoux would rather reinvigorate conceptualisation of the real by insisting upon our capacity for reasoned engagement with it. This space of questions requires a metaphysics under which the real is treated with autonomy from humans; which is to joyfully affirm that our metaphysical conceptions are motivated by the real precisely to the extent our concepts are sensitive to its dynamics.

    The elevation of finitude by introducing the exterior of thought - its topics and targets - to the interior of the human apparatus of conception denies the autonomy of the real which thought tracks in the same breath it reduces such thought to the category of intuition beyond critique; since all thought now suffers from its finitude rather than simply having its relation to being constrained by it. We can see these dualities as associated with poles of skepticism (1) and dogmatism (2), in which the annihilation of the absolute produces dogmatic intuition as much as it produces an excess of skepticism about our ability to think the real.

    As he puts it:

    We thereby grasp that what is at stake in a critique of the de-absolutizing
    implication (viz., that if metaphysics is obsolete, so is every form
    of absolute) goes beyond that of the legitimation of ancestral statements.
    What is urgently required, in effect, is that we re-think what could be
    called ‘the prejudices of critical-sense’; viz., critical potency is not necessarily
    on the side of those who would undermine the validity of absolute
    truths, but rather on the side of those who would succeed in criticizing
    both ideological dogmatism and sceptical fanaticism. Against dogmatism,
    it is important that we uphold the refusal of every metaphysical absolute,
    but against the reasoned violence of various fanaticisms, it is important
    that we re-discover in thought a modicum of absoluteness – enough of
    it, in any case, to counter the pretensions of those who would present
    themselves as its privileged trustees, solely by virtue of some revelation.

    So, philosophy can and should concern itself with a real indifferent to its conception, and perhaps raise that indifference to a methodological principle for a speculative metaphysics about it. ;) Against dogmatism emphasise contingency, against skepticism emphasise that contingency's necessity.

    @macrosoft this is part of the response I'd give to you on the 'thread' you suggested, but tracing the reinvigoration of metaphysics by emphasising the autonomy of the real (viz; becoming) and our ability to track it with good concepts takes a lot more effort than this exegesis.
  • macrosoft
    381
    Meaning is the mental phenomenon of making what are basically conditional, implicational associations--in other words, both connotational and denotational assocations that mentally function in the manner of "if this <input>, then that <association>." It's important to keep in mind that meaning is not the associations themselves. Non-mentally, there isn't even any way to make an association. Simple correlations can't do it. Instead, meaning is the dynamic, inherently mental phenomenon that is the act of associating. The things associated can be any other mental content--perceptions with respect to any sense (sight, sound, etc.--or in other words re perceptions, we're assigning meanings to external objects and events etc. in the world ), concepts, words a la sounds or symbol/text strings, concepts, etc.

    Meanings, as something inherently mental, the inherently mental act of associating, can't literally be made public. They're not identical to sounds we make, gestures we make, strings of letters or symbols, etc. And they can not literally be shared, either in the sense of display, or in the sense of two or more people possessing the same one.
    Terrapin Station

    OK, we are back on track and really talking again.

    I largely agree with what you say above, though maybe it doesn't exhaust 'meaning' for me. I don't think we really can 'exhaust' a word. Btw, how do you categorize the associations themselves? I like meaning-as-dynamic. I see the value of meaning-as-act. But wouldn't most of us (and maybe) you want to point at something 'immaterial' associated with your definition above? Is what you are communicating pure act? Or various associations?

    I agree that meaning is not 'in' the marks or the noises in some simple way. Nor is meaning 'literally' shared from an important perspective. But my sense of the inexactness of meaning inspires me to question the very way we talk about meaning. Maybe you think I am trying to say something 'supernatural' about shared meaning. No. I am trying to say something about the phenomenon of meaning, the way it exists for us in a kind of public way.

    To exist in meaning is to exist in a language that is not completely or even mostly private. In some sense the 'subject' that thinks is not simply an isolated subject. IMV, the fact that we can look at brains separated in space (air-gapped brains) inspires us to neglect the living sense of connectedness we have as language users. We have a 'wireless' connection to an elusive meaning space. If we insist on interpreting this from an atoms-and-void perspective, the meaning is trapped 'in' a subject. I make a mark or a noise and then someone else can bring this mark or noise alive 'in' their own consciousness. This is a reasonable and even natural approach, but I think it's limited to work only from within this perspective. Why? Because it begins with a notion of the objectively real that doesn't consider how the phenomenon of meaning complicates this notion. I'd say that any explicit theory of the objectively real depends on a softer, out-of-focus notion of 'true-for-us.' Explicit theories of the objectively real seem, in my view, parasitic upon the shared meaning space that they tend to interpret in a way that makes this less visible. My theory is not an explicit theory of the real but rather a pointing at a fundamentally in-explicit ground of all such theories. This sense of language and meaning also questions basic notions of the subject and the object as useful for one purpose but perhaps inappropriate as a description of our ordinary, pre-theoretical mode of existing in the world.
  • macrosoft
    381
    macrosoft this is part of the response I'd give to you on the 'thread' you suggested, but tracing the reinvigoration of metaphysics by emphasising the autonomy of the real (viz; becoming) and our ability to track it with good concepts takes a lot more effort than this exegesis.fdrake

    Hey, just to get a sense of where you are coming from more generally, have you read Groundless Grounds? Do you find that kind of grasp of our situation correlationalist? At the moment that book presents roughly my own perspective and focus, which I mention to contextualize some of the themes I'm exploring.

    A hint at what I'm trying to say: I think we listen from and speak from a background that philosophy tries to grasp or compress into a foreground. This background is too rich ( a set of positive measure) for this to be accomplished. Attempts to make the 'dark place' from which we listen and speak explicit interfere with other such attempts. It's as if a set of positive measure is trying to fit itself into a set of zero measure --the attempt to capture R with Q and somehow say finally what it means to mean.
  • fdrake
    1.5k


    Not read it, it's been on the pile for a while. Though so have most books I've heard of. I summarised my perspective recently in a PM to @StreetlightX, I would be surprised if Street couldn't give you some nice input on the book!

    (1) ontological materialism; paying attention to dynamism, becoming and individuation. A summary of this standpoint might be a focus on studying how systems become imposed on or emerge out of assemblages; genesis of structure and structure of genesis.

    (2) a methodological rejection of idealism, foundationalism and correlationism; refused givens, thought is tailored through conceptual links which aim at and are embedded in a contextually circumscribed real indifferent to its conceptualisation

    (3) methodological pluralism - anti-architectonic thought; the phenomena should dictate not just what we think but how we think; ontologies and epistemologies produced are always regional and topic specific respectively.
  • Janus
    5.9k
    Wittgenstein's 'language on holiday' is a great insight, but perhaps one retort would be that it sometimes accomplishes something to experience a word present-to-hand.macrosoft

    I'm not clear what you are suggesting here. could you elaborate?

    But in my view we can only get this in mathematics.macrosoft

    I think the notion of 'absolute' meaning is incoherent; but I also think that meanings in everyday discourse including the empirical sciences are sharp enough that we get what is going on. Even when it comes to, for example, Freudian psychology, we can get the meaning of 'ego', 'superego' and 'id'. The problems only arise when we ask silly, inappropriate questions like 'are ego, superego' and 'id' real, substantive entities, though?'.

    I'm not sure there is any meaning at all in mathematics, beyond our ordinary, empircally derived notions of number and the ways in which we can elaborate those. The rest would seem to consist in conventionally established formulaic operations, and the discovery of new formulaic operations that are implicit in the ones we are already familiar with.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    I am trying to say something about the phenomenon of meaning, the way it exists for us in a kind of public way.

    To exist in meaning is to exist in a language that is not completely or even mostly private.
    macrosoft

    Why would you believe that it exists in some public, not private way?
  • macrosoft
    381
    Why would you believe that it exists in some public, not private way?Terrapin Station

    I'd say consider our experience right now. Are we not in some sense sharing a meaning space accessible in some sense also to everyone following our conversation right now? I am trying to do justice to that in-some-sense that doesn't impose a visually-inspired 'air-gapped' metaphysics on it -- a metaphysics that ignores the very thing that makes it possible, the in-some-sense-public-ness of meaning.

    I think it might be more accurate to think of public and private in terms of a continuum. Some language is more or less universally intelligible to speakers of that language. Other language is trickier. And sometimes a 'global' sense is public while individual terms are understood differently. For instance, a neural network on the same hardware (fixed set of neurons) can learn approximately the same model with wildly differing 'weights' from neuron to neuron -- as function of its initial random state. The 'model' (meaning) doesn't live in the individual neurons or any particular connection between the neurons but is distributed across them all. The model is emergent and cannot be atomized.

    The discourse of public/private is caught up in this same indeterminacy of any particular atom considered in isolation.
  • macrosoft
    381
    I think the notion of 'absolute' meaning is incoherent;Janus

    I agree, but I think the fantasy of that kind of meaning is at heart of some approaches to metaphysics.

    but I also think that meanings in everyday discourse including the empirical sciences are sharp enough that we get what is going on.Janus

    I agree here, too. We get what is going on well enough indeed. This well-enough is the 'field' of meaning. We can roughly atomized a word, but we do this of course by linking it to other words. This spiderweb is a very rough approximation, IMV, of the fluidity and mastery we have in our a-theoretical use of language. We have more mastery than we can justify or make explicit with this same mastery.

    I'm not sure there is any meaning at all in mathematics, beyond our ordinary, empircally derived notions of number and the ways in which we can elaborate those. The rest would seem to consist in conventionally established formulaic operations, and the discovery of new formulaic operations that are implicit in the ones we are already familiar with.Janus

    I'd say that when we do mathematics that we indeed employ some kind of intuition that is hard if not impossible to make explicit in a non-controversial way. Indeed, much of this is connected to its empirical application, but there is IMV some genuine intuitive meaning in some of the more outlandish mathematics --an infinite tower of infinities each more infinite than those lower on the stack. Or infinite dimensional vector spaces. Seems to me that metaphor/analogy is central to mathematics along with quasi-Kantian 'intuitive' space and the grasp of 'pure unity.'

    Maybe one of my themes here is that we tend to deny or avoid issues of meaning where that meaning cannot be made sufficiently explicit. But at the same time our basic existence in meaning is an existence in something that is more fluid than crystalline. If we insist that only the crystalline is 'real,' then we do so within the same 'fluid' that is therefore unaddressed or even unreal. And I also cannot make this point in a crystalline way, since I am ultimately pointing phenomenologically toward a blurry truth derived from introspection.
  • macrosoft
    381

    Excellent sketch of your general position (which I happen to find congenial). Thanks.
  • StreetlightX
    3.1k
    I would be surprised if Street couldn't give you some nice input on the book!fdrake



    Hah, I actually never got round to reading GG, even though I thoroughly enjoyed Braver's A Thing of This World. Heard plenty of good things about it though.
  • Bearden
    18
    As far as I can see right now epistemological idealism is more or less airtight. Kant has done a solid job of making this clear. But metaphysical idealism being true is much less apparent. Check out Chalmers' paper Idealism and the Mind Body Problem for a thorough discussion of the variants of idealism, their merits, and the challenges they face.
  • macrosoft
    381
    Hah, I actually never got round to reading GG, even though I thoroughly enjoyed Braver's A Thing of This World. Heard plenty of good things about it though.StreetlightX

    It's pretty great. In some ways I don't get the full value, because I sought out the book already convinced of some version of what Braver calls 'original finitude.' I will be looking into some of Braver's other stuff when I get the chance. He's got me wanting to read On Certainty in a new light, which he ranks as equal to PI.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    Are we not in some sense sharing a meaning space accessible in some sense also to everyone following our conversation right now?macrosoft

    I don't believe so, no. And I think that folks believing that that's the case wind up saying a lot of things that are (rather obviously) incorrect, sometimes where there are things of a lot of practical importance at stake.

    Here's an example: having a problem with someone suggesting that blackface Halloween costumes are acceptable, especially to an extent where you believe that this indicates that the person is racist, and where you believe that it justifies that person losing a job.

    The beliefs that something like that are racist are rooted in beliefs that meaning is not personal and subjective, but in some way communal and objective (or even more absurd, somehow "systematic" and abstract yet real (in the sense of being an objective fact)).

    But that's not correct. Meaning is only personal and subjective, and no one is racist unless they explicitly have racist thoughts in mind.

    So that's an example of why beliefs about this stuff matter, why it matters if we believe something that's not actually correct ontologically.
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