• Moliere
    1.7k
    We've already done a bunch of threads on meaning.Terrapin Station

    If philosophy is good at anything, it is good at publishing multiple tracts and other media on the exact same topic.

    At any rate, so your interpretation of what people are doing with language--your beliefs about what they mean, without bothering to ask the people in question--doesn't determine what's the case with either how they're actually using language or with what's going on ontologically with utterances such as "x is good (morally)."

    (1) My beliefs about what people are doing with language or what they mean does not determine what is the case with how the people are using language.

    (2) My beliefs about what people are doing with language or about what people mean does not determine what is the case with respect to the ontology of utterances.

    Though I have to admit that statement (2) seems a little fuzzy to me, but I think I'd agree with it. In particular I think the ontology of utterances is a bit of a funny phrase, and I'd draw a distinction between utterances, statements(or more broadly, sentences), and propositions.



    Meaning, from my standpoint, is something of a mystery, but only on account of its simplicity. I know what various sentences mean. One could almost say that the characteristic of language is that it means. Does meaning stand for something? Not always. Language is put to many uses.

    And moral language is no different from any other sort of language. It doesn't deserve to be put in a class by itself as some super-special language with its own set of interpretive rules. It, like any statement, means what it means -- and can be put to many uses, from admonishment, expression, description, and so forth.

    Sometimes people say moral statements in the exact same way they say statements of fact. So these sorts of moral statements are truth-apt, just as statements of fact are truth-apt.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.6k
    I wasn't saying anything unique about moral utterances re meaning. My comments about meaning applied to all meaning, in general.

    Meaning is subjective. It's something that occurs in individuals' heads. It's the inherently mental act of making associations. It can't be literally shared, but we can tell others what we're associating in many cases. You can't know how an individual is doing this without asking them.

    Also, I also think "the ontology of utterances" is a bit funny. What I had said is "what's going on ontologically with utterances (such as 'x is good (morally).')" In other words, what's "functionally" going on, or what's going on in terms of real, or practical, or observable things, which can be quite different than beliefs that people have about what they're saying, what they're doing, etc.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    I wasn't saying anything unique about moral utterances re meaning. My comments about meaning applied to all meaning, in general.Terrapin Station

    Cool. I'm just making sure I'm covering my bases.

    Meaning is subjective. It's something that occurs in individuals' heads. It's the inherently mental act of making associations. It can't be literally shared, but we can tell others what we're associating in many cases. You can't know how an individual is doing this without asking them.Terrapin Station

    So, on your view, can meaning occur without language?

    When I associate a spout with its vase and see a teapot, is that perception a meaning even if I do not have any linguistic capabilities (like, say, a dog)?


    Also, I also think "the ontology of utterances" is a bit funny. What I had said is "what's going on ontologically with utterances (such as 'x is good (morally).')" In other words, what's "functionally" going on, or what's going on in terms of real, or practical, or observable things, which can be quite different than beliefs that people have about what they're saying, what they're doing, etc.Terrapin Station

    Alright. I had done my best to parse what you meant. But now it is clarified.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.6k
    So, on your view, can meaning occur without language?Moliere

    Yes, definitely. I do this as a musician all the time, for example.

    "When I associate a spout with its vase and see a teapot, is that perception"--that's not a perception, by the way. Perception refers to you taking in data about things external to you. Your association isn't that. It's an activity your brain is performing, and activity that isn't performed by the outside world. So you're conceiving it, not perceiving it.

    Anyway, sure, you could do this without any linguistic capabilities.
  • Judaka
    366
    Meaning is a result of interpretation...

    Meaning is created by both interpretations from the speaker, the listener and the ignorant.

    Which meaning is the true meaning is also a result of interpretation.

    There is no "the" meaning.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    Yes, definitely. I do this as a musician all the time, for example.

    "When I associate a spout with its vase and see a teapot, is that perception"--that's not a perception, by the way. Perception refers to you taking in data about things external to you. Your association isn't that. It's an activity your brain is performing, and activity that isn't performed by the outside world. So you're conceiving it, not perceiving it.

    Anyway, sure, you could do this without any linguistic capabilities.
    Terrapin Station

    Well, perception requires a brain -- a sort of association but one which is being applied to what you call the outside world. It's not so much "taking in data" as it is applying conceptual content to the abundant wash of experiential chaos. Even things so basic as object permanence are developed and learned.

    So, alright. Meaning occurs within the brain, and does not require language. Any old mental association will do -- and, as I understand perception at least, that would include perception.

    So what is language, then? Obviously language is not meaning, because we can certainly share a language. What we usually call meaning, the sort of thing that language does -- what would you call that?
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    What is interpretation?
  • Judaka
    366

    The act of explaining what something means. The important thing is that it is a verb.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    Hrrmm, you run the risk of this problem then --

    If interpretation is the act of explaining what something means, and the explanation of what something means requires words, then we need an interpretation of the interpretation in order to have meaning.

    But if we need an interpretation of the interpretation to know what the interpretation means, then we need and interpretation of the interpretation of the interpretation . . .


    You get the idea. If the words require more words in order to have meaning, then by the fact that the "more words" are also words you basically get an infinite regress.
  • S
    10.7k
    There is no "the" meaning.Judaka

    Yet you know the meaning of what I'm saying right now.
  • Terrapin Station
    11.6k
    So, alright. Meaning occurs within the brain, and does not require language. Any old mental association will do -- and, as I understand perception at least, that would include perception.Moliere

    Again, the world itself, outside of minds, doesn't make associations. That's an activity that brains perform. So you can't perceive an association.
  • Judaka
    366

    You do need to interpret meaning for it to have meaning and the loop this creates is no different than asking "why" to every answer a person gives.

    If I say "X means Y" and "Y means Z" and "Z means X" this creates a loop. You can do this with many things in language.

    If I define a chair and define the words I used to define a chair and define the words I used to define the words I used to define a chair and then define those words and define those words then we create a loop. The loop only stops when you stop asking for new definitions because you think you understand what I mean.

    Call that what you want but it's just how language works.


    Are you arguing that the meaning of words is not interpreted? Do you understand the larger ramifications for that?

    I suspect that the difference between what I think your words mean and what you think those words mean is trivial or non-existent. That's what allows language to function. This has not demonstrated objective meaning any more than an objective truth would be demonstrated to be true if it were shown that all souls on Earth believed it was.
  • S
    10.7k
    Are you arguing that the meaning of words is not interpreted?Judaka

    Not interpreted for what? We interpret meaning in order to gain an understanding. I'm not disputing that.

    My point was simple and easily understood. It takes your claim and points out what is a paradox at best and a contradiction at worst.

    I suspect that the difference between what I think your words mean and what you think those words mean is trivial or non-existent. That's what allows language to function. This has not demonstrated objective meaning any more than an objective truth would be demonstrated to be true if it were shown that all souls on Earth believed it was.Judaka

    There is objective meaning when it comes to language, because linguistic meaning is rule based, and rules do not require rule followers. We've already set the rules, and they would persist without us. If we went extinct tomorrow, these linguistic rules would continue to apply.

    You're making the common idealist confusion of muddling up what it takes for something to be understood, and what it takes for something to have meaning. Or, more broadly, epistemology and metaphysics.
  • Judaka
    366

    You're making the common idealist confusion of muddling up what it takes for something to be understood, and what it takes for something to have meaning. Or, more broadly, epistemology and metaphysics.S

    Funny, I would say the same thing to you. You are trying to argue that rules which have been created for the sake of making a language functional have created objective meaning because they are independently coherent and established.

    Your underlying argument comes back to lots of people agreeing on it.

    Why?

    Because you wouldn't recognise a dictionary I wrote as being of equal validity to all other dictionaries.

    Not only that but definitions aren't sufficient to translate meaning in all contexts by themselves.

    If I told you I was going to build a great pyramid. You could tell me what every word in the sentence meant but that doesn't mean you understand what I'm talking about.

    Because what does the word "great" mean when I use it in the context of talking about a pyramid?

    What do the established, coherent rules of language tell you about that?
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    I am classifying perception as a mental association -- that is, the sort of thing that has meaning. I am not saying the world makes associations.
  • S
    10.7k
    Funny, I would say the same thing to you.Judaka

    But it wouldn't apply to me. I've clearly distinguished the criteria between the one and the other.

    You are trying to argue that rules which have been created for the sake of making a language functional have created objective meaning because they are independently coherent and established.Judaka

    Yes. And?

    Your underlying argument comes back to lots of people agreeing on it.Judaka

    No it doesn't. You and I could agree on the rules for our own made up language, and it would be no different. You and I aren't lots of people. The meaning, once set, would be independent of us.

    Not only that but definitions aren't sufficient to translate meaning in all contexts by themselves.Judaka

    Translations rely on preexisting rules. The rules are certainly enough in most cases, notwithstanding some ambiguity in some cases. This is demonstrable by the fact that you're understanding what I'm saying. It would be a performative contradiction and disingenuous of you to suggest otherwise. You're able to do this because you know the rules of the language well enough.

    If I told you I was going to build a great pyramid. You could tell me what every word in the sentence meant but that doesn't mean you understand what I'm talking about.

    Because what does the word "great" mean when I use it in the context of talking about a pyramid?

    What do the established, coherent rules of language tell you about that?
    Judaka

    That you can point to some degree of ambiguity in some cases isn't enough to refute my argument. I know the meaning of the word "great", just not the specifics of what you had in mind when you used that word. I never made any claims about complete meaning. You would be the rule setter in your example. If you had left a record of your rule, such that, for example, "In this instance, 'great' is to mean 'larger than the average pyramid'", then this wouldn't be a problem.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    You do need to interpret meaning for it to have meaning and the loop this creates is no different than asking "why" to every answer a person gives.

    If I say "X means Y" and "Y means Z" and "Z means X" this creates a loop. You can do this with many things in language.

    If I define a chair and define the words I used to define a chair and define the words I used to define the words I used to define a chair and then define those words and define those words then we create a loop. The loop only stops when you stop asking for new definitions because you think you understand what I mean.

    Call that what you want but it's just how language works.
    Judaka

    I grant that we do this operation. But the operation eventually terminates. If meaning were identical to other words then there would never be a terminus -- we'd just continue to iterate the process. But, in fact, we do terminate said operation. So we can conclude that meaning is not identical to words. There must be some other aspect to language aside from words, some nugget we call "meaning" in order for us to stop infinite regress -- because we do, in fact, actually stop iterating and come to know what words mean.

    But then, at least if by "interpret" we mean use more words to explain words, there must be more to meaning than interpretation.
  • emancipate
    118
    ↪Moliere
    The act of explaining what something means. The important thing is that it is a verb.
    Judaka

    It's more than this. Interprétation is how being expériences reality. Every moment of existence passes through a filter unique to the individual. That filter is multifaceted: mind, associations, senses, emotions, etc. To exist is to hold a particular comportement towards reality. All we do in life, in every moment, is interpret.

    Expérience is interprétation.

    Meaning is the jostle of difference. It resides neither in one place nor another, but flows in-between events of encounter (other meets other). Meaning belongs not to me or you (reading this), but it is shared in-between.
  • Echarmion
    493
    But then, at least if by "interpret" we mean use more words to explain words, there must be more to meaning than interpretation.Moliere

    I would call that more "association". The word "apple" means something to you because you have physical experience of apples. Eventually, words refer back to the experiences they are associated with.
  • Judaka
    366

    You do not distinguish between what is required for understanding and objective meaning, you call them the same thing unless I am missing something. When I asserted this you have replied "Yes, and?".

    Where based on an established criterion, a particular judgement is necessarily reached., objective validity is achieved. Which says if premises this means conclusion. When the premises are subjective so is the conclusion. Morality is always going to have subjective premises and so is the same with language.

    The dictionary I write is not for a "made up language" it's for English. There are already many dictionaries for English and they don't all say exactly the same things.

    Talking about language just seems like a tangent from the perspective of validity, the problem with English is that the rules don't achieve objective validity and the existence of rules doesn't necessitate certain interpretations. I haven't argued that the differences in our interpretations might not be trivial or non-existent, perhaps we have different rules for calling something "objective".

    That's part and parcel with language, we will have different understandings for words and the concepts they refer to.




    Emancipate is expanding my definition in a way which may bring greater clarity to how interpretation works for us all. I have focused on language but this may have been to the detriment of my argument and I will need to think of a better definition for interpretation which encompasses more aspects of it.
  • emancipate
    118
    I would call that more "association". The word "apple" means something to you because you have physical experience of apples. Eventually, words refer back to the experiences they are associated with.Echarmion

    There can be no non-reaction to a word you haven't encountered previously. Even if you hadn't the physical experience of apples, the word itself would generate an interpretive experience.

    A neologism: qwerpaz. You have had no physical experience of this word, yet it might induce a feeling of confusion or irritation. Perhaps the utterance is euphonic or unpleasant.

    Nothing can be encountered without invoking a process of interpretation. This is meaning.
  • Judaka
    366
    Meaning is the jostle of difference. It resides neither in one place nor another, but flows in-between events of encounter (other meets other). Meaning belongs not to me or you (reading this), but it is shared in-between.emancipate

    Can you expand further on what you mean by this?
  • Banno
    5.6k
    Do you wish the Wittgenstein language-as-use stuff to be discussed here? I'm aware that, as entertainment, it has been overdone,
  • Banno
    5.6k
    Interpretation.
    If I define a chair and define the words I used to define a chair and define the words I used to define the words I used to define a chair and then define those words and define those words then we create a loop. The loop only stops when you stop asking for new definitions because you think you understand what I mean.Judaka

    Within a language that's how it goes. From one language to another...

    Davidson's project was to take English and interpret it in first order logic. It had some interesting results.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    I think it's appropriate. I had actually began going through the P.I. to reply, to be honest. :D
  • Echarmion
    493
    There can be no non-reaction to a word you haven't encountered previously. Even if you hadn't the physical experience of apples, the word itself would generate an interpretive experience.

    A neologism: qwerpaz. You have had no physical experience of this word, yet it might induce a feeling of confusion or irritation. Perhaps the utterance is euphonic or unpleasant.
    emancipate

    That's not convincing to me. The sound of a string of letters might invoke some reaction, but that is not "interpretation" of a "word". I am not interpreting the meaning of a car horn when I am being startled by one. I might afterward try to interpret it, but this process isn't similar to the initial reaction.

    Nothing can be encountered without invoking a process of interpretation. This is meaning.emancipate

    This means "meaning" is equivalent to "experience". Why define terms this way?
  • emancipate
    118
    Can you expand further on what you mean by this?Judaka

    'Many people have a tree growing in their heads, but the brain itself is much more a grass than a tree.’ (Deleuze/Guattari)

    Meaning is what arises when a conscious entitiy encounters anything other to itself. This is a constant process of experiencing reality. Meaning would not be possible without rhizomatic connections between difference.
  • emancipate
    118
    I am not interpreting the meaning of a car horn when I am being startled by one. I might afterward try to interpret it, but this process isn't similar to the initial reaction.

    This means "meaning" is equivalent to "experience". Why define terms this way?
    Echarmion

    How do you experience reality, but through a filter that allows you to make meaning (interpret) of it all? Meaning is not just linguistic.

    You experience the car horn which startles you and then you retrospectively apply analysis to the situation. Meaning has flowed through sense (sound), emotion (fear) and intellect (analysis). Really it is much more than this, the situation (initial experience) is complete morass of meaning. But in retrospective analysis meaning has been reduced by the intellect to a speck of what it was during experience.
  • Banno
    5.6k
    O.K.

    A bit more on circularity, then. @Judaka explained how interpretations are circular. Let's take it a step further. If the only way to understand a word is in terms of other words, then how is it that one can learn a language? How does one get inside the looping interpretations, in order to start looping?

    Language is learned. Therefor it must be learnable.
  • Banno
    5.6k
    SO there is a way of understanding words that does not involve interpretation.
  • emancipate
    118
    SO there is a way of understanding words that does not involve interpretationBanno

    Not really. When a baby hears a sound for a first time, a word from his mother. He attempts to repeat it. The interpretation is the way it sounds when he hears it, the way it moves his tongue as he articulates, the reaction of his doting parent, the way he feels when he sees his parents reaction. It is later that he learns to associate words with things, but the initial experience is full of interpretation.
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