• S
    9.7k
    It's okay if your answer is that we can't point at meanings contra expressions of meanings, but if so, that's one important difference between meaning and potatoes or oranges.Terrapin Station

    Meaning, as opposed to the expression of it, is a bit mysterious, it seems, as early Wittgenstein thought.

    But things? Objects? Sure, we can point to them.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k


    Trying to parse the op:

    A mashed potato is a potato that's been physically modified.

    We can express (a very specific meaning of express) an orange to produce orange juice.

    Meaning can be expressed in language.

    Idealists think that mind is necessary for the existence of a thing.

    [the thrust of the post? I'm lost here]
  • S
    9.7k
    Trying to parse the op:

    A mashed potato is a potato that's been physically modified.

    We can express (a very specific meaning of express) an orange to produce orange juice.

    Meaning can be expressed in language.

    Idealists think that mind is necessary for the existence of a thing.

    [the thrust of the post? I'm lost here]
    csalisbury

    Some people on the forum deny certain distinctions. They claim that a rule is the expression of a rule, or that an orange is the appearance of an orange. The opening post reinforces the distinction, and shows why it matters. They say things like all rules are expressed in language, and that there is nothing but appearance.

    The distinction, I think, can be expressed in predicate logic as P(x) and P(x, y). P is an rule, on the one hand, and P is a rule, and P is expressed, on the other.
  • Mww
    657


    Given congruent, re: similarly constructed, rationalities, if to “point at meaning” is to indicate an origin for it, or if to “point at meaning” is to summarize its possibility, I can offer such pointing to be none other than reason itself, in the form a judgement whereby a conception conforms to its object or it does not. Here, it is judgement that points to, or in effect, mediates, meaning. Meaning is merely a product of reason and in no way is a property of that which reason examines.

    As you say, you have to do something theoretical.
  • Terrapin Station
    8.4k
    Given congruent, re: similarly constructed, rationalities, if to “point at meaning” is to indicate an origin for it, or if to “point at meaning” is to summarize its possibility, I can offer such pointing to be none other than reason itself, in the form a judgement whereby a conception conforms to its object or it does not. Here, it is judgement that points to, or in effect, mediates, meaning. Meaning is merely a product of reason and in no way is a property of that which reason examines.

    As you say, you have to do something theoretical.
    Mww

    The problem with this for S's view is that S claims that meaning would exist if no people existed.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    Ah ok, but I don't think it's the same logic behind each example. Some things are their expression. Pain is the canonical example. And a mashed potato isn't an expression of a potato in the way a rule made explict expressed the rule. The move from potato to orange juice to rules seems to rely on the linguistic quirk that one meaning of 'expression' is squeezing out.
  • S
    9.7k
    Some things are their expression. Pain is the canonical example.csalisbury

    :brow:

    The expression of pain is not pain. I cry out or grimace - the expression - because I am in pain. I can make that same expression even when I'm not in pain.

    That seems to make as little sense as all of the other examples when conflated.

    Even Wittgenstein claimed that the word "pain" does make reference to a sensation (not an expression). But he didn't think that it described it.

    I don't know where you're getting this from or why you think it.

    And a mashed potato isn't an expression of a potato in the way a rule made explict expressed the rule.csalisbury

    What? You're changing the terminology. That's going to make a difference. You're no longer addressing my point by doing that. I didn't say that a mashed potato is an expression of a potato. The latter makes no sense for a start.

    The move from potato to orange juice to rules seems to rely on the linguistic quirk that one meaning of 'expression' is squeezing out.csalisbury

    I did that on purpose. It's a good analogy. They both use the same word for a reason. I could think up others. For example, this also has some key things in common with putting a piece of paper through a shredder. The paper would be the meaning, the person would be the shredder, the shredding would be the expressing, and the shredded paper would be the expressed meaning. It's like a process of conversion or transformation. You input your raw material, and then it gets processed through the machinery, and gets converted into the end product.

    I don't know about the English etymology, but I know from my book on Wittgenstein's Tractatus that in ordinary contexts, the German "aussprechen" concerns our ability to clearly speak, pronounce, or articulate words. And as such, the German word is a hybrid of sorts between "ausdrücken (to express, quite literally in the sense of squeezing out)" and "sprechen (to speak)".

    "Ausprechen" is a special case of "ausdrücken" or expression: it concerns what we put into words or language.

    This is from Wittgenstein's Tractatus: An Introduction by Alfred Norman, a professor of philosophy at Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany, published by Cambridge University Press.

    Wittgenstein was Austrian, next door to Germany, and where they speak a variation of the German language; and he taught at the University of Cambridge from 1929 to 1947. Interesting link.

    You could even think of the squeezing out in terms of how our throat muscles squeeze together in order produce vocalisations. Vocalising is another kind of expression: the expression of noise.

    There are other analogies too. That book I referenced, for example, draws on the early Wittgenstein and makes links with language and music. It's a good book.
  • S
    9.7k
    The problem with this for S's view is that S claims that meaning would exist if no people existed.Terrapin Station

    It's only a problem if what you two agree on is true. Obviously I reject what you two agree on and put my own philosophy in its place. My philosophy logically results in that conclusion.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    The expression of pain is not pain. I cry out or grimace - the expression - because I am in pain. I can make that same expression even when I'm not in pain.

    That seems to make as little sense as all of the other examples when conflated.

    Even Wittgenstein claimed that the word "pain" does make reference to a sensation (not an expression). But he didn't think that it described it.

    I don't know where you're getting this from or why you think it.
    S

    Yeah, I can understand how this could be confusing. Let me expand a little, with reference to this :

    Some people on the forum deny certain distinctions. They claim that a rule is the expression of a rule, or that an orange is the appearance of an orange. The opening post reinforces the distinction, and shows why it matters. They say things like all rules are expressed in language, and that there is nothing but appearance.S

    As I understand it, the common thread linking the examples in the OP is a particular tripartite structure.

    For example, with expression, you have

    (1) the thing expressed (say, a meaning)
    (2) the expressing (say, the writing down of the word)
    (3) the expression itself (say, a word)

    Expression is taken as a particular example of a more general structure:

    (1) something
    (2) Something that happens to that something
    (3)something else.


    But, being charitable, it seems to me that if people have been talking about rules in the way you describe, what they mean is that a rule simply is an statement about what's allowed, what's prohibited etc etc. They are denying that there is an antecedent (1) that undergoes a (2) to become a (3). (I'm not saying I agree - I don't - but I think this is what they must mean.)

    Likewise, the idealist (or one type of idealist) is saying the apple is its appearance. There is not some antecedent thing, which then appears. The idealist probaly wouldn't say 'you're not eating an apple, you're eating its appearance' in the same way a nonidealist wouldn't say 'you're not eating an apple, you're eating its being'. They'd say 'you're eating an apple.' (Again, I'm not taking a stance here.)

    Any talk of expression butts up, ultimately, against some kind of bedrock - otherwise you have a situation where everything is an expression of something else. Some things must be primitive - they may or may not be expressed, but they are not themselves expressions. Another way to say this would be that they only express themselves. It seems like these people talking about rules consider rules to be things of this sort. Idealists consider appearance to be something of this sort. (I was talking about pain in this way, as well.
  • S
    9.7k
    As I understand it, the common thread linking the examples in the OP is a particular tripartite structure.

    For example, with expression, you have

    (1) the thing expressed (say, a meaning)
    (2) the expressing (say, the writing down of the word)
    (3) the expression itself (say, a word)

    Expression is taken as a particular example of a more general structure:

    (1) something
    (2) Something that happens to that something
    (3)something else.
    csalisbury

    Bingo!

    And yet @Banno had the nerve to say that my analogies here lead to misunderstanding. Well, no, not if you are bright enough to get what I'm doing. What he did was a bit like a bad workman blaming his tools. "I've messed up" becomes "These tools are rubbish!", and "I've got the wrong end of the stick" becomes "He's leading people to misunderstanding!". (And if you want to comment on this, Banno, then feel free to do so through private message. Although I'm not in the least bit interested in what you have to say).

    How's that for a taste of your own medicine? :grin:

    But, being charitable, it seems to me that if people have been talking about rules in the way you describe, what they mean is that a rule simply is an statement about what's allowed, what's prohibited etc etc. They are denying that there is an antecedent (1) that undergoes a (2) to become a (3). (I'm not saying I agree - I don't - but I think this is what they must mean.)csalisbury

    Yes, I agree that that's what they're doing. I'm showing how this clashes with ordinary language use and common sense.

    Likewise, the idealist (or one type of idealist) is saying the apple is its appearance. There is not some antecedent thing, which then appears. The idealist probaly wouldn't say 'you're not eating an apple, you're eating its appearance' in the same way a nonidealist wouldn't say 'you're not eating an apple, you're eating its being'. They'd say 'you're eating an apple.' (Again, I'm not taking a stance here.)csalisbury

    As a non-idealist, I'm happy to clarify that by eating an apple, you're eating a particular object. That doesn't seem absurd to me at all. It seems true. That's not the case with eating an appearance.

    Any talk of expression butts up, ultimately, against some kind of bedrock - otherwise you have a situation where everything is an expression of something else. Some things must be primitive - they may or may not be expressed, but they are not themselves expressions.csalisbury

    Agreed.

    Another way to say this would be that they only express themselves. It seems like these people talking about rules consider rules to be things of this sort. Idealists consider appearance to be something of this sort. (I was talking about pain in this way, as well).csalisbury

    And I disagree with all of you.
  • Christoffer
    484


    Would you agree that there are two types of identity? Variable identity, which is an identity which comes before its malleable variation; potato becomes a mashed potato, but it's still a potato since that is its elementary identity. A sofa cannot be a sofa if it is mashed since it's identity comes from the constant identity as a sofa. The sofa is a sofa because of a combination of variable identities into a form which makes it a constant identity.

    Therefore, we can define identity based on variable and constant identities.

    How would you define expressed meaning vs the initial meaning. Is there a variable meaning that has an elementary aspect to it, or is it a constant meaning that will lose its identifying form when it is expressed?
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    As a non-idealist, I'm happy to clarify that by eating an apple, you're eating a particular object. That doesn't seem absurd to me at all. It seems true. That's not the case with eating an appearance.S

    An idealist could also say that in eating an apple, they're eating a particular object. In fact, I think most would.

    Let me put in this way, drawing on the conversation from earlier - A mereological nihilist might say 'you're not eating an apple - those don't exist - you're eating a bunch of physical simples (or whatever). ' Then there's your 'olp' corrective.

    Similarly an 'olp' idealist could very easily say (and they do) that in eating an apple, you're eating a particular object - namely, an apple. There's no inconsistency there.

    meological nihilism:physicalism::User 'emancipate:idealism
  • S
    9.7k
    An idealist could also say that in eating an apple, they're eating a particular object.csalisbury

    Sure, but they wouldn't mean what they say, and what they really mean doesn't make sense.
  • Michael
    7.7k
    There's the meaning, and then there's the expressing of it. The expressing of it produces expressed meaning in the form of language. A statement is an expression of meaning in language. The meaning isn't necessarily expressed. The expressed meaning is necessarily expressed. The meaning is different in ways to the expressed meaning, so they're not the same.S

    What's the ontology of unexpressed meaning?

    At least in the case of potatoes and oranges we can say that they exist as physical objects even when not being mashed or juiced, but in what sense does meaning exist when words aren't being spoken?
  • Michael
    7.7k
    There's the orange, and there's the experience of it. There's the orange, and then there's how it appears.
    ...
    We all know, at least deep down, that this makes perfect sense.
    S

    It may make sense but many idealists will claim it to be false. There isn't an orange and then also its experience, just as there isn't fear and then also its experience. Fear just is the experience and an orange just is the experience.

    I eat the orange. Have I eaten the experience? Have I eaten how it appears?S

    It's not that you eat the experience of an orange but that you experience eating an orange. Your account of idealism tries to combine the idealist's account of an orange with the materialist's account of eating, which isn't a view that anybody I know of supports.
  • Mww
    657
    There's the orange, and then there's how it appears.S

    The modern idealist will say this is backwards. That which is named is always first an undefined appearance susceptible to naming.

    an orange just is the experience.Michael

    This is how that same modern idealist thinks. An orange, as any real physical object, just *is* the experience *because* it has already been named, or which is the same thing, cognized as meeting the criteria for “orange”. Experience is just another word for empirical knowledge.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    Sure, but they wouldn't mean what they say, and what they really mean doesn't make sense.S

    I mean - they would mean what they say. I don't know how else to meet a 'nuh uh' but with a 'yes huh'.

    In any case, whatever your feelings on idealism or rules (and I agree with you on rules!), the line of attack laid out in the OP doesn't work. We know you disagree with others on these topics, of course. The question is whether your OP helps develop that disagreement philosophically. As far as I can tell, it's a shaggy dog story that takes a long walk through analogical slippage to arrive back at the same incredulity about Idealism and beliefs about rules we already know you harbor.

    Another way to say this would be that they only express themselves. It seems like these people talking about rules consider rules to be things of this sort. Idealists consider appearance to be something of this sort. (I was talking about pain in this way, as well).csalisbury

    And I disagree with all of you. — S

    Alright, but if that's what it comes down to, why bother with the 'olp' stuff? The irony here is that this 'olp' routine- 'what would people at work say' etc - is being used in order to defend...well, I invite you to explain the OP to people at work:

    'What are you talking about, man? Potatoes? Orange juice? Rules are just the things written down in, like, the employee handbook or, like, the rulebook in monopoly. There's no mystery. '
  • Theorem
    50
    Much as I agree with you, you're never going to win this argument. For the idealist, to be is to be an object of experience. Arguing about the nature of oranges won't get you anywhere, because the sophisticated idealist is happy to grant that oranges are physical objects. It's just that all physical objects also happen to be objects of experience!

    There's no way to refute this, not empirically, not philosophically, not logically. It might be fun to discuss at first, but once the novelty wears off it's better to just shake your head and ignore it.
  • Mww
    657
    shake your head and ignore it.Theorem

    Ignoring it then leaves one with rationality in general and humanity in particular irreducible to a non-contradictory fundamental condition, because the only other possible methodology, empirical science, cannot provide one. Yet. So far.

    all physical objects also happen to be objects of experience!Theorem

    All physical objects also happen to be objects of experience OR POSSIBLE experience. This prevents the absurdity of “esse est percipi”. It could also be re-written as, all KNOWN physical objects also happen to be objects of experience. Not even science can deny that.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k

    My own take is that "idealism" shouldn't be the final stance one arrives at - its more like a bottleneck. If we try to imagine an apple, but leave out perspective and a subjective sense of time, we cannot do so. If there were no consciousness, the entire progress of the universe would happen in darkness and quiet- and even that isn't quite right, in the same way that darkness and quiet doesn't really capture death. It's difficult to differentiate between that happening, and nothing happening at all, except by describing the former as though someone were there.

    But this isn't satisfying either, because everyday life shows us there is a kind of obstinacy of the material, something recalcitrant to our own perceptions and desires. What impresses us about discovering something undiscovered - a far planet, the grand canyon - is inseparable from the feeling that it was there all along - the sublimity of something far vaster than us that exceeds our concerns.

    The only thing left is to accept that there is a mystery at the heart of it, something that we cannot understand through philosophy or thinking alone, maybe cannot understand at all. Stove's criticism of the'Gem' is right, in one sense. Just because we can't think/experience/imagine something without thinking/imagine/experiencing it, it doesn't follow that that thing is dependent on thought/experience/imagination. But the proper use of the gem, imo, is to show us that whatever there is, beyond our thought and experience, it is confused to think of it as something that's basically like how we experience the apple, only unexperienced. That in itself is a kind of idealism, only one that isn't self-aware.
  • Theorem
    50
    But the proper use of the gem, imo, is to show us that whatever there is, beyond our thought and experience, it is confused to think of it as something that's basically like how we experience the apple, only unexperiencedcsalisbury

    Is it though? Sure, there's much to be learned from exploring the arguments for idealism. I'd even be
    willing to say that it's a right-of-passage for anyone who wants to take philosophy seriously in the modern/postmodern world. There's no doubt that contemplating idealism can result in critical self-reflection and epistemological humility. And yet, looking at the way most idealists argue their position, I'm not sure that it reliably produces the desired outcome.

    As far as I can tell, many idealists end up at something almost indistinguishable from naive realism. Everything is basically exactly as we already know/experience it to be (except for errors, hallucinations, etc), it's just that, contrary to what everyone thought they knew, everything exists mind-dependently. Are we really to understand that this is the epitome of modern wisdom?

    Sure, transcendental idealists are ostensibly more sophisticated than that, but are they really? For all Kant's subtlety, his entire philosophy is premised on the idea that all mental content, whether sensual or conceptual, is utterly disjoint from whatever might be "out there". The sensibility represents the world opaquely rather than transparently. The understanding imposes form rather than receiving it. It's not argued, it's assumed. Modern philosophy since Locke simply takes it for granted, while Kant (and his followers) merely continue the tradition.
  • csalisbury
    1.7k
    Is it though?Theorem
    I think that's the best way to approach it, yeah, but It's true that in my last post I was only speaking for myself, rather than for others interested in Idealism. That said, it doesn't seem to me that most 'postmodern' philosophers are advocating something along the 'same, but mind not matter' lines - all that preoccupation with The Real & alterity etc.

    Regarding Locke, he's a big gap in my knowledge of philosophy, but I was under the impression (no pun intended) that with him it was just the opposite - that our ideas receive their form from things outside us. But I may have that wrong.

    I'm more familiar with Kant & I wouldn't agree that he doesn't argue for his position - transcendental arguments form the linchpin of his system. You could take issue with those arguments, but I think it would be a big stretch to say that what he's doing rests on mere assumptions.
  • Theorem
    50
    Locke famously maintained that the direct objects of knowledge were ideas, and that ideas were representations of the so-called primary qualities of external objects. Lockean sensation was therefore "opaque" in the sense that external objects are hidden behind a veil of ideas which merely "represent" them. The mind has direct access only to these ideas, not to the objects themselves, although for Locke these ideas do inherit a "resemblance" to the real structure of the objects themselves.

    To my knowledge Kant appropriated this concept of representation from Locke and ultimately made the understanding responsible for contributing even the "formal" content of these ideas via the application of concepts, thereby severing mind from object to an even greater degree. He then incoherently argued that, due to causality, we could still know that external objects exist despite the fact that we can't know anything about what they are like, apparently forgetting that causality was just another one of the categories applied by the understanding and, therefore by his own lights, not applicable to the transcendental context.

    So, while it's true that Kant made arguments for his positions, to my knowledge he simply took the Lockean conception of "opaque" representation for granted and proceeded to make it even more opaque.
  • Janus
    6.9k
    I believe Kant's arguments for noumena were purely logical, or formal, not causal. Something along the lines that 'if there are appearances then logically there must be something which appears'. I doubt Kant was as stupid as you portray him to be, as "forgetting" one of the main points of his whole philosophy.
  • ZhouBoTong
    181
    Still have several posts to read, just wanted to throw S a little support.

    The problem with this for S's view is that S claims that meaning would exist if no people existed.Terrapin Station

    The universe is pretty big, it seems likely there will be another intelligent being to decipher meaning other than homo sapiens, right?

    I get this is not your point at all. But if you ALL can pretend that you don't understand @S, why do you expect to be understood?

    AND IT IS STILL BLOWING MY MIND THAT THE LINE OF YOUR'S THAT I QUOTED SEEMS TO BE SEEN AS COMMON SENSE IN PHILOSOPHY CIRCLES. They went too far down the rabbit hole.
  • Terrapin Station
    8.4k


    When I use "people" or "person" I'm actually thinking "creature, or just simply entity, with a mind." So not necessarily a human. Not necessarily something on Earth, etc.

    I also don't like always equating mentality with brains for a similar reason--it might be possible for minds to be instantiated via other sorts of material, in other creatures, for example--maybe extraterrestrial, with very different sorts of anatomy, or in sufficiently complex computers or whatever, but that's too much to explain all the time.
  • Isaac
    579
    sufficiently complexTerrapin Station

    Why "sufficiently complex" here? How is the meaning of a word being held in an AI any different from the colour blue? When we look at a cup, is the colour a property of the cup? I presume from your earlier dismissal of solipsism that you'd say yes. But to be registered as blue, something must do the registering. Sure, that could be a spectrometer, but then isn't the blueness of the cup a property of the spectrometer? Why does the thing doing the information receiving have to be complex in order for that information to be a property of the receiver, not the producer?
  • Mww
    657


    Even paradigm-shifting thinkers aren’t right all the time.

    I understand your critique of the Critique, and such has been argued similarly from Schopenhauer to Palmquist, Fitche to Russell, on the vagaries and ambiguities of pure a priori knowledge, the self-contradictions and inherent inconsistencies. Still, to call the Kantian theoretical representation “more opaque” is merely a failure to fully understand the depth of the procedure necessary for doing exactly the opposite, for the admonishment against filling ignorance with illusion in the name of assumption.

    We don’t need causality to “know what they are like”; we only use the pure categories to show the fitness of their logical constitution as understanding thinks them, “them” being external objects. In addition, causality alone is not a category, but lies always in connection with dependence, which gives cause and effect. While some have claimed Kant used causality itself as a pure intuition, different in scope and employment than the categories, along with space and time, Kant himself does not.

    Anyway....a time and a place, as the saying goes.
  • Theorem
    50
    He did argue that insofar as sensible intuitions are appearances they must correspond to something else which they are appearances of. This he calls noumena. From there he simply asserts that noumena exist outside the bounds of the sensibility and posits them as the "non-sensible cause" of sensible representations. But this is an illicit move and is incoherent, as Hegel later demonstrated. Incoherent because he attempts to conceptualize that which by his own lights cannot be represented, and illicit because he applies the concept of causality outside of it's applicable bounds.
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