• creativesoul
    4.6k
    Getting straight to the point, the contention is summed up by the following question:

    Is a newly discovered and completely unfamiliar ancient text still meaningful?

    First, let us suppose for now that it is possible for a newly discovered ancient text to still be meaningful, and further consider what that would take. At a bare minimum, the following common sense general criterion must hold good. First, the text would have to have already been meaningful, and second, the meaning of the text would have to persist through time despite it's users having long since perished.

    Regarding the first requirement above, there is no doubt that the text was meaningful to the language users. I'll accept that that part of the criterion has been more than adequately satisfied without prejudice. That leaves the second condition. Has it also been satisfied? The following question, and what can be gleaned from it, deserves careful attention.

    Can the meaning of any text persist through time?

    Of course it can! That certainty is unshakeable, for it is based upon everyday events, and no event indicates otherwise. What would a denial even look like? How could one arguing that textual meaning cannot or does not persist through time make any sense of their own argument being rightly understood by another after it's expression? It is undeniable that the meaning of texts written in languages that are still in use persists through time. We use them during long periods of time; throughout our own lifetimes. This thread is a prima facie example. Tomorrow, it will still be meaningful. If that doesn't count as adequate reason to believe that the meaning of a text can persist through time then nothing else could.

    However...

    Is that alone adequate for concluding that the meaning of the ancient text has persisted through time as well?

    Of course not! The two are not one in the same. The ancient text no longer has users. Current texts do. Current texts are still used, and that is precisely what grounds the certainty of answering in the affirmative when asked "Can the meaning of any text persist through time?" The use throughout time of current langauges is precisely the ground upon which we can certainly conclude that the meaning of a text can persist through time.

    But... regarding the OP, all we can conclude is that the meaning of the ancient text persisted throughout the time period during it's use.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    What needs to be definitively determined is what it takes for the meaning of this text in this language to persist through time. What is it that is persisting? To answer "the meaning" is not at all helpful. For starters, the written aspect of the language persists. That holds good for the ancient text as well. Secondly, the use of the language. That does not hold good for the ancient text. So, the question then becomes...

    Is the meaning of written text existentially dependent upon it's use?
  • jamalrob
    1.9k
    Reification of meaning.

    I take you to mean an ancient text in an unknown language that is as yet undeciphered.

    In one sense it is meaningful: we know it means something, but we don't know what. We recognize it as language, that it had a role in a culture, and so on.

    In another sense it is not meaningful: it's meaningless to us, it carries no meaning in practice to any language-using meaning-making creatures.

    So asking if the meaning was lost when its culture disappeared or is somehow still contained in the stone tablet, waiting to be released again, is ambiguous. It's either, depending on how you're using the word "meaning".

    What is the philosophical issue beyond this? Well, even with this ambiguity we can still say that meaning is always at least originally bound up in a context of social practices, or, if you prefer, is always at least originally located in individual minds. Which means that the question isn't an enlightening one, in that it doesn't do much to resolve that debate.

    Or am I missing the issue?
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    Reification of meaning.jamalrob

    Please explain this charge.
  • jamalrob
    1.9k
    It comes pretty naturally out of what follows, I think. You treat meaning rather like a thing or a property, whereupon it seems mysterious that it could survive without a context, and how does it survive, in what form etc. I'm saying that if we just look at what we mean by meaning and especially mean, these concerns seem to miss the point.
  • Wayfarer
    7k
    Well, there’s hermeneutics: ‘the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible or the literary texts of other sacred traditions.’

    But hermeneutics also might require considerable knowledge of history, tradition, culture and even anthropology.

    There’s an interesting case of the ‘mohenjo-daro script’ a.k.a. the Indus script:

    The Indus script (also known as the Harappan script) is a corpus of symbols produced by the Indus Valley Civilisation during the Kot Diji and Mature Harappan periods between 3500 and 1900 BCE. Most inscriptions containing these symbols are extremely short, making it difficult to judge whether or not these symbols constituted a script used to record a language, or even symbolise a writing system.[4] In spite of many attempts,[5] ‘the script’ has not yet been deciphered, but efforts are ongoing. There is no known bilingual inscription to help decipher the script, and the script shows no significant changes over time. However, some of the syntax (if that is what it may be termed) varies depending upon location.[4] Indus Script was also present in South India. In Sembiyankandiyur a stone axe was found containing Indus symbols. In 2014, a cave in Kerala was discovered with 19 pictograph symbols containing Indus writing.[6]

    So - it remains unknown if this is a script, let alone what the inscriptions mean. The same was true of Egyptian hieroglyphs until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    So asking if the meaning was lost when its culture disappeared or is somehow still contained in the stone tablet, waiting to be released again, is ambiguous. It's either, depending on how you're using the word "meaning".jamalrob

    I agree that a coherent answer will follow from one's notion of "meaning". Can one's notion of "meaning" be false, wrong, incomplete, and/or somehow otherwise (mis)conceived? I'm certain of it.

    Something to consider...

    All notions of "meaning" are meaningful despite the fact that many of them are incommensurate and/or incompatible with one another.

    That could not be the case unless being meaningful did not depend upon our notion of "meaning".
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    ...we can still say that meaning is always at least originally bound up in a context of social practices, or, if you prefer, is always at least originally located in individual minds. Which means that the question isn't an enlightening one, in that it doesn't do much to resolve that debate.

    Or am I missing the issue?
    jamalrob

    Seems you may be missing the issue.

    I take you to mean an ancient text in an unknown language that is as yet undeciphered.jamalrob

    Rather, I'm questioning whether or not it is even able to be deciphered. Moreover, what that would take. I'm considering currently used languages, and what interpretation requires. I think that knowledge gleaned from such considerations is rightfully applicable to the OP.

    In English, nouns are persons, places, or things...

    "Meaning" is a noun. It is neither a person nor place. I'm not conflating concrete with abstract, nor do I. I reject the reification charge. It is misplaced.
  • Baden
    7.5k
    In English, nouns are persons, places, or things...creativesoul

    That's just a pedagogical shortcut. For example, "nothingness" is a noun.
  • Baden
    7.5k
    Here's a much more accurate definition:

    Definition:
    A noun is a member of a syntactic class

    that includes words which refer to people, places, things, ideas, or concepts

    whose members may act as any of the following: subjects of the verb, objects of the verb, indirect object of the verb, or object of a preposition (or postposition), and

    most of whose members have inherently determined grammatical gender (in languages which inflect for gender).

    [My bolding]

    https://glossary.sil.org/term/noun

    Meaning falls in the bolded classes.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    Definition of noun

    : any member of a class of words that typically can be combined with determiners (see DETERMINER sense b) to serve as the subject of a verb, can be interpreted as singular or plural, can be replaced with a pronoun, and refer to an entity, quality, state, action, or concept

    Definition of concept (Entry 1 of 2)
    1 : something conceived in the mind : THOUGHT, NOTION

    What's the point?

    I've no issue with any of this. I stand by everything I've argued thus far.
  • Fooloso4
    231
    Of course not! The two are not one in the same. The ancient text no longer has users. Current texts do. Current texts are still used, and that is precisely what grounds the certainty of answering in the affirmative when asked "Can the meaning of any text persist through time?"creativesoul

    What does it mean for a text to have users? The user of a text may not be the same thing as a reader of the text. There are plenty of texts that I have read and in so far as I have understood them they have meaning but once I have read them I might put them aside and never think about them again. Have I used them? Were they useful?

    There may be, on the other hand, texts that have been lost and thus not read or "used" for thousands of years. If such a text were found it might be of great interest depending on the author or time at which it was written. It might prove to be extremely useful to those with an interest since it fills in gaps or gives a new perspective on the subject.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    What does it mean for a text to have users?Fooloso4

    People using the language the text is written in.



    The user of a text may not be the same thing as a reader of the text.

    Reading presupposes understanding. Understanding presupposes use. One cannot possibly understand the meaning of a text without using it. One cannot possibly read a text without already understanding the language it is written in.

    All readers of a text are users of it's language.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    There may be, on the other hand, texts that have been lost and thus not read or "used" for thousands of years. If such a text were found it might be of great interest depending on the author or time at which it was written. It might prove to be extremely useful to those with an interest since it fills in gaps or gives a new perspective on the subject.Fooloso4

    This presupposes already understanding the language the ancient text is written in. We must first know what subject they are talking about prior to being able to know that they're talking about the same thing in different ways. That's what a new perspective is.

    The problem of course is that we do not have any way of knowing what those marks were actually used for.
  • Fooloso4
    231


    So, what you are asking is whether a text has meaning if no one understands the language?

    If so, then I would say yes. It may be that the language can be recovered. It has happened before. Once the language is understood the meaning can be discovered. But if the text had no meaning then even if the language was recovered the text would have not meaning.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    So, what you are asking is whether a text has meaning if no one understands the language?

    If so, then I would say yes. It may be that the language can be recovered. It has happened before. Once the language is understood the meaning can be discovered.
    Fooloso4

    Understanding the language is knowing the meaning. One cannot understand the language a text is written in unless one knows what the marks mean. Knowing what the marks mean IS understanding the language...

    The question I'm asking is in the OP. The main thrust of the rest is considering what it would take to know the answer.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    If such a text were found it might be of great interest depending on the author or time at which it was written.Fooloso4

    Impossible.

    How can an ancient text from a long dead people be of great interest depending upon the time or author, when in order to know what the time was or who the author was, the text would have to be already understood, and the text itself would have to state the time and author in the language of the text.

    The ancient text is not understood.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    What needs to be definitively determined is what it takes for the meaning of this text in this language to persist through time. What is it that is persisting? To answer "the meaning" is not at all helpful. For starters, the written aspect of the language persists. That holds good for the ancient text as well. Secondly, the use of the language. That does not hold good for the ancient text. So, the question then becomes...

    Is the meaning of written text existentially dependent upon it's use?
    creativesoul

    Continuing on...

    There's a little gleaned by looking at how meaning changes in current languages. Language users can change the meaning of well known terms and phrases simply by virtue of drawing a correlation between pre-existing terms/phrases and something other than what current use correlates with the term/phrase. When enough people do this, the new meaning is an accepted alternative use for the same term/phrase; a new "sense", as it were. There are so many examples of this in the English language, that it ought be obvious to any competent user thereof. So, the meaning of marks change with use.

    That is the creation of new meaning.

    There is no reason whatsoever to believe that the creation of the original meaning was any different. There's is also no reason to think that the original meaning did not depend upon the same elemental constituents. This also shows the irrevocably crucial importance that actual language use has regarding the meaning of current texts. It shows what meaning consists of.

    Nothing I've said here fatally undermines current convention when it comes to theories of meaning. Rather, it dovetails quite nicely to the SEP article regarding them. Convention has it that all theories of meaning basically fall into two groups. The difference between the two is irrelevant. The similarity is remarkable. They both presuppose symbolism. Symbolism itself is existentially dependent upon the following three things; something to become a sign/symbol, something to become significant/symbolized, and a creature capable of drawing a correlation between the two.

    It is imperative to state something here very clearly. Those things which become symbol and symbolized, along with those things which become sign and significant... those things are neither until the correlation is drawn between them.

    That is the original attribution and/or creation of meaning. That is how linguistic meaning emerges onto the world stage. There are no examples to the contrary.
  • Fooloso4
    231
    Understanding the language is knowing the meaning. One cannot understand the language a text is written in unless one knows what the marks mean. Knowing what the marks mean IS understanding the language...creativesoul

    Do you imagine that this is not so obvious that you have to state it?

    The meaning of a text is not dependent upon anyone at time T actually understanding the language, for at some later time the language might be deciphered as is the case with hieroglyphics.


    How can an ancient text from a long dead people be of great interest depending upon the time or author, when in order to know what the time was or who the author was, the text would have to be already understood, and the text itself would have to state the time and author in the language of the text.creativesoul

    There was a great deal of interest in ancient Egypt long before hieroglyphics were successfully deciphered in 1822 after centuries of attempts: [url=http://]http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/writing/rosetta.html[/url]

    There are other ancient languages that have yet to be deciphered but there is interest in doing so: [url=http://]https://www.livescience.com/59851-ancient-languages-not-yet-deciphered.htm[/url]l; [url=http://]https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/6-lost-languages-and-scripts-that-have-not-yet-been-deciphered/[/url];
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    If so, then I would say yes. It may be that the language can be recovered. It has happened before. Once the language is understood the meaning can be discovered.
    — Fooloso4

    Understanding the language is knowing the meaning. One cannot understand the language a text is written in unless one knows what the marks mean. Knowing what the marks mean IS understanding the language...
    creativesoul

    Do you imagine that this is not so obvious that you have to state it?Fooloso4

    Some things are obvious to some people. Others, not so much.

    What you seemed to have missed is that by virtue of agreeing with me, you've arrived at self-contradiction. You've stated that once the language is understood, then we can discover the meaning. The point I'm making is that it is impossible to understand the language without knowing the meaning and vice-versa. Understanding a language and knowing the meaning are the very same thing.

    You've drawn a distinction between the two, and there is no difference to be had.



    The meaning of a text is not dependent upon anyone at time T actually understanding the language...

    That presupposes precisely what's at issue here. Do you not see that? Whether or not the meaning of a language is existentially dependent upon it's language users is precisely what needs argued for.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    There was a great deal of interest in ancient Egypt long before hieroglyphics were successfully deciphered in 1822 after centuries of attempts: [url=http://]http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk/writing/rosetta.html[/url]

    There are other ancient languages that have yet to be deciphered but there is interest in doing so: [url=http://]https://www.livescience.com/59851-ancient-languages-not-yet-deciphered.htm[/url]l; [url=http://]https://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/6-lost-languages-and-scripts-that-have-not-yet-been-deciphered/[/url];
    Fooloso4

    There are innumerable people throughout written history who claim to have deciphered some ancient text or another. I'm not denying that many people, most I would say, think/believe that it is possible to decipher an ancient text from a long dead civilization.

    I'm refuting that thought/belief.

    In order to even be able to do that, the meaning of the text would have to be able to persist through time, despite the fact of it's users all having long since perished. I'm arguing based upon what can be known about current languages, and how their meaning persists through time. That takes three things. With an ancient text, we have only one.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    Here's a question...

    Upon what ground does one claim to have deciphered an ancient language into our own? Furthermore, even if one can convince others that it is possible, and plenty of people have... what could anyone possibly use as a means for checking to see if the 'translation'(scare-quotes intentional) is correct?

    Think about what it takes to do that with two currently used languages. There is no reason to believe that translating an ancient text requires anything less. Deciphering is translating. I mean, even when we have a case of two well-known languages, it is often the case that the meaning of certain expressions in one language are quite simply incapable of being accurately translated into the other language.
  • Fooloso4
    231
    If you know English you do not automatically know the meaning of a particular text written in English. In fact, there may be various interpretations of its meaning. A string of words may or may not have a meaning. Then again, one might impose a meaning on a random string of words.


    The point I'm making is that it is impossible to understand the language without knowing the meaning and vice-versa.creativesoul

    What is the meaning of English? If you know English you can, but may not, understand something written in English but this is not knowing the meaning of English. It is only what is spoken or written in English that has meaning.

    You've drawn a distinction between the two, and there is no difference to be had.creativesoul

    See above.

    That presupposes precisely what's at issue here. Do you not see that? Whether or not the meaning of a language is existentially dependent upon it's language users is precisely what needs argued for.creativesoul

    You seem to be confusing meaning and knowledge of the meaning. To the extent it is possible to understand the meaning of an ancient text that meaning must exist. If it is just scribbles or random letters or words the text has no meaning.

    There are innumerable people throughout written history who claim to have deciphered some ancient text or another. I'm not denying that many people, most I would say, think/believe that it is possible to decipher an ancient text from a long dead civilization.

    I'm refuting that thought/belief.
    creativesoul

    If you read the information in the link on the Rosetta Stone you will see why scholars are confident that it has been properly deciphered.

    In order to even be able to do that, the meaning of the text would have to be able to persist through time, despite the fact of it's users all having long since perished.creativesoul

    And that is exactly the case. That is why I pointed it out. It may go against your ill-conceived theory but look at the evidence and not at what you think the evidence must show based on your theory.

    Here's a question...

    Upon what ground does one claim to have deciphered an ancient language into our own?
    creativesoul

    Again, read the link or other information on the Rosetta Stone. Your answer is right there.

    I mean, even when we have a case of two well-known languages, it is often the case that the meaning of certain expressions in one language are quite simply incapable of being accurately translated into the other language.creativesoul

    The problems of translation and interpretation go hand in hand. Translators may differ not only with how a passage is to be translated but what the passage means.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    If you know English you do not automatically know the meaning of a particular text written in English. In fact, there may be various interpretations of its meaning. A string of words may or may not have a meaning. Then again, one might impose a meaning on a random string of words.


    The point I'm making is that it is impossible to understand the language without knowing the meaning and vice-versa.
    — creativesoul

    What is the meaning of English? If you know English you can, but may not, understand something written in English but this is not knowing the meaning of English. It is only what is spoken or written in English that has meaning.

    You've drawn a distinction between the two, and there is no difference to be had.
    — creativesoul

    See above.
    Fooloso4

    Red herring. Try again. Quote me and address my word use.

    We're discussing an ancient text. Ancient texts are examples of language use. It is impossible to understand the language use without knowing the meaning, and vice versa.

    That's a sharper version, so to speak.

    There are some other things you said that warrant further discussion...
  • TheMadFool
    3k
    A text may contain many layers of meaning. There's the direct, straight-in-the-face meaning.

    Then there's to consider meaning in relation to the author which probably requires us to know his intent, a little bit of which may be deduced from his socio-cultural environment.

    Then there's the central theme of the text. If it's era-specific or pertains to an age then the meaning would be lost/difficult to relate to. However, if the text is timeless, e.g. it could be about human nature, something that has probably not changed, then the text will be meaningful.

    Let's not forget personal meaning imposed on the text by its reader.

    Just babbling...
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    You seem to be confusing meaning and knowledge of the meaning.Fooloso4

    That's an interesting charge given the position I argue for.


    To the extent it is possible to understand the meaning of an ancient text that meaning must exist....Fooloso4

    I agree. That is precisely what needs argued for. Do you have an argument for that claim?


    In order to even be able to do that, the meaning of the text would have to be able to persist through time, despite the fact of it's users all having long since perished.
    — creativesoul

    And that is exactly the case. That is why I pointed it out.
    Fooloso4

    Gratuitous assertion is unacceptable here. No matter how many times you state it without an argument, it's still needs argued for.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k


    You point to different kinds of meaning. That's no problem. Good to note it actually. Knowing what they all have in common, which makes them all meaning, that is what it takes to address the issue of the ancient text...

    What is all linguistic meaning existentially dependent upon? Does that answer hold good for the ancient text? Does it have what it takes? That us the general approach here.
  • creativesoul
    4.6k


    Fix your links...

    Nevermind. It was on my end... My apologies. Reading the Rosetta Stone link now...
  • creativesoul
    4.6k
    Well that didn't take long...

    The Rosetta Stone was written in language that is still in use, and was when found. Thus, it is not an example of what I'm talking about. The OP clearly delineates the candidates under consideration...

    It is also clear that you've not rightly understood the argument I'm presenting.
  • TheMadFool
    3k
    What is all linguistic meaning existentially dependent upon? Does that answer hold good for the ancient text? Does it have what it takes? That us the general approach here.creativesoul

    Symbolism?
  • creativesoul
    4.6k


    That's a good start.

    What is symbolism existentially dependent upon?
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