• creativesoul
    6k


    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.
    creativesoul

    An ancient text from a long dead people does not have what it takes to be meaningful. We have the signs, marks, symbols... that's it. The referents may still exist. There is no longer anyone drawing the correlations. There is no way for us to know what they were.
  • S
    11.5k
    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".
    jamalrob

    Agreed. This became a problem in my discussions. I think that some people either missed or (for some reason unclear to me) rejected my point that the first meaning can be more useful than the second meaning, yet (again, for some reason unclear to me) a bunch of people rigidly stick to the second meaning, even when it becomes a problem.
  • creativesoul
    6k
    In one sense it is meaningful: we know it means something...jamalrob

    Means? As in present tense... still means something?

    Do we know that?

    That is exactly what my argument refutes. We cannot know it is meaningful if it is not. I know it is not. We know it meant something to the language users. I've argued for all those claims without subsequent due attention. The argument for what all meaning is existentially dependent upon has yet to have addressed. One example to the contrary is all it takes...

    Just one.
  • S
    11.5k
    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.jamalrob

    I'll be honest and admit that I haven't read the opening post, at least yet.

    But if that's what he's doing, then I made the point multiple times that some people were treating or talking about meaning in the wrong way, in a way which suggested category errors. For example, thinking that it has a location or that it literally resides in something, like a physical object. My point about there being meaning was in a factual or logical sense. The factual sense can be expressed by saying that it would be the case that there is meaning. And the logical sense can be expressed by saying that if it's true that, if there was a being there capable in principle of correctly deciphering the text, then the text has meaning, then the text has meaning.
  • Isaac
    1.1k
    We know it meant something to the language users.creativesoul

    Does the fourth word on page 265 of the current Oxford English Dictionary mean anything? I could wager it is not in use right now. It certainly meant something maybe five minutes ago when it was last used. I've no doubt it will mean something in five minute's time when it is next used, but right now no-one in the world is using it. Does that mean it has lost its meaning?
  • S
    11.5k
    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.creativesoul

    So, despite all of that text in the opening post, it all boils down to that one assertion which I've bolded above. You may as well cross out or delete everything else you typed up. And it is merely an assertion.

    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

    No, that's simply not true. We do not have to accept your assertion, and if we do not, then we can easily reach a different conclusion. And we are all well within our rights to simply dismiss your assertion, as well as everything else that relies on it.

    You haven't done anything remarkable here. It's just the same old problem. You merely take for granted the very thing which the debate hinges on.
  • Fooloso4
    1k
    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.creativesoul

    Knowing the meaning of what? The language or a particular text? If it is the former then it is no different from my example of English. If you mean the latter then it is only by understanding the language that you can understand the meaning of a particular text written in that language. If, on the other hand, as was the case with the Rosetta Stone, you understand the meaning because it was also written in Greek, you do not thereby understand the hieroglyphics.

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

    Why does it need to be argued for? I think it evident. Imagine some time in the future that English becomes an ancient lost language. Two pieces of paper are found. One had a clear meaning when it was written but the other one did not, it was the result, say, of a child banging on the keyboard. Now if someone were able to decipher English, the meaning of the first would be recovered but the second would remain meaningless. Knowing the meaning would require understanding the language, but understanding the language does not mean that a random string of letters is meaningful.

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

    You may not believe the Rosetta Stone has been deciphered but to demonstrate that it has not requires more than a poorly stated theory. Do you know how it was deciphered? Here is a brief description: [url=http://]https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/archaeology/rosetta-stone3.htm[/url]

    The Rosetta Stone was written in language that is still in use, and was when found.creativesoul

    The hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone is not still in use. Demotic is not still in use. It was noticed, however, the Demotic was similar to Coptic, which is not still in use either, although scholars can read it and used this knowledge to decipher the Demotic. The Greek on the stone is not still in use although there are scholars who can read it.

    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.creativesoul

    What is the time of us of current languages? Languages change over time. Someone who can read modern Greek cannot read ancient Greek. In addition, someone who understood Koiné or Hellenistic Greek (the Greek the New Testament is written in) is not likely to have understood Classical or Attic Greek (the Greek Plato and Aristotle wrote in).
  • creativesoul
    6k
    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.
    — creativesoul

    Knowing the meaning of what? The language or a particular text?
    Fooloso4

    The use. Language use determines meaning.


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

    Why does it need to be argued for?
    Fooloso4

    It needs argued for because just saying that ancient text is meaningful presupposes precisely what's in contention here. Bald and gratuitous assertions are unacceptable. There is nothing gained between two sides of an argument if neither argues for the position. One says this, the other says that. I'm at least offering an argument. The least you could do is address it, since you have none to support your conclusion. Lot's of people believing that something is the case does not make that something the case.

    You may not believe the Rosetta Stone has been deciphered...Fooloso4

    I didn't say that. The Rosetta Stone - when discovered - was written in languages still in use at the time of the discovery. Some people could still understand them. The marks, the referents, and the users were all still extant. That is enough to decipher the bits they did not understand. Three stories about the same things. Two of the three were in known languages. Otherwise, they could not have been read. Reading requires understanding. The ability to translate/decipher the unknown bits came as a result.

    Thus, the Rosetta Stone is not an ancient text written in a language that had no users.
  • creativesoul
    6k
    Languages change over time. Someone who can read modern Greek cannot read ancient Greek. In addition, someone who understood Koiné or Hellenistic Greek (the Greek the New Testament is written in) is not likely to have understood Classical or Attic Greek (the Greek Plato and Aristotle wrote in).Fooloso4

    Are you offering support for my argument?

    :wink:
  • creativesoul
    6k
    Does the fourth word on page 265 of the current Oxford English Dictionary mean anything? I could wager it is not in use right now. It certainly meant something maybe five minutes ago when it was last used. I've no doubt it will mean something in five minute's time when it is next used, but right now no-one in the world is using it. Does that mean it has lost its meaning?Isaac

    Are the language users all dead?
  • Isaac
    1.1k
    Are the language users all dead?creativesoul

    No. I'm guessing you think that has some material effect, so perhaps you could explain how.
  • creativesoul
    6k
    No. I'm guessing you think that has some material effect, so perhaps you could explain how.Isaac

    Re-read the thread...

    If the language is still being used it is not meaningless. The notion of material effect is out of place. It is not necessary.
  • creativesoul
    6k
    Earlier someone mentioned location...

    I wonder why?

    Meaning is not the sort of thing that has a spatiotemporal location. Rather, it is a composition of three things; the direct result of drawing mental correlation. The distance between that which becomes sign/symbol, that which becomes significant/symbolized, and the creature connecting the two differs. A language less creature, a fire, and a mental correlation drawn between the behaviour and the ensuing pain.

    The fire became meaningful to the creature as a result of the creature making a connection between touching fire and the resulting pain. All three things(the fire, the pain, the creature) are necessary elemental constituents of the correlation itself.

    By virtue of drawing the correlation meaning is attributed, rudimentary thought/belief is formed, and correspondence to fact is presupposed.
  • S
    11.5k
    Earlier someone mentioned location...

    I wonder why?

    Meaning is not the sort of thing that has a spatiotemporal location.
    creativesoul

    I mentioned it, and I mentioned it because of the expressed views of @Terrapin Station, and because it seemed relevant to the problem that @jamalrob brought up, as well as the related problem which I brought up in response, and which you're echoing here: the problem of category errors.

    And I agree with you. @Terrapin Station doesn't though, I think. But I'll let him speak for himself. If I've understood him correctly, he thinks that everything has a location, including meaning, including Tuesday - you name it, he'll "locate" it.
  • I like sushi
    1.3k
    Given that writing things down for future generations makes something “meaningful” to the scholars of the time. For ancient texts even more so given that it took far more effort to preserve thoughts and ideas of the time than simply switching some electronic device on and letting your fingers dance to your every whim.

    The historical is important. Prehistory is the issue because we tend to assume too much without written evidence/varification. We’re more prone to question information today so it seems easier, perhaps too easy, to question any given interpretation and thus erode the very concept of “meaning”.
  • Isaac
    1.1k
    If the language is still being used it is not meaningless. The notion of material effect is out of place. It is not necessary.creativesoul

    Sorry, I thought we were discussing the matter. My mistake. You crack on with your lecture, I won't interrupt anymore.
  • S
    11.5k
    Is the meaning of written text existentially dependent upon it's use?creativesoul

    But how would you demonstrate that it is in a nontrivial way? A trivial way would, for example, be to just assert that meaning is use, and then interpret that in a way which has your conclusion as a logical consequence. This merely means that meaning is not use (by your interpretation). That assertion would just be dismissed, at least pending support from you.

    This sort of thing seems to be a problem for you, and is probably at least partly why you get replies like the one before this.
  • creativesoul
    6k
    Given that writing things down for future generations makes something “meaningful” to the scholars of the time.I like sushi

    The above does not support anything afterwards. I do agree with the above. Not so much with what followed.

    The historical is important. Prehistory is the issue because we tend to assume too much without written evidence/varification.I like sushi

    An ancient text that has no users could be rightfully described as an historical artifact.

    Could you flesh out the difference between historical and pre-historical? Seems to me that such problematic assumptions are most certainly not exclusive to "prehistory".
  • S
    11.5k
    It's funny that he's ignoring me, even though his opening post was blatantly originally intended to be used as the opening in a formal debate against me. A debate he would've been destined to lose, of course.
  • creativesoul
    6k


    I thought you were responding to an excerpt of my writing.
  • Isaac
    1.1k
    I thought you were responding to an excerpt of my writing.creativesoul

    I was. You dismissed the question I asked as not necessary. End of discussion. What else do you want me to say? I thought I was taking part in a discussion, not consulting with the Oracle.
  • Possibility
    500
    There is often an assumption that there is only the meaning of this ancient text, as if a single meaning was somehow inherent in the text itself. But meaning exists in a relationship between observed text and observer/user. It is not inherent in the text, but neither is it separable from either text or observer.

    So, if a text is considered ‘meaningful’, are we saying that the text contains meaning, or that there is a meaningful relationship between the ancient text and any modern user? Conversely, if a text is considered to have no meaning, are we saying that it is meaningless, or that there is no meaningful relationship established between the text and the modern user?

    For meaning to ‘persist through time’, there must be a sense of continuity perceived in this particular relationship between texts and users through time. Take the word ‘love’ for instance. While there is a sense of continuity between this text and the same word (using the same symbols) written in English for the last five hundred years, the claim that a similar continuity exists between users (readers and writers) of the word ‘love’ over that same five hundred years is much less certain.

    Meaning is a fluid process of seeking continuity in a relationship between various interactions of users and texts. Statements of meaning in a dictionary attempt to ‘shore up’ this sense of continuity from the side of the text, but language and textual meaning does not so much ‘persist’ through time as much as it flows - changing and fluctuating in small, complex ways with each interaction between texts and users. This is why dictionaries need to be regularly updated, and why we cannot even conclude that the meaning of the ancient text ‘persisted’ (without change) throughout the time period during its use.

    So, is a newly discovered and completely unfamiliar ancient text still meaningful?

    Well, it doesn’t have inherent meaning that persists through time, if that’s what you mean by ‘still’. The original meaning of the text exists only in the moment the chisel was put to stone, so to speak. That meaning may have been intended for a particular audience and in response to a particular experience or interaction, all of which may not be apparent in the text or its context (where it was found, etc). Nor can we be certain that the meaning intended was effectively communicated to any user at all. Incidentally, we can find various ways in which modern users can interact with the text in a meaningful way, but this is not ‘the meaning’ you’re looking for, is it?

    If our intention is to approach the original intended meaning of the text, then we need to concentrate not just on our interaction with the symbols (whether or not these symbols are still in use), but with the original users of those symbols - to share in the human experience that motivated that particular use of that particular combination of symbols in the context of the user’s particular sum of human experiences up to that point. This is not a purely logical process, nor is it ever going to be conclusive. We can really only imagine the original meaning from our position, and to share our various perspectives on it, towards further developing the complex web of continuity in relationships between texts and users throughout time.
  • S
    11.5k
    Rather, I'm questioning whether or not it is even able to be deciphered.creativesoul

    Problem of ambiguity again. In practice or in principle?

    I could probably go along and identify problems in every single one of your comments. They're always full of problems.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.6k
    And I agree with you. Terrapin Station doesn't though, I think. But I'll let him speak for himself. If I've understood him correctly, he thinks that everything has a location, including meaning, including Tuesday - you name it, he'll "locate" it.S

    Correct. I think it's incoherent to say that anything exists, that there is any phenomenon that obtains, that does not have a location. That doesn't imply that a location is "simple" or in just one place, but it's a location (or set of locations) nonetheless. Tuesday, for example, is an idea, and as such is located in the minds (minds being identical to subsets of brain structure/function) of the people who are presently thinking the idea. We could also identify it with the word, with words explaining it, etc. in which case it's also located where those words are written (the locations of all of the books mentioning Tuesday, for example), where the sound is recorded, etc.
  • I like sushi
    1.3k


    History means “written” (“histo”). Prehistory refers to the period before written/writing evidence. We know something about the lives of people in the ancient world because they wrote about it. In anthropology the field has suffered during it’s history because people assumed too much about a given culture through the lens of modern eyes with no actual historical evidence using only archeological evidence and inferring from there.

    Of course we’re prone to making misleading assumptions about ancient texts too. The point is there is at least a text to work from where we can say someone was buried in some kind of ritual whereas prehistoric evidence does not give us this explicit explanation in all/any cases - it is much more about inferring and is why archeology is a science dealing with the recording of facts adn evidence and not about interpretation.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    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.jamalrob

    I think that meaning must be considered alongside context, as indicated here. The OP focusses tightly on meaning, but does not even mention context. I think this is an oversight that could usefully be corrected.
  • Fooloso4
    1k
    Thus, the Rosetta Stone is not an ancient text written in a language that had no users.creativesoul

    Who writes in hieroglyphs? Who writes or speaks in Demotic or any form of ancient Greek? There are a few people who know how to read these languages but no one "uses" them. They are dead languages. Their use is ancient history. Unlike living languages the meaning of the terms are fixed by how they were used when they were used.

    Knowledge of a language, however, is not the end of the matter. What a particular text means does not become apparent when read by someone who knows the language. Just what it means may yield no final answer. We continually debate the meaning of texts. Thus the problem of meaning extends to all texts.

    There are texts that no living person knows how to read. They are for us meaningless. If someone were able to decipher the texts, however, then some sense of their meaning would be understood, unless they never had a meaning to begin with. The marks might be practice in writing the letters or words, but a series of letters or words has no coherent meaning as a text. Someone might unwittingly attribute meaning to this, but whoever wrote the marks may have meant no such thing. Or what was written did mean something to the author and its readers, but has come to mean something else. And this might mean different things - misinterpretation, giving significance to things did not have the same significance for the author, meaningful to us because it gives a glimpse into the world of the author.

    Someone who understands or, you might say, uses English, does not thereby understand the meaning of meaning, even though he uses the term in a meaningful way. He is not thereby aware of the extent and differences and problems associated with the question of meaning or what 'X' means. And, once again, there is no such thing as the meaning of a language. The language is used to state things that have meaning, or, at least, are intended to have meaning.
  • creativesoul
    6k
    I thought you were responding to an excerpt of my writing.
    — creativesoul

    I was. You dismissed the question I asked as not necessary. End of discussion. What else do you want me to say? I thought I was taking part in a discussion, not consulting with the Oracle.
    Isaac

    You guessed. You asked about the guess. I answered.
  • S
    11.5k
    Who writes in hieroglyphs? Who writes or speaks in Demotic or any form of ancient Greek? There are a few people who know how to read these languages but no one "uses" them. They are dead languages. Their use is ancient history. Unlike living languages the meaning of the terms are fixed by how they were used when they were used.Fooloso4

    And yet they're still meaningful. And that's the problem with interpreting "meaning is use" in this awful idealist way.

    If no one is experiencing it right now, then it doesn't exist? If no one is using it right now, then it has no meaning? No and no.

    They are for us meaningless.Fooloso4

    For us, yes. But, like you go on to suggest, you can take away the "for us" and there's still a meaning. Unless you merely define meaning as the "for us", which would be trivial and misguided.

    If someone were able to decipher the texts, however, then some sense of their meaning would be understood, unless they never had a meaning to begin with.Fooloso4

    Indeed. Their meaning. The meaning of the texts. (Unless they never had one to begin with).
  • S
    11.5k
    You guessed. You asked about the guess. I answered.creativesoul

    @Isaac, the Oracle has given his answer. Do not pester the Oracle with your guessing and requests for explanation. The Oracle doesn't explain. The Oracle pronounces.
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