• unenlightened
    3.6k
    The builder and the assistant are doing something together, building something. This is cooperation. I would say that the act of building, in this instance, is something which is shared. So "cooperation" refers to a sharing, and in this case what is shared is the act of building.

    Let's suppose that "meaning" refers to an act of cooperation, so it is also a type of sharing. What is the act which it is a sharing of?
    Metaphysician Undercover

    Well I'd better use the terminology if you want to go into it. I think we say that there is a 'form of life' which is Jones & Son, Builders in their functional mode, and there is a language game such that the idea of the game is to coordinate the actions of builder and assistant, and the rules are that when the builder needs a slab, he says 'slab' and the assistant passes him a slab and so on. It seems obvious that this very sparse vocabulary and simple repertoire of moves does not make a distinction between object and action - 'slab' means the thing and the act of passing it, just as 'Halt!' means 'take one more step and come to attention.' or 'Scalpel!' means 'Please pass me a new scalpel, nurse.' each in their own game in their own form of life.

    If I were to describe this in general terms, I could say that language is a tool of social coordination that requires a mutual understanding in order to function. that is the builder and assistant must both know how the words connect to each other's actions, in order for the language to work, and this sameness of understanding is practical rather than conceptual. and in this sense the mean is not merely demonstrated by the act but consists of the act being the appropriate one.

    This is annoying for philosophers, to find that words are not really for arguing the toss, or exploring the mind, but for getting stuff done. Maybe consider the referee's one word whistle language. The one word means 'stop the game' if the game is in progress, or 'start the game' if the game is stopped. And every player has that same functional understanding, though perhaps none have ever thought about it in those terms. the meaning is shared, in the same way that every poster shares the fundamentals of English, and does not have to resort to google translate.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.6k

    If I understand correctly, you are saying that there is an understanding which is shared (mutual), and this understanding concerns some rules about actions. What do you think is the relationship between meaning and rules? Are they the same thing, meaning is rules, and rules are meaning? Or, are rules a type of meaning, or is meaning a type of rule? Or is there some other relationship?

    This is annoying for philosophers, to find that words are not really for arguing the toss, or exploring the mind, but for getting stuff done.unenlightened

    Isn't exploring the mind an instance of doing something? Here's a little problem that Aristotle uncovered. A goal, the end, is an object, the thing desired. Activity is the means to the end. So getting to the end constitutes "getting stuff done". But Aristotle found that it is the activity itself which is judged as virtuous or vicious, so the highest goal, the final end, as the most virtuous thing desired, must itself be an activity, rather than an object, as thing desired. This is why he posited thinking about thinking, as the most virtuous, divine activity. But this is an instance of doing something without ever getting anything done.
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    Meaning isn't use. But just about any question we might have regarding meaning can be answered by talking instead about use. And that just about is only there to cover the unknown...

    Share... Like a pizza? Or like a house? Or like Brexit? Or like an investment? Or like a story?
    Banno

    What are you doing here? You pick me up on my inexactitude, and then retreat to the only difference being some unknown possibility. We read the same thread, we speak the same language; why do you want to have a problem with "share", suddenly?

    My suspicion is that there is an implication here that might be dangerous for a certain philosophical convention - that ethics cannot be discussed?
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    What do you think is the relationship between meaning and rules? Are they the same thing, meaning is rules, and rules are meaning? Or, are rules a type of meaning, or is meaning a type of rule? Or is there some other relationship?Metaphysician Undercover

    Well the rules are a formal description of the game. I described the rule of the referee's whistle, that give the meaning as varying according to context - 'start', or 'stop'. The players share a practical understanding of this but probably could not say very clearly 'what the whistle means'. So contra Banno above, I want to say that meaning is being able to play the game, or in this case, stopping playing the game when the whistle blows, and restarting when the whistle blows again. Exactly as one says that a dog understands 'sit' just in case it sits when the trainer says 'sit'. We don't require that the beast can explain itself. I suppose I would say something like that meaning is how the rules play out in the form of life.

    I imagine W's builders reaching an impasse. The builder says 'Block!' but the assistant has run out of blocks. The game has become unplayable, and something new has to happen. Perhaps the assistant speaks - 'Slab!!' And the rules have changed, the game has changed and the meaning has changed.

    Isn't exploring the mind an instance of doing something?Metaphysician Undercover
    Sure it is, and we do it with language, but it's secondary, and parasitic on the practical uses of language to coordinate social action. First we hunt, then we tell hunting stories, and then we theorise hunting.
  • Pattern-chaser
    1.2k
    So if there is some "external" thing being 'shared' then why isn't it preserved through translation.Isaac

    I quite agree with what you're saying. :up: :smile: But your sense doesn't quite come through (to me!) in the above text. The external thing isn't preserved through translation because the communications medium (speech/words) is imperfect, and we know that this is so. Because the shared external thing isn't safe in simple transmission, it just gets worse in the case of translation.

    And then there is the question in the OP: what exactly is the external thing?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    5.6k
    My suspicion is that there is an implication here that might be dangerous for a certain philosophical convention - that ethics cannot be discussed?unenlightened

    If we're talking about rules for getting things done, then I think ethics is unavoidable. If there are rules for getting things done, which are incompatible with ethical rules, this would be a problem.

    So contra Banno above, I want to say that meaning is being able to play the game, or in this case, stopping playing the game when the whistle blows, and restarting when the whistle blows again. Exactly as one says that a dog understands 'sit' just in case it sits when the trainer says 'sit'. We don't require that the beast can explain itself. I suppose I would say something like that meaning is how the rules play out in the form of life.unenlightened

    Wouldn't this put meaning into the minds of the individuals then, and not something shared? The rules are shared, but the meaning of the rules is what is in the individual's mind. So if one person misunderstood what the whistle is supposed to mean, that person might keep playing, having assigned a different meaning to the whistle.

    Sure it is, and we do it with language, but it's secondary, and parasitic on the practical uses of language to coordinate social action. First we hunt, then we tell hunting stories, and then we theorise hunting.unenlightened

    Yes, I think that's the point which puts practise ahead of theory in Aristotle's ethics. First, he was moved to assign a theoretical thing as the ultimate end, "happiness". But a further analysis of human nature revealed that we are fundamentally active, involved in activity first and foremost, and the highest good must be an activity because an inactivity is inconsistent with what it means to be human. So the so-called ultimate end is overruled, as incompatible with human nature, which is to be active, and therefore the new ultimate end would have to be an activity.

    Notice in your example, "then we theorize hunting". You might have said we theorize ways to make hunting more efficient, or to avoid having to hunt altogether, in order to do more important things. But if you said that we theorize ways to spend less time having to hunt, so that we could sit around and do nothing, this would outstep the boundaries of this sort of ethics which dictates that good is found in activity. Practise is given a higher priority to theory. This provides the principles to judge theory through practise (empirical method). And theory is not coming from the truth of eternal forms, rather it comes from the activity of thinking.
  • unenlightened
    3.6k
    Wouldn't this put meaning into the minds of the individuals then, and not something shared? The rules are shared, but the meaning of the rules is what is in the individual's mind. So if one person misunderstood what the whistle is supposed to mean, that person might keep playing, having assigned a different meaning to the whistle.Metaphysician Undercover

    Well if you don't understand, you're not sharing, and you're not playing the game properly. But sharing a pizza does not require sharing a stomach, we each have some. And likewise we can share thoughts, rules, meanings, in separate minds. Let's not make it a problem because it isn't one. Maybe your slice of pizza is bigger and has more salami, maybe your understanding is sharper. Still, we share...
  • Galuchat
    565
    In general, sharing has more to do with communication than with meaning.

    Meaning is explanation (clarification) by attribution, reference, or relation. So, it is a product of categorisation (predication), hence; associated with a particular (physical and/or mental).

    It is stored in memory as a mental representation (cognitive symbol).

    Minds which possess similar mental representations (sets of intersubjective meaning) can be said to share meaning.
  • creativesoul
    5.1k
    There are a variety of different language-games, as Wittgenstein notes at §23 of PI, but one thing that may be shared between language users across at least some of those language-games is behaviours or actions. The obvious example is giving and acting upon orders or requests, where the speaker uses (or behaves with) language to elicit the desired behaviours of the hearer(s). In this case, knowing the meaning of the speaker's words is knowing how to behave/act in response.

    I doubt that this "answer" fits all uses of language, as there is probably more than one answer depending on the use.
    Luke

    Yes. Language can be used for many things, and saying "Block!" is to use language as a means for acquiring something. I think it safe to say that if the helper/listener brings something else, then the meaning was not shared/understood. The meaning of "Block!" is the mental correlation between the language use and something else. In this instance, the something else is a particular entity/object and it's being given to the speaker after the language use.

    The insight of Witt, it seems to me, focuses upon the context surrounding language use and what it shows us. It helps differentiate between different senses of the same term. "Block" without the builder's context does have the same locutionary force. It's more of a namesake only.
  • creativesoul
    5.1k
    One thing that's important to clarify re "shared meaning" is whether someone is positing (1) one "thing" that's multiply present--a la the traditional concept of universals, where there's a solitary universal that somehow obtains in multiple things, (2) multiple "things" that are somehow the same (somehow identical despite not being numerically identical), or simply (3) something that can be observed by multiple people--sharing in the "show and tell" sense.

    Note that neither (1) nor (2) can be held by nominalists, although (2) is maybe not too far removed from trope nominalism if we don't insist on identity.
    Terrapin Station

    Are those the only three options?
  • S
    10.2k
    So it seems safe enough to say that shared meaning requires a plurality of language users.creativesoul

    Requires them in what sense, and for what? I hate problematic ambiguity like that. Especially when I've pointed out the problem before.

    What is it, and what does it take?creativesoul

    Meaning is use. And the way that I use the word "meaning" doesn't logically imply that a bunch of language users need to be standing around at the time doing a bunch of stuff.

    I find my usage useful for a number of reasons which I've spoken about at length. I find your usage problematic, again, for reasons I've mentioned before, and elsewhere.

    And when I say that meaning is use, funnily enough, I don't mean that meaning is necessarily literal use at the time by language users. I don't think that Wittgenstein meant that either. But whether he did or didn't is a digression. The interpretation that I go by is a better interpretation than the linguistic idealist's interpretation.

    It takes being set through the creation of a language rule, which can be implicit or explicit.

    For it to be shared is for it to be made public, like publishing a newly coined meaning. I can do that using language through a medium such as this forum. Think of social media: as soon as I click the "share" button, lo and behold, it has been shared.

    In my language, which I call Sapientish, the word "shlebab" is to mean "a large horse-like creature, only with fluffy fur and claws".

    Now that I've shared, you either play the language game or you don't, and it's as simple as that.
  • S
    10.2k
    Rwy'n rhannu rhai geiriau gyda chi, ond oni bai eich bod eisoes yn gyfarwydd â'r Gymraeg, ni fyddwch yn deall yr hyn sy'n cael ei ddweud.

    As I'm sure you all agree. But perhaps you do not know that you agree?
    unenlightened

    And therefore shared meaning does not require understanding. He just shared his meaning through the expression of it in language, and yet I do not understand what he meant.
  • S
    10.2k
    They might be, or they might only be as different as two slices of a shared pizza. Some philosophers claim that a meal is only shared if the mouths connect to the same stomach, but I think they are mistaken.unenlightened

    Yes! And yet some people have said that analogies about meaning mislead. No, they can do, but then some people mislead themselves and blame it on the analogy. I caught your shared meaning, and I agree with your point.

    But now I really want pizza.
  • S
    10.2k
    Each one is contradictory in its own right.Metaphysician Undercover

    Which really only says that it's contradictory as a result of his interpretation, which is his never-ending problem. And the obvious solution? Don't interpret it that way! Remove the blinkers. I think that they call this the principle of charity.
  • S
    10.2k
    Meaning isn't a thing. So it's not shared.
    — Banno

    Well thanks for sharing that opinion, but why can we only share things? People talk about shared responsibility; is communion not shared? I think the thought police are over-stepping their remit here.
    unenlightened

    Indeed. Not to mention that he's undermining his own "meaning is use" here! All he's really telling us is how he is using the word "thing". Do we all use the word in your way, @Banno?

    Early Wittgenstein used "thing" in a way whereby it both makes sense and is true to say that we don't share things through expression in language, we share their names.
  • S
    10.2k
    Working on pithy.

    Meaning is shared only insofar as the context demands. Even words that seemed to create shared meaning in one context may, when used in a different context, demonstrate that the meaning was never shared to begin with.

    Yelling "slab" may get a house built, but it could just be that in the context of a construction site, it was sufficient for the yeller to mean "hand me what is next on the pile" and the receiver to have understood the word to mean "hand me the hard rock thing cut into a manageable shape."

    I suck at pithy.
    xzJoel

    Nice post, and welcome back. Long time, no see.
  • Banno
    5.1k
    We read the same thread, we speak the same language; why do you want to have a problem with "share", suddenly?unenlightened

    We share a language - OK. We share meaning -
    ...shared meaning requires a plurality of language users.creativesoul
    ...but here, how does shared meaning differ from meaning? A meaning that has not been shared... a meaning that cannot be shared?

    So, what is it that is being shared between language users? To answer "meaning" is not at all helpful nor informative.creativesoul

    One thing that's important to clarify re "shared meaning" is whether someone is positing (1) one "thing" that's multiply present--a la the traditional concept of universals, where there's a solitary universal that somehow obtains in multiple things, (2) multiple "things" that are somehow the same (somehow identical despite not being numerically identical), or simply (3) something that can be observed by multiple people--sharing in the "show and tell" sense.Terrapin Station


    Not like that...
  • creativesoul
    5.1k
    With regard to shared (intersubjective) meaning, whether communicated verbally, or non-verbally:

    1) Communication requires message vocabulary and syntax which is understood by both message source and destination.

    2) Semantic message encoding and decoding requires knowledge of the code used, corresponding mental representations, and the communication context.

    3) A semantic message may be encoded differently and have the same meaning in each code.

    In addition to intersubjective (social group) meaning, there is also: universal (innate or inherent), subjective (personal), and unknown meaning.
    Galuchat

    You've named some different kinds of meaning. Would you elaborate a bit upon universal and unknown meaning?
  • creativesoul
    5.1k
    ...what is it that is being shared between language users?creativesoul

    Understanding.Mww

    Can we unpack this a little bit more? While I would not disagree at all that there are times and situations where sharing meaning creates a bridge of mutual understanding, so to speak. I'm hesitant about the consequences of sticking to that equivalence. If we claim that sharing meaning is sharing understanding, we're faced with a bit of a problem when a listener completely understands and readily agrees with what a speaker is saying but what's been said amounts to falsehood.

    Certainly meaning is shared here. Can understanding consist of falsehood?

    Can I understand that Trump places what's best for the average American citizen above and beyond his own personal interests? I think not, although I can readily understand what the sentence means. I know what it would take in order for it to be true. So, in such cases the meaning is certainly shared, but I'm quite hesitant to say in such cases that understanding has been as well.
  • creativesoul
    5.1k
    "What is it and what do you need?

    This, of course, requires value. In general, we talk about language users when discussing common concepts. It is safe to say that many language users need general purposes.


    If so, what is common to language users? The answer to "meaning" is usually not useful.

    What do you say;"

    ___

    The 'purified' version of the question. English - >Korean - >Russian - >Greek - >Finnish - >English.

    I think it makes just as little sense as the original.
    Isaac

    Are you disagreeing that meaning is shared?
  • creativesoul
    5.1k
    It’s what facilitates cooperation within social groups. It primarily requires shared values and goals.praxis

    Hmmmm...

    It would seem to me that there are at least some values that cannot be conceived and/or agreed upon without meaning. If shared meaning requires shared values and goals, then shared values and goals would have to be prior to shared meaning.

    I've read you enough to conclude that I've misunderstood. Can you help me out here? How does shared meaning require shared values and goals?
  • creativesoul
    5.1k
    I think this has a lot to do with the bidirectional nature of shared speech. I utter some words, and I intend for them to carry a particular meaning. You hear my words, and you discern from them a meaning. But the meaning I intend and the meaning you receive might be two quite different things. I think this is the core of the sharing question.Pattern-chaser

    Very good. Point well made, and quite relevant to the OP.

    The only thing that seems problematic to me is talking in terms of "receiving meaning". Meaning, it seems to me, is not the sort of thing that one can receive. Rather, meaning is attributed, and I would say that the misattribution of meaning is often if not always the source of confusion and/or misunderstanding, particularly regarding an other's terminological/word use.
  • creativesoul
    5.1k
    “Meaning” is what words, thoughts, representations, etc. refer to. My two cents.Noah Te Stroete

    The term "tree" does not refer to meaning.
  • creativesoul
    5.1k
    Meaning is shared only insofar as the context demands. Even words that seemed to create shared meaning in one context may, when used in a different context, demonstrate that the meaning was never shared to begin with.

    Yelling "slab" may get a house built, but it could just be that in the context of a construction site, it was sufficient for the yeller to mean "hand me what is next on the pile" and the receiver to have understood the word to mean "hand me the hard rock thing cut into a manageable shape."
    xzJoel

    Indeed. This highlights whether or not we actually do share meaning, or at least questions the exactitude of doing so, or if there can even be such a thing.

    The same terminological use can have different meaning depending upon the situation. This shows the importance of context in the attribution/recognition of meaning.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    1.2k
    The term "tree" does not refer to meaning.creativesoul

    That’s clearly not what I said.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    1.2k
    Yes, and it’s meaning is what it refers to, viz. the plants with bark and leaves (or needles).
  • creativesoul
    5.1k
    We discover the meaning by seeing the use they are put to, which is to coordinate action. We see that the meaning is shared by observing that the assistant presents and the builder is satisfied with what is presented in harmony with the word use. If there was a misunderstanding, or a mis hearing, one would see the disharmony that resulted as slab was thrown back at the assistant , along with some remonstration.unenlightened

    Yes. We discover the meaning by knowing what correlations are being made between the language use and other things.

    Both builder and assistant draw correlations between the language use, the builder's wants/demands, and the block or slab. That is how meaning is shared. That is how it happens. We discover that meaning is shared, and learn what the language use means, by virtue of watching the language use in action or actually participating in it ourselves.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    1.2k
    No. The association in the mind between the word “tree” and the thing, trees. How the word refers through this association is the meaning. In a sense “tree”’s meaning is trees but trees are not meaning.
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