• StreetlightX
    5.9k
    Probs worth setting out why 'pointing' is so monumentally stupid to anyone who as yet doesn't get it: pointing is woefully inadequate insofar as ostention is radically indeterminate: if one points at a picture of a flower, one could be pointing at it's shape, a certain contour, a certain color, the fact of it's being a picture, a certain arrangement of shapes, the flower qua example of something else, the flower being the first in a series, literally anything. Pointing is utterly incapable of individuating anything on it's own, and doesn't so much explain anything whatsoever other than to demand further explanation. Pointing is the theology of meaning, a shitty stop-gap like saying 'God' and expecting that to satisfy anyone with even half a brain.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.4k
    You appeared to understand what I meant when I referred to it as a word. Is there some other arbiter of correct language use you have in mind?Isaac
    Then all it takes for a scribble or sound to be a word is for someone to assert it is a word? If that's the case, then "Zeritiustk 1( 4%as buttto----assa1+=++2?1 (tus) s)) a1" is a sentence.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.4k
    "Hello" doesn't point to the beginning of a conversation; it doesn't point to anything. It is an act done in speaking. Like "Get fucked!"; but not like "Ouch!".Banno
    Ok, then why don't we say "good-bye" when starting a conversation? Why should it matter whether or not we make the sound, "hello" or "good-bye" when starting a conversation?
  • Harry Hindu
    3.4k
    Probs worth setting out why 'pointing' is so monumentally stupid to anyone who as yet doesn't get it: pointing is woefully inadequate insofar as ostention is radically indeterminate: if one points at a picture of a flower, one could be pointing at it's shape, a certain contour, a certain color, the fact of it's being a picture, a certain arrangement of shapes, the flower qua example of something else, the flower being the first in a series, literally anything. Pointing is utterly incapable of individuating anything on it's own, and doesn't so much explain anything whatsoever other than to demand further explanation. Pointing is the theology of meaning, a shitty stop-gap like saying 'God' and expecting that to satisfy anyone with even half a brain.StreetlightX
    Strange that this wall of scribbles seems to be trying to point to all sorts of stuff that isn't other scribbles, like mental states, pointing at pictures, and the actual, objective relationship between words and what they mean, regardless of what us "stupid" people think.
  • creativesoul
    8.5k
    The meaning of a word consists entirely of mental correlations drawn between the word(language use) and other things. Hence, the different meanings/accepted uses of the same word arise from the differences between the part(s) of that correlational content that is not the word(language use) itself.

    For example...

    "Shut the door" when softly spoken during a romantic encounter means something entirely different than "Shut the door" when spoken sternly by someone with authority to someone who just broke some rule or another, immediately upon their entry to the office. Both uses share some meaning in that they both consist - in part at least - of correlations drawn between the same behaviour(shutting the door) and the language use. Both often aim at increasing privacy of further interaction. However, it's the parts of the correlation that differ that make the meanings remarkably distinct. The former includes correlations drawn between the language use and sexual/romantic thoughts, beliefs, memories, and/or expectations, whereas the latter does not. The latter often includes correlations drawn between thoughts of following orders and/or perhaps avoiding punishment and/or consequences of not doing so. It could also include correlations between a sudden onset of fear regarding what's about to happen, whereas the former does not.

    Both uses include the exact same words as part of the aforementioned correlations drawn between them and other stuff/things.

    When we talk about 'looking to use' in order to find out and/or figure out what some particular language use means, I think that it is better to understand that we must consider not only the words being used, but also everything else that is happening during the use, and perhaps leading up to it.

    Dictionaries just give us more words, they're not as helpful as looking towards the actual use, because none of the actual circumstances(the use) in which the term 'acquires' meaning are contained in therein. They are, however, sometimes helpful in recognizing misuse.

    A sufficiently competent language user will already know that words have multiple different definitions. They are not all compatible with one another. It is prudent and wise to be clear in the beginning about which definition one is using in any given discussion/argument. Not doing so will inevitably increase the possibility for misunderstanding. So, there's nothing wrong with clearly setting out the definitions of key terms during philosophical debates and/or discussions.

    To quite the contrary...

    There's often something quite wrong if one refuses to do so. While I am not charging Banno personally, I am strongly suggesting that such a refusal can be a clear sign of self-contradiction and/or an equivocation fallacy hiding out somewhere, so to speak...
  • creativesoul
    8.5k
    ...why don't we say "good-bye" when starting a conversation?Harry Hindu

    Because that's what's often said in situations of parting ways, not the beginning of conversations. "Hello" is a greeting, and it is not always an appropriate/accepted method/means to begin a conversation. Rather, it is often just a pleasantry; just a nice polite way to acknowledge another's presence.

    A short bit on names and pointing...

    Names refer to something other than the name. They pick out some individual to the exclusion of all else. Saying that they 'point to something' is wrong-minded. "Trees" doesn't point to trees. We often point to trees when teaching a language learner how we use the term "tree", but that learner has not grasped the use/meaning of the term until they have drawn correlations between the name("tree") and it's referent(a tree). Street just offered adequate enough explanation regarding the indeterminate nature of the pointing part of those activities.

    Austin is well worth reading for additional understanding of some of the other things we do with words.
  • Isaac
    2.8k
    Then all it takes for a scribble or sound to be a word is for someone to assert it is a word?Harry Hindu

    I didn't say that. I asked you what arbiter of a word's correct use you'd prefer if not mutual understanding?
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Pointing is the theology of meaningStreetlightX

    :rofl:
  • Banno
    8.9k
    No, that completely misses the point (sorry), which is whether the determination of pointing that does go on should be regarded as something that can be (or already is) fixed, or as a much more precarious and subtle cooperative game.bongo fury

    Well, I'm going to continue to side with Quine and @StreetlightX here, and say that pointing is pointedly indeterminate.

    Have you a counteroffer? You agreed with Harry as to "hello", but I find that most unconvincing; and talk of pointing up music might be considered special pleading; it is not obvious that pointing up is a rom of pointing.

    And frankly, I'm not overly impressed with Harry's account.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Qualified assent. Dictionaries are compiled by people who pay careful attention to use, at least one hopes. And the definitions they write deserve some respect, and should not be dismissed because one does not perceive or recognise one's own usage in some of the senses listed in the dictionary. I'm talking about 'consciousness' here, obviously.bert1

    Oh, I'm a dictionary reader from way back; don't read what I'm saying as being in any way disrespectful towards lexicography.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    So, there's nothing wrong with clearly setting out the definitions of key terms during philosophical debates and/or discussions.creativesoul

    Oh, sure. Go for it.

    What ensues? If it is a discussion of differing uses, then perhaps that would be for the better. If it is a competition between dictionary definitions, then so much the worse.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    See ; "Hello" is used at the beginning, farewell at the end.; and nothing in that points to pointing.

    Seems pretty straight forward to me.

    You're a puzzle, Harry.
  • Michael
    9k
    I think this is taking it too far. If I ask someone what a durian is and they point to a durian I'm going to understand that a durian is a fruit, not a colour or a shape or an arrangement.

    It might be that we can't start with ostensive definitions, but once I've grown up and understand much of the world, pointing at something and saying "that's a didgeridoo" is sufficient to teach me new words.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    The meaning of a word...creativesoul

    Ay, there's the rub.

    There will be amongst us those who hold that there is such a thing as the meaning of a word; and that any worthwhile theory of language must set out, preferably in an algorithmic fashion, how that meaning is to be determined.

    There will be others, amongst whom I count myself, who think otherwise, and will go along with quine:

    Success in communication is judged by smoothness of conversation, by frequent predictability of verbal and nonverbal reactions, and by coherence and plausibility of native testimony.

    There's more here on such issues.

    If there is a philosophically interesting topic here it may be to compare and contrast Quine's critique of pointing as the source of meaning, with Wittgenstein's. It will not easily be found in a defence of pointing.
  • Isaac
    2.8k
    Strange that this wall of scribbles seems to be trying to point to all sorts of stuff that isn't other scribbles, like mental states, pointing at pictures, and the actual, objective relationship between words and what they mean, regardless of what us "stupid" people think.Harry Hindu

    But it's not 'pointing' to those things. The fact that a word stands in some relationship to some referrant(s) does not in of itself mean that the word must therefore be 'pointing' to it.

    Obviously words can't point, so I can only assume that those who believe they do are using the term metaphorically to mean something like that the word draws the listener's attention to the referrant, much like pointing draws the observer's attention to the object.

    The problem with this account is that it underdetermines actual word use. I suppose you could (as has been tried) twist every word use example as drawing the listener's attention to something (object, concept, state of mind), but this is utterly trivial as everything falls into that parenthesised list, and following another's talk cannot be done without paying it some minimal attention.

    What's missing from the equating of word use with metaphorical pointing (in this astonishingly broad sense) is the ability to then distinguish word use which actually is pointing (in the more traditional sense).

    "Look, a golf ball" really is trying to draw your attention to a golf ball. "Duck!", is just trying to get your head out of it's path. I don't care if your attention is drawn to the ball, nor my state if mind, nor the concept of ducking. I don't care if you simply have a Pavlovian response to people shouting "duck!". I just want you to duck. The word may have referrants, but that doesn't mean my use of it is pointing to them.
  • bongo fury
    513
    Well, I'm going to continue to side with Quine and StreetlightX here,Banno

    Like, it was clear enough where everyone stood?

    By the way, by "pointing" (at or up) I mean (to influence usage in the direction of): denoting, labelling, being true of, describing, exemplifying, naming, shared-or-multiply-naming.

    Only exemplification is much different in principle from the rest, being (as Goodman noticed) reciprocal or symmetric between pointer and pointee.

    The rest deserve to lose most of their habitually imposed distinctions.

    and say that pointing is pointedly indeterminate.Banno

    Good, but you didn't, you started saying that it doesn't (always) happen, missing the point.

    You agreed with Harry as to "hello", but I find that most unconvincing;Banno

    I agreed that a person said hello to can reasonably offer for consideration an interpretation in which the word has been pointed at (or points up) a meeting or greeting. The greeter or a passing linguist are free to argue for different interpretations.

    it is not obvious that pointing up is a form of pointing.Banno

    No. The insight (Goodman's) arose out of a nominalist (in the sense of cutting out the middle-man of intentions) investigation into pointing/denotation/labelling as a formal relation between symbols and things.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    I didn't follow that post. Perhaps a reference for Goodman would help.
  • Benj96
    200
    There must, therefore, be a way of understanding a word that is not given by providing its definition.Banno

    There are some words that are inherently self- descriptive/defining. The most well known group is onomatopoeiac words - words that sound like what they mean: crash, bang, boom, wallop. Because the quality of the word is linked to sound perception/ the senses. Others can be created simply by employing exactly what is defined in the construction of the word for example the word "word" is exactly what it defines. You can see its definition demonstrated in front of you without actually understanding it.

    So yes I agree there are ways to understand word without having a definition for it.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Ah, the aesthetics chap... Not my area. But what I had supposed was that his theory of reference had some merit, it would be ill conceived to consider it an account of the whole of language.
  • bongo fury
    513
    But what I had supposed was that his theory of reference had some merit, it would be ill conceived to consider it an account of the whole of language.Banno

    You might be surprised.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    Well, surprise me. But I'm sure you wouldn't want to set up Goodman in contest with Quine, Wittgenstein, Davidson, Austin... That's a big ask.
  • bongo fury
    513


    Not a contest.

    Woodger's term, p.17, is 'shared name'. Martin, in Truth and Denotation, Ch. IV, speaks of divided reference as multiple denotation. I applaud that use of 'denote', having so used the word myself until deflected to 'true of' by readers' misunderstanding; and Martin's 'multiple' obviates the misunderstanding. — Quine: Word and Object, p 90n.

    I.e. Quine, at least, agrees that all predication is shared-naming, and hence all linguistic reference, as shared and un-shared naming, is a game of pointing words at things.

    Goodman extends the insight to pointing of pictures and gestures and music.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.4k
    Hello" is used at the beginning, farewell at the end.; and nothing in that points to pointing.Banno
    If "used" doesn't mean "pointing" then what do you mean by use? If meaning is use and I use words to point, then what's the problem? You seem to think words can only be used how you use them, Emperor Banno.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    I'm sorry, Harry; I can't help you.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.4k
    I didn't expect you to. Your response is what is expected, as that is always how you respond to my pointed questions. You're too predictable.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.4k
    The meaning of a word consists entirely of mental correlations drawn between the word(language use) and other things. Hence, the different meanings/accepted uses of the same word arise from the differences between the part(s) of that correlational content that is not the word(language use) itself.creativesoul
    Correlation, pointing - what's the difference? And the fact that what one word correlates with/points to doesn't necessarily have to be the same for everyone doesn't mean that words don't refer to other things that aren't words. It depends upon the experiences we've had with hearing/seeing the word used, and by "used" I mean used to refer to things that are not other words.

    I mean look at your's and Banno's posts. Are they not scribbles attempting to point to my mental state of misunderstanding what the meaning of words are? If not, then what are you actually saying? If I'm not wrong in my understanding, then what are you actually using those scribbles in your post to accomplish? What is your goal in mind when using some word?

    Because that's what's often said in situations of parting ways, not the beginning of conversations. "Hello" is a greeting, and it is not always an appropriate/accepted method/means to begin a conversation. Rather, it is often just a pleasantry; just a nice polite way to acknowledge another's presence.creativesoul
    Then "Hello" isn't a word, but a sound we make when greeting someone. Issac just wants to avoid the question, but I'll ask you - what makes some scribble or sound a word other than just some scribble or sound? Do dogs use their bark? Is their bark a word, or just a sound?

    I didn't say that. I asked you what arbiter of a word's correct use you'd prefer if not mutual understanding?Isaac
    I wasn't asking about correct usage. I was asking about what makes a word a word? You seemed to think that I understood what "Na" means. I don't, so then you didn't use the scribble, "Na", because there isn't a mutual understanding of the scribble? I do understand the scribble, "word" and that "Na" isn't one.
  • Banno
    8.9k
    The problem with this account is that it underdetermines actual word use. I suppose you could (as has been tried) twist every word use example as drawing the listener's attention to something (object, concept, state of mind), but this is utterly trivial as everything falls into that parenthesised list, and following another's talk cannot be done without paying it some minimal attention.Isaac

    Bang. If all language is pointing, pointing ceases to be discreet.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.4k
    Would words be useful if we were all telepathic? Why or why not?
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