Inherent Meaning

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Bowser, Jul 6, 2018.

  1. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    Does anything have inherent meaning, or is meaning only a product of the mind?

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  3. Seattle Valued Senior Member

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    It's only a product of the mind.
     
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  5. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    Lilies remind me of a boss I used to have who liked lilies. She was okay as a person but a real asshole as a boss.

    I don't suppose lilies mean the same thing to everybody else.
     
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  7. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    As computers or neural investigations demonstrate, interpretative and semantic processes are realized by physical components, so the "mental" category itself can be viewed as an abstraction from the publicly observable (to some degree) dynamic structure / organization which correlates to any private awareness and thoughts.

    Meaning is relational (_Z_ signifies _R_), which can be established by functional connections within an organism or machine, or by contract and conventions between entities involving inter-connections in the environment.

    Certain characteristics and actions of creatures doubtless have a genetic basis, if that counts as inbuilt structure or configuration. But those are still relationally dependent upon members of a species or an outsider taxon having to cognitively interpret those signs. Part of the latter may be inherited (prior to "psychological" manipulations), but part of it is probably contingently learned or acquired as well.

    Some animals like poisonous frogs and insects can have bright colors or markings on them which warn potential predators. There can be courtship and other behaviors in various species. In living with and serving as the foster "mother" for a brood of juveniles in the course of weeks in their natural habitat, Joe Hutto established that wild turkeys have many distinct vocalizations that signify various things to the group. "While he had familiarized himself with around 25-30 wild turkey calls before hand, he realized that 'within each of their calls were different inflexions that had specific meanings.'".

    ~
     
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  8. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Things do have objective meanings, but they also have subjective meanings that are only valid to you.
     
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  9. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    How can a flower have objective meaning? Words would have no meaning had we not learned it from others; try following the conversation of someone speaking a foreign language.
     
  10. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    It can represent life while it is alive, which has a concrete meaning.
    It can allow the plant to reproduce, which has a concrete meaning.
    It can be blue, which has a concrete meaning in terms of what frequencies of light it reflects.

    It can also be beautiful to you, which is subjective meaning.
    ?? Right. But surely you are not claiming that words have no objective meaning, are you?
     
  11. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    Words can have more than one meaning. I might be incline to say they are subjective, dependent on those using them.
     
  12. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

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    I tend to agree with the general product of mind thesis, but even still, perhaps on this occasion recursively to the point of paradox, the answer to the question depends entirely on definitions within the question.

    If I look to a theological inquiry, the answer to Augustine's infamous rock is the square circle. That is to say, the one thing Ultimate Reality, e.g., God, cannot do is what is contradictory according to definition.

    Definitions are important; the whole thing with Terence Howard and multiplication is that he tacitly disputes the idea of what times means.

    We can certainly make a square circle if we remove all definition from the words.

    The question therein is whether objective meaning exists; what words we assign to it are inherently a product of mind.

    Tree, forest, deaf guy who doesn't care, that sort of thing: If you meet the Buddha on the road ....
     
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    How can it "represent" anything at all without a mind?
     
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Inherent meaning - the thing itself - is a product of a mind.

    Meaning is a relationship with a context. It derives from context. Is there inherent context?
     
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  15. Musika Last in Space Valued Senior Member

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    It is a product of the mind, but then it moves to a bigger question of minds greater than our own and/or the nature of our mind being a tiny prototype of something bigger or grander.
    Why talk of mere flowers, you could talk of the notion of justice, etc.
     
  16. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    I find that when someone starts trying to redefine words to 'win' an argument, it's time to say good night.
     
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  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Indeed. It's a logical fallacy:
    Equivocation – the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time).
     
  18. Lizard Registered Member

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    But if it's true..?

    "If the cap fits."-Unknown.
     
  19. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    There seems to me to be a fundamental ambiguity there.

    'Meaning' as in how the word 'dog' (the sound or the ink squiggle) means dog (the animal species)? In this case, what a word means is what it refers to, its referent. (Which may be concrete, abstract or even fictional as in 'Sherlock Holmes'). That's basically arbitrary since different languages associate the same things with different sounds and squiggles.

    Or 'meaning' as in how a beautiful sunset or a beautiful flower inspires a feeling of the sublime? I think that's a psychological response, with a big emotional/affective component that isn't necessarily present in the word-meaning case. Whether it's learned or inherent in human beings is an open question. But I do think that the beauty of a flower, let alone any meaning the flower might have, is something that comes from us and isn't inherent in the flower.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sublime_(philosophy)

    So there's a word-meaning sense of 'meaning' and a less well defined life-orientation sense. In the latter case, something is 'meaningful to us' if it helps us orient ourselves in our lives. The meaningful thing might inspire us somehow, or remind us of something that we find emotionally resonant.

    'God' might be literally meaningless in the semantic word-meaning sense since it (arguably) doesn't refer to anything real. (Even though it arguably does have a fictional referent. Speaking meaningfully about non-existent objects is one of philosophy's open problems.)

    But 'God' might be far less problematically meaningful in the second life-orientation sense since faith in God structures how many people think of the universe and their own presence in it. In that sense it would seem to be meaningful in much the same way that 'beautiful' and 'good' are.

    There are other sorts of cases that philosophers discuss.

    Does smoke mean the presence of fire? Not in the word meaning sense, though it is indeed a sign of fire. The connection there seems to be causal but probabilistic, since smoke might sometimes have a different origin. But having said that, in order for smoke to be a sign of fire, organisms have to recognize smoke as a sign of fire, so there's an interpretive mental component too.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/peirce-semiotics/

    Science is founded upon relationships like this. Which suggests that people who think scientifically (scientistically?) will want to reduce the other meanings of 'meaning' to the causal examples somehow. A great deal of philosophy of mind and neuroscience seems to be devoted to that in one way or another.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2018
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  20. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    It's a curious thing. Downtown I was approached by a gentleman who threw a word salad at me, in essence, babble. I'm certain that it made perfect sense to him, but to me it was incoherent rambling. He seemed thankful that I bothered to listen.
     
  21. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    The meaning isn't always in the words.
     
  22. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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  23. kx000 Valued Senior Member

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    Pleasure has purpose.
     

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