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Three Theories of Meaning

 
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 05:57 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;166980 wrote:
I think number 1 is clearly fatuous. Number 2 sounds ok at first, but when you try to be strict you end up cutting out meaning, like when you insist on a literal translation of something into english.

Number 3 is better:


Yet, a lot of people seem to think that some version of 1 is true. I mean people who talk or ask about what someone means by a word rather than what the word means.

2 is a theory that many philosophers have held, namely that there is a real meaning of a term which can be inquired into, and discovered. And there is a strong argument for this view. For instance, take the term "gold". It may be argued that although the "nominal" meaning of the term "gold" is a shiny, malleable metal used for commerce and having industrial uses (what we may call the "dictionary definition" or the "lexical definition" of "gold") the real meaning of gold is that of a metal with the atomic weight and the atomic number (of whatever the weight and number are) so that metal like iron pyrite (fool's gold) which might fit the lexical definition, would not be gold. So that there is a difference between the nominal (lexical) definition of a word, and the real meaning of the word.

3. the Hobbesian version is that words are conventional "instruments" of communication but are not, and should not be confused with, what they designate. But that their meanings are collective conventions or rules for their use. In terms of Wittgenstein's famous slogan, "don't ask for the meaning, ask for the use".

3. is clearly a kind of compromise between 1 and 2, and has all the advantages and the defects of a compromise.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 11:29 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;167640 wrote:
Yet, a lot of people seem to think that some version of 1 is true. I mean people who talk or ask about what someone means by a word rather than what the word means.

2 is a theory that many philosophers have held, namely that there is a real meaning of a term which can be inquired into, and discovered. And there is a strong argument for this view. For instance, take the term "gold". It may be argued that although the "nominal" meaning of the term "gold" is a shiny, malleable metal used for commerce and having industrial uses (what we may call the "dictionary definition" or the "lexical definition" of "gold") the real meaning of gold is that of a metal with the atomic weight and the atomic number (of whatever the weight and number are) so that metal like iron pyrite (fool's gold) which might fit the lexical definition, would not be gold. So that there is a difference between the nominal (lexical) definition of a word, and the real meaning of the word.

3. the Hobbesian version is that words are conventional "instruments" of communication but are not, and should not be confused with, what they designate. But that their meanings are collective conventions or rules for their use. In terms of Wittgenstein's famous slogan, "don't ask for the meaning, ask for the use".

3. is clearly a kind of compromise between 1 and 2, and has all the advantages and the defects of a compromise.

When you talk about the real meaning of Gold it makes me think you will never ever get it... Use your insight if you have any... Meaning has nothing to do with the worthless metal, and everything to do with us...

What would the real meaning of Gold be if there were no humans to sense it??? What would be the meaning of atomic, or weight, or real, or shiney without the humanity to know that meaning???Our nomena, our concepts tell us very little about what we try to conceive, but tell us everything about us...That we are because we conceive, which is to say: think, and judge; and it tells us what we value ultimately, and put on par with life... You cannot conceive of the meaning of Gold without reference to the stuff that dreams are made of, what people have done, who they have killed, and how many have died for gold... Do we find it beautiful???We should, considering how many lives it has bought dear... Meaning is value, the sum total of value and value today, and forever added on... You give a definition and think you have captured meaning... You have not touched it... Hobbs is even further off course since, if the name as the concept did not direct us to the conception of the thing it would be all but useless...But regardless, though the nominalist were technically correct, the focus of our concepts is not the thing itself, the thing in itself, but is us... If we are not in the picture the concept and the name does not exist, and we exist through our ideas/forms/concepts... We are made real by what we perceive as real...
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 12:49 pm
@Fido,
Fido;167719 wrote:
When you talk about the real meaning of Gold it makes me think you will never ever get it... Use your insight if you have any... Meaning has nothing to do with the worthless metal, and everything to do with us...

What would the real meaning of Gold be if there were no humans to sense it??? What would be the meaning of atomic, or weight, or real, or shiney without the humanity to know that meaning???Our nomena, our concepts tell us very little about what we try to conceive, but tell us everything about us...That we are because we conceive, which is to say: think, and judge; and it tells us what we value ultimately, and put on par with life... You cannot conceive of the meaning of Gold without reference to the stuff that dreams are made of, what people have done, who they have killed, and how many have died for gold... Do we find it beautiful???We should, considering how many lives it has bought dear... Meaning is value, the sum total of value and value today, and forever added on... You give a definition and think you have captured meaning... You have not touched it... Hobbs is even further off course since, if the name as the concept did not direct us to the conception of the thing it would be all but useless...But regardless, though the nominalist were technically correct, the focus of our concepts is not the thing itself, the thing in itself, but is us... If we are not in the picture the concept and the name does not exist, and we exist through our ideas/forms/concepts... We are made real by what we perceive as real...


Why would there not be gold, and the atomic weight and number of gold unless there were human beings? Do you believe that before human beings even knew of the the atomic weight or number of gold that gold had no atomic weight and number? Chemists discovered the atomic weight and number of gold.They did not invent it. You are just confusing the concept of gold with gold.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 08:51 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;167733 wrote:
Why would there not be gold, and the atomic weight and number of gold unless there were human beings? Do you believe that before human beings even knew of the the atomic weight or number of gold that gold had no atomic weight and number? Chemists discovered the atomic weight and number of gold.They did not invent it. You are just confusing the concept of gold with gold.

It would not matter if there were such a thing, or another sort of thing or any number of things without people to give them meaning... Meaning is a human quality, and I am not confusing anything with anything; but you are confused if you consider the definition of a thing as the thing, as the "real meaning"...

In Reading about the early work of Heidegger I came across and interesting expression of the facts; from a section on Duns Scotus, who the people of his day called: Doctor Subtle.... Between the thought (concept ) and the thing lies an abyss of difference (heterogeny), and yet there is also common ground (homogeneity), with the bridge between the two called analogy... We understand reality by analogy, but it is us who give meaning, value, understanding... We are the crucial part of the whole matter, and it is because without us, nothing would matter... Being is but one part of reality, transendentals, in Medieval thought: What is, what is one, what is true, and what is good...

You tell me; what is the difference between gold and lead, or gold and uranium since they too are the same, metals, as are most of our elements??? The difference may be some incidental difference in atomic structure and weight, but again, long before we knew of that slight difference, we were still ensnared by the longing for gold...There is nothing in the atomic definition of Gold that tells us the first thing about why we desire it...We give to gold the meaning it has out of our own being, and if we should suddernly die then our gold would have no meaning, and you cannot calculate, and would not bother to calculate the being of gold were it not for its meaning, which is your meaning, and has nothing to do with the thing, or its definiton...
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Sun 23 May, 2010 08:56 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;166810 wrote:

3. "Words are a wise man's counters, but they are the money of fools" Thomas Hobbes.


This is my favorite position.

---------- Post added 05-23-2010 at 09:57 PM ----------

kennethamy;167640 wrote:

3. the Hobbesian version is that words are conventional "instruments" of communication but are not, and should not be confused with, what they designate. But that their meanings are collective conventions or rules for their use. In terms of Wittgenstein's famous slogan, "don't ask for the meaning, ask for the use".

3. is clearly a kind of compromise between 1 and 2, and has all the advantages and the defects of a compromise.

Well put. Do we actually agree? Let me check my temperature. Or do we only agree because you stated your preference first, and I had a chance to agree?

Just a friendly joke. Smile

---------- Post added 05-23-2010 at 09:59 PM ----------

Fido;167890 wrote:

You tell me; what is the difference between gold and lead, or gold and uranium since they too are the same, metals, as are most of our elements??? The difference may be some incidental difference in atomic structure and weight, but again, long before we knew of that slight difference, we were still ensnared by the longing for gold...There is nothing in the atomic definition of Gold that tells us the first thing about why we desire it...We give to gold the meaning it has out of our own being, and if we should suddernly die then our gold would have no meaning, and you cannot calculate, and would not bother to calculate the being of gold were it not for its meaning, which is your meaning, and has nothing to do with the thing, or its definiton...

Very true. It's we who impose value and meaning. Or so it seems to me. Smile

---------- Post added 05-23-2010 at 10:02 PM ----------

Fido;167719 wrote:
..But regardless, though the nominalist were technically correct, the focus of our concepts is not the thing itself, the thing in itself, but is us... If we are not in the picture the concept and the name does not exist, and we exist through our ideas/forms/concepts... We are made real by what we perceive as real...


Yeah, this is what I meant by man as man (and not just his animal foundation) is essence, or to put it in dynamic terms: "essentialization", or the creation/negation of essence, or just "thought." Now Hegel argues that man desires what animals do not desire, which is the desire not of a thing but rather of another desire. Or to put it this way: the desire for recognition. And this is why man will sacrifice his life in a duel or revolution. I'm not saying this is all man is, but it's a start.
0 Replies
 
fast
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 May, 2010 02:02 pm
@kennethamy,
1) If you want to know what a word means, then just turn to the person using the word, for the meaning of the word has to do with how each individual person uses the word.

2) If you want to know what a word means, then just turn to the word that is being used, for the meaning of the word lies with (or within) the word being used.

3) If you want to know what a word means, then just turn to the crowd that is using the word, for the meaning of the word has to do with how the population is collectively using the word.
0 Replies
 
RandyS
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Oct, 2017 09:31 am
@kennethamy,
All three of the theories of linguistic meaning you named are incorrect. I know you used the word, "term," but I think you mean word or concept.

Words are symbols for concepts, but when we talk about words we usually mean the concepts they represent. A simple explanation of this is that I and my spanish friend both have the same concept of what I call an onion. The language word I use for that concept is "onion." The word my Spanish friend uses is, "cebolla." "Onion," and, "cebolla," are different words for the same concept.

The purpose of all concepts is to identify things that exist, physical entities, attributes, relationships, and actions as well as those things that only exist as concepts or the abstract.

What a word means is whatever it identifies. The word apple, for example, means an actual apple. If you ask a young boy what he would like, he might point at an apple in a bowl and say, "I would like one of those," or, he might say, "I would like an apple." The word apple performs the same function as pointing at an apple and saying, "one of those." It identifies what the child wants.

The word apple means any apple that exists, past, present, or future, real or imagined. It means an apple with all its possible attributes, relationships, and all that can possibly learned about it, whether or not any of those attributes, relationships, or facts are known or not. That is why the word apple means exactly the same thing when used by a botanist or by a little boy. The botanist knows an enormous amount about an apple and the little boy knows very little, but it is about an apple that both their knowledge is about. The concept apple only identifies what that knowledge is about, not the knowledge itself.

Please see the artice Knowledge
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Oct, 2017 12:39 am
@RandyS,
This thread is more than 7 years old. The participants in it are long gone.
0 Replies
 
 

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