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The Shakespearean Principle

 
 
Reply Thu 27 May, 2010 03:19 pm
According to the lovely and tragic Juliet, of Shakespeare's, tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, names are not as important as what they name. "What's in a name? A rose by any other name smells as sweet". (Juliet is trying to persuade Romeo not to care about his surname, but that's another story, or rather the same story, but not relevant here). But Juliet certainly knew that there is a big difference between words and what they represent (if anything at all). This all puts me in mind of two recent discussions on this forum. First, that words are abstractions and not what they represent. That is certainly so, and so Juliet tells us. But who ever thought that words were what they represented? The other discussion was that of some poster who remarked that "something was only X because it was called X". As Juliet would have told this person, that is clearly not true. A rose was not a rose only because it was called a "rose". And certainly, Romeo was not Romeo just because he was called, "Romeo". Thank goodness for Shakespeare (and Juliet too!).
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,508 • Replies: 12
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Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 May, 2010 03:28 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;169702 wrote:
First, that words are abstractions and not what they represent.


On this point, we must look at universals. We can point out particular words but not the class "word." To call a word an abstraction is similar to saying that it represents an abstraction or a universal. Do universals exist for us that are not represented in our minds by at least one word or symbol? If so, we can't prove it, because how would we? To speak is largely to use universals, or rather the abstract words that represent them.

---------- Post added 05-27-2010 at 04:31 PM ----------

kennethamy;169702 wrote:
The other discussion was that of some poster who remarked that "something was only X because it was called X". As Juliet would have told this person, that is clearly not true. A rose was not a rose only because it was called a "rose". And certainly, Romeo was not Romeo just because he was called, "Romeo". Thank goodness for Shakespeare (and Juliet too!).

I agree with you on this point. Words are only part of our experience, and they largely refer to the other parts of our experience, namely sensation and emotion. However, our more abstract words are learned in context. In this case, the particular word has its particular associations, and not necessarily a perfect synonym. Some of our experiences exist only in the form of concept. For instance, number. Yes, we associate numerical concepts with sensation, but I would argue they exist in their own right. You mentioned that "3" is a numeral and not a number. Perhaps you were referring to what I'm saying.
sometime sun
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 May, 2010 03:59 pm
@Reconstructo,
YouTube - romeo and juliet balcony scene
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kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 May, 2010 04:51 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;169705 wrote:
On this point, we must look at universals. We can point out particular words but not the class "word." To call a word an abstraction is similar to saying that it represents an abstraction or a universal. Do universals exist for us that are not represented in our minds by at least one word or symbol? If so, we can't prove it, because how would we? To speak is largely to use universals, or rather the abstract words that represent them.

---------- Post added 05-27-2010 at 04:31 PM ----------


I agree with you on this point. Words are only part of our experience, and they largely refer to the other parts of our experience, namely sensation and emotion. However, our more abstract words are learned in context. In this case, the particular word has its particular associations, and not necessarily a perfect synonym. Some of our experiences exist only in the form of concept. For instance, number. Yes, we associate numerical concepts with sensation, but I would argue they exist in their own right. You mentioned that "3" is a numeral and not a number. Perhaps you were referring to what I'm saying.


And so, words are not identical with what they represent. That is an implication of the Shakespearean principle. What I don't understand is why you go on about it as if there are a bunch of people who think that words are identical with what they represent.
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 May, 2010 06:09 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;169751 wrote:
What I don't understand is why you go on about it as if there are a bunch of people who think that words are identical with what they represent.

And yet I've already answered this. As obvious as you want to believe it is, we still have assertions that the experience of life can be reduced to abstractions which are merely pieces within a larger system of abstractions. But these abstractions are only one layer of the human experience.

It's like trying to found formal logic on the color blue, or the color blue on formal logic. Abstraction is a beautiful and potent human activity, but it is only a part of human experience. Does anyone think wisdom, for instance, is nothing but an endorsement or assimilation of the right abstractions?

What are explanations, really? How do words and sentences relate exactly to our nonconceptual experience? In what way do our concepts structure sensation and emotion?
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 May, 2010 10:35 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;169778 wrote:
And yet I've already answered this. As obvious as you want to believe it is, we still have assertions that the experience of life can be reduced to abstractions ........



Would you please give an example (or even two!) of such assertions? I must have missed them. In any case, has anyone, to your knowledge actually asserted that words are identical with what they represent? Instance? This very much looks to me like a straw man.
qualia
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 May, 2010 04:46 am
@kennethamy,
Is it conceivable to imagine that what is being argued is perhaps the signified (meaning) of the signifier (the symbol, word, sound, image), although it may sometimes refer to referents (things), is more an abstraction (concept) in the mind. So signifieds are not things, but at best the notion of things. In this manner, one could now argue that signs per se (signifier/signified) are themselves vehicles for abstraction. So much so, that a large part of human behaviour is about the way we perform towards our abstractions (conceptions). If I say 'My beautiful rose', one does not reach out to smell it as though I had introduced it.

Just as we could imagine that in times of old, some folk did mess up with the idea that what was being refered, in this case the sound of rose, or the word r-o-s-e itself, was somehow understood identical with its referent, in our own times we can highlight the same mistake ocurring, as when folk view adverts, photos, films, art, news, media reports, and so on. Evidently, huge numbers of people still mess up thinking the signifier is somehow considered identical with the signified. Here is such an example (the words below are there to help one realise their mistake if they happen to make one):

http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B/Images/not-a-cow.gif
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 May, 2010 05:50 am
@qualia,
qualia;169865 wrote:
Evidently, huge numbers of people still mess up thinking the signifier is somehow considered identical with the signified.


Who thinks this?

The cow-picture only re-states what everyone already seems to agree on; that representations are different from what_it_is they're meant to signify. Where are these huge numbers?
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 28 May, 2010 06:12 am
@qualia,
qualia;169865 wrote:
Is it conceivable to imagine that what is being argued is perhaps the signified (meaning) of the signifier (the symbol, word, sound, image), although it may sometimes refer to referents (things), is more an abstraction (concept) in the mind. So signifieds are not things, but at best the notion of things. In this manner, one could now argue that signs per se (signifier/signified) are themselves vehicles for abstraction. So much so, that a large part of human behaviour is about the way we perform towards our abstractions (conceptions). If I say 'My beautiful rose', one does not reach out to smell it as though I had introduced it.

Just as we could imagine that in times of old, some folk did mess up with the idea that what was being refered, in this case the sound of rose, or the word r-o-s-e itself, was somehow understood identical with its referent, in our own times we can highlight the same mistake ocurring, as when folk view adverts, photos, films, art, news, media reports, and so on. Evidently, huge numbers of people still mess up thinking the signifier is somehow considered identical with the signified. Here is such an example (the words below are there to help one realise their mistake if they happen to make one):

http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B/Images/not-a-cow.gif



You may be pointing out in your first paragraph that the meaning of a term is not the term's referent. And that, of course, is true, as Wittgenstein reminds us more than once in his Investigations. As he says, disparagingly, it is not as if here is the meaning, and here is the term, is like, here is the cow and here is the money. The term "cow" refers to (the animal" cow, but that does not mean that the meaning of the term, "cow" is the animal, cow. The distinction between meaning and reference was already made clear by Frege in his, On Sense and Reference. Obviously, there are many terms that have meaning (indeed, all terms have meaning) but have no referent. So, I agree that one must not confuse meaning with reference.

There is, perhaps the now overly-famous drawing by Rene' Magritte of a pipe with the caption, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (this is not a pipe) which drives home the distinction between a picture of a pipe and a pipe. But the question is whether anyone has actually confused pictures of pipes with pipes, and, in general, representations of objects with objects. Well, maybe sometimes. For example, I notice that very orthodox Jews will sometimes write "G-d" for "God", and I wonder whether that isn't because there is some identification between the word and what it is supposed to represent. So maybe there is a tinge of identification between term and referent there. But I don't think that kind of thing is very general, do you?
0 Replies
 
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 03:56 pm
@qualia,
qualia;169865 wrote:
Is it conceivable to imagine that what is being argued is perhaps the signified (meaning) of the signifier (the symbol, word, sound, image), although it may sometimes refer to referents (things), is more an abstraction (concept) in the mind. So signifieds are not things, but at best the notion of things. In this manner, one could now argue that signs per se (signifier/signified) are themselves vehicles for abstraction. So much so, that a large part of human behaviour is about the way we perform towards our abstractions (conceptions). If I say 'My beautiful rose', one does not reach out to smell it as though I had introduced it.


This is good. And I also argue that things as things are already abstractions, even while also having a sensual aspect. The sensual aspect is unified by a projected abstraction. We see reality in terms of things. But things as things and not just sensation are conceptual unities. We see the world in terms of universals. We project universals on sensation. That's my argument. We don't see just color. We see things. At times, we can focus on the color. Perhaps painters are especially good at dwelling on sensation, and refining their aesthetic response to pure sensation. Obviously , they are also concerned with form. But this too is an aspect of sensation.

---------- Post added 05-29-2010 at 04:57 PM ----------

kennethamy;169825 wrote:
Would you please give an example (or even two!) of such assertions? I must have missed them. In any case, has anyone, to your knowledge actually asserted that words are identical with what they represent? Instance? This very much looks to me like a straw man.


The fundamental reality is matter, or energy, or mind, etc. etc. The whole concept of the "fundamental reality" is an abstraction. And somewhat absurd, even if also attractive in its way.

If we are going to play the fundamental game, I think that this game is best played by breaking reality down to sensation, emotion, conception. But all of these are conceptions, for we on this forum are operating primarily within that aspect of reality. "Reality" is one of the master abstractions that attempt to unify everything. Now that's almost tautologous, because we have quite a collection of such concepts, and it's such an abstract concept that its hard to narrow down, which is the point of it. The set of all sets. Abstractions are something like sets.

The television is a set of sensations, expectations, causal relations, associated emotions. Philosophy is another such set, and it has a different living meaning for everyone, presumably.
wayne
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 05:05 pm
@kennethamy,
This reminds me of all the times, when relating a particular experience to another, as we reach the end of the tale we conclude " I guess you had to be there"
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 06:46 pm
@wayne,
wayne;170535 wrote:
This reminds me of all the times, when relating a particular experience to another, as we reach the end of the tale we conclude " I guess you had to be there"


Yes, sometimes you just have to be there. And maybe this word "be" is how we refer to the total experience. Smile
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 29 May, 2010 06:50 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;170510 wrote:


---------- Post added 05-29-2010 at 04:57 PM ----------



The fundamental reality is matter, or energy, or mind, etc. etc. The whole concept of the "fundamental reality" is an abstraction. And somewhat absurd, even if also attractive in its way.

If we are going to play the fundamental game, I think that this game is best played by breaking reality down to sensation, emotion, conception. But all of these are conceptions, for we on this forum are operating primarily within that aspect of reality. "Reality" is one of the master abstractions that attempt to unify everything. Now that's almost tautologous, because we have quite a collection of such concepts, and it's such an abstract concept that its hard to narrow down, which is the point of it. The set of all sets. Abstractions are something like sets.

The television is a set of sensations, expectations, causal relations, associated emotions. Philosophy is another such set, and it has a different living meaning for everyone, presumably.


You have given an example of such an assertion? An assertion that confused the concept of an object with the object? I must have missed it. Try again please. Do you know what "example" means? It is offensive that all you do is confuse the issue.
0 Replies
 
 

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