5
   

What words mean

 
 
Cyracuz
 
Reply Sat 13 Nov, 2010 11:36 pm
It is my opinion that it is extremely important to respect the meaning of words.

You cannot redefine words to fit your definition of something. You have to define that something according to the words that are available and what meanings these words convey. Otherwise meaningful communication becomes impossible.

This is a simple observation that most will agree is correct, so one shouldn't think that this post is neccesary at all.. But it is. I see alot of misinterpretation of words, and arguments that go across pages of posts and days and weeks in time because someone went off the reservation and tried to define a word to serve their ends....
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Type: Discussion • Score: 5 • Views: 2,706 • Replies: 22
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 12:30 am
@Cyracuz,
Well yes. If your words have a special meaning only to yourself, they don't have any meaning at all.

I try to avoid that.
0 Replies
 
RonCdeWeijze
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 12:43 am
@Cyracuz,
Meaningful communication imho should be about what is true or can be independently confirmed, learning to avoid the same words for different things caused by dependent confirmation (favoritism) and different words for the same things caused by independent rejection (activism).
0 Replies
 
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 02:41 am
@Cyracuz,
Cyracuz wrote:

It is my opinion that it is extremely important to respect the meaning of words.

You cannot redefine words to fit your definition of something. You have to define that something according to the words that are available and what meanings these words convey. Otherwise meaningful communication becomes impossible.

This is a simple observation that most will agree is correct, so one shouldn't think that this post is neccesary at all.. But it is. I see alot of misinterpretation of words, and arguments that go across pages of posts and days and weeks in time because someone went off the reservation and tried to define a word to serve their ends....


Nonsense, we all "redefine" words constantly. To use words at all is often to use them in different contexts. Use the word "red" in a political conversation and then enter into an exchange with an interior designer and use it again, and you are likely to encounter completely different meanings of the same word that have very little relation to one another, if you ignore the historical aspect. However, neither use constitutes a "misuse".

The fact of the matter is that the same word is often used to mean very different things depending on the context of the enunciation. Sometimes, persons may be engaged in "dialogue", and use the same word with one another repeatedly without realizing that the word "means" something very different to each of them. This signifies little as to each interlocutor's familiarity with the word, but does signify a lack of familiarity with the other person's pov.
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 04:58 am
@Razzleg,
Well, your use of the word red in either context is in keeping with the meaning of the word, so thats beside the point.

What I mean is that through uncritical use words can take on meanings that they were never intended to have. And when that happens they can be used in contexts where they are meaningless.

An example, which I have been arguing in another thread, is the verb "to exist".
If you use that word about abstract ideologies it is kind of meaningless. You can say that entities or objects exist, either now, in the past or in the future. But people mis-use the word and apply it to ideas and patterns of thought as if these were things that are subject to the distinction existence/non-existence.

I am sure there are better examples as well, that I cannot think of now.
Razzleg
 
  2  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 06:11 am
@Cyracuz,
Cyracuz wrote:
Well, your use of the word red in either context is in keeping with the meaning of the word, so thats beside the point.


Yes, but how so, given that the meanings are unrelated? In other words, how are the meaning's distinct without the word becoming meaningless? Doesn't that question seem to fall precisely in the center of the metaphorical point?

Cyracuz wrote:
What I mean is that through uncritical use words can take on meanings that they were never intended to have. And when that happens they can be used in contexts where they are meaningless.


I'm interested in how you divest the concept of use from intention here. I'm not contesting the reality of sloppy word use, but it seems to breed ambiguity rather than meaninglessness.

Cyracuz wrote:
An example, which I have been arguing in another thread, is the verb "to exist".
If you use that word about abstract ideologies it is kind of meaningless. You can say that entities or objects exist, either now, in the past or in the future. But people mis-use the word and apply it to ideas and patterns of thought as if these were things that are subject to the distinction existence/non-existence.

I am sure there are better examples as well, that I cannot think of now.


I can't comment on other threads. I haven't been frequenting the boards much lately since recent threads have seemed to mostly consist of rants or whining about old philforum members, neither of which interest me much. However, it strikes me that the phrase, "to exist," when applied to ideas, seems like an excellent example of ambiguity.

Some people do not make a distinction between "existing" and "being", and others hold it to be a vital distinction. It would seem strange to say that ideas (or patterns of thought, for that matter) are not. And in some sense, they must exist, given the broad meaning of the term; but the manner of their existence seems up for debate. On the other hand, if "existence" is only a term bestowed on "materially existing entities" then ideas can at most be said to "exist" contingentially. While both parties may agree that ideas "are", they will not agree that ideas "exist". But doesn't this seem like a problem of connotation, and not meaninglessness. Doesn't the confusion stem from the fact that the word "exist" has too many meanings, not a restricted usage?

Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 08:42 am
@Razzleg,
now you are at the heart of the matter...
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 09:34 am
@Razzleg,
The way I see it, you can relate anything to the concept of existence, but not all relations you establish have any function.

If you state that an idea exists, that consideration doesn't really reveal anything new. It is a needless and useless observation to make, since the existence of the idea is a neccesity for you to relate to it in the first place.

So any discussion about the existence of an idea isn't really about that. It seems to me that the real question that is posed is wether or not the idea expresses to our satisfaction what it intends to express.

And yes, you can make the distinction existence and being, but does that distinction serve to clarify or confuse? My opinion is the latter.

Quote:
Yes, but how so, given that the meanings are unrelated?


The use of the word in each context provides distinctions that seve to clarify and increase the depth of the communication.
kennethamy
 
  2  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 07:21 am
@Cyracuz,
Cyracuz wrote:

It is my opinion that it is extremely important to respect the meaning of words.

You cannot redefine words to fit your definition of something. You have to define that something according to the words that are available and what meanings these words convey. Otherwise meaningful communication becomes impossible.

This is a simple observation that most will agree is correct, so one shouldn't think that this post is neccesary at all.. But it is. I see alot of misinterpretation of words, and arguments that go across pages of posts and days and weeks in time because someone went off the reservation and tried to define a word to serve their ends....


Your first sentence seems to contradict your last sentence. If it is my opinion that determines what a word means (which is absurd) then it is impossible for me to misinterpret a word, since any word means what I think it means "in my opinion". If the meaning of a word is only what it is "in my opinion", then how can anyone "go off the reservation"?
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 07:42 am
'To be sure I was!' Humpty Dumpty said gaily, as she turned it round for him. 'I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that SEEMS to be done right—though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now—and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents—'

'Certainly,' said Alice.

'And only ONE for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'

'I don't know what you mean by "glory,"' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument,"' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master—that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they're the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

'Would you tell me, please,' said Alice 'what that means?'

'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'

'Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

'Ah, you should see 'em come round me of a Saturday night,' Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: 'for to get their wages, you know.'

(Alice didn't venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see I can't tell YOU.)
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2010 08:01 am
@kennethamy,
Quote:
If it is my opinion that determines what a word means (which is absurd) then it is impossible for me to misinterpret a word, since any word means what I think it means "in my opinion".


But I never said that, did I?

You just went off the reservation.
0 Replies
 
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Nov, 2010 04:38 am
@Cyracuz,
Cyracuz wrote:

The way I see it, you can relate anything to the concept of existence, but not all relations you establish have any function.

If you state that an idea exists, that consideration doesn't really reveal anything new. It is a needless and useless observation to make, since the existence of the idea is a neccesity for you to relate to it in the first place.

So any discussion about the existence of an idea isn't really about that. It seems to me that the real question that is posed is wether or not the idea expresses to our satisfaction what it intends to express.

And yes, you can make the distinction existence and being, but does that distinction serve to clarify or confuse? My opinion is the latter.


Of course, Kant made the comment a long time ago that "existence" is not a predicate. The meaning of the term is determined strictly by the use of the phrase. But the degree to which it satisfies the intent is determined by a shared warrant within the discussion. Lacking this shared warrant, the term may be used in the pursuit of multiple intents without without constituting a misuse...Wait, i've just confused myself...

On the other hand, you have yet to critically attend to the idea of a use without intent in your above quote. If meaning is an effect of use, and use is an effect of intention, from whence do you make the assumption that communal meaning can be established between contrasting POVs other than artificially, and almost certainly arbitrarily, compromising one's individual intent for a term to allow for a range of uses.

Cyracuz wrote:
Razzleg wrote:
Yes, but how so, given that the meanings are unrelated?


The use of the word in each context provides distinctions that serve to clarify and increase the depth of the communication.


But the term "depth" seems to imply degrees of meaning that a literal definition would not allow for. If the use of a term within different contexts are not reducible to one another, why assume that all intents are commensurable within a given context?

Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Nov, 2010 05:12 am
@Razzleg,
Razzleg wrote:
Nonsense, we all "redefine" words constantly. To use words at all is often to use them in different contexts. Use the word "red" in a political conversation and then enter into an exchange with an interior designer and use it again, and you are likely to encounter completely different meanings of the same word that have very little relation to one another, if you ignore the historical aspect. However, neither use constitutes a "misuse".


This is absurdity, and ignores the communication function of words. If you use the word red to describe someone who is a politically conservative capitalist (and you know that), you will have wilfully lied and will have wilfully subverted the communication function of the word. If you tell your interior designer that your bed linen is red when in fact it is the color generally known as green, you will have once again wilfully lied and wilfully subverted the communication function of the word.

There is and always has been a dynamic tension between standard usage and neologism. However, this mild conflict is resolved through the consensus acceptance of neologism. If you attempt a neologism and it is not accepted, then your word fails to be a tool of communication. Language only works for communication to the extent that we all understand what is meant by the use of a word.
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Nov, 2010 05:29 am
@Razzleg,
Quote:
But the term "depth" seems to imply degrees of meaning that a literal definition would not allow for.


The depth of the communication, not individual words. "Red curtains" is a communication of greater detail or depth than just "curtains".
"Existing curtains" is not a communication of greater detail or depth, because making the specification that the curtains you want have to exist is kind of useless.

Quote:
On the other hand, you have yet to critically attend to the idea of a use without intent in your above quote.


Kant said "existence" is not a predicate? Well, since that is a grammatical classification of a word in relation to another, it's not entirely accurate to say that. In the phrase "I exist", exist is the predicate that modifies the subject (I).
In the phrase "Existence is tough", existence is the subject, and "is hard" the predicate.

But neither of these usages constitutes a misuse of the phrase, nor does the intent modify the meaning of the word.
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Nov, 2010 06:26 am
@Cyracuz,
Cyracuz wrote:

Quote:
But the term "depth" seems to imply degrees of meaning that a literal definition would not allow for.


The depth of the communication, not individual words. "Red curtains" is a communication of greater detail or depth than just "curtains".
"Existing curtains" is not a communication of greater detail or depth, because making the specification that the curtains you want have to exist is kind of useless.


i have no idea what this means. Perhaps i am being a bit thick, but this entire passage seems like word salad to me.

Cyracuz wrote:
Razzleg wrote:
On the other hand, you have yet to critically attend to the idea of a use without intent in your above quote.


Kant said "existence" is not a predicate? Well, since that is a grammatical classification of a word in relation to another, it's not entirely accurate to say that. In the phrase "I exist", exist is the predicate that modifies the subject (I).
In the phrase "Existence is tough", existence is the subject, and "is hard" the predicate.

But neither of these usages constitutes a misuse of the phrase, nor does the intent modify the meaning of the word.


Um...yeah, Immanuel did say that. He was referring to a logical predicate, rather than a grammatical one, however. Since you brought it up, how does the term "exist" modify the term "i", both grammatico-semantically or logically? Can you translate the function into another grammatical usage?

Cyracuz wrote:
But neither of these usages constitutes a misuse of the phrase, nor does the intent modify the meaning of the word.


And how does this relate to your continued refusal to distinguish between use and intent? And yeah, the meaning of the word "exist" does undergo significant changes in your two different uses: syntactical, morphological and semantic. Replace "exist" with "cold". In the one, the subject enters into a recognized state, ie the predicate is an attribute of the subject, in the other the status is something that has it's own effects, ie a causal force.
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Nov, 2010 06:45 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

Razzleg wrote:
Nonsense, we all "redefine" words constantly. To use words at all is often to use them in different contexts. Use the word "red" in a political conversation and then enter into an exchange with an interior designer and use it again, and you are likely to encounter completely different meanings of the same word that have very little relation to one another, if you ignore the historical aspect. However, neither use constitutes a "misuse".


This is absurdity, and ignores the communication function of words. If you use the word red to describe someone who is a politically conservative capitalist (and you know that), you will have wilfully lied and will have wilfully subverted the communication function of the word. If you tell your interior designer that your bed linen is red when in fact it is the color generally known as green, you will have once again wilfully lied and wilfully subverted the communication function of the word.

There is and always has been a dynamic tension between standard usage and neologism. However, this mild conflict is resolved through the consensus acceptance of neologism. If you attempt a neologism and it is not accepted, then your word fails to be a tool of communication. Language only works for communication to the extent that we all understand what is meant by the use of a word.


My example was overly simplistic, i agree, but its purpose was for illustration, not as a literal semantic equivalent. The word "red" has both a practical and a metaphorical application. And the difference between the two can be established by insisting upon the difference between the strictly empirical and the historical metaphor.

If you want to use an abstract term like "existence", however, i challenge you to use it in a way that may not be contested. As the subject of argument, abstracts must be ensured by a "logical" warrant if they are to be successfully "communicative". Imagine, for example, two people debating the definition of the term "red" as it applies politically. Each interlocutor will place the "meaning horizon" in their own place. And still no word misuse will have occurred. If you think that all philosophical arguments are subject to an empirical test, then you are mistaken. The use of certain words is not sufficient to establish meaning, the context (ie the way in which they are used) is also necessary.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Nov, 2010 06:58 am
@Razzleg,
You're attempting to suggest that dubious philosophical claims trump or somehow void the consideration of language as communication. That's tommyrot. That context alters the meaning of a word is irrelevant--it's a non sequitur in such a discussion as this. Language is intended to function for communication. If there is not consensus about the meanings of words, whether or not one alleges those meanings to be concrete or abstract, then language doesn't function as intended. No amount of argument about being able to objectively prove "existence" changes the undeniable fact that you and i are only able to communicate here because we agree on the definitions of the overwhelming majority of the words we use.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Nov, 2010 10:56 am
@Razzleg,
Razzleg wrote:

Setanta wrote:

Razzleg wrote:
Nonsense, we all "redefine" words constantly. To use words at all is often to use them in different contexts. Use the word "red" in a political conversation and then enter into an exchange with an interior designer and use it again, and you are likely to encounter completely different meanings of the same word that have very little relation to one another, if you ignore the historical aspect. However, neither use constitutes a "misuse".


This is absurdity, and ignores the communication function of words. If you use the word red to describe someone who is a politically conservative capitalist (and you know that), you will have wilfully lied and will have wilfully subverted the communication function of the word. If you tell your interior designer that your bed linen is red when in fact it is the color generally known as green, you will have once again wilfully lied and wilfully subverted the communication function of the word.

There is and always has been a dynamic tension between standard usage and neologism. However, this mild conflict is resolved through the consensus acceptance of neologism. If you attempt a neologism and it is not accepted, then your word fails to be a tool of communication. Language only works for communication to the extent that we all understand what is meant by the use of a word.


My example was overly simplistic, i agree, but its purpose was for illustration, not as a literal semantic equivalent. The word "red" has both a practical and a metaphorical application. And the difference between the two can be established by insisting upon the difference between the strictly empirical and the historical metaphor.

If you want to use an abstract term like "existence", however, i challenge you to use it in a way that may not be contested. As the subject of argument, abstracts must be ensured by a "logical" warrant if they are to be successfully "communicative". Imagine, for example, two people debating the definition of the term "red" as it applies politically. Each interlocutor will place the "meaning horizon" in their own place. And still no word misuse will have occurred. If you think that all philosophical arguments are subject to an empirical test, then you are mistaken. The use of certain words is not sufficient to establish meaning, the context (ie the way in which they are used) is also necessary.


Some people contest anything at all. They will argue just for the sake of argument. So that there may be someone who contests the proposition that there are elephants in the Chicago zoo (elephants exist in the Chicago zoo) doesn't show anything of importance. The question is why would they, and how would they (if they did) contest that statement. Would it be because of a lack of information about what animals exist int he Chicago zoo? Well that could be dealt with easily. We could just look it up. But if there were an issue about the word, "exist" then the person would have to say what it is that bothers him about the statement that there are elephants in the Chicago zoo. After all, if elephant do not exist in the Chicago zoo, then what could the word, "existence" mean at all. Compare: if fire engines are not red, then what does "red" mean at all?
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Nov, 2010 01:12 pm
@Razzleg,
Quote:
i have no idea what this means. Perhaps i am being a bit thick, but this entire passage seems like word salad to me.


I'll try to state it clearer.
If you walk into a shop and want to buy a lamp, you walk to the counter and say to the guy behind it: "I want to buy a lamp".

Then communication between you and the shopkeeper is established. He knows why you are there, and your purpose for coming in is being fullfilled.
Now, if you don't want just any random lamp, if you have ideas about what it should look like, based on the surroundings you intend to put it in, for instance, you would want to communicate those ideas to the shopkeeper so that he can better understand what you want and find the best alternative he has for you.
So you continue: "I want a red lamp." The addition of "red" into the statement adds detail to the communication. Addition of that word allowed you to communicate more precicely what you want.
Get it now?
But if you had said you want a slow lamp? The introduction of the word "slow" doesn't add a meaningful distinction in the communication about the lamp.

So, if you keep this in mind, and then consider the question "does free will exist", perhaps you will see that the information that is being requested with this question isn't being supplied by any answer you can give to it. The introduction of the word "exist" doesn't add a meaningful distinction in the communication about free will.
For what is free will? It is an idea. A concept. Us being able to make reference to it in the question "does free will exist" is proof enough that the concept exists.

So what is really being asked?
The real question, the actual information that is being sought, is an answer to wether or not the concept of free will serves to explain what it proposes to explain.

It is a very common mistake to make, and that's why so many seem to think it is correct.
It's the same as people using the phrase "I could care less" when they actually mean "I couldn't care less". It's something as strange as a popular mistake. But a little consideration of the meaning of the words included should make it easy to see what is correct and what is not.

kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Nov, 2010 03:05 pm
@Cyracuz,
Cyracuz wrote:

Quote:
i have no idea what this means. Perhaps i am being a bit thick, but this entire passage seems like word salad to me.


I'll try to state it clearer.
If you walk into a shop and want to buy a lamp, you walk to the counter and say to the guy behind it: "I want to buy a lamp".

Then communication between you and the shopkeeper is established. He knows why you are there, and your purpose for coming in is being fullfilled.
Now, if you don't want just any random lamp, if you have ideas about what it should look like, based on the surroundings you intend to put it in, for instance, you would want to communicate those ideas to the shopkeeper so that he can better understand what you want and find the best alternative he has for you.
So you continue: "I want a red lamp." The addition of "red" into the statement adds detail to the communication. Addition of that word allowed you to communicate more precicely what you want.
Get it now?
But if you had said you want a slow lamp? The introduction of the word "slow" doesn't add a meaningful distinction in the communication about the lamp.

So, if you keep this in mind, and then consider the question "does free will exist", perhaps you will see that the information that is being requested with this question isn't being supplied by any answer you can give to it. The introduction of the word "exist" doesn't add a meaningful distinction in the communication about free will.
For what is free will? It is an idea. A concept. Us being able to make reference to it in the question "does free will exist" is proof enough that the concept exists.

So what is really being asked?
The real question, the actual information that is being sought, is an answer to wether or not the concept of free will serves to explain what it proposes to explain.

It is a very common mistake to make, and that's why so many seem to think it is correct.
It's the same as people using the phrase "I could care less" when they actually mean "I couldn't care less". It's something as strange as a popular mistake. But a little consideration of the meaning of the words included should make it easy to see what is correct and what is not.




So, if you keep this in mind, and then consider the question "does free will exist", perhaps you will see that the information that is being requested with this question isn't being supplied by any answer you can give to it. The introduction of the word "exist" doesn't add a meaningful distinction in the communication about free will.
For what is free will? It is an idea. A concept. Us being able to make reference to it in the question "does free will exist" is proof enough that the concept exists.


First of all, to ask whether the idea of free will exists is different from asking whether free will exists, since everyone is pretty much agreed that the idea of free will exists, but there is disagreement about whether free will exists. So, the idea of free will is not the same as free will, and free will is not an idea. It is what the idea of free will is the idea of. You would not say that the idea of a unicorn and a unicorn are the same, would you? Ideas of unicorns abound. Unicorns are scarce. Why then confuse the idea of free will with free will? Similarly, to say that the idea of a unicorn exists is one thing, and true. To say that unicorns exist is another thing, and is false. And to ask the question, does free will exist? is not proof that the concept of free will exists anymore than to ask whether glubjack exists is proof that the concept of glubjack exists. The fact that a term exists does not mean that any concept answering to the term exists.
 

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