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Does an ‘individual’ word have meaning…?

 
 
igm
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 10:08 am
@vikorr,
Vikorr, I’ve reflected on your post and I agree with it i.e. it makes perfect sense.

I still feel a word isolated from everything that gives it meaning, must be meaningless. A word can’t derive its meaning from itself. When connected with everything that gives an individual word its meaning it is ‘relative’ or ‘conventional’ due to its associations with those other things that give it meaning.

Can a collection of words, that by themselves have no meaning, produce more than a ‘closed box’ understanding limited by those words and those associated things that give them meaning?

Are words no more than the ‘shadows on a cave wall’? Are words only useful in our day-to-day lives but then when relied upon, that very same language, leads to confusion when deeper questions are asked of them, never producing any fundamental truths?
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 10:24 am
@igm,
igm wrote:
Can a collection of words, that by themselves have no meaning, produce more than a ‘closed box’ understanding limited by those words and those associated things that give them meaning?

Are words no more than the ‘shadows on a cave wall’? Are words only useful in our day-to-day lives but then when relied upon, that very same language, leads to confusion when deeper questions are asked of them, never producing any fundamental truths?


Two great interrelated questions, igm!

Several philosophers have argued that human language was invented to describe sensible objecta and may therefore be inadequate to address abstract concepts.
igm
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 10:55 am
@wandeljw,
wandeljw wrote:

igm wrote:
Can a collection of words, that by themselves have no meaning, produce more than a ‘closed box’ understanding limited by those words and those associated things that give them meaning?

Are words no more than the ‘shadows on a cave wall’? Are words only useful in our day-to-day lives but then when relied upon, that very same language, leads to confusion when deeper questions are asked of them, never producing any fundamental truths?

Several philosophers have argued that human language was invented to describe sensible objecta and may therefore be inadequate to address abstract concepts.

wandeljw, can you summarize some of the reasons they gave?

Do you agree/disagree with them and why (if you'd like to accede to my request for a reply, of course)?
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 12:24 pm
@igm,
Thanks, but I will need to do more research before answering. In brief, I had noticed that some twentieth century philosophers inserted mathematical symbols into their philosophical reflections.
0 Replies
 
Berty McJock
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 01:32 pm
@igm,
Quote:
A word can’t derive its meaning from itself.


it has to, in more than one sense of the word "meaning " too.
a word is only ever created to communicate a pre-thought concept.
so it has meaning, as in definition, and as in purpose upon creation.

it cannot be sepearated from everything that gives it meaning. it's inherent in the word.
vikorr
 
  2  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 03:57 pm
@igm,
Hi igm,

Quote:
I still feel a word isolated from everything that gives it meaning, must be meaningless. A word can’t derive its meaning from itself.

And Hi Berty,
Berty McJock wrote:
it has to, in more than one sense of the word "meaning " too.
a word is only ever created to communicate a pre-thought concept.
so it has meaning, as in definition, and as in purpose upon creation.

it cannot be sepearated from everything that gives it meaning. it's inherent in the word.

A word cannot be isolated from everything that gives in meaning...and it can't 'quite' derive meaning from itself...for a simple reason :

- words have meanings because of associations in our minds...the association is the meaning

Berty, it is that association that allows us to 'find' the word that 'matches' (ie is associated with) the concept we wish to convey.

Different languages (English, French etc) exist because we are able to form any association (meaning) between any concept, and any word (a structured sound) - otherwise humans all over the earth would speak the same language, or conversely, a person that has never heard Russian - would understand Russian words (but there is no association, so the words are meaningless to the person who has never heard Russian) - so it is the association that gives meaning to a word

But back to part of the original quote of yours igm :
Quote:
I still feel a word isolated from everything that gives it meaning, must be meaningless.
I think the intent of this is fairly accurate...the reason for the confusion arising from the difference between structured language and unstructured/instinctive 'language' (ie body language) and the nuances of spoken language (which are gentic)....and the amount of meaning. (so if you say a word by itself can't have meaning - do you mean 'a word without other words' which would be incorrect, or 'a word without context'...which is only possible in written language (because all spoken words have some context)...which leads back to the amount of meaning (because even in written language, words have some meaning to you, because you have formed associations/meaning in your mind for them)

If I look at you and say 'IGM!' (loud, short, with the pitch dropping sharply at the end), it's different than if I look at you and say 'igm' (normal tone and speed with the pitch rising at the end) <which is a question>. In both, the single word is clearly understood because of the surrounding body language (me looking at you, so you know I'm addressing your name to you, and not gossiping or cursing), and HOW your name is said.

Different statements, having different structures (in speed, volume, pitch and changes in such - whether at the start/middle/end) - show a different intent (and sometimes changing intent). These things I'm fairly sure, are the same the world over, and are genetic (but I'm not aware of any research into such, though I'm sure someone has - for there's been similar natured body language studies)

Funnily enough, if you read a few books on Handwriting Analysis (which is a field of psychology that works because,while people think about what they want to write, they don't think about how they write - so such is done subconsciously, and reveals attributes of a person at the time of writing), and then read (or even just observe) the nuances of spoken speed/volume/pitch - there are very distinct correlations between the two. If you think of the pitch/volume/speed of verbal language as a motion (occurring inside your mind) - then this and handwriting analysis even have correlations to body language (though this is a bit more nebulous to prove).

So words in isolation may have some meaning (if you see the written word 'igm' you go 'that's my A2K name' but maybe not much meaning (you wonder why it's been written just by itself)...so you question may then be about the amount of meaning.
Berty McJock
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 04:03 pm
@vikorr,
lol yeah i get that, but i still think that the word is created with meaning.

it has to derive meaning from itself. that's its only purpose.
vikorr
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 04:10 pm
@Berty McJock,
Quote:
the word is created with meaning.
It is.

Quote:
it has to derive meaning from itself. that's its only purpose.
We attach/associate a word to our concept (and so create meaning for the word), and in using the word we have meaning (the associated/attached concept)...and we create that associate for a purpose...and it doesn't serve any other purpose than communication.

I understand what you are saying...my clarification was because igm's communication appeared to be occurring with a different structural association to the one you are using (this isn't actually uncommon - it's why we often go 'what does he/she mean by that?')...but sometimes it's hard to see past our own structures/associations, so misunderstandings occur.
Berty McJock
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 04:57 pm
@vikorr,
ah ok Smile
0 Replies
 
igm
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 05:06 pm
@Berty McJock,
Berty McJock wrote:

Quote:
A word can’t derive its meaning from itself.


it has to, in more than one sense of the word "meaning " too.
a word is only ever created to communicate a pre-thought concept.
so it has meaning, as in definition, and as in purpose upon creation.

it cannot be sepearated from everything that gives it meaning. it's inherent in the word.


I guess we both need to read vikorr's reply to both of us... below your post to me.
0 Replies
 
Berty McJock
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 05:21 pm
maybe the thread should be "how little meaning does a word need?"
Berty McJock
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 05:25 pm
@Berty McJock,
or...

what is an individual words true meaning?
0 Replies
 
MattDavis
 
  2  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 05:26 pm
@wandeljw,
Exactly!
wandeljw wrote:

igm wrote:
Can a collection of words, that by themselves have no meaning, produce more than a ‘closed box’ understanding limited by those words and those associated things that give them meaning?

Are words no more than the ‘shadows on a cave wall’? Are words only useful in our day-to-day lives but then when relied upon, that very same language, leads to confusion when deeper questions are asked of them, never producing any fundamental truths?


Two great interrelated questions, igm!

Several philosophers have argued that human language was invented to describe sensible objecta and may therefore be inadequate to address abstract concepts.

I think that this gets at what is central to this debate very nicely.

I think the problem thus far is that 'word' and 'concept' are being equivocated.
A 'word' can be a label for a 'sensible object'. [I think we all agree to this.]
The question you bring up is if 'word' should be allowed to label a 'concept' which is not necessarily about 'sensible objects'.
I would contend that no such restriction on 'word' is necessary because 'concepts' cannot arise without first being built up from sensory experience.

The concepts which apparently are not about 'sensible objects' are actually extrapolations of patterns which have been observed about 'sensible objects'.

I think that igm has much interest in the concept of 'Self', so I will use an example that touches on this:

A 'persective' concept is not a sensible object. However through observation of other beings who have sensory ability, such a concept can be extrapolated.

Imagine two monkeys each locked in a separate cage in a laboratory. We will call one monkey "Monkey Matt" and the other "Monkey Mary".
Between the two cages is an room with many boxes and barriers so that some places in the room are visible to Monkey Matt that are not visible to Monkey Mary. There are also other areas of the room that are visible to Monkey Mary but are not visible to Monkey Matt.
Monkey Mary is much stronger than Monkey Matt. If he does not share food with her, she will attack him.
While both monkeys are sleeping tall tail-less fur-less monkeys enter the room and place fruit throughout. Monkey Matt is not very smart, so when the cage doors are opened in the morning he rushes over to the nearest piece of fruit and promptly eats it. The nearest piece of fruit was in a place that Monkey Mary could see, so she attacks him.
The first lesson that Monkey Matt might learn is "If you don't share food, you will be attacked." Monkey Matt learns this lesson, but he is also stubborn and selfish, so occasionally violates the lesson he learned. Usually he gets attacked but sometimes he doesn't?
Maybe Matt notices while savoring his 'stolen' fruit that he can't see Mary. New lesson "If you don't share fruit while you can see Mary you will be attacked". This lesson works out well for Matt for a while and he is able to steal lots of fruit.
One day Matt finds a piece of fruit and does not see Mary, so he eats it. At this point Mary drops down from above him and attacks (Matt wasn't looking up). Matt is really confused at this point. How to fix the lesson "If you don't share fruit while you can see Mary you will be attacked" since he couldn't see Mary this time and was still attacked. Oh dear! What to do?

The next step in modifying the lesson actually requires a huge intellectual leap forward. The monkey equivalent of a Aristotle, Newton or Einstein. Once the lesson is found, however it gives a an equivalently huge payoff in ability to navigate social situations.

Matt, if he is smart enough, needs to invent a concept of 'self' for Mary. He needs to imagine that just as he can see things, perhaps Mary can also see things, and that the things that he sees are not always the things that she sees.
Matt needs to invent the concept of perspective.

Good luck Monkey Matt... good luck...
I'm rooting for you Very Happy


igm
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 05:33 pm
@vikorr,
vikorr, thanks for your reply - to both of us; very efficient, if you can do it! I will of course have to think about what you’ve said but on the face of it, it looks pretty solid to me.

Do you feel able to reply to my other question?
igm wrote:

Are words no more than the ‘shadows on a cave wall’? Are words only useful in our day-to-day lives but then when relied upon, that very same language, leads to confusion when deeper questions are asked of them, never producing any fundamental truths?

So, can language ever deliver 'fundamental truths' if it's self-referencing itself and therefore bounded by the ‘fence’ of its own limited definitions. Will it always fall short of expressing accurately the world outside of language i.e. the real world?

Put more simply can language ever be more than conventionally true and never deliver 'fundamental truths'?

0 Replies
 
Berty McJock
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 05:34 pm
tell you what...if i ever get to the million pound question on who wants to be a millionnaire, and i still have phone-a-friend left. you lot are on my list. Razz
0 Replies
 
Berty McJock
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 05:48 pm
ok i'm starting to see where i might be p1ssing into the wind.

if 2 people meet, who have never met before, and each only knows 1 word (the same word), but for each of them it has a different definition, then the words meaning is automatically brought under scrutiny.

now i got some thinking to do lol

and this, i'm guessing is what vikorr and matt are talking about?
0 Replies
 
MattDavis
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 05:57 pm
@igm,
My above response (I hope)http://able2know.org/topic/207665-4#post-5250359 shows how interests are intimately tied to the concept (and origins of the concept) of self.
{see thread "Where is the self? How can dualism stand if it's just a fiction?" http://able2know.org/topic/207906-1}

Interests (in eating fruit and not getting attacked) are needed to formulate the idea of Mary having a 'perspective', of Mary having a self.

This I think gets at the Buddhist notion of non-attachment.
Attachments (interests) are needed to maintain a notion of self.

This is also why I think that interests are fundamental when discussing ethics.
{see thread "Who are the proper subjects of moral consideration?" http://able2know.org/topic/207752-1}

If ethics means to guide the interactions of "self"s we should look at the interests of those "self"s.

This I think gets at the notion of ahimsa in Buddhism.
That if any "self" has interests then those interests all have validity. Especially if, in essence all "self"s are just manifestations of one "self".
igm
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 06:03 pm
@MattDavis,
Thanks Matt. I've read it but I'm now (actually later) going to read through it again. It reminds me of experiments done with small children, obviously not the identical scenario! It's definitely worth reading and thinking about.
0 Replies
 
igm
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 06:05 pm
@MattDavis,
Thanks for the summary... more to read and digest... a bit later. I'll get back to you.
0 Replies
 
vikorr
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Feb, 2013 09:42 pm
@MattDavis,
Quote:
I would contend that no such restriction on 'word' is necessary because 'concepts' cannot arise without first being built up from sensory experience.
Hi Matt,

If you see my earlier posts, every time I mentioned word associated with : I mentioned concept/object/emotion...I got lazy.

Hi Igm

Quote:
So, can language ever deliver 'fundamental truths'
(if you accept the concept of fundamental truths, then) I believe so - not by the literal spoken word. Language from my perspective has a hidden language within it...one that I am rather certain exists across all languages, but that is a rather long winded explanation - one that I've never bothered to complete because it is so large (simple concept, but large in examples if you don't accept the first premise)

Quote:
if it's self-referencing itself and therefore bounded by the ‘fence’ of its own limited definitions
Yes

Quote:
. Will it always fall short of expressing accurately the world outside of language i.e. the real world?
I'm tempted to say yes...but saying 'watch out you don't stub your toe on that rock' presents all sorts of interesting possibilities.

Quote:
Put more simply can language ever be more than conventionally true and never deliver 'fundamental truths'?
It depends on what truths you are seeking. I rather doubt that language can ever adequately explain 'truths'...that doesn't mean that you can't find truths in language, and it doesn't mean that language - which generates stories and questions, can't lead to truths.

The shadow on the cave wall question...Haven't looked at it closely (running out of time, have to go to work soon) - but I suspect any such debate gets mired in how I perceive a shadow on a cave wall compared to how you perceive it.
 

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