IGS Discussion Forums: Learning GS Topics: On Meaning
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, November 5, 2005 - 12:47 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

For this post, I've rendered Milton's words in blue.

Meaning as an epistemological problem

With "meaning" and "knowing", it seems to me we are faced not only with an existential problem but also an epistemological one. Whenever we arrive at some meaning, we can always ask "Well, what's the meaning of that?"...endlessly.

This perspective holds that meaning is extrinsic; that it depends upon the context, is "relative". "Relative" leads to infinite regress, and that is the nature of the problem.

Milton offers as an answer, "We are the ones defining what we mean by meaning and knowing. We are the ones who invented the notion of meaning.".

The answer Milton offers here is not an answer at all. Milton has stated the problem as an unending regression formed by repeating the question, "what's the meaning of the previously given answer", but the answer he gives is simply that we define what we mean by meaning (and knowing). Moreover, this statement self-reflexively uses the notion 'mean' while "explaining" it. This amounts to "picking himself up by his bootstraps."

Consequently any meaning we arrive at will be subjective... All this means is that it will be relative to each person, and "It will be subject to the limits of our own definitions." just means that that relativity will vary according to the capabilities of the individual trying to offer a definition.

Milton then asks: How do we know this? and Well, what do you mean by "know"?

He then offers an introductory topic heading which paraphrases Gödel's incompleteness theorem about the "truth" of statements in formal systems. The theorem states that, in any formal system of sufficient strength, there will be statements, the truth or falsity of which cannot be shown from within the system, or the system will have undecidable statements.

Meaning undecidable within a system attempting to determine meaning

There are many of us concerned with questions related to the "meaning of life", the "meaning of existence", and others, Could it be that the meaning of a situation, an event, a life, etc., cannot be determined from within the situation, event, life...and has to be decided from the outside?

Since Milton earlier "decided" that "meaning" was "subjective" and "subect to the limits of" the individual doing the defining, he previously characterized meaning as relative to the individual, so his use of the definite article "the" introduces an inconsistency. "Meaning" cannot be both singular as in "the meaning" and plural as in "relative to the person". Milton is introducing language that presumes that meaning is independent of the observer - a one and only "the" singular meaning of life. He is following that presumptive language with an explicit question, and suggesting that "meaning" "has to be decided from outside" the person. This again states the "relativist" perspective on meaning.

Milton continues with "But how do we get outside ourselves? How would we get outside Universe?" Since "universe" entails all that exists, it has no "outside". It is "closed upon itself" like the surface of a sphere. The surface of a sphere has no "edge" of the surface, so the phrase "outside universe" is self-contradictory, because it reformulates as "outside that which has no outside". The question in meaningless on close analysis. Return to his former question for a moment. The presumptive structure of a "How do we ..." question entails existential import, in that it presumes that the act in question is possible; it suggests that we merely do not yet know how to accomplish what it presumes is possible. The question presumes existence (existential import) while it questions our knowledge (epistemology). Being aware of this we can question the assumption, and we can consider it likely that we cannot get outside ourselves.

(I am assuming here that ultimately any meaning or meanings arrived at in Universe would be a minor to the possible major meaning or meanings of Universe itself.)
Milton's phrase "arrived at" is ambiguous with respect to whether the meaning is "arrived at" as in finding or getting to a destination, or "created" as in ariving at a (previously unknown) logical conclusion (the later being an abstract metaphorical extension of the former). Milton is also distinguishing between "content" of and "property" of "Universe" when he differentiates between meanings "in Universe" and meanings "of Universe", which he labels as "minor" and "major" respectively. He is also "assuming" that (minor) meanings "arrived at" "in Universe" "exist" in the relation of minor to major "of Universe", thus offering a metaphor where the metaphier is our familiar minor meanings arrived at "in Universe" so as to "inform" the unfamiliar meanings "of Universe".
What is this minor to major relation? It is left completely unexplained, rendering the meaning of the utterance non-existent.

Milton then opens a new topic. Non-identity and non-allness principles
"Non-identity" can be thought of as a psychological principle from the system of general semantics which proposes that "our observations, words, ideas, thoughts, feelings, principles, theories, knowledge, etc., are not identical with what they are about". The "non-allness principle" proposes that we cannot know all about 'anything' --including ourselves.

The non-allness principle poses another problem for us with regards to 'meaning" if we are the meaning givers, but don't know all about ourselves.

If we think of meaning as a "measure", and we are the measurers, this is like being given a measuring tool (ruler, etc.,) and not knowing the degree of reliability of this standard...Does it shorten or lengthen from time to time? Does it change from place to place, and after each measurement? In general does it have functional properties affecting its reliability and with which we have no acquaintance?

Read The Measurement of Meaning by Charles E. Osgood, George J. Suci, and Percy H. Tannenbaum, for the explanation of an objective method for the measurement of "meaning" which they call the semantic differential. More advanced techniques have been developed since their pioneering work. Individual differences multidimensional scaling was used by Bell Labs to measure the dimensions for characterizing "meanings" of communications situations and tasks back in 1975. This and more information is part of your personal "non-allness" limitations.

In terms of a "non-identity principle"...How would we know that a meaning we gave was "the meaning"? In terms of a "non-allness principle"...How would we know that a meaning we gave was the one and only possible meaning?

These two questions are also meaningless because they they are based on the contradiction inherent in the presumption on the one hand of "giving (plural) meaning" and the presumption on the other hand of external singular meaning independent of observers. If we can "give" meaning, and there are more than one of us, then there cannot be a "the meaning".

"We are the ones defining what we mean by meaning and knowing. We are the ones who invented the notion of meaning.", so, "How would we know that a meaning we gave was "the meaning" we gave?" is the more correct formulation, and the answer is simple, "Because we gave it". The second part is equally meaningles because, "How would we know that a meaning we gave was the one and only possible meaning?", becomes invalid under the simple fact that "we" is plural, and that nowhere was it specified that a plural entity was restricted to giving a single meaning - the question introduces a condition not specified that is contrary to the specification. If what we might know is "false", and it is in both questions, the question of how would we know this "false", is again simple, because we gave it.

This might seem a philosophical exercise until we remember that we give meanings all the time while awake. We answer the telephone having automatically and usually non-consciously 'assumed' that someone was calling. We go home after work base on a belief that home was still there. We vote for politicians giving meanings to their words as "promises they mean to keep".. and so on. But that's probably not as bad as the problems created by each one of us, or each group, society, etc., identifying our personal, cultural, religious, and other meanings we give, as "the meaning", and are willing to go to war about this. Our behavior is a function of the meanings we give. If we change our meanings, our behavior will match this change.

We would hope so, but do not infer that "match this change" means that the behavior would be different. It might be different, and it might be the same.

I imagine we might be better off in terms of improving our human relationships and behavior if we adopted a "probabilistic, degree of uncertainty", "non-identity", "non-allness", "propositional", "heuristic" attitude, and were not so sure that the meanings we gave also existed outside our heads. Our behavior is a function of the meanings we give. If we change our meanings, our behavior will very likely match this change.

Again, matching a changed meaning does not automatically mean that the ensuing behavior will be different. It may or may not change. With multiple causality the "same" behaviour can result from different beliefs.

But we first have to adopt a heuristic belief that things don't mean, we mean.

You should take a look at the techniques for measuring meaning. What we "individually" mean is learned in the context of time-binding from those who went before us. Our learned meaning may or may not differ to a significant degree from the meaning of those we learned from. It is a mistake to think that because we each respond as an individual that there is no "invariance under the transformation" of communication in the meaning given from one person to the next. People express and assent to a "meaning" as a formulation for communicating it. When multiple individuals assent to one formulation as a/the "meaning" of something, that meaning is shared, and it may be measured. It "exists" indepenendently of any given individual, but it requires at least one in order to measure it, so it does not "exist" independently of all individuals.

Are we free to arbitrarily assign "any" meaning to a word? Not if we want to be understood when we use the word; we will be understood in terms of the meaning that can be measured without our participation.

And we have to catch ourselves giving meaning. This takes a great deal of practice since as mentioned earlier on, we are, while awake, constantly giving meanings and acting accordingly.

In the vast majority of cases, the "meanings" we bring to an event or situation has been learned by the process of time-binding, so it has a very high proportion of "invariant under transformation" from person to person. These "meanings" can be measured using the semantic differential. Moreover, the assimilation process of learning the culturally dominant meanings, even if altered slightly in individual cases, creates the non-verbal "semantic reactions" that come forth when we hear the words or find ourselves in the situation. So, we are not "free" to prevent "bringing" meaning to our experiences and to associated words. As a child some of us sometimes engaged in repeating a word so many times that it, for a moment, became simple noise; we had temporarily "lost" the connection to the semantic reaction. Milton's "great deal of practice" statement is so much more true than he realizes; because he is implying we can somehow interrupt the process long enough to bring forth an alternate meaning or to stop the emerging meaning. As my example showed, it's nigh impossible. The "trick" is to gain a vast experience with variations and the ability to bring forth multiple meanings to choose from. We can only "catch ourselves giving meaning" if we have alternative meanings at our disposal (through experience) to choose from. We cannot "stop" the meanings we have learned from asserting themselves.

As always, there is more that can be said, but I will stop now.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, November 5, 2005 - 08:59 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hi Ben,

You have provided an excellent example of non-mathematical "recursion", in which you come to a "base case", in your example an "end value", like Maslow talks about in Toward a Psyschology of Being and other works when he discusses "be" values.

Your example also illustrates my claim that the Second Person is Primary in Language Development, that transfer of information is not a primary or basic function of communication. More primary, more basic, than the transfer of information is "control", of the "who's in charge variety" or what we could call social dominance.

The "Why?"-"Because!" iteration cannot go on forever. It stops when one of the participants dominates. This can happen when one participant refuses to talk further; it can happen when one participant slinks away with his tail between his legs, or his nose in the air; it can happen when one participant physically silences the other by an act of violence; it can happen when one participant becomes exhausted and is no longer able to respond.

The "be" values are not absolute ends in them selves; they are determined by context. In this example, survival of the species in the context of evolution becomes the inferred "meaning", "value", "end", "cause", etc., that "informs" the "end result". As such, it become a "reduction" back to another level - another step in the regression chain. Because of this it is only a "relative end", and not a "final end or cause".

Each such "regression" step involves bringing in a greater context. Theoretically we would get to a context which is just the entire universe, so we've gone back to the Ancient philosophers query or problem of "final cause" once again.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, November 9, 2005 - 12:05 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Milton said, "It seems as if my point has been missed and mis-understood..." If your point is important enough, then perhaps you will reformulate it.

You said, "We have not yet as a species determine or come to some agreement as to what we mean, what is to be understood as "meaning".

Did you "mean" "determined"? The sentence structure "have not yet" requires that a past tense verb follow. The comma separated clause is also awkward and ungrammatical.

The core structure of your formulation, "We have not yet ... determined ... what we mean ..." grammatically asks for "by", "when", "if", as the next word. But you have ", what is to be understood as "meaning"."

Do you want to say, "We have not yet ... determined ... what we mean by the term 'meaning'"? -- note, of course, that your are using the word 'mean' when you deny we know what that word derivative "means".

Please reformulate your sentences with careful attention and consciousness of abstracting, and attention to non-allness, non-identity, etc., such that it satisfies the restrictions for "correct" usage at logic levels, and at semantic levels.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, November 9, 2005 - 02:33 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hi Ben,
Let me see if I understand you well enough.
For you, mean1 might have the word "value" as a synonym. The "meaning1" of something to somebody is determined by how much that person values (or wants) that something, as an end. meaning2 would have the word "utility" as a synonym. The "meaning2" of something to somebody is determined by how useful that something is as a means to something else the person wants.

In both cases, it seems to me, "meaning", as I understand how you have characterized it, is how valuable or useful something is to a person as either an end or a means to an end.

Does this reasonably paraphrase what you intended?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, November 9, 2005 - 04:07 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hi Ben,

Formulation 1:* significance, as in the sentence "That means a lot to me." Meaning has to do with the significance of something to a person. Regarding that I wrote: mean1 might have the word "value" as a synonym. The "meaning1" of something to somebody is determined by how much that person values (or wants) that something, as an end. When you say "the significance of something", you are using a very close synonym of "meaning", so the earlier phrase "a lot", which introduces quantification, comes into play. "That means a lot to me" can be paraphrased as "that is worth a lot to me", or "I value that".

I feel agreement on the above.

Formulation 2 * purpose, as in "What I meant to say was, I have a painful hernia, not a hernful pania!" Meaning has to do with the intended outcome, the purpose driven at, especially in light of something that came about antithetically. To this I wrote, Meaning2 would have the word "utility" as a synonym. The "meaning2" of something to somebody is determined by how useful that something is as a means to something else the person wants. In your example you used "meant" as a synonym for "intended" with a focus on getting the message across, and you explicitly mentioned the "intended outcome".

Your meaning(2) does not paraphrase it, at least not in a way I recognize. Meaning(2) ("purpose," "intention," "motive," "want," etc.) refers to "value" as well, but not in the numeric sense of the term. Instead, it refers to "value" in the goal sense of the term. "My values are these ..." "This is what I'm shooting for ..." "This is what I meant, mean, want, ..."
This sounds to me like what I intended.

I may have introduced a confusion by using the homonym "means" as in "way".
The distinction is "means" vs "end".

I collect letter openers, so when I buy one, it is because I value it intrinsically - as an object 'd art.

But when I buy a computer, it is because it is useful to me for other purposes, a way to do something else. I value fast technological communication as an end value, so I buy a fast computer as a method ("means") or way to achieve the end value of speedier communication.

In one conversation "on meaning," I might be specifically curious about what certain things mean to you. That is, what is their significance to you? their value? do you value them? do you not?

In another conversation "on meaning," I might be specifically curious about what you mean by certain motions. That is, what do you intend? what end would you like to materialize?

I think these two example relate as I described them.

I relate the two "meanings" as I understand how you have characterized it, as how valuable or useful something is to a person as either an end1 or a way2 to an end.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, November 10, 2005 - 11:35 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hi Ben,
I think it might be helpful to go about this from a different direction. When we try to talk about "meaning" we are often using what the term refers to (for us) or the term itself in our explanation.Unfortunately, this is somewhat trying to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps.

We "understand" the world around us by using cognitive maps. We "understand" the words we use in terms of verbal and non-verbal mapping.
A "definition" is usually the specification of other words, which indicate objects and relations in some order. As such it is a one to many mapping between words. If the words in the definition are familiar to us, and the ways in which they are put together are within our experiences, then we would say that we understand the definition. When we create the association we are creating an abstracting process that recognizes the objects and relations referred to in the definition or description, and maps or abstracts that to the term being defined or explained. Once that happens the defined term is the map, while the objects that the defining terms and relations refer to constitute the territory.
The "territory" could be semantic reactions associated with words; We can then say that the "meaning" of the term (map) is the territory (not the whole territory the mapping is from, but only the elements and relations in the territory that the particular mapping is an abstraction from.

For example, we say the "meaning" of "equal" is having two items with the same numerical value associated with each -- two structures with a particular relation. To generalize, the "meaning" of something is the subset of the domain that maps to the something.

What is the "meaning" of "life". Well, that would be answered as given a sentient entity, all in the experience of that individual that maps to the term "life".

So, we have an individual with experiences, and a mapping by that individual to some thing from his or her total experiences.

With "meaning" (of words) in general semantics referring to the three levels, dictionary, context, and individual, we have "dictionary" (the commonly shared formulation - usually written by lexicographers after examining many examples, "dictionary in context" - a narrowing of the generalized dictionary formulation as restricted to a specific context, and "dictionary in context in brains" - the idosyncratic response of an individual - which may differ from the former two.

In any event, the "meaning" of a term is the formulation that constitutes the territory which maps to the term. In other words, the "meaning" of something is the territory from which it is an abstraction by a person.

This, of course, is a most generalized abstraction.

"That "means a lot" to me." could be an abstraction from many experiences; it could be an abstracton from little experience, but having intense reactions. The gift of a candy bar to a person who has not eaten in two days. It depends on the person.

You have been using the term "significance", which to me is derived from the notion of a "sign", and a "sign" in linquistics is something that stands for something else. "Sign" can be animal footprints, droppings, leftover bits of prey, feathers or hair, scent, etc. (as understod by a tracker); it can also be literally "an exit sign", a road sign, a "thumbs up", etc., as undrestood by a reader. In all these cases, the "sign" is an abstraction (by an abstractor) that indicates the past presensence of something else. A "sign" stands in the map-territory relation (of the map maker) to its "significance". So, once again, the "meaning" of something is its "significance" (to an individual).

If we ask about "the" meaning, we are limiting ourselves to the perspective of commonly shared or dictionary definitions.

In the context of communication, "intent" becomes a factor, especially if "correcting" a misspeak.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, November 12, 2005 - 02:28 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Hi Ben,
I was referring back to our discussion of meaning1 and meaning2. I decided to try coming to our discussion from a more general point of view to see if that would help. I wanted to try to characterize "meaning" in general without using the notion, so as to avoid the problem of appearing to try to "lift oneself by one's own bootstraps".

You've used the words "meaning" and "significance". When we abstract, we create an object level response (a map) in response to the putative things and events in the "territory". A very important factor, not accounted for in the structural differential and seldom mentioned is the fact that our brain, through the process of auto-responding, bring forth all the memories of similar past experiences, what we did in response to them, and what the results were. The total of these memories "is" the "significance" evoked by our object level experience. These memories allow us to decide what to do depending on our current wants and needs and the expected result based on our past experiences.

Through the mechanism of time-binding our "memories" include not only our own direct personal experiences, but also our indirect "vicarious" memories obtained from hearing or reading about the experiences of others.

This accounts for Milton's "non-allness" mentioned above, because no one can acquire all the experiences recorded in our time-bound repository of knowledge and because the abstraction process, according to current theory, does not respond to every characteristic. It also accounts for "non-identity", because we know that the abstraction response (map) at any level of abstraction is not that which it is abstracted from (territory).

It does, however, require consciousness-of-abstracting to keep in our awareness both these principles.

General semantics describes "multi-meaning" in three levels,
(1) "dictionary definition",
(2) "dictionary definition in a context", and
(3) "dictionary definition in a context in different brains".

The fact of (3) does not allow ignoring or disposing of (1) and (2). A person can write a formulation for a term or event that goes completely against (1) and (2), but the likelihood of communication is lost if the deviant formulation is not included with the communication.

In ordinary communication the speaker assumes (1) and assumes that the listener also assumes (1). The effect of (2) is also added and assumed by both the speaker and the listener. If there is no further feedback, then that ends the transmission and it is "assumed" that the listener and speaker "understood" the formulation. However, if either the listener or the speaker detects an apparent anomaly additional feedback will be require to bring both participants to a formulation that each can agree represents what each independently understands (not necessarily agreement).

When we ask what is "the" meaning of a term, it asks after (1), and the response should be (1). If we ask what does "this" mean, it asks after (2). If we ask what do "you" mean, it asks after (3). In the interest of efficiency, we should proceed from (1) to (2) to (3) only as each step appears inadequate.

The First umpire only knows (1).
The second umpire only knows (1) and (2).
The third umpire knows all three.

I begin with (1), and I modify it with (2) where appropriate. With feedback, I can move to (3).

Consider Milton's claim that we can always ask what is "the" meaning. When we ask a person the meaning of this or that, he or she has the choice of responding from his or her direct personal experiences or in terms of his or her indirect virtual time-bound "external" experiences. In the first case, the answer falls back to the current desires or needs of the person, and that is the end of the matter, unless one wants to go into "theories" of motivation, which takes it back outside the direct personal experiences.

When the query gets answered in terms of the time-bound experiences of others, it can be traced back through a chain of time-bound recordings to some individual's direct experiences, and that again is the end of the search.

Can we stay in the level of words? There are only a finite number of words, so we eventually run out of combinations. Even the largest books have only a few thousand pages, so there is a limit to how many combinations and permutations of words are needed to produce such books. All these combinations, though large, are still finite. The ONLY way to get an infinite number of combination of a finite number of words is to allow infinitely long combinations. But no one can write such a book, and no one can read it if it could have been written. The consequence of this limitation is that there cannot be an infinite sequence of explanations. We will eventually run out of combinations of words to express it. That means that Milton's claim, "we can always ask 'Well, what's the meaning of that?'...endlessly." is not a correct claim. We would run out of different ways to answer the question, so we would be repeating ourselves. The only way out of this is to revert back to the first response, the direct personal experiences of individuals with their wants and needs.

To summarize, "meaning" and "significance" "is" the memories and experience (including vicarious time-bound experiences) of prior object level responses, what actions were taken (or could be taken) in response and the outcomes (projected outcomes) as a result.

This description or definition does not suffer from the "bootstrap" problem, in that what is being described or defined does not use itself in the process, so the explanation is not circular.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, November 14, 2005 - 03:31 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail


You are proposing or claiming that the question "what is the meaning of that?" can continue to be asked about any answer. The problem with your proposal or claim is that "What is the meaning of 'that'?" is a question which contains the indexical 'that'. The indexical functions to bring in what it referred to, namely, the previous answer.

If the previous answer was "three blind mice", then the indexical makes the "actual" question being asked, not "what is the meaning of 'that'?", but "what is the meaning of three blind mice?". The question, "What is the meaning of 'that'?", cannot be asked without there first having been some "that" for it to be being asked about. Such is the nature of an indexical.

So, when you propose or claim that the question can continue to be asked, you did not take into consideration the fact that the indexical brings in the previous answer by reference. If we have used up all the possible answers, then we have also used up all the possible questions, which take the form of "what is the meaning of <answer>?".

When you ask about the meaning of a given answer, you are asking about a prior level of abstraction, but if you are repeating a prior question you are not continuing to ask about prior levels of abstracting; you are going back to a previous question and asking about its prior level of abstraction, and that was already answered, so you are beginning to loop.

If, due to finiteness, we have run out of combinations of words to use in an answer, we have consequently also run out of questions, so when we ask "what is the meaning of ...", and the "..." repeats an answer we previously gave, we are asking the same question that was previously asked about that answer the first time.

If you are repeating, "What is the meaning of 'that'?", the "question" only "looks" the same because it is substuting an indexical, namely the word 'that', for the answer the indexical brings in by reference.

The way "out" of "recursion" is to stop at the base case. If there are only two paths, and one path is circular, the remaining path is the way out. The paths I provided were a person's direct personal memory experiences and insights as path 2, the non-circular path, and the person's indirect vicarious time-bound memory experiences as path 1, the potentially "circular" path. The circular path "circles" through many prior people's indirect experience, but it must eventually terminates in some person's direct personal experience and insight. Do you have some other alternative to the person's own personal experience and insight on the one hand, and the person's time-bound cultural learning on the other hand? Do you wish to offer a "Revelation provided by God" as a third path? Do you wish to offer some other possibility?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - 03:47 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

The question that you did not say "no" to was, Do you have some other alternative to the person's own personal experience and insight on the one hand, and the person's time-bound cultural learning on the other hand? You did not, of course, answer "yes" to this question either.

I have shown that "there exists no final meaning" can be a valid claim only if you treat different questions as if they were the same, by not expanding indexicals or by allowing the same question to be answered over and over again with the same answer, in effect dropping into an infinte loop. Michael Jubian developed this structure, which he called "infinite descending chains" in his property theory. These structures work fine in the space of Aristotelian "essences", but as a "practical" matter, when it comes to being extensional, we can only go so far backward in the chain of meanings that a person gives to his or her experiences. We run out of recorded history and that is an end. Alternatively, we come to the living person who created the formulation" expressing his or her meaning, and that person can answer the question in terms of his or her immediate structure and personal experiences, needs, wants, values, etc. In tracing time-binding, when we come to the end of the earliest formulations, we have to depend upon the interpretations of living persons to provide meaning, so this "ends" in a living person's experiences also.

By "way out", I am referring to the possibility of escaping infinite regression. It is "obvious" to me that the human race did not go back in time infinitely, so the possibily that we can trace meanings back infinitely seem absurd to me. It seem to me, that as we "chase" "meaning" backward through time-binding we must eventually come to the person who created the meaning in the first place, and since the human race has not existed prior to the beginning of the universe, there must be an end to such a seeking.

Since you stated that we create meaning, a person's time-bound cultural learning ("on the other hand") is just a way of stepping back to another person. This cannot go on forever, so there is, to my way of thinking, no "final meaning" in a sequence of culture time-bound backward steps that does not end in a person. The "end" comes when we find a person who can answer the question without deferring to the time-bound works of others.

This, of course, hinges on my formulation to account for 'meaning', which, incidently, does not depend on using the notion being explained.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - 10:10 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Milton said "I will not continue this discussion unless you apply some general semantics in your response[italics mine]. "Recursion", and "indexicals", are not good enough for me.

It would appear, from the italicized phrase, that you have made a judgement that, as far as you can understand me, you cannot see the general semantics applied in my reply. I will try to make it plainer. I answered your questions.

Non-identity is applied when we show that two questions having the "same formulation" while using an indexical are non-identical when the indexical is replaced with what the indexical refers back to, namely the prior answer. Non-allness is applied by showing that the idea that one can "always" ask, "what is the meaning of 'that'" is itself an allness statement.

I also pointed out that your question that asked for "the" meaning seemed to assume a notion that is contradicted by the claim that we create meanings. As long as there are more than one of us, and we create meanings, there cannot be a "the meaning". For there to be a "the" meaning, it must cover "all" cases, and that flies against the principle of non-allness. Your question, "In terms of a "non-allness principle"...How would we know that a meaning we gave was the one and only possible meaning?" asks how would we know a meaning we gave was the only possible meaning. Since we already "know" that meanings given by different people are different, the notion of "only possible" meaning is a false-to-fact one, so your question boils down to "how would we know something false". We could have a lot of fun with this, because, if it was false, then we could not know it, but then if we knew it, then it could not be false.

You are asking a questions that presumes something that we already believe to be impossible under the principles of general semantics. If meaning is in persons, and there are more than one person, then there cannot be a "the one and only possible meaning", and if there cannot be such a thing; then we certinly could not give it, and since we already "know" such a thing to be a false notion, then we could not know it. The answer hinges on multi-meaning. Do you think that you have an answer to your question? I'd be interested to hear it, especially in light of how it seems to presume a perspective false to general semantics.

What are your answers to your own questions? Do you have your own answers? Or are you asking questions for which you do not have your own answers?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, July 21, 2006 - 12:25 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

It's time we gave a "definition", "explanation", "model", etc., for "meaning" that is general, is not recursive or circular, and is based on updated brain science. The context of general semantics requires that "meaning" be explained in terms of the human as an individual in his or her social context - including the notions of time-binding and abstracting. Here is such a perspective.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, July 21, 2006 - 02:41 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

By the way, the "meaning" of life is actually quite simple. Eat, rest, void, avoid predators, beat rivals, reproduce, teach young, and die.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, July 21, 2006 - 03:01 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

"A word is multiordinal when, without change in its dictionary definition, it is used in the same sentence - or in the same context - to refer to different orders of abstraction. [emphasis mine] Multiordinality belongs to the vertical aspect of our thinking. Bois, J. Samuel, The Art of Awareness, Second edition, Wm. C. Brown Company, Dubuque, Iowa, (1973), p. 92.

Note that Bois clearly associates multiordinal with certain contexts in which the word in question is used.

With regard to your 'meaning of meaning', my opening sentence states, I want to try to characterize "meaning" or "significance" in general without using the notion, so as to avoid the problem of appearing to try to "lift oneself by one's own bootstraps"., so it is inappropriate to abstract this to such a circular construction. We operate on the basis of our cognitive maps. I have a map or model for the term 'meaning' in terms of the semantic reactions people bring to events, words, etc. I don't use the term 'meaning' to explain it.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, July 21, 2006 - 03:09 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Nein. Dieser Satz ist meine Antwort auf die Frage, "Was die Bedeutung des Lebens ist."

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Tuesday, March 13, 2007 - 08:18 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

My impression? Both too narrow and too abstract.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, March 14, 2007 - 05:25 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

See also: meaning and dictionary.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, March 14, 2007 - 11:35 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

You asked for an "impression".

This goes beyond just an impression.
A function has a single value in a given circumstance. Humans have significantly different semantic reactions to significantly similar context situations, so a function, being single valued, is narrower than a relation - having the possibility of multiple values.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, March 16, 2007 - 11:55 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Even when the perception of the context is indescernably different for the same individual, such as in the case of repeated practice of an action, the semantic reaction can be significantly different. In technical general semantics, no two event-situations are ever "identical", but they may be such that the organism is unable to abstract a perceptual difference, yet the semantic reaction may be different.
I was NOT referring to different people's reactions to a given situation. That is ipso facto different relations ("functions").