Permalink Reply by Dee Neely
Words don't have meaning on the objective scale. They are symbols which relate to ideas, but they aren't objective. They are subjective. They are subjective depending on condition, on circumstance, on culture, on language...
Take the word power which we are discussing. The English word "power" has 20 different meanings according tohttp://www.thefreedictionary.com/power
This makes the word very, very subjective. Science and mathematics are the only reliable way to determine meaning.
Your statement than many people have been powerful and not corrupt bears investigation. I would be interested in seeing who you think qualifies as powerful and not corrupt so we can compare.
Permalink Reply by MCT
"Words don't have meaning on the objective scale."
-Abject nonsense. The concept of ability is objective, whether we refer to it with the phoneme power or ability. It has necessary characteristics that are real and reducible to perceptual evidence in any language. We remove the unique subjective perceptions when we form concepts, that's what makes them concepts. Your willingness and attempt to defeat the process of definition by essentials cannot invalidate that XBox is an electric gaming system, no matter how you cut it. It is not a relative or subjective concept. It has necessary essentials. It is definitely some things and not others. Words, the phonemes for concepts, having objective meanings is necessary for communication about this one objective reality we all inhabit. Atheism is the belief that there are no gods. This is not a subjective definition, in fact, if it is a definition, it is not subjective. Objectification of our perceptions is necessary for language development. Cortically, this is exactly what is going on. Our cortex examines multiple versions of patterns of perceptual evidence about something that actually exists in reality and after we remove or omit the subjective arbitrary characteristics, such as color and material, in the case of a chair, and retain the objective characteristics, such as shape and purpose, we can hold this in place, attach a phoneme and communicate to others or hold in our awareness for comparing and contrasting other things like and dislike it. This is how we make knowledge. This is very consistent with new successful models of artifical intelligence, most notably Jeff Hawkins' Hierarchical Temporal Memory. Concept formation, which is necessary for rational thought and communication is the objectification of our perceptions. And someone who has the ability to walk, also, objectively has the power to walk.
False dichotomy. I do this all the time. Makes it easier to analyse things and get a result.
The conclusion seems to be:
Words have objective existence, but no objective meaning.
A word is a collection of sounds uttered by the human body and are objective in existence.
A written word is a method of relating symbols to sounds and are objective in existence.
However, their objectivity ceases at this point.
The meaning of words are subjective. They have meanings that vary according to language, culture, time and area of use. Caveat: words require careful definition to limit subjectivity.
Caveat: words require careful definition to limit subjectivity.
And let's not forget that word definitions themselves are of course constructed from words, each with its own sliding subjective meaning.
All words are qualifications and/or limitations. Words are the sounds we utter to indicate meaning, and all meaning is biological determined or determined by consciousness which is biological. The physical world is utterly without meaning, meaning arises due to the effect of the physical world on our biology. All meaning is subjective, to say that meaning is objective is to state that in the absence of consciousness there is still meaning--which is absurd. Subject and object stand or fall together, take away the subject consciousness and the object ceases to be, take away the object and consciousness ceases to be.
Take for example the word 'horse'.
I think everybody in the world would have a slightly different variation on the image that the word horse creates in their mind. But everybody still understands it as being E. f. caballus.
When we communicate a word to another person, how we envisage that word and how the receiver envisages that word may be different, but the basic meaning, (eg E. f. caballus), is still conveyed. Does the process of communication show/prove/add any objectivity to the subjectivity of a word.
The nature of meaning is such that the physical world you might say is objective, but all meaning is relational, meaning that the experience of the object/physical world does not belong entirely to the object nor entirely to the subject. Color is perhaps a good example, we know that in the physical world there is no color per-say, only varying frequencies of vibrational light, it is that vibrations effect upon the retina and its further processing by the understanding which gives us color. Communication does not lend objectivity to the subject you communicate with, only your subjective meaning, it is if you like once removed from reality, as they say, perception to the individual is reality, to the group it is agreement. I am not sure I have satisfied your query. I believe only what you experience can be held with any degree of confidence, though even the senses and the understanding can fail us sometimes.
...only your subjective meaning..
This is the problem I have with subjective meaning of words when we communicate. My understanding of 'horse' when I speak about horses and your understanding of 'horse' is not going to be 100% the same. Therefore my subjective understanding of horse won't be given to you every time I say horse, you'll interpret horse in your own subjective way.
Is subjectively communicating between people possible? I speak subjectively and you understand my words subjectively. If objectivity is not involved, how are we able to understand each other? I guess 'Chinese whispers' is a good example of the subjective nature of words when communicating.
...to the group it is agreement...
It is this 'agreement', between us, about words, that makes me think there is some objectivity in words. Even though we all have a subjective understanding of the word 'horse', would this 'agreement' lend objectivity to the meaning of the word horse?
So what is the difference between 'objectivity' and 'agreement', in regards to the meaning of words.
...only your subjective meaning..
"This is the problem I have with subjective meaning of words when we communicate. My understanding of 'horse' when I speak about horses and your understanding of 'horse' is not going to be 100% the same. Therefore my subjective understanding of horse won't be given to you every time I say horse, you'll interpret horse in your own subjective way."
Yes, I do see what you mean, it would seem there is a certain continuity to what is out there in the physical world, or is the continuity due to our common biology. All meaning is relational, and do to the fact that there is variation in our common biology there will be some variation in our understanding, which depends a good deal upon our previous experiences. If I have had no experience of something you call a horse, the words would be meaningless to me.
"Is subjectively communicating between people possible? I speak subjectively and you understand my words subjectively. If objectivity is not involved, how are we able to understand each other? I guess 'Chinese whispers' is a good example of the subjective nature of words when communicating.
Communication between subjects is as I stated, once removed from reality, what most people think reality is, is composed of their experience. Group agreement is simply a collective of subjective understandings,
...to the group it is agreement...
"It is this 'agreement', between us, about words, that makes me think there is some objectivity in words. Even though we all have a subjective understanding of the word 'horse', would this 'agreement' lend objectivity to the meaning of the word horse?"
No, words are sounds or compounds of sounds we have previously agreed upon to represent a quality or sensation. All things are relational, all things are relationships. We agree upon the effect of some object upon our common biology/consciousness. Perhaps the physical world/object has some degree of objectivity but many believe it does not. Science presently tells us that our apparent reality is a delusion, though a persistent one said Einstein. Ultimate reality they say is not a place of things, things, objects and the physical world they say now, or at least infer, are consciousness dependent.
"So what is the difference between 'objectivity' and 'agreement', in regards to the meaning of words."
Objectivity and agreement are very different, as I stated above, agreement is a collective understanding of the group subjective perceptions.
I think you are on to something here, leveni.
I’ve held the notion for some time that a great number of disagreements can be resolved if the meaning of certain key words could be agreed upon.
I think objectivity for a particular word could be achieved within a group if everybody agreed upon the meaning of that word. That is pretty simplistic, I know, but I think it could be empirically demonstrated in a controlled situation.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in controlled situations.
Even on this site for atheists we can’t (or won’t) agree about what atheism is. (one of my pet peeves)
So rather than spend time creating a lexicon, with objectivity being a potential benefit, we argue about whether the words we use can even have a “meaningful” meaning.
But this has been a great conversation.