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What do words mean?

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Posted (edited)

This needs to start since I keep getting corrected by others, as if each word has a mono-meaning and I'm using them incorrectly, instead of their being nuance between meanings and their contextual use. If you believe each word only has one meaning and you think being pedantic makes you correct, then A) You're wrong and B) You completely miss the point of what language and communication is all about. 

Let's start with Agnostic and agnosticism , what do those words mean? Are they about belief? Knowledge? Both?

Edited by MSC

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Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, MSC said:

This needs to start since I keep getting corrected by others, as if each word has a mono-meaning and I'm using them incorrectly, instead of their being nuance between meanings and their contextual use. If you believe each word only has one meaning and you think being pedantic makes you correct, then A) You're wrong and B) You completely miss the point of what language and communication is all about. 

 

as far as one of my old (now retired) hodja says "in fact,words can both mean or not mean anything. Becase that type of communication is caused by cryptic transmission"

I also add: " this cryptic transmission is commonly based on local paradigms"

Edited by ahmet

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Words mean whatever the listener interprets them to mean.
If the listener interprets them incorrectly, the speaker has used the wrong words to convey his ideas to his listener.

EG.    I may use a French word correctly, but if you don't understand French, I an using the incorrect 'tool'.

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15 minutes ago, ahmet said:

as far as one of my old (now retired) hodja says "in fact,words can both mean or not mean anything. Becase that type of communication is caused by cryptic transmission"

I also add: " this cryptic transmission is commonly based on local paradigms"

Sounds like your Hodja has read MR Cohens Preface to logic. I like that! Either that or he's quite intelligent and is inferring the same thing as Cohen. 

A good example right here is how others may scratch their head wondering what "Hodja" means. 

Do you think it is possible for people to figure out the meaning, based on the context of your words? I had a suspicion as to what it meant, I confirmed it by double checking. 

 

1 minute ago, MigL said:

Words mean whatever the listener interprets them to mean.
If the listener interprets them incorrectly, the speaker has used the wrong words to convey his ideas to his listener.

EG.    I may use a French word correctly, but if you don't understand French, I an using the incorrect 'tool'.

Is the onus always on the speaker to intuit what the listener will be able to understand on their own? What if they have had the same education? What if the listener is lying about not knowing the meaning and is in fact being contrarian? Wilful ignorance is unfortunately something we have to deal with these days, especially when people start to get competitive and write for an audience instead of writing to communicate with the interlocutor.

Eg: A teacher asks her class of 9 year olds, "What would you like to learn about in history?" One child says "Attila the Hun." The teacher, having never heard of this person, proceeds to believe the child made something up and tells them that this must he fiction since she hasn't heard of attila the hun and proceeds to humiliate the child and punish them for "Making things up and disrupting the class." 

Yet, Attila the Hun isn't made up. How could the speaker in this instance have conveyed their meaning in any other way without saying "Attila the Hun"? 

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There are certain rules that make it less of a 'crap-shoot', but you can definitely go to certain parts of my city, and speaking proper English, you will not be understood, or, at best, misinterpreted.
So, yes the onus is on you to use the 'best' tool available to convey your thoughts.
( sometimes that might mean drawing pictures, or pointing to a picture/reference of Attila the Hun in a textbook )

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2 minutes ago, MigL said:

There are certain rules that make it less of a 'crap-shoot', but you can definitely go to certain parts of my city, and speaking proper English, you will not be understood, or, at best, misinterpreted.
So, yes the onus is on you to use the 'best' tool available to convey your thoughts.
( sometimes that might mean drawing pictures, or pointing to a picture/reference of Attila the Hun in a textbook )

So there are only tools for speaking and not listening? If the listener does not know the meaning, is it fair game for them to assume one?

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Speaking is an 'active' process.
You do it to convey YOUR ideas.

Listening is a 'passive' process.
It interprets others' ideas.

So again, if you want to convey your ideas accurately, the onus is on you.

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10 minutes ago, MigL said:

Speaking is an 'active' process.
You do it to convey YOUR ideas.

Listening is a 'passive' process.
It interprets others' ideas.

So again, if you want to convey your ideas accurately, the onus is on you.

What about Active, reflective and empathic listening?

I'll ask again, what was the 9 year old supposed to say to communicate a desire to learn about Attila the Hun? Other than Attila the Hun? Did the child deserve to be called a liar because his teacher was ignorant? Could his teacher have not said back "I've never heard of him, let me look him up. I think he might be fictional, but I'll check to be sure."

The reason I talk about different ages and teachers and students is that I don't agree with your claim that the onus is always on the speaker to be clear. Communication is a two way street and what meaning should we interpret from a listener who replies with defamatory statements? Especially when made to a child. 

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5 minutes ago, MSC said:

I'll ask again, what was the 9 year old supposed to say to communicate a desire to learn about Attila the Hun? Other than Attila the Hun?

Open up his textbook and say
"This guy here on page 78"

Then ask the teacher to take some remedial History courses.

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Just now, MigL said:

Open up his textbook and say
"This guy here on page 78"

Then ask the teacher to take some remedial History courses.

We didn't have textbooks... My school sucked.

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No library, no internet, and no other teachers who could reference Attila ?
Must have really sucked !

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1 minute ago, MigL said:

No library, no internet, and no other teachers who could reference Attila ?
Must have really sucked !

It was a different time, what can I say. Internet and decent textbooks were for rich kids.

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Posted (edited)

If it was a Catholic school, the priest/friars or nuns would have been able to tell the story of how the Bishop of Rome, Leo I, was sent out to meet Attila and negotiate a truce, thus sparing the sacking of Rome.
( not actually true, Attila was low on supplies, but the Catholic Church does like to take credit )

PS  the way it's going, this will be off-topic split off also.

Edited by MigL

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What if language/ideas is a self-organizing superstructure that's using us to build something we cannot intuit yet? I think that's very much what's happening, actually.

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11 minutes ago, joigus said:

What if language/ideas is a self-organizing superstructure that's using us to build something we cannot intuit yet? I think that's very much what's happening, actually.

Yes! I believe this too! Hell, the intuition is in my name! 

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4 minutes ago, MSC said:

Yes! I believe this too! Hell, the intuition is in my name! 

Well... I didn't say exactly I believe it. I believe nothing. I just said "what if...?" ;)

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2 minutes ago, joigus said:

What if language/ideas is a self-organizing superstructure that's using us to build something we cannot intuit yet? I think that's very much what's happening, actually.

Your expression "a self-organising superstructure"  does have an appeal.  When we study languages, we notice that they always have a "structure".

The words contained in a language, are not mere random collections of syllables.  They're organised into patterns governed by "rules".  For example, in the Latin language,  all nouns fall into five different patterns, or "declensions".  And within each declension,  every noun has a terminal "inflection",  or "case ending", according to the grammatical function that the noun performs.

The functions, in Latin, are "Nominative", "Vocative" "Accusative", "Genitive", "Dative", and "Ablative".  There are similar complexities in the Latin verbs.  Four different patterns, or "Conjugations" of verbs.  Each with a terminal ending, according to whether the verb functions as Singular, Plural, Present Tense, Imperfect Tense, Perfective Tense, Pluperfect Tense, or Future Tense. Also whether the verb functions in "Indicative", "Subjunctive" or "Imperative" Mood.  Or as participle, gerund, or gerundive.

Such a maze of complexity!  Surely no human  brain would have thought it up!  It must come from some higher superstructure, or "organising principle", that's perhaps inherent in the Universe. 

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, joigus said:

What if language/ideas is a self-organizing superstructure that's using us to build something we cannot intuit yet? I think that's very much what's happening, actually.

Yes, a language is a library of small ideas that can be joined to make larger, more complex ideas, which will be internally consisent to those native to it. Everything is ultimately just information. This can go off on all sorts of tangents.

 

3 hours ago, MSC said:

This needs to start since I keep getting corrected by others, as if each word has a mono-meaning and I'm using them incorrectly, instead of their being nuance between meanings and their contextual use. If you believe each word only has one meaning and you think being pedantic makes you correct, then A) You're wrong and B) You completely miss the point of what language and communication is all about. 

Let's start with Agnostic and agnosticism , what do those words mean? Are they about belief? Knowledge? Both?

WRT science, which is probably what's irritating you, words that are keywords in science have a meaning that has been defined by consensus within a given discipline, and one is not allowed to change those meanings because it creates confusion. If one wishes to present a new idea/phenonmena, it has to be done using words that are not already taken.

Edited by StringJunky

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4 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

Yes, a language is a library of small ideas that can be joined to make larger, more complex ideas, which will be internally consisent to those native to it. Everything is ultimately just information. This can go off on all sorts of tangents.

 

WRT science, which is probably what's irritating you, words that are keywords in science have a meaning that has been defined by consensus within a given discipline, and one is not allowed to change those meanings because it creates confusion. If one wishes to present a new idea/phenonmena, it has to be done using words that are not already taken.

WRT? Not familiar with that term.

That is science, this is philosophy. Have you seen the size of a philosophy dictionary vs an ordinary dictionary? Seriously and sincerely asking.

Take the word Relativism or relativity. Now in physics, I agree entirely with your point in regards to those two words. 

In ethics and even psychology, Relativism is used in ways that don't relate to its meaning in physics. 

Even the term Context Relativism can have a different meaning, the educational psychologist has their meaning, the Moral Epistomologist has theirs.

As for Agnostic, is there a scientific consensus on the usage of that term?

59 minutes ago, joigus said:

Well... I didn't say exactly I believe it. I believe nothing. I just said "what if...?" ;)

interesting, in your words is an underlying claim. "We choose what we believe in" is that true? Do we really have choice in belief? :)

If I say, "I don't believe you" am I choosing that or not?

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Posted (edited)
27 minutes ago, MSC said:

WRT? Not familiar with that term.

That is science, this is philosophy. Have you seen the size of a philosophy dictionary vs an ordinary dictionary? Seriously and sincerely asking.

Take the word Relativism or relativity. Now in physics, I agree entirely with your point in regards to those two words. 

In ethics and even psychology, Relativism is used in ways that don't relate to its meaning in physics. 

Even the term Context Relativism can have a different meaning, the educational psychologist has their meaning, the Moral Epistomologist has theirs.

As for Agnostic, is there a scientific consensus on the usage of that term?

interesting, in your words is an underlying claim. "We choose what we believe in" is that true? Do we really have choice in belief? :)

If I say, "I don't believe you" am I choosing that or not?

WRT: with respect to. As to your question, I don't really know. Depends if your belief is based on objective data or intuition. That falls within the scope of the 'Determinism vs Non- Determinism' argument, I'm thinking.

Edited by StringJunky

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2 hours ago, StringJunky said:

That falls within the scope of the 'Determinism vs Non- Determinism' argument, I'm thinking.

You're right, it does. A thread for another day it seems. I'm not going to start it though. The free will debate gives me a headache and I'm a compatibilist, so I don't really want to get into the nitty gritty of variant definitions of free will. 

What my original comment about choice was referring to, was our emotional sentiments toward a claim. A person can say "I don't believe you" even if you provide cold hard evidence to back it up. If so, then their statement of disbelief may be a falsehood, either to the person providing the evidence or to themselves. 

In relation to the meaning of words, phrases and terms, how would you describe differences in meaning between Science, Art and Philosophy? I agree that scientific terms are meaningfully fixed by the scientific consensus of the given field. The same cannot be said of Philosophy (with the exception of philosophy of science) or art. 

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4 minutes ago, MSC said:

You're right, it does. A thread for another day it seems. I'm not going to start it though. The free will debate gives me a headache and I'm a compatibilist, so I don't really want to get into the nitty gritty of variant definitions of free will. 

What my original comment about choice was referring to, was our emotional sentiments toward a claim. A person can say "I don't believe you" even if you provide cold hard evidence to back it up. If so, then their statement of disbelief may be a falsehood, either to the person providing the evidence or to themselves. 

In relation to the meaning of words, phrases and terms, how would you describe differences in meaning between Science, Art and Philosophy? I agree that scientific terms are meaningfully fixed by the scientific consensus of the given field. The same cannot be said of Philosophy (with the exception of philosophy of science) or art. 

To have a meaningful discussion in the other subjects, one would have to agree term with others , or define them if one is writing. No assumptioons should be made that terms are commonly understood.

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5 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

To have a meaningful discussion in the other subjects, one would have to agree term with others , or define them if one is writing. No assumptioons should be made that terms are commonly understood.

Fundamentally, meaning is derived from context. Word usage can be different depending on group of folks and the meaning depends highly on what is being talked about. Philosophers have taken great pains in order to define or elaborate what they mean, in many cases coming up with new word creations in order better communicate them. But since they explore so many different concepts, there are also very different fields with different lingo. There is not universal science lingo, either. 

In any area of specialization (be it philosophy, workshop, hobbyist group, kitchen, military etc.) often a sub-lingo is developed to convey meaning efficiently, but it can be impenetrable for folks who have not learned it. 

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9 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

To have a meaningful discussion in the other subjects, one would have to agree term with others , or define them if one is writing. No assumptioons should be made that terms are commonly understood.

How would you react if I asked you to provide a definition for each of those words you just used? Each and every one mind. What would you think of me if I did?

You're not wrong by the way, we are expected to define complex words we use however it's not a case of me just being allowed to take a word and define it as something else completely. It has to somehow make logical sense in relation to root meaning, Etymology, historic vs current usage etc

8 minutes ago, CharonY said:

Fundamentally, meaning is derived from context. Word usage can be different depending on group of folks and the meaning depends highly on what is being talked about. Philosophers have taken great pains in order to define or elaborate what they mean, in many cases coming up with new word creations in order better communicate them. But since they explore so many different concepts, there are also very different fields with different lingo. There is not universal science lingo, either. 

In any area of specialization (be it philosophy, workshop, hobbyist group, kitchen, military etc.) often a sub-lingo is developed to convey meaning efficiently, but it can be impenetrable for folks who have not learned it. 

Couldn't have put it any better than this if I tried. :) will need to upvote this tomorrow when I've got more.

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I want to write a response but I need to go catch a lift to buy some biscuits at the arcade.

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