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"Meaning" Options
fred
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 9:29:49 AM
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What is the meaning of "Meaning"?
fred
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 11:13:44 AM
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It's harder than you thought, no?
Isaac Samuel
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 11:49:08 AM
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You don't really mean it,do you?.I guess not.
fred
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 11:57:00 AM
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Isaac Samuel wrote:
You don't really mean it,do you?.I guess not.

You might be on to something.
Epiphileon
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 1:26:03 PM

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fred wrote:
What is the meaning of "Meaning"?

If I explained what meaning means to me, how would I know, that you knew what I meant?
Ahimsa
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 1:44:15 PM
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If you ask what's the meaning of meaning, are you asking what does the word stand for?
It can stand for purpose, in «the meaning of life».
Or shared knowledge of something in «a meaningful look».
Or the intepretation/appeal of something «this does not mean anything to me».
Or the explanation of something «red means danger».

Fred, were you on to something more philosophical?
I worked 6 years as a project manager and in process reengineering, so sometimes I tend to be a bit too down to earth. Please bear with me. :-)
fred
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 2:09:58 PM
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Epiphileon wrote:
fred wrote:
"What is the meaning of "Meaning"?"

"If I explained what meaning means to me, how would I know, that you knew what I meant?"

If you don't have control of the meaning of the words you use, how then can we use words?

Ahimsa wrote:
"If you ask what's the meaning of meaning, are you asking what does the word stand for?
Fred, were you on to something more philosophical?"

I'm looking for a fixed meaning that will have concrete and unwavering meaning throughout the ages.
If that is philosophical, so be it.
What is philosophy, by the way.
Luftmarque
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 2:12:52 PM

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Of the dictionary definitions available on TFD, I like this one:
Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 wrote:
meaning
Noun 1. the sense or significance of a word, sentence, or symbol

Perhaps we could simplify this definition further and, restricting ourselves to language, say that the word is the signifier, the meaning is the signified. Of course, defining a word with such an important, basic meaning as meaning in terms of other words can seem less than satisfactory. It might be better to collect many examples, examine them, and get a sense of the word that way.
fred
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 2:24:11 PM
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Luftmarque wrote:
Of the dictionary definitions available on TFD, I like this one:
Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 wrote:
meaning
Noun 1. the sense or significance of a word, sentence, or symbol

Perhaps we could simplify this definition further and, restricting ourselves to language, say that the word is the signifier, the meaning is the signified. Of course, defining a word with such an important, basic meaning as meaning in terms of other words can seem less than satisfactory. It might be better to collect many examples, examine them, and get a sense of the word that way.



What is "sense" or "significance"?
Who is to say what sense or what significance?
Those are very vague words to describe such an important word as "Meaning".

Collecting many examples might be a constructive path or other words but how would that work with "Meaning"?
fred
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 4:43:50 PM
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So many people communicating with words and no solid definition of "Meaning".
How can we build a house with words without the foundation of meaning? Very strange, indeed.
Spahkee
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 5:53:55 PM
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Pertinence comes to mind..

"Those are very vague words to describe such an important word as "Meaning"."

A highly subjective word is described as "Important"!?

In what way are we to take your meaning of 'meaning'?
Luftmarque
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 6:14:33 PM

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fred wrote:
What is "sense" or "significance"?
Who is to say what sense or what significance?
Those are very vague words to describe such an important word as "Meaning".

Collecting many examples might be a constructive path or other words but how would that work with "Meaning"?

Well, of course, this is the problem of word definition--if you are not willing to accept defining words in terms of other words that then must also be defined in terms of a third set of words, then you're not likely to be satisfied with anybody's response to the question of defining meaning. And anyone interested will look up sense and significance, so I won't clutter this topic by copying more dictionary definitions. (These two words are not, imho, particularly vague--or more vague than any other abstractions.)

Perhaps you're after a something larger here, though. An attack on the notion that meaning has any meaning? Or that language is even possible? That would be a fun discussion--let me go find some Wittgenstein...
Luftmarque
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 6:21:15 PM

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fred wrote:
So many people communicating with words and no solid definition of "Meaning".
How can we build a house with words without the foundation of meaning? Very strange, indeed.

So many people having a meaningful discussion about language and meaning--using words!
Luftmarque
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 6:33:06 PM

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fred wrote:
I'm looking for a fixed meaning that will have concrete and unwavering meaning throughout the ages.

Well, if that's what you want, then the search is doomed from the get-go.
krmiller
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2009 9:05:57 PM
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fred wrote:
I'm looking for a fixed meaning that will have concrete and unwavering meaning throughout the ages.


English is a living language; that's impossible. Heck, it might even be impossible in a dead language.
Epiphileon
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 4:37:39 AM

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Epiphileon wrote:

"If I explained what meaning means to me, how would I know, that you knew what I meant?"
fred wrote:

If you don't have control of the meaning of the words you use, how then can we use words?

Hi Fred, sorry I guess I was testing the waters with that rather glib question of mine. This is actually an issue that is of intense interest to me. I'm going to have to think about this for a bit. It may be useful to attempt answering this question, as a "first question", however; given the difficulties being encountered there may be necessary prerequisite questions.

As for your question quoted in this post, I would assert that one has very little control of the "meaning" of words once they are used in conversation with another. Language is a far more elusive, and slippery thing than most would suspect, and high fidelity communication is a task requiring no small effort.



fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 8:57:37 AM
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Epiphileon wrote:

Epiphileon wrote:

"If I explained what meaning means to me, how would I know, that you knew what I meant?"
fred wrote:

If you don't have control of the meaning of the words you use, how then can we use words?

"Hi Fred, sorry I guess I was testing the waters with that rather glib question of mine. This is actually an issue that is of intense interest to me. I'm going to have to think about this for a bit. It may be useful to attempt answering this question, as a "first question", however; given the difficulties being encountered there may be necessary prerequisite questions.

As for your question quoted in this post, I would assert that one has very little control of the "meaning" of words once they are used in conversation with another. Language is a far more elusive, and slippery thing than most would suspect, and high fidelity communication is a task requiring no small effort."

Ah ha!

Language is elusive and slippery in what sense? (See what I mean)?

We're on an English language forum and we're having trouble with the meaning of "Meaning". This is "RICH"!


fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 9:00:40 AM
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krmiller wrote:
fred wrote:
I'm looking for a fixed meaning that will have concrete and unwavering meaning throughout the ages.


"English is a living language; that's impossible. Heck, it might even be impossible in a dead language."


Why would it be impossible in a dead language?
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 10:29:49 AM

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fred wrote:
Language is elusive and slippery in what sense? (See what I mean)?
No, I don't see what you mean. What do you mean? What do you mean by meaning, fred?

fred wrote:
We're on an English language forum and we're having trouble with the meaning of "Meaning".
No, we're having trouble getting a definition of meaning that you accept. We're not having trouble with the meaning of meaning as such. We all "know" what meaning means, otherwise there wouldn't even be anything to talk about.

fred wrote:
Why would it be impossible in a dead language?
Progress in understanding that dead language as used by its speakers could change the accepted definition. The only fixed language would be one made up for some special purpose, thoroughly defined, and then abandoned (Elvish? Klingon?--I suspect that Klingon is a living language for some, though).

It seems to me that this topic has at heart a false premise: That language could be organized along the lines of mathematics, with a subset of core axiomatic words accepted by all, and the remaining words defined in terms of the core set. Language doesn't work that way (imho). It's more like a self-bootstrapping cloud--not constructed brick by brick from a foundation, but a big mess that gradually comes into focus in one's gaze. Know what I mean? Anxious
Epiphileon
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 10:36:44 AM

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Allow me to reiterate, "It may be useful to attempt answering this question, as a "first question", however; given the difficulties being encountered there may be necessary prerequisite questions."

In order to conduct any serious, and sincere, and productive investigation into any phenomenon, in almost all cases it is necessary to begin at the level of "first principles". When one asks a question and finds as much difficulty with discerning an answer as is being evidenced here, there is a good possibility that there is no foundation upon which to build a satisfactory answer.

There is of course another possibility, i.e. this is not a serious investigation, but a source of amusement. In my initial response to your question I attempted to determine this with what I thought was a somewhat amusing question....

Epiphileon wrote:

"If I explained what meaning means to me, how would I know, that you knew what I meant?"

When next I viewed this thread, your response to that reply, as well as other's input led me to believe the intent to be serious. With this in mind I made the above follow up post. However this response of yours leaves me once again unsure of your intent.

Ah ha!

Language is elusive and slippery in what sense? (See what I mean)?

We're on an English language forum and we're having trouble with the meaning of "Meaning". This is "RICH"!


Your pardon please I am not at all adept at discerning matters such as this. Could you please clarify your intent?
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 11:02:01 AM

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The Martian Point-Of-View
Greetings, English-language-speakers of Earth! We have long monitored your broadcasts of Historical Documents and have learned, to a certain extent, to understand your language. One word, however, is giving us great difficulties. That word is grelbnar. What do you people grelb when you say grelbnar? Oh wait, I can't use grelb if I don't know what it grelbs. Dammit, did it again! OK, let's start over. You people, when you say grelb, could you please say that in a different way? OK, now do that a few thousand times. OK, got it, thanks.
Epiphileon
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 11:13:04 AM

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Luftmarque wrote:
The Martian Point-Of-View
Greetings, English-language-speakers of Earth! We have long monitored your broadcasts of Historical Documents and have learned, to a certain extent, to understand your language. One word, however, is giving us great difficulties. That word is grelbnar. What do you people grelb when you say grelbnar? Oh wait, I can't use grelb if I don't know what it grelbs. Dammit, did it again! OK, let's start over. You people, when you say grelb, could you please say that in a different way? OK, now do that a few thousand times. OK, got it, thanks.


Thanks a lot Luftmarque, on top of aspirating it, I now have to clean the aerosolized coffee out of my keyboard and off my display. :))
fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 11:14:11 AM
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Epiphileon wrote:
Allow me to reiterate, "It may be useful to attempt answering this question, as a "first question", however; given the difficulties being encountered there may be necessary prerequisite questions."

In order to conduct any serious, and sincere, and productive investigation into any phenomenon, in almost all cases it is necessary to begin at the level of "first principles". When one asks a question and finds as much difficulty with discerning an answer as is being evidenced here, there is a good possibility that there is no foundation upon which to build a satisfactory answer.

There is of course another possibility, i.e. this is not a serious investigation, but a source of amusement. In my initial response to your question I attempted to determine this with what I thought was a somewhat amusing question....

Epiphileon wrote:

"If I explained what meaning means to me, how would I know, that you knew what I meant?"

When next I viewed this thread, your response to that reply, as well as other's input led me to believe the intent to be serious. With this in mind I made the above follow up post. However this response of yours leaves me once again unsure of your intent.

Ah ha!

Language is elusive and slippery in what sense? (See what I mean)?

We're on an English language forum and we're having trouble with the meaning of "Meaning". This is "RICH"!


Your pardon please I am not at all adept at discerning matters such as this. Could you please clarify your intent?





Before I begin to clarify intent, I have a few questions.
What is the relationship of Phenomenon to meaning or intent?
Should there be a foundation to meaning?
What is the foundation of foundations?
Please tell me if you understand these questions.
fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 11:16:00 AM
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Epiphileon wrote:
Luftmarque wrote:
The Martian Point-Of-View
Greetings, English-language-speakers of Earth! We have long monitored your broadcasts of Historical Documents and have learned, to a certain extent, to understand your language. One word, however, is giving us great difficulties. That word is grelbnar. What do you people grelb when you say grelbnar? Oh wait, I can't use grelb if I don't know what it grelbs. Dammit, did it again! OK, let's start over. You people, when you say grelb, could you please say that in a different way? OK, now do that a few thousand times. OK, got it, thanks.


Thanks a lot Luftmarque, on top of aspirating it, I now have to clean the aerosolized coffee out of my keyboard and off my display. :))


Partypooper!
fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 11:41:30 AM
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Luftmarque wrote:
The Martian Point-Of-View
Greetings, English-language-speakers of Earth! We have long monitored your broadcasts of Historical Documents and have learned, to a certain extent, to understand your language. One word, however, is giving us great difficulties. That word is grelbnar. What do you people grelb when you say grelbnar? Oh wait, I can't use grelb if I don't know what it grelbs. Dammit, did it again! OK, let's start over. You people, when you say grelb, could you please say that in a different way? OK, now do that a few thousand times. OK, got it, thanks.



I have no idea what Martians have to do with meaning. But, Greetings anyway.
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 11:42:10 AM

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fred wrote:
Epiphileon wrote:
Luftmarque wrote:
The Martian Point-Of-View
Greetings, English-language-speakers of Earth! ...

Thanks a lot Luftmarque, on top of aspirating it, I now have to clean the aerosolized coffee out of my keyboard and off my display. :))

Partypooper!

No no!! We come in peace!!
Epiphileon
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 11:51:34 AM

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fred wrote:

Before I begin to clarify intent, I have a few questions.
If you are only going to "begin" to clarify your intent, when will you conclude clarification of your intention?
What is the relationship of Phenomenon to meaning or intent?
The same as it is to any other phenomenon.
Should there be a foundation to meaning?
Absolutely
What is the foundation of foundations?
Whatever your answer is to the fundamental question. Why are there things that are rather than no things?
Please tell me if you understand these questions.
What do you mean by "understand"?
fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 12:14:20 PM
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Epiphileon wrote:
[quote=fred]
Before I begin to clarify intent, I have a few questions.
If you are only going to "begin" to clarify your intent, when will you conclude clarification of your intention?
What is the relationship of Phenomenon to meaning or intent?
The same as it is to any other phenomenon.
Is meaning a phenomenon?

Should there be a foundation to meaning?
Absolutely
What is the origin of that foundation?

What is the foundation of foundations?
Whatever your answer is to the fundamental question. Why are there things that are rather than no things?
What are things? Is it physical matter? Does physical matter (meaning) really exist outside ouside our viewing?
If there are things, shouldn't then there be no things? If so, how does that (no-things) relate to meaning?

Please tell me if you understand these questions.
What do you mean by "understand"?
Do you know the meaning of the words and the ideas I'm using via my intent?
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 12:34:08 PM

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fred wrote:
Luftmarque wrote:
The Martian Point-Of-View
Greetings, English-language-speakers of Earth! ...
I have no idea what Martians have to do with meaning. But, Greetings anyway.

The Esoteric Content of the Martian Transmission
When attempting to discuss a word such as meaning, it is easy to fall into self-referential confusion. Part of this is due to failure to be explicit about the distinction between use and mention. Let's begin by labeling the Martian's monologue:

Martian wrote:
We have long monitored your broadcasts of Historical Documents and have learned, to a certain extent, to understand your language. One word, however, is giving us great difficulties. That word is grelbnar [mention]. What do you people grelb [use] when you say grelbnar [mention]? Oh wait, I can't use grelb [mention] if I don't know what it grelbs [use]. Dammit, did it again! OK, let's start over. You people, when you say grelb [mention], could you please say that in a different way? OK, now do that a few thousand times. OK, got it, thanks.

Hope that helps! But the key message the Martian wishes to convey is this:

Martian wrote:
...could you please say that in a different way? OK, now do that a few thousand times. OK, got it, thanks.

This is meant (ooops!! strike that! let's say rather "This is intended"--much better!?) to characterize the way in which actual speakers learn the grelbnar of a word. A young Earthling says something like, "Mom, I can't go to the prom like this!" To which Mom replies, "What do you mean you can't go to the prom like this?" Over the course of many such interactions, the youngling learns what sort of response to the question is acceptable and, in this way, learns how to appropriately use the word meaning in the language game of those among whom she lives. That's it. That's all there is. That is the foundation, if it can be described as such, of language. It's a pragmatic adaptation of a pre-existing faculty, or perhaps a specialized language-organ in humans, doesn't matter which, that is under no constraint whatsoever to be justifiable, complete, or even self-consistent, so long as it works well enough to be useful.
fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 2:00:11 PM
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Luftmarque wrote:
fred wrote:
Luftmarque wrote:
The Martian Point-Of-View
Greetings, English-language-speakers of Earth! ...
I have no idea what Martians have to do with meaning. But, Greetings anyway.

The Esoteric Content of the Martian Transmission
When attempting to discuss a word such as meaning, it is easy to fall into self-referential confusion. Part of this is due to failure to be explicit about the distinction between use and mention. Let's begin by labeling the Martian's monologue:

Martian wrote:
We have long monitored your broadcasts of Historical Documents and have learned, to a certain extent, to understand your language. One word, however, is giving us great difficulties. That word is grelbnar [mention]. What do you people grelb [use] when you say grelbnar [mention]? Oh wait, I can't use grelb [mention] if I don't know what it grelbs [use]. Dammit, did it again! OK, let's start over. You people, when you say grelb [mention], could you please say that in a different way? OK, now do that a few thousand times. OK, got it, thanks.

Hope that helps! But the key message the Martian wishes to convey is this:

Martian wrote:
...could you please say that in a different way? OK, now do that a few thousand times. OK, got it, thanks.

This is meant (ooops!! strike that! let's say rather "This is intended"--much better!?) to characterize the way in which actual speakers learn the grelbnar of a word. A young Earthling says something like, "Mom, I can't go to the prom like this!" To which Mom replies, "What do you mean you can't go to the prom like this?" Over the course of many such interactions, the youngling learns what sort of response to the question is acceptable and, in this way, learns how to appropriately use the word meaning in the language game of those among whom she lives. That's it. That's all there is. That is the foundation, if it can be described as such, of language. It's a pragmatic adaptation of a pre-existing faculty, or perhaps a specialized language-organ in humans, doesn't matter which, that is under no constraint whatsoever to be justifiable, complete, or even self-consistent, so long as it works well enough to be useful.




So you're saying langauge is a game and words at the foundation of foundations have no meaning other than what a particular member wants them to mean?


What's the meaning of meaning?
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 2:27:54 PM

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fred wrote:
So you're saying language is a game and words at the foundation of foundations have no meaning other than what a particular member wants them to mean?

Well, game here is used in a technical rather than general sense, so it would be inaccurate to present my position as that language is "just" a game, if that's where you're going with this. And the phrase "a particular member wants them to mean" misses the point entirely--which is that language exists only in relationship, that the notion of private (or objective) meaning is incoherent in the same way that the notion of playing tennis with yourself is incoherent.

fred wrote:
What's the meaning [use] of meaning [mention]?

Could you please phrase that in a different way? It would be helpful if you could refrain from using the word for which you are asking a definition in your question. Thanks.
fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 3:06:08 PM
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Luftmarque wrote:
fred wrote:
So you're saying language is a game and words at the foundation of foundations have no meaning other than what a particular member wants them to mean?

Well, game here is used in a technical rather than general sense, so it would be inaccurate to present my position as that language is "just" a game, if that's where you're going with this. And the phrase "a particular member wants them to mean" misses the point entirely--which is that language exists only in relationship, that the notion of private (or objective) meaning is incoherent in the same way that the notion of playing tennis with yourself is incoherent.

fred wrote:
What's the meaning [use] of meaning [mention]?

Could you please phrase that in a different way? It would be helpful if you could refrain from using the word for which you are asking a definition in your question. Thanks.


If language is a game, as you have called it, why are you suggesting that I'm directing this discussion to a certain predetermined point?
fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 3:35:30 PM
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Luftmarque wrote:


fred wrote:
What's the meaning [use] of meaning [mention]?

Could you please phrase that in a different way? It would be helpful if you could refrain from using the word for which you are asking a definition in your question. Thanks.


I can do that for you.
I find that using the same word forces thinking to be more circuitous- taking it out of linear path reason.
Luftmarque
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 3:48:48 PM

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fred wrote:
If language is a game, as you have called it, why are you suggesting that I'm directing this discussion to a certain predetermined point?

Sorry, I was not aware that I had done that. Perhaps in assuming that you are attempting to elicit a satisfactory definition of the word meaning... is that the predetermined point of which you speak? Didn't think I was suggesting that, I thought that was a given. But that does bring up an interesting question: Is there a predetermined point towards which you would like to direct this discussion? You don't have to tell... just curious.

But, fair enough, this topic does seem to be much more in the nature of a traditional game than an earnest attempt to define meaning. It's fun in any case! (At least to me, and at least for now.) I'll stop using game to describe language--the gamelike aspects of which (rules, takes more than one to play, turn-taking, et al.) are probably uncontroversial Liar .
fred
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2009 4:12:38 PM
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Luftmarque wrote:
fred wrote:
If language is a game, as you have called it, why are you suggesting that I'm directing this discussion to a certain predetermined point?

Sorry, I was not aware that I had done that. Perhaps in assuming that you are attempting to elicit a satisfactory definition of the word meaning... is that the predetermined point of which you speak? Didn't think I was suggesting that, I thought that was a given. But that does bring up an interesting question: Is there a predetermined point towards which you would like to direct this discussion? You don't have to tell... just curious.

But, fair enough, this topic does seem to be much more in the nature of a traditional game than an earnest attempt to define meaning. It's fun in any case! (At least to me, and at least for now.) I'll stop using game to describe language--the gamelike aspects of which (rules, takes more than one to play, turn-taking, et al.) are probably uncontroversial Liar .


If there is a point to this conversation, it is this, we are discussing the English language on this forum and no one knows the meaning of "Meaning". Don't you think this is outrageous? I'm simply asking questions to discover what "Meaning" is.

What is the meaning of "Meaning"?
If there is no meaning to words, how does language work?
If there is some sort of wavering middle ground of meaning, how does that work? What influences the wavering.
How is it the greatest poets use words that can have more than one meaning and still make some kind of sense.

Any way, just wondering.
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