back to the beginning: the limitations of language

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Sun Mar 07, 2021 7:15 pm

The Private Language Argument
Richard Floyd explains a notorious example of Wittgenstein’s public thought.

What Does Wittgenstein Say?

First, let’s look at Wittgenstein’s direct discussion of the concept of a private language. Having been introduced at §243, private language does not appear again until §256, where Wittgenstein questions what it means to associate a word/sign with a sensation. How does this association take place? How does the association of a name with a sensation lead to that name actually meaning the sensation?


First, of course, we have to agree on the meaning of "sensations":

"Sensations are often ascribed particular properties: of being conscious and inner, of being more immediate than perception, and of being atomic. In epistemology sensations have been taken as infallible foundations of knowledge, in psychology as elementary constituents of perceptual experience." Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Got that?

Then, assuming that we can all agree on the appropriate definition, there's the part where we connect that to any particular sensation that we experience in regard to a particular word that we either hear or use given a particular set of circumstances.

That part of course is nowhere to be seen in this article. Let alone how a distinction might be made between the language that we share begetting sensations that can be communicated back and forth intelligibly and a "private language" begetting private sensations that cannot.

This addresses an issue which has been simmering since Wittgenstein first defined a private language by saying “the individual words of this language are to refer to what can only be known to the person speaking; to his immediate private sensations.” Does this mean that the entire vocabulary of the language must consist of words referring to the speaker’s private sensations? How then could such a language have any grammatical structure? There are other problems too. In §257 Wittgenstein claims that the private definition of words lacks the “stage-setting” necessary for language to be meaningful:

“When one says 'He gave a name to his sensation' one forgets that a great deal of stage-setting in the language is presupposed if the mere act of naming is to make sense. And when we speak of someone’s having given a name to pain, what is presupposed is the existence of the grammar of the word pain; it shews the post where the new word is stationed.”


On the other hand, I may well be misunderstanding the point he is making here. Still, aside from the purely personal reasons that someone might feel motivates them to create and then to sustain a "private language", this choice either will or will not spill over into their interactions with others. And that either will or will not cause conflicts.

And it is focusing in on social, political and economic conflicts in the is/ought world that is the main interest of me. What then of a "private language"?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Tue Mar 16, 2021 6:19 pm

The Private Language Argument
Richard Floyd explains a notorious example of Wittgenstein’s public thought.

Why does Wittgenstein put forward the concept of a private language and attempt to destroy it immediately? What service would I have done to biology if I were to propose a theory known as ‘Gigantic Toad Theory’, suggesting that some enormous toad existed at some point in prehistory – only to respond myself that there is absolutely no evidence for such an idea and that the entire theory appears to be unfounded nonsense?


Yep. That's basically my own reaction to a private definition and a private meaning for words used in a private language. Sure, if, for whatever personal reason, you choose to do this, either keep it to yourself or attempt to communicate it to others who accept your own subjective codes.

Only if and when this communication has practical implications for those not able to decode the exchange would it become more problematic.

My point instead is that in regard to communication that revolves around conflicting goods, a kind of "private language" can lead to all manner of dire consequences. Your definition and your meaning of freedom and justice revolve around women being able to abort their unborn babies/clumps of cells, while for others they revolve around the unborn being brought into this world.

There are many possible interpretations of Wittgenstein’s motives, and I should be clear about the fact that my interpretation is not the correct one, just one of many possibilities.

One possibility is that he wished to either defend or attack behaviourism.


This behaviorism?

"...the theory that human and animal behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or feelings, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior patterns..."

Of course here language would seem to revolve around an amoral approach to human interactions. Being in a position of power to mold and manipulate -- condition -- human behaviors to serve your own wants and needs. Or the wants and the needs of "society". In that sense what you defend or attack can be seen as largely beside the point.

And language becomes "private" more in terms of "one of us" vs. "one of them".
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Sat Mar 27, 2021 7:20 pm

Question of the Month
How Does Language Work?
The following answers to the question of linguistic meaning each win a random book.

The human vocal tract can make a wide range of sounds, which allows us to move beyond the grunts and shrieks of our primate cousins, at least some of the time. As many as fifty regions in the human brain are involved in language, controlling the complex movements needed to produce speech, translating vibrations in the air into neural activity in the brain to hear, and manipulating the symbols that make up the thoughts and ideas of our minds to reason. These adaptations of the individual are all necessary for full language use, but language isn’t much use to a solitary individual, and would never have arisen were we not a social species.


Clearly then the starting point in regard to any discussions of human language are the biological imperatives necessary to create the sounds we call words. It's like trying to imagine the "human condition" had there not been the mutations that led to opposable thumbs. Some things are [on a fundamental level] our genes all the way down. At least to begin with.

So, sans any particular birth defects, we all come into the world with the capacity to make those sounds that become words that are able to communicate the sort of information and knowledge that accounts for the existence of human history.

What's left then, after accepting this, is focusing in on all the reasons why, if this is the case, there are in the historical record so many instances of our "failure to communicate". Precipitating any number of conflicts up to and including world wars.

Sounds alone, of course, are not enough to create meaning, since a non-English speaker won’t understand the word ‘cat’ although they hear the sound. Language works by attaching a symbol e.g. ‘cat’ to the idea of a cat, which itself is produced by the reality to which it refers (i.e., a cat). When language doesn’t work, we can sometimes revert to pointing – say, at a cat. But this also requires shared intentionality, ie, a common recognition that the pointing is about something. This perhaps tells us something about the origins of language, and how language works at a very basic level. The small bands of hunter-gatherers who first developed language would have first pointed to animals and objects in their environment. But given that making physical movements in the line of sight of a predator is dangerous, it’s far better to represent that action with a sound that can be whispered, like “Lion!”

Jon Wainwright


Again, if you keep all of this philosophical "analysis" anchored to the either/or world -- cats and lions -- you can manage to communicate with a minimal amount of dysfunction. After all, these points will certainly seem reasonable to most of us. But if the discussion shifts to contexts that members of, say, Peta are more inclined to pursue -- how ought human beings treat other animals? -- you can whisper or shout your points all day long and the communication can continue to break down.

Why?

That's my own interest in language here.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Mon Apr 05, 2021 5:18 pm

Question of the Month
How Does Language Work?
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Ivan Trengrove, Victor Harbor, South Australia

Fish swim, birds fly, and people talk.


Talking however is only really useful to a species that has many different things to talk about. A species that thinks on a level far, far beyond fish and birds. Or even chimpanzees. While most species of animals are able to communicate with sounds, they don't invent philosophies to to talk about on the internet.

How do we display this talent for language? As Noam Chomsky argued, for language to work, there must be an innate biological linguistic capacity. We are born with a ‘universal grammar’ in our brains, which is the initial condition through which the grammars of specific languages arise, and which allows us to learn particular languages.


No doubt about it. Biological imperatives are the starting blocks. We only communicate as we do here because whatever is behind the biological evolution of life itself, has culminated in the human species here on planet Earth. But, again, biology is behind all species of animals. With our own however the communication becomes considerably more...problematic?

For example:

This is the prime mover for all language. There are many other essential components in how language works: phonetics, morphology, etymology, pragmatics, graphology, lexicography and semiotics, to name but a few.


But a few indeed. And that's because it's not only the technical aspect of language communication that explodes in complexity among our own species...but the actual subjects that we can talk about as well. The part where social, political and economic memes come into play. Anthropology, ethnography, sociology, psychology, political science, philosophy, ethics and on and on.

In other words, the part where communication begins to break down and distinctions can be made between objective truths and subjective opinions.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Fri Apr 16, 2021 7:39 pm

Question of the Month
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Philosophy Now Magazine

Madeleine Maggs, Basingstoke, Hampshire

We could take the word ‘fork’, for example, and learn to say it and spell it in a variety of foreign languages. We could even make up our own word. However, regardless of the variety of identifying signs we could use, our understanding of the word remains. We quickly realise that simply ‘identifying and naming’ is not how language works. How then, when learning a language, is it that we understand what the words mean?


Or we could take the word "freedom". Or "justice".

My point of course is that we can discuss them as we do "fork". But a fork is an actual thing. Something invented for a specific purpose. Whereas "freedom" and "justice" are less objective things than attempts to encompass our subjective reaction to particular sets of circumstances which trigger behaviors which trigger consequences that some will embrace and others will not. Some will insist that their freedom to own guns outweighs the wishes of those who wish to be free to live in a community where guns are not allowed to be owned.

What constitutes justice here?

There is a big difference between saying that legally the Indianapolis gunman was free to purchase a gun and that morally he ought to have been free to purchase a gun.

Wittgenstein advocated the idea that an account of the meaning of a word cannot be given without looking at the part the word plays in our lives and speech behaviour.


And then in differentiating those parts that we all share in common such that particular words have the same meaning "for all practical purposes" and the parts that are rooted more in the arguments that I make about the subjective/subjunctive "I".

Thus the part where "my language" is able to be or not to be effectively intertwined in "your language" given a situation that we both share.

I just go considerably further out on the limb when I speak of my own moral and political value judgments as being "fractured and fragmented".
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Sun Apr 25, 2021 6:34 pm

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J.I. Hans Bakker, semioticsigns.com, Canada

The basic answer is that language works if the people engaged are members of the same interpretive community or network. But it is useful to ask: When does language not work?


It seems rather simple for some. Two or more people are trying to communicate something, anything...given their interactions out in this or that world. Interactions that in particular revolve around the "for all practical purposes" necessity to subsist.

So, language works if they are successful in communicating their wants and needs. Language does not work if they are not successful. Then back to the distinction that I make in regard to communication in the is/ought world.

Thus, philosophically...

Two people using the same language can misunderstand one another. Indeed, Person A and Person B may not even grasp the fact they do not fully understand one another. But if it becomes obvious to them, then A may think that B is using words (such as ‘God’) incorrectly. A may say that B is making a ‘semantic’ mistake. A neo-pragmatist linguist influenced by C.S. Peirce might correct A, and say that B is making a ‘pragmatic’ mistake. The linguist will argue that every sign requires both an interpretive community (the interpretant) and an operational definition of the meaning and applicability of that sign (the representant). Hence, there is a triadic (three-way) relationship between a sign, its semantics (its commonly understood meaning) and its pragmatics (the ways in which people use the sign). This triad can then constitute a dialectical progression, where what was once the interpretant may become the representant, and so forth.


These intellectual contraptions can become nothing short of, well, unintelligible. All of the technical aspects derived from logic and epistemology that allow us to explore human communication in ways that may or may not be relevant to actual human interactions. And I don't pretend to be able to make the proper distinction. All I can do is to ask those who think that they can to bring their conclusions to the arguments I make in my signature threads in regard to "morality here and now".
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Fri May 14, 2021 7:17 pm

Question of the Month
How Does Language Work?
The following answers to the question of linguistic meaning each win a random book.
Philosophy Now Magazine

Colin Brookes, Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire

Language works by virtue of the relationships between it, us, our minds, and the world.


I would merely come back to the distinction here between the language that we use in our existential, intersubjective interactions that involve conflicting moral and political value judgments, and the language that we use that seems to convey essential, objective truths in the either/or world.

The philosophies of the later Wittgenstein and of John Searle underpin this idea. We invest language with meaning by using the various representational functions of words strung together through the application of grammar, punctuation and syntax. As for the meaning of ‘representation’, it is helpful to borrow from the vocabulary of semiotics, the science of signs. Ferdinand de Saussure, a founder of semiotics, points out that a signifier, say the word ‘horse’, when used, brings to mind the concept ‘horse’ – the signified. The horse itself, the thing that can kick you, is the referent.


Unfortunately, this distinction does not appear to be the primary concern here. Instead, it seems to treat language as though, technically, philosophers -- postmodern or otherwise -- first need to grasp it within the confines of logic and epistemology. And I certainly don't dispute the importance of this. I merely ask those who come to particular conclusions here to take those conclusions out into the world that we live in from day to day and note how those conclusions are applicable to the distinction that I make.

The separation of signifier, signified and referent may be misleading. This is brought out where referents are absent. Take abstract words such as, ‘contrary’ and ‘mitigation’. There is nothing to point to – but more importantly, we cannot grasp their meaning without the word.


How about this: In using the word "contrary" and "mitigation" you include a context in which it becomes far, far clearer why those words were used. John believes sport hunting is a good thing. On the contrary, says Jim, it is a bad thing. Then an in depth discussion regarding their reasons why.

John has been convicted of a crime. At the penalty phase witnesses are called to present mitigating circumstances to lessen his sentence. But others are called to present aggravating circumstances in order to lengthen it instead. How hard here is it to distinguish signifiers, signifieds and referents?

Try thinking of the meaning of ‘contested’ without bringing the word itself to mind. With such abstractions, meanings and the words standing for them fuse. So in an important sense, language use is virtually inseparable from what we intend to convey – signifiers co-exist with their signifieds and their referents. This is apparent when we try to learn a word: we use the word fluently when meaning and word appear no longer separate, but rather to coalesce.


You tell me what the philosophical significance of this is given a particular contested context. Either the meaning and word are communicated together effectively or they are not.

Or, sure, I'm missing the point altogether such that unless I grasp the technical meaning here, I may well completely misconstrue important aspects of human interaction.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Mon May 24, 2021 6:10 pm

Question of the Month
How Does Language Work?
The following answers to the question of linguistic meaning each win a random book.
Philosophy Now Magazine

Frank S. Robinson, Albany, NY

In addressing the question, I want to extend it to How does language work in the human mind? Outside that context, language is fairly straightforward: it’s portraying information via symbols called words, and combining them in structures via grammatical rules. Any system doing these things is a language. A computer does this, producing linguistic output: but it cannot understand it the way a human mind does (thus the Turing test for distinguishing between the two). That difference is the key to this difficult question.


In fact, the difference may well be so vast there really is no answer that any language on Earth will ever be able to encompass. And even then only presuming that both the question and the answer are not embedded ineffably in a wholly determined universe.

The difficulty is elucidated by our wondering what it might be like to think without language, and sometimes struggling to put thoughts into words. What, exactly, is the thing (thought, perception, idea, feeling) that precedes its own linguistic expression?


Well, without language every communication would seem to revolve around "show me". If you wished to convey to a neighbor that a storm had blown down a tree in your backyard and you didn't want to have to take him down the block to your yard to show him, we would need to invent something like hand gestures or finger movements or facial expressions that would then become the abstract shortcuts that words convey for us now.

A computer represents information by encoding it using a binary system of ones and zeroes. Our brains must do something roughly analogous using neurons, although we haven’t yet cracked the code. And there are important differences between brains and computers. Neurons don’t only function like a computer’s simple one/zero logic gates: many respond only to specific stimuli or sensory inputs. But the biggest difference (and why computers fail the Turing test) is that computers lack a self – which could be called a meta-program to make sense of linguistic output.


Unless of course human brains [and the language we use here to discuss them] are just nature's own equivalent of ones and zeros. But what always interest me about this "self" [and whatever language any particular one of them chooses to use] is the part where unlike computers that, correctly programmed, are in sync with what is objectively true in the either/or world, there does not appear to be a way to program our own brains so as to be correct in regard to the words used in arguments revolving around, say, this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

Especially once the language used is not part of a thought experiment but involves an actual situation in which the lives of flesh and blood human beings are at stake. Or think Kant and that knock on the door. Tell the truth or not?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Meno_ » Mon May 24, 2021 8:25 pm

very simply, objective criteria follow a calculus of spatial varience that concurrently changes the supposed lowest platformal foundation.

The language changes very imperceptively, as the idea of reception and projection allow, namely on the persistent dialectical ground.

The resulting image template like a lens, adjusts for a reasonable circle of light through the expanding and contracting pupil., that translates automatic mechanical varience to axiomatically adjusted meaning.


That does not differentiate between the functional and the thougought experiment as testing it'self.

Every linguistic usage then, is based on very delicate micro experiments. They contain calculated functional, yet imperceptible tests for missing elemental foundations.

That is why calculation always rests on continuous retests between various minima-maximal; and seemingly static , primitive, overgeneralized concepts with the degrees relating to the mist complex variences.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Mon May 24, 2021 8:33 pm

Meno_ wrote:very simply, objective criteria follow a calculus of spatial varience that concurrently changes the supposed lowest platformal foundation.

The language changes very imperceptively, as the idea of reception and projection allow, namely on the persistent dialectical ground.

The resulting image template like a lens, adjusts for a reasonable circle of light through the expanding and contracting pupil., that translates automatic mechanical varience to axiomatically adjusted meaning.


That does not differentiate between the functional and the though as testing it'self.

Every linguistic usage then, is based on very delicate micro experiments. They contain calculated functional, yet imperceptible tests for missing elemental foundations.

That is why calculation always rests on continuous retests between various minima-maximal; and seemingly static , primitive, overgeneralized concepts with the degrees relating to the mist complex variences.


Exactly!!! :lol:
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Meno_ » Tue May 25, 2021 12:31 am

iambiguous wrote:
Meno_ wrote:very simply, objective criteria follow a calculus of spatial varience that concurrently changes the supposed lowest platformal foundation.

The language changes very imperceptively, as the idea of reception and projection allow, namely on the persistent dialectical ground.

The resulting image template like a lens, adjusts for a reasonable circle of light through the expanding and contracting pupil., that translates automatic mechanical varience to axiomatically adjusted meaning.


That does not differentiate between the functional and the though as testing it'self.

Every linguistic usage then, is based on very delicate micro experiments. They contain calculated functional, yet imperceptible tests for missing elemental foundations.

That is why calculation always rests on continuous retests between various minima-maximal; and seemingly static , primitive, overgeneralized concepts with the degrees relating to the mist complex variences.


Exactly!!! :lol:




meno_ says:


"That does not differentiate between the functional and the though as testing it'self."


Error: it should read: "that dies nit differentiate between the functional and the thought experiment as testing it's self"



I understand Iambigious the problem with this hinges between a sense of what I mean and the sense of down to earth philosophy, to me down to earth is at varience with what the cumulative sense of it's meaning may be, and that is , i believe the primary difference.

Objectively speaking the common sense of 'bringing it down to reality' may be fractured into the nihilism You espouse.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Tue May 25, 2021 3:23 am

Meno_ wrote:
"That does not differentiate between the functional and the though as testing it'self."


Error: it should read: "that dies nit differentiate between the functional and the thought experiment as testing it's self"


I understand Iambigious the problem with this hinges between a sense of what I mean and the sense of down to earth philosophy, to me down to earth is at varience with what the cumulative sense of it's meaning may be, and that is , i believe the primary difference.

Objectively speaking the common sense of 'bringing it down to reality' may be fractured into the nihilism You espouse.


Perhaps someday in language that I can actually understand -- and I'm not the only one here who would note this -- you will finally come clean as to what motivates you to post the sort of things that you did above. It's mostly just gibberish to me but, sure, maybe not.

You won't bring what I deem to be your obtuse assessments "down to earth" given particular sets of circumstances. And there is always the possibility it's just a Alan Sokal character that you are playing here. Exposing the "intellectual contraptions" of those like Satyr, Magnus, Parodites and others here. Or, sure, maybe a "condition".

And I suspect that English is not the language that you grew up with...so there's always the part that this might play.

But if it is none of the above and you actually are convinced that your points are intelligible, what I wouldn't give to borrow that machine Maia and I talk about...the one where we are both hooked up to it and I am actually able to understand what motivates you to post what you do here on the philosophy board.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Dan~ » Tue May 25, 2021 4:29 am

Language works by virtue of the relationships between it, us, our minds, and the world.

I would merely come back to the distinction here between the language that we use in our existential, intersubjective interactions that involve conflicting moral and political value judgments, and the language that we use that seems to convey essential, objective truths in the either/or world.

Why are you always talking about conflicting goods?
Just because something is conflicting doesn't make it some universal paradox,
that you need to constantly worry about.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Tue May 25, 2021 5:23 am

Dan~ wrote:
Language works by virtue of the relationships between it, us, our minds, and the world.

I would merely come back to the distinction here between the language that we use in our existential, intersubjective interactions that involve conflicting moral and political value judgments, and the language that we use that seems to convey essential, objective truths in the either/or world.

Why are you always talking about conflicting goods?
Just because something is conflicting doesn't make it some universal paradox,
that you need to constantly worry about.


Okay, let's explore this in regard to a moral conflagration that we are all likely to be familiar. One side embraces one set of behaviors while the other side embraces another, conflicting set of behaviors .

Now, of course, if we could come up with the language [philosophical or otherwise] that did indeed encompass a universal moral truth here than all rational and virtuous people would be obligated to embody it. Or, if they chose not to, it could at least be established that they were wrong not to.

The Humanist equivalent of God and Judgment Day?

Don't you read the heated exchanges here between, among others, the liberals and the conservatives, the capitalists and the socialists on the Society, Government, and Economics board.

Don't the moral objectivists -- the fulminating fanatics -- at both ends of the political spectrum often become infuriated when "the other side" refuses to "see the light".

And what is this light if not their conviction that their own value judgments do in fact reflect their own rendition of a universal moral agenda.

You pick the conflagration.

Straight out of the headlines for example.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby Dan~ » Tue May 25, 2021 5:31 am

So what if people disagree on things?
That was bound to happen.
A world without disagreement is not possible / real.
Both random and non random shapes the mind and beliefs.
Not all ideas are compatible.
That is obvious.
Toddlers know this stuff.

"The sky is blue.", uh oh, im a big bad objectivist.
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Tue May 25, 2021 4:46 pm

Dan~ wrote:So what if people disagree on things?
That was bound to happen.
A world without disagreement is not possible / real.
Both random and non random shapes the mind and beliefs.
Not all ideas are compatible.
That is obvious.
Toddlers know this stuff.

"The sky is blue.", uh oh, im a big bad objectivist.


I'm sorry, but we'll still need an actual context in which to explore yet another of your "general description intellectual contraptions".

I may as well be having this discussion with Satyr. :wink:
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

Start here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=176529
Then here: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=185296
And here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=194382
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Wed Jun 02, 2021 5:13 pm

Question of the Month
How Does Language Work?
The following answers to the question of linguistic meaning each win a random book.
Philosophy Now Magazine

James Malcolm, West Molesey, Surrey

The words of which language is composed have ‘dictionary’ or definitional meanings. For a computer these meanings are irritatingly precise, and a computer will respond exactly as commanded. But most words incorporate nuances of meaning and so may be understood by a human audience in a number of ways according to the experience of the user and the context.


Now you're talking: That distinction.

I come across it all the time here. I'm challenged to define a particular word. That way -- technically -- we can all be on the same page. The part where subjective nuances come in however is the part where we actually use the words in our interactions with others from day to day.

But even here I am clear about another distinction: defining words used in the either/or world and words used in the is/ought world. Words used to describe objective facts and words used to encompass personal opinions.

The part the objectivist among us fuse into "my way or the highway".

The key to language lies in the agencies using language. Try thinking of yourself and others as musical instruments. Language is the tool by which the instruments are tuned to each other. The particular language code is immaterial; language works through its effect on the attuned audience. Language works best when a speaker is able to find the tunes the audience can recognize, including for communication with other species.


Of course there are the musical instruments that Neil Young used here: https://youtu.be/m5FCcDEA6mY

And the instruments used by Lynyrd Skynyrd here: https://youtu.be/ye5BuYf8q4o

The same instruments by and large. And the language spoken is the same: English.

But then the part where those on both sides insist the other side is out of tune in regard to any number of things. What about the limitations of language then?

Or, philosophically...

Each linguistic exchange generates thought in the listener, which most likely will not be identical with the thought of the speaker. The listener will assemble her understanding still using words, and often with new insight. The response will show how well the audience understood, and further modify the thinking of the speaker. Successive exchanges may be needed to achieve perfect understanding between the parties. Over a lifetime, each one of us becomes attuned to the general intention of a steadily increasing vocabulary, and will modify our own. So language works by successively re-tuning understanding between participants. Sadly, it works only in part.


On the other hand, there's still the distinction here that I keep coming back to. The part where language works because it can work and the part where it may not ever be able to work.
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

Start here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=176529
Then here: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=185296
And here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=194382
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Re: back to the beginning: the limitations of language

Postby iambiguous » Sat Jun 12, 2021 6:35 pm

Question of the Month
How Does Language Work?
Philosophy Now Magazine

Jim Farrer, Kirriemuir, Scotland

Schopenhauer divided our mental representations into the intuitive – the whole of sensual experience – and the abstract – concepts facilitated by reason.


And we've been squabbling over where to draw the line ever since. In fact, one suspects, ever since the first philosopher centuries ago insisted that others are obligated to draw it in the same place that he does. And that's before the subjunctive "I" starts in on collecting, assessing and then ranking all of the hopelessly conflicting religious, ideological and deontological assumptions.

Reason has speech as its “first product and necessary instrument” and its most important achievements are attained through language, which is only indirectly related to perception, via concepts.


Here too however the rest is history. In other words, what on earth does language of this sort convey to me that it does not convey to you or to others? I keep coming back to "we'll need a context, of course", but, okay, you tell be a better alternative. The tools are there for all of us: language, perceptions, concepts. So why throughout history have we only been able to embrace reason as it pertains to the either/or world. Why not the other one?

Instead...

Concepts reside in what neuroscientist Endel Tulving calls ‘semantic memory’ which connects ideas to objects. E.O. Wilson sees concepts as units of human culture, describing a concept as a “node of semantic memory and its correlates in brain activity” (Consilience, p.148, 1998). He reminds us that even if our lexical communication were removed, we’d still have “a rich paralanguage that communicates… basic needs: blushing… facial expressions… postures… our primate heritage.” Wilson also reminds us that language conveying information constructs culture, and that some think that this culture has acquired “emergent properties no longer connected to the genetic and psychological processes that initiated it.” Individual minds could then be seen as building blocks which can generate regularities in a functioning language environment. Configurations of these units then become meaning generators at a higher scale of organization, that is, on a cultural level.


Everything you need to know about lanaguage...except its profound limitations when it comes to what, in my view, is the most important philosophical question of them all: How ought one to live?

What about "these units then become meaning generators at a higher scale of organization, that is, on a cultural level" in the world of conflicting goods?
He was like a man who wanted to change all; and could not; so burned with his impotence; and had only me, an infinitely small microcosm to convert or detest. John Fowles

Start here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=176529
Then here: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=185296
And here: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=194382
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