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Ok so wierd topic idea here.

  1. Nov 9, 2009 #1
    Blak oddark muttuma cantopole blajpherin spoatomy.

    Ok the above sentence is totaly meaningless but... What the idea of this is to find out why... <--- This means anything at all while the above does not.

    My idea is that you have less chance of misunderstanding me with the above like of gooble vs the stuff here below it. This is my thought... The above you will be fairly confident is meaningless... While this stuff below it you will suspect has meaning... But if it was that both are totaly meaningless you would be making an error when thinking this is meaningful while not making that mistake with the above.

    So basicaly my argument is that both the above line of gooble and this "the rest" is totaly meaningless... And that you have mistakenly thought of this as having meaning.

    So what is it that makes this stuff meaningful?
    What is it that makes the stuff above meaningless?
    What if this stuff is also meaningless? Is that even a possiblity?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2009 #2

    Well, i am happy to say your question is very important in philosophy, and many many people have commented on it.
  4. Nov 9, 2009 #3


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    I think you are making an important point -- the expectation that something might have meaning is a prerequisite to it's actually having meaning.

    The "error" would be thinking that any string of letters has meaning, all by itself. It may or may not have meaning to someone, if they can interpret it in a context of other things that are meaningful to them. But that's never going to happen unless they "suspect" it has meaning.

    So isn't this really what makes us humans different (so far as we know) from other animals? I.e. that from very early on in our lives we learn to "suspect" that the people and things around us have something to say, that's important for us to understand.
  5. Nov 9, 2009 #4
    What did you say about my mama?
  6. Nov 9, 2009 #5
    one way to assign meaning is in terms of truth. Donald davidson say that for all w in language L, if there is a function F such that F( w) = true for all w in L, then L is meaningful.
  7. Nov 9, 2009 #6
    I'll answer these to the best of my ability, with the knowledge that I have, and what I believe the answers would be. So it's pretty much all IMO :)

    So what is it that makes this stuff meaningful?

    The same thing that makes "Guten Tag! Kanst du verstehe mich?" meaningful to people who speak German, but gibberish to people who don't.

    You were raised/taught to understand "A, B, C, D, E.. etc" from an early age, and then to understand that putting certain letters together certain ways, within a certain set of rules, makes a certain concept understood by anyone taught the same way. So "The fox runs fast." only has meaning to those who were taught the meaning of the above concepts. If I wrote it "Fox the fast runs", you understand the words but not the meaning of the sentence... Except that your brain automatically makes connections between previously learned experiences, and the rules that were set into the associative part of your brain, and you could probably understand it anyway. So the fact that it's meaningful to you just means that you were previously given the needed education in the functions of that language, and you're able to make the connections between what's written and what was taught.

    What is it that makes the stuff above meaningless?

    Again, the same thing that makes "Y Ddraig Goch ddyry gychwyn" look like gibberish to anyone who doesn't speak Welsh :p

    What if this stuff is also meaningless? Is that even a possiblity?

    It's a possibility to anyone who doesn't understand the English language. I'm sure people who speak Welsh who have never seen English before would see the language and think it's just a bunch of their letters scrambled together.
  8. Nov 9, 2009 #7


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    Semiotics and second order cybernetics would give you a framework to make sense of what matters here.

    Note the key feature of your meaningless string of symbols. That is, they do take the form of a meaningless string of symbols.

    So being symbols, they are definite and atomistic. They have long-term stability. It is not like scribbles on water, they are marks that endure. And these marks also lack any intrinsic content, therefore any chosen content can become assigned to them. They stand as possible referents because they exist, but all reference itself has to come from the context, the system in which they are employed.

    So the lack of intrinsic content is key. The atom-like stability is key (alphabets which don't change). And then there is the fact we are dealing with a serial string, a 1D chain.

    This constraint on dimensionality is necessary to be able to freely combine symbols. It is just like the genetic code.

    If you just glued together letters in lumps, it would be very difficult to generate great variety. All letter lumps would look much the same. But as soon as you enforce serial order, you maximise the space of possible distinctive states. You have symbol strings that are clearly different even if different by just one letter. We know about bugs in computer code and defects in genes. But lumps - in the form of proteins produced from gene codes - can be reasonably varied and still do their job.

    It comes down to the systems slogan, constraints produce freedoms.

    By constraining natural meaning until you have meaningless, component-like symbols - marks on paper - you then create the maximum freedom for these marks to refer to any possible meanings.

    You move from the merely potential to the actually possible, to connect with recent discussions.

    And by also constraining the dimensionality of the manipulation of these symbols - their secondary relations to each other - you again maximise their combinatoric possibilities.

    So zero-D atoms combined in 1-D strings is obviously as low dimensional as it is possible to go and the reason why mechanism of this kind (words and rules, genes and transcription, tape and gate) have the maximally impressive possibility generating power.
  9. Nov 9, 2009 #8
    It is not meaningless because you are using to justify that it could be meaningless.
  10. Nov 9, 2009 #9
    Yes but you all miss my point the whole thing was meaningless! It had no real meaning cmon cant you believe it???
  11. Nov 10, 2009 #10

    Math Is Hard

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  12. Nov 10, 2009 #11
    Correspondence between signifier and signified.
    Lack of correspondence to anything.

    Blak doesn't signify anything to me.
    Black, the word, on the other hand, corresponds to a color, and a race, and a mood.
    Meaning depends on the audience, or the reader. If you don't understand english, if the words don't correspond to ideas, feelings, etc... then english is just squiggles.
  13. Nov 10, 2009 #12

    The brain. We are brains and we are essentially information processors. The way the brain is wired by nature/god/etc. is how you perceive meaning and significance. It probably had great survival advantages for animals that were able to predict and avert imminent threats.
  14. Nov 11, 2009 #13
    I would like to point out that if he, in fact, fails to pass on his original thought and the objective of his statement to the rest of us; that he would be correct in saying that the entire original post was "meaningless".
  15. Nov 16, 2009 #14


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    Meaningless and Meaningful are relative terms, as JoeDawg said.
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