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Putting flesh (meaning) on the bones (facts)

  1. Aug 31, 2008 #1
    Putting flesh (meaning) on the bones (facts)

    Imagine that you lived long ago and that you were blessed with an inquiring mind (depending upon the culture, of course, because in many cultures an inquiring mind might subject you to hostile crowds, Socrates for example).

    You are walking along the cliff edge high above the lake. You have in your hands both a small stone and a large stone. The smaller is about half the weight of the larger. You drop both stones at the same time into the water of the lake, and are astonished to see that both stones hit the water simultaneously. You are not only astonished but try the same thing many times before acknowledging as fact that the larger stone does not fall more quickly into the water than does the smaller stone.

    “It is in the passage from the bare recognition of each item presented as being just what it is, to its treatment as being in some sense not what it is , but what it may become or be used as, that psychic meanings as such arise.” James Mark Baldwin

    WAIT!! Do not give up and go on your way because I have quoted something that is not easily comprehended. Let us examine this very important statement and try to ascertain its “meaning”.

    I would say that in our imagined experience we could label the two stones held over the lake far below as qualifying to be “the bare recognition of each item presented”.

    What does Baldwin mean by the phrase “psychic meanings”?

    Psychic meaning becomes more easily clarified when we are trying to create an experience that displays a hypothetical determination. The psychic value of these objects individually is one thing, which is then supplemented when the combination of objects and situation are conjoined.

    We start with a simple combination of data from which we create a system that is available for the creation of something new and perhaps the repository of new meaning.

    Imagine a bell curve with one end being fact and the other end being meaning. When we perceive an object that object, that fact, becomes a tiny bit more than fact because I have apprehended it. Because I apprehend one object out of a world of objects that object gains some tiny bit of meaning to me. That act of apprehension creates meaning in some tiny fashion.

    One can imagine that particular fact becoming more meaningful to me for various reasons and the hypothetical experiment is a way of recognizing the process of a fact with a tiny bit of meaning becoming an object that is greatly meaningful to me and its factuality is barley significant.

    One can thus “see” a progression from total fact to total meaning. One can see a movement from an object having meaning to an object as being meaning.

    What is an instance of an object being total meaning?

    I was raised as a Catholic and I learned that the mass is a ritual through which a piece of bread becomes the body of Christ. To me and to most of similarly trained youngsters the receiving of Communion is not a factual experience but it is totally a meaning experience. The bread has lost all of its factuality and has become pure meaning. I suspect everyone has experiences that are similar.

    Can you think of a similar experience of a fact becoming total meaning in your life? I am speaking of an instance when a thing becomes what it SEEMS.

    Quotation from “Thought and Things: A study in the development of meaning of thought” James Mark Baldwin
  2. jcsd
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