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Thread: I know I am, but what are you?

  1. #1 I know I am, but what are you? 
    Forum Masters Degree samcdkey's Avatar
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    Has anyone stopped in the middle of a conversation realising that there were two unrelated parallel conversations going on, unrelated to each other, while a third, apparent conversation was being held which was made up of soundbites that ultimately had no meaning, because neither of the party having the conversation was present?

    And if that is too dense, do you know what you mean when you say anything? can you deconstruct your statements and find that they match standard definitions, or do you use words simply because they sound right, regardless of what they might really mean?

    I've had the pleasure of discovering that you can misinterpret people because they do not know the meaning of the words they use and will refuse to acknowledge this fact unless cornered on it. Which means that you cannot really take a person at his word because they may have personal meanings assigned to it, to which you may not be privy.

    But you don't know this, until and unless you define every word they use for them, as well as every word you use for them. So both people should converse ideally with a dictionary to ensure that they are literally, on the same page.

    In the age of the internet highway, netspeak, multiculturalism and globalisation, not to mention cross cultural differences in concept formation, what does the definition of a concept mean?

    I assume this topic comes under epistemiology [i.e. knowledge = that] but if it is better suited elsewhere, please move it.


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  3. #2  
    墨子 DaBOB's Avatar
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    I hate dictionaries. How do you think words in a dictionary were defined? The exact same way they are in speaking. Someone uses them a certain way and catalogs them in a book called a dictionary. Most discussion has more understanding than the literal meaning of words. I can convey a message to someone while only using the beginning of a sentence or even just body language. Just about all meanings are uncertain. If you are terribly worried by it you could attempt to agree upon meanings with your conversation partner, but, then you have to discuss the meanings of the words describing the meanings as well. Eventually you come to a point where you are using gestures and other non-verbal types of defining meaning because the use of words is insufficient. And still, you will ultimately find that there is not single understanding of a word.


    Idioms like: "Bob's your uncle," or "learn the ropes," etc. are obvious examples of cases in which the "literal" meaning of words has nothing to do with the actual combined meaning of the words and/or sounds.


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    Time Lord
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    I find ideas originating in logical, semantic, abstract minds, elusive. Chomsky, the linguist, I find hardly intelligible.

    Personally, my thoughts are literal, spacial, oriented on the tangible. I can't grasp anything unless it's subject to physical metaphorical manhandling. For example "learn the ropes" suggests complexity of ship rigging. Another person might think it means performance in a hierarchy. And there I go: I'm thinking the form of a pyramid now.

    Word definitions matter less to people who think as I do. Because we're sharing physical metaphorical models, that obey physics, so the rules of "how it works" in my mind are the same in the other mind. We could stop talking and separately "run the simulation" to see how a thought must develop; we often arrive at the same result.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Masters Degree samcdkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    I find ideas originating in logical, semantic, abstract minds, elusive. Chomsky, the linguist, I find hardly intelligible.

    Personally, my thoughts are literal, spacial, oriented on the tangible. I can't grasp anything unless it's subject to physical metaphorical manhandling.
    Yes, I've often suspected that this was a problem. Many people are literalists and are unable to grasp the subtleties of conversational argumentation.

    But thats not what I am referring to here. I am referring to people who use words they do not know the meaning of, and then when you respond to them using the standard definitions of these terms, they disavow any responsibility for what they have said, by claiming they were not using the standard definition of the word

    i.e. they were using words with known meanings, and assigning them their own meanings.

    In this case how do you communicate with such people?
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    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by samcdkey
    i.e. they were using words with known meanings, and assigning them their own meanings.

    In this case how do you communicate with such people?
    A problem I've faced.

    A maxim I use: If two people are using the same word but giving it different meanings, then they're not communicating.

    Approaches I use:

    1. Use their definitions (and ask them for the words they'd use for the concept I'm expressing;

    2. Recognise that though this happens, it is not common - most words we use will have the same values for both;

    3. Give up, after a while, with someone who is too obstreperous to recognise any of this - the Darwin Awards will claim their own.
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