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Thread: What is the meaning of ‘meaning’?

  1. #1 What is the meaning of ‘meaning’? 
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    What is the meaning of ‘meaning’?

    A strange question in one sense but as fundamental a question as one needs to pursue in another sense.

    I would say that meaning is an emotion that I recognize when the emotion engendered by an inducer are reflected back to me in the form of feelings.

    I go to the theatre so that I can watch a movie while eating my pop-corn. A movie projector projects images on a screen for my entertainment.

    When I empathesize with an object, human or otherwise, I am searching for the emotion of ‘meaning’. My effort at empathy may or may not be successful. I internally view an objectification of my emotion if that emotion is triggered, which comes to me as feeling, as those feelings are reflected to me by the object into which I empathesize.

    “It is through feelings, which are inwardly directed and private, that emotions, which are outwardly directed and public, begin their impact on the mind; but the full and lasting impact of feelings requires consciousness, because only along with the advent of a sense of self do feelings become known to the individual having them.”

    First, there is emotion, then comes feeling, then comes consciousness of feeling. There is no evidence that we are conscious of all our feelings, in fact evidence indicates that we are not conscious of all feelings.

    What are the emotions? The primary emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust. The secondary or social emotions are such things as pride, jealousy, embarrassment, and guilt. Damasio considers the background emotions are well-being or malaise, and calm or tension. The label of emotion has also been attached to drives and motivations and to states of pain and pleasure.

    I would add meaning to this list of emotions.

    Antonio Damasio, Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Neurology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, testifies in his book “The Feelings of What Happens” that the biological process of feelings begins with a ‘state of emotion’, which can be triggered unconsciously and is followed by ‘a state of feeling’, which can be presented nonconsciously; this nonconscious state can then become ‘a state of feeling made conscious’.

    Human emotion and feeling pivot on consciousness; this fact has not been generally recognized prior to Damasio’s research. Emotion has probably evolved long before consciousness and surfaces in many of us when caused by inducers we often do not recognize consciously.

    The powerful contrast between emotion and feeling is used by the author in his search for a comprehension of consciousness. It is a neurological fact, states the author, that when consciousness is suspended then emotion is likewise usually suspended. This observed human characteristic led Damasio to suspect that even though emotion and consciousness are different phenomenon that there must be an important connection between the two.

    Damasio proposes “that the term feeling should be reserve for the private, mental experience of an emotion, while the term emotion should be used to designate the collection of responses, many of which are publicly observable.” This means that while we can observe our own private feelings we cannot observe these same feelings in others.

    Empirical evidence indicates that we need not be conscious of emotional inducers nor can we control emotions willfully. We can, however, control the entertainment of an emotional inducer even though we cannot control the emotion induced.

    I was raised as a Catholic and taught by the nuns that “impure thoughts” were a sin only if we “entertained’ bad thoughts after an inducer caused an emotion that we felt, i.e. God would not punish us for the first impure thought but He would punish us for dwelling upon the impure thought. If that is not sufficient verification of the theory derived from Damasio’s empirical evidence, what is?

    In a typical emotion, parts of the brain sends forth messages to other parts of the body, some of these messages travel via the blood stream and some via the body’s nerve system. These neural and chemical messages results in a global change in the organism. The brain itself is just as radically changed. But, before the brain becomes conscious of this matter, before the emotion becomes known, two additional steps must occur. The first is feeling, i.e. an imaging of the bodily changes, followed by a ‘core consciousness’ to the entire set of phenomena. “Knowing an emotion—feeling a feeling—only occurs at this point.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    Wot the 'eck is empathesize?

    Coberst me old mucker, in mod mode I'm going for this, yet again....

    I think you often have interesting ideas, but just as often have trite ones. The problem is not that ratio (because it falls to us all to be less than the gods), but in your lack of desire, or ability, to engage in constructive discussion post facto. This is why I created (and it's still at the top of this sub-forum) the poll I did, some time back.

    Please do us the favour of engaging in discussion without being patronising to others, and their ability to think critically, in your responses, and more importantly, engage in discussion of critiques of your posts.

    If you don't, the old strictures apply: you are still preaching. Get thee to a blog! This is a discussion board, not a lecture theatre.

    Resistance is feudal....


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    Kind of meaningless topic. Just reciting the dictionary really.



    One question Coberest, are you fluent in any other languages at all?
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  5. #4 Re: What is the meaning of ‘meaning’? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I would say that meaning is an emotion that I recognize when the emotion engendered by an inducer are reflected back to me in the form of feelings.
    Surely meaning is a perception of purpose or reason (or perhaps simply a sense of structure and pattern) for events that occur in one's life. A perception of lack of meaning may be an emotional response to chaos, or perhaps to negative emotions, and yet outsiders may see meaning in our lives when we (emotionally) are unable to.

    Nevertheless, surely 'meaning' is the manifestation of a sense of purpose .... whether this is something we impose on circumstances or not.
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fairy
    One question Coberest, are you fluent in any other languages at all?
    O just wanted to point out a possible error in your post. I think you meant to ask if coberst was fluent in any languages, rather than any other languages. Just a meaningless thought.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fairy
    Kind of meaningless topic. Just reciting the dictionary really.



    One question Coberest, are you fluent in any other languages at all?
    No, I have taken courses in Spanish, German and French but have forgotten everything that I learned.
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  8. #7 Re: What is the meaning of ‘meaning’? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I would say that meaning is an emotion that I recognize when the emotion engendered by an inducer are reflected back to me in the form of feelings.
    Surely meaning is a perception of purpose or reason (or perhaps simply a sense of structure and pattern) for events that occur in one's life. A perception of lack of meaning may be an emotional response to chaos, or perhaps to negative emotions, and yet outsiders may see meaning in our lives when we (emotionally) are unable to.

    Nevertheless, surely 'meaning' is the manifestation of a sense of purpose .... whether this is something we impose on circumstances or not.
    I think that you have given a pretty good statement about the word "meaning".

    "Meaning" is a very important concept for SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science).

    I think that many people fail to see the difference between the word "definition" and the word "meaning".

    What is the definition of the American flag?

    It has thirteen horizontal stripes of alternating white and red color. It has a blue rectangle in the upper left corner with rows of stars for a total of fifty; the rectangle is blue and the stars are white.

    What is the meaning of the American flag?

    I suspect that if we received 100 statements trying to answer this question we would receive 100 different meanings for the American flag.

    Does this tell us anything about the meaning of “meaning”?
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  9. #8  
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    Your opening post failed to make clear which meaning of meaning you would be discussing. Like most nouns in the English language it has mutliple meanings, most of which, while superficially similar, are significantly different.
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  10. #9 Re: What is the meaning of ‘meaning’? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Quote Originally Posted by free radical
    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    I would say that meaning is an emotion that I recognize when the emotion engendered by an inducer are reflected back to me in the form of feelings.
    Surely meaning is a perception of purpose or reason (or perhaps simply a sense of structure and pattern) for events that occur in one's life. A perception of lack of meaning may be an emotional response to chaos, or perhaps to negative emotions, and yet outsiders may see meaning in our lives when we (emotionally) are unable to.

    Nevertheless, surely 'meaning' is the manifestation of a sense of purpose .... whether this is something we impose on circumstances or not.
    I think that you have given a pretty good statement about the word "meaning".

    "Meaning" is a very important concept for SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science).

    I think that many people fail to see the difference between the word "definition" and the word "meaning".

    What is the definition of the American flag?

    It has thirteen horizontal stripes of alternating white and red color. It has a blue rectangle in the upper left corner with rows of stars for a total of fifty; the rectangle is blue and the stars are white.

    What is the meaning of the American flag?

    I suspect that if we received 100 statements trying to answer this question we would receive 100 different meanings for the American flag.

    Does this tell us anything about the meaning of “meaning”?
    You are asking leading questions to generate the response that 'meaning' has no meaning.

    Perhaps the concept of 'meaning' should be grouped with concepts such as 'health.' Perhaps it is a state of being.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Your opening post failed to make clear which meaning of meaning you would be discussing. Like most nouns in the English language it has mutliple meanings, most of which, while superficially similar, are significantly different.
    Meaning is a concept that forms the foundation of "embodied realism" a theory developed by SGCS.

    “What we [Lakoff and Johnson in “Philosophy in the Flesh”] take to be true in a situation depends on our embodied understanding of the situation.” The classical correspondence theory of truth “A statement is true when it fits the way things are in the world” is disembodied.

    There are at least three levels to what CS is calling the embodiment of concepts:
    Neural embodiment concerns structures that characterize concepts at the neural level. Phenomenological embodiment characterizes concepts of which we are conscious. Cognitive unconscious embodiment is the massive structure is what has to be hypothesized to account “to account for generalizations governing conscious behavior as well as a wide range of unconscious behavior.

    At the phenomenological level we perceive the “grass is green”. We perceive that green is ‘in’ the grass. We know from the neural point of view that color does not inhere in the objects themselves. Color is created by our cones, neural circuitry, and wavelengths of light together with ambient light. A scientific truth based upon our scientific knowledge would contradict what we know on the phenomenological level.

    Concept is the tag we attach to neural structures that facilitate the characterization of these categories into a form that allows us to reason about them. Human categories are structured in several different ways; these different ways are called prototypes.

    “Each prototype is a neural structure that permits us to do some sort of inferential or imaginative task relative to a category.” “Typical case-prototypes are used in drawing inference patterns about category members in the absence of any special contextual information. Ideal-case prototypes allow us to evaluate category members relative to some conceptual standard [ideal husband versus typical husband]. Social stereotypes are used to make snap judgements, usually about people.”

    Empirical guided research demonstrates that conceptual structures are intrinsically meaningful because these structures originate within the perception ability of the creature. The creature has within its sensorimotor system the ability to conceive and to infer in a manner similar to what we have always before recognized as being only an after the fact mental activity.

    Before metaphor theory there was a universal consent that conscious or unconscious intellectual activity accessed the sensations and perceptions of experience and from this data developed concepts, inferences, categories, i.e. that reason was disembodied and literal. Naturally all domains of knowledge assumed that that mind could be studied in terms of cognitive functions while ignoring any connection between brain and the rest of the body.

    This is the revolution upon which this whole theory rests, so I will try to be clear. When a creature perceives or moves in space, that creature has within the perception and movement system certain abilities that were considered to be totally and exclusively part of mind. Cognitive science has discovered that many of these capacities lay within the sensorimotor system itself. If we ask, how does reason enter within the evolutionary thread and eventually become the crowning feature of human kind? The answer is that the elementary glimmering of faculty of reason is part of the perception and movement structure of the most primitive creature.

    There are computer models designed to simulate human sensorimotor systems which when used to simulate reasoning capacity have proven to be able to do so.

    A linguist and a neural scientist have gathered sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that the same neural networks that controls human movement in space also controls the formulation of language. From this conclusion they logically hypothesize that all mental concepts, concrete and abstract, are controlled by such neural networks that control motor movements and sensory acquisition.

    This is a revolution in human knowledge as large as Darwin’s Theory, in my judgment. Think about it—we have a theory that allows us to ground all cognitive activity in fundamental innate neural networks that control all our action in the world.

    The neural mappings which are those that control human action are also the primary metaphors for cognitive conceptions. How I conceive the world is grounded in my ability to act in the world.

    The book is long and well written and presents an idea that is brand new. It requires much study but you can be at the birth of a new revolutionary paradigm if you make the effort to understand conceptual metaphor theory.
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  12. #11 Re: What is the meaning of ‘meaning’? 
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    Quote Originally Posted by free radical

    You are asking leading questions to generate the response that 'meaning' has no meaning.

    Perhaps the concept of 'meaning' should be grouped with concepts such as 'health.' Perhaps it is a state of being.

    Well said and close, but no cigar.

    I do very much like your statements "Perhaps the concept of 'meaning' should be grouped with concepts such as 'health.' Perhaps it is a state of being." I would add that meaning and comprehension are like Siamese twins; you can’t have one without the other.

    I would say that comprehension can usefully be compare with a pyramid in that awareness is at the base with consciousness following and with knowing following that and understanding at the pinnacle. Understanding is a far step beyond knowing and is the creation of new meaning.
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  13. #12  
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    Thank you coberst for defining what you meant by meaning.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Thank you coberst for defining what you meant by meaning.

    SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) has introduced new and revolutionary theories that I think will, in a few generations, become fundamental to our culture. Presently nothing in our culture prepares us to comprehend these theories and thus one must develop an intellectual life and attack these ideas without the aid of a teacher to take us by the hand and introduce us to it.

    New theories in the natural sciences are quickly examined and enter the culture when determined to be useful because there is often money to be made. Unfortunately new theories in the human sciences take generations to reach such cultural acceptance. That is why our human understanding lags far behind our use of technology. Darwin advises us that the species that cannot adapt fast enough will become toast.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Thank you coberst for defining what you meant by meaning.

    SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) has introduced new and revolutionary theories that I think will, in a few generations, become fundamental to our culture. Presently nothing in our culture prepares us to comprehend these theories and thus one must develop an intellectual life and attack these ideas without the aid of a teacher to take us by the hand and introduce us to it.

    New theories in the natural sciences are quickly examined and enter the culture when determined to be useful because there is often money to be made. Unfortunately new theories in the human sciences take generations to reach such cultural acceptance. That is why our human understanding lags far behind our use of technology. Darwin advises us that the species that cannot adapt fast enough will become toast.
    It appears that what you're speaking of is the philosophical concept of Intentionality. This concept is very important in modern philosophy of mind studies, along with connections to neuroscience etc.

    I'm not sure it's terribly original, though, what you're saying...
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  16. #15 The meaning of 'meaning' is... 
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    ...the association caused by the environment. In other words, when you see a string of letters, say 'apple' and next to it you see the real apple, that's when the connection appears in your mind. Therefore 'the real apple is the meaning of the word 'apple''. Easy!
    Stupid is trial and error. Mostly error.
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  17. #16  
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    What do you need to see next to the word alternative to make a connection? Or exemplary? Or uncertain?
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