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Re: [ontolog-forum] Triangles and meanings.

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: Rick Murphy <rick@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 05 Sep 2010 18:21:10 -0400
Message-id: <4C8417D6.1010407@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
On 8/24/2010 7:10 PM, Pat Hayes wrote:
> The basic question is, where do the meanings come from?    (01)

Meanings come from the the association of subject and predicate in one's 
consciousness to unify experience. By experience I mean more than 
processing external stimuli. The sense of the term consciousness I use 
includes non-waking states like dreams and the subconscious.    (02)

Though this may seem a stretch I'll also include "collective 
unconscious," or better "collective conscious." I'm a musician and I can 
speak directly to my experience with the collective conscious while 
improvising. Sports teams experience this too.    (03)

> What force or
> principle or social construct (or whatever the hell it is) is it that
> gives signs their meanings?    (04)

Experience. All the experiences we've had as individuals and as humans.    (05)

> The pithiest phrase is Searle's
> "original intentionality", a basic property of human minds which
> accounts for meaningfulness but is not itself reducible (except possibly
> to biology in some future extension of biological and psychological
> science.)    (06)

In Dennet's Evolution, Error and Intentionality [1] he argues against 
the relevance of distinguishing natural and functional meaning. While 
recognizing the remaining contradictions, as you suggest, he points to 
Darwin and Dawkins. But this raises an even more significant challenge 
in ethics.    (07)

"The same challenge could be put to Dawkins: how can it be wise to 
encourage people to think of natural selection as a watchmaker, while 
adding that this watchmaker is not only blind, but not even trying to 
make watches?"    (08)

1. http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/evolerr.htm    (09)

> Original intentionality plays the same kind of role in
> semiotic theory, in this view, that mass or electromagnetism play in
> physics: a basic 'force' to which other phenomena can be reduced but
> which itself has to be simply accepted as one of the building blocks of
> the fundamental theory.    (010)

I think that's OK. Well maybe not OK, but it's all we have. If we accept 
Dennet's arguments in [1] the triangle still offers a practical way to 
differentiate what I call extents. By extents I mean what's in the 
world, what's in the mind and what's in the machine. If you have a 
better name for this I'd appreciate you're suggestion.    (011)

As an example, I used the triangle here [2] to explain the meaning of 
the following phrase.    (012)

RC > "The first cold weather is a sign of the coming Fall and Winter in 
the Northern Hemisphere."    (013)

2. http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2010-08/msg00241.html    (014)

I think using the triangle to explain extents is important to establish 
a denotational semantics for the web. We talk a lot here about 
semantics, but both here and in W3C we typically don't differentiate 
denotational, operational and axiomatic semantics. I hope you'll agree 
those are important distinctions to make.    (015)

And you may find it funny that I keep the following statement at the top 
of my home page:    (016)

"The URI your browser de-referenced to render this page is not me."    (017)

> But now turn to modern cognitive science (CS), which is the only part of
> science that can claim to have even modest success at accounting for the
> cognitive functions which exhibit intentionality. CS treats the human
> mind as essentially dynamic information processing in the brain, viewed
> (at a suitably high level of abstraction) as a kind of biological
> computer.    (018)

Bad idea, JMHO. The map is not the territory.    (019)

> Not a Von Neumann machine, to be sure, but still an
> information processor which operates upon internal representations in
> some way.    (020)

I think I'm a couple of years younger than you, but I caught enough of 
what was happening back in the day that I remember the philosophy of 
Alan Watts.    (021)

http://pricklygoo.com/category/alan-watts/    (022)

There was a longer lecture to IBM engineers, but I can't get a good 
reference right now. I think his advice to those engineers still stands 
today: mechanism and organism are not the same. When we take the map for 
the territory, we take the first step towards simulacra. Anyway, Watts 
is more enjoyable than Baudrilliard who I hope found some peace before 
he died !    (023)

But before I assume too much about my own conclusions. It looks like you 
and Rod Burstall are old friends. Rod seems very positive on 
contemplative science and I wonder whether he'd share some of what he 
thinks about this topic. Joseph Goguen was pretty influential in the 
Journal of Consciousness Studies.    (024)

> I don't know how to resolve this problem. For myself, it amounts for me
> to a refutation of the traditional views of meaning, or at any rate a
> reduction of them to triviality.    (025)

I'm letting this one go, myself. In addition to the practical outcome of 
extents above, I show two separate paths in my version of the triangle. 
Its not possible to "jump the shark" between the outer metaphysical and 
inner existential path. It's only the outer path that takes the IT to 
the IS.    (026)

> So, sorry, but Aristotle and Pierce and
> Searle and a whole lot of other very distinguished minds were all wrong.
> Searle obviously thought that it was a refutation of modern cognitive
> science (I use the past tense as I havn't spoken with him on this topic
> for a long time.) Either way, it is a serious theoretical problem for
> folk in our profession who are busily using both the formal techniques
> and the ideas of CS while relying upon the traditional triangular view
> of meaning and intentionality.    (027)

I share your overall conclusion. Maybe I'm wrong, but my intent with the 
triangle is different.    (028)

In terms of moving on, in addition to differentiating denotational, 
operational and axiomatic semantics, for my work with Haskell I have 
taken an interest in the notation [[]] John Reynolds introduces here [3] 
as well as his work here [4] on types where he differentiates intrinsic 
and extrinsic semantics.    (029)

3. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~jcr/tpl.html
4. http://www.brics.dk/RS/00/32/BRICS-RS-00-32.pdf    (030)

> Comments? (Peter, if this is off-topic, please say so publicly and I
> will take comments off-list.)
> Pat Hayes    (031)

Rick    (032)

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