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What is the meaning of ‘meaning’?

coberst

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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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meaning means meaning!

(sorry, I can't resist a bad joke)
 

Gipper

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Thus proving why anyone who majors in philosophy needs to die. They either become unemployable pseduo-intellectual blowhards...or lawyers.
 

coberst

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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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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.

Meaning is when something gives you information about it, that you are aware of it having an effect on your life. The more cultured you are the more meanings something will have for you. A mechanic will see meaning in an engine by seeing it as his duty, as his passion, as his problem, as the thing that makes him dirty, excetera excetera.

A kid will see a burger as a nice tasting thing, as a cool thing.

Meaning is where there are opinions about that thing. Things may have more than one meaning as I pointed out, and the more aware you are of the thing the more it means to you. What it means to you gives it meaning, that it generates reactions in your mind of course.
 

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Philosophy is bad for you.

You appear to have suffered an overdose already.
 

coberst

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Meaning is when something gives you information about it, that you are aware of it having an effect on your life. The more cultured you are the more meanings something will have for you. A mechanic will see meaning in an engine by seeing it as his duty, as his passion, as his problem, as the thing that makes him dirty, excetera excetera.

A kid will see a burger as a nice tasting thing, as a cool thing.

Meaning is where there are opinions about that thing. Things may have more than one meaning as I pointed out, and the more aware you are of the thing the more it means to you. What it means to you gives it meaning, that it generates reactions in your mind of course.



Meaning and comprehension are like Siamese twins; you can’t have one without the other.

Comprehension is a hierarchy, resembling a pyramid, with awareness at the base followed by consciousness, succeeded by knowing, with understanding at the pinnacle.

Meaning is necessary for understanding while understanding is the creation of new meaning. Understanding is a work of art

I have for some time been interested in trying to understand what ‘understand’ means. I have reached the conclusion that ‘meaning then curiosity’ is the first steps toward understanding. Without meaning we are curious about nothing. Once curiosity is in place then knowledge becomes possible and necessary for understanding.

Often I discover that the person involved in organizing some action is a person who has had a personal experience leading her to this action. Some person who has a family member afflicted by a disease becomes very active in helping support research in that disease, for example.

I suspect our first experience with ‘understanding’ may be our first friendship. I think that this first friendship may be an example of what Carl Sagan meant by “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy”.

I also suspect that the boy who falls in love with automobiles and learns everything he can about repairing the junk car he bought has discovered ‘understanding’.

I suspect many people go their complete life and never have an intellectual experience that culminates in the “ecstasy of understanding”. How can this be true? I think that our educational system is designed primarily for filling heads with knowledge and hasn’t time to waste on ‘understanding’.

Understanding an intellectual matter must come in the adult years if it is to ever come to many of us. I think that it is very important for an adult to find something intellectual that will excite his or her curiosity and concern sufficiently so as to motivate the effort necessary to understand.

Understanding does not come easily but it can be “a kind of ecstasy”.

I think of understanding as being a creation of meaning by the thinker. As one attempts to understand something that person will construct through imagination a model--like a papier-mâché--of the meaning. Like an artist painting her understanding of something. As time goes by the model takes on what the person understands about that which is studied. The model is very subjective and you and I may study something for some time and we both have learned to understand it but if it were possible to project an image of our model they would be unidentifiable perhaps by the other. Knowledge has a universal quality but not understanding.
 

MrFungus420

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Hmmm...wondering what a word means. Instead of vomiting up your ****, why not look in a dictionary:

"mean·ing
n.
1. Something that is conveyed or signified; sense or significance.
2. Something that one wishes to convey, especially by language: The writer's meaning was obscured by his convoluted prose.
3. An interpreted goal, intent, or end: "The central meaning of his pontificate is to restore papal authority" (Conor Cruise O'Brien).
4. Inner significance: "But who can comprehend the meaning of the voice of the city?" (O. Henry).
"

There you go. That wasn't too difficult, was it?
 

coberst

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Isn't knowledge what we understand?


We have all grown up to consider thought to be primarily a matter of language and propositions. We have not generally been taught this notion explicitly but have acquired it through social osmosis (picked it up without conscious effort because it is a notion that permeates our culture, i.e. it is a traditional notion). “…there is thought without language; this is possible because thought originates in our sense of spatial and kinesthetic orientation in the world.”

Common sense or, as cognitive science labels it, folk theory informs us that “all things are a kind of thing”. All things have in common with other things certain characteristics; i.e. all things belong in categories with other like things. Things are categorized together based upon what they have in common. It might be worth while to think of category as being a container.

In classical or conventional terms we categorize things in accordance with what are regarded as being that which is essential to that kind of thing. All things that are essentially the same fall into the same category. What is essential to a tree is that which is necessary and sufficient for that thing to be classified as a tree. To categorize a thing, i.e. define a thing, is to give its essential characteristics.

In some way or another all creatures must categorize. At a minimum all creatures must distinguish friend from foe or eat and not eat. Categorization is part of the fundamental needs for survival of the creature. If the mouse mistakes a snake for a stick that mouse becomes toast; the same categorization problem applies to the lion and to the man.

Categorization is meaningful. Meaning is not a thing; something is meaningful for a creature only when there is an association between that thing and the creature. “Meaningfulness derives from the experience of functioning as a being of a certain sort in an environment of a certain sort.” It is meaningful to a soldier when s/he mistakenly categorizes a tank to be only a harmless bush or an enemy to be a friend.

There is nothing more meaningful for a creatures’ survival than correct categorization of the world in which that creature lives.

Most all of us have heard the story of a group of blind men who were taken to touch an elephant to learn what elephants were like. Each of the blind men touched only one part of the elephant and then later, when comparing notes of what they felt, learned that they were all in complete disagreement as to what an elephant is. This story is useful for demonstrating how “reality” may be viewed based upon one’s perspective. That which often appears to be so obviously “true” may be just a matter of point of view.

Imagine now how the blind man, who had touched the leg of the elephant and “categorized” it as like a tree or the one who had touched the tail of the elephant and “categorized” it as like a rope, might change their “categorization” had they been given a ride sitting on top of the elephants back.

Scientists in the field of cognitive science inform us that categorization is neither consistently very abstract nor consistently very concrete. “It is rather consistently functional.” The first level of categorization is “followed by an endless process of further categorization which moves in both the abstract and the concrete direction.”

These scientists inform us that they have “found that there is a level of categorization that is psychologically basic in the sense that: (1) categories at his level are learned earliest and named first; (2) category names at this level are the shortest and most frequently used in the language (e.g. “dog”, “cat”, “ball”, “chair”, “car”, “dime”,); (3) things at this level are remembered more readily and identified more quickly; (4) items at this level are perceived holistically, as a singular gestalt, rather than identified by a specific, distinctive features; and (5) there tend to be distinctive motor programs for interacting with objects at this level.”

Human cognition is an embodied activity!


Quotes from A Clearing in the Forest: Law, Life, and Mind by Steven L. Winter director of the Center for Legal Studies at Wayne State University Law School
 

Geo Patric

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We have all grown up to consider thought to be primarily a matter of language and propositions. We have not generally been taught this notion explicitly but have acquired it through social osmosis (picked it up without conscious effort because it is a notion that permeates our culture, i.e. it is a traditional notion). “…there is thought without language; this is possible because thought originates in our sense of spatial and kinesthetic orientation in the world.”
whom are you quoting here? Winter? you have posted this in a number of places, lots and LOTS of places but nowhere attributed the specific source.
Common sense or, as cognitive science labels it, folk theory informs us that “all things are a kind of thing”. All things have in common with other things certain characteristics; i.e. all things belong in categories with other like things. Things are categorized together based upon what they have in common. It might be worth while to think of category as being a container.
not cognitive scientists and not 'folk theory', but Aristotle, principally in his Ethics, wherein he makes 'classifications', "genos" from which we get the term genus. Linnaeus used Aristotle's classifications ("genera", "species") in his more complete system. But Aristotle did not suggest meaning came from class - if anything, the other way around.

In classical or conventional terms we categorize things in accordance with what are regarded as being that which is essential to that kind of thing. All things that are essentially the same fall into the same category. What is essential to a tree is that which is necessary and sufficient for that thing to be classified as a tree. To categorize a thing, i.e. define a thing, is to give its essential characteristics.

here, we have shifted over to Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, but I would suggest that you (or someone.... whomever you are plaigarizing) is twisting his intents. again, essence according to Aristotle, does not derive from classification but the reverse.
Categorization is meaningful.

even if we have not yet said what "meaningful" means?
Meaning is not a thing; something is meaningful for a creature only when there is an association between that thing and the creature. “Meaningfulness derives from the experience of functioning as a being of a certain sort in an environment of a certain sort.” It is meaningful to a soldier when s/he mistakenly categorizes a tank to be only a harmless bush or an enemy to be a friend.
i would ask again whom you are quoting, but i can fill in the blanks here. This is Lakoff. It is fine sounding, but a little time spent with it leads one to a "HUH?... whaddidheSAY?"

This quote occurs in a passage that begins "meaning is not a thing; it is what involves what is meaningful to us. nothing is meaningful in itself. " Nice. Meaning is what is meaningful. It makes the point of what meaning is not and that it is subjective, but, hell, we knew that already, didn't we?

even if the value of a thing is subjective and even when the thing is only an abstract thing, if the thing itself cannot be qualified (not necessarily categorized) we are left still with the OP... what is the meaning of meaning.
There is nothing more meaningful for a creatures’ survival than correct categorization of the world in which that creature lives.
we don't know what it is but is sure is important. enough.... the rest is a rehash of familiar thinking.

geo.
 

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whom are you quoting here? Winter? you have posted this in a number of places, lots and LOTS of places but nowhere attributed the specific source.

even if we have not yet said what "meaningful" means?

geo.

At the end of the OP you will find this statement:

Quotes from A Clearing in the Forest: Law, Life, and Mind by Steven L. Winter director of the Center for Legal Studies at Wayne State University Law School


Meaning and comprehension are like Siamese twins; you can’t have one without the other.

Comprehension is a hierarchy, resembling a pyramid, with awareness at the base followed by consciousness, succeeded by knowing, with understanding at the pinnacle.

Meaning is necessary for understanding while understanding is the creation of new meaning. Understanding is a work of art

I have for some time been interested in trying to understand what ‘understand’ means. I have reached the conclusion that ‘meaning then curiosity’ is the first steps toward understanding. Without meaning we are curious about nothing. Once curiosity is in place then knowledge becomes possible and necessary for understanding.

Often I discover that the person involved in organizing some action is a person who has had a personal experience leading her to this action. Some person who has a family member afflicted by a disease becomes very active in helping support research in that disease, for example.

I suspect our first experience with ‘understanding’ may be our first friendship. I think that this first friendship may be an example of what Carl Sagan meant by “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy”.

I also suspect that the boy who falls in love with automobiles and learns everything he can about repairing the junk car he bought has discovered ‘understanding’.

I suspect many people go their complete life and never have an intellectual experience that culminates in the “ecstasy of understanding”. How can this be true? I think that our educational system is designed primarily for filling heads with knowledge and hasn’t time to waste on ‘understanding’.

Understanding an intellectual matter must come in the adult years if it is to ever come to many of us. I think that it is very important for an adult to find something intellectual that will excite his or her curiosity and concern sufficiently so as to motivate the effort necessary to understand.

Understanding does not come easily but it can be “a kind of ecstasy”.

I think of understanding as being a creation of meaning by the thinker. As one attempts to understand something that person will construct through imagination a model--like a papier-mâché--of the meaning. Like an artist painting her understanding of something. As time goes by the model takes on what the person understands about that which is studied. The model is very subjective and you and I may study something for some time and we both have learned to understand it but if it were possible to project an image of our model they would be unidentifiable perhaps by the other. Knowledge has a universal quality but not understanding.

Understanding is a tipping point, when water becomes ice, it is like a gestalt perception it may never happen no matter how hard we try. The unconscious is a major worker for understanding. Understanding is that rare occasion when there develops a conflation of emotion and intellection.

I have concocted a metaphor set that might relay my comprehension of the difference between knowing and understanding.

Awareness--faces in a crowd.

Consciousness—smile, a handshake, and curiosity.

Knowledge—long talks sharing desires and ambitions.

Understanding—a best friend bringing constant April.

Understanding is a long step beyond knowing and most often knowing provides the results that technology demands. Technology, I think, does not want understanding because understanding is inefficient and generally not required. The natural scientists, with their paradigms, are puzzle solvers. Puzzles require ingenuity but seldom understanding.

I would say that understanding is the goal of intellection. To create meaningful knowledge one is advised to construct a sound foundation. The sound foundation for learning is derived from studying what the best minds in history can teach us.



What is a Basic-Level Category?

Basic-level concepts are directly meaningful. “Basic level concepts are meaningful to us because they are characterized by the way we perceive the overall shape of things in terms of part-whole structure and by the way we interact with things with our bodies.”

Consider the category hierarchies: {furniture--chair—rocker} and {vehicle--car—sedan}. The middle categories--chair and car--have been discovered to be “basic”—they have a cognitive priority. “Basic-level categories are distinguished from subordinate categories by aspects of our bodies, brains, and minds: mental images, gestalt perception, motor programs, and knowledge structure.”

The basic level is characterized by at least four conditions: 1) It is the highest level at which a single mental image can represent the entire category (you can’t get a mental image of vehicle or furniture). 2) It is the highest level at which category members have a similarly perceived overall shape. 3) It is the highest level at which a person uses similar motor actions for interacting with category members. 4) It is the level at which most of our knowledge is organized.

The division between basic and non-basic level is body-based. It is based upon gestalt (overall part-whole structure) perception, motor programs, and mental images. The basic-level is that level at which people more optimally interact with their environment.

The basic-level does not merely apply to objects. “There are basic-level actions, actions for which we have conventional mental images and motor programs, like swimming, walking, and grasping. We also have basic-level concepts, like families, clubs, and baseball teams, as well as basic-level social actions, like arguing. And there are basic-level emotions, like happiness, anger, and sadness.”

“Our categories arise from the fact that we are neural beings, from the nature of our bodily capacities, from our experience interacting in the world, and from our evolved capacity for basic-level categorization—a level at which we optimally interact with the world. Evolution has not required us to be as accurate above and below the basic level as at the basic level, and so we are not.”

We have a gut feeling about some things because our sense of correctness comes from our bodies. When Newton provided us with his theory of physics we could “feel” the correctness of much of it because he was using such concepts as acceleration, momentum, distance and velocity all of which we knew because we could intuit them, we could “feel in our gut” these concepts. Such was not the case when the physicist attacked the problem of quantum physics. Who has a gut feeling for the inner workings of the atom?

Our “gut feeling” constantly informs us as to the ‘correctness’ of some phenomenon. This gut feeling is an attitude; it is one of many types of attitudes. What can we say about this gut feeling?

Philosophy in The Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson says a great deal about this gut feeling. Conceptual metaphor theory, the underlying theory of cognitive science contained in this book, explains how our knowledge is ‘grounded’ in a manner in which we optimally interact with the world.

Our basic-level categories are created unconsciously based upon our bodily interaction with our world.
 

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What is the meaning of the meaning of meaning?


Meaning is one of those concepts that are too complex to fit easily into a sound bite or bumper sticker. One might start the process of comprehending what this concept entails by recognizing that basic-level concepts are directly meaningful.
“Basic level concepts are meaningful to us because they are characterized by the way we perceive the overall shape of things in terms of part-whole structure and by the way we interact with things with our bodies.”

Secondly we might begin to grasp an understanding of this concept by recognizing that images and their construction into schemas are directly meaningful because they structure "our perceptions and bodily movements".

Quotes from Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind by George Lakoff
 
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Geo Patric

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the question actually is unanswerable as circular. you would need a definition of meaning in order to define the meaning of meaning. once you had that, the question would simple disappear. It is like asking "what color is red". Which is not to say that it has never been asked. In fact, in 1923 a seminal book* on the subject was published and has been used as a text in a variety of disciplines for some years. Mostly, though, it deals with linguistics.

And... linguistics would be the best place to start. But difficulties arise between linguistic heritages (languages) as constructs affect meaning. perhaps if we were to reframe the question we can get closer the the kernel.

we can speak of things (both abstract and concrete) as having "meaning for" and/or "meaning to".

licking the side of the river bank obviously has "meaning for" the deer as it has the biological capacity to derive 'real' content and value from the salt. The behavior cannot actually be said to have "meaning to" the deer, though, as it lacks the perceptual capabilities to derive correlative 'abstract' value or content from it - that is. value dissociate from the thing itself. I think that we can, at least as a working proposition, define this sort of meaning as "value and content or the perception of value and content".

I think the cites by coberst touch on it without nailing it down very well. Meaning has no meaning, as such, but the need for meaning has meaning. Yes, i realize that that is a self-refutation... hold on, i will try to make it clearer. The deer has no idea why he licks the dirt any more than he knows "why" he drinks water or eats grass. His brain compels him to do so.

by the same token, Santa Claus may have very considerable abstract value and content to a child but no 'real' content because Santa is not a real thing himself. But the belief may be said to have the same function for the child as licking does for the deer - it satisfies a compulsion, biologically and evolutionaryliy derived that has shown itself to be beneficial to the species if not necessarily to the individual and not necessarily 'real'.

It is this compulsion that not only gives meaning, it IS meaning. The salt is not meaning. The value in the salt is not the meaning. The irresistible compulsion to lick the river bank is the meaning.

The most remarkable thing about the concept of meaning dissociate from the thing itself is that we actually have one. It is fundamentally irrational and it is probably the single trait that made us what we are. The need for meaning, increasingly specific meaning, is what undergirds language as communication.

We have, in the last 50 years or so, had to jettison a long list of things that we KNEW distinguished us from the other animals of the planet. We are left with one, now; language (and even that is arguable). Language, human language, anyway, makes fine distinguishments in things, orders them, relates them and communicates those qualities. The meaning in language is the need for it. Deaf, dumb and blind folk will strive to communicate through language as strenuously as a deer will seek salt. Language which seems abstract is a fundamental function of the human brain AND the human genome.

or something....

geo.

* The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism (1923) was co-authored by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, Magdalene College, University of Cambridge.

.
 

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Well this is simple:

Meaning . . . broken down to it's roots: Mean, and ing.

Mean as in not very nice and ing as in verbifying the word mean.

So, the word meaning is to take sane nice people and turn them nasty by asking questions on discussion boards.
 

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Re: What is the meaning of ?meaning??

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.

In other words, meaning is preceptive, not universal. Things that have meaning for you, aren't necessarily mine or anyone else.

ricksfolly
 

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Re: What is the meaning of ?meaning??

In other words, meaning is preceptive, not universal. Things that have meaning for you, aren't necessarily mine or anyone else.

ricksfolly



Yes, meaning is not universal. What does make meaning universal is the fact that this subjective meaning result from the human capacity for structuring meaning, i.e. objectivity is our shared subjectivity.

We have been taught that “definition” is synonymous with “meaning” because we have been taught that the mind is disembodied and that intellect has nothing to do with the effects of body. An embodied mind point of view takes into account that everything that we think results from a gestalt self, i.e. from a body-mind self (embodied mind).

The definition of Iraq and the meaning of Iraq are not the same. Ask the mother of a soldier killed in the Iraq war what Iraq means to her.
 

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Re: What is the meaning of ?meaning??

Yes, meaning is not universal. What does make meaning universal is the fact that this subjective meaning result from the human capacity for structuring meaning, i.e. objectivity is our shared subjectivity.>>

You're referring to those who inhabit the real world, of course, the remaining 99 percent reactionaries, couldn't care less.

Objectivity is our shared subjectivity... good, very good.

<<We have been taught that ?definition? is synonymous with ?meaning? because we have been taught that the mind is disembodied and that intellect has nothing to do with the effects of body. >>

That's the problem. Most of what we've been taught has nothing to do with the real world.

ricksfolly
 

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Re: What is the meaning of ?meaning??

That's the problem. Most of what we've been taught has nothing to do with the real world.

ricksfolly

Why do you suppose that we are taught matters that have "nothing to do with the real world"? Perhaps you were not thinking but merely expressing your frustration.
 

rhinefire

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Depends on what your definition of "is" is.
 
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