A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….


Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on April 17, 2006

-I don’t accept communication

That’s one of the things that, my friend John Valley (JohnGuru) has taught me, can help you in philosophical arguments. The two others are:

  • Don’t ask people what they mean. Instead tell them what they mean.
  • If those two fail, stop talking and wait. Many times is easier to argue to someone, after he/she leaves.

Of course these three rules are jokes (I’m not sure if jokes are allowed in philosophy, but I’ll take my chance).
But I would like to raise seriously the question, of what one must accept in order for communication to be possible. This is not about principles of good communication, but about possibility of communication in general.

1. Meaning
In previous post, I argued that there is no such thing as realm of meanings, or that there is no such thing as meanings qua meanings. I was saying that meaning is relation between two things, in Sassurian terms – the signifier and signified. And neither has some special property outside of that relation which makes them meanings. Word as spoken or as writen can be sign, but also it can be signified, I can say
If I raise my right hand that will mean “tree”, and if I raise my left hand that will mean “Baum”.
Both those are words that mean tree, one in English, and the other in German. But in that sentence the words themselves are meant by given signs. So, the central question is not “what are meanings?”, as if those are some special things, but “what is the relation of meaning?”

2.Where does the relation of meaning exists?
Where is the root of the relation between the signs (e.g. words, sentences), and signified (what those words, sentences mean)?
Well think about this… when you hear some words,  but you are not sure what they mean, who do you ask?
Of course you don’t tell people that speak to you what they mean by the sentences they pronounce, but you ask them What do you mean?
So, the intended meaning is in the subject who pronounces the words and sentences, who gives the signs which should mean something else. So, orginal relation between the sign and the signifed exist in the speaker. For example, he might say words “Bill Gates”, and talk about Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft.

3.When is the communication possible?
It is possible if the “listener” can become aware of the sign that “speaker” has produced, and if he can figure out what that sign should mean. For example, if one hears the word “Bill Gates” and the listener understands that word to mean Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, and the speaker indeed intended to mean Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, , the communication would be succesfull.

But there is neat trick going in the background. For this is to be possible, both persons must be able to think of same person Bill Gates, or in general for a communication to be possible, two people must be able to think of the same things which are meant by the words, or by the sentences.
But if two people can think about the same thing (which makes it further possible to talk about same thing), that means that the thing about which we think, is not some kind of representation in our brains/heads. Thinking and talking about things in that way transcends subjectivity.

Before you object to this conclusion, remind yourself that if you don’t agree  with this conclusion, you won’t be objecting the same conclusion that is presented there, as you would be saying that it isn’t possible that we are talking about same thing, nor that we are arguing arround same conclusion. You must say that you don’t accept communication.

Note 1:There are lot of question which are left open here… What are all those things of which we can think of? It is not just existing things about which we can think and talk about, it is imaginary things, and things which were in the past, or which are yet to come. Those are abstractions too. What does it mean for those not to be subjective? Those will be probably subject of further posts.


4 Responses to “Conversations”

  1. […] Conversations […]

  2. […] Conversations […]

  3. […] Connected posts:Mont Blanc is too high to fit in my headConversationsWhat “meaning” means? […]

  4. […] 2.The issue of transcendence isn’t same with the issue of meaning (although connected). As argued in last post and other posts (see here for example), meaning is always meaning of something, be it written or spoken word or sentence, or different signs like nod with the head and so on, and implicitly assumes communication. Because of that, “meaning” can’t be used to refer to intentional matter, although what appears as intentional matter might be meaning of some word.So, I might observe certain person, where the person is intentional matter of my act of observing, but while the person is intentional matter of my intentional acts, the person is not any kind of meaning, though while that person might have a name, which name would mean that person.So, when talking about meaning we are talking about meaning of sign, and it is always connected to communication between multiple people. Even when I invent new word for something for which there is no word in the language community, it is hard to say that the word has some meaning, until I announce what I will mean by the word (by pointing or by explaining using other words). Also, when we have two persons, and one of them uses the word to mean one thing, and the other some other thing, still both people will assume that they are using the word with the meaning accepted in the language community. Hence, I think it is confusing to use “meaning” to refer to the intentional-matter, or to the inter-subjective or intra-subjective transcendence of intentional matter.The further example which show that “meaning” isn’t used to refer to intentional acts or to the intentional matter per se, is for example, that we don’t use people who are thinking of something – “What meaning you are thinking of?”; we ask “What do you think of?”, also if somebody claims that he has just remembered something, we don’t ask “What meaning you have remembered?” , instead we ask “What did you remember?”. […]

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