In the previous post – Conversations (and before that What “meaning” means?), I sketched simple account of “meaning”
- Meaning is connection between signs and signified.
- Both are things which are accessible to people involved in communications. Sign is something which is produced by the speaker, and listener becomes aware of it. Signified is some other thing, of which both speaker and listener can think of.
- The signified (e.g. what words mean) is not in the head, as that would negate the possibility of two people to think of, and hence speak of the same thing, hence negate possibility of communication.
- Arguing with the previous point is not possible (because it would negate possibility of communication)!
In the end, I noted that it is separate question of what things we can think of, and hence of what thing we can speak of.
However before doing that, I want to note one other important issue here, and to prevent one misunderstanding.
As words “tree” and “Baum” both mean tree in two languages, so can two sentences in different languages to have same meaning. The meanings of sentences are called propositions. A common mistake that can be made is to equate propositions as some kind of mental structures or thoughts, which are constituted (created) by the meanings of the words in the sentence. Connecting this kind of assumption with what I’ve said, it would appear that I’m saying that the things themselves are in our heads. And everyone would be right to tell me, as Frege noted to Russell, that the Mont Blanc can’t be itself part of the thought “Mont Blanc is 4,000 meters high“.
But this kind of non-sense result comes about, if we are ignoring one part of what was discussed about meaning – for there to be meaning, we need a person who will upon hearing the sign (word) , think of something else (Mont Blanc).
So, the thought here is not constituted or constructed of the things of which we think of, but the thinking of IS the thought. And as it was pointed here, this “power of minds”, the intentionality is what transcends the subjective, and also makes the relation of meaning possible.
Or said in another way – there isn’t some mental construction in my head, which contains Mont Blanc. My thought is about Mont Blanc, and it is a thought that Mont Blanc (itself of course) is 4,000 meters high.
Note 1:Wikipedia says it is 4,810 meters high. Which makes my argument wrong. Just kidding.
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