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Old 14-05-2009, 03:49 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by mephibosheth View Post
This falls apart as soon as you choose a frame of reference.

Meaning is not and cannot be, absolute. Even though I intend to sink the 8-ball with my shot, the meaning of the event of the 8-ball dropping in the pocket is different for each and every individual agent that perceives it (and nothing at all for the 8-ball itself).

The meaning of the event is always something added to the event in retrospect. It is an interpretation of the event. When do people ask 'what does it mean??' Only after they experience something. And then they go back, review the experience, and attribute meaning to it according to whatever standard of value (frame of reference) they wish to adopt at the time.

Consider art. An artist may have an 'intent' in creating a sculpture, but that intent does not and cannot affix itself to the ontological reality of the sculpture. That intent isn't a part of the essence of the created thing, which exists indepedently of the artist. As soon as another person comes along and interprets the sculpture in their own unique way, that intent is dissolved. And there is no grounds for asserting that only the artist's intent, and hence, meaning, is the 'correct' one.

To project a purpose is to give meaning to a series of actions. Sure. But that only works in relation to that purpose, and hence, in relation to the agent that proposes that purpose. The meaning of the same series of actions in relation to some other agent or the world at large is not necessarily the same.

It's all about managing multiple perspectives and frames of reference. Meaning is inherently subjective. We can share meanings, of course, if we choose to agree on the same frame of reference and standard of meaning-attribution. But there is no intrinsic meaning to any series of events outside of such an attribution by a semiotic agent.

To postulate that 'all we know' has meaning is to postulate that there is one final and absolute frame of reference, and hence, one agency that attributes meaning to 'all we know' that is not opposed by any other agency, including our own.

The fact that there is no absolute frame of reference seems to be a fact of physics.

Moreover, even if we accept an absolute frame of reference, that still does not give events 'instrinsic meaning'. Meaning requires an agency to attribute it. Events that occur outside either the perception (and interpretation) or volition of an agency cannot be said to have any meaning. Quite simply, 'meaning' cannot exist in and of itself.

And as far as assumptions go, assuming that there is a final frame of reference that defines an absolute agency that atttributes meaning fully to each and every particle of existence is a rather spectacular one.

If we create meaning for an event before it happens, that meaning is only relevant in the mind of the being that creates it.

I will concede, however, that we can attribute meaning to non-existent outcomes. This is something we do all the time, when making plans and imagining options.

It is easy to demonstrate if you understand what meaning is and how it works. It requires an agent that is putting itself in a relationship to some series of events or objects. Outside of the mind of such an agent the concept of 'meaning' loses all coherency. What does 'meaning' mean without reference to a semiotic (meaning-creating) agent? Nothing.

Applying meaning before or after a thing happens is what you are calling 'extrinsic' meaning attribution. They are not different at all as far as the process of assigning meaning goes.

To have 'intrinsic meaning' requires that an event or object posseses meaning objectively outside the frame of reference of any particular semiotic agent. It requires meaning to inhere in the thing in and of itself. But again, this actually doesn't make any sense. Meaning is a relationship. A thing in-itself isn't part of a relationship, since it is considered as it is in-itself.

'The sun exploded.'

In itself, such an event has absolutely no meaning.

But to beings that might be affected, it could have any number of possible meanings. And all of them will be valid, as they all reflect interpretations of the event, the fact of the sun exploding.

If that's the case, then so is assuming the opposite--that there is some absolute frame of reference that absolutely imparts meaning to each and every particle in existence. Another attempt to cram reality into a nice neat little box, perhaps?
After some confusion, I believe that we are not on the same page regarding what "meaning" is defined as. I seem to be using "meaning" as equivalent to "the purpose of", and you seem to be using "meaning" as equivalent to "the significance of". If thats the case, then things make a lot more sense now. I dont see anything to disagree with in the above quote, if you considered "meaning" to mean significance, as I suspect you did.

The significance of something is probably always subjective. I cant think of something that would have the same significance to all people who experienced it. Though the purpose of something, which is what I think I was generally thinking of when I said "meaning", I believe can be both intrinsic/inherent, and extrinsic/acquired. Such as a screw driver... its intrinsic purpose is to tighten screws... but it can also have the extrinsic purpose of stabbing someone in prison, even though it was not made specifically for that.
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Last edited by measle_weasel; 14-05-2009 at 04:00 AM.
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