[ExI] Religious idiocy (was: digital nature of brains)

Gordon Swobe gts_2000 at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 2 14:43:10 UTC 2010

--- On Mon, 2/1/10, Eric Messick <eric at m056832107.syzygy.com> wrote:

> Actually, I was partially mistaken in saying that meaning
> cannot be attached to a word by association with other words.  

I think you make an excellent observation here, Eric. The mere association of a symbol to another symbol does not give either symbol meaning. 

Symbols have derived intentionality, whereas people who use symbols have intrinsic intentionality. I'll try to explain what I mean...


1) Jack means that the moon orbits the earth.

2) The word "moon" means a large object that orbits the earth.

In the scene described in 1), Jack means something by the symbol "moon". He has intrinsic intentionality. He has a conscious mental state in which *he means* to communicate something about the moon.

In sentence 2), we (English speakers of the human species) attribute intentionality to the symbol "moon", as if the symbol itself has a conscious mental state similar to the one Jack had in 1). We imagine for the sake of convenience that symbols mean to say things about themselves. We often speak of words and other symbols this way, treating them as if they have consciousness mental states, as if they really do mean to tell us what they mean. We anthropomorphize our language. 

The above might seem blindingly obvious (I hope so) but it has bearing on the symbol grounding question. Symbols have meaning only in the minds of conscious agents; that is, the apparent intentionality of words is derived from conscious intentional agents who actually do the meaning.



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