Re: Abstractism

From: Dace (
Date: Tue Feb 05 2002 - 21:11:50 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Abstractism
    Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002 13:11:50 -0800
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    From: Joe Dees

    > >> Information is in configuration, when it is, because we intentionally
    > >arrange the configurations in order to put the information there for the
    > >purposes of communicating it to others.
    > >>>>
    > >
    > >We "intentionally arrange the configurations" so that the intended
    meaning will appear in the mind of the reader.
    > >
    > And to do so requires prompting and indeed, information transfer. Face
    it, Ted, languages are codes, and written languages are codes for spoken
    languages, so that the weriiten word 'cat' stands for the spoken word 'cat',
    which in turn stands for a certain species of feline. And what is encoded
    is information.

    If languages are mental, then they contain information. If languages are
    patterned soundwaves or marks on a piece of paper, then they do not. Ask a
    chemist to examine a book and report back on all the properties contained
    within it. "Information" will not be among them. The information appears
    in our minds as we interpret the various marks on the pages.

    I think Grant's comment is particularly useful here. If we can interpret
    ink blots and clouds as having particular meanings, then evidently we're
    capable of generating information in our minds even when the things we're
    apprehending contain no information themselves. We might imagine the that
    the meaning is actually located in the ink blot or the cloud, but it's
    clearly in our minds. And if that's the case, then why can't the same be
    true of books and computer screens?

    > Your Platonic/Socratic view that all information is already in the woo-woo
    world-over-soul morphic single-entity Mind and requires only questions to
    provoke the right answers (which were known 'all along' and just needed to
    be remembered) from one of its convenient human outlets has been rightfully
    abandoned for two millennia.

    Do you actually believe that this in some way advances the discussion?
    Given all I've written on "abstractism," it's mind-boggling that you would
    categorize me as a Platonist. This kind of nonsense isn't exactly helping
    your cause. The only information we're getting here is that Joe Dees is
    frustrated about something. That's it. Has no bearing on me whatsoever.

    > >At no point do we endow the ink or the pixels with some sort of mystical
    property called "meaning" or "information." Meaning is in the mind. To
    find it in the material world is to engage in a kind of physicalist
    superstition, like imagining you've seen a ghost or the Virgin Mary.
    > >
    > You find it where you put it. If I write a book and someone else in my
    language community reads it, I have, to a hermeneutically significant
    degree, communicated my meaning to that person. And since this is a person
    that I did not even have to meet in order to do so, the meaning-link is
    provided by the language-encoding configuration of the written text (unless
    you're prepared to embrace and expound upon some sort of magical, mystical
    nonlocality meaning-transfer model, which would not surprise me about you).

    The fact that you can't read something without some sort of material medium
    between yourself and the writer-- such as ink or pixels-- doesn't mean the
    information is physically contained in the medium. Perhaps the medium
    merely facilitates the formation of meaning in the mind of the reader.


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