Re: 1/ 2: A notation has consequences

Robert G. Grimes (
Tue, 12 May 1998 11:00:23 -0400

Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 11:00:23 -0400
From: "Robert G. Grimes" <>
Subject: Re: 1/ 2: A notation has consequences


> Catching up on my backlog of unread lumina email messages, a notion seems to
> be
> coalescing. A way of wording this notion seems to be forming itself so that
> I might
> better contemplate it in my higher analytical faculties, and perhaps share it
> with others (or, maybe not):
> It occurs to me that ‘meaning’ is solely and entirely a function of the
> individual nervous system. ‘Meaning’ is defined entirely by the individual
> nervous system in relation to itself, and in terms of its own experiences
> (nervous system stimuli). A thing _is_ ‘bad’ if it is ‘bad’ to _you_.
> Things are ‘good’ if they are ‘good’ to _YOU_.


Yes, yes, yes.... Forgive me for writing about previously stating "meaning is the
connotation," which, I believe, is exactly what you are saying. This is why one
must attempt to construct ones expositions (memes, terminology, tenets, etc.)
"variably" to "statistically make sure" that the intended "approximate" meaning is
communicated, i.e., since every individual's "associative network" truly
determines "meaning" - for them - then one must search for the proper words
(tokens) that will stimulate the appropriate connotation in the receiver. In such
circumstances, it behooves us to periodically restate our points in different
fashions, utilizing different analogies, metaphors, terminology, etc., and - by
watching and listening to the receiver - continuing to calibrate ones expressions
to "their associations," utilizing such feedback.

Feedback is essential for calibration and control and when one hears folks argue
about "definitions," one readily realizes that the meaning of the discourse may be
very different in the receiver (in spite of definitions) than in the transmitter.
"Language is usage" reflecting another of the problems in communication.

Thus, many authors write circumspectly for the very reason that they wish to be
sure that in some of their statements the receiver is getting "their message." It
is not with malicious intent (despite some of the common reactions) that the
listener insists on hearing what one says "differently" than it was intended. It
results from just what you referenced, i.e., meaning is "in the beholder" and, as
such, one must carefully "tune with precision" in order to make sure that both are
"on the same frequency" and that the "tokens" being sent represent - on the
receiving end - approximately what they did on the transmitting end.

All of this seems so simple that expressing it shouldn't seem extremely difficult.
But it becomes difficult, at times, to get across because of the very principles
that we are discussing. Fortunately, common educational processes, standards of
teaching, etc., tend to reduce some of the problems with "others getting the same
meaning" because of associations. But, fundamentally, we never do, we just
approach the meanings which helps to explain why I sometimes use the "is of
approximation" in the very beginning as a demonstration that communication of
meaning proceeds in that fashion, in approximations of what I send and vice versa.

Thus, the old example of the French "perspective box" in which common objects are
forced to be viewed from only one perspective and the viewer is usually puzzled as
to their identity until it can be viewed through "another perspective" whereby the
objects can be seen in such fashion as to be easily identifiable. In the past I've
used the example of microphotographs that used to be shown in magazines and
newspapers where things like a row of book match heads were enlarged to great
proportions and the viewer tested on their identification, etc. Frequently no
identification could be made until the "life size" or wider perspective was shown
to the viewer.

So simple yet so elusive a concept. My early research in the university on how
people's individual memories functioned demonstrated these things so well. One
young lady's color memory was so distinct that we could both view several color
patches, then go to another location where the same patches along with others were
displayed. She could always pick the exact patch that she had viewed previously
whereas I could never discern with precision the original colors from memory (they
were very, very gradual in changes of hue). She was a fashion business person and
could also remember other distinctions keenly visually as well. Others could do
the same with sounds, music, etc. whereas others, such as myself, had little
visual or auditory recall but whose "conceptual or relational" recall was superb,
instead. Viva la difference!

Thanks for stimulating my memories in such fashion....



> --

Bob Grimes
Jacksonville, Florida

Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore....."

This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)