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The Theory of Meaning

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This presentation discusses a comprehensive theory of meaning that spans cognitive/objective, subjective, and intersubjective notions about meaning. It also discusses six different aspects of cognitive/objective meaning and views them as a description of ideas related to ideals.

Publié dans : Spirituel
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The Theory of Meaning

  1. 1. THE THEORY OF MEANING A S H I S H DA L E L A I N T R O D U C I N G V E D I C P H I L O S O P H Y — L E S S O N 8
  2. 2. THREE APPROACHES TO MEANING
  3. 3. THREE TYPES OF MEANING COGNITIVE (chit) • Meaning is objective and present in individual things • Meaning can be decoded from sentences and things SOCIAL (sat) • Meaning is constructed by the society as conventions • Meaning is how people use symbols (e.g. words) EMOTIONAL (ananda) • Meaning is created by each person for themselves • We create meanings to make our lives meaningful
  4. 4. COGNITIVE APPROACH: MEANING IS OBJECTIVE AND PRESENT IN THINGS • Traditional linguistics operates in this mode • There are many distinct schools which describe how things get meaning – Classical school views meaning as lexical and grammatical – Semiotic school views meaning as arising from differences – Functionalist school views meaning as the job it performs
  5. 5. SOCIAL APPROACH: MEANING IS SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED • The philosophy of postmodernism – Signs are arbitrary representations of meaning – The meanings of signs is created by a set of people who use the sign to indicate meaning • For example, in order to greet each other: – Two people can fold their hands – They can bow slightly from the waist – They can shake hands with each other • Folding hands, bowing, or handshake are cultural symbols of respect – These are arbitrarily chosen conventions of exchange
  6. 6. EMOTIONAL APPROACH: MEANING IS WHAT WE SEEK IN THIS WORLD • The philosophy of existentialism – We are afflicted by dread, confusion, and fear in a meaningless world – We are individually responsible for giving meaning to our lives • Kierkegaard said: Existence precedes essence – Essence is the meaning, and existence is the individual – Existence creates the meaning out of a meaningless world • The search for meaning is the quest for “authenticity” in our lives – Without this meaning, life becomes inauthentic
  7. 7. I D E A S A N D I D E A L S • Social and emotional approaches undercut objectivity – Words are arbitrarily chosen things to represent the meaning – These meanings are either in the individual mind or in the society • Once we deny objective meaning, we also deny objective judgment – If we relativize the judgment and meaning to individuals or society, we lose all ideals – We can have lots of ideas, but none of these ideas are ideals The study of meaning must say that there are objective ideas; Some of these objective ideas are also ideals, because they are perfected ideas If we cannot objectivize ideas, we can never objectivize ideals Objectivity complements personality and society Both the personal ideal and the transpersonal ideals are objective The transpersonal ideal is absolute or universal, personal ideal is relative or individual
  8. 8. SIX TYPES OF COGNITIVE MEANING
  9. 9. LEXICAL MEANING • All words in language are created from elementary ‘morphemes’ – E.g. the morpheme ‘logy’ means ‘the study of’ – E.g. the morpheme ‘ism’ means some kind of belief or practice • Meaning originates through the combination of morphemes • In Sanskrit, the morphemes are called dhatu – literally the ‘substance’ – For example, the word balak is the dhatu for ‘boy’ • There is now recognition that lexical meaning comes from phonemes – E.g. the phoneme ‘str’ represents something elongated or extended – Due to this the words string, strap, street, etc. get their meaning
  10. 10. MORPHOLOGICAL MEANING • Arises from the modifications of lexical units – E.g. run is a lexical unit, and running is its modification – E.g. boy is a lexical unity, and boyish is its modification • Meaning originates through the modification of lexical units by adding prefixes and suffixes • In Sanskrit, the morphs are called rupa – the ‘forms’ – The dhatu is modified to create many rupa (the dhatu is like clay and rupa is like a statue of clay) – E.g., balak has 24 different morphs or forms which represent different cases in language विभक्ति एकिचन द्वििचन बहुिचन प्रथमा बालकः बालकौ बालकाः द्वििीया बालकम् बालकौ बलकान िृिीया बाल्के न बालकाभ्याम् बालकः चिुुथी बालकाय बालकाभ्याम् बालके भ्यः पन्चमी बालकाि् बालकाभ्याम् बालके भ्यः षष्ठी बालकस्य बालकय ः बालकानाम् सप्िमी बालके बालकय ः बालके षु सम्ब धन हे बालक! हे बालकौ! हे बालकाः
  11. 11. GRAMMATICAL MEANING • Meaning arises from the role a word plays in a sentence • The same sequence of words can have many different meanings – E.g.“I saw a man on a hill with a telescope” • I was on the hill, the man was on the ground, and I saw him with a telescope • I was on the hill, the man was on the hill, and I saw him with a telescope • I was on the ground, the man was on the hill, and I saw him with a telescope • The meaning difference arises from a different grammatical structure
  12. 12. DIFFERENCE MEANING • Meaning is derived through a difference relationship between sets of words – Bouba-Kiki effect; seemingly meaningless words contrast round vs. jagged shapes – The colors red and blue are used to denote hot and cold faucets – Red light means a stop and green light means a go sign due to the color contrast • Language is defined through such contrasting words
  13. 13. REFERENTIAL MEANING • Words refer to things in the world – E.g.“The dog has black spots” – Here,“the dog” refers to a specific dog • The reference may be context sensitive – E.g.“the president spoke on the occasion” – It could mean the president of a country or the president of a football club depending on context • References are used to describe the world
  14. 14. FUNCTIONAL MEANING • LudwigWittgenstein argued that meaning causes people to do things – For example, when craftsman says ‘hammer’ to his assistant, the assistant gives him a hammer • Therefore, meaning must be understood by its power to do things – Wittgenstein argued that we invent many language games to get things done • J. L. Austin argued that use of words often constitutes speech acts – A speech act such as “I do” in response to “Will you marry her?” constitutes marriage – So just by saying “I do” I have performed an action of getting married
  15. 15. MANY TYPES OF MEANING EXIST SIMULTANEOUSLY
  16. 16. MANY MEANINGS OF MEANING Meaning Lexical Meaning Morphological Meaning Grammatical Meaning Reference Meaning Difference Meaning Functional Meaning
  17. 17. SIX QUALITIES AND SIX MEANING TYPES
  18. 18. SIX WAYS OF OBJECTIVIZING • There is objective meaning without rejecting individual and social meaning • We can describe this objectivity in six ways of generating meaning – Meaning is atomic – e.g. Phonemes have meaning – Meaning is form – e.g. the morphs of Phonemes create additional meaning – Meaning is difference – e.g. bouba and kiki get meaning by differences – Meaning is structure – e.g. all grammatical meaning is created by structure – Meaning is effects – e.g. meaning is measured by the effects it creates – Meaning is reference – e.g. Meaning is the things a ‘name’ refers to
  19. 19. S I X Q UA L I T I E S O F G O D R E P R E S E N T S I X M E A N I N G S • We explored the six qualities of God earlier as ideals (“The Six Qualities of God”) • We can also study these six qualities as ideas as we have done in this presentation • These ideas are cognitive. In addition there is also emotive and social meaning, but we have to begin with cognitive meaning before we speak of the others Quality Meaning Knowledge Lexical Meaning Beauty Morphological Meaning Renunciation Difference Meaning Power Functional Meaning Wealth Grammatical Meaning Fame Reference Meaning
  20. 20. “I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind.Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?” ― John Lennon www.ashishdalela.com

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