Citation for this page in APA citation style.           Close


Core Concepts

Abduction
Belief
Best Explanation
Cause
Certainty
Chance
Coherence
Correspondence
Decoherence
Divided Line
Downward Causation
Emergence
Emergent Dualism
ERR
Identity Theory
Infinite Regress
Information
Intension/Extension
Intersubjectivism
Justification
Materialism
Meaning
Mental Causation
Multiple Realizability
Naturalism
Necessity
Possible Worlds
Postmodernism
Probability
Realism
Reductionism
Schrödinger's Cat
Supervenience
Truth
Universals

Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Anaximander
G.E.M.Anscombe
Anselm
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Augustine
J.L.Austin
A.J.Ayer
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
George Berkeley
Isaiah Berlin
Richard J. Bernstein
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
F.H.Bradley
C.D.Broad
Michael Burke
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Carneades
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Chrysippus
Cicero
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Democritus
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Epictetus
Epicurus
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Gorgias
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
W.F.R.Hardie
Sam Harris
William Hasker
R.M.Hare
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
Heraclitus
R.E.Hobart
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Leucippus
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
C. Lloyd Morgan
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
Alasdair MacIntyre
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
John McTaggart
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
G.E.Moore
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
Parmenides
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Plato
Karl Popper
Porphyry
Huw Price
H.A.Prichard
Protagoras
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
C.W.Rietdijk
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
T.M.Scanlon
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
J.J.C.Smart
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
Isabelle Stengers
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Francisco Suárez
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter Unger
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
Voltaire
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
W.G.Ward
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists

Michael Arbib
Bernard Baars
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Charles Darwin
Terrence Deacon
Louis de Broglie
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A.O.Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Simon Kochen
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Roger Sperry
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Peter Tse
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek

Presentations

Biosemiotics
Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium

 
Meaning

The "meaning" of any word, concept, or object is different for different individuals, depending on the information (knowledge) about the word, concept, or object currently available to them. All meaning is "contextual" and the most important context is what is currently in the individual's mind. This obviously includes the immediate external context, for example, the word being heard or read is surrounded by text, both explicitly and implicitly - those alternative words that could substitute with little change in meaning.

In our information theory of mind, it is the past experiences that are reproduced (played back) from the Experience Recorder and Reproducer (ERR) that provide most of the meaningful context for a word or object. For example, if the agent has had no past experiences that resemble the current experience in some way, the agent may not find any meaning at all. The simplest case would be a new word, seen for the very first time.

If the word is not isolated, the meanings of the familiar surrounding text will bring back their past uses clearly enough to allow the agent to guess the meaning of the new word, in that context. In any case this fresh experience with the word will be stored away along with that context for future reference.

The problem of the "Meaning of Meaning" has a rich history in the past century or two of analytic language philosophy. Gottfried Leibniz hoped for an ambiguity-free ideal language with exactly one term for each concept. It would reduce language to a kind of mathematics where the meaning of complex combinations of terms could be worked out precisely. In the middle of the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill tried to simplify proper nouns by insisting that they are just names for the things we are talking about in sentences or propositions. Nouns are subjects, predicates are the attributes of the subject.

Leibniz was an inspiration for Bertrand Russell, whose logical positivism imagined "logical atoms" of meaning that could combine following strict rules to form complex concepts. But Russell and the great logician Gottlob Frege tangled over exactly how words describe, denote, or refer to concepts and objects.

Is an absolute meaning to be found in the dictionary definitions of how a word refers to an object, independent of the intentions of a speaker or inferences of the hearer? Frege distinguished between the straight reference of a word and what he called the "sense." Why does the statement "Aristotle is the author of De Anima" carry more information than the identity statement "Aristotle is Aristotle." Our information theory of meaning finds the answer in the reader's past experience (or none) of De Anima.

Russell's young collaborator in early logical positivism, Ludwig Wittgenstein, broke with Russell and insisted that meaning depends on the use to which a word is being put. There is no objective independent meaning for a word as the object it "stands for." This relativism became more extreme when Jacques Derrida showed how the meaning of a word can be deferred and disseminated by the words following it in time.

Charles Sanders Peirce, and the great linguist and inventor of structuralism, Ferdinand de Saussure had accepted straightforward connections, like Peirce's triad object-percept-concept and Saussure's dual signifier/signified s/S for a symbol and the object. These were captured in the book, "The Meaning of Meaning," by Ogden and Richards as their "semantic triangle," symbol (word), reference (thought/concept), and object (word).

Willard van Orman Quine thought he could escape ambiguities in meaning. In his book, "Word and Object" he urged "naturalizing" epistemology by focusing on the empirical connections made by speakers when they say what they mean. Favoring extensionality over intentionality (or intensionality as he preferred), he said to look at how a speaker of another language says what a word means, or how a baby learns the meaning of new worlds, by a process of behavioral conditioning and ostension (pointing at things). He said one may not be a behaviorist in psychology, but cannot avoid being a behaviorist in linguistics.

But post-moderns like Derrida and Roland Barthes showed that fundamental ambiguities of language cannot be removed, that the dictionary definitions summarizing the past uses in a community of discourse only trap meaning in a "circle of signifiers" without a referent object (s/Z). New uses are always being created, a consequence of our theory of humans as "co-creators" of our universe.

Are we then living in a Humpty Dumpty world of "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less." H. P. Grice insisted that the intentions of the "utterer" are carrying the meaning. Or do we need to consider the "reader response" to any text. In Claude Shannon's theory of the communication of information, the emphasis is on the new information at the receiver carried in the message from the sender. But Shannon never claimed the meaning was carried in the message itself. It depends on the information in the message, but only in the context of the information in the receiver's experience recorder and reproducer (ERR).

Information in an Object or Concept

The information content in a material object is independent of any human. In particular. it is independent of human language, the words, names, or descriptions that humans use to communicate about the object. This is because most language consists of symbols or signs that have an arbitrary relation to the object or concept being signified, as shown by the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce and the semiology of H. P. Grice.

But both Saussure and Peirce recognized that some natural signs are not arbitrary, because they contain some information that is isomorphic with some of the information in the object or concept. These especially include icons, abstract pictures of some aspect of the object.

Information philosophy generalizes this insight well beyond two-dimensional images or "pictures," that Ludwig Wittgenstein briefly considered as a theory of meaning, atomic facts that could be shown, if not said, for example, Tractatus 2.16, "In order to be a picture a fact must have something in common with what it pictures." .

Information philosophy identifies the total information in a material object with the yes/no answers to all the questions that can be asked or with the true/false statements that can be said about the object. In modern information theory terms, information philosophy "digitizes" the object. From each answer or truth value we can, in principle, derive a "bit" of information.

While "total" information is hopelessly impractical to measure precisely, whatever information we can "abstract" from a "concrete" object gives us a remarkably simple answer to one of the deepest problems in metaphysics, the existential status of ideas, of Platonic "Forms," including the entities of logic and mathematics. model chess piece dice

Information in Minds

The information theory of meaning starts with the information philosophy model of the mind, which asserts that the mind is the abstract information being processed by the brain, a material information structure, which works as a biological information processor.

The meaning in a message incoming to the mind, which could be just a perception of sensations from the environment and not necessarily from another human being with intentions, is found in the past experiences of the agent that are brought to mind by the Experience Recorder and Reproducer (ERR) based on the content of the message. This nicely captures the subjectivism or relativism of meaning.

It also gets close to answering Thomas Nagel's provocative question "What Is It Like To Be a Bat?" The past experiences reproduced, complete with their feelings, depends on what has been recorded and what can be reproduced (played back). A frog cannot play back the experience of concave objects flying by, because the frog's eye has filtered them out from reaching the brain and its experience recorder.

Natural Kinds

Truth Tables
P Q F NOR Xq ¬p ¬q XOR NAND AND XNOR q if/then p then/if OR T
T T F F F F F F F F T T T T T T T T
T F F F F F T T T T F F F F T T T T
F T F F T T F F T T F F T T F F T T
F F F T F T F T F T F T F T F T F T
For Teachers
For Scholars

Chapter 3.7 - The Ergod Chapter 4.2 - The History of Free Will
Part Three - Value Part Five - Problems
Normal | Teacher | Scholar