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Miscommunication, And The Power Of Semantics

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posted on Jan, 1 2015 @ 09:57 PM
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I would like to touch on some subjects that have been on my mind as of late. First of all, how we don't communicate nearly as effectively as we think we do. We do not truly understand each other nearly as much as we think. And the reason for this, is often dismissed as being equivalent to irrelavent. I am speaking of semantics. We live in separate worlds, because of our semantics. And this is the nature of mind itself. Our minds pre-define potential variables of meaning. And our minds attempt to define all of existence in terms of the variables, or types of meaning, it itself has defined.

Now, when we use words, we are attempting to concretize a subjective internal truth, through the shared medium of language. Now, to you, this word has a depth of nuanced meaning, which for you is implied. It's assumed, it's part of the word itself to your mind, which is why it goes unconscious. Then another mind hears or reads your words, which have an entirely separate set of connotations. To him, it is self-apparent that those words mean that which he understands it to mean. Now when we share our ideas, we use the words we have chosen. And far more often than we realize, the meaning to the other is something completely alien to its meaning in your mind.

And so at one level, there is miscommunication. On another level though, it it comes down to our whole experience of our world. Reality is such that there are no independent objects or qualities without its potential existence being pre-defined. We define our reality by defining the potential sorts of meaning we could give to our reality. And there is in a way a great illusion which is created and called objective reality. This illusion is language. It enables effective communication to such a degree that the wide variance in meaning is largely masked. All words used have individual purpose and meaning behind them, defined by the speaker. We dig ourselves deeper into illusions when we assume others' use of words is the same as our use of words.

Now, I'm not knocking language. I'm trying to point out its power. How we dismiss these issues, using the term 'semantics' to describe them disparagingly. Well yes, it is semantics. Investigation into words and their meaning. But semantics is incredibly important in the lives of individuals. It is our collective illusion that words and things are absolutely pre-defined, and we merely receive them passively. The way we give meaning to our experience is the only meaning it has for us. And reality is such that it itself only has meaning when meaning is given to it, from an individual vantage point. And so do not disparage our capacity to give meaning. It is our greatest gift, power, and curse. We should use it more consciously. And realize that minds are inherently in a state of generating meaning.
edit on 1-1-2015 by TheJourney because: (no reason given)




posted on Jan, 1 2015 @ 10:17 PM
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a reply to: TheJourney

I've never quite understood how claiming "it's all just semantics" is often used as a way of discounting an exchange, as if the fact that we're trying to clear up the semantics miscommunications makes it meaningless.
To me, this is an important part of any exchange!
Otherwise people end up arguing, when in fact, they might not really be disagreeing on the same subject at all- they're both talking about entirely different things!

Establishing a shared understanding of the words we're using seems essential in communication.



posted on Jan, 1 2015 @ 11:20 PM
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a reply to: TheJourney

The problem is that we all have different life experiences, thus when we express ourselves on a subject, we are really just expressing our experiences with the subject. Someone could say "dogs are men's best friends", but someone who has been bitten wouldn't say the same thing about dogs. The hardest part in all this is to be objective, but how can someone be objective about something when it is impossible for any individual to experiment everything there is to experiment ? Someone who is driving a car everyday has a different idea of what a car is than someone who builds cars everyday and has built cars for 40 years, someone who sells cars has his own idea about cars, someone whose job is to dismantle cars and recycle them into something else has his onw idea about what a car is, and someone who has seen all his family dying in a car accident has a different idea about cars, etc..

How can we say what something "is" ? The answer is we can't, because it is a metaphysical question, and to answer that, first we would have to answer the question "what 'is' the universe ?". What we can do on the other hand, is to say and ask what something 'does', and when we take this approach we are forced to recognize that reality is something that is ever changing, and only the clumsy power of our mind can make it look like it never changes. We exist in a universe made of probabilities, possibilities and potentialities and we have to use a language and thought processes that are consistent with the ever changing nature of reality. Otherwise, we function on the basis of a fiction. Words are just tools made to represent reality, words are not reality. If I see a tree and I say "here is a tree", it doesn't mean that I have taken the tree inside my mind and made it go out in the form of a word. It is like a map and a territory, the map is not and will never be the territory.

Here is a good book on the subject Tyranny of Words

And also, the most important stuff on this subject : General Semantics
edit on 1-1-2015 by gosseyn because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 02:30 AM
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a reply to: TheJourney

It is important to remember that life comprises a myriad of perspectives, no two exactly the same. That's why, I believe, there are no objective truths; every truth is merely a subjective interpretation of what we refer to as reality.



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 04:36 AM
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originally posted by: Dark Ghost
a reply to: TheJourney

It is important to remember that life comprises a myriad of perspectives, no two exactly the same. That's why, I believe, there are no objective truths; every truth is merely a subjective interpretation of what we refer to as reality.


Well, couldn't you deduce from what you just wrote that when you stop interpreting, you are seated in reality or the absence of subjective truth. When two people stop interpreting, you share an objective truth. With interpreting then you share a subjective truth as you stated. Stop interpreting and you are enlightened, keep on doing it and you stay confused or lost for words...

To TheJourney, ever wonder why koans were invented?



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 06:15 AM
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posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 07:58 AM
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originally posted by: Bluesma
a reply to: TheJourney

I've never quite understood how claiming "it's all just semantics" is often used as a way of discounting an exchange, as if the fact that we're trying to clear up the semantics miscommunications makes it meaningless.
To me, this is an important part of any exchange!
Otherwise people end up arguing, when in fact, they might not really be disagreeing on the same subject at all- they're both talking about entirely different things!

Establishing a shared understanding of the words we're using seems essential in communication.


When someone uses 'its all just semantics' (though I am not quite sure these exact examples you refer to) you must consider the context of the conversation in which that statement was made.

I in a sense know what you mean by this, and that is why I will try to explain, because in a sense I have been 'guilty' of what you speak of, but there is no guilt, because there is reason, as to why saying such, is meaningful, and makes sense, in context.

For example, I used sort of what you speak of recently in a discussion:

A poster asked this of someone else:

"i have a better question- if the material world did not exist - what would be the point of conciousness ?"


I responded with this:

"Consciousness is of the material world. Be careful of semantics when using words, always."

Do you see how semantical the posters statement is? He is assuming that "what conscious is" is separate from "what material is", and this is purely a constructed assumption, that may not have any correlation to the real absolute reality we all care about when we are discussing philosophy and using words. How question automatically falls apart, because he is assuming that consciousness can exist without a material world, and therefore consciousness itself would not be material, or if only consciousness exists, it would not then be the material world. I explained my reasoning by suggesting;

"Tautologically, due to the fact that energy cannot be destroyed it can be said that; That which exists, is that which exists. Reality always equals itself.

Unless one wants to be very humanely artificially arbitrary, and say; The largest distinction that can be made is between; That in which some way exists, and that which does not exist at all (nothing). Therefore everything that ever can possibly exist, requires, what I thought was the agreed meaning of the term material, as in, that which exists."

You see, semantics is important because we must agree on what words mean. In terms of absolute reality, objectivity, what does reality care if we call "this material" but "this, not material"? If the most general concept of "material" is; "that which exists at all", which was my preset notion of the term material, than you cannot call 'anything else that exists', 'not material'.

"Material is that which exists. Is there 'some thing' that exists potentially that is not material? Why would you not refer to this 'some thing' as material? This is pure, arbitrary semantics, and not absolute truth."

And so I am guilty of what you say.

Another way to describe it is that zen saying about "see the moon past the finger" (or something like that)... we are looking at the moon not the finger pointing to the moon. The finger pointing is a tool, a word, a symbol, to direct attention to a concept greater than itself. There are many different words for moon, there are many different details and facts related to the concept of moon, and thus there are many ways to point at it and discuss it. In an argument or discussion about qualities of the moon, the content of those qualities would be the meat, the beef, the most important aspect of the reason for going into the discussion; a reason for someone to break down and claim 'ugh you are just discussing semantics' would be someone who is more concerned with playing with the human terms and their meaning, than looking past them at more concrete, objective, natural data. An analogy might be use having a very complex conversation but me being a bad typer, maybe me keyboard is broken or I have some shaky disease, and after every argument I pose, though the content can be understood and parsed, you think there is greater value in correcting my spelling and grammar, than discussing the content of my arguments.

I understand all of what I said is debatable.



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 09:50 AM
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bookmarking for later.



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 10:53 AM
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originally posted by: ImaFungi

I in a sense know what you mean by this, and that is why I will try to explain, because in a sense I have been 'guilty' of what you speak of, but there is no guilt, because there is reason, as to why saying such, is meaningful, and makes sense, in context.

For example, I used sort of what you speak of recently in a discussion:

A poster asked this of someone else:

"i have a better question- if the material world did not exist - what would be the point of conciousness ?"


I responded with this:

"Consciousness is of the material world. Be careful of semantics when using words, always."

Do you see how semantical the posters statement is? He is assuming that "what conscious is" is separate from "what material is", and this is purely a constructed assumption, that may not have any correlation to the real absolute reality we all care about when we are discussing philosophy and using words. .


See, I don't see the other posters comment any more "semantical' than yours.
Both of you are using words, that have meaning for you, so they are both semantic.
Apparently they don't have the same meaning for both.

I am not concerned about which one of you has the "real" meaning (if there is one- I have no belief in a static universal objective truth and reality... there may be one, but I don't have any belief we can perceive it).

So from there, in discussion, whose meaning is the right one is less important to me than just finding a way to know and understand what the others meanings are. Only than can I admire their view.

If they can get to see mine (if even for a second) and I can get to see theirs, than we have had an interesting exchange.



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 12:52 PM
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a reply to: TheJourney

Basically there is perspective in furtherance to the mentality of the communicator, one can see "shades" in written text and can see that there is a distinct "flavour" that is akin to the author. There is also, reading words as they are printed and according to the dictionary, thus standardising all communications, and the only room for growth in continued communications are new ideas that the reader had not encountered before, thus causing them to think originally as opposed to simply interpret and provide their "opinion".

This can be difficult with a language as expressive as English.
edit on 2-1-2015 by SystemResistor because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 01:06 PM
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originally posted by: Bluesma

originally posted by: ImaFungi

I in a sense know what you mean by this, and that is why I will try to explain, because in a sense I have been 'guilty' of what you speak of, but there is no guilt, because there is reason, as to why saying such, is meaningful, and makes sense, in context.

For example, I used sort of what you speak of recently in a discussion:

A poster asked this of someone else:

"i have a better question- if the material world did not exist - what would be the point of conciousness ?"


I responded with this:

"Consciousness is of the material world. Be careful of semantics when using words, always."

Do you see how semantical the posters statement is? He is assuming that "what conscious is" is separate from "what material is", and this is purely a constructed assumption, that may not have any correlation to the real absolute reality we all care about when we are discussing philosophy and using words. .


See, I don't see the other posters comment any more "semantical' than yours.
Both of you are using words, that have meaning for you, so they are both semantic.
Apparently they don't have the same meaning for both.

I am not concerned about which one of you has the "real" meaning (if there is one- I have no belief in a static universal objective truth and reality... there may be one, but I don't have any belief we can perceive it).

So from there, in discussion, whose meaning is the right one is less important to me than just finding a way to know and understand what the others meanings are. Only than can I admire their view.

If they can get to see mine (if even for a second) and I can get to see theirs, than we have had an interesting exchange.





Ok, well first of all they mention "material world", the big first of all is really the word "material", but anyway, in a certain conversation using the term "material world" can refer to directly just to the earth, or loosely, but extremely acceptedly, the entire realm of physicality, physical reality. Key aspect, in philosophical context:

(wiki- "World is a common name for the whole of human civilization, specifically human experience, history, or the human condition in general, worldwide, i.e. anywhere on Earth[2] or pertaining to anywhere on earth.

In a philosophical context it may refer to:

the whole of the physical Universe, or
an ontological world (see world disclosure).")

So the proper conclusion interpreting the posters question, would be to say that semantically the question doesnt make sense, because he is assuming consciousness is not material, this is a semantic assumption, due to the arbitrary human feeling of what the word material means, and what 'true thing that exists in reality, is and is not qualified as material'.

According to the should be acknowledge truth and meaning of consciousness, and the comprehension of physicality, substance, somethingsness at all. Well, ok... this is the point I was trying to make. There can only ever be "Something" and "Nothing". Nothing is always nothing. Something is always something. Do you see that and agree?

So knowing that there is only something and nothing, and nothing is nothing... so there is only ever something....

Dont we see that there is only material?

And that if consciousness is something... it is material.

Why would 'something...that is something' not be 'material'? what would be the meaning of that?

Material as in matter? Or material as in, human feelings, of 'well fabric is material because I can hold it, water is not material because I cant wear it?


I would argue, that consciousness is something, therefore it is matter/energy, (energy is matter moving, or matter with the potential to move, be moved), so I finally arrive at my point to the poster, that if you state in your semantical equation; "If the material world did not exist..." ... You are automatically discounting the possibility for consciousness to exist in this scenario. So it is illogical/illegal, semantically, realistically, to than state "...would would be the point of consciousness".



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 01:13 PM
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A definition of sematics would have been a good (both semantically and practically) place to start:


"The technical term for the study of meaning in language is semantics. But as soon as this term is used, a word of warning is in order.

"Any scientific approach to semantics has to be clearly distinguished from a pejorative sense of the term that has developed in popular use, when people talk about the way that language can be manipulated in order to mislead the public. A newspaper headline might read. 'Tax increases reduced to semantics'--referring to the way a government was trying to hide a proposed increase behind some carefully chosen words. Or someone might say in an argument, 'That's just semantics,' implying that the point is purely a verbal quibble, bearing no relationship to anything in the real world. This kind of nuance is absent when we talk about semantics from the objective point of linguistic research. The linguistic approach studies the properties of meaning in a systematic and objective way, with reference to as wide a range of utterances and languages as possible."
(David Crystal, How Language Works. Overlook, 2006)


So 'semantic' has two different meanings depending on the context it is used in.

First - is the 'denotive' meaning, simply "meaning in language"

Second - is the 'connotative' meaning the informal, vernacular meaning of the word as commonly used.

An example - the word 'minion'

The denotive meaning is a subordinate in a hierarchical organization.

The connotative meaning is one of an unthinking pawn of someone.

Minion is a perjorative word and you would not use it to complement an excellent assistant you would use it to insult someone.

Your discussion of 'personal' meaning is valid and does make clear communication difficult. Semantics however is really the study of 'collective' or 'public' meaning.



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 01:28 PM
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We are word and idea junkies; we are addicted to semantic systems.

This means that we use words/ideas with an unchallenged confidence that they bear a somewhat accurate correspondence to the actual state of things, Reality.

Within a limited context this may be somewhat true. We can record information, instructions, recipes, etc. in words, and another human will be able to use those words to approximate the "real-world" conditions we intended to refer to. This semantic functionality has apparently given our species a large evolutionary advantage.

BUT... for "spirituality", inquiry into Reality, into our true condition, words/ideas are worse than useless. They are potentially our biggest impediment.

This is because we may tend to assume that the objects/actions which words refer to, ACTUALLY EXIST IN THE WAY THE WORDS THAT REFER TO THEM SEEM TO DEFINE THEM. That is, we may tend to view our experience as being actually made up of the objects and actions that the words we are using to describe it imply.

This is a fundamental mistake, due to the fact that ALL experience is in actuality an infinite, constantly changing, non-repeating, indefinable (in any final way), unpatterned field of miraculously appearing Radiantly Present "energies" existing nowhere else than IN experience, perceived by unknowable, miraculously appearing "consciousness". But our use of words implies that objects and actions may actually exist in the way we refer to them, as knowable, definable objectively existing "beings", "things" and "situations".

This is actually NOT the case.
theopendoorway.org...
Just thought I would share this.
edit on 2-1-2015 by Itisnowagain because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 01:54 PM
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originally posted by: Bluesma
a reply to: TheJourney

I've never quite understood how claiming "it's all just semantics" is often used as a way of discounting an exchange, as if the fact that we're trying to clear up the semantics miscommunications makes it meaningless.
To me, this is an important part of any exchange!
Otherwise people end up arguing, when in fact, they might not really be disagreeing on the same subject at all- they're both talking about entirely different things!

Establishing a shared understanding of the words we're using seems essential in communication.


In the private realm this is were active listening comes into play. We need to clarify what another is saying by repeating it back to them in our own words educating each other in the process on one anothers world view.

In public discourse we don't have this opportunity hence the adage "know your audience".

A general lack of education on these subjects in the public (and many private) primary and secondary (even tertiary) schools creates a public without defence against whatever propoganda is presented.

In the past 'news' presented, as much as possible, facts in a dennotative (or dictionary definition) fashion. Todays 'news' is presented largely in connotative terms. The public has trouble sorting out news from what is commentary or editorial material. This is a huge distinction and one that goes unnoted.

Finding a true 'news' source is difficult in this ear of 'communication' (meaning propoganda) majors.



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 02:03 PM
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a reply to: gosseyn

I want to respond here but have to go to work for a few hours.

And you are talking about personal meaning rather then collective meaning which is an entirely different subject. Society must, in order to function, agree on the meanings of terms. This happens organically, over time, and is compiled in dictionaries. In our rapidly changing society, it is very hard to find consensus on definitions of evolving usage of words (hence the different numered definitions in dictionaries) and for new words. For people who share a mother tongue it is a challenge and consider the problems of translation into other tongues. The implications are enormous.

I have to go now.....

Great thread.



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 09:54 PM
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a reply to: FyreByrd

Well, there is no collective meaning without personal meaning. What you call collective meaning is like an external hard drive and we exchange with it incessantly, uploading to it and downloading from it. It is the personal experiences of millions and billions of people which form what you call the collective meaning. And dictionaries can't replace experiences because it is the experience that give the meaning : a dictionary can't give the meaning for everything in every context, and it cannot possibly predict the future by telling you that this or that will never be experienced this or that way by anyone.



posted on Jan, 2 2015 @ 10:11 PM
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One thing to keep in mind about language. It is ultimately, totally self-referential. Words are defined by words, and everyone of those words is defined by other words. There's no ultimate foundation, just circular self-referentialism, which exists at such a massive scale that significant meaning can be given to it. So, I would say collective meaning is bit of a misnomer. Dictionaries and the like provide a meeting-place, which keeps all speakers of a language relatively close to one another in understood meaning in most cases. But ultimately, there is no meaning other than the meaning which it has in the mind of every individual. And while those meanings may have an collected representative, it fails to convey true meaning, because the true meaning is in the nuances. And thus listening and reading is a skill as well. Picking up on nuances. And then consciously expressing nuances as well.



posted on Jan, 3 2015 @ 01:39 AM
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a reply to: ImaFungi

The post by FyreByrd helped me understand a bit better what you are getting at.

It seems you are using "semantics" in it's recently evolved connotative meaning, in which it is used pejoratively?




Any scientific approach to semantics has to be clearly distinguished from a pejorative sense of the term that has developed in popular use, when people talk about the way that language can be manipulated in order to mislead the public.


I have been out of the US for more than 20 years, I am somewhat out of touch with recent popular trends, so I was reading the word with it's technical meaning "meaning in language".

Both you and the other poster are attributing meaning to the words you are both using, but disagree on the meanings.
Meaning is something we attribute to words, as individuals, and as a collective.

It is tempting to enter the debate you are bringing forth - is consciousness matter? -that entails some discussion on the meaning of the word "matter" and the meaning of the word "consciousness" (a discussion of semantics) but it seems more appropriate to leave that particular discussion in it's thread- it is not the topic here.

The importance of semantics, in the prejorative way you are indicating (who has the "right" meaning and who has the false one) can be important in establishing the collective agreement and (as a result) influencing collective thoughts, ideas and beliefs.

But even so, even if EVERYONE in my culture believes something in particular (say, that matter and consciousness are not the same , or that matter and consciousness are the same) that still wouldn't convince me of their knowing *the truth*.
I still might have a different view. But it is important to know what the current collective beliefs and views are.

(you might need to introduce a semantical discussion on the meaning of the word "thing" before you can get much further with that demonstration over there....
)



posted on Jan, 3 2015 @ 01:47 AM
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As someone who has had to learn another language by ear, I find the subject of huge importance!
Trying to understand all the nuances and connotations of a word is essential to being able to communicate effectively!

And looking up in the dictionary will not always give you the most current evolutions. I run into misunderstandings all the time in french because of this problem. I have even found, in changing regions within the same country, a word can take on a different slant entirely- it can be pejorative in one region, laudatory in another. I have to be very alert to the facial and body language in response to determine such things- and very alert to the timing- to recognize exactly which word in a sentence I used is the one that set off the subtle reaction.
Man, the headaches I used to get just from a ten minute conversation....
edit on 3-1-2015 by Bluesma because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 3 2015 @ 06:52 AM
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originally posted by: TheJourney
One thing to keep in mind about language. It is ultimately, totally self-referential. Words are defined by words, and everyone of those words is defined by other words. There's no ultimate foundation, just circular self-referentialism, which exists at such a massive scale that significant meaning can be given to it. So, I would say collective meaning is bit of a misnomer. Dictionaries and the like provide a meeting-place, which keeps all speakers of a language relatively close to one another in understood meaning in most cases. But ultimately, there is no meaning other than the meaning which it has in the mind of every individual. And while those meanings may have an collected representative, it fails to convey true meaning, because the true meaning is in the nuances. And thus listening and reading is a skill as well. Picking up on nuances. And then consciously expressing nuances as well.


You say language is self referential, and while that is true and all your points are important, on must not forget the great and obvious importance of the reality of objects and relations of objects that surround us that our language is predominantly used to describe. So the terms apple and tree are self referential in relation to the meaning of all other words that exist, but the foundation is reality, in that all humans can look at a tree, and the red tasty thing that is an apple, and say, ok everyone this thing is called "apple".







 
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