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What if all meaning is interpreted?

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posted on Jan, 16 2008 @ 02:54 PM
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Douglas Hofstadter did a great job of proving that all meaning is interpreted. That in fact, everything you want to believe, is merely that.. something you want to believe... (This goes for those atheists too).

Anything you are convinced of having meaning is simply interpreted.

There, now all that guilt you are carrying around can be dumped off.. why? Because it's all in your head!

You Atheists, those of you who hate the God-Fearing people, this applies to you as well... your sense of meaning you acheieve by seeking so-called truth, is all in your head as well.

If we could all just remember that everything we see is given to us by our senses and filtered by our beliefs (anything you are convinced of, objective or not) then this would be a much better world.

Why? Because no one would lash out at anyone for long periods of time, because hey... nothing really *means* anything!

And all this so-called perverse behavior that the right fears so much would go away, because hangups on meaning are at the root of all self-destructive behavior.

The quicker we all learn to live without meaning, and enjoy it anyway, the better off society as a whole will be.

Remember.. there are no shoulds, and no oughts in this world. It is what it is, and it will be what it will be. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.




posted on Jan, 16 2008 @ 03:19 PM
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Originally posted by Quazga
Anything you are convinced of having meaning is simply interpreted.

Your post assumes that our personal interpretation is somehow flawed or highly inaccurate. I don't know if you can assert that. I disagree with you. I assert that our interpretations, as thinking humans, are usually HIGHLY ACCURATE.

We all do an awesome, incredible, remarkable, mysterious job of interpreting the world around us. (After all, we live an average of 70+ years on this planet, navigating around all the obstacles around us!) We are drawing legitimate meaning from reality -- for the most part.

So I think you are off track. See this thread which happens to be coincident to your OP. (Strange how these discussions come in waves. I wonder why?)

Cheers! I like your post anyway. Starred!



posted on Jan, 16 2008 @ 03:39 PM
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reply to post by Buck Division
 




Actually yes, the truth we find is a "workable truth" not an actual or absolute truth. That was well proved by Hegel in the Phenomenology of Spirit.

What I'm talking about is the interpretation of "meaning". If you read Godel,Escher, Bach you will see this objectively demonstrated with formal systems. Hofstadter goes through the process of presenting a formal system called the pq- system.

As you work with this system you begin to interpret an isomorphism between it and an addition equation. As you work with it, you begin to realize that it mirrors addition equations exactly so it must actually mean addition. Then later you are presented with the same system, and different exercises.. these lead you to interpret it as a subtraction equation, yet the formal system didn't change. Your interpretation changes as you work with it.

My point here, is that yes, there is no meaning except that which is interpreted. Zen Sutras have stated this for centuries (There is no good or bad, only thinking makes it so) Christian theologians have as well, Paul states in Romans "I am convinced that there is nothing inherently good or bad, only to he who esteemeth it so"

Your point of "Oh well we've done real well with it" could easily be debated, but It's easier to point out that what you are saying is aking to a primitive tribe stating that it's cosmology and god are right, because they are still around. Doesn't make much sense does it?

net-net... all meaning is interpreted, and doesn't really matter. ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.


p.s. thanks for the star :-)

[edit on 16-1-2008 by Quazga]



posted on Jan, 16 2008 @ 03:46 PM
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I think you answered your own question. All meaning is interpreted. It's just a matter of the number of people who follow one specific meaning, or if it's just your own interpretation.

This goes for any experience you can think of. Regardless of the 'preparation' for the experience, you won't understand it until you live through it. This is why parents try to prevent their kids from making the same mistakes, but from the kid's point of view, they won't understand it until they go through the experience.

By having someone else interpret something for you, you rely on their conclusion.

I never understood why in every religion, profession, only 'certain gifted smart' people can read certain passages/books and explain them... it's because they have more knowledge regarding the topic than us, so that's why they are 'allowed' to 'teach us' what it means.

I am a computer technician. If someone asks me 'what was the problem?' I use the same logic. I make an interpretation on whether this person actually wants to know the in's and out's of how hardware/software works, or they don't really care, and just ask for the sake of it. Once I make that decision, then I can explain the answer accordingly. It is this 'filter' exercise which everyone does to a certain extent that encourages us to rely on someone else's interpretation.



posted on Jan, 16 2008 @ 05:27 PM
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Originally posted by QuazgaAs you work with this system you begin to interpret an isomorphism between it and an addition equation. As you work with it, you begin to realize that it mirrors addition equations exactly so it must actually mean addition. Then later you are presented with the same system, and different exercises.. these lead you to interpret it as a subtraction equation, yet the formal system didn't change. Your interpretation changes as you work with it.

Very interesting. Here is a link that explains the pq- system.

I bow to your superior understanding of this. But it appears to me that Hofstadter is simply presenting a system that can be interpreted two or more ways. He is saying that ambiguity can exist in the definition of a formal system.

Consider ambiguity. Look at the phrase, "Time Flies Like An Arrow". This phrase can be interpreted different ways. It has different meanings. Are we saying: time travels quickly, like an arrow travels quickly? Or are we saying: a particular type of insect, called a "time fly", has affection for a particular arrow?

So it appears to me that interpretation can sometimes yield multiple valid meanings, which is QUITE DIFFERENT from saying that there is no meaning at all.

I will tell you why I am arguing this: If you break your leg, it hurts! That pain has extremely significant meaning. It is difficult to misinterpret, and probably needs to be interpreted correctly to avoid further damage to your leg! To suggest otherwise seems dangerous and irresponsible.

#

I don't want to argue too much on this. I think you are right on the mark that there are significant errors in interpretation that cause a lot of psychological pain to people, such as guilt and fear and anger.

As you say in your OP "hangups on meaning" cause a lot of stupid and pointless problems. That I agree with 100%. (My interpretation, of course
)



posted on Jan, 18 2008 @ 12:38 PM
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Originally posted by Buck Division

Originally posted by QuazgaAs you work with this system you begin to interpret an isomorphism between it and an addition equation. As you work with it, you begin to realize that it mirrors addition equations exactly so it must actually mean addition. Then later you are presented with the same system, and different exercises.. these lead you to interpret it as a subtraction equation, yet the formal system didn't change. Your interpretation changes as you work with it.

Very interesting. Here is a link that explains the pq- system.

I bow to your superior understanding of this. But it appears to me that Hofstadter is simply presenting a system that can be interpreted two or more ways. He is saying that ambiguity can exist in the definition of a formal system.

Consider ambiguity. Look at the phrase, "Time Flies Like An Arrow". This phrase can be interpreted different ways. It has different meanings. Are we saying: time travels quickly, like an arrow travels quickly? Or are we saying: a particular type of insect, called a "time fly", has affection for a particular arrow?

So it appears to me that interpretation can sometimes yield multiple valid meanings, which is QUITE DIFFERENT from saying that there is no meaning at all.

I will tell you why I am arguing this: If you break your leg, it hurts! That pain has extremely significant meaning. It is difficult to misinterpret, and probably needs to be interpreted correctly to avoid further damage to your leg! To suggest otherwise seems dangerous and irresponsible.

#

I don't want to argue too much on this. I think you are right on the mark that there are significant errors in interpretation that cause a lot of psychological pain to people, such as guilt and fear and anger.

As you say in your OP "hangups on meaning" cause a lot of stupid and pointless problems. That I agree with 100%. (My interpretation, of course
)




Yep your are exact in your understanding of the pq- system. And thanks for the link by the way.

However, the entirety of the book Godel, Escher, Bach, (of which the pq- system is an introduction of sorts) does lead to the conclusion that "all meaning is interpreted".


You called out a very good point that a two identicial interpretations can be valid. So when I say "All meaning is interpreted" I'm not saying "everything you know is wrong". I'm simply stating that what someone "knows" to be right, may very well be a workable truth as defined by Hegel, but it doesn't rise to any level of superiority over what another might "know" to be right, even if what each person "knows" is in direct conflict with eachother.


Again, this is mostly clarifying my point and not arguing with you. I dearly appreciate your research on the pq-system and recommend the book GEB.

The crux of this, is how humans deal with meaning. We tend to attempt to prioritize meaning as if it is an absolute which says something about who we are and our situation. We act as if it is immutable. This both inspires us and shackles us, depending on the meaning we interpret. Yet, if all meaning is interpreted, then that means priorities go out the window.

Now obviously some interpretations are completely meaningless, which Hofstadter explains.



posted on Jan, 18 2008 @ 12:43 PM
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Great thread. It is something that I have believed for quite sometime. An individuals interpretation of anything is not flawless.




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