what does mean mean?

Humpty DumptyLet's put Language on the chopping block. Do words have real meaning? What does "mean" mean?

You'd think that if words are slippery and vague, at least numbers are solid and safe. We might argue about the meaning of words, but there's no denying that one plus one equals two. Is there?

When Arithmetic and Geometry see Kurt Gödel* coming, they run screaming into the night. Why?

They scream because they're afraid that their foundations will be revealed as rickety, unsound and unsupported in the harsh spotlight of Gödel's incompleteness theorems; that their truths will dissolve in a Gödelian bath of universal acid; that they will be condemned as inconsistent and incomplete.

As a so-called "formal system" for locating, identifying, capturing and transmitting meaning, Language faces the same Gödelian issues as do Arithmetic, Geometry and other systems. In the same way as the axioms of Arithmetic and Geometry can only be proved consistent outside of those systems, so too can the consistency and completeness of Language statements only be established by stepping outside of Language. The incompleteness of language is built into the foundations of the Tower of Babel. The absolute, pure, true meaning of words can't be demonstrated in words or by using words; the absolute meaning of words can only be established outside of Language.

Words are labels that language-users apply to elements of reality. Words are signs with which language-users point to elements of reality. Every language statement is metaphorical, to a greater or lesser degree. There's no direct, seamless connection between language statements and "bedrock reality". Words have no meaning of their own, no intrinsic meaning, only the meanings assigned by language-users and language-makers. As Humpty Dumpty says in Lewis Carrol's "Through the Looking Glass":

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
Disagreement is what happens when language users have different points of view about which labels apply to what.

Einstein's General Relativity means that there are no privileged frames, no absolute times or spaces applicable everywhere or anywhere. Similarly, there are no absolute meanings or truths, with one exception: that which encompasses all meanings and all truths, ie, Everything That Is (ETI).

Q: Does meaning = truth?
A: Maybe, but the truth of that proposition remains to be proven.

* He's dead now so it would be his rotting corpse they'd be running from.


eBooks by Cosmic Rapture:

NIGHTMERRIES: THE LIGHTER SIDE OF DARKNESS This so-called "book" will chew you up, spit you out, and leave you twitching and frothing on the carpet. More than 60 dark and feculent fictions (read ‘em and weep) copiously illustrated by over 20 grotesque images you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.

AWAREWOLF & OTHER CRHYMES AGAINST HUMANITY (Vot could be Verse?) We all hate poetry, right? But we might make an exception for this sick and twisted stuff. This devil's banquet of adults-only offal features more than 50 satanic sonnets, vitriolic verses and odious odes.

MANIC MEMES & OTHER MINDSPACE INVADERS A disturbing repository of quotably quirky quotes, sayings, proverbs, maxims, ponderances, adages and aphorisms. This menagerie holds no fewer than 184 memes from eight meme-species perfectly adapted to their respective environments.

FIENDS & FREAKS Adults-only Tales of Serpents, Dragons, Devils, Lobsters, Anguished Spirits, Gods, Anti-gods and Other Horse-thieves You Wouldn't Want to Meet in a Dark Kosmos: 4th Edition

HAGS TO HAGGIS Whiskey-soaked Tails of War-nags, Witches, Manticores and Escapegoats, Debottlenecking and Desilofication, Illustrated

Karen said...

I commented on this post with a post of my own: