Brain, Behaviour and Extensionalism

Curt Welch curt at
Thu Apr 15 15:03:13 EST 2004

patty <pattyNO at> wrote:
> ... pause for dramatic effect ...

That really did create a good dramatic effect as I read it. :)

> What about the lion ?
> So the sign relation is (lion, run like hell, footprint).

Well.  good qustion.  What about the lion?  We know we are running to get
away from it.  Using our langauge, it can be said we are reacting to the
"meaning" of the sign.

And that way of talking about Langauge used to make a lot of sense to me.
But now things are all changing.  And that's why this is not so obvious

So just how does this work?  It's a semantic mess when you look at it.

Take the first perspective.  I am my brain.  There is no "something else
like mind" in the equation.  In this case how does the brain do this?  Does
it have one black box that transforms the sensory vision data of the lion
print into "meaning", and then another black box which transforms
"meaning", into feet moving fast?  If so, then we have created the
assuption that inside the mind there must be some internal reprensation of
"meaning" being passed from one black box to the next.  But we have _zero_
experimential evidence to support this claim.  The only experimential
evidence we have is that the person ran when he saw the footprint.  There
is not falsifiable experimential evidence to support the existence of
"meaning" as some intermediate data in the brain.

Take another perspective.  We have a mind.  In this case, the mind
understands the meanding of of the visual data and makes the brain tell the
feed to haul butt. Ok, so the mind has some "mystical connection" to the
brain but is not the brain.  What does that mean?  How do I build that?
Where is the faslifiable experimential data to prove that there is this
second component in the picture called "the mind"?

When you look at the experimential evidnece, you find only one thing.  The
brain, reacts to the footprint.  There is no other "meaning" here.  There
is no other "mind" here.  If it is there, it's only because you have
created a fantasy for the fun of it and like Sata Clause, you beilve in it
because you want to belive in it (or really because the culture which has
given you so many valuable tools like language has told you that the "mind"
exists), not because there is falsifiable evidence to support it.  By
beliving that the mind exists, or that meaning is somethihg other than
simply the way the brain reacts to the footprint, you have violated a basic
tenit of the scientific method.  You have created a non falsifiable
hypotheses and you belive it to be basic truth.

So, if there is no such thing as "meaning" other the way the brain as a
whole, reacts to a sign, then why is the Lion part of the equation?  The
lion is not there now.  The lion didn't make the sign.  The lion didn't run

The best you can do is try to justify that lion had something to do with
the creation of the behavior.

But, what if lions didn't actully exist?  Lets say that bears and other
dangerious animals exist, but our rarely seen.  Our guy did once see a bear
and it killed a friend of his which didn't run away fast enough.  So our
guy knows the danger of wild animals.  But others in his tribe told him
about the Lion (an urban legend in the tribe).  And they showed him what
the footprint looked like by making a stamp in the dirt with their hand in
the correct way.

Then, another guy from the tribe carved a fake Lion foot, and used it to
make fake Lion tracks in the dirt around the camp.

Our guy comes across the fake footprint, and runs, because to our guy, this
"lion" is real.

So when you add in the concept of "meaning" to this picture, things get
impossiple complex.  Using meaning, how do you explain the difference
between these two events.  In both, the guy things he is running away from
a real lion.  But in one world, there are no lions.  It's just fantasy.
And the idea of a Lion had nothing to do with that sign.  The sign was not
created by a real Lion.  But in the other world, the sign was created by a
real loin, and the guy was making a wise decision to run from the "real"

So you have this triangle of "meaning" which somehow links the sign, the
concept of the "lion", and a real Lion together.

How does that change in the two worlds?

I don't even know where to begin to explain what that triad of meaning
should be in those two worlds.  Maybe you can explain it?

In my world, there is only behavior.  The guy sees the sign and he runs.
The "meaning" of the sign is exactly the same in both worlds.  This is
because the meaning is 100% defined by how the guy reacts to it.

In fact, how the guy reacts to the sign is a result of how he has been
trained to react.  So if you want to throw in more complexity to the
meaning of meaning, you can try to suck in the things in this guys life
that trained this behavior into him.  Maybe it was a real Lion that helped
in learn this, or manybe it was they guys in the tribe.  In this case, you
can then explain how these two events are different.  The "meaning of the
meaning of the lion sign" is now different in the two worlds.

But what caused the guy to believe the tribe members anyhow.  Maybe it was
the bear.  So to really explain this, we have to include that as well.  So
lets include the meaning of the meaning of the meaning in the defintion of
the word in the langauge as the word, the concept, the lion, the tribe
guys, and the bear.

Do you see the infinit set of reflections between too mirros happening
here? You should, because that is what is happening.

Meaning is simply the way the agent reacts to the sign.  Period.  End of
story. There is no "lion" as part of the meaning.  You can't suck the lion
in any form into the meaning without sucking the entire past experience of
the guy into the meaning (which is acurate to an extend but not useful for
simply defining the meaning of the lion track signs).

By trying to bring in any form of the Lion into the meaning of the sign,
you have just used language to cut off the branch you were standing on and
have wandered into an maze of twisty passages all different which you can't
get out of.  You have passed through the looking glass and are coexisting
with the reflections instead of living in the real world.  How many
different ways can I find to say this? :)

Curt Welch                                            http://CurtWelch.Com/
curt at                          Webmaster for http://NewsReader.Com/

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