Brain, Behaviour and Extensionalism

patty pattyNO at
Fri Apr 16 10:54:48 EST 2004

Curt Welch wrote:
> 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.

In your discussion below, which is great and all, please note that it 
was *you* who introduced this intermediate term "meaning", not me.  All 
I did was to note that we have a relation here  (lion, run like hell, 
footprint).   Mostly in your discussion below you continue to forget 
about the lion.  Sans lion ... no run !  Sans lion ... no sign! That is 
my only point.

> 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
> anymore.
> 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.

We should tell the whole story here and stop forgetting about the lion. 
  Look, brains don't just naturally react to footprints by running ... 
when was the last time you saw a footprint ... did you run?  No, what 
must have happened here was that this person had a life threatening 
experience (whether first or second hand does not matter) with a lion 
and the sense data of the footprint put his brain into that context and 
the flight behavior ensued.  Now you have the rest of the story.

> 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
> away.

That paragraph is just too confused to unravel.  Without the lion being 
in the equation, the person would not have 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.

I have no problem with that ... we can analyze it with semiotic 
relations see
he gives examples of more complex relations.

> So when you add in the concept of "meaning" to this picture, 

This is so very confusing the way you are talking ... Where do you see 
this mark "meaning" in the sign relation that I posted?    Actually I'll 
cop to creating some confusion myself by surreptitiously substituting a 
behavior description ("run like hell") for the interpretant ... that is 
not how it is usually coded.  But then you continue to behave like what 
must be in the object column (Lion) is in the meaning column ... which 
one would expect to be  the interpretant column ... very confusing.  The 
whole reason behind this kind of semiotics (at least to me) is to 
deconfuse these kinds of things ... but there we go ... reconfusing it 
all again :(

So, let's stick to Sowa's triangle [1] with the possible exception that 
now we can describe a behavior (public or private) of the interpreter at 
the apex rather than use mentalistic terms like "concept" there.


Our sign relation example (left corner, apex, right corner) is just 
(lion, run like hell, footprint).  Sowa calls the apex "concept" (a 
mentalistic term) - we don't need to be mentalistic - just put a 
description of the public or private behavior of the interpreter agent 
at the apex of the triangle.

> 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"
> lion.

One thing to realize is that signs (note the word "sign" refers to the 
whole relation) get very complex ... very twisty ... lots of things can 
happen with them.  Maybe, just maybe, that is why they have come to 
dominate our world ... nich var?

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

More confusions ... more flim flam.

> 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.  

I have no problem with that.

> The "meaning of the
> meaning of the lion sign" is now different in the two worlds.

You must be arguing with ghosts in your own mind ... i see no "two 
worlds" here at all.

> 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.

Well i see a lot of confusion ... and i hesitate to react till it is 

One thing to realize about signs is that they do tend to do a lot of 
tricky things like in reflecting mirrors .. that is just the things that 
happen,  and those happenings can be analyzed with these relations. 
Sentient organism swim in a causative soup analyzable by these relations 
... non sentient objects don't seem to need that analysis.

> Meaning is simply the way the agent reacts to the sign.  Period.  End of
> story. There is no "lion" as part of the meaning.  

Curt, Curt, Curt .... there is a lion.

> You can't suck the lion
> in any form into the meaning without sucking the entire past experience of
> the guy into the meaning 

Bingo !

> (which is acurate to an extend but not useful for
> simply defining the meaning of the lion track signs).

Sans lion the tracks would have been just marks on the ground and the 
person would not have run.

> 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? :)

I think you are arguing furiously, but not with me.


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