[sc34wg3] Re: Montreal meeting recommendations

Martin Bryan sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Wed, 19 Sep 2001 09:11:46 +0100

Steve Newcombe wrote:
> But What The Information Means is intangible and
> unspeakable.  We have nowhere to stand.  God is not to
> be found in heaven any more, there is no up or down,
> and what we had thought was firm and solid is now
> understood to be entirely dependent on Human Intuition,
> which is notoriously variable.  We need to refer to
> Meaning, but only Utterance is available, and Utterance
> is not what we Mean.  We open our mouths, intending to
> speak Meaning, but no words come out.

We can never refer to the meaning of others, only to our own interpretation
of what others mean. We can refer to the resources from which we have
derived our interpretation of that meaning. We can refer to the definitions
that others have provided for the terms they use in their own private
language to express a concept. But we can never state that our understanding
of the subject is exactly the same as another persons. (Look at the
controversy the word Crusade has conjured up in the last week.) Language is
a concensus between the people within a particular linguistic group to share
a meaning for a term. The best we can do is state that a particular term is
most commonly used by this community in this way. Utterences are based on
the fact that both the utterer and the receiver share a common definition of
the terms used in the utterence. Whenever they don't they are in trouble. If
I say "640 by 480" what does it mean to you: what does it mean to a window
blind maker: what does it mean to a maths teacher? The same utterence has
different meanings in different domains. Until we determine the scope of the
concept or term we cannot begin to assign it a meaning.