[percy-l] Re:Seminal events of consciousness

James Piat piat1 at bellsouth.net
Tue Dec 17 20:17:27 EST 2002

Ken Armstrong wrote:
>> I won't barge in on this over every point; I just can't resist saying something when I see "fact"  being held up as a standard of judgement for all spheres of experience. What I would suggest is that there are "things" in existence that are unique, that cannot be duplicated or tested, and that trying to hold these essentially non-thingy "things" to a standard of fact is the same as trying to reduce them to a lower order of existence. There is no way to demonstrate that the duplicative way to knowledge---so-called fact---should be the standard against which all truths must be held. It is only, to use your word, an assumption (granted, an appealing and popular one in our culture), and one that does not hold up to logical analysis. It is not that I am trying to take facts out of the equation; I am trying to point out that there is no equation. Science is temporary; we're looking for what is not bound by time.>>

Dear Ken,

I agree with what you say above.  Thanks.   I think I over stated the case for facts.  Whether or not something is a fact (whatever that might be;) is not the only standard of interest for me either.  But I'm not sure I've understood your point below:  

Ken wrote:

>> Symbols as representation are symbols as signs, i.e. not really symbols. An understanding of "symbol" that does not include in the nature of symbols that they participate in what they "mean" misses symbolic function entirely. Symbols as signs, denatured symbols, can be appropriated to dogs, monkeys, etc. But symbols as symbols have no place in any but the human world. In the animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds, there is no film at 11.>>

I'm not sure what you mean above, Ken.  Peirce speaks of three kinds of triadic signs  --icons, indexes and symbols.  He speaks of all three as representations.  He differentiates them partly on the basis of the type of association between the object and the sign. Icons are based upon a similarity between the object and the sign, indexes on a spatial temporal correlation between the object and sign and symbols upon a convention.   Using Peirces classification of signs into icons idexes and symbols are you saying that only humans use symbols but that animals may use icons and indexes.  Or do you want to go further and say that the comunnication signals that animals use are not triadic at all? Thay they are simply some sort of mechanical behvior that does not participate in what it means?  If so,  I would like to hear more of what you mean by symbols participating in what they mean.  It sounds interesting to me Ken but I'm not sure what it means.   

And maybe a word or two about "meaning" itself.  I take meaning to be the known consequences of behavior.  By consequences I mean the effects the behavior has upon the ongoing goal directed behavior of the community of shared language users.   Consequences are meaningful only to the extent that they are known.  They have effects whether they are known or not  -- but the effects don't "mean" anything to us unless we can conceive, symbolize or know them.  Adam and Eve were certainly naked before the fall but being naked only meant embarrassment to them after they knew the consequences and implications of not having any clothes on.   

Ken, I am not hell bent on proving non humans can symbolize.  Rather I'm trying to understand the nature of symbolization itself.  I think examining whether non human's can symbolize might be a way of clarifying whatever it is that constitutes the essential nature of a symbol as opposed to signaling or whatever "symbol like communication" non human animals seem to employ.  Clearly,  as Steve and others have pointed out there are some classes of symbols or representations that non human animals do not seem to use -- for example art (although some mating displays might be construed as such depending upon the definition of a symbol).   And it also seems clear that abstract ability of non humans is far more limited than humans.  So we would expect their communication and use of symbols to be limited accordingly.  I would not expect them to develop a symbol for very abstract conceptions such a s "being" or God for example. 

I guess my question to you and Steve is:  Is there some logical or physical reason that non human animals or computers can not symbolize -- or is the reason theological or religious?   IF we could some day in the future sit  down and have a seemingly normal human like chat with a computer would this convince you computers can symbolize. Or is your position that no amount of evidence could ever persuade you that  a computer is really symbolizing because such is Biblically or theologically impossible.    I'm not saying such a position would be invalid but I would say it ignores what we call facts and therefore can not be defeated nor proven by an appeal to the facts.  For my part I'm interested in both so called objective and subjective evidence.  I am interested in Christian Biblical insights and teachings about symbolization as well as scientific approaches.  For me they are both interesting and I do not find them in conflict  -- but I think there is a danger that proponents of each might talk past one another (as I was perhaps doing with my one sided appeal to facts earlier) unless the issue is openly addressed.  Your comment about facts has helped me realize this -- perhaps I need to focus more on understanding and listening and less on jumping so quickly to refute or challenge what others I saying.    I'll try.  

Jim Piat  
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/percy-l/attachments/20021217/268e0e25/attachment.html>

More information about the Percy-L mailing list