The following is based on a MCT and Dee Neely discussion about words. 

Dee NeelyPermalink Reply by Dee Neely yesterday

Words don't have meaning on the objective scale. They are symbols which relate to ideas, but they aren't objective. They are subjective. They are subjective depending on condition, on circumstance, on culture, on language...

Take the word power which we are discussing. The English word "power" has 20 different meanings according to

This makes the word very, very subjective. Science and mathematics are the only reliable way to determine meaning.

Your statement than many people have been powerful and not corrupt bears investigation.  I would be interested in seeing who you think qualifies as powerful and not corrupt so we can compare.

MCTPermalink Reply by MCT yesterday

"Words don't have meaning on the objective scale."

-Abject nonsense. The concept of ability is objective, whether we refer to it with the phoneme power or ability. It has necessary characteristics that are real and reducible to perceptual evidence in any language. We remove the unique subjective perceptions when we form concepts, that's what makes them concepts. Your willingness and attempt to defeat the process of definition by essentials cannot invalidate that XBox is an electric gaming system, no matter how you cut it. It is not a relative or subjective concept. It has necessary essentials. It is definitely some things and not others. Words, the phonemes for concepts, having objective meanings is necessary for communication about this one objective reality we all inhabit. Atheism is the belief that there are no gods. This is not a subjective definition, in fact, if it is a definition, it is not subjective. Objectification of our perceptions is necessary for language development. Cortically, this is exactly what is going on. Our cortex examines multiple versions of patterns of perceptual evidence about something that actually exists in reality and after we remove or omit the subjective arbitrary characteristics, such as color and material, in the case of a chair, and retain the objective characteristics, such as shape and purpose, we can hold this in place, attach a phoneme and communicate to others or hold in our awareness for comparing and contrasting other things like and dislike it. This is how we make knowledge. This is very consistent with new successful models of artifical intelligence, most notably Jeff Hawkins' Hierarchical Temporal Memory. Concept formation, which is necessary for rational thought and communication is the objectification of our perceptions. And someone who has the ability to walk, also, objectively has the power to walk.

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Hi God,

Did you post this is the wrong place, it seems curiously off topic.

Hi james, 

I have been thinking about a third category for words, and that is, non-meaning of words. words we have heard before but have no knowledge of their meaning. Eg thiamine, vitamin B1. Most of us have heard of vitamins, but what are they? most of us don't know what they look like, what they are made of or what they do. We just know they are good for us. I think 'non-meaning words' would tend toward the subjective but if we don't know what they look like or what they do, how can we form any sort of subjective image/meaning of them? 

A sound that has no meaning is not a word and cannot be used for communication.

A sound that has no meaning is not a word and cannot be used for communication.

Is Thiamine a word then?

Hi leveni,

Yes, Thiamine is a word, it is the sound we make to indicate the given chemical [Thiamine]. Remember, the physical world in the absence of consciousness is utterly meaningless, it is consciousness which bestows meaning on the physical world. Meaning on the other hand, is what biology experiences as object/s effect upon itself, upon its biological self. Meaning is the sole property of a conscious subject, and does not belong to object.

Try to think of a scientific definition of the phrase "full Moon".

Here's my feeble attempt: Earth's Moon as seen from the dark side of Earth when the Moon is wholly lit by the Sun.

My point is that the human language is riddled with ambiguity. How can anyone be sure they understand anyone else?

As opposed to the teenagers' definition: Kid with his naked butt hanging out of the car window.

One thing that must be understood is that words in language are completely arbitrary. They hold no meaning themselves, but only hold meaning when we assign it to them. The word dog, on its own, means nothing... it is a collection of sounds. Language then assigns meaning to them, and allows the speaker to express concepts to another speaker of the same language. If every speaker of English decided that starting tomorrow, we would call all dogs hibbidy-hobbidies, that would be completely acceptable, as we are just assigning a different sequence of phonemes to a specific concept.

In this way, you cannot rationally argue that words have any objective meaning to them, as they are clearly arbitrary constructs of language. The sequence of phonemes holds no conceptual value in itself, other than what we assign.

I agree. 

Lately, I have been blogging that we (humanity) create a new language that has not been affected by religion but based on science.

Hi Chris,

Who thought-up each word in the language we use?

Because every word that exists has been thought-up by us humans, each word must have meaning, at least the majority of words must.  Words can't create themselves, we are the creators of all words. And at the point of creation of each word, meaning for that word suddenly comes into existence. 

When a word is created by us and given meaning by us, is the meaning of that word subjective or objective? Words are designed for communication, to communicate our thoughts, from one person  to another. So when we create a word, to express an idea, surely there must be some objectivity in that created word. If not, how are words used to express thoughts?

Yes, every word must have meaning, but it is an assigned meaning, not an inherent or objective one. It is necessarily subjective as the assignment of meaning is made in your own mind. Often times in conversation, you will have misunderstandings based on slightly different meanings assigned to a particular word. For instance, when young children are learning language, they frequently (at least in the beginning) assign the word dog to virtually any quadrupedal mammal. They point at a cow and say "doggy". Naturally this is incorrect, as their definition of "dog" is too broad.

In order for language to be useful, the definitions we each assign to a word mush have a certain level of convergence. This is somewhat akin to convergent evolution, where unrelated animals fill the same ecological niche. If everyone always had 100% the same meaning assigned to a word, we would have no use for dictionaries, other than expanding vocabulary. Naturally this is not the case, and dictionaries are usually used to clarify the meaning of words.

When we use a word to express a concept, there will always be subtle variations between what each person pictures in their mind. This is because concepts such as "dog" are formed through our lives experiences, where we essentially create a template on which we can place any number of objects and "categorize" them. Since this template is formed through unique individual experience, it cannot be objective. There is a high level of commonality (which is why language works), but you must be careful not to mistake this with philosophical notions of truth and morality.

Case in point:

If I were to say the word "Grits", what would it mean to you?

If you're from the southern U.S., it would have a vastly different meaning than it would for me, being from Canada. This is because among our group of English speakers (where we were born/raised), the usage of that specific sequence of phonemes is assigned to completely different concepts (a corn based food in the southern U.S., or the Liberal Party of Canada) that do not over lap in any way. Before a few days ago, I had never heard of Grits as a food. This means that there was a total disconnect between the word and the concept held, so the meaning is subjective.

Hi Chris, 

I pretty much agree with most things you have said, and have also used the same types of examples you have used, when discussing words.

With the child(male for this explanations sake) in the above example, when he uses the word doggy for cow, how do we know what he means? Even if he didn't point to the cow, if a cow was the only animal around, we would still understand what he was talking about.    From all the words the child knew, he used the word that best represented what he wanted to say. Even though the wrong word was used, the child still got his message across.

The assigned meaning attached to the word 'doggy' was cow. We understood he meant cow not doggy. 

If the words "The child said 'look at the doggy'" were written in a book, we would think the child actually meant doggy. 

If the words "The child said 'look at the doggy'" were overheard at a paddock with only one cow in the paddock and no dogs anywhere, we would think the child meant cow.


If a Southern woman said, "they are the best Grits we have ever had" she would mean the food. And about 300 million other Americans think the same thing.

It a Canadian women said, "they are the best Grits we have ever had" she would mean the Liberal Party. And about 35 million other Canadians would think the same thing. 

In order for the word 'grit' to be understood by 300 million and 35 million people respectively, the word grit would have to have some objectivity, regardless of meaning assigned to it.

If the word 'grit' is purely subjective, are you saying that all 35 million Canadians have a different interpretation for the word 'grit'? 


Hi Chris,

The sequence of phonemes holds no conceptual value in itself, other than what we assign.

As soon as two or more people agree to the assigned meaning, doesn't that make the word(sequence of phonemes) objective.



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