Kelgray and Beyond

int game_engine(void) {

Philosophy of Language

Once again I’m going to exercise my right as an undergraduate philosopher to talk out of my ass without having to worry about plagiarizing by accidentally talking about something that someone else came up with.  What I’m talking about today is a topic that I started thinking about after visiting The Force Holocron and reading a post about the identity theory of truth.  Now I’ve personally always been a firm believer in the correspondence theory of truth (the idea that a statement is true if it corresponds to a fact), but that’s mostly been because it’s been the best theory that I’ve yet come across.  The identity theory of truth is something more along the lines of a statement’s truth depends on the truth value of its bearer (a proposition for example).  The idea of the identity theory of truth is to get around the fact that with the correspondence theory of Truth, the statement itself does not contain truth.  I thought about this for a while and decided that that is not inconsistent with the way that I see things.

The way I see it, language does not contain meaning.  That is not to say that language is meaningless, but that words do not have intrinsic meaning.  Words only have meaning in context.  They need something to point to.  We can say any sequence of sounds, and that sequence will not have meaning unless meaning has been assigned to it.  It put me in mind of computer programming.  Variables do not have any value (they are meaningless) until values are assigned to them.  Then the variable points to the place in the memory where the value lies, but still is not, itself, that value.  In the same way words trigger ideas and concepts in our head, but are not, themselves, those ideas and concepts.  We think of things with words instead of pictures and ideas because it’s easier that way.  In the same way that we program in C++ or PHP instead of binary.  But we could function without words, just not very well.

This leads to the question of whether or not language is necessary for sentience.  While programming languages could function without variables, it couldn’t deal with any user-inputed data.  In order for something to be pulled out of memory it needs something for it to be assigned to.  So there could be no games, no keyboards, we couldn’t even use mouses.  All we could do is run slideshows pretty much.  The computer would be without life.  In the same way, if we had no words to assign meanings to, would we be able to remember anything?  Would we be able to use logical thought?  Or would we be stuck using only our instincts?


February 15, 2007 - Posted by | Computer Programming, Generalities, Language, Philosophy, Technology


  1. My bet is that meaning is already lost forever, since we’ve never even had it. he he.

    Taylor, I’ll be honest. You are like a nice, wet cigar that I love to smoke smoke (I’ll admit it, your broken-down essence floating in the air in front of my face is soooooo enjoyable). thank you.

    But, I hate to see the butt of a nice cigar thrown away in the ashtray. Dunk.

    Comment by thecadillaccowboy | February 15, 2007

  2. Sorry buddy, my posts on your site were censored. The punchline posts were left out and I was left standing there like someone who didn’t get it. Fix the problem and we can continue our diatribe.

    Comment by Taylor | February 15, 2007

  3. Well communication is useful for a species (lol) – I am sure there are analogues to “words” which other life would have, the concept of which we probably just can’t understand (like we can’t see more colours – I think…).

    I don’t think we’d be stuck using instincts but we might develop in a radically different way; the evolution of language is an interesting thing on its own!

    Comment by Farhan Mannan | February 16, 2007

  4. taylor

    good thoughts on language.


    Comment by PB and J | February 16, 2007

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