(Dose 3 out of ten, in THE MEANING OF LIFE series! “Don’t break The Rules” we are often told. Well, I ‘fudge’ on my taxes, a little bit, sometimes; I’m not always completely truthful with my wife, that is true; but here are some rules so deeply embedded in Our Personhood that it would shatter the foundations of civilization to push their limits. This is An Excerpt from a previous piece Freedom 5: Reasons in Persons, in the Freedom and the Environment series …
…And we are not just talk’n grammar here! At stake is the meaning of “meaning” ! This is the way we, Persons, distinguish ourselves from our animal background, from our larger biological background and then finally from our inorganic background. It is the way “selves” distinguish themselves from non-selves. Memes are “informational structures” or “Designs” that we “act in accordance with” to emerge as more complex realities!)
“Language is possibly the primary form of meme, writes Dan Dennett. “Doggie”, “cat’, “Ma Ma” and quite a few other words, when a child points and says these, the child eventually begins to ‘notice’ that ‘all things have a name’, and language acquisition really picks up. They are now ‘getting the point of language’, as a Directed Order—an order with a purpose.
Now, is that a fact, or is that a rule, that “all things have a name”? That is kind of a silly question, like the chicken or the egg. Silly because it’s both. It is a higher level fact and a rule that only leads to more facts, more questions and more designations. It is one of the rules and facts of language-doing, that know-how. We have now “gone meta“. It is akin to asking, “What is the way to fly?”
Rules of Communication
A huge step is this next one. Somewhat like in a child, in the history of communication early “kinda-persons” not only noticed the devices, but “noticed that they noticed them”, argues Dennett. Now, some of their attention went not only to the immediacy of the communication (noticing ‘words’) but to the devices being used to do it (noticing that they noticed these new ‘things’), that know-how. ‘Soon’, came not only words, but a word for “word”, a word for “gesture”, for “song”…and with that … what?
It was hugely important to have objectified this process, this know-how of communication and being together. It was when these “unwitting communicators” (Dennett) probably ‘discovered’ or noticed and named that I was an “I”, you a “you”, and we a “we”. Of course, these concepts of “I”, “you” and “we” were already “implicit” in the initial communication situation, but without our explicit recognition of them.
Just like ‘the logic’ of flight was implicit in nature and eventually discovered by natural selection, so modern day philosophers have tackled this other problem, like aeronautical engineers: the structure or design of “communication” or “the communicative situation”. Like any good design, it certainly has one.
(True and Honest Communication is the Basis of All Communication. Deception, lies, misinformation are all parasitic upon Honest Communication. If everyone lied and lied all the time, communication would fizzle out. An Astounding Contention! But true! Ritualized in the human practice of Oath-Giving.)
A large quantity of literature has grown up around the contentions of H.P. Grice and his Theory of Meaning, starting in the late 1950s to late 80s, explains Dennett. The core of his ‘discovery’ is that Communication necessarily involves a Three-Way Sharing of Attention, Goal, and Act, a sharing of presupposition and intention. One, the speaker must intend to invoke a certain response in her audience. Two, the audience must recognize that intention in the speaker. Three, the audience’s appropriate response to the speaker is at least partly prompted by their recognition of the speaker’s intention and their willingness to go along with it. It’s like telling a joke; the teller and the audience must all get that it is a joke and want “to go along with it”.
(Going Meta: Jokes about jokes! You are probably already ready “to go along”.)
This Three-Way Sharing closes the circle on itself! And, as Dennett points out, it is a “virtuous circle” as opposed to an uninformative one. Like every good design, it defines its parts and their functions in relation to each other and their goal. In this way, they establish a bit of isolation from ‘outside’ influence and establish the Freedom to define themselves and an environment in their terms — “I”,”you”, “we”, “speaker”, “audience”— to an important degree. It is what every plant and animal and forest Does, implicitly As An Agent; it Functions within its defined limits. It is not only an Order, but a Directed Order within the emergent domain of Life!
We raise our children to be”our kind of individual”. And somewhere in early history, somewhere as far back as the dawn of group hunting, or the domestication of fire, this process of human coordination became a necessity to these new humans; it was an adaptation that worked. And natural selection began to select for it, and even select for adaptations that facilitated it, like lengthening infancy and the white’s of our eyes that aide gaze-monitoring as opposed to the dark eyes of other primates. Communication was now a necessary “good trick” for successful human groups.”
End of excerpt.
So, IT’S THE MEANING OF MEANING! Persons are Designed to be closely aware of each other and to work together Fundamentally! NO “PERSON” ORIGINATES SINGULARLY; PERSONS EXIST ONLY IN COOPERATING GROUPS: “WE PERSONS”!