SYMBOLS AND REFERENTS III

     So far we have determined a number of salient points about symbols
and referents.

     Both symbols and referents are actualities, objects, the first used
to refer to the second.  Neither is a priori more or less actual than
the other.  People can however use symbols to refer to referents so
heavily and exclusively that they lose sight that the symbol is its own
object worthy of study itself.

     Second, because symbols and referents are both actual objects, both
have qualities of their own that may have nothing to do with each other
except that some of the qualities in the symbol may be used to refer to
some of the qualities of the referent.

     For example a referent 'red plastic ball' may be made of plastic,
but it certainly is not red.  The symbol in our consciousness is red.
Now we use that red symbol to refer to light waves bouncing off the ball
of certain frequency, but that connection between red consciousness and
light of a given frequency is in fact arbitrary.

     Take an X-Ray picture of a star for example, where the various
frequencies of X-rays are delineated by colors of the rainbow so we can
see them.  Red now refers to low frequency X-rays, and violet to high
frequency X-rays.

     Now some astronomer looking at such a picture might point to a star
in the image and say "Hey I found a red star!'.  But there is no way
that star is red.  The quality of the symbol has been ascribed to the
referent, and now the referent is being described via the qualities of
the symbol, 'red stars' etc.

     The quality of the symbol can have little to do with the quality of
the referent other than arbitrary assignment.  When you start describing
the quality of the referent by the quality of the symbol you have
started down the road to confusion.

     We do this all the time in normal life.  We see a car and we say
'That car is red!'.  No way is that car red in any possible sense of the
word, but the picture in our consciousness sure is.

     Of course this kind of merging the qualities of the symbol with the
quality of the referent doesn't normally lead to trouble as we all know
that underlying 'red car' is the actual meaning 'this car reflects light
of a certain frequency'.  The translation from 'red' to 'frequency' in
our minds becomes automatic, and so we get along with the misnaming.

     The quality of redness is not even vaguely similar to the quality
of reflecting light of a certain frequency.

     Redness is a quality of being of our conscious picture.

     Reflecting light of a certain frequency is a quality of relation
between the car and light waves.

     So unless we are careful to understand this process, the trip to
perdition can be swift and sure.

     For example that 'red car' we see out there is also seen to be
sitting in a 3 dimensional space.  We can SEE the space no?  We can SEE
the 3 dimensions, right?

     But anything we SEE in our consciousness is at best a SYMBOL for an
alleged referent.  So if the car is not red just because we see red,
perhaps space is not dimensional just because it looks dimensional to
our consciousness.

     In other words just because we see red, doesn't mean there IS red
OUT THERE, there may be something, but its association with redness in
our consciousness is an arbitrary hook together.

     Just so with space.  Just because we SEE space in our conscious
picture of the car, doesn't mean there is actual space OUT THERE.  What
the true nature of the referent is, might be very different from what
our symbol looks like, or non existent altogether.
 
     We see space in dreams, but surely there is no actual space there,
except as a  in our conscious picture.

     Now one might possibly claim that, that the world is not a dream,
and thus since we see a symbol of something in our consciousness,
SOMETHING must exist out there as the referent.

     My point is that deriving the NATURE of the referent by the NATURE
of the symbol is a philosophical mistake of vast proportions.

     Further if we can concede that the symbols might exist in our
consciousness without any actual existing referents at all (such as in
imagination, hallucination or a sleep dream), then our conclusion that
because we see space there must be space is completely wrong.

     (A dream is a panoply of symbols implying referents where there are
in fact no actual existing referents, a virtual reality.)

     It makes sense to us however that if symbols and referents do share
some qualities, that the qualities they share in common should be used
to refer to each other.

     So if the car out there has dimensionality, and our conscious
pictures of the car also have 'dimensionality', it makes sense that the
dimensionality of our conscious pictures be used to refer to the
dimensionality of the car out there.

     The point is that the existence of dimensionality in our symbolic
consciousness does not itself provide proof of dimensionality in the
referent.

     The word interpretation means the ability to translate from symbol
to referent.  One looks at the symbol and from the symbol we interpret
what the referent must be like.

     Interpretation of words, pictures, data, all of which are symbols
for actual referents, is an important part of daily life and successful
living.

     Now some people will say that our conscious pictures are our
interpretation of the physical universe, we see space in our
consciousness because that is our brain's interpretation of its data
coming from the the actual external universe.

     But that is backwards you see, they are claiming the symbol is an
interpretation of the referent!

     It is true that the electronic data received through the senses
in the brain is a symbol for the alleged external referent, and
the brain certainly has a right to interpret its symbolic data to mean
that the referent then really does have space.

     But the brain then RERENDERS that interpretation as a picture of
space in our consciousness which is yet another symbol for the referent.
From our point of view WE then interpret that the referent has space
because our conscious symbol of it does.

     They say we see space in our conscious symbol because there IS
space in the referent!

     But in fact we believe there IS space in the referent because we
see space in our conscious symbols of things!

     Homer

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Homer Wilson Smith     The Paths of Lovers    Art Matrix - Lightlink
(607) 277-0959 KC2ITF        Cross            Internet Access, Ithaca NY
homer@lightlink.com    In the Line of Duty    http://www.lightlink.com