Saturday, June 7, 2014

Do Words Have Meaning?


Note: Any further comments on this blog post must start with 1 of the following 2 possibilities in order to be considered for publishing:

1. I agree with Matt that words have no meaning.
2. I disagree with Matt. Words do have meaning.


I can hardly believe I'm having to discuss this, but such is the absurdity of the atheist worldview. In "The Refining Reason Debate: Matt Dillahunty vs Sye Ten Bruggencate" it was stated by Matt that, "Words have no meanings, only usage". This is self-refuting nonsense, however, it is consistent with the rejection of absolute truth and denial of God. Unfortunately many people prefer absurdity over submitting their lives to God.

During the audience question time at the end of the debate one person asked Matt a question, but prefaced it by pointing out that it's hard to talk to someone who believes that words have no meaning. Not surprisingly a lot in the audience burst out laughing at that point, because they could see the absurdity of Matt's position.

Here's a good article that discusses the fact that words do have meaning (it's a bit short but it gets to the core issues). http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithwalkers/2012/09/do-you-know-the-9-words-that-change-everything/.

The two views are related to presuppositions that are either for God (objective truth exists, and words have objective meaning) and presuppositions that are against God (objective truth does not exist, all truth is relative, and words do not have objective meaning). As Christians the objectivity of truth and words are rooted in the objective existence of God and reality.

Not only can Matt not know that he isn't a brain in a vat (and therefore he can't really know anything according to his worldview), but because of his denial of the meaning of words this was all he said in the whole debate - blah blah blah blah...


I've created a poll in the top right corner of my blog to see how many agree with Matt on this topic. Please read the Commenting Policy for this blog before commenting. If you could begin your comment by stating whether you agree or disagree that "words have no meaning" that would be good.

Also I'm well aware that Matt Dillahunty attempted to further explain what he meant when he said that words have no meaning, but when he did that he used words and assumed that those words do have objective meaning. If you start a sentence with "words have no meaning" then no matter what words you utter after that become meaningless. So it really is a show stopper when someone says they believe such nonsense. Until Matt admits he is wrong to say that words have no meaning, this blog post and the meme will remain.



Further Reading:
www.gotquestions.org/deconstructionism.html.
www.withoutexcusecreations.net/thoughtspage/2014/4/12/its-where-madness-tips-its-hat.html.

5 comments:

  1. Sigh..... or should i say "Sye" ??.


    It's been explained to you over and over again what he meant, but yet here you are , quote mining to try and win a "one up" on Matt. I'll paste here what Matt has to say about it, and no doubt you'll delete the comment because preventing the freedom of speech is something you do well.

    ////

    "During Saturday's Q&A, a questioner made a comment about words having meaning and I commented, before addressing his question, that words don't have meaning.

    This caused a smattering of gasps, laughter and mockery from what I suspect were Sye''s supporters..so in case any of them are reading, let me be more clear.

    I've dealt with this before, actually, during the 3 nights of debate that I did at the Church of Christ in San Antonio. They were similarly confused and appalled that I'd dare to suggest that words don't have intrinsic meaning.

    Sye, in this case, was talking about the 'sounds I was putting forth into the ether'. The sounds themselves have no intrinsic meaning. Neither do the collection of symbols that we use to represent concepts. Words don't have intrinsic meaning, they are tools that are used to represent concepts and that usage can change. The critical issue is that the people communicating AGREE that a particular label or sound represents a particular concept...to both of them.

    The problem here is exacerbated by the fact that we each have subtly different understandings of a given concept, which means that even the abstract 'word' used to convey meaning isn't actually 'conveying' meaning. Instead, there's an attempt to imbrue it with meaning and an attempt to extract or infer meaning from it.

    I use a particular word that I map to the concept, in my mind, which I'd like to convey.
    You hear or read a word and you then interpret that word by mapping it to a concept in your mind.

    The degree to which those two concepts match will determine how effectively we communicate, but the words themselves have no intrinsic meaning. They're tools that we use, by agreement.

    Dictionaries don't 'define meaning', they 'describe usage'. (I know some folks debate this point, I'm giving my view). They tell you how the different ways in which words are commonly used.

    What struck me as particularly odd is this:

    Part of the crowd at the debate seem to jump all over this and it even came up in a few mocking tweets...and my immediate thought was this:

    Really? THAT is what you took away from the debate?

    If they think that this was the most ridiculous thing that I said...then this was even more of a slaughter than I thought."

    /////


    There. Can you actually READ that and (as hard as it may be) attempt to UNDERSTAND it before creating ridiculous blog posts about it?

    ReplyDelete
  2. //Sigh..... or should i say "Sye" ??.//

    You need to read my other blog post on intellectual dishonesty. One of them includes making Sighs or mocking laughter as a way to try and ridicule the opponent. The logical fallacy would be question begging epithet.

    //It's been explained to you over and over again what he meant, but yet here you are , quote mining to try and win a "one up" on Matt.//

    What does the number of times something is repeated have to do with anything? That's the elephant hurling fallacy. I really can't believe you're trying to defend Matt's ridiculous beliefs. Why not just admit that the idea that "words have no meanings" is stupid and that Matt is wrong? I'm not quote mining at all - I'm showing the absurdity of Matt's worldview.

    // I'll paste here what Matt has to say about it, and no doubt you'll delete the comment because preventing the freedom of speech is something you do well.//

    I'm all for freedom of speech, but don't have time to waste with time wasters who have no interest in truth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cont.

      //// Matt said this on his Facebook account a few days after the debate:

      "During Saturday's Q&A, a questioner made a comment about words having meaning and I commented, before addressing his question, that words don't have meaning.

      This caused a smattering of gasps, laughter and mockery from what I suspect were Sye''s supporters..so in case any of them are reading, let me be more clear.

      I've dealt with this before, actually, during the 3 nights of debate that I did at the Church of Christ in San Antonio. They were similarly confused and appalled that I'd dare to suggest that words don't have intrinsic meaning.

      Sye, in this case, was talking about the 'sounds I was putting forth into the ether'. The sounds themselves have no intrinsic meaning. Neither do the collection of symbols that we use to represent concepts. Words don't have intrinsic meaning, they are tools that are used to represent concepts and that usage can change. The critical issue is that the people communicating AGREE that a particular label or sound represents a particular concept...to both of them.//

      [Brendan's comment: So if they don't agree then the words don't mean what the dictionary says?]

      The problem here is exacerbated by the fact that we each have subtly different understandings of a given concept, which means that even the abstract 'word' used to convey meaning isn't actually 'conveying' meaning. Instead, there's an attempt to imbrue it with meaning and an attempt to extract or infer meaning from it.

      I use a particular word that I map to the concept, in my mind, which I'd like to convey.
      You hear or read a word and you then interpret that word by mapping it to a concept in your mind.

      The degree to which those two concepts match will determine how effectively we communicate, but the words themselves have no intrinsic meaning. They're tools that we use, by agreement.

      Dictionaries don't 'define meaning', they 'describe usage'. (I know some folks debate this point, I'm giving my view). They tell you how the different ways in which words are commonly used.

      What struck me as particularly odd is this:

      Part of the crowd at the debate seem to jump all over this and it even came up in a few mocking tweets...and my immediate thought was this:

      Really? THAT is what you took away from the debate?

      If they think that this was the most ridiculous thing that I said...then this was even more of a slaughter than I thought."

      /////


      There. Can you actually READ that and (as hard as it may be) attempt to UNDERSTAND it before creating ridiculous blog posts about it?

      Yes, I'd already read this, and it's nonsense. Do those words have defined meaning? He's trying to dig himself out of the hole he created. If you start by saying that "words have no meaning" and then try and explain using words what you mean, you've refuted yourself. The debate was doubly over at that point. (It was over when Matt's solipsism was exposed in the first 10 minutes - but as Sye said - it didn't have the courtesy to lie down.)

      By definition dictionaries exist in order to define the meaning of words, not merely to describe usage. He's putting the cart before the horse. Either way - to say words have no meaning is self refuting. If you choose to respond to this any answer must start with either "I agree with Matt that words have no meaning" or "Matt was wrong - words do have meaning." Any response that does not start with one of those options will not be published.

      Delete
  3. I'd like to comment on this, and to preface, I'm a supporter of Sye and I have nothing against him. I'm also a Christian.

    I understand what Matt meant and he's correct as far as I can see. The meaning of words changes over time and therefore dictionaries are constantly updated accordingly with usage.

    Words that mean one thing 100 years ago, mean something else today and so on. The same idea goes for biblical study, right? We check the context of words used by the authors during the period that they wrote them, we don't judge meaning by earlier usage nor modern day usage; what the author meant rules.

    I have to say that we should be honest about what was said and if Matt is saying that words derive their meaning from usage, then we should allow him that.

    Thanks for a good resource (your blog) and have a good day!

    bob

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi, I commented a few hours ago and said that I thought that you were being unfair to Matt because words DO change meaning over time.

    I went directly to the source just now (Sye) and asked him why we wouldn't cut Matt slack and Sye said that the whole "words change meaning over time" was just a smoke screen to mask the fact that Sye was asking about Matt's grounding of knowledge, aka how would Matt be assured that the past would be like the future, that the word "Dog" wouldn't suddenly change meaning in the next 5 minutes.(and Matt knew what he was asking also)

    So...long story short...forget my earlier comment :)

    ReplyDelete