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Re: meaning / Gibson
Paul Treffner wrote:
> Meaning? Meaning is *not* in the head!! How could it be?!
> The meaning is perceived when the information is detected.
> information specifies an event in the world, the "meaning"
> implications, etc) is at least in the dynamical interaction of
> listener. But certainly they are not in representations inside
> the listener's head alone.
Surely the mental schemas (in Piaget's sense), linguistic or
otherwise, in terms of which we assimilate any perceptual input,
or by means of which we guide the actions that deal with the
input, are the "meaning" of that input. Different people can
have different meanings for the same event, because they
assimilate it to different schemas. For example, a young woman
is looking attentively at a boastful young man, Adam. An
onlooker, Brad, sees her intent gaze as admiration. Another guy,
Charles, realizes that she thinks Adam's a jerk, but that she
should be polite and pay attention to what he's saying. The
"dynamical interaction" for Brad and Charles is the same, if it
refers to the world of observable action, but the meanings are
very different. Another example: a poet reading a magazine
article on quarks doesn't get the same meaning from it as a
How can meaning be *anything but* in the head -- even though it
may often control interactions with the world. A meaning (or
schema) is a control system, located in the brain (which,
according to my physiologist friends, is in the head). Its
location in the head doesn't prevent its guiding interactions
with the world. No brain, no meanings. Different brains,
Can you have meanings without sensory inputs? Try dreams. Can
you have meanings without brains? Ask a brick.
Of course "meaning" is part of a dyadic relation involving (1) a
temporarily assembled structure of meanings (or schemas), for
dealing with a certain thing or situation, and (2) the thing or
situation itself -- which, according to Kant, we can never know
*directly*, but only through the meanings we use in interpreting
it. Sometimes the second term (the thing or situation itself) is
something in the external world, and sometimes not, as when I
reflect on my own thought processes.
Some time ago, I published a lengthy paper that described mental
generators of underlying patterns that interacted to control
and action. It may be of interest as an alternative to the
theory of direct
perception. I debated the issue with Jimmy Gibson, but we
Bregman, A.S. Perception and behavior as compositions of
Cognitive Psychology, 1977, 9, 250-292.
Albert S. Bregman, Emeritus Professor
Dept of Psychology, McGill University
1205 Docteur Penfield Avenue
Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1B1
Phone: +1 (514) 398-6103
Fax: +1 (514) 398-4896
Phone & Fax: +1 (514) 484-2592