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Instrumental meaning

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Our definition of meaning as potential knowldge assigns meaning only to messages, but not to their parts. Yet parts also have some meaning; we do not say that the word 'table' is meaningless. It has a meaning, but of its own kind, which we shall designate as instrumental, because it is used in assignin meaning to such sentences as 'This is John's table', or 'My table is is made of metal'. The preposition 'in' also has an instrumental meaning: it is used to construct such sentences as 'There is an apple in this box'. Usually it is clear from the context which kind of meaning we mean. One exception is our definition of a message as the minimal unit of the language that has a definite meaning. We must make it clear that we have in mind meaning proper, not instrumental meaning.

If we understand the instrumental meaning of a word, we can describe how precisely it is used in models. Since to describe models we have to describe processes which they involve, a description of instrumental meaning will, probably, also involve the description of cerain processes. For example, the meaning of such a noun as 'table' is in the abstraction process which recognizes an object as a table. This process is must be inevitably used in the meaning of any sentence including the word 'table'.

Copyright© 1991 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

V. Turchin,

Sep 1991


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