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kbrandall's picture

What did the frog mean?

I found it frustrating that one of the subjects that Dennett brings up that I, personally, find most interesting-- the possibility of "evolved" rather than "intrinsic" meaning-- is one where he is very unclear. Some of Dennett's analogies, particularly at the beginning of the book, I found very helpful, but I feel that those in the chapter on meaning were only confusing. I've been trying to figure out since reading it exactly what he was trying to get at with stories about two-bitsers and frogs.

I think the point he was trying to get at was the actions of the two-bitser, or frog, do not have a set meaning or particular purpose before they are performed. Instead, they acquire meaning through their effect? I'm not sure that his stories prove this point, or even illustrate it in a helpful way, but the point itself is really interesting. It seems to suggest that we (and all other organisms, and possibly machines) create the meaning of our acts by acting.

If so, what does that imply when the intention of the act misfires-- when the result is not what you were going for? Is the "meaning" of your act what you were trying to do, or what you did by mistake?



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