Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0082, July 15, 2015

DEPT. OF SEMANTICS


Patterns




Copyright 2015 by S. W. Paul Wyszkowski

     Behold a pattern! "How do I know that?" asks Prickles. Simple. If you detect any predictability in an array of elements, it's a pattern. "I guess there's not much that isn't a pattern," she observes. True. It's a matter of degree - all patterns are more or less chaotic (unpredictable). The less chaotic ones are easily discerned, more chaotic ones may be hard to see. But that's not what we are concerned with today. "It isn't?" Prickles asks apprehensively. No. The question before us today is "What do patterns mean?" More particularly, what does the pattern above mean? Or more generally, what does anything mean? "Well," says Prickles, "that depends on what you mean by 'mean'." Excellent question.

     Generally, when we talk about meaning we are concerned with meaning of symbols which are marks or words or objects which we arbitrarily associate with particular experiences or, to be exact, with records (memories) of those experiences. We do this for convenience in referring to those experiences in normal discourse among ourselves without needing to describe the original experience in detail every time we refer to it. The meaning of a symbol is the experience it refers to. But what is the meaning of the experience itself, that is, of a perceived pattern of events?

     Well, an experience may suggest to us a larger pattern of which the observed pattern is only a part. Or it may suggest existence of other similar patterns. But these are hypothetical inferences, not symbolic meanings. The experience itself is not a symbol. It is what it is and that is it's intrinsic and only meaning. It means itself. The meaning of a pattern is the pattern.

     Of course, we also use the word "meaning" to mean "import" - we refer to things (patterns) that are important to us as "meaningful". But this has to do with the values we attach to certain patterns which is another story. "So we're done for today?" asks Prickles. We're done. "Good," she says.



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