The Science of Comprehension
How We Understand Abstract Concepts
Symbols and their Meaning
Symbols have meaning. The symbols are real, but the meaning is an abstract
concept which supposedly exists apart from the material world, independent of
time and space. However, Cognitive Science is telling us that abstract
concepts do not exist apart from the material world. Where then are
these abstract concepts? What is it that we have overlooked?
The part we haven't taken into account yet is, "Every CD needs a CD
It's not good enough to just have symbols physically etched into the
universe. We also need a Symbol Interpreter. A CD needs a CD player to
interpret the pits on the CD. Sheet music needs a musician to interpret the
symbols on the sheet music. Every symbol, wherever it is physically stored,
requires a Symbol Interpreter.
And these Symbol Interpreters are themselves real tangible entities
that exist in the material world. A CD player is a physical tangible device.
A Musician has a physical tangible brain. So, not only do symbols for an
abstract concept need to be etched into the material world in order to exist,
the Symbol Interpreter must also be somehow etched into the physical
material world in order for it to exist.
The Symbol Interpreter is where our abstract concept of what a symbol
means is stored. The CD player has within it the abstract concept of what a
sound wave is and how it can be represented by pits on a CD. The musician has
within her brain the abstract concept of what a musical note is and how to
Where is the abstract concept of the number 5 etched into our universe? The
concept is physically etched in your brain. How did it get there? That's
So, in review, we have:
- Symbols physically etched into the material universe.
- Symbol Interpreters also physically manifested in the material universe.
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Last Update: Feb. 20, 2009