Purpose and meaning

[From Bill Powers (960911.1320 MDT)]

Dave Spence <daves@ANASAZI.COM> --

The notion of purpose implies meaning, we precieve a meaning in the
structure or actions of a system.

I'm afraid I don't follow. (1) How does the notion of purpose imply meaning?
(2) to what do you refer with the term "meaning?" (3) how do we know of the
structure or actions of a system, as opposed to (4) perceiving the meaning
of the structure or actions?


Hans Blom, 960911b --

What do you mean by a "variable which exists outside the sensors, in
the environment"? If such a thing existed, how could we access it,
except as a measurement through some kind of sensor?

I was taking the engineer's point of view, from which both the signal and
the thing it stands for can be seen. Consider the variable we call relative
humidity. This variable can be represented by a signal, but there is no
single measurable thing in the environment corresponding to the signal.
Instead, there are two temperature measurements; a dry-bulb and a web-bulb
temperature. These temperatures can be individually represented as outputs
of temperature sensors. To create a perceptual signal that varies with
relative humidity, it's necessary to put the two temperature signals through
a function that generates the relative humidity (rh) signal as an output. A
table lookup or an analytical computation will generate a perceptual signal
representing rh = f(td, tw). Obviously it's possible to compare the relative
humidity signal against a reference and use the error to run actuators that
affect, and control, relative humidity. But what is being controlled does
not have a single physical counterpart outside the sensors.

I have no idea what a "perception of beforeness" would be.

When you go through a door, do you walk through it before you open it, or
open it before you walk through it? Can you tell the difference? If so, you
can perceive the temporal relationship "before" as in "open _before_ walking

I don't believe in such abstract notions, I'm afraid ...

They may not fit your intellectual schemes, but if you can't perceive
beforeness you are going to have a lot of practical difficulties. In my old
text on advanced algebra, the author said in a footnote that if the reader
doubts the importance of knowing the sequence of two operations, he should
consider the following operations: (1) insure your car, and (2) run into the
car of a struggling young lawyer.
Best to all,

Bill P.