Communication and ideas
Human communication is a kind of miracle.
Think about it. I have an idea in my mind. In spoken communication, I make a bunch of noises that represent agreed-on noises we call words. You hear the noises translate them to words and end up with an idea of your mind similar to—yet different from— the one that’s in my mind.
It’s all mysterious and miraculous. That we are alive at all is a kind of miracle. That we each have minds. That we have ideas in our minds. And most miraculous of all that I can make noises and cause an idea, like one in my mind appear in yours.
The ideas will be different, of course, and we know that. And we know that we can make our ideas more similar by repeating the process. You make some noises expressing something about the idea in your mind. I now have two ideas in my mind: my original idea and an idea that represents the copy that’s in your mind. I make some noises about the differences. You adjust the idea in your mind and I in mine.
And so the dance goes on.
Same for written communication. I have an idea in my mind. I translate it into words that represent that idea. The words appear to you as pixels on a screen. You translate the pixels back into words and the words into an
That we can communicate with words is also a kind of miracle. Each word is a symbol that means something to the sender and something different to the receiver! My meaning for the word “table” comes from my experience. Your meaning comes from your experience. Most of the things that I have experienced that I would call “tables” are different from most things you would call “tables.” We might have some tables in common, but most are different. And even the ones we share have been seen from different perspectives and different times.
So without agreeing precisely on what a “table” is, we can talk about tables.
Even more miraculous, we can talk about “freedom” and “thought” and “truth” and “beauty.”
Most of our “source code” is the same, which might explain the miracle in part. My DNA and your DNA produce similar foundations (our bodies) that encode common basic ideas—like those that underly the experience that we call “pain” and “pleasure.”
My DNA may make it possible for me to have the experiences I call “red” and “green.” Yours does not because your DNA makes you color blind.
Out of these shared priors, we can communicate, develop new ideas, and share rough copies of the ones we have.
Our ideas must all be grounded in our bodily experiences, which are in turn grounded in our shared source code. But ideas can rise through abstraction levels to include ideas like love, truth, miracle, and God.
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