Re: Symbol Grounding Problem

From: Lander, Emma (
Date: Thu May 23 1996 - 12:20:54 BST

Symbols are arbitrary; they have no direct association with what they
represent so they are not self explanatory. They only take on the
meanings that we give them and so they must be 'grounded' into
perceptual categories which will be easily recognised and understood
by those using the symbol system.
If all you are given is symbols you will not find their meaning by
looking at more symbols. This is analogous to trying to learn to
speak chinese from a chinese to chinese dictionary, the symbols are
meaningless untill you have been told what they represent, and these
meanings must follow an agreed convention: it is no good having a
symbol that represents something to one person and something totally
different to another.
The meaning of a symbol is in the mind of the interpreter so in order
to know that a symbol means the same thing to two people an analogous
image must be provided. For instance, it is no good knowing the
chinese word for dictionary if you do not know that the word refers
to a dictionary, you must form a perceptual link between the symbol
and the object.
The problem is to not ground symbols in more symbols, instead they
must be placed in perceptual categories.

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