Posted: Apr 09, 2017 3:50 pm
by Thommo
An instantiation of the message is the arrangement of the sand (i.e. it "is" the sand). We can talk about an abstraction of "the message" beyond instantiations of the message, but what the more ontologically cautious among us won't do is reify it. There's no Platonic "message" beyond its instantiations - or if there is we haven't found any use for it, or evidence of it, just yet.

If I have a copy of an Oxford university press world atlas and so do you, and we both turn to page 12 and see a map of the world then there are two ways of describing what we see:-

1) We are both looking at the same map. This map therefore must be something beyond paper and ink because I'm looking at different ink and different paper to you.
2) We are both looking at maps which are the same. In this case there's every reason to suppose that each of us is looking at a map which is just ink and paper and nothing more. The things that the maps have in common (the way they reflect light) allow us to derive the same (i.e. exactly similar) information from the maps.

The point here is that (1) is not the only way of looking at things. In every day speech we can talk loosely in this way very happily. But we don't have to take it literally, or even seriously when someone talks about it in more depth.