[lit-ideas] Re: 'Significant' "Significant"

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2012 16:45:11 +0100 (BST)

Surely the obvious point is that there are different meanings of meaning, 
different senses of 'sense', and different ways something may be significant 
too. (In some of these, meaning, sense and significance may even be synonymous 
- but not in others).
Among the reasons W of the PI does not seek to pin down what constitutes 
'sense' [aside from the fundmental one that, for W, any such attempt would be a 
doomed attempt to say something that goes beyond the limits of language] is 
that there are myriad ways something may have sense: a 'Good morning' may have 
(in some sense) the same sense whether it is said by a husband to a wife at 
breakfast or by a soldier addressing his firing-squad - yet (in some other 
sense) the 'Good morning' may have a very different sense on these different 
occasions. These differences and similarities are, for W, not said by 'Good 
morning' but may be shown when we consider the tone, context etc. It might even 
alter the sense if the soldier was speaking to a gloomy silent firing-squad or 
a chatty, joky one. (See the book).

From: "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" <Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx>
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
Sent: Tuesday, 24 July 2012, 14:12
Subject: [lit-ideas] 'Significant' "Significant"

In a message dated 7/24/2012 3:37:14 A.M.  Eastern Daylight Time, 
cblitid@xxxxxxxx writes:
interested in what's  "culturally,
historically, or aesthetically significant",  

Part of the problem is Grice.

Grice read Peirce, and found him confusing ('crypto-technical'). Peirce was 
adapting the Greco-Roman terminology of semeion-signum. Instead, Grice 
preferred  the Anglo-Saxonism, 'mean' -- and, to some, he failed.

In Greco-Roman parlance,

x is significans

iff x signifies.

Notably, for the Greeks (and later the Romans) there were two types of  

a word, which signifies a thought -- as the word "love" which is  
significant of the thought, 'love'.
a thought, which signifies a thing -- as the thought of love usually  
correlates with the act of love.


From there, it is not difficult to modify the 'significans' into:

aesthetic significans
historic significans
cultural significans

--- and so on.

Note that the opposite is cultural, historic, and aesthetic  INsignificans.

Note that unlike "semein", which is Greek for 'signify', the Romans add,  
typically, since they were go-getters, practical types, the idea of 'make' 
(the  "-fy", in "signify"). So the question, in Roman, is _what is this making 
a sign  of?

Note that one of Grice's examples does not apply: a rainbow signifies rain  
has occurred -- i.e. besides cultural, historic and aesthetic significans,  
there's NATURAL significance (of things) -- or insignificans.

Grice's example:

"Those spots signify measles -- to the doctor; but not to me. To me, the  
spots were naturally insignificant".

For Grice, the test is factiveness.

If those spots signify measles, then the boy has measles.
This for NATURAL significans -- for historical, cultural or aesthetic  
significans the standard is NON-factiveness, usually ("The significance of  
Napoleon", "The significance of "the Mona Lisa"", "The significance of "Elvis  
Presley"", and so on.)



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