[lit-ideas] Re: The Meaning of Life

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2015 07:02:19 -0400

In a message dated 4/21/2015 8:00:55 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
torgeir_fjeld@xxxxxxxx writes: QUsetion for the bright minds of literati: When
French structuralists proclaim that we should abandon our quest for meaning
(of leben) does that mean/intale or even imply that there is not one meaning
to be found so that there's mani meanings or that there's none at all? In
the latterest case, would a proponent of such a position be qualified to
the value-laden term NIHILIST (-ghasp!-)

J. L. Austin once subjected this to linguistic botanising. His topic is
"the meaning of 'rat'". He gives seventeen variations on it (now in
"Philosophical Papers").

The use of 'meaning' as applied to 'life' is ambiguous. The noun 'meaning'
derives from the verb, 'to mean', which is cognate with the noun 'mind'. It
is usually used to mean (as McEvoy would say -- he makes a distinction
between what utterances mean and what they are used to mean) 'purpose', or
'value'. But the use of the capital "M" may confuse. Cfr. "Congress" versus
'the Congress', 'the congress', and 'congress' -- or Geary on 'God' vs. 'god'.

Similarly, the use of the capital "L" in life. It's not like Austin's "the
meaning of 'rat'". In any case it may do to find a passage where this
French structuralist does say that in French. The French lack the idea of
'meaning'. So, he may be lecturing at Yale. Americans seem to delight on
foreigners speaking their language (American English) to them. Only on very
occasions do they use interpreters or translators. Had that been the case, we
should stick with what the Frenchman said in French. "stop your quest for
the Meaning of Life" is then the idea of the translator (a badly paid job).

On top, if it was a Yale lecture, the use of capital "L" in "life" and
capital "M" in "meaning" would ALSO be the invention of the translator, since,
one good thing about spoken English (as opposed to written English) is, as
Chomsky says in "Aspects of a theory of grammar", that "one can deviate
from that german costume of capitalising everything" (surely a political
implicature to Marx).



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