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[xmca] Word Meaning and Concept
This is Evald Ilyenkov, "The Concept of the Ideal', in "The Ideal in Human Activity", Pacifica, CA: MIA, p. 268:
"The meaning of the term 'ideal' in Marx and Hegel is the same, but the concepts, i.e. the ways of understanding the 'same' meaning are profoundly different. After all the word 'concept' in dialectically interpreted logic is a synonym for understanding the essence of the' matter, the essence of phenomena which are only outlined by a given term; it is by no means a synonym for 'the meaning of the term' which may be formally interpreted as the sum total of 'attributes' of the phenomena to which the term is applied."
Ilyenkov then goes on to discuss Marx's cuckoo-like propensity "not to change the historically formed 'meanings of terms'" but to propose very different understandings thereof, and thus to change the very concept.
a) In addition to the ONTOGENETIC argument against the equation of meaning and concept (viz. that if meaning were already equivalent to concept then meaning could not develop into a concept), can't we make a SOCIOGENETIC one? Doesn’t this sociogenetic argument explain both the cultural adaptation of concepts over time (e.g. “quantity” into “operator” in math, “grammar” into “discourse” in linguistics) and the cuckoo like exaptation of other people’s terms to express quite different concepts by Marx and by Vygotsky (e.g. "egocentric", "pseudoconcept", etc.)?
b) Viewed sociogenetically, isn't this distinction between conceptual essence and word meaning the same as the distinction between signification value and sense value? That is, from the point of view of Johnson's dictionary (or the Kangxi dictionary, or the Port Royal grammar, or any other state codification of meaning) the state-ratified meaning of words is their essence and the other, vernacular uses are simply senses, folk values, the range of phenomena to which hoi polloi apply the words?
b) Isn't the OPPOSITE true when we look at the matter microgenetically? That is, from the point of view of interpersonal meaning making, the essence of the phenomenon to which I apply the term in the given instance is the self-legitimated, auto-ratified, individually-approved sense value and the signification value is simply the range of conventional meanings, the range of conventional phenomena to which the word is applied and misapplied by others?
Seoul National University of Education
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