Re: [xmca] sense and meaning

From: Adam Lefstein (
Date: Wed Jul 13 2005 - 13:28:29 PDT

Dear Wolff-Michael and all,
Thanks for this fascinating discussion, which has really helped
clarify a lot -- and raise an equal amount of questions for me. In
particular I'm intrigued by this idea that understanding and meaning
are embedded in activity and the body. But is the point that
understanding arises from involvement in activity -- i.e. is a
cognitive outcome, or that whenever we understand we are actually in
the midst of the activity -- i.e. there is no "decontextualised"
understanding. The former makes more sense to me than the latter, but
I am not sure I've fully grasped the idea.

On 13/07/05, Wolff-Michael Roth <> wrote:
> Hi,
> recently someone posted a definition of understanding in relation to
> meaning. Some time ago, I looked it up (for my math paper the meaning
> of meaning):
> Understanding comes from "under" and "stand", standing in the midst of
> (not "under"). When we "understand", we literally stand IN THE MIDST OF
> something, the activity, the familiar world.
> In this respect, an older sense of "meaning" also helps--its root comes
> from *men, to think, and one of its obsolete uses was to denote "to
> speak of, tell of, have in mind, and to remember" (OED online). That
> is, meaning takes us to talk of, remember. What do we talk of,
> remember? Familiar situations, of HAVING BEEN IN THE MIDST OF. . .
> Merleau-Ponty says that the function of the body in remembering is, in
> part, the deployment of a panorama experienced in the past, the
> re-deployment of the attitude taken in past situations. . . which takes
> us back to having been in the midst, and remembering having been there.
> Cheers,
> Michael
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Adam Lefstein

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