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Re: [xmca] Word Meaning and Concept

Messages in this thread that have appeared subsequently to the one from Andy that I'm responding to here have used "meaning" as a noun (it seems to me), thereby referring to meaning as something that is appropriately signified by a noun.

Andy's post suggests using "meaning" as a verb (gerund or participle), which I think is much better. The meaning of a word is something the word does (actually or potentially), not something it contains, conveys, etc. A person's meaning (like a word's meaning) is also something that the person does -- just as their dancing is something that they do.

I am meaning this in the Peircean sense of meaning as sign-activity, or semiosis. Andy is suggesting a consistency with LSV.

But is not the "this" that I mean, when I say "I am meaning this," something that can be signified by the pronoun "this" (or the nominal phrase, "my meaning")? I would answer again that what I mean is like what I dance. We can treat my "dance" as a noun that names a thing, but it really is a nominalized term for the dancing -- for something that is not some "thing," but (rather) some doing -- for what is fundamentally an action or activity. (And dancing/dance seems to align well with acting (action)/activity.)

We can still differentiate among valid, less valid, or completely deranged ways a word can _mean_, as it's interpreted in the ongoing semiosic generation of interpretants (Peirce), and such differentiations can be along the lines of hermeneutical, anthropological, or more juridical or "official" (as in David's Kangxi example) in/validity; but the array of actual or potential meaning(s) that a word can do are all within the potentiality of the word's meaning.

I read David's post as not inconsistent with what I'm reading from Andy, except that instead of "meaning making," I would suggest "meaning doing," or the doing, not the making, of my meaning, or the meaning of a word.

What is your thinking?

On Mon, 13 Jun 2011, Andy Blunden wrote:

Mike, Vygotsky says in several places that the word is the sign for or carrier of the concept. As I said earlier, in my reading word meaning is an artefact mediated action, the word being the artefact and the meaning being the action (both subjective and objective), invested with potential for meaning-with by activity-with. A concept is in my humble opinion a cultural unit or form of activity. So word meaning, once developed to the point of concepts, is related to concept as an action is to an activity.


mike cole wrote:
That is to compacted and complicated for me to be able to gloss to myself,
I am struggling with the polysemy of both "meaning" and "concept" in this
discussion to make sense of their relationship very well. Ditto sign and
symbol, although Huw's
note about signs and shadows nudged me along. I noted that Anton referred in a recent note to "tool and sign/symbol" and wondered what he meant, but was
too preoccupied to ruminate.

Here is a thought I had while ruminating. Might it be appropriate to say
that meaning is a tool of human processes of concept formation ?


PS- There was a fascinating segment on the American Evening TV Program, 60
minutes, this evening.. A controversy about "The N word" , the banning of
Huck Finn, and the success of a book which substitutes the word "slave" for the word "nigger." One proponent of the argument for using slave was teacher who is shown in class discussing "the n word", asking her class, "why do we
say the N word instead of 'n-i-g-g-e-r' spelling it out?"

Now THERE is an example of the power of the book!! At least I am not alone
in my
confusions about such matters.  :-))

On Sat, Jun 11, 2011 at 8:17 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:

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

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.

Three questions:

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

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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*Andy Blunden*
Joint Editor MCA: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~db=all~content=g932564744
Home Page: http://home.mira.net/~andy/
Book: http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=34857
MIA: http://www.marxists.org

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Tony Whitson
UD School of Education
NEWARK  DE  19716


"those who fail to reread
 are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                  -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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