Re: Humpty Dumpty

From: CWestf5155 (
Date: Wed Mar 18 1998 - 23:50:53 EST

Dear Edgar,

Cindy Westfall wrote:
> > The 'presupposition pool' is as much a part of context as is the immediate
> > text. If I uttered LOGOS in Thales presence, and he 'understood' it, it
> would
> > mean that he 'created a context for the utterance that gave it coherence'
> > That isn't to say that he accurately figured out what I meant, but that
> > figured out some kind of context in which my utterance made some kind of
> sense
> > to him.
Edgar writes:
> Let me make a correction, I should have said Heraclitus. But be that as it
> may, if Heraclitus understands the word LOGOS--why does he 'understand' it?
> Which came first? The meaning of LOGOS or a context in which it could be
> understood? How did Heraclitus know to place LOGOS in a certain context?
> made him think that LOGOS "meant" the universal principle of reason? If I
> understand justification to "mean" declared righteous, what makes me assign
> this meaning to the term?
> Regards,
> Edgar Foster

Let me clarify my point. If you walked up to Heraclitus and said 'LOGOS'
without introduction or qualification, he would attempt to create some kind of
context in which your utterance made sense. You seem to assume that he would
automatically think about the universal principle of reason. I contend that
unless it was common in his culture to approach a stranger and utter one
cryptic word that he would be more likely to think of the village idiot.

Part of the meaning of an utterance is the context of culture and the context
of situation. The context of culture includes appropriate speech patterns for
the occasion. The context of situation includes the relationship between the
participants. I would suggest that for LOGOS to have the specific meaning of
the 'universal principle of reason' that it would have to appear in the
appropriate context with appropriate participants (which would differentiate
it from its other ten or so uses).

I think that you need to make a distinction between language in use on the one
hand and dictionary definitions and the range of meanings in semantic domains
on the other hand.

Grace and Peace
Cindy Westfall
PhD Student, Roehampton

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