Re: Humpty Dumpty

From: CWestf5155 (
Date: Fri Mar 20 1998 - 03:08:38 EST

Dear Edgar,

In a message dated 98-03-19 13:28:01 EST, you write:

> Okay, I can see that we're kind of talking past each other here (as Carl
> noted).
> My hypothetical situation presupposed a person of Heraclitus' community or
> philosophical
> group saying the word LOGOS to him, not a total stranger. I guess I did
> it sound
> that way, however. :)

Yes, and I took some liberties with that, didn't I? But that means that you
are assuming a context of culture and a context of situation that contribute
to the meaning. That is what many linguists mean when they say that words have
meaning in context. The definition of 'context' goes beyond the immediate
text to include things like the community, the philosophical group, the
relationship between the speaker and listener and the presuppositional pool.
> >For your reasoning to work, Heraclitus would have to use LOGOS exclusively
> for 'the
> universersal principle of reason', and not for its 10 or so other meanings.
> I would
> gather that he used this kind of terminology in philosophical discussions,
> but in
> his home (among children, servants, slaves, wife too if he was married) if
> was in the conversation, it would tend to have one of the other meanings.<<
> >Cindy Westfall
> >PhD Student, Roehampton
> Points taken. The reason I don't agree is that (1) LOGOS did not carry the
> semantical
> baggage in Heraclitus' day that it later came to have in the apostle John's
> day.
> (2) I theorize that Heraclitus used the word consistently, even in his
> speech.

LOGOS had a range of meaning by that time,(word, discourse, language, account)
and Heraclitus added to it (Thistleton in Colin Brown: teaching, reputation,
relation, proportion, meaning, and common universal law). I can see that
Heraclitus argued that every usage of LOGOS carried its full range of meaning.
But saying his theory is the reality is begging the question. If a child asked
him, 'May I have a word with you?' (dynamic equivalence) and he answered,
'Yes, you may have a word with me' importing the whole range of meaning into
either speaker's use of LOGOS would be an example of what James Barr called
'illegitimate totality transfer'. Assume the child wants to talk about
something which has little to do with reputation or common universal law
(maybe he just wants attention). If H. protested that he meant the whole range
of meaning but the child didn't, then it would involve some strange

> This would be analogous to me using the term "God" around my friends and
> associates.
> While the term "God" can mean many things to many people, if I used it
> consistently
> in a theological and philosophical manner, for me God would not "have" the
> other
> "ten meanings."

True, but apparently, it has at least two meanings in your usage. You refer to
'God' as a 'term' above as you discuss these issues with me, but it appears
that when you talk with friends and associates, that 'God' refers perhaps to
the deity that you worship (or study, etc). In this case, a change of
participants (and genre) in discourse alters the context and involves a
different meaning for the word 'God'.

> As a side point, I also wonder about Adam and Eve. The Bible says that God
> spoke
> to Adam first; then Adam NAMED the animals; then Adam spoke to Eve and
> her
> "living one." Where does the argument for context fit in here? Maybe this
> an offlist
> question.

Again, context of situation is prominent in this example (I'll admit that the
context of culture is pretty thin with Adam). The context of the situation is
that God was bringing the animals to him expressly to give him the opportunity
to name them. There is even a context of 'text', because God had already began
a precedent of naming in Chapter 1 (though you may question the unity between
Ch. 1 and 2). It seems to me that context has everything to do with the

I'm willing to continue to discuss this off-list.

Cindy Westfall
PhD Student, Roehampton

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