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Semantics and the Body

Semantics and the Body: Meaning from Frege to the Postmodern

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  • Book Info
    Semantics and the Body
    Book Description:

    Horst Ruthrof argues that the body is an integral part of this hermeneutic activity and proposes that language is no more than a symbolic grid which does not signify at all unless it is brought to life by non-linguistic signs.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7975-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. Introduction: The Missing Body in Semantics
    (pp. 3-22)

    Any semantics which is to give a satisfactory explanation of how we grasp our world by means of language must find a niche for corporeality. Theories of language which emphasize linguistic idealization in matters semantic produce a semantics without bodies, both in terms of the body to be understood and of the body that does the understanding. At the extreme end point of this tradition we find formal semantics; here the body is radically eliminated. In this sense, formal semantics is no more than a systematic alignment of two different versions of a syntax. So we can say that formal...

  6. 1 Towards a Corporeal Semantics
    (pp. 23-52)

    If natural languages behaved primarily in the manner one associates with formal and technical expressions, there would not be much point in looking for explanations beyond those offered by standard analytical accounts. If, however, one is interested in the intricacies of social discourse and its experimental extensions in literature, jokes, metaphors, and other non-technical usage, then those explanations look unsatisfactory. Moreover, once we have taken culturally saturated discourse as the starting point of our inquiry, even the description of technical language use takes on a different appearance.

    InLanguage and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language, Michael Devitt...

  7. 2 Natural Language and Meaning as Definition
    (pp. 53-106)

    alfred: Snow is white is true, iff snow is white.

    horst: What kind of snow do you have in mind? Most kinds of snow I know are not white.

    alfred: It doesn’t matter what kind of snow it is. The biconditional characterizes a formal relation.

    horst: You mean you didn’t really mean ‘snow’ when you said ‘snow.’ You could have used any sign from one formal system and linked it via a conjunction to another formal system.

    alfred: My Convention T is a formal relation which holds in all systems as far as their formal features are concerned.

    horst: Then...

  8. 3 The Semantics of Negation and Metaphor
    (pp. 107-175)

    This chapter applies some of the principles elaborated in the previous chapters to two troublesome features of language: negation and metaphor. Sections 3.2 and 3.3 ask what happens when we theorize specific semantic issues from the perspective of a narrowly conceived semantics, as well as what a broadly conceived semantics has to say about them. Negation and metaphor have been chosen on the assumption that analytical and intersemiotic approaches should produce descriptions which differ in important respects. In particular, the conflation of natural and formal sense as demonstrated with reference to Frege and Carnap will be shown to run into...

  9. 4 Meaning and Poststructuralism
    (pp. 176-228)

    In this chapter sections 4.2 and 4.3 single out two representatives of recent French theorizing, Jean-François Lyotard and Jacques Derrida, to demonstrate that in spite of their distinct ways of viewing language, they contribute to that branch of language philosophy which emphasizes the elaboration rather than the curtailment of signification. Both could be regarded as historical frontrunners at the end of a chain of hermeneutic arguments, except that neither focuses primarily on interpretions that illuminate a lost past but rather on certain consequences of the elaboration of meaning. Jettisoned is the project of meaning reconstitution; retained is a methodological inclination...

  10. 5 Semantics and the Postmodern
    (pp. 229-253)

    The tendency to confuse the mechanisms of syntax and with those of semantics is widespread in recent theorizing. It has its main roots in Saussure’s description of language as a system of differential relations at the morphological, phonetic, syntactic, and semantic levels. In this series semantics is the odd category, since it requires a linkage to other systems of signification outside language to operate. Possibly Saussure and his students read Frege’s specific collapse of natural language sense into formal sense as a confirmation of this move. But while Frege had his eyes primarily on the ideal of a pureBegriffsschrift,...

  11. Conclusion: The Corporeal Turn
    (pp. 254-262)

    I would now like to review in a more general frame the main theses that I have put forward, outside the context of the specific, technical problems addressed in each chapter, and to conclude by pointing to some implications for a range of disciplines in which the kind of semantics employed is crucial to their assumptions, procedures, and interpretive goals.

    According to the intersemiotic and heterosemiotic approach to semantics offered in this book, there is no meaning in language or in the dictionary. Rather, verbal meaning occurs when linguistic expressions are activated by non-verbal signs, such as tactile, olfactory, gustatory,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 263-288)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 289-294)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 295-310)
  15. Index
    (pp. 311-321)