• The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    This is a reading group focusing on Jacques Derrida's seminal 1967 text, La Voix et la Phénomenè. We will be reading it in English translation as:

    Voice and Phenomenon, tr. Leonard Lawlor, Northwestern University Press, 2011.

    Page citations below are taken from this edition.

    We will be reading through all of Derrida's text, including each of its seven chapters, followed by its introduction, which we will read last. If you are interested in supplementary material, the following are the most important works referenced by Derrida: these might also be discussed in relation to Voice and Phenomenon.

    Edmund Husserl – Logical Investigations, Vol. I (especially 'Investigation I')
    "" – Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology... ("Ideas I / General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology")
    "" – Lectures on the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time

    Along with the translator's introduction in the volume itself, there is also a secondary source acting as a reader's guide to Voice and Phenomenon:

    Vernon Cisney – Derrida's Voice and Phenomenon, Edinburgh University Press, 2014.

    Discussion will begin this Sunday, September 18, with Chapter 1. We will read through one section per week, with discussion of each section beginning that Sunday. Here is the schedule:

    Week 1 (9/18-9/24): Chapter 1, 'Sign and Signs' (pp. 15-22)
    Week 2 (9/25-10/1): Chapter 2, 'The Reduction of Indication' (pp. 23-26)
    Week 3 (10/2-10/8): Chapter 3, 'Meaning as Soliloquy' (pp. 27-40)
    Week 4 (10/9-10/15): Chapter 4, 'Meaning and Representation' (pp. 41-50)
    Week 5 (10/16-10/22): Chapter 5, 'The Sign and the Blink of an Eye' (pp. 51-59)
    Week 6 (10/23-10/29): Chapter 6, 'The Voice that Keeps Silent' (pp. 60-74)
    Week 7 (10/30-11/5): Chapter 7, 'The Originative Supplement' (pp. 75-89)
    Week 8 (11/6-11/12): Introduction (pp. 3-14)

    Ideally reading will precede discussion, but the text is difficult, and in practice discussion periods will involve questions about reading the text itself as well.

    If anyone is having trouble getting access to the text and wants to join, post in this thread and we may be able to work something out.
  • Marty
    163
    Maybe I missed something, but is there a reason you want to do the introduction last?
  • csalisbury
    2k
    There was a little discussion of this on the ur-thread. Basically: The introduction is ultra-ultra-dense, assumes a lot of background knowledge, and basically condenses the entirety of the main text's argument (which is itself rather dense). In a lot of ways, it feels more like a conclusion than an introduction.
  • StreetlightX
    4.3k
    In the interests of keeping up momentum, might it be worth collapsing the reading weeks for chapters 1 and 2? Having just read over them, c2 is basically a slight deepening of c1, and week 2 might be a little boring if we just stick to the 4 pages that make up c2. Either way works for me tho.
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    I'd prefer not to, because I think that while brief, Chapter 2 is dense to the point of impenetrability, and especially its last long paragraph is almost impossible to disentangle.
  • Pierre-Normand
    1.6k
    and especially its last long paragraph is almost impossible to disentangleThe Great Whatever

    If we can't disentangle it, then we may need to deconstruct it ;-)
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    Some preliminary summary of Chapter 1.

    Derrida begins with Husserl's distinction, found in Investigation I of the Logical Investigations, between two kinds of sign: indication and expression. Indication is something like a Peircian sign, something that stands as a mark pointing to something else, a signified, by whatever mechanism (iconic resemblance, symbolism, etc.) and whether naturally or artificially made. Expression by contrast is something imbued with semantic meaning in particular: it holds the 'exclusivity to pure logicity' (p. 16), which I take to mean that it is truth-conditional and compositionally built out of smaller truth-conditional pieces, in the way that only (declarative) language can be, allowing it to take part in all the hallmarks of reasoning and logical deduction. Derrida says it is the exclusive domain of 'spoken discourse' (German Rede), but at this point it seems that this means language generally, and not only that which is literally spoken (and as we shall see, apparently, not that which is literally discursive, in the sense of communicating information to someone else). All that's required of expression is that it have 'meaning' in the way that only a bit of language can, in the way that meaning can 'tell the truth' as opposed to merely being a signal for something else.

    Husserl draws this distinction because he thinks it's important to keep the two apart. Uncontroversially (and Derrida seems never to challenge this point), there are signs that partake in indication without expression – a boundary stone, for example, points to the division between two distinct territories without in the strict sense saying anything (as a sign with printed words might: 'here is the border between...'). Husserl will also claim that some signs partake in expression without indication as well, which Derrida will protest. Somewhat confusingly, Derrida opens by saying that indication '...is different from expression because it is, insofar as it is an indication, deprived of Bedeutung or Sinn [meaning, or sense]' (p. 15) – this isn't true for either Husserl or Derrida, since for both an indicative sign can also have meaning in the stricter linguistic sense, so I take this to mean something like 'mere indication.' The point, then, is that what we call meaning in the strict sense, Bedeutung, belongs only to language and expressive signs. Indicative signs signify something, but in the strict sense, if they don't express anything, they're meaningless. A less confusing English translation for Bedeutung might be 'semantic content,' since we can indeed talk of a merely indicative sign, like a boundary stone, as 'meaningful' too. Derrida uses the French vouloir-dire ('to want to say, to mean') in order to capture the relation between language and expressive meaning (and also, as we'll see later, between volition and expressive meaning). Husserl also acknowledges a wider range of meaning, in the sense that all intentional acts of consciousness besides linguistic communication (wanting, wishing, intending, perceiving, willing) are meaningful too: he reserves the term Sinn for this wider domain of meaning, and uses Bedeutung for the restricted linguistic domain, for the meaning carried by expressive signs. Note that this distinction between Sinn and Bedeutung bears no relation to the one drawn by Frege.

    This distinction isn't an either/or deal, though. For one thing, the same sign might be indicative/expressive or not, depending on the situation. Things aren't signs all by themselves, but have to be 'animated' by experience to act as a sign (if no one sees the boundary stone as a boundary or treats it that way, it's just a rock, and indicates nothing). Likewise a series of marks might be construed as linguistic signs or not, depending on who looks at them. Second, since it seems we can have indication without expression, the question arises whether the reverse is true, whether there can be expressive signs with semantic content, but which indicate nothing. Husserl's position here is twofold:

    1) Insofar as signs are discursive, that is, insofar as they partake in concrete communication of some information between parties, they must be indicative
    2) Insofar as a sign is used in fact, it is discursive, or partakes in communication

    So the result is that all uses of expressive signs in fact are indicative as well as expressive. The two are 'entangled' together in ordinary communicative use of language.

    So what does this mean for the relation between the two? Still Husserl wants to draw a distinction between indication and expression, but what kind of distinction is it? Is expression a sub-species of indication, just one kind of indication? If it weren't, we would presumably want to find a case where the two were distinct. Husserl wants to maintain the independence of these two notions, and so claims there are in fact expressive signs with no indication. We find these in the 'solitary life of the soul' (p. 19), when a person speaks to themselves (more on this in later sections). So neither indication nor expression encompass the other, even though as a matter of empirical accident expression is in actual linguistic usage intermingled with indication. There is something strange, even paradoxical, about the idea that the essence of expressive meaning, which is usually employed for linguistic communication, is revealed when there ostensibly is no communication taking place, when one is talking to oneself. But Derrida points out that this is just phenomenology's modus operandi: the phenomenologist brackets a certain worldly exteriority, in order to reveal something's essential traits, because in experience itself we find an 'inner' possibility of relating to an outside, and this entire relation takes place 'inside' of experience.

    Derrida concludes by questioning Husserl as to what it means for something to be a sign generally, if there really is no species-genus relation between indication and expression, and the two are strictly distinct. In what sense then are both 'signs' at all? Don't we have some prior knowledge of what it means for one thing to 'stand for' another, which both indication and expression take part in? Derrida offers two possible ways of attacking this question. First, we might criticize Husserl as prejudiced, and claim that in refusing to try to understand what a sign is generally, he overlooks essential questions pertaining to the foundations of phenomenology (and the weakness of those foundations). Second, we might praise Husserl for an analytical rigor: after all, part of the phenomenological project involves bracketing prior biases, and we aren't entitled to assume from the beginning that the notion of both indication and expression as 'sign' is anything fundamental rather than an accident of language. Further, such a move allows a potentially revolutionary move on Husserl's part: by claiming that the notion of truth is not applicable to the sign in general, but only to one type of sign (expression), he may be going against the tradition of metaphysics which tries to reduce everything to truth, by claiming that there are modes of signification that lie outside of this domain – a sign 'produces truth or ideality rather than records it' (p. 22). Derrida admits that this revolutionary tendency is part of Husserl's project. But at the same time, he avows that phenomenology has an even deeper commitment than this, which is squarely within the domain of traditional metaphysics, and binds it to 'classical ontology' (ibid.). Derrida's overarching thesis will be that phenomenology weds itself to the traditional metaphysical project by partaking in 'the metaphysics of presence,' on which more later.

    --

    Okay, bare bones. There are lots of questions with this, but that will do for now.
  • StreetlightX
    4.3k
    Damn fine summary, think you got it all.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.1k
    Is expression a sub-species of indication, just one kind of indication?

    ...

    if there really is no species-genus relation between indication and expression, and the two are strictly distinct. In what sense then are both 'signs' at all?
    The Great Whatever

    This is what I see as the principal issue, and the answer depends on how clearly, or ambiguously, one defines these terms, expression, indication, signification. Husserl denies that expression is a sub-species of indication. But if expression and indication are distinct forms of signification, then how do we account for the intermingling of the two?

    Here is a question to keep in mind. Is it really true that all expressions contain indication, and not all indications are expressions? Or is this an assumption of convenience made by Husserl, to support an argued position? I think that we may be able to find examples of expression which are not indications. And, the problem in saying that not all indications are expressions, is that if we take examples of indications which are not expressions, it can be argued that all these so-called "indications" are really
    false indications. It may be argued, that only an expression is a true indication.

    From this perspective, Husserl may have things backwards.

    So for Derrida, the question becomes "what is the sign in general". We must determine the essence of this broader category, "sign" in order to see how the sub-sets fit within, to judge Husserl's position. In this respect, there are a number of issues raised, "unity", and "truth", to begin with. I see "unity" as the most difficult issue here, and one which must be surmounted before we can even approach "truth".
  • csalisbury
    2k
    That really is a thorough summary. I'm struggling to find anything to add.



    Here is a question to keep in mind. Is it really true that all expressions contain indication, and not all indications are expressions? Or is this an assumption of convenience made by Husserl, to support an argued position?

    Importantly, Husserl wants to argue the opposite. He says there are expressions free from indication. These are found in the 'solitary life of the soul' (this idea is only mentioned briefly in this chapter because it will be greatly expanded upon in later chapters)
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    So for Derrida, the question becomes "what is the sign in general".Metaphysician Undercover

    It's not clear to what extent Derrida tries to answer this. He explicitly says at one point that he won't be trying to answer the question, at least for now, but also hints that he will return later to how the question is important for the foundations of phenomenology. But there are a lot of allusions in the text that so far as I can tell Derrida doesn't ever cash in on.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.1k
    Importantly, Husserl wants to argue the opposite.csalisbury

    Do you mean Derrida wants to argue this?
  • csalisbury
    2k

    Do you mean Derrida wants to argue this?

    Nope, Husserl. It will become clearer as the book progresses, but this 'solitary life of the soul' is central to Husserl's discussion of expression.

    Here's a super-condensed summary of the chapter, leaving out all of Derrida's asides, anticipations and allusions:

    (1) Husserl distinguishes between two types of signs - indications & expressions.
    (2) Husserl notes that, while it is clear that there are non-expressive indicative signs, it appears that all expressive signs are also at least partly indicative.
    (3) This would seem to suggest that expressive signs are only a subset of indicative signs. But Husserl does not believe this is the case. He identifies the 'solitary life of the soul' as the province of non-indicative expression.

    On page 19, Derrida quotes Husserl saying: "Expressions unfold their function of meaning even in the solitary life of the soul, where they no longer function as indications."
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.1k
    Are you saying that Derrida misrepresents Husserl when he says things like this:

    "Let us pursue our reading. Every expression would therefore be gripped, despite itself, by an indicative process."

    "In order to do that, he must therefore demonstrate that expression is not a species of indication even though all expressions are mixed with indication, the reverse not being true."

    The point being, that Derrida represents Husserl as saying that "all expressions are mixed with indication". Then we have the quote from you, revealing where expressions "no longer function as indications".

    Do you think that this is meant to demonstrate that Husserl contradicts himself? Or, is this meant to display a complete separation, disjunction, or disunity, between expression and indication, such that they operate in separate domains? Then the fact that an expression is indicative would be some sort of random coincidence.
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    It's confusing because Husserl concedes the point that every actual use of language makes use of indication. Husserl retreats to the position that therefore we must find purely expressive signs by examining language without actually using it. This apparently occurs when speaking to ourselves privately, because in so doing we don't communicate to ourselves at all.
  • csalisbury
    2k
    There are lots of questions with this, but that will do for now.
    I can't find a good angle to get a conversation rolling. What were some of the questions/concerns you had?
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    For one, I think discussing the premise 1) in the summary above would be helpful. From this first chapter, it is not clear why Derrida takes this to be true, and so we can't evaluate whether the reasons for him thinking so are plausible. If he is just deferring to Husserl, then we need to know why Husserl thinks it is plausible.

    To start with, what does it mean to say a linguistic sign is indicative? The clear cases Derrida alludes to in Ch. 2, like brands and canals and chalk marks, make intuitive sense. But what is the linguistic expression 'indicating' in this way? It's not at all clear, and so the initial problem seems to have little compelling intuitive evidence.

    There are scattered clues that Derrida (and possibly Husserl in turn) actually mean two separate things by language always having an intermixed indicative element:

    1) The linguistic sign indicates the mental state of the speaker.

    2) The linguistic sign is attached to some sensible sign-vehicle, like a written word, that indicates its expressive content? Or the expressive sign itself, which is separate from this sensible component? It's not clear what's meant here, and several allusions are used interchangeably without clarification.

    As for 1), it's very unclear, I would even say outright dubious, that the purpose of linguistic expression is to relay some mental state of the speaker. Usually we are concerned with whatever the sentence is talking about, not what the speaker is thinking about at the time of uttering it – and certainly whatever the sentence is talking about is what its expressive content deals in, not the speaker's thoughts or experiences! Certainly the speaker's thoughts can be expressed in virtue of talking about something else, but the 'logicity' Husserl is concerned with, its truth conditions, are separable from this in principle; and anyway, even if this is the case, we do not need to infer anything about the speaker's mental state in order to understand what is literally said, and in fact Derrida's own characterization seems to imply that whether a sign indicates anything about a person's experience is depending on how that sign is experientially construed by the speaker. To make the point more vivid, note that a road sign, which has no thoughts at all, can just as well say something in virtue of having letters printed on it, and make use of expressive linguistic signs, and we can understand it. So why should 1) be plausible? Can we really think that linguistic signs serve as indications of the experiences of those who think them whenever they are used?

    As to 2), the metaphysics are just not clear enough to me to pass judgment. What is going on, exactly? Is the sensible sign-vehicle separate from the expressive sign? Does it indicate that expressive sign? But if so, then the expressive sign itself need not be indicative in virtue of the sensible sign vehicle. So it must be that the sign vehicle itself is somehow both indicative, in virtue of being sensible, and expressive too? But then, what is it indicating? I can't make sense of it in terms of the simple canal examples and so forth.

    Perhaps what is meant is something like, the expression indicates some state of affairs? But that doesn't seem right either. And there seems to be no textual evidence that this is what Derrida has in mind.

    So what is it that makes 1) in the OP plausible, can either of these two suggested explanations be made sense of? And if this is not intuitively compelling to begin with (that all expression is indicative), then does this have consequences for the further argument?
  • csalisbury
    2k

    I like all these questions but it's tough to discuss them without borrowing from the coming chapters.
    Whether the distinction is plausible seems to be answerable only after seeing how that distinction plays out (in the treatment, first, of indication; then of expression). Ot to put it another way: While these questions aren't answerable now, they're good guidelines for approaching and appraising the chapters to come. (I've been reading the corresponding logical investigation in parallel & Husserl seems to take this distinction as obvious, so it's hard to determine, at the outset, where he's coming from. I think it becomes a bit clearer as he explains what he means by the two terms.)

    My approach has been to treat Derrida, in these early chapters, as a neutral exegete* who - & this may be a little too cute - is performing his own sort of epoche. I think, at least at this stage, he's bracketing the validity of these distinctions, and is simply trying to suss out the immanent logic of Husserl's project. (& prob choosing to frame it in terms of signs because signs were super hot in France back then. Though to be fair, it is the very first 'investigation', after Husserl spends n pages attacking the psychologists and introducing/defending his method)

    (Regarding indication, I think, besides the explicit definition in Ch. 2, the most interesting hint is the footnote where Husserl describes indication as a mere species of 'the association of ideas.' This idea takes up a full section in Logical Investigations)

    Does any of that seem legit or does it feel like bullshit? Be honest <3

    *When he's analyzing the text, I mean, not when he's waxing ecstatic about hiatuses.
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    Does any of that seem legit or does it feel like bullshit? Be honest <3csalisbury

    No, I get it, but I'm wondering if, even if we have the distinction in hand, we will be able to justify the thesis that all uses of language are indicative in the relevant sense. It is still not clear to me why Derrida thinks this, unless he is merely as you say piggybacking on Husserl's own conceptions. But then, Husserl might just be wrong about something pretty pedestrian, and not open to the more basic criticisms Derrida wants to level at him.

    Even taking the rudimentary knowledge we have now of what indication is, my question is: why should we think all uses of language are indicative? This is in my view not at all obvious.

    As to the association ideas, this is really complicated because as I understand it, Husserl also believes in a kind of transcendental association of ideas that I never quite understood. Derrida alludes to that in the footnote as well.
  • StreetlightX
    4.3k
    My approach has been to treat Derrida, in these early chapters, as a neutral exegete* who - & this may be a little too cute - is performing his own sort of epoche. I think, at least at this stage, he's bracketing the validity of these distinctions, and is simply trying to suss out the immanent logic of Husserl's project.csalisbury

    This strikes me as correct and commensurate with Derrida's 'methodology' more generally: his deconstructions are always immanent critiques, and they try very hard to remain within the limits of their texts they examine. His remark on the first page about his 'solutions... be[ing] valid only within the limits of Husserl’s texts", and "being halfway between commentary and translation", although strictly about his translations, is synecdochal of the reading as I whole, I reckon. One of Derrida's basic operations is to tease out tensions between facts and principles, and side with 'facts' as it were, showing how they exceed and destabilize what the principles are supposed to circumscribe. There's a reason Derrida always seems to italicize the phrase 'in fact'.

    --

    To start with, what does it mean to say a linguistic sign is indicative? The clear cases Derrida alludes to in Ch. 2, like brands and canals and chalk marks, make intuitive sense. But what is the linguistic expression 'indicating' in this way? It's not at all clear, and so the initial problem seems to have little compelling intuitive evidence.The Great Whatever

    Also, without looking too far ahead to the third chapter, if the category of indication seems a little fuzzy, it's perhaps best to consider it a purely negative category for now; it is everything that does not fall under the ambit of expression. Whether or not this should remain a provisional move will remain to be seen.
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    Also, without looking too far ahead to the third chapter, if the category of indication seems a little fuzzy, it's perhaps best to consider it a purely negative category for now; it is everything that does not fall under the ambit of expression. Whether or not this should remain a provisional move will remain to be seen.StreetlightX

    To be clearer, I don't really have a problem with the notion of indication – it makes intuitive sense and I have enough of a working understanding of it that employing it doesn't bother me.

    What bothers me is the claim that all (actual) uses of linguistic signs are necessarily indicative. This is certainly not obviously true, and it's not clear to me why Derrida/Husserl thinks it is.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.1k
    Also, without looking too far ahead to the third chapter, if the category of indication seems a little fuzzy, it's perhaps best to consider it a purely negative category for now; it is everything that does not fall under the ambit of expressionStreetlightX

    I am not too comfortable with this position, as it creates the complete disunity within the concept of "sign", which was briefly alluded to. This, is/ is not perspective, implies that there are two distinct ways of using "sign", and to mix the two would be equivocation. That is, unless we remove one "expression" for example, from the category of "sign". But what sense does it make to say that an expression is not a sign? And, if we approach the expression as if it is a sign, what gives it the appearance of a sign? Is it the act of interpretation which makes it appear like a sign, or is it something about the act of expression itself, which makes the expression appear to be a sign. If the latter, then sign, and indication, are inherent within the expression, whether or not all expressions are indications..
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    I'll be honest and say this question doesn't strike me as that interesting, because the ambiguity of the word 'sign' seems like an artificial one foreign to ordinary discourse. So far as I know people generally take 'sign' to mean indication. This might just be a feature of English, since Husserl apparently claims the reverse. It's only really in formal disciplines that people start talking about 'signs' in this expressive sense.

    And there's not much to worry about in the mysteries of why a technical term should have been invented that has something to do with a non-technical one.
  • csalisbury
    2k

    There are scattered clues that Derrida (and possibly Husserl in turn) actually mean two separate things by language always having an intermixed indicative element:

    1) The linguistic sign indicates the mental state of the speaker.

    2) The linguistic sign is attached to some sensible sign-vehicle, like a written word, that indicates its expressive content? Or the expressive sign itself, which is separate from this sensible component? It's not clear what's meant here, and several allusions are used interchangeably without clarification.

    As for 1), it's very unclear, I would even say outright dubious, that the purpose of linguistic expression is to relay some mental state of the speaker. Usually we are concerned with whatever the sentence is talking about, not what the speaker is thinking about at the time of uttering it – and certainly whatever the sentence is talking about is what its expressive content deals in, not the speaker's thoughts or experiences!

    Alright, so Husserl almost definitely has (1) in mind. From §7 of the Logical Investigation:"...all expressions in communicative speech function as indications. They serve the hearer as the signs of the 'thoughts 'of the speaker, i.e. of his sense-giving inner experiences, as well as of the other inner experiences which are part of communicative intention."

    But, at the same time, Husserl seems quite aware of the point you make above, saying in §6 : "We distinguish, in the case of each name, between what it 'shows forth' (i.e. mental states) and what it means. And again between what it means (the sense or 'content' of its naming presentation) and what it names (the object of the presentation."
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    Is there some problem with circumventing the issue altogether and using printed words on a page or road sign, then?

    Even if we don't, it seems absurd to me that part of using an expressive sign essentially involves indicating the speaker's thoughts. Surely I know what the sign means in virtue of my linguistic competence, and not in virtue of my ability to mind-read; and furthermore the word would mean the same thing, in the sense we're interested in (logicity), regardless of who said them, excluding first-person indexicals and so on. That's not to say anything of the fact that I might hear what someone says and, being uninterested in what they're thinking (a flight attendant asking what I want to drink), my lived experiences are animated with no such indicative intentions.

    I just don't understand what the problem is or why Derrida thinks this is such a sticking point. Also, I think Derrida at least means 2) as well, but he only alludes to it without saying it outright, and I'm having trouble finding the quote (it's a parenthetical remark where he alludes to the twofold reason).

    Also, this is telling me I do need to reread the first investigation, so I will (and report back) once I can get to a library that has it.
  • csalisbury
    2k
    Just a thought: even with a road sign, we take heed because we know there is an intelligence behind the words arranged there. We may not know who in particular arranged those words, but we believe that they have been put there to communicate something to us. Or put another way, the feeling we would get finding and reading a story in the library of Babel would be one of deep uncanniness.

    I think in that way the road sign really does indicate another mind and an intent.
  • csalisbury
    2k
    In the same vein, I think you would find yourself surprised if, upon requesting a whiskey, the flight attendant stared at you blankly or responded "that's just a mantra I repeat to stave off my fear of flight. We don't serve beverages on short connecting flights."
  • The Great Whatever
    2.2k
    Rather than contest these examples, I think it would be easier to try to make the point even clearer. Suppose we had, first, a language learning class, in which we're taught sentences and their meanings on a blackboard. We can understand these, and do so, without using them in any concrete communicative context. In fact, the whole point of using sentences in this way is not to actually employ them in a communicative act at all.

    Or suppose we had a simple grammar that constructed a variety of simple English sentences according to a couple simple structural principles. We hit a button and a sentence of English, randomly constructed according to these principles, appears on the screen. No one is saying it; there is no sign-maker; there is no intelligence to which the sentence, being generated by no speaker or thinker, refers; we understand it as pointing to no one's thoughts. Nevertheless, we know perfectly well what it means, in virtue of knowing how to speak English, and we do not recognize it as employing any communicative function.
  • csalisbury
    2k
    That's true, and maybe this points to a cleavage between Derrida & Husserl, but Husserl explicitly (itallically) specifies that this 'entanglement' occurs in all communicative speech. It's tricky though, even with Derrida, because I still don't understand signification vs. meaning vs. expression. Is anything expressed by the sentences constructred by that algorithm?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Nevertheless, we know perfectly well what it means, in virtue of knowing how to speak EnglishThe Great Whatever

    With speech, meaning can change depending on which word is emphasized, whether the ending trails up or down in frequency, by the facial expressions of the speaker. Where there's a known speaker, a commentator can spin the expression this way or that.

    With randomly generated text, there's none of that. It looks to me like possible meanings would abound.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.