File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2001/habermas.0102, message 97


Subject: HAB: The angels of meanings
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2001 08:41:08 


Dear Antii,

The point I am working towards concerns the distinction between

1.*meanings* (as some class of positivisable entities which somehow adhere 
themselves to the noises and marks human animals make)

2. *talk of meanings* and even I am not so bloodyminded as to deny that 
*talk of meanings* is fairly central to a great deal of human communicative 
practice

The rather simplistic point I am urging is that *talk of meanings* does not 
confer ontological status on linguistic meanings. I have been unfair to JH 
in charging him with this sort of naive reification as Gary pointed out. In 
the _TCA_ JH does mainly talk of *theories of meaning*...that is he is 
synthesising various *talks of meaning* in order - I believe - to 
re-construct a viable social totem i.e communicative rationality. I still 
hold onto my point about the reification of *validity claims*, and (not so) 
eagerly await comment;-)

So in fact we are very much in agreement on this point:

>But does it
>follow that meaning-talk is unnecessary or unintelligible?  Note that >each 
>of the more
>specific proposals can be seen as specifying further Wittgenstein's
>claim of meaning as use.

I am not too sure about this reading of Wittgenstein above though.I would 
rather phrase this as *W.'s claim that talk of meaning is use etc'; I think 
W. was certainly an eliminativist about *meanings*, and thought that *talk 
of meanings* was actually better construed of as *talk of use*.

>Moreover, it is natural to say, whichever
>conception we accept, that that the _meaning_ (for example,
>assertibility conditions) _governs_ the use, ie. determines when the use
>is correct, acceptable etc. This is why Wittgenstein often calls meaning
>the _rule_ for the use of a word (in sentences/speech acts). Meaning
>properties are not physical properties like the shape or length of a
>word (whether written or spoken); they are rather _normative_ properties.

I have to disagree with both your interpretation of W. on this point, and 
what I feel is your positive regard for such an interpretation. I still 
think all that gets changed here is that instead of reifying *meanings* we 
start to reify *norms*. You and I have travelled this road before so I won't 
risk going over old turf.

The issue I am more interested in is whether a critical social program which 
makes use of transcendental objects eg. validity claims, norms, Truth, 
Reason will be as efficacious as one which has banished these sorts of 
demons once and for all from the discourse over emancipatory politics, for 
example?

In the end...it's probably a scholastic interest :-)

Best regards

MattP

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