Sunday, November 18, 2012

Meaning is Now

Sitting in a session at SBL with free wireless. :-)

Always impressed with how brilliant some people are and how few academic slots should normally be allotted to them, since the priority of knowledge is in inverse proportion to its "for-its-own-sake-ness."  The priority of knowledge must to go the potential benefit and usefulness to people.  This can be true benefit or market driven benefit (often confused--the second one generally wins, even when it's more like a drug than true benefit). Someone needs to be doing pure knowledge, but only relatively few Titans with people watching over them to make sure they eat lunch and don't walk into walls while walking from one place to another.

But enough of that. I see again with clarity as I listen to scholarly papers that all meaning is ultimately synchronic.  That is to say, no link between what something means now and what it might have meant in the past is necessary.  What words mean now is a function of what words mean now, not of what they have meant in the past.  What events, what actions mean now is a function of what they mean now.

Any other connections are non-necessary.  There are connections, but they cannot be assumed.  They derive from continuity of context.  There are contexts shared more or less universally, and thus particular meaning adds up in these cases to what we might call universal meaning.  Similarly, we can understand past meaning to the extent to which we can bring their context into ours. We cannot leave our context any more than we can leave our heads.

Only if you understand these concepts do you truly understand the nature of meaning, in my opinion.

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