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Chapter 1 Historical and philosophical foundations of the problem of meaning

Elsevier Science & Technology
DOI: 10.1016/s0166-4115(97)80133-1
  • Linguistics
  • Philosophy


Publisher Summary The chapter discusses the historical and philosophical foundations of the problem of meaning. As a perennially contested topic of deep bearing, the problem of meaning has always called forth and put to the test the most basic, even metaphysical views of human nature and the world, social and physical, in which we operate. And if, in our own time, meaning has proven to be a problem in flux, so too it has been subject all along to shifting interpretations, often radically divergent yet sometimes surprisingly convergent. All of the developments reviewed in this chapter reflect the challenges of the problem of meaning, as well as its perdurance, its continuing immersion in philosophical issues, and perhaps its unusual degree of intractability. But these developments also reveal that every era of attack on the problem has produced valuable new prospects for the pursuit of solutions. There are longstanding and recurrent themata in the human effort to elucidate the semantic triangle of minds, things, and language, and that the effort to do so evinces no foregone conclusions. In renewing and recombining these themata the essays collected in this chapter offer a rich array of promising directions for gaining new insight into one of our culture's most venerable problems.

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