Friday, November 14, 2014

The MEANING of Meaning

The MEANING of Meaning (if not Life)

A difference that Makes a DIFFERENCE is the stripped down
linguistic definition of MEANING, at least if you are in the field
of Phonology  and trying to record the minimal pairs & sound
distinctions  that carry significance in any language: like the
difference between  “bitter” & “better” say:  the difference between
location at the front of the mouth: the vowel formally known as
 /i/ a bit higher than almost the same  sound as /e/ but carrying
a distinction that lets us differentiate between the meaning of
“bit” and a “bet” as well as the “bitter” and the “better.”.

But what I wanted to say is this:  it’s the same minimal pairing and
reduced distinction-drawing that allows us to say the  difference
between right and wrong, correct and error.  MEANING in fact is a
ratio—yes? The play of error and correctitude, right & wrong getting
it on is what gives us our meaning of  meanings: random and  order
rolling in the hey! ouch! somabitch! & where they crash, collide,
collapse, and confuse: right there is our field of meaning-making, true?

Help me out: how do you guys define MEANING in your discipline
if not in terms of some PLAY of accurate & opps right-on and damnit!
and the idea at least taxonomically is to Get IT down to the merest
difference that makes a difference, the R.C.H. tolerance, say, by which
the most subtle of discerners can SEE what distinguishes THIS from
almost-the-same-but-not-the-same THAT and is able —when, with
a mess of folks dismayed and wondering “Well, how do we Draw the
Line for heaven’s sake,”  like you hear so often: “Where do we
draw the line  and who’s to say?”— one like you—versed in the liberal
art  of distinction drawing,  polarizing, arguing-out, characterizing and
then  relating—to raise your hand, both hands, and declare:  ME!

I’m to say.  I’ll draw the line for you if you like on the one hand or on
the other hand help you out of your confusion. I went to Liberal ART
school.  So I know how.”


  1. Like O'Connor, no one is safe with you. :)

    1. She's a hero. my error--she and Gregory Bateson--6th generation atheist--biologist, anthropologist, systems and information theorist, worked with dolphins, addicts, schizophrenics. Last book: "Fools Rush In:Toward an Epistemology of the Sacred.

    2. Don't know how "my error:" slipped in there. I read all she wrote, taught classes on her--and even tried to imitate her wise-guy irreverent conversational style