Sunday, August 17, 2014

The start of meaning

The first meaningful performance did not gets its meaning from earlier meaningful performances. So it seems that meaning preceded meaningful performances. Let's say the first meaningful performance was a pointing to a distant lion. Then pointing had a meaning before anybody meaningfully pointed.

Well, things aren't quite so simple. Maybe there is no "before" before the first meaningful performance, since maybe the first meaningful performance is an eternal divine meaningful performance (perhaps the generation of the Logos?). Or maybe the first meaningful performance got its meaning from later meaningful performances (Sellars seems to think something in this vicinity with respect to the relationship between thoughts and concepts) in some sort of virtuous circularity.

The theistic move seems just right to me. The virtuous circularity move is, however, not going to work. For the circle of performances then had a meaning independently of itself, and so we still get a meaningful performance—perhaps by a community—that doesn't get its meaning from anywhere else.

One may have vagueness worries about the idea of a "first meaningful performance". Still, in a supervaluatist framework we can fix a precisification of "meaningful performance", and then the argument will go through.

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