The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics

By Irving J. Lee | Go to book overview

Still today, people make such remarks as "Try to get that into your head."

In learning to speak, a child follows much the same road. It learns the names of its parents and of household objects. It also learns words which describe its feelings: "Are you hungry?""Are you tired?""He looks happy.""Don't be frightened.""Can't you remember?""Say you are sorry."

Every philosopher, every professor, every school teacher who ever lived began in this way--with words to describe things seen, or things felt. And all the complicated ideas that have ever been thought of rest upon this foundation. Every writer or speaker who ever invented a new word had to explain its meaning by means of other words which people already knew and understood. It would be possible to draw a huge figure representing the English language, in which each word was represented by a block, resting on other blocks--the words used to explain it. At the bottom we should have blocks which did not rest on anything. These would be the words which we can understand directly from our own experience--what we see, what we feel, what we do.

For example, philosophy. Philosophy is what a philosopher does. Philosopher means" a lover of wisdom." The meaning of love, and of being wise, we have to learn from everyday life.


THE PHENOMENON OF LANGUAGE1

SUSANNE K. LANGER

The process of transforming all direct experience into imagery or into that supreme mode of symbolic expression. language, has so completely taken possession of the human mind that it is not only a special talent but a dominant, organic need. All our sense impressions leave

____________________
1
From "The Lord of Creation," Fortune, Vol. XXIX, No. 1, January, 1944, pp. 140- 146. Copyright, 1944, by Time, Inc. Reprinted by permission.

-7-

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The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - The Recognition of Words as Such 1
  • Everything Has a Name 3
  • The Phenomenon of Language 6
  • Symbolic Pointing 7
  • The Mobile Word 15
  • Two Types of Names 19
  • Precision in Natural Language1 23
  • Part II - The Functions and Purposes Of Language in Use 29
  • The Three Forms of Discourse 31
  • The Condition of Clarity1 41
  • The Functions of Poetry 48
  • Behavior That Language Makes Possible 57
  • Talking About the Weather 59
  • Part III - Matters of Fact, Fiction and Opinion 63
  • Matters of Fact and Opinion - George Cornewall Lewis 65
  • The Semantic Conception of Truth - Alfred Tarski 67
  • Every Man His Own Historian 71
  • Literature as Revelation 78
  • Knowledge by Definition 82
  • On the Logic of Fiction 92
  • Fictions, Hypotheses and Dogmas 101
  • Part IV - Questions and Answers 109
  • The Nature of a Question 111
  • "Footless" Questions 121
  • The How and the Why of Things 129
  • Part V - The Ambiguous Word 135
  • On Definition 137
  • Nominal and Real Definitions 139
  • How is "Exactness" Possible? 141
  • Definitions and Reality 149
  • Interpretation 160
  • Ambiguity and Its Avoidance 164
  • Part VI - The Recognition of Differences 173
  • Of General Terms 175
  • Realists and Nominalists 178
  • On Knowing the Difference 180
  • The Passion for Parsimony 184
  • The Individuality of Things and The Generality of Language 188
  • Part VII - Verbal Fascination 205
  • The Attributive Attitude - Ellis Freeman 207
  • Riefication 214
  • The Context of Associations 224
  • Part VIII - The Structural Patterns and Implications Of a Language 245
  • Perception and Language 247
  • An Experimental Study of the Effect Of Language on the Reproduction Of Visually Perceived Form 251
  • Language and Thought 262
  • Languages and Logic 273
  • Part IX - Escape from Verbalism 287
  • Sensation and Cerebration 289
  • An Address on Words and Things 295
  • Experience with Languages 305
  • Two Kinds of Knowledge1 309
  • Preparation of the Child for Science 310
  • Significs 336
  • Index 359
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