The Language of Wisdom and Folly: Background Readings in Semantics

By Irving J. Lee | Go to book overview

ventional discourse puts the object before me, and if I trust the wisdom of the definer, I shall have a useful hint concerning the ways of that object. A card may suffice to tell me the sex, rank, and nationality of the person whose name it bears, and may even enable me to guess whether he comes to pay his compliments or to solicit a subscription. Though a name seems to report who a man is, and a definition what a thing is, yet the thing no more is its definition than the man is his name.


Nominal and Real Definitions1

AUGUSTUS DE MORGAN

When a name is complex, it frequently admits of definition, nominal or real. A name may be said to be defined nominally when we can of right substitute for it other terms. In such a case, a person may be made to know the meaning of the word without access to the object of which it is to give the idea. Thus an island is completely defined in "land surrounded by water." In definition, we do not mean that we are necessarily to have very precise terms in which to explain the name defined: but, as the terms of the definition so is the name which is defined; according as the first are precise or vague, clear or obscure, so is the second. Thus there may be a question as to the meaning of land: is a marsh sticking up out of the water an island? Some will say that, as opposed to water, a marsh is land, others may consider marsh as intermediate between what is commonly called (dry) land and water. If there be any vagueness, the term island must partake of it: for island is but short for "land surrounded by water," whether this phrase be vague or precise. This sort of definition is nominal, being the substitution of names for names. It is complete, for it gives all that the name is

____________________
1
From Formal Logic. London: The Open Court Company, 1926, pp. 40-41. Copyright by The Open Court Company, Illinois. Reprinted by permission.

-141-

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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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