Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Husserl and generalizing meaning

Husserl had a concept he called noema that was a generalization of meaning to, in his words, the realm of all action. There seems to be something basically right about the idea. It makes some sense to say that there is a kind of meaning that action, of any kind, has that is similar to linguistic meaning, which one kind of action, talking/uttering/etc., has. There is something deeply confusing about it though. At least with linguistic meaning, we have a decent idea of what the parts are, some relations of parts and wholes, fairly good heuristics for interpreting them, and natural ways to demarcate the parts and wholes. None of this is the case with action generally. For example, people are pretty bad at understanding 'the meaning' of an action, say, a bombing. Who was the target, what was the purpose, what ideas were under attack, what ideas were being promoted, etc. are al questions that are more or less equally answerable from a given bombing. Additionally, the parts of an action are extremely hard to differentiate. Apart from this, it seems like Husserl had a good idea.

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