word-thought-thing

Huglen, Mark MHuglen at mail.crk.umn.edu
Tue Oct 3 19:48:49 EST 2000


A couple quick responses:   to Jeffrey as well as others who are going to
chime in at some point.  In terms of the symbolic construction not being the
same as the thing, Jeffrey suggests that it might be a Platonic bias.  As we
know, Plato is mentioned quite a bit by Burke.

I guess I think of this as the word-thought-thing relation, and C.K. Ogden
and I.A. Richards have a nice explanation of this in their book, _The
Meaning of Meaning_, and provide a nice visual of the relation on page
eleven.  Of course, this line of thinking is a significant part of the
Burkean corpora as well.  The word is not the thing.  The word "tree" is not
the "thing" tree, which means that much of our world is defined in terms of
what it is not.  And up ladder, down a ladder, across the way, etc., so to
speak we may go, from tree to trees, and from trees to the forest-all
defined in terms of what they are not.  But, as Burke says, such things are
citable realites.  And perhaps we want to say that they grow out of our
human biology and material manifestations.

Scientists, therefore, are not recording or talking about their stuff
through any direct correspondence with their objects but through their
communication; in other words they do not petition and argue with
things-they petition and argue with each other.  And in their argumentation,
they reflect their cultural biases.  Knowing this, we don't have to say that
"reflecting a cultural bias is a bad thing," because we, I believe, ought to
be celebrating a lot of our human constructions.  Down the line, I am
confident that there will be many more discoveries and creations.

In terms of reducing this to the promotion of a single "convention of
argument" by me, no, I am not thinking that way, and thankful that you have
pointed this out to me.

Mark Huglen




More information about the KB mailing list