Literature/1923/Ogden/chapter08

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8. The Meaning of Philosophers[edit]

Lack of attention to Meaning on the part of philosophers, 160. Summary of the 1920-21 Symposium in Mind; Schiller, Russell, Joachim, Sidgwick, Strong, 161. Contemporaneous discussion of aphasia in Brain. -- Inability of current psychology to assist neurologists; Parsons, 162. Recent American contributions. -- The Critical Realists, 163. The ubiquity of the term 'meaning' in their discussions. -- Drake, Lovejoy, Pratt, Rogers, Santayana, Sellars, Strong. Uncritical use of the word 'meaning' their chief bond of union, 164. Particularly reprehensible display by Münsterberg, 169. Appreciation of Münsterberg; Professor Moore, 173. Vocabulary of the latter, 174. Further typical examples; Broad, Nettleship, Haldane, Royce, 177. Keynes, 178. Official psychology; seven professors, 179. Psycho-analysis; Putnam. Pragmatists, 180. Historians. Even the clearest thinkers; G. E. Moore, 181. Artists, theologians and others, 182. A crescendo of emotional asseveration, 183.

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Proceeding on the same principles to 'Meaning' itself, we find a widely divergent set of opinions in the writings of the best philosophers. The recent discussions in Mind and in Brain show the helplessness of expert disputants in dealing with the resultant ambiguities of the term. The procedure of the ables and most practical group of American thinkers, the Critical Realists of 1921, reveals the same incompetence, while the use made of the word by so influential an authority as Professor Münsterberg is equally open to objection. In fact, a careful study of the practice of prominent writers of all schools leads to the conclusion that in spite of a tacit assumption that the term is sufficiently understood, no principle governs its usage, nor does any technique exist whereby confusion may be avoided.