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Introduction by Umberto Eco[edit | edit source]

to the 1989 impression of Ogden, C. K. & I. A. Richards (1923). The Meaning of Meaning: A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. [^]

Are Ogden and Richards highly celebrated? Surely, for instance, by a celebrated semiotician, Umberto Eco, who "founded and developed one of the most important approaches in contemporary semiotics, usually referred to as interpretative semiotics," In the Introduction to the 1989 impression of The Meaning of Meaning (1923), Eco wrote that "it was undoubtedly a seminal book, whose merit was to say certain things very much in advance of its time; and indeed many of its promptings have not yet been completely accepted by scholars.*" In the footnote he added: "*For confirmation of the work's importance we need only glance at its five prefaces: a book that has gone through so many editions and updatings has obviously aroused impassioned interest."

In agreement with Ogden and Richards, Eco sees "our whole experience as an interaction with signs,[1] and this interaction as an activity of interpretation, is today one of the 'hot' issues of the semiotic debate." Accordingly, Eco as a specialist in "interpretative semiotics" quotes as follows:

Throughout almost all our life we are treating things as signs. All experience, using the word in the widest possible sense, is either enjoyed or interpreted (i.e., treated as a sign) or both, and very little of it escapes some degree of interpretation. An account of the process of Interpretation is thus the key to the understanding of the Sign-situation, and therefore the beginning of wisdom. It is astonishing that although the need for such an account has long been a commonplace in psychology, those concerned with the criticism and organization of our knowledge have with few exceptions entirely ignored the consequences of its neglect. (pp. 50-51)

The shortest, hence perhaps the most piercing, paragraph may be: "To read The Meaning of Meaning is not then to learn to speak in a 'perfect' way, but rather to learn what it means to speak in an imperfect way." Hence, the question of interpretation matters so vitally in life.

  1. to come