chapter  3
12 Pages

Fluctuation in meaning and the ideality of unities of meaning

In our last chapter (excised from this edition) we dealt with the act of meaning. But among the conclusions of our first chapter was a distinction between the act of meaning, on the one hand, and meaning itself, on the other, the ideal unity as against the multiplicity of possible acts. This distinction, like the others which go along with it – the distinction between expressed content taken in a subjective, and the same taken in an objective sense, and, in the latter respect, the distinction between content as significatum and content as nominatum – are in countless cases undoubtedly clear. This holds of all expressions which occur in the context of an adequately expounded scientific theory. There are, however, cases where the situation is different, which require particular consideration if they are not to plunge all our hard-won distinctions back into confusion. Expressions whose meaning shifts, especially such as are occasional or vague, here raise serious problems. To solve these problems by distinguishing between shifting acts of meaning, on the one hand, and ideal units of meaning, on the other, is the theme of the present chapter.

Expressions may relate to the contemporary mental state of the person using them as much as they relate to other objects. They accordingly divide into those that also intimate what they name (or what they generally stand for), and those in whose case named and intimated contents fall asunder. Instances of the former class are interrogative, optative and imperative sentences, of the latter, statements relating to external things, to one’s own past experiences, to mathematical relationships etc. If someone utters the wish ‘I should like a glass of water’, this serves to indicate to the hearer the speaker’s wish, which is also the object of the statement. What is intimated and what is named here coincide in part. I say ‘in part’, since the intimation obviously goes further. It extends to the judgement expressed in the words ‘I

should like etc.’. The like naturally holds of statements about the ideas, judgements, and surmises of the speaker which are of the forms ‘I imagine that . . .’, ‘I am of the opinion that . . .’, ‘I judge that . . .’, ‘I conjecture that . . .’. A case even of total coincidence seems at first sight possible, in, e.g., the words ‘the state of mind intimated by the words I am now uttering’, though the interpretation of our example breaks down on closer examination. But intimation and the state of affairs asserted fall quite apart in statements such as ‘2 × 2 = 4’. This statement does not say what is said by ‘I judge that 2 × 2 = 4’. They are not even equivalent statements, since the one can be true when the other is false.