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memory, meaning, nostalgia

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“Each man is given a scientific heritage plus a continuing barrage of sensory stimulation; and the considerations which guide him in warping his scientific heritage to fit his continuing sensory promptings are, where rational, pragmatic.”
— W. Quine Two Dogmas of Empiricism

I love how everything in our lives manages to evoke feelings, memories, reactions. We have this self-fabricated world full of connotations that we have accumulated over time. In that sense, I guess it would be right to posit that each person’s grasp of language is unique, to the point that the words themselves possess different meanings for different people. This is most apparent when exploring the dialogue between languages: words which refer to the same object (denotative meaning) are affected with some collective memory of cultural connotations, and actually present different connotative (referential) meaning. For the individual, this difference is more subtle, but nonetheless, present. If I were a good philosopher, I would try to qualify and explain what I mean by meaning; whether it be a semantic definition or a empirical understanding of the word, but truthfully, I don’t think it’s something I fully understand. For me, I best understand meaning in a holistic sense, a concept where, as Donald Davidson writes “…that only in the context of the language does a sentence (and therefore a word) have meaning”. This context includes all of our sensory experiences, material and immaterial goods. To paraphrase Quine, the fact that physical objects and experience are epistemologically superior–that they are more “true” (a very empirical approach to truth and meaning), is well simply, a myth. This holistic theory of meaning, is one that which Quine writes “must be kept squared with experience.” It is this experience I think that affects ultimately, our conception of the world.

If we take this and integrate the role of memory, and the subsequent allure of nostalgia, what is the consequence of language, meaning and signification in our world? The term nostalgia derives from the Greek nostos “homecoming” and algos “pain, grief, distress”, but what does it truly mean for us today? What is the interplay between the etymological definition of nostalgia and our fascination with the word as we understand it? This I think is what I want to explore in an art show.

I think.

It definitely needs work. I need to go to the library badly. I guess it also doesn’t help that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

Written by greenseamonkeys

July 20, 2009 at 8:28 pm

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