Sunday, May 1, 2011

Are Intention And Meaning Always The Same?

"Not only in serious literal speech but in all speech what is intended and what is meant are identical. In separating the two Searle imagines the possibility of expression without intention and so, like Hirsch, misses the point of his own claim that when it comes to language 'there is no getting away from intentionality.' Missing this point, and hence imagining the possibility of two different kinds of meaning, is more than a theoretical mistake; it is the sort of mistake that makes theory possible." (729-730)

While I do agree that separating intention and meaning helps to make theory possible I do not believe that they should be called mistakes. I would agree that “what is intended and what is meant are identical” to some degree, but not always. Though it is possible to read a text and recognize the author’s intended meaning, this is not always the case. Sometimes, when you look at the author’s intent and then look at the meaning that the reader interprets, they are not always the same. I recently read about an interview with author Zadie Smith in regards to her novel White Teeth. In the interview she mentioned that many of her readers received a different meaning from the novel then what she intended for them to receive. This is a common thing in literature because a lot of the time meaning is up to the reader, and varies depending on the reader.

Knapp, Steven, and Walter Benn Michaels. "Against Theory." Critical Inquiry 8.4 (1982): 723-742.

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