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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Hilary Putnam
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 811.  Wednesday, 17 Nov. 1993.
 
From:           William Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 16 Nov 1993 20:52:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Hilary Putnam
 
Actually Hilary Putnam wrote in a very rich context, and he wrote the
following: "Contrary to a doctrine that has been with us since the seventeenth
century, meanings just aren't in the head" (REASON, TRUTH AND HISTORY,
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981: 19). Putnam italicizes the last six words. He
also rejects 'intentionality' "as no solution" in the reference game. But I for
one find that sentence, "meanings just aren't in the head," puzzling. If he
means that the brain does not construct meaning, I find that counter-intuitive.
If he means that the brain in isolation from an invironment cannot construct
meaning, I agree. Actually Putnam says, "the determination of reference is
social and not individual" (18).
 
But Putnam seems to be an ambivalent ally in the Culture Wars. In his essay
"Literature, Science, and Religion," He writes that MEDEA and THE BROTHERS
KARAMAZOV "are great and moving works of art. We are above all human beings,
and these works do move us as human being" (MEANING AND THE MORAL SCIENCES,
London: Routledge, 1978: 89). There's no mention of Cultural Determinism here.
 
But more important, in contrast to Kristeva and Derrida, Putnam writes with
simplicity and clarity. Even his puzzling passages can be explained with some
ease. I find simplicity and clarity a virtue.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
P.S. Al, did you really believe that Hilary Putnam wrote "ain't"? WLG
 

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