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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Re: Machiavelli
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0802  Thursday, 14 March 2002

From:           W.L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Mar 2002 15:24:46 -0500
Subject: 13.07388 Re: Machiavelli
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.07388 Re: Machiavelli

I wrote:

>> Now my experiment: I sat under a tree today. Describe the tree.

Clifford Stetner responds:

>Unfair, unfair! We all "sat" "under" a "tree" today, several in fact.
>There is the genealogical tree from which each of us derives. . . . .
>Any answer to the question as you pose it must therefore be wrong.

Yes, I'm being quite unfair. But I was hinting at several points: (1) We
make our individual meanings out of rather imprecise language. (2)
Categories (like the category "tree" or "Machiavellian") contain a wide
range of objects, ideas, etc. (as Clifford points out). So when I invoke
the category "tree" I'm not giving you much information, or you could
say I'm giving you too much information (e.g., bonsai and oak). (3) You
have to rely on the integrity of the speaker or writer. Did I sit under
any kind of tree yesterday? (I am a Cretan, and all Cretans are liars.)
(4) And the construction of meaning is often cooperative. I tell you I
sat under a tree, and you ask what kind. I say, not bonsai or oak, but
elm; you ask how big and where, etc.

Unfortunately, we can't ask Shakespeare questions about his meaning. O,
I guess we could, but the responses wouldn't be very helpful -- I
assume.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

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