Basically-“yearly”-at-this-point Daily Quote #62

“We have referred above to the debate over whether the interpretation of artworks requires an inquiry into the maker’s intentions. This debate, which centered, naturally enough, on the case of literature, has witnessed confident assertions to the effect that this or that is the right way to interpret. But is it responsible to make such assertions without reference to what we know about how people actually interpret speech and writing, an area within which a great deal of careful empirical work has been done, much of it under the heading of ‘pragmatics,’ the study of how people exposed to a certain linguistic input identified semantically then come to understand a communicated message which may be richer or in other ways radically different from the meanings of the word sequences they are exposed to? Interestingly, pragmatics as a field of inquiry owes an enormous debt to the work of philosopher Paul Grice (1989), who revolutionized our understanding of communication by placing the idea of a speaker’s intentions at the heart of his theory and who showed how a process of inference based on assumptions about the speaker’s rationality and cooperativeness could explain how we understand that a speaker who says ‘I have eaten breakfast’ means that they ate breakfast today and not merely that they have eaten breakfast at some time in their lives, and why we don’t make the same inference when a speaker says ‘I have eaten tiger’. […] To the extent that scientific theories of communication assume the centrality of openness to intention, how is it possible for philosophers to advocate theories of interpretation in art (at least in literary arts) which deny that sensitivity to the author’s intention plays an important role?”

– Currie, G., Kieran, M., Meskin, A., & Robson, J. (2014). Aesthetics and the Sciences of Mind. Oxford, UK: Oxford U P.

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