more from Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu)

Single Idea 7279

[catalogued under 19. Language / A. Nature of Meaning / 10. Denial of Meanings]

Full Idea

Our words are not just hot air. Words work because they are something, but the problem is that, if we cannot define a word's meaning, it doesn't really say anything. Can we make a case for it being anything different from the chirruping of chicks?

Gist of Idea

If words can't be defined, they may just be the chirruping of chicks


Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu) (The Book of Chuang Tzu [c.329 BCE], Ch.2)

Book Reference

Chuang Tzu: 'The Book of Chuang Tzu', ed/tr. Palmer,M /Breuilly,E [Penguin 1996], p.12

A Reaction

This obviously points us towards Quine's challenge to analyticity, and hence the value of definitions (Ideas 1622 and 1624). Even for Chuang Tzu, it seems na´ve to think that you cannot use a word well if you cannot define it.

Related Ideas

Idea 1622 Did someone ever actually define 'bachelor' as 'unmarried man'? [Quine]

Idea 1624 If we try to define analyticity by synonymy, that leads back to analyticity [Quine]