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Can there be texts without historical authors?

THE question of whether texts have historical authors is one that has been explicitly raised only recently. Indeed, from a common sense point of view it would seem that if there is a text there must be or must have been an author that produced it, although the existence of an author is not sufficient to make something a text.(1) We refer to art objects, tools, and other artifacts, as well as to thoughts, ideas, and actions as having authors, but these objects are not necessarily texts. If they turn out to be texts, it is not solely in virtue of the fact that they have authors but owing to other factors as well. The view that having an author is not what determines that something be a text, however, is not the one that seems to be under fire in contemporary circles. Rather, the view that has recently been attacked is the one that holds that authors are necessary for texts, that is, that there cannot be texts without authors. The attackers fall into two groups. The most radical position argues that texts never have authors.(2) A less radical point of view maintains that, although some texts have authors, not all texts have them.(3)

Before I go any further I should make clear a few points concerning the notion of historical author that I use here. First, what I call "the historical author" or "the author," for short, is the person who is responsible for the production of a text. The historical author should be distinguished from the pseudo-historical author and the composite author.(4) The pseudo-historical author is the persona an audience identifies as the historical author. The composite author is made up of the historical author and any other person (for example, secretaries, typesetters, editors, etc. who are responsible for some aspect of the text we have. The question of whether the pseudo-historical author of a particular text is an accurate reflection of its historical author, and how an audience may determine the extent to which it is, is a different question from the one addressed in this article and immaterial for present purposes. Likewise, the issue of whether a particular text does or does not have a composite author is irrelevant for our inquiry. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the question raised in this paper is metaphysical and not epistemic. I am concerned with whether there can be texts without historical authors. I am not concerned with the epistemic issue of whether knowledge that something is a text requires knowledge that it has an author or knowledge of the identity of the author. Nor am I interested here in explaining whether knowledge of the author of a text is necessary for a correct understanding of the text. Finally, let me add that I shall refer to authors throughout as persons, but in principle there is no reason why authors should be restricted to human persons. Any one capable of producing a text, whether human or not, terrestrial or extraterrestrial, natural or supernatural, can be considered an author. The existence or nonexistence of such nonhuman authors does not affect my argument.

There are various factors that may have fueled the recent interest in the view that texts, or at least some texts, do not have authors. One such factor is the often noticed point that not only texts but also their meanings seem in some ways to be independent of the authors that compose them. Texts, for instance, seem to have a "life," to use a standard metaphor, and an existence of their own after they are created that has very little to do with those who create them. Their creators may in fact die while the texts remain and continue to exert direct influence on audiences. Indeed, most old texts, as opposed to recently produced texts, fall into this category. Also along these lines it should be noted that often we can understand the meaning of a text without knowing anything about its author. This is most clearly the case with simple, ordinary texts, such as the "No smoking" sign posted in the classroom where I teach. There are scores of anonymous texts whose meaning is not seriously questioned in spite of our ignorance of who produced them. The text of the epic poem El Cid, is one example. Its language, structure, and nature make it a relatively easy text to understand, even though no one knows who put it together. Finally, there are cases where we seem able to say that persons other than the author of a particular text may understand the text better than the author. This is often the case with very complicated texts, for example, where commentators who have devoted their lives to studying these texts are sometimes thought to know more about them and their meanings than the authors who produced them. There can be better Aristotelians than Aristotle, if you like.

These considerations support the speculation that authors are not necessary for texts, although of course there are more specific reasons that can be given for the positions that only certain texts have authors or that no texts have authors. For example, one may wish to argue that it is certainly odd to speak of signs such as the words or letters of natural languages as having authors. And, indeed, it is odd to talk in this way, but the reason is not that the words and letters used in natural languages do not have authors. Rather, their authors are frequently anonymous--we do not know who they are--or they are the result of collective rather than individual efforts. We generally associate authorship with known persons and with individuals rather than groups. The case of the symbols used in artificial languages should help us see the point, for I doubt that anyone would object to calling whoever produced an artificial language its author. Indeed, if the person in question is not an author, what is she? A maker? A producer? An inventor? A discoverer? None of these terms seem to apply as well as the term "author."

Similar sorts of reasonings probably are behind the view that notices and simple texts do not have authors either. For it is difficult to pinpoint the first person who combined the words |no' and |smoking' into the text No |smoking' to convey the request that someone not smoke tobacco. Before tobacco was introduced in Europe, such combination may not have been in use and, if in use, it could not possibly have been used to mean what we mean by it today. Yet, someone must have been the first person (or persons) to have done this, which means that the text has an author in the general sense I have indicated.

Now, it should be clear that it is not the length of a text that may preclude it from having an author, for there are very short texts, such as the Japanese poems known as haiku, that are universally accepted as having authors. Earlier I referred to relative simplicity as another reason that may be given for certain texts lacking authors. But again a haiku can be quite simple. So it does not look as if either length or degree of complexity have anything to do with whether a text has an author or not. Is there something, then, that is required of texts that have authors?

Another possibility is to say, as some have, that only those texts that are capable of multiple interpretations can have authors.(5) Now, of course, this won't do as it stands, for any text can be the subject of multiple interpretations; even the most simple texts can be understood differently, whether correctly or incorrectly, by different people and in different contexts. So the interpretations in question must be, if not correct, at least allowable. A text has an author, then, only if the text is of such a sort that it is legitimate for an audience to understand it in different ways.

Unfortunately, this view has some very undesirable consequences, namely, that it excludes from the category of texts with authors scientific treatises that allow only one legitimate interpretation. I am thinking of such texts as Euclid's Elements and Newton's Principia. Those who composed these texts wanted to convey a very clear and specific message about the subject matter and not a variety of views about it. And the same can be said concerning shorter texts used in ordinary speech. When a vendor tells me that "the price of a pound of potatoes is $.50" he means exactly that the price of the pound of potatoes is $.50 and nothing other, and for me to interpret what he says differently is to misunderstand what he says.

It cannot be, then, that only texts with a substantial range of legitimate interpretations can have authors. Thus, we are back at square one. It is, of course, true that it is quite different in many ways to be the author of the text of Don Quijote and the author of "No smoking." But the differences are a matter of degree and, we might say using Aristotelian jargon, accidental. Essentially, those who produced both texts were engaged in the same kind of activity, the creation of something new. For that reason both texts can have authors.

In this context there are two questions concerning texts and their authors that should be distinguished in order to prevent confusion. The first asks whether it is possible for texts to exist without causes; the second asks whether it is possible for texts to exist although they do not have among their causes subjects who intend to convey some specific meaning through them. The answer to the first question seems quite straightforward. It does not make any more sense to hold that texts can exist without causes than that there is rain without something that produces it. No matter what entities are used to make up texts, whether artificial or natural, those entities and the texts they make up must have causes. Unless, like Hume, we are willing to challenge the whole notion of cause and to accept that there are entities with no causes, we must accept that texts too cannot exist without causes that bring them about.

The answer to the second question, by contrast, is not as easily determined. For some may wish to argue that, indeed, some texts are produced without the causal agency of persons who intend to convey some specific meaning through them. Various examples may be cited to support this argument, but I shall refer only to two.(6) One is the case of "found" texts. Consider the case of someone who is walking on the beach and finds a group of pebbles arranged in the same way in which an English speaker would put them if he wished to form the text "No smoking." Granted, I have not heard of anyone finding such an arrangement of pebbles and, indeed, it seems difficult even to imagine that the arrangement would occur naturally, without the intentional operation of a person. But it is certainly logically possible for this to happen. A combination of high winds, tides, and so on could in principle produce the arrangement in question. And if that is the case, so goes the argument, then we have an instance of a text in whose production persons have not played a role.(7)

At the outset it appears as if there were only two ways of answering this objection. One is to deny that the arrangement of pebbles on the beach is a text; the other is to find an author for the arrangement. But both of these alternatives run into difficulties. The first has to account for the fact that a person walking on the beach got meaning out of the arrangement. The second has to contend with the problem that no person produced the arrangement. Must we then acknowledge that authors are not always necessary for texts?

I would like to propose a different way out of this dilemma, based on a distinction between the entities that constitute a text and a text itself.(8) The entities that constitute a text are whatever is used to convey meaning, considered apart from both the meaning and the fact that the entities convey this meaning. Examples of these entities are the pebbles on a beach about which we have been speaking or any other physical or mental entities that constitute texts. The text, by contrast, is those entities taken as conveyors of certain meanings. Now, since we have two sorts of things, the entities that constitute the texts and the texts themselves, the causes that account for them need not be the same. In our example, the causes that produce the particular pebbles and their arrangement on the beach need not be the same as the causes that produce the text (that is, the pebbles and their arrangement understood as having a certain meaning). The meaning "No smoking" and its connection with the arranged pebbles was not produced by the wind and the tide. The cause of that meaning and its tie to the arranged pebbles is the result of whoever first connected to the meaning the shapes and arrangement instantiated by the pebbles. But then, we may ask, is the person walking on the beach the author of the text on the beach, since she seems to be the first to think of the pebbles and their arrangement as having meaning? Again we must distinguish. For, although she is the first who identified the individual pebbles and their arrangement found on the beach as having meaning, she may not have been the first to have connected the particular sort of arrangement the pebbles display to this particular meaning. If she understood the arrangement of the pebbles to mean "No smoking" because she already knew that this certain arrangement meant "No smoking," then she is not the author of the text. She is not the author of the text insofar as she did not first make the connection in question; she is rather a user, for she uses what is already available.

Notice that this case is quite different from cases where a person takes a natural object and uses it as a text by stipulatively connecting it to a meaning. In such a case, the person who makes the connection is obviously the author, and thus this sort of case poses no difficulty for the view I have been defending here. This sort of situation is similar to the case of "found art," where, for example, a piece of driftwood is picked up by someone at the beach. The piece of driftwood is an aesthetic object that, for that reason, attracts the attention of a passerby who then uses it as an art object by displaying it on the mantelpiece. The artist in this case is the person who picked up the piece of driftwood and displays it, even though it was nature that produced the object that has become art.(9)

In short, we need not deny that the arrangement of pebbles on the beach constitutes a text, nor must we identify the passerby as the author of the text in order to hold that texts must have authors. For a text is not just the entities of which it is composed, but rather those entities intended as conveyors of a certain meaning. And in the example of the pebbles, the intention to convey a certain meaning with the particular arrangement exemplified by the pebbles belongs to whoever thinks of it first. The passerby need not be the author, of course, unless she is in fact the one who first establishes the connection between a particular arrangement of entities and a meaning. But an author there must be, for the connection in question is a matter of convention, not of nature, and conventions require subjects to adopt them.(10)

Notice that in the case of the pebbles it is not too difficult to envision the passerby as the author of the text. This is so because seeing a text composed of pebbles on a beach involves a "creative" mental selection of what objects, features of objects, and arrangements available on the beach are significant and thus constitute the text. And the proof of that process of mental selection is that not everyone may see the text. This is very similar to what happens when someone looks at a cloud and sees in it a camel that other people fail to see. Selection and arrangement do not require physical alteration; remember, some texts are mental. But, in other cases, the passerby is not so easily identifiable as author.

A second example that may be used to impugn the need for causal agents who intend to convey meaning in order to have texts is the proverbial example of the monkey who, given sufficient time, will eventually type a copy of Shakespeare's Hamlet by randomly hitting the keys of a typewriter. This may be taken as a counterexample to the proposed view because the monkey in question knows nothing about the meaning of the text it produces, does not have any knowledge of the signs of which it is composed or the semantic or syntactical significance of their arrangement, and has no intention to convey meaning. And yet, there it is: the magnificent text of Hamlet, typed by the monkey.

Obviously, the very idea that a monkey would be able to produce the text of Hamlet is farfetched, and we all know that the probabilities in question are infinitesimal. Yet, this observation will certainly not do away with the counterexample.(11)

Three alternative strategies suggest themselves at the outset to deal with it. The first is to deny that what the monkey has produced is in fact a text;(12) the second is to argue that the monkey is the author of the text;(13) and the third is to hold that whoever first got hold of the monkey's manuscript and understood it as Hamlet is the author.(14) But none of these alternatives appears to be prima facie satisfactory. The first does not appear to work because the object the monkey produced can be read and understood by anyone who knows English in the way she would read and understand any copy of the text of Hamlet produced by a person. The second alternative does not seem satisfactory because the monkey knows nothing about the meaning of what it has typed and, thus, has no intention of communicating that or any other meaning. And the third does not appear acceptable because the author of Hamlet is not the person who found the monkey's typescript, but Shakespeare.

Following what was said concerning the case of "found texts," one could try to develop a solution by distinguishing between the entities produced by the monkey and the text of Hamlet. The entities produced by the monkey consist of certain marks on a paper, whereas the text is made up of those marks insofar as they are intended to convey meaning. In this respect, the example is very similar to the one of the pebbles on the beach and can be analyzed in the same way. The monkey is the agent that produces the marks (the counterpart of the wind and the tides), the author of the text is Shakespeare, who first connected those marks to the work or meaning that we know as Hamlet, and the person who finds the monkey's typescript is merely a user of the text (the counterpart of the walker on the beach).

There are some difficulties, however, that undermine this solution. For example, it might be argued that the typescript produced by the monkey has meaning, regardless of whether anybody finds it or whether anyone has authored the text. Suppose, say, that the monkey produces the text of Hamlet before Shakespeare existed (or suppose that Shakespeare never existed), and suppose further that no one ever finds the text. Under these circumstances can we say that we have a text, and if we do, who is the author? In this situation we cannot hold that Shakespeare is the author of the text or that the author is the finder, for Shakespeare does not exist and the typescript has not been found by anyone. Yet, we might like to hold all the same that the typescript has meaning. For the typescript is composed of signs belonging to English and arranged in ways which are consistent with the syntactical rules of English grammar in such a way that they could be recognized as meaningful by anyone who knows English. Indeed, if someone were to find the typescript after all, she could read it, understand it, and even could pass as the author of Hamlet by peddling the manuscript as her own.(15) Thus we are justified in asking: Who is the author in this situation?

One might try to answer this question by saying that the reason the case of the monkey's typescript raises these questions is that it is composed of letters and words--artifacts created by subjects to convey meaning--that have established meanings; it is because of this that the typescript appears to have meaning even though it has no author.(16) The monkey is using established linguistic signs to produce the typescript, and if these signs make sense at all they do so because they are arranged in accordance with the grammatical rules of the English language. Thus, the connection between the typescript and meaning that results in a text is latent in the accepted meanings of the signs and of their arrangement. There is, then, not one person who can be called the author of the text in this example; the persons who developed the language and its rules function as latent authors of the text. There is a person component in the causal complex that is responsible for the monkey's Hamlet, and this component is represented by the language in which the text is composed, which is in turn a result of the fact that the monkey types on a machine made by persons to produce linguistic signs. This is quite evident in the case of a short text like "Fire!" accidentally typed by a monkey, for the author of the text (the counterpart of the text of Hamlet) is not the monkey, but whoever connected the shape of the composite "Fire!" with the meaning that text has in English.

One might also add that, if a monkey strikes the keys of a typewriter, it most likely does this because it has watched humans do so. And this therefore involves a person or persons in an indirect way as well. Imitation, however, is not a necessary condition of the textuality of what the monkey produces, since the monkey could hit the keys whether it has seen anyone do so or not and the monkey has no intention to convey meaning in doing so.

The case of the monkey's typescript, then, does not appear to be exactly like that of the pebbles on the beach, for in the case of the pebbles it is possible to hold that the passerby is the author of the text at least in the unusual case in which she is the first person to attach meaning to the shapes formed by the pebbles. Nor does the case of the monkey's typescript seem exactly like that of the identification of cloud formations with animals and the like, which we do occasionally. In this case one could again argue that it is the passerby who is the author, since she is the one that connects the cloud, say, with a camel. But the monkey's typescript is composed of well-established linguistic signs, namely letters and words, which are not so on the basis of a similarity observed by someone, but on the basis of accepted conventions. The reader of the monkey's typescript cannot be considered to be "creative" in the way the passerby at the beach or the cloud watcher can.

In spite of all that has been said, however, we do not seem to have solved the problem posed by the text of Hamlet produced by a monkey, for the cases of the text of Hamlet and the text "Fire!" are different insofar as "Fire!" is a well-known and frequently used text in English, but the text of Hamlet (as produced by the monkey) is an original new product. Society, or whoever invented the text "Fire!," may take authorial credit for it, but no one seems to deserve authorial credit for the text of Hamlet produced by the monkey. The monkey cannot take credit for it because it knew nothing about the meaning and had no intention to convey it. Society cannot take the credit because it did not create the particular text of Hamlet about which we are speaking, although it had created a language whose possible arrangements include one such as that of the text of Hamlet. Moreover, if we were to give authorial credit to society in this case, why could we not give authorial credit to it in the case in which Shakespeare is in fact the person who composed the text? Finally, the finder of the monkey's typescript cannot take authorial credit because she did not produce the typescript, the meaning, or the connection between the typescript and the meaning. We seem, then, not to have advanced toward a solution of this case. The typescript of Hamlet produced by the monkey is either not a text or, if it is a text, it has no historical author.

Let us explore the second alternative first, namely, that the text has no historical author. One could argue that this is possible because a complex set of causes can come together and by chance produce what under normal circumstances only an author can produce. Thus, in the last analysis it would seem to be true that at least in one type of case there can be texts without historical authors; that is, there can be texts without someone who intentionally selects and arranges the signs of which the text is composed, in order to convey a specific meaning to an audience in a certain context. But this is an anomaly, an exception, and does not mean that the existence of the text cannot be causally explained even though such a causal explanation includes an element of chance. Moreover, this view must be distinguished from the views described earlier, in which texts were considered not to have authors at all, at least not always. For the understanding of what it means to have an author is different in those views and the one presented here.

This alternative may be clarified further by noting that in order for something to become a meaning, it must be related to certain entities that, when considered by a person, can yield understanding of the meaning in the person. Moreover, since texts must have meaning, it appears that person understanding is required for textuality. The problem with the cases of the monkey's typescript and "found texts" is that they are understandable to audiences that were not instrumental in producing them, and yet they were not understood by the agents or causes that produced them.

Now, in the case of signs and texts that were produced by agents before they were accidentally reproduced by causes unaware of their meaning, it is obvious that their authors are those who first consciously produced them. There is no problem here. Nor, is there a problem concerning signs that are first regarded as signs by someone other than the causes that produced the entities of which they are constituted. For, in that case, that someone is the author. The problem arises with texts that are produced by unconscious causes, make sense, and have never been produced before by conscious agents. This would be the case of the text of Hamlet produced by a monkey before Shakespeare produced it. One way to try to dispel any lingering doubts is to argue that in this case there are conscious agents who developed the signs and rules whereby those signs could be arranged. Thus, although there is no single, overall conscious agent responsible for the text, there are conscious agents whose intentions make possible the connection between the work Hamlet and its text. Indeed, the meaning of texts, and therefore the texts themselves, are the result of a multiplicity of factors, even when an author can be identified as their producer. So it makes sense to argue that these factors, considered together, make up for the absence of what under normal circumstances is required.

Finally, it could be added that it is precisely the complex nature of texts and the fact that their meaning is in part the result of the meaning of the signs of which they are composed that makes this explanation plausible. For, if the components of an entity are meaningful and fall into semantically significant arrangements, the entity is bound to be a text even when there is no person responsible for that entity.

Still, the truth of the matter is that this alternative seems to go contrary to some of our most basic intuitions about textuality. The idea that there can be texts without authors who intend to convey some specific meaning through them seems absurd. But, then, can the alternative view, namely, that the monkey's typescript is not a text, be defended? It can because its implausibility stems from an assumption that has gone unquestioned in the discussion so far. The assumption is that the typescript has meaning. But can we really question this assumption? After all, any reader who knows English and reads the monkey's typescript seems to understand it. Moreover, the typescript is composed of words belonging to the English language that appear in arrangements in accordance with the grammatical rules of the language. So, how can anyone possibly argue that the typescript is not a text because it does not have meaning?

If one examines the example in more detail, however, it becomes clear that the situation is not that simple. The reason is that the meaning of the signs of which the typescript is composed is not clear because signs, like texts, are historical entities, the products of conventional uses whose meanings change from time to time. Thus, the meaning of the monkey's typescript in the sixteenth century might be different from its meaning in the eighteenth or the twentieth century. But, since the monkey is a historically neutral entity --not having an understanding of what it has typed--and the typescript has not been produced in a social context--there is no audience for it, we cannot possibly say that the meaning of the typescript is this rather than that.

Consider another example. Supposed the monkey typed "Fire!" instead of the typescript of Hamlet. In this case we have a situation where the meaning of "Fire!" is undetermined, for there are several incompatible possible meanings that could be attached to it. Does it, mean, for example, that someone should pull the trigger of a firearm? Or does it mean that a certain building is on fire? Or is it merely a report of someone who is learning the use of the English word "fire." The point is that context is essential for meaning, and a typescript that lacks context must lack meaning. Notice that the point I am making is not epistemic, although epistemology confirms it. We have no way of knowing the meaning of what appears to be a text outside its historical context. Texts outside history are silent. The point I am making is metaphysical, for it concerns the fact that in order for entities to acquire meaning and become signs and for signs to compose texts, they must be picked and endowed with meaning in certain arrangements at some point in history. Otherwise they are no more than the entities they are. Texts outside history are not texts.

Nor is this view affected by the fact that a particular text may have a range of meanings or be even open-ended in meaning. The determination of the limits of meaning is established ultimately by the cultural function of a text, and that cultural function depends on historical circumstances. Thus, such function and historical circumstances are necessary to establish the range of meaning even in cases in which such a range is open-ended. What the monkey's typescript lacks is precisely a determinant of the range. So it cannot be argued that the case of the monkey's typescript is the same as the case of a text that has been determined by cultural function to have an openended range of meaning.

In conclusion, then, texts do need historical authors, for texts without authors are texts without history, and texts without history are texts without meaning, that is, they are not texts. Thus, in spite of what appear to be counter examples, historical authorship is a necessary condition of textuality. Notice, of course, that I have not argued that knowledge of authorship is a requirement of textuality. To repeat, the issue I have posed is metaphysical, not epistemic; it concerns the conditions of textuality and not of our knowledge of textuality. Texts require historical authors, but they do not require that someone other than the authors know that they have authors or that someone other than the authors accurately know those authors. Indeed, texts do not require even to be known as texts by anyone other than their authors. Of course, this does not tell us anything about whether, in order to know that something is a text, one need know its author or whether it has an author at all. Nor does it tell us whether knowledge of a text's author and of its historical origin is necessary for understanding the text. These, as noted at the beginning of this article, are epistemic issues, and I intend to take them up elsewhere.

What has been said opens up another possibility for typescripts such as the one produced by the monkey. It is that, after all, the one who finds the typescript for the first time may function as its author. For what she does is to fix the meaning of the signs of which the typescript seems to be composed in accordance with the usages and conventions of her time. Of course, the originality of this author would be rather limited and would be in many ways similar to that of an interpreter, but nonetheless there would be an authorial thrust in her activity.


(1.) In spite of recent attacks, this view is still defended today. Cf. E. D. Hirsch, Jr., "Three Di Hermeneutics," New Literary History, vol. 3 (1972), pp. 259-60, and P. D. Juhl, "The Appeal to the T What Are We Appealing To?" Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 36 (1978), pp. 277-87. (2.) According to one version of this position, the author is not the person who created the text bu function" developed by literary critics after the Renaissance. See Michel Foucault, "What Is an Auth trans. D. F. Bouchard and S. Simon, in D. F. Bouchard, ed. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selec Essays and Interviews (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), p. 121. This does not imply, how that there is no person who puts together the entities that constitute the text, but that person is author of the text. William E. Cain makes this point in "Authors and Authority in Interpretation," G Review, vol.34 (1980),p. 619. But there are more radical views. Barthes, for example holds that "one knows if he [i.e. the author] is responsible for what he writes (if there is a subject behind his la the very being of writing (the meaning of the labor that constitutes it) is to keep the question Who speaking? from ever being answered." S/Z (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1970), p. 140. He makes a simila point in "The Death of the Author," in Image, Music, Text, trans. S. Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977). (3.) Alexander Nehamas, "What an Author Is," Journal of Philosophy, vol. 83 (1986), p. 685, and "Wri Text, Work, Author," in A. Cascardi, ed., Literature and the Question of Philosophy (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1987), p. 275. (4.) I have discussed various types of authors in Chapter 4 of Philosophy and Its History: Issues in Philosophical Historiography (Albany, NY. SUNY Press, 1992). (5.) Nehamas, "What an Author Is," p. 686, and "Writer, Text, Work, Author," pp. 281 ff. (6.) Other examples are the case of persons who talk in their sleep, are in a trance, mumble somethi under hypnosis. Can the sounds these persons emit be considered texts even though there does not see to be an intent to convey meaning? The question of sleep, Freudian slips, trances, hypnosis, and the be explained in terms of subconscious intentions, but the case in which one makes sounds which are t as meaning something, even though the utterer does not intend them to do so, cannot be explained in same way. Another example is that of computer generated texts. See George Dickie, Aesthetics: An Introduction (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971), p. 112. Dickie uses the example to argue again intentionalists who wish to identify the meaning of a text with the author's intention. (7.) Similar examples have been used in the literature. See S. Knapp and W. B. Michaels, "Against Th Critical Inquiry 8 (1982):727 ff. (8.) For more details on this distinction, see Chapter 1 of my forthcoming book, A Theory of Textual (9.) Some aestheticians introduce distinctions between different senses of art work or art object, g primary status to such things as paintings and the like and only a secondary, derivative status to t classifiable as found-art. See Dickie, Art and the Aesthetic: An Institutional Analysis (Ithaca, NY: University Press, 1974), pp. 25 ff. These distinctions do not affect the point I am making. (10.) See Juhl, "The Appeal to the Text," p. 282, and John R. Searle, Speech Acts: An Essay in the P of Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), pp. 16 ff. (11.) A less farfetched case with which most of us are in fact familiar is the utterance of sounds b A parrot presumably does not understand what it says, but what it says appears to have meaning. Some scholastics argued that, since the parrot had no understanding of what it says, what it says has no and thus cannot be considered to be signs. Others rejected this view and found the sounds uttered by parrot to be significant. The first view was defended by Pedro Hurtado de Mendoza, Logica 8,2,23, p. The second was defended by Thomas Compton Carleton, Logica 42,3, 10, p. 158. References taken from John P. Doyle, "Thomas Compton Carleton: On Words Signifying More Than their Speakers or Makers Know or Intend," The Modem Schoolman, vol. 66 (1988), pp. 7-9. (12.) Juhl, "The Appeal to the Text," p. 284. See also Knapp and Michaels, "Against Theory," p. 728. (13.) Nelson Goodman and Catherine Z. Elgin, "Interpretation and Identity," in Reconceptions in Phil and Other Arts and Sciences (London: Routledge, 1988), pp. 63-4. (14.) Those who, like Barthes and Fish, emphasize the audience in the construction of a text, must a view. See Barthes, "The Death of the Author," and Stanley Fish, "Interpreting the Variorum," Critica Inquiry, vol. 2 (1976), pp. 465 -85. (15.) This seems to be Dickie's position with respect to computer generated texts. Aesthetics, p. 11 (16.) In the seventeenth century, the words that compose languages were frequently compared to money Just as money acquires value from the will of the Prince and not from those who use it, so words hav meaning from those who made them. Cf. Marcelo Dascal, "Language and Money: A Simile and Its Meaning in 17th Century Philosophy of Language," Studia Leibnitiana 8, 2 (1976), pp. 187-218. The metaphor originates in the scholastic discussions of signs going back to the Middle Ages, and still today in authors like Davidson and Ricoeur. For its use by Ricoeur, see "Creativity in Language: Wor Polysemy, Metaphor," in Charles E, Reagan and David Stewart, eds., The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: A Anthology of His Work (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978), p. 121.
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Author:Gracia, Jorge J.E.
Publication:American Philosophical Quarterly
Date:Jul 1, 1994
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