Bacon intends to solve the resulting difficulties (which every causal theory of meaning based on the concepts of ‘reference setting’ and ‘reference borrowing’ has to face) by distinguishing two modes of imposition. This can be seen as his most inventive contribution to semantics.[33] Besides the ‘formal’ mode of imposition conducted by a ‘perlocutionary’ vocal expression like “I call this …” (modus imponendi sub forma impositionis vocaliter expressa) there is another kind taking place tacitly (sine forma imponendi vocaliter expressa) whenever a term is applied (transumitur) to any object other than the first name-giver has ‘baptized’ (Bacon, De signis, 1978, 130). Whereas the formal mode of imposition refers either to the mythical situation of a first invention of language or to the act of explicitly coining a new word, the second kind of imposition describes what actually happens during the everyday use of language. This modification of the meaning of words is constantly taking place without the speaker or anyone else being actually aware of it. For just by using language we “all day long impose names without being conscious of when and how” (nos tota die imponimus nomina et non advertimus quando et quomodo) (Bacon, De signis, 1978, 100, 130f.)

« Bacon distinguishing two modes of imposition: formal and tacit »

A quote saved on July 2, 2015.


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