If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: meaning

Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

There is certainly no sharp black-and-white crossover line, however–no magic moment at which meaning suddenly attaches to a symbol that up until then had been totally empty. Rather, over a period of days, weeks, months, or years, symbols gradually acquire layers of meaning, like boats accumulating layers of barnacles.


Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

All readings are partial and approximate, and we must content ourselves with whatever joy and insight we can derive from deep ideas rendered clearly in beautiful language, knowing that our derivative response and the author’s original vision will never be perfectly aligned.

Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

I could not conclude my anecdotes about dictionary look-up without sharing one special moment of delight, which was when, trying to decode “pad a slang”, I looked up “slang”, found the very promising-seeming meaning of “traveling show”, and noted, with much amusement, that this meaning was classified as, of all things, “archaic slang”.

Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

The point is, in any word, many concepts are sous-entendus: there, but whispered.

William Gibson & Bruce Sterling – The Difference Engine (1990)

Such was the devilish mockery of these fraudulent bills that even quite normal adverts began to seem queer. As he scanned the bills, searching for double-meanings, every posted word seemed to decay into threatening nonsense. Mallory had never before realized the ubiquity of London’s advertisements, the sullen omnipresence of insistent words and images.

Veronique Vienne – The Art of Doing Nothing (1998)

Usually, we can figure out what people are trying to say long before they stop rambling. Far from being passive, listening to someone talk is an active, inspired, and often compassionate act of creation.

Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene (1976)

Human suffering has been caused because too many of us cannot grasp that words are only tools for our use, and that the mere presence in the dictionary of a word like “living” does not mean it necessarily has to refer to something definite in the real world.

excerpt appears in The Mind’s I, ed. Daniel Dennett and Douglas R. Hofstadter, 1981

Salman Rushdie – The Satanic Verses (1988)

…names, once they are in common use, quickly become mere sounds, their etymology being buried, like so many of the earth’s marvels, beneath the dust of habit.

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

Wouldn’t the beauty have more meaning with other minds to admire it? Wouldn’t it be transformed by other minds? I’m not talking about a passive admiration of beauty, but a participation in that beauty, in which everyone is enlarged. …life-forms are made of the same atoms as everything else in the universe. The beauty you speak of – the stars and the oceans and so forth – is part of their beauty, those living things. And so much enhanced by their participation, by their absorption of that beauty and then the responsive outflowing of their own beauty. It is a spiritual thing, don’t you see?

Oliver Sacks – Musicophilia (2007)

But why this incessant search for meaning or interpretation? […] Music can have wonderful, formal, quasi-mathematical perfection, and it can have heartbreaking tenderness, poignancy, and beauty (Bach, of course, was a master at combining these). But it does not have to have any “meaning” whatever. One may recall music, give it the life of imagination (or even hallucination) simply because one likes it – this is reason enough.