If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: meaning

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.

Ansel Adams – Examples (1983)

Absent from these pages are statements of what the photographs “mean.” I cannot, and will not, attempt to describe, analyze, or define the creative-emotional motivations of my work, or the work of others. Description of the inspiration or the meaning of a work of photography, or of any other medium of art, lies in the work itself. The endless discussions of creativity appear to me to be pointless intellectual carousels; their purpose seems more the presenting of burnt offerings and worshiping of modish identifications than the achieving of mutual enlightenment. Only the print contains the artist’s meaning and message.

Steven Weinberg – Dreams of a Final Theory (1993)

If you want to say that “God is energy,” then you can find God in a lump of coal. But if words are to have any value to us, we ought to respect the way that they have been used historically, and we ought especially to preserve distinctions that prevent the meanings of words from merging with the meanings of other words.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)

Alan Lightman – Dance for Two (1996)

…Eventually, a large fraction of the trillion neurons in the man’s brain become involved with computing the visual and auditory data just acquired. Sodium and potassium gates open and close. Electrical currents speed along neuron fibers. Molecules flow from one nerve ending to the next.

All of this is known. What is not known is why, after about a minute, the man walks over to the woman and smiles.