Philosophical Studies (Dublin) 17:254-255 (1968)

Abstract
Expression is at once content and structure. Of late attention has shifted from the meaning of expression as content to its meaning as structure. This shift has occurred in various fields: in philosophy notably with the Heidegger of Holzwege and with the later Wittgenstein; in linguistics there is the well known work of Sapir and men like Bernstein who acknowledge a debt to Sapir; in social anthropology the investigations of Lévi-Strauss are associated with this movement; and the French structuralist school in literary criticism also approaches some problems from this angle. It is not a wholly new approach and doubtless historians will reveal its antecedents; what is new, perhaps, is the shift in emphasis. Marshall McLuhan has brought this shift in emphasis to the public notice in works that are both lively and at times provocative. But McLuhan is suggestive above all and he rarely carries his suggestions through. One would hope that those following him might take up some of the suggestions and work them out more fully. The telephone, for instance, has connected distant parts of the world so that decisions made in one hemisphere can be, in a few moments, communicated to another. Conversely, since the decision of the man on the spot can be communicated to the remote chief at once, the practice of delegation of authority changes. But how much, how often, to what extent does the technology run before its reasonable implementation? Such are the precise questions that now emerge. Unfortunately, The Presence of The Word does not take us much farther towards an answer. However, besides these investigations, there is another aspect to the whole field: the very notion of content and structure. In much of the writing in this area there seems to be some confusion, and some authors, when professedly talking of structure, allow content in by the back door. This criticism has been made by Durand of Lévi-Strauss. The confusion stems from a prior failure to distinguish between expression and meaning and a consequent failure to differentiate modalities of meaning. Prior to a discussion of a distinction between structure and content on the level of expression, there is needed a clarification of the structure of meaning. No matter what science one may be referring to, one will discover that it is theory verified in instances. When this has been clarified one can go on to discuss the relation of expression to theory e.g. the structure of scientific expression. Besides scientific meaning, there is aesthetic, symbolic and interpersonal meaning and here again their structure must be analysed. One question in the analysis will be, as before, the relation of expression to meaning. The relation of expression to meaning will differ in the several modalities and the significance of a shift in the way of expression will likewise differ from mode to mode. Fr Ong does not very clearly advert to this aspect of the problem and nowhere does he treat it adequately.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0554-0739
DOI 10.5840/philstudies19681701
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