Contrasting Views of Meaning

Referential Accounts of Meaning

  1. Things of the world are independent of language. Traditional referential theories of meaning are materialistic. Reality is in the arrangement of things. Words refer to those things. Meaning is in the correspondence between word and thing.
  2. People can change the world. Note the assumption of stability: whether the world changes is up to people. People manipulate the material things of the world to bring about change.
  3. Discourse can shape change. Rhetorical change is mediated; that is, people can use discourse to persuade others to exert their power toward change. Note that attitudes and beliefs are materialized; that is, traditional rhetorical theories take them as materially real, located in the mind, and susceptible to rules of cause as is the material world. Thus, an intellectual notion of causal chains can accomodate a theory of rhetoric.
  4. Rhetorical Theory is about things that effect change. Rhetorical theories are manuals of typology and process that instruct inventors of discourse on how to formulate effective participation in the causal chains.

Symbolic Construction of Meaning

Return to the Introduction to Contemporary Rhetorical Theory

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