Against meaning

Nursing Philosophy 1 (2):109-120 (2000)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The idea of meaning plays, together with the notion of caring, a pivotal role in recent nursing theory, informing its approach to philosophy, research and practice. Unlike caring, however, it has received relatively little analytical attention – a fact that is surprising in view of the scepticism about meaning that is characteristic of much contemporary philosophy and social theory. This paper reviews the philosophical literature on meaning, highlighting sceptical currents in the Wittgensteinian corpus, neo‐behaviourism and poststructuralism. It also considers a similar line of thought that has emerged in social theory, questioning the explanatory value of concepts such as ‘practice’, ‘culture’, ‘norms’, ‘tacit knowledge’, and ‘tradition’. All these perspectives suggest that there is something wrong with the common‐sense picture of a set of shared, implicit rules that account for our ability to understand and communicate; and they all point to an alternative picture which is naturalistic, materialist and causal, and which depicts ‘shared meaning’ as a rather mysterious quality, unable to explain the familiar regularities of verbal and nonverbal behaviour. In this picture, while the idea of meaning can be retained, it ceases to be something shared, and becomes something individual and idiosyncratic, a unique cluster of associations, concomitants, and other habits of thought. The paper closes with a brief interpretation of what the alternative implies for a research methodology in nursing. In particular, it proposes that certain well established approaches will have to be abandoned, and that qualitative strategies will have to be grounded in a rigorous scientific framework, rather than in techniques (such as phenomenology), which presuppose a misleading and inaccurate conception of what meaning is.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,202

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Against meaning.M. A. Paley - 2000 - Nursing Philosophy 1 (2):109–120.
Meaning In Speech and In Thought.Stephen Schiffer - 2013 - Philosophical Quarterly 63 (250):141-159.
Meaning-Making in an Atheist World.William J. F. Keenan & Tatjana Schnell - 2011 - Archive for the Psychology of Religion 33 (1):55-78.
Verificationist Theory of Meaning.Markus Schrenk - 2008 - In U. Windhorst, M. Binder & N. Hirowaka (eds.), Encyclopaedic Reference of Neuroscience. Springer.
Theory of meaning.Adrienne Lehrer - 1970 - Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,: Prentice-Hall. Edited by Keith Lehrer.
Ruritania revisited.Ned Block - 1995 - Philosophical Issues 6:171-187.
Context and Thought.John Dewey - 1931 - University of California Publications in Philosophy 12 (3):203ff.


Added to PP

16 (#855,572)

6 months
5 (#544,079)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

References found in this work

Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 17 (2):278-279.
Writing and difference.Jacques Derrida - 1978 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wittgenstein on rules and private language.Saul A. Kripke - 1982 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 173 (4):496-499.

View all 19 references / Add more references