language and mind

April 22, 2011

Gaming representation – would the human being be a ‘representational animal’?

Filed under: language, language use, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — teresapelka @ 11:38 pm

‘Representation’ might be claimed the most gamed or sported notion in history. Connotations for the human being would be part the sport, unless they would turn out a philosopher’s classic envy.

Aristotle used a very neat Greek term for animate life forms, zoon. The ancient Greek zao is reported to have meant ‘I live’. The first person singular would definitely exclude creatures such as kittens from the scope of the predication. Simply speaking, the translation of the Greek zoon as the contemporary English ‘animal’ might not have all the necessary substance.

I love kittens and they are perfect live forms when they animate themselves on wool. My point is about the difference between connotation and denotation as in contemporary linguistics. I am a philologist, not a philosopher – I hope to avoid the perils of professional envy ;)

Connotation might convey or suggest a meaning apart from the very defined object. Denotation should provide ‘direct and specific meaning as distinct from additional suggestion’[1]. How would matters be with the philosopher’s ‘animal’? The denotation would be vague. The kingdom Animalia, or the animal kingdom, would take its name from Latin, not Greek. As for connotation, contemporary formal and official language uses might find it sensitive.

Well, I’ll stay by the ‘animate life form’ – human mobility was probably part Aristotle’s picture when he construed his notions on humans.

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Links to resources on Latin and the notion of ‘representational animal’.

Perseus gives some further details on the Latin ‘animalis’[2]. The ‘animans’[3] and ‘animal’[4] happened to be used in contrast to plants and humans. An animal was termed ‘bestia’[5] in Latin.

‘Representational animal’

‘For many philosophers, both ancient and modern, man is regarded as the “representational animal” or homo symbolicum, the creature whose distinct character is the creation and the manipulation of signs – things that “stand for” or “take the place of” something else.’ Wikipedia on representation arts,

[1] “denotation.” Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002.

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