Bill Cope and Mary KalantzisNov 19, 2023
What is "Meaning?"
A Discussion with Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis
New Books Network 2023
Listen to Episode No.1 of All We Mean, a Special Focus of this podcast. All We Mean is an ongoing discussion and debate about how we mean and why. The guests on today's episode are Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis, professors at the University of Illinois. We talk about what meaning actually is.
Meaning is form, and meaning is function. Meaning is made, for example, when a scientist sees the image of a celestial object which till that very moment has been unseen by human eye. But meaning is also made by the novelist who just narrates this same scene, because in truth, the celestial object in question is not really in our universe and doesn't actually exist at all.
Meaning can be devious like that — but only if we make it so. Because that's the real idea here about meaning: It's human. Meaning is the one term which may truly describe the entire human project. But do not let me fool you. It's not like meaning denies or somehow escapes the physical world. Meaning does, for sure, occur in our inner consciousness and mind, but the fact of this reality has no priority over the reality of the world out there. No, much the opposite. The two realities condition and recreate one another. And it's here that we should really be looking for meaning, because this sort of intersecting is precisely the sort of work we humans excel at. Equally, we excel at grinding it all to halt, as for example when we deny a fact or we exclude a person or we destroy an image or a document or a statue.
Perhaps — just think for a moment — perhaps that celestial object I mentioned really does exist and isn't the figment of some novelist. Perhaps it's the novelist who is the figment here. Perhaps the celestial object really is out there, only we can't prove it anymore because the image and the evidence have been shredded by an envious rival scientist. Where there is meaning, there too are humans. Thus, interest will always figure in. It would appear, then, that real neutrality was the figment here — but we'll leave that topic to a future episode of All We Mean.