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The Theory of Positive Self-Reference

Anders Bordum
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Anders Bordum: Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Postal: Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Blaagaardsgade 23 B, DK-2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark

No 10/2002, Working Papers from Copenhagen Business School, Department of Management, Politics & Philosophy

Abstract: Human beings construct meaning. We use meaning and complexes of meaning to understand ourselves, each other, and the world around us. We can coordinate our expectations, beliefs, and actions socially when we share meaning or a complex structure of meaning, e.g. a world-view, paradigm, theory, an interpretation, or a proposition. When everybody in a given population shares an interpretation we call it culture. Meaningfulness is a pragmatic condition not only for sharing an intersubjective understanding, but also for motivating collective action. In order to have socially robust norms and knowledge we must not only share meaning, it must also be meaningful and valid somehow in order to be useful. Philosophy has taught us that we in principle can justify and validate by establishing an introspective or intuitive relation to our own thoughts, by establishing a relation to objects in the world, or by establishing a linguistic relation to other linguistic constructs of meaning. In a pragmatic perspective all explicit justification is justifying a proposition by other propositions, etc. (Rorty 1979:159). In a linguistic-pragmatic perspective all references are made in the form of a proposition stating the existence of such a relationship, which accordingly may exist or not, be true or not, or be useful or not, depending on which kind of rationality test we apply. Making such a reference explicit is making it socially accessible. Making it explicit is establishing a meaningful reference or inference. Making it socially accessible presupposes shared meaning. We have as human beings the ability to refer to a range of things including our thoughts, each other, symbols, concepts, constructs of meanings, and objects. Without the ability to make references our world as we know it would collapse. Lacking the ability to refer, we would e.g. have a problem of interpreting, remembering, and conceptualizing the world. In fact, the ability to refer is a presupposition of our having a directed consciousness and a language. The phenomenon of referring is fundamental to subjective thought processes and intersubjective communication. The ability to establish a reference precedes the ability to share it as more or less semantically fixed. When we reflect on linguistic behavior in language a kind of pragmatic self-reference is established, this is because we cannot escape the medium, but are always already situated within it.

Keywords: Self-reference; Sociology; Linguistics; Philosophy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe
Date: 2002-05-01
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