The Soul of a word

“A word’s force consists in its meaning.  Without the latter it is empty, useless, and (so to speak) dead.  Just as the soul animates the body, so, in a way, meaning breathes life into a word. Those whose words lack sense are ‘beating the air,’ rather than [really] speaking.” John of Salisbury, Metalogicon, Book II, Chap. 4, trans. Daniel D. McGarry (Philadelphia, 2009), p. 81.

In this section the twelfth-century writer and churchman, John, discusses the relationship between grammar and dialectic (defined as a subset of logic).  While grammar examines the use of words, dialectic analyzes the meaning behind those words.  John’s analogy of the soul/body relationship to word/meaning fascinates me.

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