What does 'signify' signify?

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Gillett argues that there are unexpected confluences between the tradition of Frege and Wittgenstein and that of Freud and Lacan. I counter that that the substance of the exegeses of Frege and Wittgenstein in Gillett's paper are flawed, and that these mistakes in turn tellingly point to unclarities in the Lacanian picture of language, unclarities left unresolved by Gillett. Lacan on language is simply a kind of enlarged/distorted mirror image of the Anglo-American psychosemanticists: where they emphasize information and representation, he emphasizes evocation and connotation. Neither contrasting emphasis is remotely adequate to linguistic action-in-the-world. Is "the unconscious", as Lacan claims, a "network of signifiers"? Arguably, yes; but most ordinary / actual language does not involve such "signification". Words primarily "signify" concepts or things only in exceptional circumstances; normally, words are transparent, and nothing at all is meant by them except in an actual situation of use of a sentence. Second, is "the unconscious" structured like a language? Again, yes-- if we understand by "language" what Lacan asks us to. "The unconscious" arguably is structured like a language--as Lacan (inadequately) understands language .
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-514
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001

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