How We Mean

As with Architecture, so with People.

Nelson Goodman’s 1988 “How Buildings Mean” lays out a clear categorization of how meaning is created and conveyed through not just architecture, but the multiple operations of human-environment interplay: denotation, exemplification, metaphor, narrative. The clarity and power of this categorization tempts translation to other realms of human activity. How do cities mean? How do people mean? How well might these categories translated to the human individual account for the production of meaning associated with indivituals:

1. Declamation: we come to mean what we mean in part by what we say and what we write.

2. Exemplification: we come to mean what we mean in part as a consequence of what we do.

3. Metaphor: [do we operate through analogy at all? are we “like” other people or things?]

4. Narrative: we come to mean what we mean in part as a result of the stories told about us regardless of the validity of those stories.

If such a categorization were plausible would it be useful?

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