Let’s start with waking up in the morning. My bedroom is lighter than it was several hours ago, perhaps even admitting a beam of light or two. I infer that it’s time to get out of bed, or at least to look at the clock. Where is the “meaning” in the ambient light? Or if it’s dark, grey, and cloudy, I expect rain; is there “meaning” in the clouds? In the lack-of-brightness?
We who are able to, we identify cues that experience has taught us to associate with situations — and to respond on the basis of that experience. Where (as in these examples) the cues to which we respond are not (typically) associated with intentional agency, we do not need to divine someone’s thoughts in order to ascribe some sort of “meaning” to sunshine, or clouds, or chilly winds, or long tracts of muddy field, or whatever. To this extent, we understand well enough the syntax of “meaning” in situations apart from [human] intentional agency. “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’”
First — Next
[I do not mean here to open the canned worms of “pre-linguistic experience,” though that’s manifestly relevant. The pattern of inference from visual stimuli — and as I will argue later, from other sorts of sensuous perception — doesn’t depend on linguistic mediation, however much those phenomena may be saturated with linguistic associations.
People seemed a lot more interested in yesterday’s paragraphs than I expected. Being the sort of academic character who I am, I will endeavour to gratify that attention by expatiating on the topic — but I’ll continue at a two-paragraph pace, both to save wear and tear on my brain and to oblige myself to be conscious of what I want to say and how it might hang together.]