Without Words

“Inference” is a tricky category. We can think of plenty of instances for which we can specify precise criteria for successful inference, but these are swamped by the plenitude of situations in which successful inference from circumstances can be judged only on a rough-and-ready, close-enough sort of way. I can infer the time of day…

No Licence No Cross

So this is the story: St Stephen’s House had been planning, for months, to enact an open-air Passion Play in our East Oxford neighbourhood. We’d been planning, rehearsing, arranging, for months (led by my dear friend and colleague Fr Damian, and our student Alice). Everything seemed to be set — as I understand it, everything…

Jeely Piece O’ My Heart

Now, this is the pivotal dimension of my first premise: all interpretive activity involves inference as its key element. Whether I’m interpreting cloud formations, or the quality of light in my bedroom, or gestures, or spoken words (the interpretation of speech, especially in an unfamiliar language or accent, is a big clue here), or words…

Justifying Means

I’d like to pause here for a moment to distinguish several usages of the verb “mean.” In the first, we say “I mean” in the sense of “I intend”; in a second, we say “That [word] means” in a lexical/semantic sense (“This word means ‘insubstantial’”); in a third, we say “That means” in the sense…

Forward Into The Past

I might be photographing my Sheaffer pens today if I weren’t trying to imagine a short sermon for Monday. As I am in fact trying to dream up a Monday sermon, I will note in passing that some dear friends of ours from Olden Times on the internet (more than ten years ago, little ones!)…

On Interpretation

A great many hermeneutical conundrums fall away if one gives up the initial premise that words and language constitute the paradigmatic instance of meaning, expression, and communication. If one begins by recognising that words/language are the least typical instance of the domain constituted by modes of meaning, the way language works follows fairly simply. This…

Researchers Say

“Researchers say” is roughly equivalent to “inspired by a true story,” or (of musicians) “classically trained” or (of people with academic pretensions) “studied at.” You can almost always find some research that suggests counterintuitive or bizarre things — whether that research convinces other scientists, or holds up to testing, that is another matter. You could…

Parker Presence

Although I mostly attend to Sheaffer fountain pens — that is, among the sorts of pen I can afford, Sheaffer pens interest me most — they’re relatively less common here in England than they were in the US, and Parker pens are more common, so if I encounter a pen in the wild (or browse…

The Sign of Hillman

Margaret brought back with her number of photos (from my sister Holly’s archives), and paintings by my grandmother Isabel, and various other bits and bobs from the storage closet our friends Sarah and Clay so kindly permit us to occupy. Among them was something I had forgotten that I’d ever had — the poster-sign announcing…

One For The Books

Margaret’s just back today, so (of course) most of my time has been directed to catching up on what she’s been doing for the last five or six weeks. She took a nap; we unpacked the family art that she brought back from the US; we went to dinner; we’ve been watching intellectually non-threatening TV…