“There is nothing outside the text”


The Indeterminacy of Language is immensely problematic to the philosopher of language, the linguist, and the literary critic. This problem can be summed up in three words: meaning is ambiguous. When one visits the local park and reads the words on a sign, “No Vehicles Allowed on Walking Trails,” what is she to understand this phrase to mean? Surely automobiles, motorcycles, and bicycles can be discarded as travel possibilities here, but what of roller skates, baby buggies, and coffee cups (the vehicle for your beverage)?

The simplest response to this problem in my mind lies within Jacques Derrida’s titular quote. We live in a society of language and language has the capacity to influence our psychological “self” in a plethora of ways. We are always in the process of interpreting signs, symbols, physical and verbal communications, as well as the state of the world in general. We are never apart from the text, for we live in it.

So what are the implications of these statements on the problem of indeterminacy? Simple: we all have an extensive background in the process of interpretation, and we utilize and interpret conceptual clues and background information when making judgments about interpretation. Therefore, based on my background experience of the rule “No Vehicles Allowed on Walking Trails,” and the contextual clues around me (the actions of other persons in the park), I can unwittingly and dare I say, effectively interpret the sign. That is to say, in this park I am excluded from the use of automobiles, motorcycles, or bicycles for the purpose of transportation within its walking trails, but I am allowed the use of baby buggies, roller skates, and coffee mugs.

I hope this argument seems fairly intuitively correct, I can ascertain no reductio ad absurdum in its conclusion. This argument does not account for the indeterminacy of foreign language or of language with which the reader or listener is unaccustomed to, rather it is an argument for the disintegration of a true problem of indeterminacy in cases of familiarity with the situation.

What are your thoughts on this argument? What are your comments, criticisms, or further conclusions? Do you have any points to make on how one could strengthen the argument from its current form into another? Leave me your feedback in the comments below, and thank you for checking out my post!


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3 responses to ““There is nothing outside the text””

  1. odeboyz says :

    You are you and nothing but you, you are your past and your future and there is nothing else. Your language is yours and your understanding is nothing more than your understanding and so the world you live in is your world: physically, mentally and linguistically.

  2. awaretenacious says :

    My thought regarding this article is: wherever you go, there you are. I hope that this is a relevant thought. (By the way, I glad you enjoyed my poems.)

    • theboronheist says :

      I think we are as we believe ourselves to be, but there are many ways we are that can’t be accounted for through bare existence alone. The social world and belief in the self as an intelligent thing limit our actions, but become part of us through those limitations.

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