Meaning Through Things

Interpretation is the process by which we find meaning in the things in the world around us: clouds on the horizon, bones, street signs, hairbrushes, uniforms, paintings, letters, and utterances. But where does that meaning come from and on what basis are we justified in saying a particular meaning is the right meaning? Drawing from debates in the philosophy of language, I argue that a complete theory of meaning and interpretation must be grounded in intentions. My dissertation employs research in the philosophy of language, aesthetics, linguistics, and cognitive science to develop a general framework of interpretation. This framework is then broadly applied to objects of interpretation across a range of fields: legal theory, history, art history, archaeology, theology, scientific imaging, dress, and literature.

For the 2016-2017 academic year I have been awarded the American Society for Aesthetics Dissertation Fellowship and an Interdisciplinary Committee for Science Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center Dissertation Fellowship.

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