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fig.3—‘Model’ Nominates the Noun with a Number of Names


 Every word shares with its nearest relatives a notable “family resemblance” (Wittgenstein; Ger. Familienähnlichkeit). The simplest Mind Model relates eight ‘children’ to one ‘parent’ using a single part of speech; thus the family tree of “model” is pruned of its branches in figs.3­-4. While definitions undergo constant change, our high­-level categories have proven stable for thousands of years. As a noun or adjective, the word ‘model’ represents many such archetypal forms. The Terms ‘Name’ and ‘Noun’ grew from one Root; as an East­-Germanic Tongue, English plants its Weight on massive Thing-like Categories. Our linguistic Cousins still capitalize all their Nouns, such that in Kant, Hegel, or Frege, Ideas like Being, Law, and Truth seem carved into Stone. In any case, the urge to essentialize predates us all: as W.V. Quine put it, “Things had essences, for Aristotle, but only linguistic forms have meanings. Meaning is what essence becomes when it is divorced from the object of reference and wedded to the word.”

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fig.4—‘model’ adjectives ask about abstract aspects


Quine advocated a “semantic holism” by which interdependent meanings can be reckoned only via actual word usage. Quine himself had a rare gift for enfolding his insights to witty prose; as we unfold his rationale, it may as soon appear circular as square:

 4. Our linguistic forms have meanings; How?

 3. Meaning is wedded to the word; How?

 2. Essences are divorced from things; How?

 1. We refer to things as objects (“of reference”); How?

 Ø. By giving meaning to linguistic forms. Who or what, we may ask, is performing these ceremonies? Who? Every individual who uses words. What? Each usage of any particular word. How? By slipping three universal “object[s] of reference” (meaning, essence, and the word) through his rhetorical knot, Quine asks if our “web of beliefs” (or Wittgenstein’s “net”) can square our virtual models of things with actual “things­-in-themselves” (Kant’s Ding­-an-Sich); and if not, is the (W)hole of Reason circular? 

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