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Denotation

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An image of the deceased French philosopher Ja...

An image of the deceased French philosopher Jacques Derrida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the general sense, denotation means representing by signs or symbols. In semiotics it means affixing a specific, fixed meaning to a sign, in contrast to connotation. Although some thinkers present this distinction as if it’s a recent development, it was first introduced by J. S. Mill in A System of Logic in 1843.¹

Jacques Derrida and his followers suggest that the semiotic sense of denotation is, for the most part, chimerical and that everything is connotation. From this, one may try to claim that “there is only connotation.” But this claim arguably creates a meta-truth or master denotation that may also endlessly self reference (i.e. be reapplied to itself) in an infinite series of connotation. So this kind of claim would be paradoxically true and false.

¹ See online at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/27942

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