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Beautiful Theology

Signifying truth in more than words alone

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Words and Images 3

The third image in Magritte’s graphical essay is:

Un mot ne sert parfois qu’à se désigner soi-même:

Sometimes a word serves only to designate itself.

I’m not altogether sure what to make of this one. The word in the illustration is ciel, “sky”; perhaps Magritte simply means that the noun “sky” doesn’t refer to an object, but to an undetermined conceptual referent (what, after all, is “sky”?). Certainly the word ciel doesn’t just refer to itself in the same way that the word “word” refers to itself. I’m open to suggestions on this one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that this image is linked conceptually to the one that came before it. On the one hand, the boat exists, and does not need a name to be a boat, or to do boaty things. Sky, however, can't be interacted with, outside of a system of language. The sky exists even when not named, but even if you don't know what to call a boat, you just get in and float away.

Your description of the word "word" referring to itself puts me in mind of a class of adjectives that either do (polysyllabic) or do not (monosyllabic) describe themselves. I forget what these words are called.

December 28, 2006 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does "time" fit in this category, or is it only a concept? I can seek the sky if not touch it, but time is not engaged by any of the physical senses.

December 29, 2006 1:15 PM  
Blogger AKMA said...

Can one really see “sky”? But “time” provides another apposite example, I think — though I’m still not quite sure about it.

December 30, 2006 7:11 AM  
Anonymous Mimi said...

It seems to me that the drawing depicts a cloud, something which is not sky, but implies sky-ness, as clouds do not exist much without skies.

August 04, 2012 4:49 PM  

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