The case of the four foot long cat although puzzling was/is still based on a perceived subject. Puzzling properties of subjects are common. However, there are cases where the subject itself causes problems. Eco presents the infamous case of the sentence /The present King of France is bald/ that caused a semantic whirlwind around the subject that is still not settled. He believes that it may help resolve the ‘problem of mentioning’ in semiotics. (p170)
The problems are threefold:
- /is bald/ can only have meaning if it is a description of a single object.
- /King of France/ is a cultural unit, not a person, and therefore it “can or cannot correspond to somebody who actually existed and who could continue to exist.”
- /present/ is a pointer and a pointer is a shifter. /Present/ could be meaningful and true if used to mention a specific individual who is the King of France. It suggests a ‘precise spatial environment’.
[OS Thesis Interrupted 11:10pm-11:50pm]
[SS So you could watch S2:E1 of House of Cards. Tut. Tut.]
The word /present/ in the notorious sentence in the example above forces the question: “What does it mean?” (p170) It is ambiguous because of two semantic devices – 1/There is a King. 2/The king of France is bald. Although /the present King of France is bald/ is “an example of a misuse of sign production”, it is a meaningful sentence if ‘considered as a mention.’ Without /present/ the sentence /the king of France is bald/ is simply useless, according to Eco: “The proof is that, when hearing it, people will ask: “which one?”, thus demanding an indexical circumstantial marker.” (p171)
[SS Pipped at the post. Missed the marker. Ran out of time. More haste less speed.]
[SS You should have had this post published yesterday. It’s now two/2 minutes into today. The present is now further away….]