The gift of a rock: A case study in the emergence and dissolution of meaning

Alex Gillespie & Tania Zittoun

Résumé How does meaning arise? How can something without meaning become intensely meaningful? We advance a social theory of meaning, exploring how things come to have symbolic significance for humans. Drawing upon the work of Peirce and Mead we argue for a triadic and temporal conception of meaning, in which meaning originates with the response of others, and develops through the introduction of new significant others in associated contexts. In order to illustrate this theoretical approach we examine a case of the emergence and dissolution of the meaning of some Chilean rocks. The Chilean President, Sebastian Piñera, toured Europe in late 2010 bringing gifts of rocks to European political leaders and monarchs. These rocks were taken from the mine where thirty-three miners were trapped for over two months. Before the accident and rescue these rocks were worthless rubble. After the event, they became gifts suitable for world leaders. Our analysis examines how this hitherto unimagined potential meaning of otherwise worthless rocks came into being, and then dissipated back into nothingness.
Mots-clés Meaning, Nothing, Case study, Peirce, Mead, Chilean miners
Citation Gillespie, A., & Zittoun, T. (2016). The gift of a rock: A case study in the emergence and dissolution of meaning. In J. Bang, & D. Winther-Lindqvist (Eds.) Nothingness – philosophical insights to psychology. (pp. 89-106). New Brunsick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Type Chapitre de livre (Anglais)
Année 2016
Editeur Jytte Bang, Ditte Winther-Lindqvist
Titre du livre Nothingness – philosophical insights to psychology
Editeur commercial Transaction Publishers (New Brunsick, NJ)
Pages 89-106