A Brief Definition
Define as a text any coherent gathering of intelligible language. Define intelligible as transferable into knowledge, or at least understanding. A useful enough image. Etymology roots the term in an act of weaving. The same root looms text and textile; textus is Latin for cloth. In common use, a text is a book, a collection of language of singular identity.
In contemporary pop-technical shorthand, text is shorthand for text message, an “instant” message from one cell phone to another in words presented visually, instead of auditorily. (one texts back and forth; One texts and drives…)
I can define it by not defining it. Say it is what you do with it: a text is something you read. A text is just a shape in the mind (what is a shape? what is a mind?) to which shapes (marks we call “letters,” sound waves) in the physical world refer. I could go on. I could go on and on and never get anywhere, to anything we call knowledge (whether or not what we define as knowing is possible) if I did not assume some things to be true at the start.
Assume from the outset a text can be defined. But what we choose to assume to be true at the outset of an endeavor—for these purposes, the endeavor of experiencing a text—is fraught. What we get from a text is affected by what we assume to be true about the text from the start. And we always come to a text with something to compare it to, somewhere to place it. We sometimes call this its context, con meaning together.
A book is an object whose purpose is communication. What the object communicates has to do with something I cannot grasp with my hand. I bring my self to the book. I’m not sure what I mean when I say my self, except that it is the thing that’s doing the saying, the thinking, the reading, the understanding. Do I benefit by assuming I can know what a self is? By know I mean form closure around. In a real world real things must be done. A lack of closure in knowledge of other people can be inconvenient, tedious, make the world less stable than it would be if we had irrefutable clarity about what others were, and what they mean.
I ask what do you mean, really and I get all the side-eyes. We speak the same language, they say. I meant what I said. Say what you mean. To ask what is really meant in such a situation expresses doubt, imperils trust. It’s a question of semantics, semantics meaning not worth arguing over. You know what I mean? There are real enough things to focus on. Real meaning tangible, haptic, capable of shaping the mutual we all experience. Assume we all experience the same world, though our perspectives differ, and that world is the physical world, where persons are the biological species homo sapiens and sometimes canis lupus and, sometimes, at least legally, organizations composed to exchange a good or service for profit. Where persons are tangible, objective bodies.
If the body alters the word;
If time does;
If the body, an altar on which the word is sacrificed, purified, made real,
Is it possible that the meaning of a text is subject to the body;
That the body speaking or giving the text affects how the text is received?