Talbott on abstract thinking Go back to Talbott on Barfield
If we look at the polarity of language, it is immediately evident that the attempt to define--the quest for a "dictionary definition"--is driven almost wholly from the pole of accuracy, and therefore tends to eliminate meaning. Meaning, if you will recall, "is not a hard and fast system of reference"; it is not definable, but only suggestible, and requires the poetic for its suggestion. The strict dictionary definition, by contrast, attempts to tie down, to eliminate any ambiguity previously imported by the poetic . . . [the definition of "water"] gives me little if any assistance in determining whether a particular use of the word "water" in a poem, personal memoir, news study, or qualitative scientific study makes any sense...It does not tell me anything about my actual experience of water in the world... But what will not be so readily admitted is that [such] experiences contain a good deal of what "water" really means, which is also to say: what it actually is. Our difficulty with this thought, one might almost say, is the defining characteristic - the crippling failure - of our day. It is related to our insistence upon a world of objects bearing absolutely no inner relation to the human being who observes them. (Talbott 309-310)