Husserl on Expression and Meaning
Content as object, content as fulfilling sense, and content as sense or meaning simpliciter
“Relational talk of “intimation,” “meaning” and “object” belongs essentially to every expression. Every expression intimates something, means something and names or otherwise designates something. In each case, talk of “expression” is equivocal. As said above, relation to an actually given objective correlate, which fulfills the meaning-intention, is not essential to an expression. If this last important case is also taken into consideration, we note that there are two things that can be said to be expressed in the realized relation to the object. We have, on the one hand, the object itself and the object as meant in this or that manner. On the other hand, and more properly, we have the object’s ideal correlate in the acts of meaning-fulfillment which constitute it, the fulfilling sense. Wherever the meaning-intention is fulfilled in a corresponding intuition, i.e a given object, there the object is constituted as one “given” in certain acts, and, to the extent that our expression really measures up to the intuitive idea, as given in the same manner in which the expression means it.”
This is a difficult passage to grasp. Here Husserl refers to three basic features of an expression. He says that every expression either
- intimates something, and here I take that to mean “intends” something in the sense of “being directed towards”
- means something (I have no clue what Husserl means here. My educated guess is that “meaning” here means “is representative of” or “has known significance” or “is a sign of”
- designates something. Here I think Husserl’s use of “designate” is roughly the same as Frege’s notion of reference. An expression “expresses” via its denotation of an object
In my opinion this section closely resembles Brentano’s description of intentionality as intentional inexistence. Note Husserl’s description of the “meaning-intention” condition, although he does not that satisfaction of that condition isn’t necessary. Apparently an expression can mean something independent from its “relation to a content”.