A Theory of Textuality

The Logic and Epistemology

By Jorge J. E. Gracia

Subjects: Analytical Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791424681, 309 pages, July 1995
Hardcover : 9780791424674, 309 pages, July 1995

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Table of contents


Introduction: The Issues

I.  General Character of the Issues

II.  Overall Outline

A.  The Logic of Texts

B.  The Epistemology of Texts

Part I.  The Logic of Texts

1.  Intension

I.  Elements in the Definition of Texts

A.  Entities that Constitute Texts (ECTs)

B.  Signs

C.  Specific Meaning

D.  Intention

E.  Selection and Arrangement

F.  Context

II.  Conventionality of Texts

III.  Conclusion

2.  Extension

I.  Texts and Language

II.  Texts and Artifacts

III.  Texts and Art Objects

IV.  Texts and Works

V.  Conclusion


I.  Modal Classification

A.  Actual Text

1.  Historical Text

2.  Contemporary Text

3.  Intermediary Text

B.  Intended Text

C.  Ideal Text

II.  Functional Classification

A.  Linguistic Functions

1.  Informative Texts

2.  Directive Texts

3.  Expressive Texts

4.  Evaluative Texts

5.  Performative Texts

B.  Cultural Functions

1.  Legal Texts

2.  Literary Texts

3.  Philosophical Texts

4.  Scientific Texts

5.  Religious Texts

6.  Historical Texts

7.  Political Texts

8.  Pedagogical Texts

9.  Confessional Texts

10.  Entertaining Texts

11.  Inspirational Texts

12.  Pneumonic Texts

13.  Other Functional Categories of Texts

III.  Conclusion

Part II.  The Epistemology of Texts

4.  Understanding

I.  Understanding versus Meaning

II.  Number of Understandings

III.  Understanding and Textual Identity

IV.  Limits of Understanding

A.  Limits of Meaning

1.  Essential and Accidental Differences in Meaning

2.  Meaning and the Implications of Meaning

3.  Meaning and Intentions

B.  Factors that Establish the Limits of Meaning

1.  Author

2.  Audience

3.  Context

4.  Society

5.  Language

6.  Text

7.  Cultural Function

C.  Limits of Textual Understanding

D.  Legitimacy of Understanding Texts Differently than their Historical Authors

V.  Truth Value and Objectivity of Understanding

VI.  Conclusion

5.  Interpretation

I.  Nature and Ontological Status of Interpretations

II.  Interpreter's Dilemma and Function of Interpretations

A.  Historical Function

B.  Meaning Function

C.  Implicative Function

III.  Types of Interpretations: Textual vs. Nontextual

IV.  Number, Truth Value, and Objectivity of Interpretations

A.  Of Textual Interpretations

1.  Number

2.  Truth Value

3.  Objectivity and Subjectivity

B.  Of Nontextual Interpretations

V.  Understanding, Meaning, and Interpretation of Interpretations

VI.  Conclusion

6.  Discernibility

I.  How Do I Know that Something Is a Text?

II.  How Do I Learn the Meaning of a Text?

III.  How Can I Be Certain that I Know the Meaning of a Text?

A.  Expected Behavior and Certainty in Textual Understanding


C.  The Role of Tradition in the Discernibility of Texts

IV.  Conclusion

Conclusion: A Theory of Texuality — Logic and Epistemology


Select Bibliography

Index of Authors

Index of Subjects

This book is just what it says it is: A theory of textuality divided into two parts, logical and epistemological.


This is the first comprehensive and systematic theory of textuality that takes into account the relevant views of both analytic and Continental thinkers and also of major historical figures. The author shows that most of the confusion surrounding textuality is the result of three factors: a too-narrow understanding of the category; a lack of a proper distinction among logical, epistemological, and metaphysical issues; and a lack of proper grounding of epistemological and metaphysical questions on logic analyses.

The author begins with a logical analysis of the notion of text resulting in a definition that serves as the basis for the distinctions he subsequently draws between texts on the one hand and language, artifacts, and art objects on the other; and for the classification of texts according to their modality and function. The second part of the book uses the conclusions of the first part to solve the various epistemological issues which have been raised about texts by philosophers of language, semioticians, hermeneuticists, literary critics, semanticists, aestheticians, and historiographers.

Jorge J. E. Gracia is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at State University of New York at Buffalo. His other works include Philosophy and Literature in Latin America: A Critical Assessment of the Current Situation (with Mireye Camurati); Individuality: An essay on the Foundations of Metaphysics; Philosophy and Its History: Issues in Philosophical Historiography; Individuation in Scholasticism: The Later Middle Ages and the Counter-Reformation, 1150–1650; and Individuation and Identity in Early Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant (with Kenneth F. Barber), all published by SUNY Press.


"Gracia shows in a very detailed manner, that it is now time for questions related to the status of texts (ontological status, metaphysical status, logical status, and epistemological status) to be taken as equally important to classic strands of analytic philosophy as these questions have been to more recent strands of Continental philosophy and literary criticism." — Gayle L. Ormiston, Kent State University

"I don't know any other book like it. Gracia introduces a philosophical topology for a whole range of problems centered on language and textuality. He is careful in making very useful distinctions that help to cut through a lot of current confusion about interpretation." — Rudolf A. Makkreel, Emory University