Eco: Sense over meaning

“Units are products of analysis that correspond to specific aspects of the phenomena under investigation. At the same time, unlike elements, units are capable of retaining and expressing the essence of that whole being analyzed” (p. 211). Analyzing the relationship between thought and speech, Vygotsky (1986) concluded that the word meaning can serve as a unit of analysis of verbal thinking: “We found this unit of verbal thought in word meaning. Word meaning is an elementary ‘cell’ that cannot be further analyzed and that represents the most elementary form of the unity between thought and word” (p. 212).

The category of meaning, however, could not account for more complex aspects of consciousness. Consequently, Vygotsky placed ever greater emphasis on the psychological or “inner” side of the sign’s operation, urging investigation of sense rather than meaning. He argues, “Sense is what enters into meaning (the result of the meaning) but is not consolidated behind the sign. The formation of sense is the result, the product of meaning. Sense is broader than meaning” (Vygotsky, 1997c, p. 136).

-Julia Vassilieva & Ekaterina Zavershneva.



Vassilieva, J., & Zavershneva, E. (2020). Vygotsky’s “Height Psychology”: Reenvisioning General Psychology in Dialogue With the Humanities and the Arts. Review of General Psychology24(1), 18-30.

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