The English Word “Mean”

The word “mean” is wonderfully rich. To be cruel, to be unfair, to be miserly, the midway point, an average, the measure, to intend, to be about, to have purpose. The word shows up in every division of philosophy: moral; logical, physical (the intentions of the soul), and metaphysical (the principle of contradiction is defended by asking an opponent to say something that means something). In Latin, it takes at least three terms to capture all these senses: most significantly, intentio is the closest to “mean” in the sense that “this word means such- and- such” hence the doctrine of intentions.

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