Polanyi and Words and Meaning

“If, then, it is not words that have meaning, but the speaker or listener who means something by them, let me declare accordingly my true position as the author of what I have written so far, as well as of what is still to follow. I must admit now that I did not start the present reconsideration of my beliefs with a clean slate of unbelief.  Far from it.  I started as a person intellectually fashioned by a particular idiom, acquired through my affiliation to a civilization that prevailed in the places where I had grown up, at this particular period of history. This has been the matrix of all my intellectual efforts. Within it I was to find my problem and seek the terms for its solution. All my amendments to these original terms will remain embedded in the system of my previous beliefs. Worse still, I cannot precisely say what these beliefs are. I can say nothing precisely. The words I have spoken and am yet to speak mean nothing: it is only I who mean something by them. And, as a rule, I do not focally know what I mean, and though I could explore my meaning up to a point, I believe that my words (descriptive words) must mean more than I shall ever know, if they are to mean anything at all” 

Polanyi, Persaonal Knowledge, 252.

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