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In: An Invitation to Cultural Psychology

Chapter 8: Cultivating Environments: Over-Determination by Meaning

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Cultivating Environments: Over-Determination by Meaning
Cultivating environments: Over-determination by meaning

Human beings construct meanings in flexible ways. This takes place through their encounters with their environments. The latter turn into Umwelts—agent-centered environmental settings (Chang, 2009)—and acquire rich meanings through the meaning-making act. Places, acts within places, and actors themselves, establish different meanings dependent upon the settings. A surgeon using a scalpel cutting open a live person's body in an operating room is not a murderer, a distinction we can understand only through the use of distinctive meanings: surgeon rather than a random man passing by, scalpel rather than a knife or a dagger, operating room rather than a kitchen. Our description of one and the same act—cutting of a body—rapidly specifies which of the many versions ...

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