Are the intentions of a speaker or writer relevant to determining the meaning of

Are the intentions of a speaker or writer relevant to determining the meaning of

Are the intentions of a speaker or writer relevant to determining the meaning of what they say or write? It seems common to suppose so. For example, people will often try to argue for an interpretation of a book by citing statements the author has made about her thought process in writing it. At the same time, it seems obvious that, even if there is merit to this approach, it can only be pushed so far. If J.K. Rowing said, "<i>Harry Potter</i> is really about a time travelling cyborg sent back to 1917 to intercept the Zimmerman telegram--that's what I intended," we wouldn't take her at her word. If she really meant to convey that "meaning" she simply failed. Considerations like this make me wonder if the intention of the author is relevant at all. (After all, it would be kind of weird to suppose that authorial intent bears on the justification of moderate, plausible interpretations, but not on extreme interpretations.)

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