So I was walking around our local pond, looking at the ducks and thinking about Paul Ricoeur (as you do) when a little puzzle struck me. I was pondering Ricoeur's phrase, 'A text means all that it can mean' when I was 'arrested by the present tense of the word 'means' (OK, I'm thinking of the English translation - I have not read Ricoeur in French) - a text currently means all that it can mean.
Ricoeur is trying to navigate between the idea that a text means only one thing (e.g., what the author intended) and the idea that a text can mean anything at all. Texts, says brother R, constrain meaning - they cannot mean just anything. But textual meaning is not tied to authorial intentions. Texts mean all that they can mean. Meaning exists not in texts, nor in readers, but in the interplay of reader and text.
So - back to the quote: 'texts mean all that they can mean'.
Imagine a text, say the book of Lamentations.
Now imagine all the logically possible worlds which are identical up until the completion of the book of Lamentations but, after which, diverge in an infinite number of ways, little and large. Call the set of such worlds L. Our world is part of set L but so are an infinite number of other possible worlds. Many of these worlds contain people who will never exist in the actual world and other contain people who have existed (or do exist) in the actual world but in circumstances different from those in the actual world.
Now the book of Lamentations is read (and its meanings are 'generated' in such reading-encounters) by perhaps an infinite number of people in perhaps an infinite number of ways. I myself, in other possible worlds, have read Lamentations in many different contexts.
So is Ricoeur saying that the book of Lamentations not only means now, in this possible world, whatever it has meant so far in this possible world when people have read it, but rather; it means now, in this possible world, everything that it could ever mean, in every possible world? WOW! Talk about a 'surplus of meaning'! We could hardly even begin to scratch the surface of its meanings.
And is this almost infinite number of meanings not merely potential meanings but actual, though unrealized, meanings? Or is it that a text can (rather than does) mean all that it can mean?
I guess my question concerns the status of meanings that will never be realized in the possible world that God has chosen to actualize (i.e., this one).
Do I care a lot about this? Not really but it gave me something to think about at the pond.