ah, discourse

i’ll admit it, i once contemplated reading the dictionary. i’d become obsessed with language – the idea that we use many words virtually interchangably, despite their meanings being actually quite distinct. i decided that the process created far too much confusion, and all sorts of beining was lost. reading the dictionary, as it turned out, wasn’t much of a help for most language, because it was too detached from life (yes, this surprised my 14-year-old mind. bite me).
    later, at swarthmore, i noticed that many words are used as placeholders for broader meaning, even to compensate for lazy thinking. as an example, privilege. is it simply a power dynamic? did you mean to say social capital, but bourdieu is just too hard to pronounce? or a socially intrinsic property of an individual? does defining it as “social” make it contextual? or is it a third-order idea, the theodicy for your political project? (and, btw, just because i want what i say to have a measure of truth and reason in it, doesn’t make me conservative… being on the left doesn’t give you an excuse to be an idiot)
      the problem, of course, is language. on the way up to phili, my roommate lamented debating philosophy with philosophers (well, specifically, me). people trained in phil tend to require a degree of concision in language (and i’m not just talking about the analytic folks, who are at the extreme end here) that non-specialists reject. i say Reason, you say postmodern socially-determined force, what does it matter? except, now we’re not having anything that resembles an exchange of ideas, and the interchange is reducible to two monkeys shouting (thanks dave). and the issue isn’t just that postmodernism is basically the project of pissing on everyone else’s hard work and going “aha! i mock your silly project”
        i could ramble on (me?) but the thought came to me that, like stereotypes, the construction of language, particularly a discourse, is an attempt to use a set of words to model a vastly more dynamic system, and the issue of a well-ordered system of thought is the ‘fit’ of the model. but the issue isn’t just the robustness of the vocabulary, but more the premises of the model (linear algebra folks: did you choose the wrong basis). words that are placeholders for meaning invariably suggest that the premises of the model have run afoul. [i know the hannah arendt crowd is screaming “totalizing system”, but so is science. and should one opt for astrology over modern physics, simply because one is a worse fit? if so, i strongly encourage you to abandon the germ theory of disease, on similar grounds]

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