|C R I T I C I S M . C O M :: Home General quotes||Search | Site Map | About Criticism.Com | Home|
On the Wire
Philosophy In the News
No current headlines.
Insightful Remarks and Observations
By Steve Hoenisch
Last updated on July 26, 2004
Copyright 1996-2006 www.Criticism.Com
Table of Contents
1.1.1 Conservatives, Won't You Ditch the Prescriptive Grammar?
1.2 Discourse Analysis and Sociolinguistics
1.2.1 Motivating Interactional Sociolinguistics
1.2.2 Goffman on Systems-Contraints and ritual-Contraints
1.2.3 On Language Change
1.3 Semantics and Philosophy of Language
1.3.1 Counterpoint: The Logicians Are Certifiable!
1.3.2 Searle Extending Wittgenstein
1.4 Marxism and Language
1.4.1 "Language" Is Constructed from Language
1.4.2 Activity and History
1.4.3 Plato's Solution in Cratylus as the Foundation of Idealist Thought
2 Media Criticism
2.1 Problems Can Only Be Solved in Depth
2.2 The Protesters Aren't People
2.3 Disinherited by Censorship
2.4 Madness and Civilization
2.5 Contributors Must Have Control
3.1 Baudrillard on the Spectacle of Brain
3.2 Wittgenstein Disperses the Fog
3.3 Tocqueville on the Role of Associations
4.1 Freud on Dreams as Communication
4.2 Piaget on the Art of Persuasion
4.3 Parental Love Drives Obedience to Law
4.4 Prozacian Workers Support High-Tech Capitalism
5 Reading, Writing, Working, Loving
5.1 Roland Barthes' Phenomenological Contact with the Text
5.2 The Solitude of the Lover's Discourse
6.1 Identity and Resistance in The Castle
6.1.1 The Secret in the Object
6.1.2 Identity at the Margins
"It seems clear that knowledge of grammatical rules is an essential component of the interactive competence that speakers must have to interact and cooperate with others. Thus if we can show that individuals interacting through linguistic signs are effective in cooperating with others in the conduct of their affairs, we have prima facie evidence for the existince of shared grammatical structure. One need not as the nineteenth-century normative grammarians did, and many modern educators continue to do, attempt to judge an individual's basic linguistic ability in reference to an a priori set of grammatical standards." -- Gumperz, Discourse Strategies, p. 19.
"There is a need for a sociolinguistic theory which accounts for the communicative functions of linguistic variability and for its relation to speakers' goals without reference to untestable functionalist assumptions about conformity or nonconformance to closed systems of norms. Since speaking is interacting, such a theory must ultimately draw its basic postulates from what we know about interaction." -- Gumperz, Discourse Strategies, p. 29.
Goffman makes between "systems-constraints and ritual-constraints, where the first labels the ingredients essential to more than on party, and the second those ingredients that, while not essential to the maintaining of interaction, are nevertheless typical of it -- they are ... the social dimensions of interaction." -- Levinson, Pragmatics, p. 44.
Dostoyevsky's challenge to logical semantics: "And, to sum the whole thing up, why are you so certain that not flying in the face of his real, normal interests, certified by the deductions of reason and arithmetic, is really always for his good and must be a law for all mankind? After all, for the time being it is only your supposition. Even if we assume it as a rule of logic, it may not be a law for all mankind at all. Perhaps you think I'm mad, gentlemen?" -- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes From Underground, trans. Jessie Coulson (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1972), p. 39. Italics in original.
John Searle, in "Proper Names," develops what he sees as Wittgenstein's analysis into a theory, encapsulated in his suggestion that "it is a necessary fact that Aristotle has the logical sum, inclusive disjunction, of properties commonly attributed to him: any individual not having at least some of these properties could not be Aristotle."
"All categories, including the category 'language,' are themselves constructions in language, and can thus only with an effort, and within a particular system of thought, be separated from language for relational inquiry." -- Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature, p. 21.
"The key moments which should be of interest to Marxism, in the development of thinking about language, are, first, the emphasis on language as activity and, second, the emphasis on the history of language." -- Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature, p. 21.
"Plato's major inquiry into language (in the Craylus) was centered on the problem of the correctness of naming, in which the interrelation of 'word' and 'thing' can be seen to originate either in 'nature' or in 'convention'." Plato's solution was in effect the foundation of idealist thought: There is an intermediate but constitutive realm, which is neither 'word' nor 'thing' but 'form,' 'essence,' or 'idea.' The investigation into either 'language' or 'reality' was then always, at root, an investigation of these constitutive (metaphysical) forms." -- Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature, p. 22.
"The problems of life are insoluble on the surface and can only be solved in depth. They are insoluble in surface dimensions." -- Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p. 74e, in a remark that has implications both for the individual and for society, the latter of which can be seen when the remark is applied to the current state and content of the mass media in the United States.
"Where a reporter stands in relation to a confrontation in the street ..." ... "The normal situation of the camera and reporter is behind the police who are dealing with pickets or demonstrators. This puts the viewer in a situation where he or she too is invited to see them as objects; the viewer is, as it were, identified with this position." -- Raymond Williams, On TV, p. 209-210.
"Even so far as men have not yet succumbed to political delusion, the mechanism of censorship--both internal and external--will deprive them of the means of resistance." -- Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. John Cumming (New York: Continuum, 1995), p. ix.
Foucault, in the preface to Madness and Civilization, writes that "in the serene world of mental illness, modern man no longer communicates with the madman: on one hand the man of reason delegates the physician to madness, thereby authorizing a relation only through the abstract universality of disease; on the other, the man of madness communicates with society only by the intermediary of an equally abstract reason which is order, physical and moral constraint, the anonymous pressure of the group, the requirements of conformity." -- Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Random House, 1965), p. x.
"The right kind of organization, for any cultural institution" -- including newspapers, publishing houses, and television stations -- "is one based on control by the contributors." --Raymond Williams, the British sociologist and literary critic, in his book Communications.
"All that fascinates us is the spectacle of the brain and its workings. What we are wanting here is to see our thoughts unfolding before us -- and this itself is a superstition.
"Hence, the academic grappling with his computer, ceaselessly correcting, reworking, and complexifying, turning the exercise into a kind of interminable psychoanalysis, memorizing everything in an effort to escape the final outcome, to delay the day of reckoning of death, and that other -- fatal -- moment of reckoning that is writing, by forming an endless feed-back loop with the machine. ... A spectacular desublimation of thought, his concepts as images on a screen." -- Jean Baudrillard, America (Verso: 1988), p. 36.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, in attempting to unravel problems in the philosophy of language, exhorts the reader of Philosophical Investigations to view the phenemena in a its primitive state. "It disperses the fog," Wittgenstein says, "to study the phenomena of language in primitive kinds of application in which one can command a clear view of the aim and functioning of the words." -- Philosophical Investigations, Section 5.
Tocqueville gives great importance to the role associations play in democracy. Of the United States, he writes: "The most democratic country on the face of the earth is that in which men have, in our time, carried to the highest perfection the art of pursuing in common the object of their common desires and have applied this new science to the greatest number of purposes." -- Vol. 2, p. 107.
For Freud, dreams are a form of communication, with signs and symbols, a system of language all their own: "Even this unintelligible dream must be a fully valid psychical, with sense and worth, which we can use in analysis like any other communcation." -- Freud, Sigmund. New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, trans. and ed. James Strachey (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1965), p. 11.
"The art of discussion ... consists principally in knowing how to place oneself at the point of view of one's partner in order to try to convince him on his own ground."-- Jean Piaget. Comments on Vygotsky's Critical Remarks Concerning The Language and Thought of the Child, and Judgment and Reasoning in the Child (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1962), p. 5.
"Obedience to the laws of civilization is first inspired, not by fear or prudence, Freud tells us, but by love, love for those early powerful figures who first demand obedience. Obedience, of course, does not exorcise aggression; it merely directs it against the self. There is becomes a means of self-domination, infusing the voice of conscience with the hostility that cannot be aimed at the 'unattackable authority.'" -- Jessica Benjamin, 1988, p. 5.
"Observing responses to Prozac," Kramer writes, "we learn not only about ourselves but about our island's culture. ... The success of Prozac says that today's high-tech capitalism values ... confidence, flexibility, quickness, and energy" -- Kramer, Listening to Prozac, p. 297. Cf. Brown's view of capitalism as rewarding conformist character, p. 297.
"I work every day from 9:30 am to 1 p.m.; this regular workaday schedule for writing suits me better than an aleatory schedule, which supposes a state of continual excitement. ... What I do enjoy is the excitement provoked by immediate and phenomenological contact with the tutor text. ... I'm content to read the text in question, in a rather fetishistic way: writing down certain passages, moments, even words which have the power to move me. As I go along, I use my cards to write down quotations, or ideas which come to me, and they do so, curiously, already in the rhythm of a sentence, so that from that moment on, things are already taking on an existence as writing. ... From then on, I'm plunged into a kind of frenzied state. I know that everything I read will somehow find its inevitable way into my work. The only problem is to keep what I read for amusement from interfering with reading directed toward my writing. The solution is very simple: the books I read for pleasure, for example a classic, or one of Jakobson's books on linguistics, which I particularly enjoy, those I read in bed at night before going to sleep. I read the others at my worktable in the morning. ... The bed is the locus of irresponsibility. The table, that of responsibility." -- Roland Barthes, The Grain of the Voice, pp. 180-181.
"The lover's discourse is today of an extreme solitude. This discourse is spoken, perhaps, by thousands of subjects (who knows?), but warranted by no one; it is completely forsaken by the surrounding languages: ignored, disparaged, or derided by them, severed not only from authority but also from the mechanisms of authority (sciences, techniques, arts). Once a discourse is thus driven by its own momentum into the backwater of the 'unreal,' exiled from all gregarity, it has no recourse but to become the site, however exiguous, of an affirmation."-- Barthes. Lover's Discourse. Emphasis in original. p. 1.
"The Castle is perhaps a theology in action, but it is first of all the individual adventure of a soul in quest of its grace, of a man who asks of this world's objects their royal secret and of women the signs of the god that sleeps in them," Camus writes about Kafka's novel in The Myth of Sisyphus.1 In The Castle, "the details of everyday life stand out, and yet in that strange novel in which nothing concludes and everything begins over again, it is the essential adventure of a soul in quest of its grace that is represented."2
K. finds that grace, at least for a fleeting moment or two, in the humanity and in the brief moments of understanding that he shares first with the Barnabas girl, then with Frieda, and finally -- in a Modern twist, to begin again near the novel's end -- with Pepi. Each of the women is in fact pivotal in everything beginning again.
Marginality and identity also play their roles in the matrix of resistance in The Castle: K. "is an average European. He is like everybody else."3 But he is also unlike anybody else in the village. He is an outsider, a marginalized figure unable to understand the unfamiliar norms that he bumps up against with his every social act -- norms which at times bring forth acts of outright resistance from K. Indeed, in The Castle, K. is like the Underground Man, like the marginalized Golyadkin in The Double: He at once feels his marginality but continues to seek acceptance in society.
It is through the relationships of love or friendship that K. builds with Frieda, the Barnabas woman, and Pepi that K. finds both the inspiration for resistance, manifested in his "freedom of manner,"4 to the village's mores as well as the beginnings of assimilation into its society.
1. Camus. The Myth of Sisyphus. p. 126.
2. Camus. Myth. p. 129.
3. Ibid. p. 129. Camus.
4. Ibid. p. 130. Camus.