15 April 2009

The totality of dogs

The flawed genius of language, the premier instrument of our collectivized consciousness, is to give us the ability to encompass in a virtual way huge territory that we could not otherwise experience or interact with. The central feature of language – that we seem to get hold of things via their general classes – is the key to this. When I say “dog” I do not take hold of any particular dog, but I have brought into play the totality of dogs available for my characterization. Thinking about this gives us a new angle on the venerable philosophical problem of universals – on the mysterious relations between singular objects and the general terms through which we take hold of them – and further, on what Slavoj Zizek has called ‘the violence of language’ (which, incidentally, licenses other modes of violence).

In short, properly reflected upon, knowingness and other shallows shine a light into the depths of our uniquely human consciousness, and upon the processes by which individually we make this world, that vastly outsizes us, our own place.
-- Raymond Tallis

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