Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quite a Nice Paragraph

"Objects are fragile, not superficially, but all the way down, ontologically. And this means that they are weak. I mean this without a trace of sneer: we are one of those weak objects. Consider human language. That languages do not beam the thing down in full presence is not some local quirk of language, but a fact about reality. Words such as “this” and “is” are symptoms of a long and jagged history of relationships with nonhumans. Some of the inconsistencies of language are symptoms of our coexistence with other objects. This makes our language inherently weak. Unlike those theorists who want to posit human language as powerful or rich, I claim it is weak and flexible. That the reason why one can say things such as “This statement is false” in English is not because English is rich, but because English is weak. Like the branch of a willow tree, it bends. Software languages are not less expressive than English, but in a way, they are more expressive. Every term really means something. Or really does something. When you try to dissipate the Liar paradox (“This statement is false” and variants) you end up having to jump to another language. This language can also generate the Liar paradox, in a modified form that might even be strengthened. Paradoxically, the more rigidly one tries to exclude contradiction, the more virulent become the dialetheias that are possible."
--Realist Magic

2 comments:

Nathan Gale said...

Nice, indeed. Can't wait to read your entire work.

underbelly said...

I'm a little troubled by your conflation of flexibility with weakness. As countless tired martial arts parables remind us, the flexible reed survives the storm, while the rigid tree .... ok, enough of that. here's a more serious notion to consider. The general flaw you find with language would seem to fall under the umbrella of ambiguity. But unlike mere vagueness, which could be classified as underdetermined language, ambiguity is overdertermined language. I would argue that the ability of a word or phrase or sentence to mean several things in several contexts, or even simultaneously, is indeed richness. Poetry would be lame without this quality. So would riddles, puns, koans, and paradoxes like the one you use to illustrate weakness.