Some Quotes from Summer Reading

“It was a devil with which he was trying to come to grips, the abbot decided, but the devil was quote evasive. The abbot’s devil was rather small, as devils go: only knee-high, but he weighed ten tons and had the strength of five hundred oxen. He was not driven by maliciousness, as Dom Paulo imagined him, not nearly as much as he was driven by frenzied compulsion, somewhat after the fashion of a rabid dog. He bit trhough meat and bone and nail simply because he had damned himself, and damnation created a damnably insatiable appetite. And he was evil merely because he had made a denial of Good, and the denial had become a part of his essence, or a hole therein. Somewhere, Dom Paulo thought, he’s wading through a sea of men and leaving a wake of the maimed.” – A Canticle for Leibowitz

“Perhaps it is by now a little clearer why we are tempted to retort, “But suppose I don’t want to be moral?”; and also why it would be irrelevent here. The Categorical Declarative [sic] does not tell you what you ought to do if you want to be moral (and hence is untouched by the feeling that no imperative can really be categorical, can bind us no matter what); it tells you (part of) what you in fact do when you are moral. I cannot – nothing a philosopher says can – insure that you will not act immorally; but it is entirely unaffected by what you do or do not want” – Must We Mean What We Say?

“If you feel that finding out what something is must entail investigation of the world rather than of language, perhaps you are imagining a situation like finding out what somebody’s name and address are, or what the contents of a will or a bottle are, or whether frogs eat butterflies. But now imagine that you are in your armchair reading a book of reminiscences and come acress the work “umiak.” You reach for your dictionary and look it up. Now what did you do? Find out what “umiak” means, or find out what an umiak is? But how could we have discovered something about the world hunting in the dictionary? If this seems surprising, perhaps it is becuase we forget that we learn langugage and learn the world together, that they become elaborated and distorted together, and in the same places. We may also be forgetting how elaborate a process the learning is. We tend to take what a native speaker does when he looks up a noun in the dictionary as the characteristic process of learning language … But it is merely  the endpoint in the process of learning the word. When we turned to the dictionary for “umiak” we already knew everything about the word, as it were, but its combination: we knew what a noun is and how to name an object and how to look up a word and what boats are and what an Eskimo is. We were all prepared for that umiak. What seemed like finding the world in a dictionary was really a case of bringing the world to the dictionary. We had the world with us all the time, in that armchair; but we felt the wright of it only when we felt a lack in it … How we answer the question, “What is X?” will depend, therefore, on the specific case of ignorance and of knowledge.” -Must We Mean What We Say?

~ by Barky on June 6, 2012.

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