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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: February ::
Re: The Human Condition
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0093. Saturday, 5 February 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Phyllis Gorfain <
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        Date:   Friday, 04 Feb 1994 17:24:47 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0090  Re: The Human Condition
 
(2)     From:   Piers Lewis <
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        Date:   Saturday, 05 Feb 1994 12:35:06 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Human Condition
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Phyllis Gorfain <
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Date:           Friday, 04 Feb 1994 17:24:47 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0090  Re: The Human Condition
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0090  Re: The Human Condition
 
I am grateful for the cogent and concise treatment Richard Jordan has
offered for the vexing question of human universals. The difference between
common experiences, inevitable human problems (of the death of others and
one's own; distributions of wealth and goods; inheritance; kinship and
non-marriageable partners; explanations for unjust suffering) and the ways
those experiences are interpreted and evaluated, or the ways the problems
are solved, not only provide ways to study the particular ways that persons
and societies differ in regular ways, but also ways to compare them. The
ways prestige attaches to particular activities, actors, or things can be
as significant in "meaning" as is interpretation. I think the issue is
really in how the claims of "universals" have been used ethnocentrically,
ideologically, and smugly to mystify and celebrate values held by a cer-
tain group dominating the discourse about meaning. So, once again, the
issue is not the binary one of are there, or aren't there universals;
but as R.J. shows, the multiplicity of ways that claims about universals
are used, or the multiplicity of responses to particular common experiences.
But that multiplicity need not lead to sloppy pluralism, but to rigorous
comparison in historical, cultural terms. Gosh, I wish I were as clear as
R.J. But, without editing, here are my thoughts. Classes start up again
soon, so I will go back to lurking, I fear. Cheers, Phyllis Gorfain,
Oberlin College. 
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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Piers Lewis <
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Date:           Saturday, 05 Feb 1994 12:35:06 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Human Condition
 
Listening to the arguments back and forth on this endlessly contested and
contestable question, I wonder what's at stake.  It sounds like a political or
moral argument in disguise--politics by other means, so to speak.  Is it?  And
the pragmatist in me asks:  what practical difference might it make in the way
we teach--*Lear* for example-- how or where we come down (if we come down at
all) on 'universality'?
 

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