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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: February ::
Re: Universals and the Human Condition
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0109. Saturday, 12 February 1994.
 
(1)     From:   David Scott Wilson-Okamura <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 94 9:22:34 CST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0107 Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
(2)     From:   Barbara Simerka <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 1994 10:38:13 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0107  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
(3)     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 1994 12:42:18 -0600
        Subj:   the human condition et al.
 
(4)     From:   Gardner Campbell <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 1994 15:29:33 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Humanity again
 
(5)     From:   William Proctor Williams <TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 94 18:16 CST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0107  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
(6)     From:   William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
        Date:   Friday, 11 Feb 1994 20:46:25 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0107  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Scott Wilson-Okamura <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 94 9:22:34 CST
Subject: 5.0107 Re: Universals and the Human Condition
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0107 Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
> No need for anger here.  There simply are NO UNIVERSALS to
> human experience.  Anyone who believes that there are has not
> thoroughly examined the Multicultural / Cultural Relativist
> position . . .
 
> For humanists to ignore these assertions without examining the
> evidence is silly.  Idealists have been arguing for Universals
> for 2500 years to no avail . . .
 
> Idealists do usually just get angry when their positions
> are attacked rather than showing real arguments.  This is not
> religion here folks; this is academics.  If you are going to
> militate against Popper, Douglas and Geertz please arm
> yourselves first with weapons more powerful than arrogant
> insistence . . .
 
No need for anger here.  There simply ARE UNIVERSALS.  Anyone who believes
otherwise has not thoroughly examined the Idealist position.  For Cultural
Relativists to ignore these assertions without examining the evidence is silly.
 If you are going to militate against 2,500 years of Idealism please arm
yourself first with weapons more powerful than the mere invocation of names
like *Popper, Douglas and Geertz.*
 
                                        Yours humbly,
                                        David Wilson-Okamura
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Barbara Simerka <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 1994 10:38:13 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0107  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0107  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
As I read Jefferey Taylor's contribution to this debate, I began to behave
rather like a sports fan, saying "right on" and even lifting a clenched fist
in the spirit of comradeship his denial of universals evoked--until I got
to the dread phrase
 
"The beauty of Shakespeare is in the works themselves, not some Universal
appeal"
 
Suddenly, I felt as if I were experiencing a time warp, transported to an
earlier generation, where the only possible argument against TIMELESS beauty
was indeed the appeal to the FORMAL beauties of "the work."  How did this
anachronism manage to sneak into a debate that is being waged on a totally
different terrain?
 
Barbara Simerka
Davidson College
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 1994 12:42:18 -0600
Subject:        the human condition et al.
 
Well, it certainly is delightful to jump into the middle of this discussion. As
a new member of the conference, passionate lover of Shakespeare, supporter of
the possibility that we have much in common as human beings as well as
significant differences, I find it energizing to hear everyone talking about
these issues. I have become rather tired of those who desperately want to
ignore our common humanity and label us all very careful (I have only
half-facetiously suggested that I have a t-shirt made that reads: female,
politically incorrect feminist, Catholic by birth, Jew by choice, Taoist by
inclination, Polish-American, working class origin, advanced degree in English
literature to make sure everyone knows precisely who I am). But most of the
time I don't think about these varied aspects of my self, though I certainly
respond to life out of them and their interactions. The older I get, the more I
want to bridge differences, learn from them, and share the many things I
believe we do have in common. It's a pleasure to meet you all.
 
Chris Gordon, English, University of Minnesota
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gardner Campbell <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 1994 15:29:33 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Humanity again
 
In reply to Professor Hawkes, I cannot see how differences can be perceived at
all, much less said to matter (aside from the possibility of conning gullible
students into subsidizing my CD habit), unless *shared* experience exists.
 
*Shared* experience.  Can we talk about that, instead of about universals?  As
several folks have rightly noted, talk about universals is, in one way or
another, an expression of dogma. Now, of course, one's dogma may actually be
true--one can hope that belief is belief in *something*, and not simply a
delusion--but leave that question aside for the moment.
 
Instead, can we talk about *shared* experience, not "universal experience"?
*Shared* experience may not be "universal," and the meaning or significance
ascribed to shared experience may not *itself* be shared (though there's
nothing to say it *cannot* be, or probably *won't* be, or certainly has never
been); the fundamental question, however, is not "can we know infallibly?" but
"can we know at all?"  That is, whether any experiences are or can be universal
(and I'm not saying what I think about *that*, just now anyway), *are* there
such things as non-trivial *shared* experiences?  And if there are, how can we
know them?  And if not, how do we know *anything*?
 
And if there are, and we can know them--by inferring and studying difference,
mind you, as much as we infer and study similarity-- how may we attend to them
and assess their importance to our own lives in all our communities,
intellectual, academic, political, religious, familial, etc.?
 
Two more thoughts in this insufferably abstract post.  The claim that there are
NO universals is of course itself a universalist claim.  Easy point.
Nevertheless:  is Professor Hawkes willing to assert that there is no such
thing as *shared experience*, that every identity forms itself in absolute
experiential isolation?
 
The final thought.  If there is no such thing as shared experience, if our own
lives have absolutely nothing in common with anyone else's in Jacobean
London--let alone in our classrooms, our homes, or our political
alliances--then what in the world do the poor actors do when they walk out on a
stage and utter lines?  What of the *actors*? Never mind the writers and
readers. If there is no significant shared experience, why be an actor?  *How*
be an actor?  And why should an audience pay good money to see people gamely
(or gullibly) sustain the illusion of spoken, witnessed, lived community?
 
Enough, or too much.
 
Gardner Campbell

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(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET>
Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 94 18:16 CST
Subject: 5.0107  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0107  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
Well, it is good to see Terry H. laying about with both hands, and it is tough
on those who would bring order out of chaos, but would it not be helpful if we
adopted, at least in Shakespeare studies, two rules?
 
RULE ONE:   There are NO rules.
 
RULE TWO: Anyone who disagrees must construct and defend RULE ONE.
 
I hope this helps; I can't see how it could hurt.
 
William Proctor Williams
Department of English
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL  60115
 
TB0WPW1@NIU.BITNET
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
Date:           Friday, 11 Feb 1994 20:46:25 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0107  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0107  Re: Universals and the Human Condition
 
One more shot in the Great Debate. I forgot about breathing. I'll bet ya that
all live humans breathe. So breathing is a universal experience among living
humans. Of course, as far as I know, rocks don't breathe, so "universal" is
really the wrong word. Yes, quite wrong. But there are common human
experiences. I find it counterintuitive to think otherwise. If we do not have
common experiences, then the category of "human" must be thrown out.
 
Your friend, Bill Godshalk
 

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