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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: February ::
Re: Universals Discussion
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0130.  Friday, 18 February 1994.
 
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Feb 94 14:28:07 EST
Subject: 5.0122  The topic that won't die.
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0122  The topic that won't die.
 
I confess to being profoundly ambivalent toward this whole "universals"
debate.  I'm intrigued by the topic and believe a number of interesting and
provocative points have been made from a wide range of perspectives.  Of
course, since I personally pay essentially by the word for e-mail received
(whether I read it or not), this is growing into an expensive -- and
increasingly tedious -- habit.  Still, there is more to be said, and I for
one am willing to prolong the topic's inevitable death throes.
 
First of all, as several people have mentioned, to assert that there are no
universals is itself a profoundly universalist position.  This leads me to
wonder whether the chart we use to locate our respective positions with
respect to this issue ought to be not a simple yes/no, or even a spectrum,
but rather a circle.  Towards one point on the circle converge the two
universals, universal human experience and complete cultural determination.
Moving away from that point in either direction, we enter more ambivalent
(and, for me, more fruitful) ground of "mostly x, but some y".
 
Second, I'd like to suggest a way out of the yes/no dilemma about universal
human experience.  To me, it is counter-intuitive to suggest that we share
nothing universal.  That is to say, there is such a thing as universal human
experience.  But (dare I say this?) the experience of the experience is
probably (inevitably?) culturally influenced (determined?).  In other words,
pain and hunger exist for everyone, but how I interpret those concepts is
different than it would be for someone from a different heritage than mine.
So what I *believe* pain to be isn't what other folks *believe* it to be.
BTW, isn't interpretation what we, as scholars/actors/directors/whatever, DO?
 
Third, didn't we have a discussion a few weeks ago about why the SHAKSPER
list is more "civilized" than many others?  Hmmm...
 
Fourth, to everyone of whatever ideological stripe who insists on employing
reductio ad absurdum arguments with which to show the alleged fallacies of a
competing point of view: We're not buying.  Get a life.
 
Rick Jones

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