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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: Deconstruction
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1405  Wednesday, 9 July 2003

[1]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 08 Jul 2003 09:43:12 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

[2]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Jul 2003 15:48:22 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

[3]     From:   Kathy Dent <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 08 Jul 2003 17:14:47 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 08 Jul 2003 12:25:59 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

[5]     From:   Bob Grumman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Jul 2003 16:38:10 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

[6]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Jul 2003 19:44:55 -0300
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Tuesday, 08 Jul 2003 09:43:12 -0500
Subject: 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

Terence Hawkes <
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 > writes,

>'Experience' does not hang, unsupported and free-floating, in mid-air.
>'Pain' 'remorse' or 'hunger' do not waft through empty rooms, looking
>for victims on whom to alight. People have experiences. People feel
>pain, remorse, hunger etc. If there were no people, how could these
>'experiences' take place? Since all human beings normally have their
>being within societies or communities, they can only occur within and as
>part of cultures, languages, ways of life, and the histories which
>embrace them all. Whoever bumps into a large oak branch whilst mowing
>the lawn does so as a member of a specific culture at a particular time
>and in a material place. The extent to which those factors may modify or
>create the experience, or the language it generates, or is generated by,
>can clearly be a matter for debate. But there can be and is no possible
>appeal to an essential 'experience itself' that lies beyond them. Bob
>Grumman's confession that all this 'seems quite insane' to him plucks,
>nevertheless, at the heart. It is Bob you mourn for, Bob. Bob?

In a slightly less anthropocentric/Terencentric world (my world) (yours
too, everyone's invited) the tree into which I bump also has the
experience, though it usually seems content to remain more or less
silent (for fear of language?) I am fearful of experience to the extent
that I cannot put cream in my coffee because I might not get it right
(according to Quantum Mechanics).

Professor Hawkes is again rolling out the Skeptical Trope; viewer and
the view. Again, for the umpteenth time, I urge any and all who would
free themselves of this pernicious, stultifying (intentionally) form of
argument to begin with R. Popkin, HISTORY OF SKEPTICISM, and move to
Sextus Empiricus, THE OUTLINES OF PYRHONNISM. What Professor Hawkes
avers has nothing to do with 'experience' and everything to do with a
formal trap in argumentation. I give him provisional credit for knowing
this. In good (if somewhat crusty) cheer I wish you.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Jul 2003 15:48:22 +0100
Subject: 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

>'Experience' does not hang, unsupported and free-floating, in mid-air.
>'Pain' 'remorse' or 'hunger' do not waft through empty rooms, looking
>for victims on whom to alight. People have experiences. People feel
>pain, remorse, hunger etc. If there were no people, how could these
>'experiences' take place? Since all human beings normally have their
>being within societies or communities, they can only occur within and as
>part of cultures, languages, ways of life, and the histories which
>embrace them all.

Far be it from me to challenge the cultural weight of Terence Hawkes
(far more of an establishment figure than he might like to admit), but
surely "Pain" and "Hunger" - if not, perhaps, more complex
intellectualised responses such as remorse - can be and are felt by
human beings that have no language or cultural imprinting.  Foetuses
apparently respond to touch, and therefore presumably to pain, in the
womb - but can hardly have developed linguistic and cultural backgrounds
with which to interpret these experiences.  Newborn babies and people
with learning disabilities so severe that they have no ability to
communicate or understand cultural things (or even the existence of
other human beings as distinct creatures), as well as animals - as
somebody has already pointed out - can still feel "Pain" and "Hunger"
without necessarily being able to place it in a language-based or
cultural context.

Now I will certainly agree that people who have been imprinted by their
culture, and who have been able to learn a language (which they then use
for all conscious thoughts), have all of their experiences filtered
through these lenses, and must often respond very differently to such
experiences, and indeed experience them in completely different ways,
because of these interpretative and externally inspired processes, but
that does not mean that there is not a part of the human experience that
is effectively biological and sub-linguistic/sub-cultural (a part that
is perhaps suppressed or overridden in normally able adults and older
children by these cultural/linguistic filters - and not a part that, in
my mind, would come into play when somebody watches or reads
Shakespeare's plays - which are cultural and linguistic themselves, and
unlikely to produce much in the way of biological/sub-cultural responses
- but I'm sure opinions will differ on this).  A baby is designed to
desperately seek and soak up the cultural and linguistic influences that
Hawkes describes from the moment that it is born, but there can be
little doubt that its earliest experiences predate the child's
acquisition of these external factors.

I don't have a great experience of psychology, nor a detailed
understanding of deconstruction, so I am sure Terry Hawkes will correct
me if I'm wrong here, or if some decent counterarguments have been
produced.  If he could manage to refrain from sneering contemptuously
while typing his response (as he usually seems to whenever anybody
disagrees with him), then I would be grateful.

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"
http://shakespearean.org.uk

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathy Dent <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 08 Jul 2003 17:14:47 +0100
Subject: 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

I was keeping out of this because it's not about Shakespeare any more,
is it?  But Terence Hawkes has got me wondering.  One of the things
about deconstruction that seems to commend it to me is the notion that a
view from the edge is a valuable asset.  So here's one.  I have spent
time working with people who have learning difficulties and little or no
use of language.  However, I found myself persuaded that these people
were just as capable of joy and sorrow as I am.  Does Terence Hawkes
deny that they "experience" the world because they do not have a stake
in the centre of intellectual and linguistic power as he does?

And if there are any Lacanians out there, maybe a view might be offered
on how congenitally blind people experience the world without ever
looking in a mirror?

Thanks.

Kathy Dent

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 08 Jul 2003 12:25:59 -0400
Subject: 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

>'Pain' 'remorse' or 'hunger' do not waft through empty rooms, looking
>for victims on whom to alight.

To be sure, but they might be perceived that way.  Jonathan Miller tells
a story, from his medical days, of an old woman who was asked on her
death bed if she was in pain.  She replied, "there is a pain in the room
but I don't know if it belongs to me."

>People have experiences. People feel
>pain, remorse, hunger etc. If there were no people, how could these
>'experiences' take place?

I agree, but Zen koans bore me silly.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Grumman <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 8 Jul 2003 16:38:10 -0400
Subject: 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

>'Experience' does not hang, unsupported and free-floating, in mid-air.
>'Pain' 'remorse' or 'hunger' do not waft through empty rooms, looking
>for victims on whom to alight. People have experiences. People feel
>pain, remorse, hunger etc. If there were no people, how could these
>'experiences' take place? Since all human beings normally have their
>being within societies or communities, they can only occur within and as
>part of cultures, languages, ways of life, and the histories which
>embrace them all. Whoever bumps into a large oak branch whilst mowing
>the lawn does so as a member of a specific culture at a particular time
>and in a material place. The extent to which those factors may modify or
>create the experience, or the language it generates, or is generated by,
>can clearly be a matter for debate. But there can be and is no possible
>appeal to an essential 'experience itself' that lies beyond them. Bob
>Grumman's confession that all this 'seems quite insane' to him plucks,
>nevertheless, at the heart. It is Bob you mourn for, Bob. Bob?
>
>Terence Hawkes

I'm here, Terence.  I'm here, wondering what all the above has to do
with the statement I found quite insane, which was that experience
doesn't exist without words, or something of that nature.

--Bob G.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Jul 2003 19:44:55 -0300
Subject: 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1393 Re: Deconstruction

Terence Hawkes writes,

>'Pain' 'remorse' or 'hunger' do not waft through empty rooms, looking
>for victims on whom to alight. People have experiences.

Maybe not, but lightening certainly chooses its victims instead of the
other way around.  The man struck by lightening certainly isn't choosing
how it ought to feel.

>People feel
>pain, remorse, hunger etc. If there were no people, how could these
>'experiences' take place? Since all human beings normally have their
>being within societies or communities, they can only occur within and as
>part of cultures, languages, ways of life, and the histories which
>embrace them all. Whoever bumps into a large oak branch whilst mowing
>the lawn does so as a member of a specific culture at a particular time
>and in a material place.

While he's feeling the pain, he's probably not thinking about that.  If
the pain is sharp and unexpected enough, he might not be thinking about
anything at all.  In fact, I distinctly recall reading a description of
being shot in combat by a Canadian Victoria Cross winner, who said that
it always takes at least a few moments before you realize that you're
"hit" and start worrying about exit wounds or anything else.  Our
hypothetical mower likewise feels the pain before realizing that he's
hit something his society describes as an "oak tree" and is in something
described as "pain" and ought not to "cry", because he's a "man".  He's
nevertheless experiencing.  Even Husserl and Heidegger argued that the
phenomenon is given ("es gibt") before it's appropriated by the cogito.

To borrow the Levinasian language of which I'm fond, the saying precedes
the said.  Certainly in ethical experience, one is appealed to before
recognizing or appropriating the appeal, integrating it into a language,
or reducing it to the play of the sign.  One must so reduce, even
betray, an ethical appeal in order to answer it, but it is nevertheless
radically external.  Levinas is of course creating an exception for
ethics, but an exception disproves the rule which you're so dogmatically
proclaiming.

Moreover, ethical sympathy (Levinas doesn't like the term, loaded as it
is, but let's just use it as a shorthand for the appeal made by the pain
of another) allows the by-stander to have an experience involving his or
her friend or spouse hitting the oak tree.  He'll care about the pain of
the Other before worrying about what his society would say about the
idiocy of walking into an oak branch.

>The extent to which those factors may modify or
>create the experience, or the language it generates, or is generated by,
>can clearly be a matter for debate. But there can be and is no possible
>appeal to an essential 'experience itself' that lies beyond them.

This frankly makes no sense.  If the influence of language over
experience is open to debate, then so is the possibility of an
"essential 'experience itself'".  By the way, what a fascinating study
in buzz-words and scare-quotes replacing argument that quotation
provides!

Cheers,
Sean.

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