Thursday, May 27, 2010

Has Luke Been Reading Derrida?

Luke has been on this kick of asking "what does __________ mean?" Last night he asked, "what does apple mean?" I don't know. Is it Latin in origin. Greek. Old English? What's the etymology? I just held up a shiny green one from the bowl and said, 'It means this'. He wasn't satisfied. "No, what does it mean?" I give up - just eat.

Reading Vanhoozers Is There a Meaning in This Text?: The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge, I've been thinking more about 'meaning' than ever before. As I understand it, in premodern and modern theories of language, names referred to object (and/or ideas). For Plato, eternal ideas were reflected in things (palely) which were in turn reflected in words. More modern philosophers payed more attention to thoughts, mind and ideas, but still maintained that the "job of language was to formulate true pictures of the world". As I understand the decontructionism of Derrida, he questions the static nature of reality (there is no Platonic Idea of Apple, the unbiased nature of the observer (How you define Apple is perspectival and probably a power thing), and the ability of language to adequately symbolize reality (which is always in flux) because the categories and structure we use are arbitrary (Your categories of fruit and vegetable are arbitrary and leave out data that doesn't fit neatly).

Where does Derrida leave us? Not sure - I've only read the first couple of chapters! It does bring to mind, however, a scene from Revenge of the Nerds II:

Arnold Poindexter: So what you're saying essentially is, is that along with infinite space which extends beyond perpetual bigness there's also infinite smallness?
Harold Wormser: [nods head in agreement]
Arnold Poindexter: How?
Harold Wormser: Easy. Take an asymptotic line and extend it outward.
Arnold Poindexter: Oh.
Stewart: Right, right, right. So perpetual bigness exists simultaneously with perpetual smallness. What was I thinking?
Ogre: What if uh C-A-T really spelled dog?
Arnold Poindexter: Wow.
Harold Wormser: God.
Stewart: Yeah.
Arnold Poindexter: That's heavy Ogre. Dog.

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