From a comment:

In Mark’s post-modern relativistic world it appears almost impossible for anyone on the right to say anything untrue. Likewise there’s almost nothing Obama can say that can’t be ret-conned into a lie.

In the above, the accusation leveled at myself is likely a charge made reflexively whenever Mr Boonton (or likely any number of interlocutors from the left) sees someone on the right suggesting that a phrase or word can be taken in more than one way. This is noted in the wake of the particular history of post-modernism/quasi-Derridan theories of language and as a result of the rejection of the same by conservatives. The ironic thing here is that the accusation of this sort attempts to at the same time defend relativism, i.e., multiple meanings while at the same time force a particular meaning to be established.

Foucault and Derrida, as is my understanding, suggest that fixing and setting the meaning of words and phrases, fixing the primary hermenuetic if you will, is an act of power and that furthermore there is no intrinsic meanings for things beyond being an expression of power. While this is undoubtedly a simplification at the same time has the problem of getting the matter exactly wrong.

Meanings are fixed … but their particular assignment to particular words is not. When one says something the intention, the meaning is the one thing which is fixed and not a thing captured or expressed fundamentally in and via particular words. The act of speaking and then of hearing is a distortion on the original meaning (or web of meanings) which is being expressed. Conversation is one aid to the exercise of transmitting this which allows one to correct and refine the transmission. This is of course an exercise made more complicated by the fact that the idea reflected back is itself distorted by the act of expression by the receiver. If speaking is a lossy transmission of one’s thought to another. When you converse and try to get your meaning across, discussion is the act of trying to correct the image of your idea into another’s mind through the quadruple layers of distortion (thought -> spoken words then perceived words -> thoughts with a reflection).

What perchance does this have to do with the title selected for this particular essay? Well, in our political discourse peculiar (particular?) assumptions are made about what phrases mean which are normally misinterpreted by the other side and which make our discourse more contentious than it would normally be. One of the common irritants between parties then aligns along the continual frustration which this engenders. One says a thing to express one idea and by the other’s reaction and comments it is clearly misunderstood. Furthermore as one clarifies and attempts to more clearly state and restate the original point one either gets nowhere or the act of restatement is interpreted as an attempt at “changing” what one originally said.

Filed under: CultureEthics & MoralityMark O.Politics

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