File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2000/habermas.0011, message 53


Date: Sun, 26 Nov 2000 04:15:19 +1100
Subject: Re: HAB: Third rock from the Sun


Hi again, Ken,

>> I'm happy to agree that understanding and agreement are immanent in
>>language
>- its telos, even.
>
>But this, then, appears to be the exact opposite of what Habermas intends. If
>the intention is to liberate human beings domination, does not this
>reading of
>language appear to be the complete colonization of language over our
>'natural'
>sensibilities and drives?

But human beings can't be usefully grasped as outside language, can they?
Language is of us, and, to a degree, we are of it.  We are naturally and
essentially languaged, for mine, so I can't take your point.

>The Other, in psychoanalysis, is fantasy, the very source of meaning. The
>rejoinder from a 'concrete' other wouldn't mean anything apart from our
>capacity to impose meaning on their symbolic utterances. And I agree, we
>can't
>just impose any meaning on them, meaning is attached, but not
>conclusively, to
>specific forms.

I must seem awfully dense, but I really don't see a problem.  Yes, we must
endow the symbols with meaning if communication is to occur, and, yes, we
must fill in gaps.  In themselves, these considerations do not do away with
understanding or agreement, do they?

>the Imaginary cannot be completley suspended since it constitutes the very
>>'foundation' of all possible meaning(s).

Well, it does if you define it as that with which we allocate meaning.  But
this imaginary is not altogether peculiar to the individual, is it?  We do
assume a background consensus, right down to the assumptions it is better
to be a 'bachelor' than a 'spinster', for instance.  And the process of
redeeming a validity claim is itself a clarifying process, no?  'That's
it!' is meaningful only in a context, and its enunciator assumes that
context is shared, else she can expect the question 'what's "it"?'.

>In other words: we can only understand what we have already imagined,
>which >isn't to say that our Imaginary is fixed, it moves and shifts, but
>at some >point there is a limit.

Well, yes and no.  The imaginary (if I grasp your meaning) must be moved
and shifted by every communicative episode, no?  Indeed is it not precisely
the product of these?  You have imagined enough to understand, when I tell
you, that the hamlet of Sutton is twenty kilometres north of Canberra.  If
you believe that (and I recommend you do), your imaginary is a tad
transformed, no? You now have associations in place to help you endow with
meaning the proposition that Gundaroo is twice as far from Canberra as
Sutton is.  Your 'imaginary' probably has Sutton half way between Canberra
and Gundaroo.  But you'd be aware, in the unlikely event this mattered to
you, that you should ask to be sure, though (it is, btw).  And even then
you wouldn't have the whole picture.  Gundaroo is more west of Sutton than
north.  So, yeah, this can go on and on.  But you don't expect to
understand everything, do you?  Surely there comes a point when you say 'I
understand enough to agree/disagree/make common cause (or whatever)'.  At
any rate, you've a schema for this part of the Southern Highlands of New
South Wales you didn't have a minute ago.  Or do you mean something less
obvious than that?  It's late, and I'm flagging fast.

>The association of communicative satisfaction with consensus is precisely my
>problem. To put it another way, maybe we agree to something not necessarily
>because we understand everything about it, but, perhaps, because we're
>tired of
>talking.

Sure.  But the consensus effectively comes about, whatever your part in it,
and whatever your motivations.  I do not share all the bits'n'pieces of my
community's background consensus, but it is necessary for me to have an
inkling of 'em.  I'd more easily call a man ugly than a woman, and a woman
a bad driver than a man.  I don't go along with that in theory, but it's
advisable in practice, unless I want to invoke it for purposes of
emancipatory discourse, in which case I realise I have to be careful about
it.  And yeah, I'm too tired right now ...

I suspect I've just wasted everyone's time, but I really do wonder at the
efficacy of all this Lacanian abstraction.  What am I missing here?

Cheers,
Rob.




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