Monday, February 02, 2009

Obiter Dicta

Literature teaches us what words mean,
how to use them.

Is that enough?

If we knew what all the words meant,
if we knew 'only' what words meant,

would that suffice?

3 comments:

Kirby Olson said...

Dictionaries do that. I think literature at its best teaches us how certain actions play out algebraically.

At least that's what Aristotle argues. I'm with him...

this is where flalf doesn't function: it isn't about tracing the moral algebra of different actions.

It's just a bunch of words thrown on a page willy nilly, like its LANGUAGE's poor cousin.

mongibeddu said...

Laura Riding would say yes.

Thomas Basbøll said...

I think the algebra of action could easily reduce to semantics (understood as Wittgensteinian pragmatics). After all, literature does not make any empirical claims about about the results of actions. It does not propose cause-and-effect relationships.

What you are proposing is a kind of implicature. Literature allows us to see how particular descriptions of action are implicated in other descriptions. But there is no hard and fast logic to these implications, of course. One description is not possible or impossible alongside another, but more or less plausible.