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[Xmca-l] Re: The Inimitability of Grammar
Presumably, there's a grammar for clumping word-chunks together too...
On 3 April 2014 23:08, David Kellogg <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Well, of course, I sent out the results of the experiment without any
> explanation because I believe that people should think for themselves.
> But Mike is right--I am mildly insulted when I receive exhortations to
> be relevant, be useful, and think for myself by agreeing with the
> person insulting me.
> Perhaps I shouldn't be. The truth is that I have been thinking for
> myself for so long that I actually bore myself while still managing to
> baffle the reviewers of prominent journals. And it is true that
> sometimes--yea, often--I would rather think the way that Vygotsky did,
> particularly since the way he thought seems more useful and relevant
> to my work than the way that I do.
> I would also like to think the way that Hannah Arendt did. One of the
> interesting remarks she makes in support of the Kantian idea that evil
> is always superficial and only moral good is genuinely profound is
> that Eichman had not mastered the grammar of the German language, and
> he speaks it rather the way that Arendt herself speaks English, even
> though Eichmann is a native speaker of German. What Arendt means that
> rather than consciously and deliberately master the intricate system
> of German articles and case endings and genders, Eichmann takes a
> shortcut--he simply memorizes phrases and uses them whole, the way we
> do when we are speaking or trying to write a very complex foreign
> language (in my case, Russian).
> At first I thought this was merely the hauteur of a very educated
> German Jew, the star pupil of Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers,
> confronted with an unsuccessful peripatetic oil salesman who failed to
> complete a high school education and used the extermination of the
> Jews as a way of advancing a lackluster career. But Margaret Von
> Trotta, who in the course of making the film "Hanna Arendt" also
> subjected herself to thousands of hours of Eichmann testimony, makes
> exactly the same remark. As a consequence of a lack of conscious
> awareness of the way the German language works and a reliance on
> memorized phrases, Eichmann's language is necessarily thoughtless and
> cliche ridden.
> Von Trotta's example is this. The judge asks Eichmann if the "Final
> Solution" would have unrolled differently had their been "civic
> responsibility", the judge is very clearly interested in whether
> people like Eichmann, who essentially bear no ill will whatsoever
> towards Jews and are simply doing a job that is somewhat more
> lucrative and promising than selling oil, would want to change their
> job if they were confronted with the kind of civic resistance that the
> "Final Solution" encountered in, say, Denmark or Serbia or Bulgaria
> (where local populations actively resisted the attempt to round up
> Eichmann makes no attempt to understand the question. He simply says
> had it benefited from sufficient hierarchical organization, it would
> undoubtedly have been more efficient and more efficiacious. But of
> course the result is nonsense, because in this case "X" is precisely a
> form of resistance to hierarchical organization. Eichmann does not
> speak German; instead, German speaks him.
> Bateson remarks that the reason why keeping a room tidy requires work,
> but it just gets untidy by itself is simple entropy; there are many
> more ways of being untidy than there are of being tidy (and when he
> says this, what he is really showing us--almost perfectly--is the big
> difference between the way we mediate reality and the way reality,
> objectively, really is). In the same way, being grammatical requires
> work, because there are infinitely many ways of being ungrammatical
> and relatively fewer ways of being grammatical. We can, of course,
> save work by replacing one psychological function (grammaticality)
> with another (memory), but when we do this run up against Arendt's
> biggest problem.
> Arendt is shocked that Eichmann uses Kant to justify his actions and
> even gives a reasonably good, though no doubt memorized, version of
> the Categorical Imperative. She concludes that there are simply very
> many ways of being evil, and relatively few of being good. The only
> reliable method of telling the difference is to think and speak for
> yourself. Paradoxically, or perhaps not so, this is something we do
> not do well unless we actually listen to others and respond to them in
> sentences that cannot be readily Googled.
> David Kellogg
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies