December 13, 2012

"Of all the constraints imposed on us that restrict our freedom — constraints of morality and decorum, constraints of class and finance..."

"... one of the earliest that is forced upon us is the constraint of a language that we are forced to learn so that others can talk to us and tell us things we do not wish to know...."
The greatest escape route is not only humor, but poetry, or art in general. Art does not, of course, liberate us completely from meaning, but it gives a certain measure of freedom, provides elbow room. Schiller claimed in the Letters on Aesthetic Education that art makes you free; he understood that the conventions of language and of society are in principle arbitrary—that is, imposed by will. They prevent the natural development of the individual. ...
ADDED: Putting the tags on this post, including "poetry," made me remember a poem I read the other day that I'd been meaning to show you. It's in this "Good Poems" collection. The poet is Guy W. Longchamps:
O what a luxury it be
how exquisite, what perfect bliss
so ordinary and yet chic
to pee to piss to take a leak

To feel your bladder just go free
and open like the Mighty Miss
and all your cares go down the creek
to pee to piss to take a leak
Read the whole thing at the link. Just search inside the book for "piss," or if you're shy, just search for "bliss."


mccullough said...

This is Rousseau-like nonsense.

mikee said...

The last sentence of your post may be the most perfect description of reading poetry, ever. said...

You're a naughty law professor. I hope you don't subject your colleagues or students to your opinion on some opinion in verse.

That's insufferable.

ricpic said...

We're FORCED to learn language? Utter bullshut from another superior person.

ricpic said...

I got so excited that I created a new word: bullshut. Not forced to either. Language. What's not to love?

edutcher said...

Over the last 50 years or so, as our intellectual betters have coarsened our language and culture, it doesn't appear to have made a change for the better.

But, of course, that was the intent.

supagold said...

I see where they're going. The grammar and syntax of a language force your ideas along certain paths, but what about the converse? Language enables a vast array of ideas that would mostly be inconceivable if we didn't have the words to express them.

There would be no art without language in my opinion. I think it's no coincidence that art is a relatively recent development in human history.

YoungHegelian said...

I was afraid that Rosen's words on language would be misinterpreted as being akin to modern loosey-goosey anti-rationalism. As much as those words can be interpreted that way, that's not what they mean.

Rosen is referring to topics within the development of late 18th early 19th German philosophy having to do with the the nature of language & thought. For example Hamann's attack on the Enlightenment by arguing that all thought is linguistically bound, and thus culturally bound. Or, the idea that Nature is itself an obstacle to the free exercise of the willing Ego as opposed to the stage where free will operates (Fichte vs the Absolute Idealists).

I'm not going to gum up the thread with goobledygook, but if you want to discuss this further email me offline.

Please trust me --- Charles Rosen is not some multi-culty bullshitter.

rhhardin said...

Language is literary effects from the start.

Citing the Book of J

7 then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

Adam became a living being when he noticed the literary effect.

Pragmatist said...

Very good....

Chip Ahoy said...

I got this one because I experienced it.

At first I latched onto every word I could because they helped me express the thing I was thinking. The frustration was not having sufficient words to express. And all along the way new words were a great relief. But writing it was a chore. That was forced. And the silent letters bit I viewed as straight up betrayal. And insistence on odd spelling, like that word there should have been betrail.

The word "island" is what turned me against reading.

It felt like decoding. A chore of decoding. So that was forced and I did not care for it one bit.

But new words then continued to open fresh ways to express and each new one was like, great there's a word for that, and then when I sat down expressly to learn more some new ones were difficult to take in and I realized the cards that stayed in the stack and recycled through to fresh stacks were all negative words. New word for some exceedingly specific negative thing were the most difficult to pick up. Like my brain just wouldn't easily make the neural pathways for it, wouldn't accept it and build connections around it. Those words would not flash in the thought pathways. They go unused. And the card for them get more and more thumbed up and carried around longer. Meanwhile new delightful words are readily accepted, taken up and well established with neural connections, and there're used!

Until finally my brother goes, "You know what your problem is?" I go, "Yeah, but wutzit to you?" He goes, "Your problem is you try too hard to use obscure words. It pisses people (him) off." And I thought for a moment and calmly replied, "Listen, Buster, our dog was actually named Buster, I'm toning all that down. Way way down. Those aren't even the words I use to think. The 'problem' you're seeing is me editing the shit out of every thing I say leaving behind words that are perfect for worse words just to avoid the thing you're accusing me of. Instead of bitching at me you should be praising me for being nice about it."

And conversely Dr. Fred would not agree that my experience of fresh words enabled fresh thought and broadened thought paths. And I expressed that idea so perfectly too. He insisted the thoughts are there with or without language. Odd position to take for an educator, when I know from experiencing it that new words enabled new thoughts and new paths to think them.

deborah said...

I thought it was when he noticed legs.

rhhardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

All the "obscure" words you need but can use are in The Quintessential Dictionary, a thousand words that enable you to read all of Buckley without looking anything up.

Make flash cards.

I recommend the $.01 version not the $200 version, by the way, just from natural frugality.

lge said...

And also:

One joy for which
There is no match,
Is when you itch,
To up and scratch.

I'm greatly attached
To Barbara Fritchie.
I'll bet SHE scratched,
When she was itchy.
-- Ogden Nash

ricpic said...

I'm reading a short book, The Romantic Revolution, by Tim Banning, and it's becoming increasingly clear to me that the revolutionary changes experienced by European Man in the period circa 1750 - 1815 make our period, by contrast, seem a stagnant backwater. And the towering figures - Rousseau, Schiller, Hamann alone are cited in this thread - thrown up in that period, well, we're still wrestling with their thought(s) and debate. Highly recommend the book.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

or if you're shy, just search for "bliss."

I've found it, and I didn't even have to read anything!

LZsays said...

"The era to which they are taking you is not pre-industry, but *pre-language*."

southcentralpa said...

The poem is, of course, by Garrison Keillor himself. It was first collected in book form in We Are Still Married.

deborah said...

rh and ricpic; both books ordered.

YoungHegelian said...


If you really want to dive into German Romanticism, especially philosophy, take a look at this guy. Beiser is probably the best guy in English doing "overview" work on that period right now. But, beware!!, Beiser can be a slog sometimes, and it is not for a neophyte to the history of philosophy.

And I'll bet, you silly person you, that you didn't know that you could buy these books at Amazon through a portal on our hostess' home page.

Sam L. said...

Is this guy Jaltcoh a relative?

deborah said...

:) YH, thanks, but a clue: one of the reasons I ordered the ricpic book was because he said it was short.

Any forays into philosphy will be on the level of 'Philosophy for Dummies.'

Richard Dolan said...

It's odd that something so natural even a child can do it effortlessly -- conversing with others, making oneself understood -- has given rise to so many confusions.

Windy Wilson said...

You know, I fully expect to see this poem on the walls of urologists' waiting rooms now.

Caedmon said...

Nature, poetry, and thought (but no embarrassing bodily functions)
Kestrels on Hampstead Heath