Monday, September 5, 2011

Reflection for the Week

One of the most impressive features of human thought is that we are capable of creating and configuring symbols in an effort to express meaning. Recognizing this relationship between language acquisition and symbolic thought provides the opportunity for a phenomenology with theological clout. God’s speech acts give rise to revelation in language and symbol. This interlacing of conceptual fields effectively expanded the function of symbols so that they were seen to reveal God and being in the world in polyphonic ways. At the same time, being human was envisioned as uniquely connected to language, and language to reflection, and reflection to hermeneutics. Thus, God’s speaking embedded in Scripture by symbol and thought finds its connection through the hermeneutical nature of being in the world.


Sisyphos said...

Is it right to conclude from "this relationship between language aquisition and symbolic thought" that you disagree with Wittgensteins "what lies beyond language cannot be thought of"?

Greg said...

Thanks. Good question! If language expresses, at the very least, being and meaning, then prior to language there would still be being and meaning.

Language, depending on what the concept means, seems to me to be a tool or vehicle, not an ontology.

The access to what lies beyond language, if in fact a someone or something does, may come to us through other than language means, and then be transferred into symbols and language.

Sisyphos said...

But language will always also filter the ontology and the meaning beyond itself and shape the interpretation of it. X is reduced to "being" a hammer by calling it hammer. How can the perception of X be changed (or redeemed)? By touching it, by using it differently (suddenly it isnt just a hammer but also a weapon or etc), by imaginination of the possible different usage, by disecting it, by tearing the entity apart and seperating the parts. What else?

Now this leads me to this question: Scripture, one major source of Christianity, is a fixed entity speaking of the Other. How can the language-reductionism of the supposed Other be overcome? By touching it, by using it? By tearing it apart, by disecting it? By imagining him being different than presented in the text?

Greg said...

I believe that your first sentence is accurate - but filtering and shaping are not capable of sufficiently making isness. These very notions would not need to e mentioned if that were the case.

I think language and ontology are related and distinct. Therefore, I believe your second sentence is not accurate on two accounts: first, it is reductionistic and second, I make what is what is, turning the I into the key that unlocks what is. In some sense this is true, but on its own it goes too far and falls into hubris. I would say that the hammer is an object in the world and then it can be used for a variety of things that are part of its being an object in the world. So, no matter what 'I' use it for or call it, doesn't make it sufficiently what it is.

The language reductionism of Scripture is only one dimension of its being. In this picture, the reductionism - cultural, historical, literary, theological, etc., if this is the direction you mean, is situated and thus not overcome, yet also has another dimension of opening possibilities for reflection and life that are in one sense limited, and in another to the limit.

Perhaps, we can say, the Other is always beyond my grasp, though language helps the self to have access to the Other, without being able to give the Other isness. Hence, all the things you mention in your last sentence are valid to engage in, yet they cannot go it on their own, as insufficient, not on the level of totality, but on that of sufficiency.