Thursday, November 29, 2012

The ZigZag Café - November 29

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Does it seem to you that humans are not just interpreters of, but are interpreted by objects in the world, and texts, and works of art, and others?


Greg said...

Jason Kincaid said: I would say that interpretation itself is an action that can only be performed by cognitive beings or agents of understanding. Art, for example, doesn't actively DO anything. It just is. We can anthropomorphize it when we say that it impacts us or makes us feel a certain way, but the only literal action in that scenario is a response on the part of the viewer. In other words, when I claim that a passage or a text "speaks to me" I'm merely using a facon de parler that helps us to relate more to whatever it is that we're referring to, rather than claiming that the text itself has some literally involved, give-and-take relationship to me. I think that point can be made more clear if we change the term "interpret" to a more commonly applied verb like "judge." Surely it is not within the capacity of art or a text or any inanimate, non-mind entity to "judge" me. I therefore see no reason to ascribe volition-based action verbs to something that cannot itself think or act. So while these phrases may be useful in some universe of discourse, say within hermeneutics, I do not think that interpretation is necessarily a two way street between the self and any other object one may behold. "Other" is the exception here, since it seems to speak of other minds rather than just other objects. I may also have been using a different definition of "interpret" than you had in mind, so a univocal, non-ambiguous meaning may be required.

Greg said...

Thanks Jason. Well said. I think we agree on being interpreters of - direction out - and that we could be interpreted by another - direction in. Let me try this out. If it is as you suggest and there is no bi-direction between us and objects in the world, then when it comes to them we're solely interpreters of. But how is it that objects do not interpret us and inform us - direction in - about something of who we are and about something of what existence is like in the world? On the level of relationality, even though we are the relators, we are still spoken (metaphor) back to or perceived (metaphor) by objects, which force us to comply with their objectness. So, a text can interpret us in that it has a capacity to affirm or critique us. Likewise, a piece of music may interpret us in bringing us into another world than our own. How about a tree? Does it have any say so over who we are? I can and do interpret the tree, but I guess I could have a better or worse interpretation depending on the direction in from the tree. My wager is that we are two way streeting it all the way down. I suggest that we are "judged" by objects in the world on a continual basis. Well, I said above, I was trying this out.