Saturday, June 11, 2005
Writing vs. Talking (re: Derrida)
BLOG vs. TELEPHONE
Are you more comfortable blogging or telephoning?
Do you enjoy both?
Or do you tend to be more creative, more factual, more careful when you blog?
When you write a blog post, or post a comment on another blog, are you more exact and polished...than when you chat on the phone?
BLOG vs. FACE TO FACE
Are you more comfortable blogging...or speaking face to face with the actual presences of real people?
Does blogging allow you to fine tune your thinking?
Does blogging allow you to pay more attention to possible good and bad reactions from those you address, from your audience?
More importantly, do you tend to believe something written in a blog than "hear say", something someone says in a conversation?
DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTION
Did you know that one of the greatest, most influential philosophers of the 20th century, Jacques Derrida, pondered this question throughout his career?
Derrida asked why Western philosophy, from Plato to Hegel and beyond, asserted and assumed the Supremacy of Speech over Text.
If you like mystery novels, adventure stories, or mental puzzles, you'll love reading Derrida. His writings can be very difficult at times, and some are frankly very heavy-laden with references to other difficult philosophy texts. But Derrida is also full of fresh, original, enlightening insights that sparkle like diamond-encrusted rainbows.
I never realized how biased philosophy is against written text.
To simplify a bit, without distorting, the basic idea of the Speech Supremacists is: spoken language is closer to truth and reality, because the presence of the speaker is involved, his mind is manifested to you, with no "mediation", no "interference" of any other medium.
Thus, the Speech Supremacists think, and assert, mostly via writing (ha!), that speech is more pure, more original, more authentic, than written text.
WRITING as "INFERIOR" and "ANTI-MEMORY"
Derrida presents many of the arguments against Writing, as he questions these theories.
It's really fascinating, especially if you're a writer, or a lover of literature.
Derrida writes (in "Plato's Pharmacy", DISSEMINATION, University of Chicago Press, 1981) about early myths that display writing as an attack on "the gods" (i.e., The Powers That Pretend To Be, government and social rulers), or as an enemy of memory.
Memory? Yes, because in early oral traditions, people were accustomed to memorizing the entire Bible, Koran, Buddhist texts, folklore, fictional stories, songs, etc., much as younger people memorize rap/hip hop lyrics and chant them amongst friends.
Chant? Yes, chants, with deterministic rhythms and rhymes, made it easier to memorize, even rocking back and forth like you see Islamic and Jewish reciters do, as they recite text and prayers.
The thinking was that writing something down was creating a "crutch" for a lazy and weak mind.
Writing would weaken memorization powers, since you no longer needed memory, you had an "artificial memory system", a written textual record.
Writing is considered "revolutionary", "insurgent", "evil", "poison", "unnatural", "anarchy", "substitution" (for actual living presence of speaker), "ghostly" (the author can be long dead, yet still "speak" via text), and "supplemental" (added to speech as a lesser, inferior, non-essential item).
Did you know about all this raging controversy, throughout history, between writing and talking?
I'd love to quote multiple passages from Derrida's texts, but I think I'll let this whet your appetite. Your own research and exploration of Derrida will reward you super-abundantly. An astonishing delight.
DERRIDA DEFENDS WRITING
You've got to check out how Derrida destroys the arguments against written text.
He brilliantly cites many of the anti-text texts (ironic, huh?), then smashes them by his own original and creative intelligence, or by using their own contradictions against them.
I mean, for a philosophere to WRITE multiple volumes of TEXT about how written text is inferior to spoken language, this is surely funny, ironic, and self-defeating, is it not?
Here are a few points Derrida makes about the Supremacy of Writing over Talking:
* Writing communicates ideas faster, more accurately, and more efficiently than speech. (Ever play that "telephonic" game where you whisper a few sentences to someone, then they pass it on, down a line of people, until the last person has a totally different message than the original?)
* Writing enables "the dead to speak". Authors long since deceased still have a "voice" via text, that can be verified and enjoyed by future generations, especially before we had audio recording capabilities.
* Writing is metaphorically in DNA, visual symbolism, gestures, fashion, constellations (zodiac), and many other instances. We tend to say genetic code is "written" in DNA and not "spoken", for various reasons.
* Speech and "living memory" has problematic aspects and deficiencies inherently, prior to writing, and thus cannot be blamed on writing or text.
* Memory always requires some sort of "signs" (pictures, numbers, graphs, etc.) to re-present that which is absent.
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION?
Let's "hear" your opinion now, via your written (typed) comment or an email to me.
Have you ever thought about comparing speech to text?
Which do you like or trust more?
Is it fair to even pit one against the other?
I'm all ears, er, all eyes, ready to soak up your thinking manifested in TEXT.
vaspersthegrate [at] yahoo [dot] com
[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate
Posted by steven edward streight at 6/11/2005 01:15:00 PM