Monday Aphorism: Only Discourse

The way they have constructed their sense of human nature and of the world reduces all to discourse. Everything is a kind of talk. Knowing, thus, is analyzing talk. But how to analyze? Does it matter, how? The literary critics coming from derivations of a Hegel whose science is now reduced to talk and talk about, and the what of what it is about has disappeared. The current talk is all about “immediate consciousness,” as if anyone knows what that term means, except what anyone means it to mean.

They wanted to know how reading any particular author or text enters the mentality. Enters the mentality? Huh! Not knowing clearly how to think about mentality makes their thinking and conversation more distant, more vague, more remote. They talk about significance in some pseudo-statistical sense, not sensing what numbers might indicate, or about the contexts in which they occur…or from which they derive.

They are certain that knowledge resides in discourse…they who own discourse must own knowledge. Seeing the world through the grids and veils of how the world’s texts are interpreted, they are far away — far, far away — from anyone’s experience. This probe into (the idea of) experience is justified by stating that all of life has been interpreted through the texts of antiquity; we are its descendents in spite of our selves, whether we read or not. Do they really know that? Are we all really living out a fully packaged, textual life? Why, then, ask anyone to respond to a question: when the answer is already pre-packaged, and the knowers make it all up anyway?

Schemes of meaning, schemes of being, abounding in the ideas of textual revelation, where the only sense of time, of being, of experience is character, reader, and interpreter. The cynical metaphor likens this to some sort of anti-computer which is its own opponent.

No people, no newness, no antiquity: only discourse, talk about talk about talk about…?

  • One example of this in my work these days are software, architecture, transportation, and urban planning professionals who still see the world through their respective narrow disciplines… frozen or fixed ideas that don’t often include the experiences of people. So they continue to make software (virtual places) or cities and towns according to their norms and ideals, with little room for emergent idiosyncratic expression and participation. What this keeps reminding me is that working to create new ways of living in sustainable ways, to opt to change our experiences, is best done through local collaboration with other people in grassroots ways. How can higher education better connect with and advance this type of engaged enlightenment?

  • Harvey Sarles


    Having (tried) to co-teach a course in “Cultures of the City” a few years ago, I had exactly the experience you pointed out above: the urban “professionals” still “see the world through their respective narrow disciplines.”
    Instead, or more-so, I’ve tried to study the people/persons who hang out in the cities, and grappled with trying to discern, explore, and maybe understand who and how they (think) they are.
    A number of these explorations are located on this website, under the Foundations Project: subtitled “Identity.”
    Who we are, got to be, want to be, would-be are interesting and complicated aspects of our being, based much on our (usually) complicated experiences…and going on.
    How to embrace people, help them to embrace themselves is most tricky and interesting ground – and important parts of the foundations of our being…parts of our communities.

    As you ask: :How to get higher education to better connect with and advance this type of engaged enlightenment” – I try to engage them (and perhaps especially myself) in Teaching as a Dialogue” – where my “presence” hopefully can begin to “inspire” their futures (rather than lecture or tell via Power Point and my actual “presence” remains … vague, maybe, to them – and to myself.