Levinas and Weinberger

In jest, I offer my dissertation in two quotes. The other pages are just filler.

Levinas on difference as the foundation of the subject:

Reason makes human society possible; but a society whose members would be only reasons would vanish as a society. What could a being entirely rational speak of with another entirely rational being? Reason has no plural; how could numerous reasons be distinguished? (Totality and Infinity 119)

Dave Weinberger on how the digital "fractures" knowledge:

In conversation we think out loud together, trying to understand. The noise this makes is very different from the scratch of a philosopher's ink on paper. Paper drives thought into our heads. The Web releases thoughts before they're ready so we can work on them together. And in those conversations we hear multiple understandings of the world, for conversation thrives on difference. Traditionally, difference has been a sign that knowledge hasn't been reached: There can be only one knowledge because the world is one way and not any other. But there will always be multiple conversations and thus multiple understandings. We're never going to stop talking with one another, silenced by the single, unified, true, inescapable, and final knowledge of all that is.

I love Weinberger. He continues to point out that we'd be hard pressed to identify when the stable, unifying knowledge ever existed. But I do build off of his quote to warn that, when we work on the web, we aren't necessarily "working" toward a singular understanding. The work we do is different--we're working on the rhetorical bridge that keeps the conversation together, maintaining kairos, and shaping you in response to me (in response to you and in response to me, obligated to you, obligated to me).


Casey said...

It seems like your first headline isn't quite right: instead of "Levinas on difference as the foundation of the subject," isn't the more proper headline, "Levinas on irrationality as the foundation of the subject?"

Maybe it's just a function of focus... I might be looking at the wrong side of the coin here.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

yeah, I probably use those terms as interchangeable (difference / irrationality)--but that's in large part due to the conversations I'm drawing from (i.e., Derrida develops "difference" in a particular way, rejecting the Platonic / Hegelian (sp?) bent toward synthesis).

Perhaps a better term (Nathaniel stresses this a lot) is non-rationality as opposed to irrationality. This is what Grassi's Rhetoric as Philosophy is good for: a discussion of how the beginnings of any philosophy (be it of the subject, Truth, happiness, democracy, etc.) advances from a primary supposition of "the rational." But all suppositions are essentially non-rational (something can't be irrational until a rational is already in place). Its a deconstructive move...

Casey said...

"Non-rational" makes some sense -- difference is fine, even irrationality is fine. But isn't the one word you're trying not to utter simply "Faith?" So the beginning of any philosophy advance from... Faith, does it not?

But after all, we couldn't say "Faith is the foundation of the subject." This is academia! We're not silly like Christians!

But then, what exactly is a "consumer confidence index" if it's not a measure of a collective subject's faith...?