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September 13, 2016


Dr. M


You write " Before she understood language, she could not symbolically differentiate “mug” and “water;” but after she recognized the difference, she was able to perceive the world differently. "
That's a key point. Without a firm concept that can be detached from the circumstances, it's impossible to know what is being "picked out" or "abstracted" in a given situation. I could dip your hand in a mug of water and spell out "water" on your hand, but if you don't yet know what a concept is, you would be confused. What did the spelling mean? If I spelled it again, would you expect the mug, water, the act of dipping? As I said in class, a dog, who can't "abstract" the concept of number can be shown four balls, four bowls of food, four bones, four leashes, etc. and never be able to "abstract" the common concept---"fourness" from those situations. At the fountain, Keller finally grasps that the spelling of water gives her not water itself, but the name for it, so she can now possess the idea of water and bring it to her self (and others) whenever she wants.

And as I said in class, you were right to pick up on the way Keller connects the possession of language and abstract thought to moral sensibility and responsibility. It's rendered in a rather melodramatic way, but the point is very important and valid.

I agree with your contention that Langer needs some qualifications to her statement about "perfect exchanges of ideas." That's an idea situation that science and mathematics strives for, but never actually attainable. All forms of human communication, no matter how "abstract" or "pure" (like mathematics) are subject to distortions and biases. Everything that reveals also conceals.

Grade 3

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Media Ecology Quote of the Day

  • “Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials. . . . When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility. ― Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

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