Monday, September 22, 2014

The Treachery of Signs (La Trahison des signes)

Every college student knows from their rhetoric professor that "everything is an argument," but what is the long, circumambulatory trail of premises that leads to this axiom? What are its socio-political and philosophical consequences?

Often ignored is the fact that language, just like photography, paintings, and television, is a medium, which indelibly filters the content that one tries to express. Usually, one thinks of a sign system (e.g. a language) as describing all of the objects that one observes in the world--but how is it that an object of experience in one language is not present in another? Does the Transcendental Signified, the pure experience of the world and its phenomena which precedes signs, actually exist? Or is reality a product of language? Consequently, different cultures (and subcultures) would experience different realities. Their respective codes would necessarily contain an intersubjective element: disallowing Nature to present herself as she is in her self, prior to man's projections, a language already possesses inherent value judgments common to its users. These determinations constitute a narrative, viz., a series of metaphors often employed in the myths and fabula of a culture, which claim to reflect absolute truth.

As a result of the mystification of language ostensible in religious texts (note the prominence of the Word) and reinforced by literature (observe the Platonism of the Romantics), members of a culture unwittingly commit themselves to a Weltanschauung, a specific manner of relating themselves to the world, which is treated as natural, objective, and absolute.

In the beginning--the Subject awakens. He is Abraham, father of all nations, whose descendants possess an irrevocable title to the Promised Land. He is a conquistador, first set foot upon the shore, who arrogates to himself this New World, which really is not new at all. He brooks, to some extent, the destruction of heathens at Sodom and Gomorrah, and the transfiguration of Lot's wife. He instigates the innumerable pogroms of natives. Caught in Maya, Man invents the simulacrum to conceal his suffering and delusion, the meaninglessness and absurdity of the life to which he cleaves. He coerces the Other/Object to compensate for his own epistemological uncertainty, frailty, and isolation. His is an uneasy hegemony, with a dilapidated foundation ready to topple the entire structure.


The largest obstacle to writing this piece was, ironically, language itself. Usually, the type of language one uses is determined by the audience. But even prior to a consideration of audience, the concern is raised that normal, everyday language is inadequate to capture higher philosophical truths. Thus, it becomes a question of whether one ought to write in a more sophisticated, technical prose, or a more poetic, versatile lyricism. Unable to give a satisfactory response to this question, the reader will find that the former style is predominant in my writing, but with elements of the latter present in the symbolism I used.

Immediately, the medium has already limited my potential audience (assuming that blogs aren't quite so common), and it is here that my writing suffered from my lack of familiarity with the medium. I have but a vague idea of the type of person who (voluntarily) uses blogs, and an even more confused understanding of the expectations of what should comprise a blog post (I imagine that my formality is out of place). Perhaps, given the above considerations, my topic was not suited to this mode of communication, in which case, my essay is merely a product of the obstinate desire to discuss whatever I please, regardless of whether or not it is practicable. My original design plan is wanting in many other respects, as well (lacking reference to the actual design), because I wrote it before I could begin work on the photo essay. I am one who must write in order to see the patterns of organization latent in my thought processes.

Based on my peers' reception (which was meager but still telling), I conjecture that the audience will be intrigued but mostly perplexed by my composition. Their understanding would be enhanced if I were to explain the philosophical foundation (the "metanarratives," underlying assumptions and unqualified premises) of my writing as well as the cultural and literary sources to which I allude. All I can say in this regard is that in the one case, the text would swell to absurd proportions, and in the other, I would be deprived of the conveniences of indirect communication (e.g. the ability to communicate multiple meanings at once). In the end, I suppose, I was driven by a creative impulse, fatigue, and ennui, commingled with an altruistic concern that others might be living their lives without being confused in the least.


Chapman, Sean M. Knolwedge (Le Savoir). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. Mediation (La Mediation). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. The Origin of Thought (L'Origine de la Pensee). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. Knolwedge Emptiness (Le Vide). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. Three Wise Men (Les Rois Mages). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. Meaning (Le Sens). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. Marginalization (La Marginalisation). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. Man (L'Homme). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. "La femme est la femme d'un homme...". 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. The Text (Le Texte). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. On flane dans le Sens. 2014. Joliet.
Derrida, Jacques. De la grammatologie. 1967. Editions de Minuit. Paris, France.
Chapman, Sean M. Le Paradis perdu (Paradise Lost). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. (Ri-en). 2014. Joliet.
Chapman, Sean M. Perspectives/Les points de vue. 2014. Joliet.


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