Monday, March 07, 2011

Questions and answers


"the ties between language and thought, on the one hand, 
and external affairs, on the other, are so pervasive that no 
aspect of thought as usually conceived is untouched. "

Donald Davidson, "Knowing One's own mind"
(Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective, 
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2001)

M. – Can it be that talking about different things we are using the same words?

W. – What do you mean?

M. – I mean exactly that: the same word, referring to different things.

W. – Can we listen to the same music, sitting for example side by side, or not, and feel different things?

M. – I guess that it’s exactly what I was trying to say.

W. – Can we look at the same person, watch the same sun and the same mountains and the same ocean and have different opinions about it all?

M. – We sure do. We do it all the time. But why are you just repeating what I say? Are you submitting me to a test?

W. – What is a test? What do you have in mind now? If I say yes it doesn’t prove that we are talking abut the same thing. The same word may have a meaning for me and another meaning for you. Depending on my intentions or on your intentions. Isn’t it what you are suggesting? I am learning with you.

M. – – Oh, darling, shut up, please. I am having enough problems already with my first question; don’t make it more difficult with your concerns. I am not thinking about any test in particular. I don’t need to test you, do I? You don't need to test me, do you?

W.  – I was trying to help. I am sorry. Did I hurt your feelings? I apologize.

M. – Don’t even talk about feelings. Or, if you prefer, we can restart our discussion with just that word. What do you mean by feelings?

W. – What are you referring to when you talk about feelings?

M. – Hmm… Do you think we can explain what we mean, you and me, by feelings? I will not even try. Sure, we know that we are not talking about oranges and strawberries, about baseball or basketball. But what else do we know? Not much more.

W. – You ask the question knowing in advance that you cannot answer it?

M. – That’s how it is, mon amour. That’s how it works. Frequently the question is also the answer.


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