Sunday, March 16, 2008

How words die

I took a course last year on the history of western thought. My professors told me many things that stuck in my mind. One was that evil is dead, according to both Nietzsche and Derrida, and the other is that we live in an age of profound skepticism.

At the time I was surprised. I wondered what the average person would say if they were told that we are profoundly skeptical. I’m still quite sure they haven’t noticed.

As a writer I am rather disturbed by the death of words. It is like finding the grave of a friend you never knew was dead.

Take morality. The Greeks, particularly the sophists, began to doubt the existence of morality. Those who lost the reality of it sought to convince others of it. It died for some that that death was spread to others until all were infected by it, then it was cut away to allow for new growth.

The trouble is that morality can die for some without dying for others. Why should reality be destroyed completely just because in one man it is dead? Why should reason be killed completely just because it is dead for me. Is it even dead for me? Yes. If I can question it it is dead. I said that dissecting an idea kills it, but it seems that the ideas are already dead when they are dissected.

Unless...unless we are like Aristotle, digging up the bulbs to look at them because they die every spring. Maybe reason will return when it is warmer and we are closer to the sun. Not for me, but for others. We are rational and we are a-rational. I must accept that I am part of the latter.

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