Evidential markers

One of the things about studying philosophy is that it dramatically alters the way you listen to people talk. If you’re doing it right, the kind of little words and phrases that most people would scan over without consciously noticing them suddenly become show-stoppers. For example, one of the things I usually hone in on in any conversation are the little emphatic words — certainly, obviously, it’s self-evident, understandably, and so on — that mark out what the speaker is dialectically positioning as certain or obvious or needing no explanation. Logically, it’s important for structuring arguments. In a broader sense, you want to think about what sort of thought, and what sort of lived experience, is being confessed when a speaker marks out what they take as the given, the immediately comprehensible, the commonplace, the sure ground on which they stand.

For example, there’s something fascinating about the kind of life you glimpse when Woody Harrelson says, With my daughter at the airport I was startled by a paparazzo, who I quite understandably mistook for a zombie.

Emphasis mine.

(Via Jesse Walker @ Hit and Run.)

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10 replies to Evidential markers Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Andrea

    Eh, mistaking the denizens of La Guardia for shambling horrors from beyond the grave (and the TSA goons for dark necromancers marshalling their undead legions) seems entirely reasonable to me.

  2. iceberg

    I’m just curious to know if you’ve read any non-fiction by Robert Anton Wilson, especially on the topics of Alfred Korbyski’s general semantics, Non-Aristotlean logic, E-Prime, et al.

    If you have, what is your take on “quantum psychology”, e-prime, or other methods of deliberately molding the language of both your thought and speech to prevent unconscious assumptions from slipping into everyday cogitation and communication.

  3. Rad Geek

    iceberg,

    I’m afraid I haven’t (Wilson is one that I keep meaning to read; someday, I hope), so I can’t comment in too much detail.

    I will say that, while I certainly think that there’s something to be said for thinking seriously and critically about thought and speech, it’s also important to avoid a certain illusory picture of what you’re doing (there’s no such thing as a logically perfect or automatically self-disclosing language; there are only techniques for translating or elaborating languages in order to elucidate something that had previously been confused). And I think, as a general thing, that attending to unconscious assumptions, identifying them, making them manifest for yourself and others, and then, if necessary, subjecting them to rational criticism, is probably a more valuable sort of activity than trying to hold them up or strike them out entirely.

  4. iceberg

    “And I think, as a general thing, that attending to unconscious assumptions, identifying them, making them manifest for yourself and others, and then, if necessary, subjecting them to rational criticism, is probably a more valuable sort of activity than trying to hold them up or strike them out entirely.”

    Ever since being introduced to the topic of E-Prime by R.A.W., I’ve only done some reading of the related Wikipedia entries, and Drive Yourself Sane by Korbish, a disciples of Korbyski’s work.

    Part of the focus of E-Prime is curb the imprecise and ambiguous usage of identification inherent in Indo-European languages. To accomplish this, a major goal would be to discourage the usage of the word “is” and the verb “to be”. This is meant to train oneself to recognize that our discernment skills are limited and that language is subject to that same limitation– the sentiment expressed by “the map is not the territory”. I.e., instead of saying “Susan is an artist”, thus equating the concepts “Susan” and “Artist”, rephrase as such, “Susan does artistic work”.

    Also encouraged is the replacement of the concept of all-ness with some-ness. R.A.W. coined “sombunall” as a shorthand for “some, but not all”.

    By training yourself not to think in all-inclusive identification, you can hopefully stem the misinterpretation of your sensory inputs.

    A frequent annoyance to libertarians/anarchists is that their arguments against state provision of health/education/policing services, are interpreted by non-critical interlocutors as arguments against ALL health/education/policing services.

    By tempering the all-ness common to language, this can hopefully lead to more rational discourse, like how many Walmarts can dance on the head of a pin in a freed market ;)

  5. Gabriel

    I have to admit to some sympathy for celebrities who punch these jerk paparazzi. I don’t know if what the reporters are doing is force, but I won’t be shedding any tears for that sleaze-bag cameraman or his broken camera. Harassing people for profit is something that shouldn’t happen.

  6. Roderick T. Long

    Are female paparazzi called mamarazzi?

  7. Mike Gogulski

    I’m so tempted to make a vaguely Harrelson-connected in-joke incorporating baked mamarazzo stuffed with cheese, but I won’t.

· August 2009 ·

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