Saturday, August 04, 2007

BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | Venezuela's four-legged mobile libraries

BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | Venezuela's four-legged mobile libraries

"A university in Venezuela is using a novel method to take books into remote communities and encourage people to read. As James Ingham reports, the scheme is proving a great success."

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sobriety Test at 150 Miles Up

Lit Up for Liftoff? - Charles Krauthammer, WaPo

For once, I actually agree with Krauthammer. This is a rare day indeed.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Free Arms!

M.I.A.: 190,000 Guns Given to Iraqi Forces - The Danger Room

Oh yeah, I'm just brimming with confidence over the whole 'freedom in the Middle East' thing. I think I'll go hit a cat now.

Monday, July 30, 2007

What's My Intent?

Defending Intentionalism - Neil the Ethical Werewolf, Ezra Klein

I think our dear ethical werewolf has missed something in his study of literary theory and the philosophy of language. I don't buy into the idea that authorial intent is the be-all, end-all of meaning. Neil takes the attitude that by examining the intent of the author one will find the correct meaning of a word, sentence, or even a whole text. The problem with such an attitude however, is that you don't always have the option of examining authorial intent, and indeed, the author's intent exists primarily within the mind of the author. No one will know what the meaning is until someone asks and then we begin the process of sorting it out from the author's remarks. Intentionalism strikes me as far too limiting as it has difficulty taking in the whole range of reality. Yes, authorial intent is important if one is attempting to deduce the real meaning of a text but that is not the only meaning available. Take one look at the competing interpretations of Nietzsche and you'll see how authorial intent tends to go by the wayside almost instantly. Meaning is contextual and language is a public act. In other words, meaning doesn't exist solely within the author. It takes a reader or a participant in a conversation for meaning to attach. The author uses a language who's meaning has already been generally decided on and fixed to a particular time and place. The language existed before the author so the only thing the author can do is provide new and different meanings for certain words or strings of words. But that meaning won't exist for anyone else until the author tells them, makes it explicit. Otherwise the reader is left to figure out the meaning for themselves. And what the reader relies upon is the contextual evidence, both within the text itself, within the reader's understanding of the author and within the wider culture at the time. Now most of the time the reader gets the meaning right but with more complex texts or intentionally obscure texts, the reader must begin the process of deciding what possible and probable meanings exist. Literature, and particularly poetry, is all about expanding the mind and creating events that would not exist in the everyday world and the everyday language. But the author cannot be there with every reader at the time the reader is reading. So, for the most part, the reader is on their own. So while the real and true meaning might exist only with the author, the meaning as understood by the wider world exists with the readers. Intentionalism misses that point rather blatantly.