March 15, 2009

This way lies fascism: an OUTLAW’s lament (cont.) [UPDATED]

So long as we’re talking about code words and “who decides” what interpretation is best, let me add a few points to help combat the creeping fascism that comes with certain ideas about how language works.

To do so, let me quote from an example left in the comments to a post at Patterico’s that seeks to explain to us “What words mean”:

Words not only mean different things in different contexts but can mean different things to different people even in the same context — hence one finds complaints by some that someone’s message is tinged with racial bias where others just can’t see it because words carry not just dictionary meanings but histories. A boy calls his dog to him by saying,”Come here, boy!”. A father calls his son to him by saying, “Come here, boy!” A group of good old boys saying to a black man, “Come here, boy!” Whatever connotations the first two might evoke in people, the third is likely to carry an entirely different meaning than the first two and if the reader/hearer happens to be black with a memory and experience and knowledge of generations of racial hatred and abuse, it is unlikely that any amount of explanation is going to make the last sound innocent of racial bigotry.

To anyone who has read and understood my arguments on language and intent over the years, this example provides a textbook illustration of the kind of interpretive paradigm favored by (leftist) poststructuralists bent on turning meaning into a war of wills. Worse, it has succeeded in insinuating itself into the mainstream of linguistic practice: when people think of how interpretation works, they often think along these lines.

I have argued for years that in accepting such an interpretative paradigm, we are allowing those for whom it is propitious to advocate for a breakdown of a common ground for meaning to control the linguistic playing field: when meaning becomes “relative” — when it “belongs” to the receiver of the message rather than the author or utterer who has intended to mean, and who (rightfully) expects those claiming to interpret him to appeal to what it is he meant — who controls meaning becomes a battle purely of will and power. And in a battle of wills, strength lies with groups, particularly those who form around a shared interpretation and a shared group narrative. Hence, we’re introduced to the idea of “intepretive communities” who not only seize control of meaning, but who then regulate it — by deciding who is “authentic” enough to understand the meaning they themselves have created, and by bracketing those who they then claim don’t have the requisite bona fides to offer alternative readings.

But let’s get back to the example left by one of Patterico’s commenters. In introducing the example, he writes: “Words not only mean different things in different contexts but can mean different things to different people even in the same context […]”. This sounds reasonable on its face, but what, precisely, is being argued here?

To say that words can mean different things to different people even in the same context is to confuse a couple of important issues. First, for a word to be a word, it must have first been signified. Which is to say, we believe we are engaging words in the first place because we believe someone — some agency — has intended to communicate, and in doing so, he has turned a simple sound form (or, in the case of written texts, a squiggle or mark) into language by having attached to it a signified, the thing that gives the now completed sign its (fixed) meaning.

If we didn’t assume such signification took place, we’d have no reason to assume we were dealing with language at all. Which is why when one argues that “words can mean different things to different people even in the same context,” one is really arguing that one can make signifiers do different things in a given context based on their own intent to mean — all the while, ignoring that what they are presuming to resignify by adding their own intent has already been signified by the author or utterer, and so already means.

In the simplest terms, taking someone else’s signs, ignoring their meaning, and then adding your own meaning in place of the original meaning, is NOT interpretation. Interpretation requires that the receiver attempt to decode the message sent by the author. It does not justify replacing the author’s message with one of your own creation and then pretending what you’ve done is anything other than engaged in a bit of creative writing.

In the example presented by Patterico’s commenter, The danger is that if the reader/hearer happens to be black with a memory and experience and knowledge of generations of racial hatred and abuse — and yet the person he hears calling out “boy” is a child calling his dog by saying, “Come here, boy!” — the black person is not permitted to assume ownership of the child’s meaning.[**]

What the commenter is echoing in his example is the Derridean idea that a signifier (“boy”) is haunted by the ghost of all its potential signifieds, all the concepts that have been attached to “boy” since that particular sound form or squiggle has been used, ever. Which, it necessarily follows, charges the child with the impossible task of keeping all those potential concepts in his mind each time he utters a word so that he can negotiate a minefield wherein someone somewhere might misconstrue his intent and declare his meaning to be something other than it was.

Naturally, this perverts how we mean. When the child yelled “boy” he was not using a signifier, though that’s what the black person may have heard. Instead, the child was using a sign — a word — the signifier “boy” attached to the referent, his dog.

The child meant his dog. The fact that the black man can hear “boy”and attach his own baggage to it doesn’t give him the right to claim that the baggage belongs equally to the child, or that the child’s word meant something other than it did.

Once we begin to countenance such perversions of what it means to mean, we begin to allow others to speak for us.

And then, lord help us if the child goes wandering around looking for his spade. Why, he’d be lynched for his intolerance!

I should have thought that anyone claiming to understand how intentionalism works would have recognized the linguistic traps being set this kind of perversion of what it mean to “interpret.” But I was wrong.

Because in response to my explanation, Patterico was quick to correct me, thus [emphases mine]:

I like the dog example.

Say the boy wants to call to his dog. He knows that the black man is there, likely to take offense if he yells “Come here, boy!” So he considers yelling “Come here, Rover!” instead.

He explains the problem to his dad. What should his dad advise him?

That he can say the same thing without offending the black man, by yelling “Come here, Rover!”

Or that he should never change what he is going to say because of a possible negative reaction from someone?

Is it relevant to the answer whether the black man’s anticipated reaction is reasonable or in good faith? E.g. if he doesn’t know the boy is calling a dog, vs. he does know?

Also: say the boy chooses the “Come here, boy!” phraseology, and the black man gets angry. Should the boy explain: “hey, didn’t mean to offend, I was calling my dog. Sorry there was a misunderstanding.”  Or should he be defiant: “Hey, that’s not what I meant! How dare you try to steal my meaning!” because he knows he means the dog, and by God, it’s not his fault!

Does that depend on whether the black man’s reaction is reasonable or in good faith?

And say we don’t know whether the boy meant to offend or not, but just before he yells it, he tells his friend: “atch this. This should generate a fight.” Clue to his intent?

This response left me quite literally agog: first, just how would the child know that the man is likely to take offense? Or does it not occur to Patterico that, in allowing that it is reasonable to take offense in the first place, he is perpetuating and enabling an idea of language that puts the speaker always at the mercy of the interpreter who Patterico isn’t even requiring to interpret insofar as he can claim offense without having to worry about taking the child’s intent into question?

The problem here — and this is one that Patterico doesn’t seem to understand — is that the black man is reacting, not interpreting. He has resignified the child’s mark to suit his own purposes, which means that he and the child are no longer even arguing over the same signs. And so they are no longer even arguing over the same text. Why should anyone privilege the “reaction” of the receiver over the intent of the author when the receiver feels no need whatever to divine the intent of the author to begin with?

Why would we even pretend that he is “interpreting” when he has made no effort to divine the author’s meaning?

There is nothing wrong with being solicitous of other’s feelings. That’s courtesy. But if you choose not to be courteous — and in today’s political climate, it often helps to make the point forcefully — that doesn’t mean you are somehow required to take responsibility for someone else’s desire to take your meaning and pervert it, then lay claim to it.

As my Bennett example showed, this procedure of finding offense can happen no matter how careful you are. As the Snow example showed, someone can even concede your intent, then still turn around and argue that the signifiers (not the signs, or words) you chose could potentially offend someone, and that you should therefore have found another way of saying the thing.

If Patterico and others who continue to follow this interpretive model can’t see how such concessions chill speech — putting us constantly on the defensive and forcing us to chose our words with the care of someone traversing a PC minefield — I don’t think there is anything left to discuss. Clearly, Patterico and his supporters haven’t understood what I’ve been saying, and for all his protestations to the contrary, his claim that this entire discussion of “What words mean” isn’t a rehashing of arguments over Rush Limbaugh’s choice of phrasing, rings hollow, especially given that Pat’s been intent on circling back around to the argument that the speaker really must watch what he says, because “reasonable” people might corrupt his meaning — the answer to which “problem” is to be less provocative and always more precise, with precision defined as couching your language in such a way that it becomes difficult to be taken out of context. And falling into that trap means you have allowed your enemies to control your means of expression.

It is, in short, an extended call to lose the war more slowly.

— Which, ask Bill Bennett how that worked out for him.

****
Related: and speaking of code words and intent

The right will lose this battle if they continue to play the game under the left’s rules.

Your assignment: explain why that is, and how this works to undermine an idea of meaning upon which we can base a coherent mode of communication.

As mal wrote in the comments to over at Patterico’s:

Pat, you’ve just nailed down precisely why there is such a profound and important debate that needs to be had around this question. That someone could have (presumably) read Hayek, Orwell, et al. and actually praise the “boy” argument is a testament to how easy it is for those who would defend liberty to be seduced by grand designs that can only serve to undermine liberty.

Your “reasonable” gambit is exactly that, a gambit. Any attempt to apply some kind of linear system to applied interpretation is an invitation for said system to be gamed. The only means to safeguard liberty is agency. It’s brilliant because it diffuses responsibility for interpretation to, y’know, individuals. I will not sacrifice my right to mean what I mean in the face of someone’s “reasonable” claim to the contrary. That way lies fascism.

I mean, it is simply untenable to claim anything else. As soon as you supplant authorial intent with anything (reasonable or no), you have made agency practically impossible. Only in a world filled with angels can you do something like this because people lust for power and they will subvert any exogenous system.

Yes! Interpretation is fraught with peril! That doesn’t mean you can outsource responsibility for actually doing the interpreting to some convention or set of axioms. You’ve got to actually do the interpreting and it must consist in the primacy of intent or it’s not interpreting, it’s creative writing – or worse, newspeak.

****
(h/t Terry H)

****
[**]update: In rereading the paragraph I quoted from a commenter over at Patterico’s site, it is clear that it was not he who introduced the scenario in which a child yelling “boy” at his dogs exists, or was even intended to exist, within the same context as the elderly black man being present to hear it. In fact, my misreading of the last line of the paragraph probably contributed to bringing that scenario under discussion.

I mention this in the interest of fairness, and I apologize for attributing that to him. However, I also note that this error of attribution doesn’t change the thrust of the argument in any way.  In his example, good old boys calling a black man “boy” would provide cues to intent not available in the other instances.  What I spoke to here in the post with respect to that particular comment had to do with the faulty Derridean idea of the privileged signifier, an idea that provided the theoretical framework for the commenter’s argument that “words not only mean different things in different contexts but can mean different things to different people even in the same context.” Yet, pace the commenter’s review of potential scenarios, there are plenty of instances one can imagine of a group of “good ol’ boys” (how’s that for a potential slur?) addressing a black male as “boy” and not having the comment as a matter of course be taken as a racial slur. That is, unless we believe the propensity for such offense is inherent in black DNA: eg., the “good ol’ boys” are friends with the black man, and the use is familiar and a kind of in-joke among the group; or they are using the designation ironically; or their inflection was such that it was clear they meant no such offense, and etc.

Too, the reason the black man would take offense, in the scenario the commenter paints, is either because he believes offense was intended (in which case we’re dealing with an intentionalist argument) or else he doesn’t, but he recognizes that there is power to be derived from assuming the role of the aggrieved. In that case, he is no longer interpreting — and he is attaching his meaning to the signifiers of the good ol’ boys, and then attaching the racist text he has written to those whom he has already decided didn’t.

Still, what I found remarkable (and still do) was that when the scenario was reworked so that it became about the child, the dog, and the black man together in the same context, Patterico began looking for ways to protect the listener against conceivable offense by looking for ways in which the child might change his utterance.

****
See also, “Is Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Patrick Frey anti-semitic”?

Posted by Jeff G. @ 12:24pm
560 comments | Trackback

Comments (560)

  1. Jeff, it’s even worse than that. Because the Left is trying to claim that they can know your intent, and they should be able to have the government punish you for it. Since they obviously don’t have the stones to do it themselves. This is one reason the Left wants to take over language; as long as they keep it on the level of words, they can lie and obfuscate and never have to admit defeat. Pretty hard to misinterpret a punch in the jaw, or claim you won after they wire it shut.

  2. DIfficulty. One of the reasons it is reasonable to presume an offended reaction in the “boy” example, is that “boy” was and IS used as appellation for black men who are reduced to children by that use of language. It was in history and still can be in the present day, used that way deliberately:
    1. with malice, knowing that it can given offense,
    2. with little idea that offense will be given but with the offensive-to-the-vblack man meaning ( i.e. he’s always heard black men referred to in this way and thinks that is how you are SUPPOSED to refer to them, maybe even with the subtext that black men are like boys.)

    Since real impolitesse may be comitted in this fashion, why is it absolutely untenable for the hearer to be offended?

  3. As you pointed out: who is the boy addressing? And interpretation comes after the original transmission is made. Is it a correct interpretation or an incorrect one? Because if all interpretation is left to the receiver no matter what the transmitter meant, then every student in every literature class deserves an ‘A’ no matter what they said; i.e. Great Expectations is about 19th century British wedding protocol – give me my A.

    Yet it doesn’t quite work that way. It is about replacing the transmitters’ meaning with a fixed (pre-determined) meaning, and no other meaning. All interpretations are not equal, some interpretations are to take precedence over others. I do not see this ending until someone calls someone out, and threatens to place a fist to a jaw for the insult – the Buckley response, as it were.

    Probably multiple fists to the jaw will be required.

  4. That is to say ” boy may be used innocently,

    or innocently in an inappropriate way
    or inappropriately in an inappropriate way
    or with frank malice and a desire to insult of provoke

    How is any the hearer to decide but by a test of reasonableness

    and why is cultural convention completely irrelevent?

    I don’t ask these questions to express my own feeling, but I think they are legitimate questions.

  5. From now on I’m going to become grievously offended by anyone who changes the intentions of my significations. “HOW DARE YOU THINK I MEANT THAT, YOU BIGOT!!” I am prepared to be offended.

  6. SarahW

    The listener can be offended .. that is neither untenable nor unrealistic .. but it can be unreasonable. It is therefore the responsibility and the obligation of the listener to examine his or her own emotional reaction to someone else’s intent.

    I would SO like to write up and explain a perfect on-point case I am currently going through at work but I need to refrain until the situation has been resolved.

  7. and why is cultural convention completely irrelevent

    I am offended that you believe my cultural conventions include any such use of the word “boy” as a pejorative. Your prejudices are noted, and I will forever question your ability to speak honestly to such matters, Sarah, as, obviously, your heart is dark with hatred. Obviously.

  8. The lazy listeners lament – I must always take the meaning that gives offense else not only must I seek the intent meant (which is, like, work), I must give up the power that the lazy route gives me.

  9. SarahW

    If the “offended” person discovers the innocent situation (boy is calling his dog, black man is not any part of the action) and is STILL OFFENDED and ACTS on that offense, then the offended person is out of line and needs to be challenged.

  10. Since real impolitesse may be comitted in this fashion, why is it absolutely untenable for the hearer to be offended?

    You can take offense to whatever you’d like. Blaming others for that offense when you haven’t bothered to consider their intent is privileging your emotions over their speech and meaning. And it is doing so without even reacting to their words. Instead, you are reacting to their signifiers, imbuing them with the meaning you intend, and then affixing blame to them based on your meaning, not theirs.

    Difficulty: YOU ENGINEERED THE OFFENSE, BECAUSE YOU WROTE THE TEXT THAT OFFENDS.

    and why is cultural convention completely irrelevent

    When have I EVER argued that.

    Convention provides clues to intent. But one can break from convention, and in this example, you seem to think that we must worry about every conceivable conventional use of the word at once.

    That’s why I brought up the spade example. It is silly to try to take into account every conceivable way a word has ever been used before uttering it.

    I’m sorry that you can’t seem to get your head around this, Sarah, but there’s really not much more I can say to disabuse you of the ways you seem to conceive language working. Fact is, most people have learned that there is power in claiming to interpret their own way, so long as we allow it. I don’t believe most of them are truly offended. They just recognize that, taken a certain way, they can create offense by resignifying the marks and rewriting the text.

    That way lies power. And the shutting down of speech. And fascism.

  11. Instead, you are reacting to their signifiers, imbuing them with the meaning you intend, and then affixing blame to someone else.

    Add to the process a lust for political power and all speech becomes game for manipulation towards that end. Automatically, discussion of meaning is not possible and debate is silenced because the offensive words could not have been spoken except to offend.

  12. This is retarded. From the example, it isn’t even clear that the child was aware of the black man. He is playing with his dog for crying out loud!

    Now, if he we addressing the black man and said,”blah, blah…boy…blah, blah,” then said black man might have a better claim that his interpretation (malicious intent on the child’s part) was correct.

    I mean, there are black men everywhere. Does that mean that no white person anywhere can ever say “boy” again?

  13. SarahW

    Please see my post Medical Malice (just prior to this post) where the UK NHS uses the word “invites” in regards to pap smears. Nice, friendly word there, but that “invites” is really a “all others need not apply”. It is a word used with an exclusionary intent.

    Regardless of how warm and friendly the word, the NHS’s intent makes it anything but.

  14. Jeff,

    You need a spot on Fox (where else will this message be heard?) for calling out the moronic (Maher), the dissembling (Dyson) and the downright dishonest (Axelrod). I just don’t see, or hear, enough counter-offensive.

  15. Take a laugh break and see how WH press sec Robert Gibbs (via Lileks) interprets Jake Tapper’s questions…

  16. Well, SW, it’s tough to get that kind of exposure when your own “side” freezes you out — or even in some cases suggests that your motivation for entering the fray (years of postings on the same topic notwithstanding) is because you are angling for a gig in the NYT that you weren’t even aware was available, and which you’d turn down even were it offered you.

    I’ve made a lot of enemies on the right, because it is controlled by a GOP that is hostile to “idealistic” or “extremist” conservatives. Evidently, I fit that bill.

    In fact, I had to go directly to Michelle to get the Hot Air piece; I though it was important to give my position an audience the same size as the one that was being granted those who were refusing to address my points — and who are still, in most cases, refusing to mention me by name.

    Incidentally, and while we’re on the subject, let me add that once Patterico accepted the dog/boy example, I removed myself from the discussion over there. If he wishes to write on “What words mean,” it seems to me he should first understand what a word is, and what makes it a word to begin with. I’m not convinced that’s the case.

    More, I am growing increasingly frustrated trying to find ways to make this argument that resonate with those who seem dead set on keeping alive their own power to make things mean what they want them to mean.

    I should think the example of the child looking for his spade might have worked, but who knows? Perhaps I’ll be told that, given that there was black man in the area, and because historically this word has been used pejoratively, the child should have perhaps been more sensitive and instead asked for his “triangular tipped, short-length hand held gardening implement.”

  17. Also, as we have seen on campuses, the range of language that “offends” certain priveledged groups is growing geometrically. By including the “spade” reference, Jeff reminds us that it’s not just one word (“boy”) that the black man can seize upon for power.

    When we think of the present state of things wherein our right to free speech is being intruded upon by “progressives,” we may think of it as a nuisance. And perhaps one of the reasons Patterico thinks we should choose other ways of saying “I hope he fails” is because there are so many other ways of saying it. However, as the left lays claim to larger and larger chunks of our language, they WILL make expressing our ideas and challenging theirs impossible because all of our linguistic tools will be “beyond the pale.”

    The only answer to the man offended by the “boy” reference is:

    You don’t get to say what I mean. You can ask me, you can try to understand it, but only I give it meaning. Furthermore, I see through your brazen attempt to gain power over me by assigning me racist motives. I reject those premises. I reject your “interpretation.” If there’s a racist in this room, it’s you.

  18. Sarah W.

    Interpretation is the key. What happens to the original interpretation when the dog runs up and gets its ears scratched? Is that interpretation valid or is another interpretation more likely?

    And what is to be done with the original interpretation when the evidence points to another interpretation? Especially if the original interpretation is insisted on when the other evidence points elsewhere? Should an interpretation be indulged in when it is counter to all other evidence, and/or is an interpretation that suits that interpreter and his particular views? Those that argue for indulging that interpretation do not, I think, realize the danger they put themselves in – for if all expression is to be judged by the listener alone, and the listener to have all authority to judge expression, then all are in danger to the fickle winds of interpretation and politics.

    If you got a ouija board handy, ask Robespierre how The Terror worked out. /sarc off/

  19. Rosanne Barr famously called Arsenio Hall a “triangle-headed Eddie Murphy kiss-ass motherfucker”. Also, black slaves were used as agricultural labor.

    So, you’re arguing that “uppity” blacks like Arsenio should be returned to slavery.

    Nice.

  20. I know what SarahW means kinda. I use monkey a lot very multipurposely. You call me and I say “monkey!” Or “hey monkey!” I have no idea why. But I have few black friends because black people hate me. So one of my few ones, she called me from NY after dropping off the face of the earth and I said monkey! And she said you called me monkey and I’m going to choose to to hear that as an endearment because I love you. It was really embarrassing. I wish she would come home so I could take her out to dinner.

  21. Reminds me of Man Rule For Women #18:

     

    If something we said can be interpreted two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

  22. Mikey NTH —

    I go further than that. I reject the idea that what the black man has done, in order to take offense, is an “interpretation” at all. To interpret — that is, to try to decode the message — you must first believe it IS a message. And you do so by believing some agency meant something.

    Unless you are trying to appeal to what that agency meant, you aren’t interpreting. You are using signifiers to rewrite things in a way that YOU intend.

    That is not interpretation. It is creative writing — only it is creative writing made easy because the marks are already provided you. So, like, no writer’s block!

  23. I think the ultimate illustration of the contradiction of leaving things to the interpretive power of the offended listener came from a lawsuit filed by two black passengers on a Southwest Airlines flight. When a flight attendant said: “Eenie, meenie, minie, mo, pick a seat, we gotta go”, they claimed they were offended, and that one of them even suffered seizures. The flight attendant in question was only familiar with the less controversial versions of the rhyme, using the word “tiger”.

    The suit was ultimately resolved in favor of Southwest, and provided a lot of talk-show fodder. I was encouraged by the reaction of an elderly black panelist on one such show who pointed out that the fact that the flight attendant had never heard the N-word version was itself a sign of progress. Isn’t it a good thing that the attendant had never been exposed to the n-word version, or that a boy calling out to his dog has never heard a grown man referred to as “boy” in a demeaning way?

    The problem is that the only way you can teach your kids that the “tiger” versions of the rhyme can be interpreted as racist is to tell them the version with the n-word in it. The only way you can teach your kids not to say the word “boy” around a black man is to teach them the ugly meaning of the word in that context.

    Think about that for a moment. You have to teach your kids racist ideas to teach them not to be racist. You have to perpetuate the idea of blacks as sub-human in order to not perpetuate the idea…

    “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.”

  24. It’s a lot like how Ric Caric person called me homophobic just cause I called Jon Stewart fruity. You just can’t take Ric Caric person seriously when he says stuff like that. Like there’s a more better word for Jon Stewart.

  25. What about communication in the opposite direction? If a black man calls out to me, “Hey, Cracka,” it’s a Federal “O”ffense for me as a white caucasian man to take umbrage to that comment.

  26. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

    See this was Baracky really trying hard to do the Full Patterico. Instead of saying “stupid hick racist Pennsylvania crackers” he changed what he was going to say because of a possible negative reaction from someone.

    Fail. He still got elected pezzydent though.

  27. Fail. He still got elected pezzydent though.

    That’s what I’m talking about, feets. We need someone other than the lachrymose Mr Beck on nationwide to give the lying liars a hard time.

  28. …then there’s always the chance that the reader/hearer makes no attempt to interpret, engage, or otherwise divine meaning.

    What then, signifier?

  29. Might I interject the “Principle of Charity” into the discussion? Here’s a wiki for anyone interested in it, which wiki, while not a complete coverage of the topic, is nevertheless (applying the principle itself) good enough for most purposes.

  30. Automatically, discussion of meaning is not possible and debate is silenced because the offensive words could not have been spoken except to offend.

    Exactly right.

    A bit of confession–I once thought this way and actively used it in my political arguments.

    In the example of the child and the dog, a black man’s presence is not required. Just the presence of a sufficientely enlightened individual who will explain to the child that he should never refer to teh dog as “boy.” Give him the racist subtext as a reason, that by refering to teh dog as “boy” he is, knowingly or not, placing black men on par with dogs generally, and let him know that simply by perpetuating this he adds to the racism in the world. A future Young Republican who will always avoid “offense” has been created as a “worst case” and best case, he’s been recruited into the liberal left.

  31. I think… I really do think that’s what YouTube is for, SW. Cable news is gay. And I mean that in a very not homophobic way.

    ohnoes. Sometimes I call dogs monkey too. Also, cats.

  32. I even call my turtles watermonkeys now that I think of it.

  33. HOW DARE YOU, RTO!

    NO ONE IS CONCEDING LINGUISTIC GROUND (drink!) HERE! INSTEAD, THEY ARE MERELY ARGUING FOR PERFECT CLARITY AT ALL TIMES SO AS TO AVOID CONFUSION AT ALL TIMES FROM PEOPLE ACTIVELY LOOKING TO CREATE CONFUSION AND SOW DIVISIVENESS!

    THESE THINGS ARE NOT THE SAME! (apologies for my tone. I mean no offense. Forgive me. I retract. Nevermind. Oh, look! — bunnies!)

  34. OK, so I saw a big black guy wearing a T that said
    I know you see me
    HI
    HATER

    And I, the skinny whitish boy, have a T that says
    Whitey will pay

    Are either of these offensive, or meant to offend?
    I can tell you that when I wear my shirt, white kids giggle and say ‘only a white boy could wear a shirt like that’, but when the black guy wears his, everyone averts their eyes and assumes an uncomfortable silence.

    But are those the reactions that are *sought* by each wearer?
    I would argue yes.

  35. BWAHAHAHA

    Dear Mainstream Media:

    I’m a conservative who believes that other conservatives are fat, drug-stuffed, money-grubbing warthogs like Rush Limbaugh, or scary inbred backwoods retards like Sarah Palin.

    So can I please be your go-to guy whenever you need a conservative viewpoint? […]

    We need to get past old conservative policies, such as those signed into law by President Clinton, that assumed welfare is counterproductive. We should expand welfare in a conservative way. Instead of calling welfare checks initiative-crushing poverty-reinforcing handouts, we should call them “Freedom Opportunity Vouchers.” […]

    Like all conservatives, I believe in sticking to the original intent of the framers of the Constitution, and that intent was to guarantee a nationwide right to gay marriage and unlimited abortion by using secretly embedded code words that no one would correctly interpret for 200 years. Think “The Da Vinci Code.”

  36. The Charity thing seems like it has more situational than general application. In real life though what will happen is for dirty socialist Democrats the most charitable interpretation will rule. For Rs though the interpretation of the least charitable commentator will win the day. You see this with Baracky’s dirty socialist media all the time.

    Worse case it reads like a good rope-a-dope strategy until the stupid Republican lets his guard down then WHAM!

  37. Ah, offensive t-shirts.

    I have one that I have long avoided wearing in public because I got tired of the debates it would engender.

    It says:
    God is dead. -Neitzsche
    Neitzsche is dead. -God

    One of the best questiosn this generated, was “So, is that pro or anti?”
    “Pro or anti, what?” I asked.
    “Christ,” was the reply.

    I just answered that it said nothing about Christ at all.

    So now I gotta go find my t-shirt and hang out at Wal-Mart. OUTLAW!

  38. 01000001010000010100000101000001
    01000001010000010100000101000001

    What does that mean?

    It could mean:

    The ASCII text string “AAAAAAAA”.

    It could mean:

    The integer 4702111234474983745.

    It could mean:

    The 4702111234474983745th word in a (very large) dictionary.

    It could mean:

    The current pattern set on an array of 80 on-off switches.

    It could mean:

    Some random number in IEEE floating point format.

    It could mean:

    One specific element of a set of cardinality ~1.20892582 × 10^24. 80 bits lets us distinguish between ~1.20892582 × 10^24 different things, so we can encode many things in 80 bits.

    So, which does one it really mean? Any. All. As it stands, it is a pure symbol (a “mark” in Jeff’s terminology). If we (or our computer) receives this message, how are we to decide which of the (countably infinite) different encodings is correct? The only honest choice is the encoding that the sender imposed when it generated the message.

    If the sender is transmitting ASCII text, and we’re “interpreting” the message to be floating point numbers, we are simply WRONG. There’s nothing for it. We’re just wrong. The message doesn’t suddenly become a floating point number just because we say it is, or because we think (or claim to think) that it is.

    From a pragmatic perspective, it’s a good idea for the sender (or the person writing to the documentation for the sender) to say “Hey, I’m going to be sending you ASCII text”, but that has nothing to do with the actual meaning. The meaning doesn’t change, whether the receiver understands it or not. In the absence of such documentation, we may attempt various methods to discern the meaning (the crypto guys are really good at this), but they’re just that: attempts. If our proposed symbol->meaning map does not match the one used by the sender, we have FAILED.

    The situation where the receiver claims that its (wildly divergent) “interpretation” of the message is “just as valid” as the one imposed by the sender is even more FULL OF FAIL. As Jeff has pointed out repeatedly, there is no communication whatsoever in such a case. The receiver might as well be generating the bits by throwing dice, since any semantic content deriving from the sender has been discarded.

    It’s difficult to see how anyone could see that as anything other than dishonest.

  39. Quoting P.’s originating commenter, from a new response to P’s hypothetical series:

    My only point is that a black man is inevitably going to hear the word boy differently than a white man.

    Inevitably. Hmmmph. I’d say that’s game over, wouldn’t you?

  40. I think the principle was formulated with a universal application in mind hf, rather than a situational one, though I suppose under some reading “getting at the truth” could be construed as situational.

  41. It’s a great principle but they already employ that for dirty socialists already is all I mean.

  42. I love that t-shirt I’d never heard that before.

  43. Ah, yes you did hf and I failed to take it in. A double standard already employed. Yes. Exactly.

    That’s the problem we want to overcome. We want to say “how come you, our political opponents, get to insist that your understanding of yourself rules the meaning taken away from your speech, while at the same time insisting that our understanding of ourselves is ruled out and your (incorrect) understanding of us is made to stand in for what we mean? How is that fair to our intentions?”

  44. Perhaps I’ll be told that, given that there was black man in the area, and because historically this word has been used pejoratively, the child should have perhaps been more sensitive and instead asked for his “triangular tipped, short-length hand held gardening implement.”

    Oh, you mean a spade? RACIST!

  45. Please to define “agency” in this context.

  46. Jeff, when I read these long posts, it’s like exercise for the brain. My brain is getting old, 60+, not to mention the fact that it’s often under attack these days and reading your well expressed opinions keeps it in good shape.

    Just thought you should know, and, thanks.

  47. So. Just say what you mean and let the dumbasses play catchup. Do I have that right?

  48. The Republican party must learn that helping the left silence the rest of us is not the highest form of patriotism.

  49. How is that fair to our intentions?”

    With respect, Sdfer, I don’t think our opponents give a damn about what’s fair, and appeals to that virtue will fail. Twisting other people’s words is about gaining power. We have to delink the two things.

  50. My only point is that a black man is inevitably going to hear the word boy differently than a white man.

    Because, of course, memories of past language usage is stored in the DNA of blacks. Is that it?”

  51. Yes, those Whitey Will Pay t-shirts are fantastic.

  52. Essentially, Rusty. But it also means telling them what re-interpret, and those who listen to them, that the re-interpreters are dirty liars. (Which means that Outlaws must be 100% honest and abovebord to begin with, or course.)

    It also means refusing to be responsible for the utterances of of other people (allied or in agreement with them or not, we are not the authors of those statements and must not be made to own them) and refusing or challenging the premises of the dishonest arguments.

  53. So you subscribe to formalism over humanism, Plato over Aristotle, structuralism over deconstruction. OK. Nobody says you can’t. It’s common. No pending doom looms from a conflict of philosophies that I’m aware of.

    A boy yelling “boy” at his dog and hicks yelling the same at a black man are such distinct referents yet agreed upon signifiers and signifieds that I think you’re addressing a matter of contextualized homonym, which does as much to underscore Derrida’s dissemination as it does to make your point, Jeff.

    Slippery, slippery, everywhere there’s a slope.

  54. Salt Lick, I know what you mean, of course, but in the context of the principle under discussion, the question “how is that fair to us” has meaning too. I insist.

    Jeff, evidently. Or the guy’s imagination simply fails to capture the world. (I’d vote the latter.)

  55. agency — roughly, the individual as self, autonomous with respect to his or her intent, exerting his or her own power to mean.

  56. Anyone can say so what I think.

  57. thpr,

    Except that hicks don’t yell boy at black men so much, any more. Mostly likely because a girl in their extended family is liable to be married to ( or dating ) a person of another race. You should come out to the country. It is not what you wish it to be, and in perpetuating this sort of nonsense we are crystallizing in the media the existence of a country that no longer is.

  58. So you subscribe to formalism over humanism, Plato over Aristotle, structuralism over deconstruction. OK. Nobody says you can’t. It’s common. No pending doom looms from a conflict of philosophies that I’m aware of.

    Formalism doesn’t worry about intent. So no. The question of Plato and absolutes doesn’t obtain here.

    A boy yelling “boy” at his dog and hicks yelling the same at a black man are such distinct referents yet agreed upon signifiers and signifieds that I think you’re addressing a matter of contextualized homonym, which does as much to underscore Derrida’s dissemination as it does to make your point, Jeff.

    Blah blah misuse of jargon blah blah. What the hell is an “agreed upon signifier”? Something that we come to use as part of a code, and so convention? Is convention permanently fixed? No. Why? Because convention doesn’t govern meaning. It is a tool to signal intent, which does. Were convention fixed, meanings could never expand. So again, no.

    And the point is, the signifieds are NOT agreed upon, meaning the child and the black man aren’t even addressing the same text.

    “Contextualized homonym”? Is that supposed to impress me? Translation: things that sound the same in the same context. Or, to put it the way I’ve already put it, signifiers. In this case, “boy” and “boy.”

    Which makes your argument this: “I think you’re addressing signifiers, which does as much to underscore Derrida’s dissemination as it does to make your point.” Is that so? Please, don’t let the fact that the post points out why Derrida’s idea of foregrounding the signifier is incorrect stop you from rattling off bullshit as if it hasn’t been addressed. You have responded to my argument about Derrida’s faults by referencing Derrida. You haven’t even made an argument.

    You should spend less time memorizing catch phrases and more time understanding, thor. That way, you could engage in discussions rather than throw off pretend world weary dismissals that quite clearly lack the understanding necessary to even engage the points.

    It’s lazy, and it doesn’t impress anyone except those who are afraid of the jargon.

    Slippery, slippery, everywhere there’s a slope.

    Go over to Patterico’s and dazzle them with your bullshit. Pat’s looking for allies now, and he’ll likely be glad to glom on to someone he thinks can speak the language.

  59. Slippery, slippery, everywhere there’s a slope.

    RACIST!!!1!!1!!1

  60. A money quote:
    The child meant his dog. The fact that the black man can hear “boy” and attach his own baggage to it doesn’t give him the right to claim that the baggage belongs equally to the child, or that the child’s word “meant” something other than it did.

    Once we begin to countenance such perversions of what it means to mean, we begin to allow others to speak for us.

    Another:
    As soon as you supplant authorial intent with anything (reasonable or no), you have made agency practically impossible. Only in a world filled with angels can you do something like this because people lust for power and they will subvert any exogenous system.

    Particularly trenchant when you consider that a common, superficial dismissal of societies based upon liberty or freedom of choice and free markets has often been something like “That all sounds great, but it could only work if everyone acted like angels!” On the contrary, because angels don’t exist in the real world we cannot cede the clarity of our intent and speech to the uncertain motives of others listening, just as we cannot let the uncertain intent and motives of central planners usurp our freedom of economic activity. The fact that men are not angels is one very compelling reason to deny them the powers of a central planner, among dozens of others. This begins to remind me of the sort of argument that is the “unconstrained vision” Thomas Sowell describes. The argument that “We only have to find the perfectly precise, exquisitely chosen words, taking into account all possible perceptions of our audience” sounds perilously close to the unconstrained vision of the collectivist, of the utopian. You’ve heard it, it goes like this: “If we can only perfect our gathering of information, coordinate and monitor and control more and more of people’s lives and decisions, we can successfully plan and build a truly just and prosperous society. We merely have to control, survey and direct in greater detail.”

    It also amuses me that those showing such earnest circumspection about our speech are often the same people who will praise various arts for being “challenging” or “compelling” to its audience. It’s no coincidence that such arts sell a left-wing view of the world.

  61. A couple of observations to go along with this discussions and Jeff’s original points.

    One is that language–whether written or spoken–in many ways ought to be understood in the same way that Catholics (well, the educated ones) understand a sacrament. In fact, the implication that language itself is sacramental almost got me a big fat FAIL during my dissertation defense by a (you guessed it) Professor with a Ph.D. from . . . UC Berkeley (cooler heads prevailed, I passed, thank you very much).

    The Catholic Church defines a sacrament as a “sign that effects that which it signifies.” It is for this reason, for instance, that the fact of transubstantiation does not depend upon the priest as agent.

    Now, let’s not get hung up on the religion thing.

    Language operates in a similar way–and much in the way that Jeff describes. An uttered word is a sign (not a symbol) that effects (not affects, Effects–the verb) that which is signified. The act of interpretation is the understanding of the meaning of that (always already) thing.

    In the boy/dog example, there is no possibility on the part of the black man for mis-interpretation. In fact, for the Left, there is no such thing as misinterpretation. It’s the opposite of Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum: words don’t mean what we arbitrarily intend; they mean what our hearers arbitrarily understand.

    But not always.

    Look at the infamous “N” word. I cannot use the term. I’m white and I’m male. I asked my black students (in Ethics class) the other day why?

    Without really answering my question, they told me that the “N” word isn’t really a “bad” word (among blacks) anymore. But, they admitted that this was entirely generational.

    I suggested to them that the co-opting of the “N” word by blacks–to their exclusive use–was an act of liberation and defiance: Just as the Framers took the royal “We” in the Declaration and returned it to its appropriate utterer (“the People,” not the King), blacks appropriated a word of denigration and now “own” it–as if to say: No, that word means what WE say it means–not what you say it means.

    Okay–but this means, of course, that with the “N” word, meaning resides entirely with the intent of its utterer. In fact, all offensive language gives the lie to the idea that meaning is imposed from without by the hearer. For it is not even meaning that the hearer seeks to possess, it is the intent of the author/speaker.

    The Bill Bennett example that Jeff used illustrates this nicely. It doesn’t matter what the words mean–it matters what the intended use of them was (i.e., what effect on the listener did the speaker/author intend?). It’s a subtle move–but in assigning meaning-making to the auditor or reader, the Left actually co-opts, as someone above has rightly pointed out, the author/speaker’s agency. For the Left, if an utterance can be interpreted negatively it must be interpreted negatively.

    And Jeff’s point about the battle of wills and the formation of groups ought to act as a cautionary–for, when I accept the linguistic three-card-monty, I must needs identify with some group. From there, it’s just a hop-skip-and-a-jump to having someone advocate for me, through, say, some Community Activist group . . .

    The reason I think the sacramental sense of language is important is that it preserves the idea that meaning and interpretation are two different things.

    When meaning is erased and only interpretation remains, we are at the mercy of whoever possesses the power to impose interpretation as meaning upon us.

    Think Stalin.

  62. Current favorite protein: Collagen.

    Why collagen?: It’s the protein with the mostest. And I need it to glue my leg back together.

  63. Weird thought of the day:

    Could Art Linkletter do a “Kids say the Darndest Things!” today without offending someone?

  64. Jeff G., this is one of the best posts on this topic I’ve read in a long, long time.

    To take it another step, when meaning becomes the sole province of They Who Might Be Offended, it invariably becomes generalized from “he slurred the black man” to “this site is racist”. In other words, it is no longer just what is said but the record of what was said before, and the “insult” someone has attached to enough of what was said, to lead directly to complete censorship for any conveyance of those “insults”, whether it be traditional media or, as in this case, a blog. When the “offended group” has sufficient power to censor, whether by writ or by intimidation, then it also has sufficient power to muzzle entire congregations simply because of an association, no matter how casual that association might be, with a particular conveyance of thought. It does become then not a struggle over ideas but simply a struggle over the right to express those ideas, individually or en masse.

    I am not confident Patterico et al will ever quite understand that but he will when he can no longer express his own ideas because someone, somewhere has decided his message and history is overall too insulting or contrary to rightspeak.

    An important point: Even though it always seems to come down to “group” for the modern liberal — and you see examples of that in the comments section here — it is interesting that it is always an individual that steps up and claims to speak for that “group”. One wonders by what authority they came to such? It really doesn’t matter but it illustrates what a powerful tool toward self-aggandizement control of the language can give to the self-appointed pharoahs of the world.

  65. …the question “how is that fair to us” has meaning too. I insist.

    If you say so. (Did you see what I just did, Sdferr? ;-) )

  66. Well, at least Jeff isn’t being niggardly with his words.

  67. I did SL, I saw.

    Let’s drill down a little, what say ye? When you wrote “appeals to that virtue will fail” what virtue exactly do you have in mind?

  68. You should spend less time memorizing catch phrases and more time understanding….

    They don’t give As for that, JG.

  69. [quote] it is interesting that it is always an individual that steps up and claims to speak for that “group”. One wonders by what authority they came to such? It really doesn’t matter but it illustrates what a powerful tool toward self-aggandizement control of the language can give to the self-appointed pharoahs of the world [end quote]

    My point, exactly (and we were posting at just about the same time).

    This is precisely how Obama rose to power. Through the agency of the empty vessel, whose “meaning” was entirely determined by the interpreter. He of the “grass-roots” community activist school, who became not sign, but symbol of whatever disaffectation the groupee determined best described his/her own personal history of slavery and debasement . . .

  70. So can I please be your go-to guy whenever you need a conservative viewpoint? […]

    We need to get past old conservative policies, such as those signed into law by President Clinton, that assumed welfare is counterproductive. We should expand welfare in a conservative way. Instead of calling welfare checks initiative-crushing poverty-reinforcing handouts, we should call them “Freedom Opportunity Vouchers.”

    Somewhere David Brooks is lurking and proclaiming, “Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

  71. “appeals to that virtue will fail” what virtue exactly do you have in mind?

    Fairness.

  72. Or justice, SL? Would that fit under a fairness rubric?

  73. “Fairness.” Just looking at the word, it’s like a name for a nasty Scottish lake.

  74. For the Left, if an utterance can be interpreted negatively it must be interpreted negatively.

    This is the dogma, reinforced by the courts, that have employers cowed. From sexual harassment sensitivity training to all manner of seminars and “educators” brought into the workplace in an effort to keep lawsuits at bay, the clearest message being sent is that people of bad faith can control the workplace to their liking by merely sneaking around the office and “overhearing” things they can then claim as “offensive” and “creating a hostile workplace.”

    One can protest to HR that the “overheard” word or phrase was taken out of context, but the bottom line is, if the word/phrase CAN be “offensive” in ANY singular context, then it MUST BE considered “offensive” regardless of context and thus be avoided completely and the utterer shamed, counseled or even reprimanded.

  75. I think you’ll get further asking for “justice,” than “fairness,” Sdferr.

  76. See, I think of a demand for fair play as a demand for justice done. And an accusation of unfair play is an accusation of unjust dealing. I believe our sense of justice is born in an expectation of reciprocal dealings, share and share alike, so to speak. Or am I wrong about that?

  77. This is the dogma, reinforced by the courts, that have employers cowed. From sexual harassment sensitivity training to all manner of seminars and “educators” brought into the workplace in an effort to keep lawsuits at bay, the clearest message being sent is that people of bad faith can control the workplace to their liking by merely sneaking around the office and “overhearing” things they can then claim as “offensive” and “creating a hostile workplace.”

    One can protest to HR that the “overheard” word or phrase was taken out of context, but the bottom line is, if the word/phrase CAN be “offensive” in ANY singular context, then it MUST BE considered “offensive” regardless of context and thus be avoided completely and the utterer shamed, counseled or even reprimanded.

    Darleen,

    An excellent point and more reason to wonder why there are some very smart people on our side (like Patterico) who don’t see how dangerous and toxic this abuse of language can be. It goes beyond the realm of politics and into our work lives and in some cases our private lives. We almost sent away several entirely innocent boys (RACIST!!!1!111!), who happened to play lacrosse at a school named Duke, to prison recently because of bullshit like this.

    You either draw a line in the sand at some point or the sand envelops you.

  78. Has anyone else seen the “OH BOY” billboards, where the “O” is the Obama icon, which looks like a Pepsi icon?
    And here I thought they were celebrating the fact that Obama got elected.
    Turns out, they are racist; I guess.

  79. And those who would ascribe good intentions to our liberal counterparts are HREF=”http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0309/20008.html”>simply not paying attention.

    They are now coordinating messages not just to attack government officials, but private citizens (that’s YOU Patterico and boys (RACIST!!!1!!) and girls)

    Witness Cramer, Santelli, Rush, and anyone else who might criticize Teleprompter Jesus in public. Stop ascribing good intentions to people who have not shown themselves to having good intentions.

  80. I believe our sense of justice is born in an expectation of reciprocal dealings, share and share alike, so to speak. Or am I wrong about that?

    I can’t say where our sense of justice is born, Sdferr, but your statement doesn’t strike me as “wrong.” I was thinking more of justice in a legal sense, with the authority of law and custom backing it up. People often mock the cry of “it’s not fair,” so I think it’s lost potency.

    Good talking with you. Gotta go.

  81. We’ve most of us Americans run into the so called Golden Rule — Do unto others as you would have them do unto you — a crystallization of reciprocal altruism, found in many places and peoples. I think a similar formulation can be found in Plato’s Gorgias, for instance.

    The sense of this virtue, justice, runs deep in us and will not go away. In particular, it will not go away when human beings find themselves chaffing under a rule of tyranny where the denial of justice is an everyday experience, an everyday irritant. At least as regards this question of interpretive power abroad in the media, chaffing daily under a tyrannical scheme, a fundamentally unjust scheme we say, is right where we are.

  82. (to Phil): I am an academic, so I know this atmosphere par excellance.

    We have gone beyond Eliot’s nightmare in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” The beloved no longer says (and Prufrock is not frozen now into silence by), “That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all,” for a more insidious fear grips us when she says (but now, she is not the beloved, she is the female Gestapo officer of C.S. Lewis’s novel “That Hideous Strength”), “That is not what you meant at all. That is not it, at all.”

    And then she throws us, with Solzhenitsyn, into a cell and we are not even sure what we’ve been charged with . . .

  83. It would be a terrible mistake, I think, to confuse Law and legal schemes with the sense of justice that people carry around in their minds, most of all when it comes to the subject of the just and orderly arraignment of human affairs in government.

  84. Comment by Jeff G. on 3/15 @ 3:57 pm

    So you subscribe to formalism over humanism, Plato over Aristotle, structuralism over deconstruction. OK. Nobody says you can’t. It’s common. No pending doom looms from a conflict of philosophies that I’m aware of.

    Formalism doesn’t worry about intent. So no. The question of Plato and absolutes doesn’t obtain here.

    A boy yelling “boy” at his dog and hicks yelling the same at a black man are such distinct referents yet agreed upon signifiers and signifieds that I think you’re addressing a matter of contextualized homonym, which does as much to underscore Derrida’s dissemination as it does to make your point, Jeff.

    Blah blah misuse of jargon blah blah. What the hell is an “agreed upon signifier”? Something that we come to use as part of a code, and so convention? Is convention permanently fixed? No. Why? Because convention doesn’t govern meaning. It is a tool to signal intent, which does. Were convention fixed, meanings could never expand. So again, no.

    And the point is, the signifieds are NOT agreed upon, meaning the child and the black man aren’t even addressing the same text.

    “Contextualized homonym”? Is that supposed to impress me? Translation: things that sound the same in the same context. Or, to put it the way I’ve already put it, signifiers. In this case, “boy” and “boy.”

    Plato and Aristotle in conflict of the mimetic and truth/perfect, as addressed in Derrida’s interpretation of Plato’s Phaedrus, that’s what I was referring to. Treuth! Themus! Amon!

    Agreed upon definitions of the signifiers, signified and referents. I don’t care much for your rendering of a play-by-play of the final battle between de Saussure and Derrida, no matter your gavel’s noise or your need for order in the court or your insistence that all is as you say it is.

    Humanism versus Formalism was illuminating an example of opposing schools. You seem like an Eagleton sort’a guy to me, always the politico in the end. And Structuralism tends toward Russian Formalism which is so Prague school, you dirty Marxist Commie!

    There, I called you a jargony name. We’re even. And no, I won’t go pull my Lit theory books from my shelf and engage you. Romp on someone else. I’m out me front door and into the real world.

  85. “Humanism versus Formalism was illuminating an example of opposing schools. You seem like an Eagleton sort’a guy to me, always the politico in the end. And Structuralism tends toward Russian Formalism which is so Prague school, you dirty Marxist Commie!”

    Would you hurry up and finish grad school already????

  86. “agency — roughly, the individual as self, autonomous with respect to his or her intent, exerting his or her own power to mean.”

    This is, to me, the heart of it. Individual intention.

    On the Left it is group intention. What you say is not to be interpreted according to what your intention was in the utterance, (or action for that matter) it is to be interpreted according to what your group means by that word, phrase, or sentence. This in turn is determined by the power relationship between your group and the group of anyone hearing or reading it.

    Those of the proper group will have anything said or done judged in the light of their good intentions. Conversely those not in a proper group will have everything they do or say judged in the light of bad intent.

    There are no individuals for the Left. Only groups that engage in constant power struggles between each other. The group is the actionable entity, it alone can have intention, purpose, in action or speech.

  87. About 30 years ago, I ran into this situation with a couple of the black guys in my high school class.

    After getting jostled while they were horse-playing near my locker, innocently (and with no knowledge of the racial implications) said “Would you boys quit screwing around so i can get into my locker?”

    The both took offense, with a number of comments that boiled down to “Who are you calling boy?” I responded quite simply — “You guys, and the way I see it my only other choice is girl. Did I pick the wrong word there?”

    Two things happened.

    First, they were all stunned silent for a moment before they dissolved into hysterical laughter.

    Second, when they were done laughing, one of them explained to me that I had picked a word that was loaded with a lot of history — to which I responded that I had also used the same word with them that I would have directed at any of our white classmates in the same situation.

    The outcome? Between then ad graduation, I learned a lot about race and racism from the black perspective. On the other hand, they learned that there were plenty of white folks out there who would be more than willing to treat them EXACTLY like they would treat their white peers if it were possible for both sides to let their racial guard down long enough to treat each other as individuals first.

  88. At times in history, women have been considered less naturally reasonable than men. Hence the word “hysterical”. Here’s a hint on origins, “hysterectomy”. As “reasonable” is the rough opposite of “hysterical”, I wonder how long Patterico will continue with his sexist use of “reasonable” now that he’s been informed of its potential to give offense?

    It does make me wonder though. Patterico is extremely well-written with a broad vocabulary. Shouldn’t I assume he understands this historically sexist split between “reasonable” and “hysterical”? Kinda makes you wonder, just exactly what is he trying to say here?

    This is a fun game.

  89. Which is why we watch what they do as individuals on the left geoffb, not what they say as members of a group.

    “Hi, I’m Al Gore and we have decided you shall live in a smaller house with fewer electrical conveniences. I, meanwhile, will live in an enormous estate and burn more btu’s than a small city. We believe that you must downsize your calorie intake, while I will grow to the size of a silver-backed gorilla. We further believe that you will have your health care diminished by the state at enormous cost, while I will make a fortune off carbon sequestration scams and have all the most advanced medical treatments that oodles of my money can buy. It is settled then, the consensus has been found.”

  90. And no, I won’t go pull my Lit theory books

    Give me a break.

    Please?

  91. That is the only thing he won’t pull. It is a matter of principle I think.

  92. geoffb–what this implies, of course, is that meaning is all tied to “intent.” And I don’t think even Jeff would make this argument. Words have meanings prior to our using them. Jeff has been speaking of “convention,” I think. Whatever it’s called, words have meaning prior to our selecting them as the signs of our intent. In fact, their prior meanings and usages weighs heavily upon our selection of them as “our” signs. Granted, we have an almost unlimited number of words to choose from (or, if we are grad studenti like Thor, we can just make up words and impose fiat rather than waiting for communal assent). My point is that individual intention is not the lone determiner of meaning. It is intention combined with prior meaning. Prior meaning (i.e., usage) has a say in what words “mean.” Context does not overwhelm that history–nor does individual distortion–either in intention or in interpretation.

    I repeat: Language is sacramental. And, like the good “New Critic” that I am, I insist that the verbal icon retains an autonomous quality that escapes the intending agent and the auditor. Each, in order to be responsible to reality, must attend to this independent aspect of language in order to be ethically responsible.

  93. By the way, I’m not just taking the piss, in college I was informed that one should be extremely careful about using “reasonable” and “rational” in regards to women and non-westerners. There is a chance that one is subconsciously swinging their implicit worldview at Others like a cock.

    Best just not use them at all. Too tricky.

  94. They don’t give As for that, JG.

    I do.

    In fact, I make it clear at the beginning of the semester that doing all the assigned work, following the instructions exactly, gets you… a B.

    Getting an A requires that you do something creative. You have to demonstrate (and justify!) a piece of original thinking, and I can’t write instructions for that on a syllabus.

  95. Shorter Patt vs. Jeff

    Patterico: Who wins?

    Jeff: What is true?

    Two questions, two answers, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

  96. Pingback: Hijacking Language | Amateur Megalomania

  97. My experience is that your type is the minority, SPB.

  98. Mine too, B. Moe.

  99. It is a matter of principle I think.

    Or maybe cartography?

  100. Dicentra,

    Yeah, but Patterico’s way it doesn’t matter who wins, either.

  101. following the instructions exactly

    I’ve learned to love red ink. The Red Badge of WTF.

  102. And that is the biggest problem of all. If both sides are electing people strictly on who spews the more inventive crap we are all screwed upside down. And if the punditocracy retains control of what can be said and can’t be said the actual people who are supposed to be in charge of all this, are forever marginalized. We can’t continue to piss on the average guy for electing morons when we castrate the language we use to speak to him to the point that he can’t tell what’s real from what’s not.

  103. Ho’s be trippin boy.

  104. “Whatever it’s called, words have meaning prior to our selecting them as the signs of our intent”

    I was saying that the intention of the individual who says the words is what matters in interpreting which of the many meanings of the word is being used in that utterance.

    On the Left there is no individual to have the intention, all intention belongs to the group. An individual can say something but the intent of it is determined by the group to which the person saying it belongs.

    On the Left groups are the foundation of all society. On the Right individuals are that foundation.

  105. I don’t disagree with what you are saying Jeff, although I probably would not use the word “niggardly” in normal conversation even though I know the source of the word is Scandinavian in origin. Frankly it is an awkward word anyway. Miserly or stingy works better with less confusion.

    nig⋅gard   /ˈnɪgərd/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [nig-erd] Show IPA
    –noun 1. an excessively parsimonious, miserly, or stingy person.

    –adjective 2. niggardly; miserly; stingy.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Origin:
    1325–75; ME nyggard, equiv. to nig niggard (< Scand; cf. dial. Sw nygg; akin to OE hnēaw stingy) + -ard

    And while I doubt he meant it as an anti Semetic slur, you commented on Patterico’s references to you using controversy to solicit contributions, not move the argument ahead (and I think Patterico eventually abandoned that position altogether). Point being in the heat of an argument, giving the other side the benefit of doubt becomes less and less likely. Good faith is established by using terms consistently for a specific purpose. But good faith is a two way street, and parties need to demonstrate they are not going out of their way to take offense as a tactic.

  106. We’re a groupy kind of critter geoffb. We always run in packs. Or families. And clans. And tribes. And so on up the societal chain. In chains. Until that odd thing happened, and it only happened once. It really is the rarest of rarities, that Declaration.

  107. And it had been such a loverly weekend.

    Blast.

  108. 109 for 107

    that Declaration

    That’s the spirit!

  109. What is behind the attempt to control language is the attempt to gain power. Very simple and nothing else.

    There is an interesting instance of someone challenging the use of language, the reaction of that persons compatriots in the fight, and the end result.

    In Canada, Quebec has wanted to become a sovereign state for a long time. The ‘Quiet Revolution’, was the overthrowing of the Church and any influence from english canada from Quebec society and politics. The movement built up many stories to define the struggle; descriptions of events that happened, and the stories were kept current with every new humiliation. Yes that was the word. Stephane Dion, who is more recently remembered as the quickly removed leader of the Liberal Party, made his name when he was a Minister in the Chretien government by writing letters to the Quebec newspapers challenging the language and stories. It was simply a matter of describing what had actually happened, answering the questions that were meant to hang in the air, challenging the assumptions. It deflated the whole nationalist intellectual vigor. Simply a matter of stating the obvious, and since then the power of the nationalists has been much diminished. The reaction from everyone, on both sides of the issue, was to scream bloody murder, how dare you say anything, you cannot bring these things up, you will make it worse. The direct opposite happened, the issues were defused, and discussions started happening on the merits.

    I lived in Quebec for many years, and was constantly surprised by the faulty assumptions that people had.

    So in this instance of the boy calling his dog, or the more real situations of manufactured insult, the intent of the insultee is to gain power in the situation. The power is granted by going along with the manufactured insult.

    On a personal level we may choose to say things in a way not to insult, if we know someone has some sensitivity. It’s good manners to not say what we really mean most of the time. But when it comes to exercise of power, or limiting discussion of pertinent issues because for fear of the manufactured horror, therein lies foolishness.

    Derek

  110. parties need to demonstrate they are not going out of their way to take offense as a tactic.

    go luck the next time allaln is drawn as a chimp

  111. Derek that was very solid I liked that.

  112. gregorbo —

    Actually, I do tie meaning to intent. Convention only gives us clues to intent. It is a collected shorthand, a guidebook for understanding how the code is most commonly deployed. But one can mean — as we’ve discussed in the case of schizophrenics or aphasia of aspergers — completely outside of any convention. The collection of previous signs — words — give us a vocabulary to use, sure. But the vocabulary is able to expand because people can come up with new ways to mean.

    Plato and Aristotle in conflict of the mimetic and truth/perfect, as addressed in Derrida’s interpretation of Plato’s Phaedrus, that’s what I was referring to. Treuth! Themus! Amon!

    Others have dealt with Plato and Aristotle. If you need to know where I am on universals, see Peirce.

    I don’t care much for your rendering of a play-by-play of the final battle between de Saussure and Derrida, no matter your gavel’s noise or your need for order in the court or your insistence that all is as you say it is.

    Fine. You may not care for it, but you haven’t posed an argument against it, either.

    Humanism versus Formalism was illuminating an example of opposing schools. You seem like an Eagleton sort’a guy to me, always the politico in the end. And Structuralism tends toward Russian Formalism which is so Prague school, you dirty Marxist Commie!

    I don’t much care for Eagleton, and the political aspects of this are incidental — or at least, I came to them that way. It is isn’t I hoping to upset the communication chain by taking away agency.

    I was a fan of Todorov, Jacobsen, and others, but eventually all the structuralism and Russian Formalism in the world merely serves to sit atop the underlying kernel of insight: agency, through a desire to mean, makes meaning.

    So while I learned much from the formalists and structuralists (I was a narratologist, and still find the practice valuable), I moved beyond them. Again, you might not “care” for where it led me, but I’m confident I ended up in the right spot.

  113. I just learned that Ron Silver has passed away at 62, from cancer evidently.

  114. Simply a matter of stating the obvious sounds very hopeful.

  115. oh. Jeff was just recently dissing Mr. Silver. That sort of thing happens to me a lot.

  116. Pingback: ichannel

  117. I think from what little I’ve read that Silver’s grasp of politics has been slipping a bit, at least from where I stand. I wasn’t aware he was ill (not that the two things are in any way connected.)

  118. “It really is the rarest of rarities, that Declaration.”

    For me, that one is all we need. The fight now is to keep it from being retextualized into meaninglessness.

  119. is that your doing with the ichannel thingy Derek?

  120. oh. The ichannel thingy is Kathy Shaidle. Why do I know that name?

  121. I don’t think I dissed Silver, I just noted that I wasn’t sure he was the future of conservatism. I’ve actually liked him since The Entity.

    His passing is sad. He certainly was a stalwart in the war on terror and for that I praise him.

  122. Sorry. I didn’t mean you were like hateful or anything I think I was projecting. Just… I’d feel real awkward if anything happened to Meghan this week.

  123. One of the best dogs I ever owned was a 105 pound female Black Lab.
    She had an AKC name but I called her Oprah.
    Was that wrong? Keep in mind that when I called her the bitch came.

  124. which is so Prague school,

    get abused for being a hayek guy in central europe

  125. Was that wrong?

    you’re asking me your intentions?

  126. Hideo Nakata what directed the original The Ring (Ringu) might be remaking The Entity.

  127. “But language is a treacherous thing, a most unsure vehicle, and it can seldom arrange descriptive words in such a way that they will not inflate the facts–by help of the reader’s imagination, which is always ready to take a hand and work for nothing, and do the bulk of it at that.” Twain

  128. there are ways of seeing this much simpler. after the steelers won the sb a bunch of youths thought it might be fun to act like morgantown and set some porch couches on fire. the city officials took action. the problem will become fun when the youths start torching “official porch furniture”

  129. Jeff, any books you’d recommend on the topic? Also, as you’re a bit of an Eco guy, anything from that perspective? My reading there is limited to What Made James Bond and Superman Cool.

  130. always ready to take a hand and work for nothing

    Tell me about it, Sam.

  131. How about The Intentional Stance?

  132. Council approved an ordinance which levies fines of $200 to $500 for people who store upholstered furniture, like mattresses and couches, outside or on unenclosed porches.

    When couches are outlawed only outlaws can take a nap.

  133. Also, in defense of WVU fans, we take the couches off the porch before we set them on fire.

  134. I will wait for Jeff’s book. It doesn’t have to be a whole book thinger just a series of essays I think. I just say that cause that dipshit has only been president not two months and we’re already knee deep in the Orwell and the time is now. Once you get a framework you can interweave specific examples from Baracky and his media as we all drift along and it will be very of our times. I know I say it like it’s pie but no one else seems to have anything to say except for the John blah blah blah Galt thing, which is harmless I guess but not very helpful or … real.

  135. Good faith is established by using terms consistently for a specific purpose.

    Bad faith, too.

  136. I love Dennett, sdferr, so that sounds right up my alley. Good stuff?

    By the way, this discussion reminds me of a conversation I had in the heady days when grunge was unstoppable and Cobain still roamed the planet.

    A professor put three objects down on the table, an apple, an orange, and a penny. He then asked, “Which two objects are the most alike?” Most everyone said the apple and the orange. It seemed quite obvious.

    So he said, “The apple and the penny are closest in color. They are the most alike.” And, “The apple and the penny are both on the outside, they are most alike.” And, “Both the apple and the penny have words that rhyme with themselves.” Etc.

    He went on to tell us that it’s theoretically possible to propose criteria in which each of the two are more alike than the other possible sets. As they are all infinite, they are all equally alike.

    His point was that we could only answer the question by responding “How so? How do you mean, ‘Which two are most alike?'”

    I view questions this way (as in, What did the speaker intend?), not just statements.

  137. ya know, it’s an amazing thing. or maybe not. maybe it’s not even interesting.

    but i’ve been running MMO game guilds a long time, since diablo I and UO. and being a badass shitkicking punk rawk stoner slut (retired) individualist libertarian with some mad computer skills and a sick sense of humor i tend to take in all the really ‘bad’ kids, all the freaks and geeks, the slackers and stoners, the griefers and exploiters and trouble-makers. hell i even take in the russians (who really do not play well with others. it’s a cultural thing, you wouldn’t understand. nya. i still lurves em.) so basically, i take all the gamers who can’t get into or can’t stay in other more legit, more uber guilds. or, often, any guild at all. so i have a lot of minority members, racial and ethnic and national and every kind, including a lot of gay kids, and even a few transgenders.

    and it’s real common for my youngish (to me) guild members to use the word gay, or ghey, or teh ghey in a highly derogatory way, to describe shit they think is st00pit. like they’ll say, ‘that quest was so fucking gay!’ or ‘don’t use that halberd dude, it’s totally gay!’ and i have yet to have even one single actually gay guild member, or any guild member of any non-heteronormative persuasion misunderstand this usage and take it as a direct personal affront, or even an esoterically coded insult.

    and i suppose any one of them *could* choose to interpret this usage of a potentially loaded and burdened with baggage word in a disingenuously negative and/or insulting way. but they don’t. because they deal in good faith with the other members. who they know have their backs when their characters, when anyone from one of my clans, are threatened or facing virtual danger. and because they know that the buck stops with me. and they know if they are assholes i will hold them personally accountable for any manufactured drama or fuckwittery on their part.

    but that only works when people are actually willing to deal in good faith.

    like my windy old gramma used to say: it’s all well and good to make gentleman’s agreements. but you are a fool if you make them with folks who do not share your definition of a gentleman.

  138. happyfeet, a long time ago, Jeff either posted or emailed an academic paper he had written on this topic. I learned a great deal from it (granted, I’m not that bright). It might be in the archives, if not, maybe he’d post it.

  139. Good stuff? Superlatively, unputdownable til done sort of stuff.

  140. Forget John Galt, ‘feets. Richard Rahl needs be the next literary role model I think.

  141. Bad faith is established by using terms consistently for a Nancy Pelosi.

  142. A powerful agent is the right word: it lights the reader’s way and makes it plain; a close approximation to it will answer, and much traveling is done in a well-enough fashion by its help, but we do not welcome it and applaud it and rejoice in it as we do when the right one blazes out on us. – Twain

  143. Thanks, Sdferr.

  144. [quote] Actually, I do tie meaning to intent. Convention only gives us clues to intent. It is a collected shorthand, a guidebook for understanding how the code is most commonly deployed. But one can mean — as we’ve discussed in the case of schizophrenics or aphasia of aspergers — completely outside of any convention. The collection of previous signs — words — give us a vocabulary to use, sure. But the vocabulary is able to expand because people can come up with new ways to mean. [end quote]

    Jeff–I know you link meaning and intent. So do I. My point is that you do not argue entirely that intent solely determines meaning–otherwise Tweedle Dee , etc. You know?

    My point was to say that meaning is stable precisely — to an extent — because of the “baggage” enumerated, to an extent, in the dictionary. Contrary to a French sense of the dictionary, in English, the dictionary is merely a history of the uses of words–with those usages most current being gravitated to the number 1 spot. (In French, apparently, meaning is imposed by some governmental group for what is ‘proper’). In fact, that example might be apropos–replacing an individual intent for a group interpretation is to replace an American sensibility about freedom for a French one . . . )

    Convention does indeed give us clues to intent–but only insofar as convention is reflective of usage–i.e. that which is communally accepted ss “meaning” and ought to coincide with “interpretation.”

    Individuals can, indeed, introduce new shades of meaning for words through their participation as co-creators in language. They can, as we have observed, mean “neat,” “cool,” “hot,” and “phat,” to express assent in the same way. That they have, in the process, produced an instant cliche is another topic.

    Which brings us to your sense of alarm. Which I share.

    The current fight is about not “meaning” as determined either by “intent” or “convention” but by “interpretation” through the lens of political ideology. So long as meaning is erased and replaced with interpretation, our freedom is in danger.

    At the point that we accept that interpretation trumps meaning we are lost. For then, I can be pulled over by a cop and he can arrest me as a result of his interpretation rather than my meaning.

    Think that’s silly?

    Think Stalin.

  145. I would read that blowhard, but my feeling really is more that it’s time to contextualize all these ideas contemporaneously and ground them in our new dirty socialist reality. I bought a flashlight today. I read that scary scary thing Mr. Reynolds linked and I realized I had no flashlight so at Target with my friend J we looked at flashlights. I got one and then I saw they had those kind what you put on your head like the guy in the article says were the best. So I said I want one and J said oh no you’re not like my friend A and doing all that survivalist shit are you? And I was like um no. Not even. Just want a flashlight leave me alone jeez. But this codger dude behind us what looked very golferish says to his wife… “It just amazes me when people behave exactly according to my theories.” And his wife says “well this is the place to see it.” I have no idea what the codger’s theory was. I have no idea what this story means even, but it all had a very we’re not in Kansas anymore aftertaste.

  146. happyfeet, the true import of your anecdote is that somewhere, sometime a dog was offended.

    /Patterico

  147. googling Richard Rahl.

  148. What color is this kid? If he’s black, and he calls out for his dog, does Mr. Old Black Gentleman take offense? Does he dress the child down for using a perfectly cromulent word?

    What does Mr. Old Black Gentleman say when he’s calling his dog? Or when he’s getting stern with his son? And does anyone actually believe that the use of “boy” as a diminutive insult is exclusive to blacks? Because if you do, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

    Yes! Interpretation is fraught with peril! That doesn’t mean you can outsource responsibility for actually doing the interpreting to some convention or set of axioms. You’ve got to actually do the interpreting and it must consist in the primacy of intent or it’s not interpreting, it’s creative writing – or worse, newspeak.

    Word. This is a progressive project with a long history designed to quash speech and shame speakers by twisting and ascribing new definitions to words that have had perfectly serviceable, agreed upon definitions forever. Code words my ass. I mean what I said and fuck you if you don’t like it.

  149. oh. I will start and catch up on the Legend of the Seeker thingy and go from there. Have to run to the office and when I get back I’ll take my snoozle pills and get started on that. Looks like it starts with a two-hour one.

  150. The last Dennett I read was Consciousness, Explained. I thought it kind of a backdoor attempt to build a model for artificial intelligence. Some of it was very interesting, though.

    Eco, I recommend Interpretation and Overinterpretation, because he debates Culler (he of “Framing the Sign” fame).

    I haven’t yet read The Shape of the Signifier, so I’ll suggest Against Theory by Knapp and Michaels.

    That old paper was linked here somewhere, but that was many servers ago. You can get the gist of it by looking at my “debates” with Thirstytitties, which are archived under the intent / language section of greatest hits. The titles contain references to daiquiries, mostly.

  151. Pingback: Patterico vs. Goldstein, One More Time. | Little Miss Attila

  152. The TV show seems to suck, but I have only watched a very little bit of it. Check out the books, in particular this one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith_of_the_Fallen . There are eleven in all, but unless you are a hardcore sword and sorcery geek you probably won’t make it through all of them. I highly recommend it to the geek world, great social and political themes throughout.

  153. Thanks, Jeff, you’re a mensch.

  154. The Target thing was just weird. Next time I go I’m gonna be all watchful now. I always have themed Target trips. Next one is laundry and the one after that is tasty beverages. Today was flashlight and batteries and they had these fun little single serving cereal thingers on sale like for Kashi and Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms. J was appalled cause of the nutrition but it’s a fun thing to be able to offer people a selection of cereal I think. Also she told me that the for real survivalists what actually survive don’t eat Lucky Charms. We’ll see about that won’t we?

  155. Ok. I will look for that book at my used book place in Texas later this week.

  156. Two things:

    1–

    There is not one motherfucker on Earth who is, has been, or ever will be offended by any word anyone ever uses, has used, or will use, ever. There are only those who know, or are conditioned to behave as though they know, that a claim to offense, or a claim to sympathy with offense, can increase their power, status, or group integration. So only mockery and shunning are proper responses (though they’re insufficient).

    The one thing Patterico is accidentally (performatively) right about is this not being a philosophical problem. Because there aren’t any. It’s not un-abstractable, but human behavior is deeply, unalterably, and universally sub-philosophical.

    2–

    I blame whoever invented non-hieroglyphic writing. Or their Lobby, at least. It’s been all downhill since the first rebus — which was probably “boy.”

  157. You can get the gist of it by looking at my “debates” with Thirstytitties, which are archived under the intent / language section of greatest hits.

    Hey, did the inevitable right wing violence ever befall him, or did people just mostly laugh at his pathetic JUCO-God ass?

  158. Once at an outdoor church service, I came upon 2 older black teens sitting on a table. I was in charge of setting up for the picnic and I said “hey will you boys help me unload some chairs?”.

    They did.

    My companion later crawled all over me for using the word “boys” to refer to them because of the racial connotations…I was clueless at that time about such a meaning and I said I would have said the same thing to white boys, red boys, plaid boys, whatever…no racial anything intended but she would have none of that. Besides,she said, what would Jesus do, he would be careful to take into account their feelings and be extra careful.

    So I tried to be careful, but I eventually left that church because they were so controlling…always had to watch every little thing you did, couldn’t be yourself, might make Jesus look bad.

  159. 1–

    There is not one motherfucker on Earth who is, has been, or ever will be offended by any word anyone ever uses, has used, or will use, ever. There are only those who know, or are conditioned to behave as though they know, that a claim to offense, or a claim to sympathy with offense, can increase their power, status, or group integration. So only mockery and shunning are proper responses (though they’re insufficient).

    Well, I’m a tad more generous (some people truly are offended on occasion), but what you’ve said is essentially what I explained to my wife today, who agreed with me. That may have had something to do with my foaming at the mouth, however.

    I’ll ask her again later.

  160. I wouldn’t say offended, but I can vouch that I’ve heard a word or words that told me I was milliseconds from a severe assault that there was nothing in the world I could do to stop. And I was. Under those conditions my power, status and group integration were pretty well diminished. There was no time for mockery. I could indulge that later as I was picking up my teeth.

  161. Incidentally (maybe), is it possible to explain the development of spoken language is we don’t give the nod to intentionalism? I’m an evolutionarily hardwired for language sort of guy. Patterico expresses consensual meaning, right? But there was no consensus before the original means of expression. And we’re still using those brain structures to compose speech today.

    Shot in the dark. When we start talking about option pricing I’m gonna school you fools.

  162. I mean, we were forged from individuals who mainly uttered a phoneme while looking at an object to reveal intent, right? That is when the brain structures were locked in, right?

    Isn’t Patterico saying that our thumbs were used to play video games?

    Again, this is not my area of expertise. I might have made everyone dumber by typing this comment. Probable even.

  163. Some of the “where did it come from” research points in this direction to this day. I recall a recent article on Neanderthal geneticists poking around looking for some known speech associated gene.

  164. “The problem here — and this is one that Patterico doesn’t seem to understand . . .”

    “If Patterico and others who continue to follow this interpretive model can’t see how such concessions chill speech . . .”

    “Clearly, Patterico and his supporters haven’t understood what I’ve been saying . . .”

    On the contrary. I understand what you’ve been saying, and I understand the argument about speech being chilled. As I said in a comment last night:

    I suppose any time one is thinking one thing but is deliberately courteous — yes, my son, that is a very good drawing of daddy! — they can claim their speech is “chilled.” The question is whether it’s ALWAYS a bad thing for speech to be “chilled” in that sense.

    The issue is not a failure of understanding, as you like to portray it, but rather an issue of what we think is appropriate speech in different contexts. It’s a debate I’m having at my site.

    In my post today setting forth certain examples, the question that left you so agog is addressed quite clearly: namely, how would the boy know?

    A boy has a dog named Rover. At night, he typically calls the dog into the house from the field by either calling out: “Come here, boy!” or “Come here, Rover!” The dog responds to either; either is equally effective.

    The boy learns at school that there is a racial history associated with the word “boy” such that black men are offended to be called “boy.” That night, he starts to call out: “Come here, boy!” when he sees Rover out in the field. But then, the boy sees a black man near Rover. The boy thinks to himself: if I yell out “Come here, boy!” that black man will be offended. But then the boy thinks: I don’t care. That’s his problem. And he yells, “Come here, boy!”

    The dog and the black man come over. The black man is angry. The boy explains that he was just calling his dog. And the black man calms down and says he didn’t realize that; he hadn’t even seen the dog out there when he heard “Come here, boy!”

    My questions:

    a) Has the boy done anything wrong? Should he have done anything differently?

    b) Was the black man wrong (unreasonable) to be offended at the beginning?

    I would be interested in people’s responses to this.

  165. “This is retarded. From the example, it isn’t even clear that the child was aware of the black man. He is playing with his dog for crying out loud!”

    In my example in my post today, it’s quite clear. I took care to make it clear.

  166. “Incidentally, and while we’re on the subject, let me add that once Patterico accepted the dog/boy example, I removed myself from the discussion over there. If he wishes to write on “What words mean,” it seems to me he should first understand what a word is, and what makes it a word to begin with. I’m not convinced that’s the case.”

    I understand what a word is. I’m sorry you removed yourself from the discussion, but that’s your choice. I have made it quite clear that I understand the concepts you are discussing.

  167. Besides,she said, what would Jesus do, he would be careful to take into account their feelings and be extra careful.

    He probably wouldn’t have bothered with chairs, and unless someone there spoke Greek or Aramaic it wouldn’t have mattered what he said.

    Seriously, could you ask your friend if she could recommend a Bible passage giving an example of Jesus being extra careful of someone’s feelings? I have never gotten that impression of him, tell the truth.

  168. Pat, maybe read psycho’s comment at 158 above and see what you think?

  169. “Go over to Patterico’s and dazzle them with your bullshit. Pat’s looking for allies now, and he’ll likely be glad to glom on to someone he thinks can speak the language.”

    Not so. I’m looking to discuss these concepts, and I’m glad to have anyone who wants to participate in good faith.

  170. Patterico, I didn’t respond to your question because it seemed off.

    The boy seems to intend giving offense. Not logically, but by your posing of the question. I don’t see a theoretical that offers A and B. I see it loaded for A.

    Also, as the obvious derailment of your thread shows, the racial angle makes it impossible to have a good discussion with the other readers.

  171. There is a test subject or lab-rat vibe to the thing that’s a bit off putting all right blowhard. But I figured that’s a function of Pat’s not designing double blind drug tests for a living.

  172. “Pat, maybe read psycho’s comment at 158 above and see what you think?”

    I think it’s wrong.

  173. Wrong in what sense? I understand him to be suggesting that the relevant questions are in the realm of human psychology, rather than in the realm of political philosophy, for instance.

  174. Um, Patterico, a serious question

    Are you confusing manners and politeness — mutually agreed upon social conventions used by both parties in voluntary agreement and good faith — with the topic under discussion, ie who “owns” the speech – speaker or listener?

    I’m a great believer in formalities, politeness, thank you notes, giving up my seat to seniors/disabled/pregnant women and not wearing torn gardening jeans to church.

    That’s really quite different from me as a supervisor being forced to take seriously a person claiming a “hostile work place” because they sneak around and eavesdrop on co-workers conversations and take “offense” at snippets of conversations taken out of context.

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  176. Also, (this is in good faith), Patterico, somewhere above Dicentra says we should walk over to your section of the courtyard to learn about rhetoric and Jeff’s section to learn about truth. There’s something to that, isn’t there?

  177. I also want to make one thing quite clear: Jeff’s post can be read to imply that because I said I like the dog example, that I therefore endorse every statement made by the commenter who first proposed it.

    That is quite definitely not true. Anyone who wants to see how *I* handled the dog example should come over and take a look. Please read my own arguments as I have phrased them. I will not allow someone else to decide what I mean!!!!!!!!

  178. Um, Patterico, a serious question

    Are you confusing manners and politeness — mutually agreed upon social conventions used by both parties in voluntary agreement and good faith — with the topic under discussion, ie who “owns” the speech – speaker or listener?

    Not at all. If you read my post I think you’ll see I have the concepts very clear, suggestions to the contrary notwithstanding.

  179. Also, (this is in good faith), Patterico, somewhere above Dicentra says we should walk over to your section of the courtyard to learn about rhetoric and Jeff’s section to learn about truth. There’s something to that, isn’t there?

    No, I don’t think so.

  180. I will not allow someone else to decide what I mean!!!!!!!!

    What if we are reasonable about it?

  181. Wrong in what sense? I understand him to be suggesting that the relevant questions are in the realm of human psychology, rather than in the realm of political philosophy, for instance.

    Wrong in the sense that this statement:

    There is not one motherfucker on Earth who is, has been, or ever will be offended by any word anyone ever uses, has used, or will use, ever. There are only those who know, or are conditioned to behave as though they know, that a claim to offense, or a claim to sympathy with offense, can increase their power, status, or group integration. So only mockery and shunning are proper responses (though they’re insufficient).

    Strikes me as patently wrong. People most definitely are offended by words. People kill because they are offended by words.

  182. “What if we are reasonable about it?”

    I’ll respond to anyone asking me questions in good faith, but I want them to understand my arguments first. If you’re just in it to needle me, I won’t be responding. Can’t tell which it is. If it’s in good faith, I’ll ask you if you really understand my position. Maybe you can restate it for me. Bet you can’t.

  183. How, looking on from outside, would you go about distinguishing someone simply offended from someone who know[s], or [is] conditioned to behave as though they know, that a claim to offense, or a claim to sympathy with offense, can increase their power, status, or group integration. I’m not at all sure that is an easy and certain task.

  184. I understand what a word is. I’m sorry you removed yourself from the discussion, but that’s your choice. I have made it quite clear that I understand the concepts you are discussing.

    Actually you haven’t. Which is why I said you haven’t.

    Your latest example does nothing but strengthen that opinion.

  185. “Actually you haven’t. Which is why I said you haven’t.

    Your latest example does nothing but strengthen that opinion.”

    Actually I have.

  186. I’ll respond to anyone asking me questions in good faith, but I want them to understand my arguments first.

    I understand your argument. I understand why it’s wrong. I understand why it’s dangerous. What I don’t understand is why you are so committed to it.

    And I linked directly to your dog answer, so people could go over and see how you handled it.

  187. >>Seriously, could you ask your friend if she could recommend a Bible passage giving an example of Jesus being extra careful of someone’s feelings? I have never gotten that impression of him, tell the truth.<<

    Since the incident happened many years ago, I don’t recall if or what scripture she used, but in such a situation, typically someone would pull out something like John 13:34 and reason that loving someone as yourself would involve anticipating what effect your words would have and edit yourself accordingly. And, the expectation was, that since I was now educated on the meaning of “boy” used in that context, the burden was on me to never so offend again.

    Now I just say “guys”. Even when I am referring to women…

    Oh, and those boys, er, guys, were not offended…they happily jumped up and helped me get ready…

    Uh oh, did I just say something wrong? Should I have said it differently? ;)

  188. Jeff, if you want to respond to my examples or make an argument, go ahead. Just asserting that I don’t understand without showing why you think that doesn’t help the discussion in any way I can see.

  189. I linked to your post. Anyone who wishes to go over and discover what you think about how language works is free to do so. If you want to make an argument here, do so. If not, don’t.

  190. “And I linked directly to your dog answer, so people could go over and see how you handled it.”

    Did you link directly to this?

  191. I also want to make one thing quite clear: Jeff’s post can be read to imply that because I said I like the dog example, that I therefore endorse every statement made by the commenter who first proposed it.

    Is that what it says? Do you think that’s what it says? Do you think that’s what he means?

  192. Pablo,

    I think it is what he means, though if he wants to say different I’ll listen. The reason I think so is because of this comment he made: “Incidentally, and while we’re on the subject, let me add that once Patterico accepted the dog/boy example, I removed myself from the discussion over there.”

    I think it’s fair, given the way this post is written, to point out that I don’t endorse everything Craig Harmon said, and that I have handled the example in my own way — a way that takes away the issue that left Jeff so “agog” (because I had short-handed it in my comment), namely, how the boy knew the man would likely take offense.

  193. Jeff, if you want to respond to my examples or make an argument, go ahead. Just asserting that I don’t understand without showing why you think that doesn’t help the discussion in any way I can see.

    You’re joking, right? This entire post was in response to the kind of thinking you engage in — not to mention a direct response to your own comment. Which I quoted. And dissected.

    I’ve argued against you from every angle I can come up with. Multiple posts. There is no other way for me to say it.

    Feel free to disagree. I don’t really care any more. I can’t save the world. But to suggest I’m making assertions rather than arguments is almost as surreal as your desire to dodge code words.

  194. Did you link directly to this?

    How could I? I didn’t read it or know of its existence.

    I also want to make one thing quite clear: Jeff’s post can be read to imply that because I said I like the dog example, that I therefore endorse every statement made by the commenter who first proposed it.

    It can? Interesting. Because I only selected the dog example and your response to the dog example. I don’t even think I referenced another part of the comment.

    If you’ve found a few souls who find your argument compelling, good for you. I’ve made my case. Multiple times, in multiple situations, using multiple examples. It can stand or fall on its own now.

  195. Patterico, could you come up with a pithy aphorism for your view?

    Roughly speaking, are you saying we could vote on meaning? If we took a poll and 99 out of 100 agreed, is that the meaning?

    Sometimes these discussion go far astray and there are so many distractions. What’s the essence of your argument?

  196. I could go to Compton and unleash a cute little dog and be all here boy here boy and what they would do is help me get my dog. As long as I wasn’t driving or wearing nothing stupid, and probably not even then. For sure in the daytime anyway. People are mostly nice, and they like cute little dogs. A big scary dog, they might not be so helpful, but I don’t think they’d gank me.

  197. It can stand or fall on its own now.

    Well, I suppose. On the other hand, it’s going to want some defending still.

    SEK: Here’s the important part: Jeff wants you to focus on his reconstruction of what the politician intended to say because that makes him the only person who does the interpretation. This way when he interprets the politician’s statement, its wrongness becomes immaterial.

    Does the “interpretation” as opposed to the originary meaning or intendintg. Neat trick.

  198. I don’t think they’d gank me

    Or, not. Um. Oh hey guys funny story. Ok there’s this assistant district attorney guy what’s online. On the Internet. He has this like chat room thing. And there was this argument about intentionalism…

  199. If it’s in good faith, I’ll ask you if you really understand my position. Maybe you can restate it for me. Bet you can’t.

    I can restate it about ten different ways, all of which I can rationalize for ten different interpreters. Bet you don’t want me to, which is the whole point of this discussion.

    People kill because they are offended by words.

    People kill because they are murderers. You of all people should know this.

  200. Oh, and FRAMIST!

    …I feel obligated to note that Jeff’s shadow-boxing post-structuralist ghosts: he claims to be talking about intention, but he’s actually talking about framing.

  201. yes, my son, that is a very good drawing of daddy!

    In that case, the meaning that the father wishes to convey is that he is happy that the son has drawn a picture of him. He utters words calculated to convey that message.

    He may think, privately, that the drawing is childishly bad, but that is irrelevant, because that is not the message he intends to communicate.

    Your point?

  202. I don’t even know what that’s trying to say, sdferr.

    I haven’t asked anyone to focus on my reconstruction of what the politician intended to say, outside of offering up an interpretation publicly. How that makes me the only person who does the interpretation I have no idea. It’s not like I’m preventing anyone from doing any interpreting themselves. I’m only insisting that what they do be interpretation.

  203. “People kill because they are murderers. You of all people should know this.”

    Whatever. I say people kill because they are offended by words, and they do it all the time, and yes, I should know.

  204. Whatever. Let SEK teach the class then.

    Progressive language usage 101. Not surprised he’s offered to help Patterico.

    Enjoy!

  205. I say people kill because they are offended by words

    People say offensive things to me all the time, but I’ve never killed anybody (nor have most people who have had offensive things said to them).

    Try again.

  206. Well, there’s Mr. Rushdie. Not that he’s dead or anything, but they sure put an awful fright into him there for awhile.

  207. >>People say offensive things to me all the time, but I’ve never killed anybody (nor have most people who have had offensive things said to them<<

    What about that guy who had a fatwa declared against him? He wrote some words that offended someone and had to go into hiding for many years…there were tons of people out to get him…they wanted to slit his throat or something…

  208. I interpret the verbal output of Patterico on here to be the verbal output of a dumb guy. Or a guy pretending to be a dumb guy.
    If I’m wrong it’s because I’ve been victimized. Because the dumb verbal output led me astray.
    I hope I’m wrong because these days victims get paychecks.
    Anyone know a good lawyer?

  209. Sorry, I’ve perhaps unjustly excerpted a new argument SEK has put forth as an example to straighten people out, you see. Put back together it reads [emphases in original]:

    You can’t ever know a person’s intentions, but you can only infer them by analyzing the information Pat left out. But before I get to that, I feel obligated to note that Jeff’s shadow-boxing post-structuralist ghosts: he claims to be talking about intention, but he’s actually talking about framing. He wants to establish supremacy of authorial intent because it would allow him to set the terms of the debate after the fact. A statement a person made on Wednesday will always mean what its author intended it to. But that’s clearly an inadequate means of understanding anything, much less something as complicated as political rhetoric. To take an obvious example:

    Politician: The sky is not falling!

    (the sky falls and crushes him)

    What the politician meant — his intent — is important to understanding the rhetorical situation, but it’s not the only factor in determining what that statement means. His wrongness — and the way the Hand of God smote him — factor into any meaningful analysis of his statement. Here’s the important part: Jeff wants you to focus on his reconstruction of what the politician intended to say because that makes him the only person who does the interpretation. This way when he interprets the politician’s statement, its wrongness becomes immaterial.

    It goes on.

  210. Patterico, again, can we determine meaning by voting? Am I totally off in my understanding of your viewpoint? (Totally possible! That’s why I’m asking.)

  211. there were tons of people out to get him…they wanted to slit his throat or something…

    Sure. That was because they are murdering savages. Not because of his words per se.

    You know, there’s a reason why we have a First Amendment.

  212. Those same people also kill homosexuals because they are offensive. Whose fault is that?

  213. We really would be better served if Jeff were to discuss the examples I discuss in my latest post — linked above and linked in comments to the post he linked. But let me respond to what he says here:

    This response left me quite literally agog: first, just how would the child know that the man is likely to take offense?

    Because I said so in my comment. It was an assumption of the example I gave.

    Now, it was short-handed in my comment, which I wrote on a Treo while on a late-night walk. If you’re looking for an explanation of “how” the child would know, I gave much more detailed examples in my latest post that would explain why a child might think this: he had been taught it in school. But in a hypothetical, it doesn’t destroy the hypothetical to question why one of the assumptions is. It just is.

    Or does it not occur to Patterico that, in allowing that it is reasonable to take offense in the first place, he is perpetuating and enabling an idea of language that puts the speaker always at the mercy of the “interpreter” — who Patterico isn’t even requiring to interpret insofar as he can claim offense without having to worry about taking the child’s intent into question?

    Jeff here makes assumptions about the black man’s reaction. How does he KNOW the black man isn’t worrying about taking the child’s intent into account? In fact, even in my comment I posited different scenarios and asked whether they mattered: “Is it relevant to the answer whether the black man’s anticipated reaction is reasonable or in good faith? E.g. if he doesn’t know the boy is calling a dog, vs. he does know?”

    If the black man doesn’t even see a dog, he may well be trying to decide what the child meant, and reasonably concluding that the child meant to insult him. He can have this reaction even though he is following intentionalism to the letter.

    The problem here — and this is one that Patterico doesn’t seem to understand — is that the black man is reacting, not interpreting.

    Says you. You’re assuming he’s doing that, but there is nothing inherent in my example that shows he is.

    He has resignified the child’s mark to suit his own purposes, which means that he and the child are no longer even arguing over the same signs.

    Or, he has made his best effort to divine the child’s intent, and concludes it’s an effort to insult. He could be wrong, but that doesn’t mean he’s not trying to interpret.

    And so they are no longer even arguing over the same text. Why should anyone privilege the “reaction” of the receiver over the intent of the author when the receiver feels no need whatever to divine the intent of the author to begin with?

    Why would we even pretend that he is “interpreting” when he has made no effort to divine the author’s meaning?

    Again, that’s your assumption.

  214. “Those same people also kill homosexuals because they are offensive. Whose fault is that?”

    The killers. My answer does not serve your argument because you are changing the argument. First you were arguing that nobody is offended by words. I noted that they do, and kill over them. That was not an argument that the utterers of the words were at fault. It was an argument that words offend.

    Homosexuality also offends people. Doesn’t mean they’re right to be offended.

    You need to figure out what you’re arguing.

  215. >>Sure. That was because they are murdering savages. Not because of his words per se.

    You know, there’s a reason why we have a First Amendment<<

    Whoa, dude, you might have just offended someone…with your words.

  216. Patterico,

    I think we do understand your argument and to a certain extent we buy it. In fact, I live it every day. I don’t go out of my way to offend people. But I do that because it’s MY CHOICE to do so. If I ever self-censor because I’m worried I’m going to be deliberately misinterpreted by a band of scumbag leftists and made a pariah, then that is the day the U.S.A. as you and I know it is dead.

    What’s depressing is that you’re a smart guy Patterico. And you don’t seem to “get” that. If you were dumb or stupid, I’d just write you off. But you’re not, and you should know better.

    You are smarter than this Patterico.

  217. What the politician meant — his intent — is important to understanding the rhetorical situation, but it’s not the only factor in determining what that statement means. His wrongness — and the way the Hand of God smote him — factor into any meaningful analysis of his statement.

    This way when he interprets the politician’s statement, its wrongness becomes immaterial.

    That is a load of utter crap.

    I notice that SEK isn’t making those arguments over here, no doubt because he’s had his ass handed to him on so many previous occasions.

    He said the sky wasn’t falling. That’s what he meant. He was wrong.

  218. I say people kill because they are offended by words

    “People say offensive things to me all the time, but I’ve never killed anybody (nor have most people who have had offensive things said to them).

    Try again.”

    Your logic is flawed.

    People kill for the insurance money all the time. You may be the beneficiary on an insurance policy and not kill the insured — but that doesn’t mean others never do that.

  219. Whoa, dude, you might have just offended someone…with your words.

    Fuck ‘em sideways with a rusty crowbar and no lube.

  220. Doesn’t mean they’re right to be offended.

    You need to figure out what you’re arguing.

    Bingo.

  221. “I think we do understand your argument and to a certain extent we buy it. In fact, I live it every day. I don’t go out of my way to offend people. But I do that because it’s MY CHOICE to do so. If I ever self-censor because I’m worried I’m going to be deliberately misinterpreted by a band of scumbag leftists and made a pariah, then that is the day the U.S.A. as you and I know it is dead.”

    *Why* do you choose not to offend people?

  222. “I notice that SEK isn’t making those arguments over here, no doubt because he’s had his ass handed to him on so many previous occasions.”

    I thought he was banned. I could be wrong, but that’s what I thought.

  223. People kill for the insurance money all the time.

    And yet millions of people refrain from doing so.

    They kill because they are friggin’ murderers. Period. Full stop. They kill because they value something else (money, a wounded ego) more highly than they do the life of another human being.

    So, you’d argue that we shouldn’t buy life insurance, lest we tempt our beneficiaries? Because that’s precisely the argument you’re making in regard to language — that we should police ourselves, lest we give offense to someone else.

  224. I thought he was banned.

    Hmm… could be.

    I don’t remember him being banned outright, but you’d have to ask Jeff.

  225. Would it help if I said that I was asking this in good faith, Patterico?

    I’m dumb. Let’s back away from the hypotheticals and meta analysis.

    Can we vote on meaning?

    Here, I’ll cede ground, just to get the ball rolling. In order to convict me, I’m happy to have a jury of reasonable people vote on the meaning of my statements. I can’t think of a better system. Now, yes, I’ve given a functional argument for that viewpoint. I’ll also allow that I’d be happy to let voters, well, vote on the meaning of political statements.

    Can we vote on meaning? Can 100 people out of 100 decide what someone just said?

  226. *Why* do you choose not to offend people?

    For the same reason I’d over food and shelter to a dying man at my doorstep: simple human decency.

    Which has NOTHING to do with self-censoring myself for fear of being afraid of being misinterpreted by a gang of leftists out to make me a pariah.

    The two have nothing to do with one another. AT ALL. This really doesn’t strike me as controversial or even debatable. I am thoroughly confused what you don’t “get” about the argument.

    And it’s depressing, because you are obviously an intelligent person and definitely one of the “good guys”. You’re smarter than this frankly. Maybe it’s just ego that you can’t admit you lost this debate to Jeff – there are definitely much worse people to lose a debate too. Jeff is a linguist after all.

  227. Ever going to explain the Israel thing to us, SFAG?

    I’m still offended by that, and that’s what it’s all about, right?

  228. “Jeff is a linguist after all.”

    Actually, no. I must have missed all that because if Jeff is coming at this as a linguist, I’ll eat my hat. I must have missed all the posts on glottal stops.

  229. What lies under taking offense? Or is taking offense all there is with no antecedent interests involved, it’s done just for the shits and giggles? Bullshit. Taking offense has a purpose. Why? What’s it good for? Cui bono?

    psycho pointed the way: “a claim to offense, or a claim to sympathy with offense, can increase their power, status, or group integration.” That’s what lies under taking offense. Look at it for a moment as an adaptive evolutionary strategy, rewarded with offspring and grandkids as a means of its preservation in our character.

  230. Semioticist is le mot juste</I, I’d say.

  231. >>Fuck ‘em sideways with a rusty crowbar and no lube<<

    Well, I prob would have put it differently, but yeah…

  232. Imagine you’re leading a discussion inside a classroom, holding a stone palimpsest you scratched with a message you intend to display to the class – with some remaining faint marks from a previous text we can call the lower text covered up by your upper text. The lower text isn’t interpreted at all by some for various reasons (such as a person who literally couln’t see the lower text as a result of poor vision or those who would not find the lower text useful in discerning and cogitating the upper text and therefore avert all focus from the lower text), while simultaneously the lower text is clearly viewable and intensely interpreted by others, such as: 1) people formally trained to see such things and who look for such things with the proper instruments because they have, perhaps nonsensical to some, incentive to do so 2)people more prone to view such things due to cultural influences or 3) people bored with the upper text who find the lower text more interesting; challenging and enlightening even.

    It is indeed not unreasonable for the latter group to claim the lower text has a meaning that you are responsible for, as it is you displaying both the upper and lower text to those in the classroom who see it.

    This is not to say, however, that the answer is for you, the person putting the palimpsest on display, to simply and “reasonably” erase the lower text “more better” in the future, thereby avoiding an issue of lower text altogether.

    The fact is, some people will ALWAYS be able to view the lower text on the palimpsest. Any efforts to fully erase the lower text, even if done as well as can be, can never be enough to prevent those who use the proper instruments from viewing the lower text.

    That is why the only answer is to fight against the notion you are responsible for the lower text, even if some can view it on your palimpsest.

  233. For the same reason I’d over food and shelter to a dying man at my doorstep: simple human decency.

    Which has NOTHING to do with self-censoring myself for fear of being afraid of being misinterpreted by a gang of leftists out to make me a pariah.

    So you would self-censor not to offend people.

    I do not believe that people should self-censor themselves for fear of being afraid or being misinterpreted by a gang f leftists out to make them pariahs. My argument is different than that. Have you read my posts? Try the one I have linked repeatedly and tell me how you would answer the questions.

  234. My husband made a wonderful chicken paprika and we kidded back and forth across the dinner table.

    Of course, any one listening into a playful banter could interpret it in all manner of ways, some it those being “creative writing” as they project their own emotions and motives on it.

  235. Can we vote on meaning? Can 100 people out of 100 decide what someone just said?

    That doesn’t strike me as possible, no. Meaning is what it is.

    However, it is also not capable of being known with certainty by humans other than the speaker — and sometimes not even by the speaker himself.

    So when you have a set of people, all trying to divine the speaker’s true intent, and they disagree, there has to be some way of deciding what the best interpretation is. Right? How would you answer that question?

  236. >>So when you have a set of people, all trying to divine the speaker’s true intent, and they disagree, there has to be some way of deciding what the best interpretation is. Right? How would you answer that question?<<

    Can’t you just ask him what he meant?

  237. They kill because they are friggin’ murderers. Period. Full stop. They kill because they value something else (money, a wounded ego) more highly than they do the life of another human being.

    So, you’d argue that we shouldn’t buy life insurance, lest we tempt our beneficiaries? Because that’s precisely the argument you’re making in regard to language — that we should police ourselves, lest we give offense to someone else.

    I’m talking about motives for crimes. Sometimes the motive is anger caused by words. It’s quite striking how often that happens, actually.

  238. “Can’t you just ask him what he meant?”

    You can, but what he tells you may not be correct for a host of reasons.

  239. What lies under taking offense? Or is taking offense all there is with no antecedent interests involved, it’s done just for the shits and giggles? Bullshit. Taking offense has a purpose. Why? What’s it good for? Cui bono?

    psycho pointed the way: “a claim to offense, or a claim to sympathy with offense, can increase their power, status, or group integration.” That’s what lies under taking offense. Look at it for a moment as an adaptive evolutionary strategy, rewarded with offspring and grandkids as a means of its preservation in our character.

    We’re going in circles here, but it comes back to the fact that the Left relies on our decency as people to naturally feel bad for our “offense” and then immediately apologize and back off, thus ceding the debate.

    WHAT IF, particularly in the increasingly obvious situations that the Leftist takes “offense” to, we responded not with our initial, “I’m sorry for causing offense, won’t happen again”, but rather, particularly due to the obviously deliberate nature of the offended to be offended, “I determine what MY words mean. If YOU interpreted them to offend YOU, then YOU’re the fucking racist for interpreting my words as code words for something else. Eat shit and die. And go fuck yourself somewhere in between.”

    Too Provocative? No less provocative than the grievance industry’s deliberate intent to censor their opponents.

  240. “So when you have a set of people, all trying to divine the speaker’s true intent, and they disagree, there has to be some way of deciding what the best interpretation is. Right? How would you answer that question?”

    I wouldn’t answer that question. I’d ask a question. I’d say, “What did you mean?” If the speaker was dead or unresponsive, I’d say “Who knows?”

    Like you said, “Meaning is what it is.” I can’t decode what wasn’t encoded.

  241. So you would self-censor not to offend people.

    I do not believe that people should self-censor themselves for fear of being afraid or being misinterpreted by a gang f leftists out to make them pariahs. My argument is different than that. Have you read my posts? Try the one I have linked repeatedly and tell me how you would answer the questions.

    I wonder if you’re trying to misinterpret me deliberately in order to save your argument. When I visit my Vietnamese friends at their place of residence, I would never insult them or call them a gook. Why? Not because I’m afraid of being a pariah by Media Matters or Daily Kos, but because A) I like them, B) they’re friends of mine and C) I do not enter someone else’s home and proceed to insult them

    That is a VERY large leap from apologizing for Rush’s “I hope he fails” comments.

  242. There was a Huxley before Aldous. He said, paraphrasing, “I’m agnostic about more than God.”

    Can we not be this way towards speech? If we can’t divine intent, might it not be lost for good? Let us offer disclaimers and then concede that we don’t know.

  243. I wonder if you’re trying to misinterpret me deliberately in order to save your argument.

    I have no idea where you get that from. My comment virtually quotes you verbatim, saying: you would do x (x was your words) and I’m not saying you should do y (y also being your words).

    That is a VERY large leap from apologizing for Rush’s “I hope he fails” comments.

    I’m trying to get away from that specific example, and discuss people’s attitudes. You seem very quick to find bad motives on my part. I’m just talking with you.

  244. Patterico

    Sorry, but after reading your boy scenarios the majority of them deal with manners, not language.

    I apologize if I mangle the jargon, but I the only courses in signs, signifiers, et al, has been here.

    However, in all the instances you site, the black man may react emotionally to the term “boy” … whether that reaction is a reasonable or not is another subject. However, when he realizes the word is being said by a prepubescent boy of indeterminate race, good manners dictates he leave the boy alone unless he has solid reason to know the child was acting with malice. Then he goes to the parent.

    A parent will be able to determine whether the child was acting innocently or inappropriately — the difference between playing ball in the street and an errant ball goes through a window, or the child stands on the lawn and throws the ball through the window.

  245. Someone should tell SEK that he means what he meant, and that any trouble I might have inferring his meaning just proves it is hard, sometimes, to reconstruct intent.

    However, his wife, to whom the statement was directed, probably has a better set of tools by which to suss out that intent, and so to understand his meaning. Which is probably for the best, domestically speaking.

    Beyond that, and assuming all SEK was curious about is why his wife hadn’t gotten around to the dishes, I’m sure, as a professor, that were the women’s studies department to get a hold of his statement and use it to paint him as a misogynist who was given to treating his wife like domestic chattel, SEK would suddenly become a big fan of intentionalism.

    There are no atheists in foxholes, and hate speech show trials are filled with reborn intentionalists.

  246. I wouldn’t answer that question. I’d ask a question. I’d say, “What did you mean?” If the speaker was dead or unresponsive, I’d say “Who knows?”

    Are you saying that you would give the author total authority to articulate the correct interpretation of his intent? In all cases?

    I think I can quickly demonstrate to you that you can’t do that in all cases. So then the question becomes: how do you separate the cases where you trust the author’s interpretation from those where you don’t?

  247. Seriously, could you ask your friend if she could recommend a Bible passage giving an example of Jesus being extra careful of someone’s feelings?

    What’s ironic is that Jesus had an agenda and went out of his way, probably stayed up late at night plotting, to offend the religious leaders of the day.

    Told’em to their faces they were like white washed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but full of rotting bones and every corruption on the inside. Made a whip, he did, and used it to chase the vendors from the temple to hurt the Pharisees take. Cured the blind on the Sabbath to mock their stupid rules. Etc., etc., etc..

    Most people that ask “what would Jesus do” have very little idea what the answer to their question is, I’ve decided.

    The Man was an Outlaw.

  248. “Ever going to explain the Israel thing to us, SFAG?”

    Oh I brought it up because I studied it as part of studying hyperinflation in the 80s. Wanted to bring up a counter that would be unlike zimbabwe for folks — to try to spot whe else is brought up when we mention zimbabwe besides inflation. Israel did tame its inflation. How it could be anti-semitic to mention this experience is beyond me. FWIW if we do have inflation I think it will be more like Israel’s than like zimbabwes. That’s a good thing. Though our problem now seems to be more deflation than inflation.

    “I’m still offended by that, and that’s what it’s all about, right?”

    Does it matter? I doubt it.

  249. But, Patterico, if I’m to assume evasion, lying and ignorance disproves, isn’t the point of evasion and lying to evade and lie. And wouldn’t I look to the speaker to see if he’s ignorant?

    There is a prime mover, the speaker.

  250. “Sorry, but after reading your boy scenarios the majority of them deal with manners, not language.”

    You don’t seem to respond to my questions about the behavior of the boy. Only about the behavior of the black man. I am really interested, Darleen, in your answers to the questions about the behavior of the boy.

  251. I’m talking about motives for crimes. Sometimes the motive is anger caused by words. It’s quite striking how often that happens, actually.

    Patterico, you know full well that motive does not denote any responsibility on any other person than the perp.

  252. Phil, I suspect that there is a tension between taking offense and giving offense in everyone. A thorough analysis likely won’t be broken down in a correlation with political party. The success or failure of the particular instances as they appear in an individual’s life will show up, evolutionarily speaking, centuries later in the trace or lack of trace of offspring in that population. The deployment or failure to deploy either strategy can’t be judged on a too short timescale, well, save in those instances in which the strategy results in the immediate death of the chooser, whether though an error of commission or of omission. Or to put it another way, evolutionary success cannot be known in advance. Ya pays your money, ya takes your chances.

  253. But, Patterico, if I’m to assume evasion, lying and ignorance disproves, isn’t the point of evasion and lying to evade and lie. And wouldn’t I look to the speaker to see if he’s ignorant?

    There is a prime mover, the speaker.

    I don’t completely follow this comment, sorry.

  254. “Patterico, you know full well that motive does not denote any responsibility on any other person than the perp.”

    I do. And if you read what I said, you know full well that I already acknowledged that.

  255. Patterico

    Certainly I’m concerned with the boy’s behavior, but his behavior is the responsibility of his parent. Children do not have the same reasoning capacity as adults, so your #3 is risible in its description of the child’s inner dialogue.

  256. Oh I brought it up because I studied it as part of studying hyperinflation in the 80s.

    Sorry, I don’t believe you.

    How it could be anti-semitic to mention this experience is beyond me.

    But you claimed that mentioning Zimbabwe in precisely the same way was racist.

    Do you get dizzy when you spin around that fast, SFAG?

  257. What I’m saying P, is that if someone lies, there is the encoded intent to lie.

    It is just the reverse case.

    Example: the guy typing these words to you is 11 feet tall.

    My intent, to lie about my height.

    Untruths are the mirror of truths. It’s like math. Negatives on one side equal the positives on the other. Same mechanism.

  258. Please forgive my neglecting all those addressing the questions I posed. I’ve been away most of the day. Plus I’m half-blind at the moment, since I’ve got this condition that makes cells fall like sheer curtains in front of one of my eyes’ lenses, which makes for the most embarrassing typographical errors.

    I’ve read through All the posts and found the most salient in one of Darleen’s at #74

    She quoted another post and added some remarks:

    Comment by Darleen on 3/15 @ 4:37 pm #

    For the Left, if an utterance can be interpreted negatively it must be interpreted negatively.

    This is the dogma, reinforced by the courts, that have employers cowed. From sexual harassment sensitivity training to all manner of seminars and “educators” brought into the workplace in an effort to keep lawsuits at bay, the clearest message being sent is that people of bad faith can control the workplace to their liking by merely sneaking around the office and “overhearing” things they can then claim as “offensive” and “creating a hostile workplace.”

    One can protest to HR that the “overheard” word or phrase was taken out of context, but the bottom line is, if the word/phrase CAN be “offensive” in ANY singular context, then it MUST BE considered “offensive” regardless of context and thus be avoided completely and the utterer shamed, counseled or even reprimanded.

    Comment by Darleen on 3/15 @ 4:37 pm #

    For the Left, if an utterance can be interpreted negatively it must be interpreted negatively.

    This is the dogma, reinforced by the courts, that have employers cowed. From sexual harassment sensitivity training to all manner of seminars and “educators” brought into the workplace in an effort to keep lawsuits at bay, the clearest message being sent is that people of bad faith can control the workplace to their liking by merely sneaking around the office and “overhearing” things they can then claim as “offensive” and “creating a hostile workplace.”

    One can protest to HR that the “overheard” word or phrase was taken out of context, but the bottom line is, if the word/phrase CAN be “offensive” in ANY singular context, then it MUST BE considered “offensive” regardless of context and thus be avoided completely and the utterer shamed, counseled or even reprimanded.”

    It’s almost worth a separate post because that’s the real point of all this dicussion, propriety used as a weapon.
    We are aksed to abandon out powers of discernment and accept as a given that anything that can be offensive, ( in some given context like work or school) necessarily is, or should be assumed to be so by default.

    Or, as in the case of Limbaugh that someone with a wide audience that includes someone who will be offended, is supposed to keep that potential someone or someones protected from the risk of such offense, or avoid giving it for the sake of the “team”.

    One thing wrong with that process is that it abandons reasonableness. Discernment, and moreover respect enough for potential offendees to know the difference, or to have the capacity, let alone the responsibility, of employing such discernment. Zero tolerance in any iffy case, assume the worst.

    Also it’s not always immoral or impractical or outlandish to give offense, by accident or design. I certainly determined that Rush Limbaugh used “I hope he fails” because the surface impropriety of wishing the leader of the nation bad luck would grab attention and force its direction to why he would say such a thing. It was RIGHT of him to give offense, effective, direct, frank remarks about the danger to liberty inherent in Obama’s strategies for reshaping America and dealing with economic issues currently facing the country.

    But Darleen points out the “walking on egghells”, the cowing and controlling of discourse brought about by “zero tolerance” abandonment of reasonableness.

    If something can be offensive, it is ALWAYS offensive, and offense is always to be stamped out and never appropriate.

    Now I think people, in general ought to be civil and polite. They ought to obey conventions, to a point, depending on situation. They ought to know or be taught what is the correct thing to say in the appropriate situation as they are raised to adulthood, by moral and mannerly guides such as parents and teachers. But if they don’t have wit or education enough to distinguish between homophones, for example, because their own education or facility for language is deficient, why do these ignoramuses get to rule?

    Think of that hapless chap who happened to use the term “niggardly” for “scrimping and ungenerous” in front of a predominantly sloppily educated auditorium of students and parents, also predominantly black. It seems the conclusion ( that I came to in hindsight) that those black people are kind of weak on etymological derivation of a great many five-dollar words would be extremely racist if I applied to the racial collective of african americans. That they would howl with paranoid certainty that offense was meant, would be merely UNREASONABLE. That they would howl that the mere fact that
    *someone*might be *inadvertantly* offended by a word that merely *sounds* like a naughty or insulting word is worse.

    And yet I’m reminded of the thugs that flew over the seats at my own hometown city council for using “dog” and “preacher” in the same sentence. They will punch you out. My personal opinion is that the thugs should have been removed from the auditorium and rebuked, not the speaker.
    And yet the opposite occurred, in fact someone who spoke in defense of the gentleman was removed as well.

    Why are people so stupid? Why are they so paranoid? Why do they misunderstand? Some really are stupid. Some do so cynically. Some do it out of do-goodership and a desire to eliminate “offense” from the world.

    All three sorts of person are problematic. I don’t really know what to do with them.

    As a practical matter you have to worry about thugs who will blow you up or jump over seats and punch you. As a matter of getting along in civilized society you have to give some deference to the feelings and weakness of others, and to learn to be discreet and politic.

    Jeff keeps redefining a test of reasonableness as something it is not. A test of reasonableness applied to speech is not determination that some situation COULD be reasonable under SOME situations, but specific to that specific given incident of speech.

  259. “Certainly I’m concerned with the boy’s behavior, but his behavior is the responsibility of his parent. Children do not have the same reasoning capacity as adults, so your #3 is risible in its description of the child’s inner dialogue.”

    Then change the example so that the boy is an adult. I’d really like to know your answers.

  260. My assumption was that false statements were your examples of the breakdown of intentionalism. I skipped ahead a bit.

  261. “Sorry, I don’t believe you.”

    When did you first find out about Israels experience with hyperinflation? Then again:

    “Does it matter? I doubt it.”

  262. I just wish we could go back to a world where reason was expected of everyone.

  263. “But if they don’t have wit or education enough to distinguish between homophones, for example, because their own education or facility for language is deficient, why do these ignoramuses get to rule?”

    I hope you realize, SarahW, that this is not my hypothetical. In my hypothetical, the speaker knows of the likelihood that his speech will offend, contemplates a different but equally effective way of saying the same thing — and then deliberately chooses the more offensive formulation. His motives vary by example; I have six in all. The post is here.

  264. What I’m saying P, is that if someone lies, there is the encoded intent to lie.

    It is just the reverse case.

    Example: the guy typing these words to you is 11 feet tall.

    My intent, to lie about my height.

    Untruths are the mirror of truths. It’s like math. Negatives on one side equal the positives on the other. Same mechanism.

    None of which addresses my point: when the correct interpretation is in doubt — when reasonable people differ — how do we resolve that debate? You suggested we can simply ask the speaker. I am telling you that Jeff does not say that asking the speaker for his interpretation guarantees that you will receive the correct interpretation. And he’s right.

    So how do you suggest we resolve such a dilemma?

  265. What about your hypotheticals deals with intentionalism as a function of meaning, Pat? Can you articulate it?

    Also: you seem to have suddenly found yourself in a universe composed of language where no referees are around to determine which is the best interpretation when an informed consensus based on an appeal to the author’s intent can’t be found, and the text is not, as with an instruction manual, testable.

    Why this is troubling to you I don’t know: we choose the one we individually believe made the best case. None of which changes the fact that the text did and does have a meaning, one that was intended at the moment it became a linguistic text; that exists independent of our ability ever to be sure we’ve recovered it completely; and that we continue to strive to determine if indeed we wish to say we are interested in interpreting.

    Personally — and I’ve said this repeatedly — I don’t care much what people come up with so long as they appeal to the intent of the utterer. Because at least then we are arguing about the same text. From there, we’ve made the game fair again.

  266. I’m talking about motives for crimes.

    A motive is a different thing from a cause.

    I see an attractive woman. I want to have sex with her. I have a motive (lust). But I don’t do it. I am neither unfaithful (presuming consent) nor a rapist (presuming no consent).

    Someone cuts me off in traffic, and almost causes me to crash. I get a sudden urge to yank him out of his car and smack him around. I have a motive (anger). But I don’t do it.

    I see my neighbor’s shiny new plasma. I’d sure like to have one of those. I have a motive (envy). But I don’t enter his house when he’s not home and take it, because I am not a thief.

    Your conflation of “motive” with “cause” reminds me of the old “the bitch was asking for it” excuse for rape. In this world view, people have no agency. They’re merely acting out scripts according to sensory stimuli provided by their environments.

    Sorry, that doesn’t wash.

  267. I’ll be back in a bit. I have a heavy bag to hit.

  268. When did you first find out about Israels experience with hyperinflation?

    What does that have to do with anything?

    You claimed that using Zimbabwe (a recent and incredibly extreme example of hyperinflation) was “racist”. I countered that, in that case, you using Israel (a 30 year old and much more moderate example of hyperinflation) was antisemitic. Now, you can dissemble all you want, but you won’t change those facts.

    You got brutally owned, SFAG.

  269. #264 I guess that world never existed. Maybe I just mean a world where stopping offense was not the crown glory virtue.

  270. “So how do you suggest we resolve such a dilemma?”

    I’m suggesting it can’t be remedied. Not all cases can be resolved. We can apply functionally “good enough” as a society type rules. But the answer, the truth of the matter? If there is not enough information, we can’t solve for x.

    Hey, I’m a math guy. A physics guy. A finance guy. An information theory guy. Sometimes there is not enough information and we should acknowledge it. We can offer theories, sometimes good ones. But for many questions, there is no actual answer.

  271. SarahW, I tend to believe that any historical world we could name was, as a matter of fact, more violent than the world we now live in. It’s damned hard to ever argue going back.

  272. Patterico: What is with the obsession about people being offended? As the recipient of a message a person shouldn’t use a reasonable interpretation (that could be many things) he/she should use the likely interpretation. In your example A black MAN hears/sees a boy say come here boy, If I were that MAN I would look around for a dog or perhaps a boy in the area. How is it that being black justifies an immediate jump to being offended. Whatever happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt?

  273. Sarah, How about going back to a world where the unoffended are not schooled about how and why they should be offended?

    “Man you just got dissed!!”

    “I did?”

    Sometimes ignorance is the natural state of civilization.

  274. Patterico, Oh, I believe well enough in the power to deliberately offend. And I believe a reasonable person may use his own intuition, his REACTION, if you will, as a clue that offense was intended, though he may decide he is reacting wrongly.

    The difficulty is the paranoid or hypersensitive individual who perceives offense where none was intended, or any individula who would demand that his reaction is dispositive on the question of intention. That if any construction of speech or language or gesture CAN be intentionally or inadvertantly offensive in some case , that it should be assumed to be so in the present case until it is proven otherwise, and even then that reaction provoked in himself should have been avoided by more careful messaging.
    That’s getting into the world of the nutty and unreasonable. Or rather, the present day.

  275. #275

    “Man you just got dissed!!”

    “I did?”

    Obliviousness (and feigned obliviousness) to insult can really unnerve a detractor.

  276. Also: you seem to have suddenly found yourself in a universe composed of language where no referees are around to determine which is the best interpretation when an informed consensus based on an appeal to the author’s intent can’t be found, and the text is not, as with an instruction manual, testable.

    Why this is troubling to you I don’t know: we choose the one we individually believe made the best case. None of which changes the fact that the text did and does have a meaning, one that was intended at the moment it became a linguistic text; that exists independent of our ability ever to be sure we’ve recovered it completely; and that we continue to strive to determine if indeed we wish to say we are interested in interpreting.

    Personally — and I’ve said this repeatedly — I don’t care much what people come up with so long as they appeal to the intent of the utterer. Because at least then we are arguing about the same text. From there, at least the game is fair.

    I didn’t say it was troubling to me. I think that the fact that people can disagree reveals the limitations of your intentionalism theory as it operates in the real world, where the speaker’s true intent will always be unknowable, strive as we might to learn it.

    The fact that there is one true intent at the time of utterance does not mean that any human can automatically say that their interpretation is more accurate than any other’s. I think some of the readers here are laboring under the mistaken assumption that, because the speaker solely determines his intent, he also is the sole authority of the correct interpretation of his intent. But he’s not. So the rhetoric about controlling one’s own meaning is overblown in operation, because the author can claim his own meaning all he likes — but if you happen to disagree, you will favor your reading over his.

    My hypotheticals are designed to explore various aspects of intent — including but not limited to: how (if at all) it is affected by the knowledge of the reactions of others; illustrations of the fact that it cannot be known by others, etc. You may disagree with my conclusions but I think your answers would illuminate your position.

  277. Patterico: What is with the obsession about people being offended? As the recipient of a message a person shouldn’t use a reasonable interpretation (that could be many things) he/she should use the likely interpretation. In your example A black MAN hears/sees a boy say come here boy, If I were that MAN I would look around for a dog or perhaps a boy in the area. How is it that being black justifies an immediate jump to being offended. Whatever happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt?

    Actually, I have several examples in my post. I’d be interested in your answers to all of them. It’s a discussion. I think it’s interesting. If you do too, take part. If you don’t, then don’t.

  278. I’m going to attend to my own site and to some work. I hope some of you will check out those examples and answer them.

  279. When the Interpreter tells us what the speaker actually meant, how are we to understand it? Do we try to figure out the intent of the Interpreter, or do we employ a Second-Order Interpreter to do that for us? And do we need a Third-Order Interpreter to interpret the interpretation of the interpretation?

    Is it really turtles all the way down?

  280. where the speaker’s true intent will always be unknowable

    I don’t think this is quite so. I’d say, may be unknowable, rather than will always be.

    Pass the salt.

  281. I didn’t say it was troubling to me. I think that the fact that people can disagree reveals the limitations of your intentionalism theory as it operates in the real world, where the speaker’s true intent will always be unknowable, strive as we might to learn it.

    Uh, beg pardon?

    My “intentionalism theory” requires only that when we claim to be interpreting, we strive to know the author’s intent as a condition of that claim. Even in “the real world.”

    Where is the limitation? I never said interpretation was full-proof, or that appealing to the author gets us to some Universal Truth. All I’ve said is that the author makes the meaning, and we as interpreters, to be engaging in interpretation, need to strive to uncover that meaning.

    As I’ve said again and again, you don’t understand what I’m arguing.

  282. “when we claim to be interpreting, we strive to know the author’s intent as a condition of that claim.”

    But of course. That seems like the most reasonable thing I ever heard.

  283. #285

    Yet judgement about how prudent or appropriate his message is, is a completely separate judgement…. you agree?

  284. How would you answer that question?

    Asked and and answered, Counselor. Many many times.

    More than a little funny watching a criminal law attorney struggling with a thing like how to determine intent.

    In addition, someone who is reacting emotionally is not reasonable. That’s why there is a distincetion between 1st and 2nd degree murder.

  285. Patterico,

    Regardless of the example/scenario it is the listener’s responsibility to decode/interpret the message. Using a reasonable (how do you define reasonable?) interpretation standard could lead to a number of interpretations.

  286. And yet, Sarah, we’ve been living for 40 years now in the era where “Death of the Author” holds sway.

  287. Yet judgement about how prudent or appropriate his message is, is a completely separate judgement…. you agree?

    I do.

  288. Not my point… my point is that we now have a thriving enterprise based around informing people that they should be offended and schooling them on the various ways to claim/look for offense and to carry that mantle into battle.

    IOW, some people are not offended until they are informed they should be and that that is a “false” offendedness that is advancing the power of the group on the individual and requiring him to be offended whether he was in fact or not…

  289. Anybody have any idea what Patterico is arguing? His argument has shifted many times, I realize, but I’m being serious. I don’t rightly know anymore.

    I get the sense that he is now arguing that there is no independent ground from which to judge the relative “correctness” of an interpretation (presumably in complex texts), and therefore….what?

    Help a brother out. Serious question. Back in a bit. Really must work out.

  290. Uh, beg pardon?

    My “intentionalism theory” requires only that when we claim to be interpreting, we strive to know the author’s intent as a condition of that claim. Even in “the real world.”

    Where is the limitation? I never said interpretation was full-proof, or that appealing to the author gets us to some Universal Truth. All I’ve said is that the author makes the meaning, and we as interpreters, to be engaging in interpretation, need to strive to uncover that meaning.

    Indeed.

    As I’ve said again and again, you don’t understand what I’m arguing.

    You do say that again and again, and every time you say it, you’re wrong. In fact, you just agreed with what I said. I’m pointing out that the theory has limitations, and you’re agreeing that it does, and that you’ve never said otherwise. That exchange shows that I understand precisely what you’re arguing. I’m merely highlighting a limitation of the argument — one that not all your readers understand. Very often, when I point out the difficulty of reaching an interpretation that is correct, one of your readers will say something that indicates they think it’s quite easy to get the correct interpretation. You just ask the author.

    What I keep hammering is he fact that you can’t do that. Under your theory, you must appeal to the author’s intent, sure. But that doesn’t answer the question of which interpretation is best.

  291. Personally, I am amused by the offensiveness that newspeak engenders:

    Jesse Jackson presuming to speak for all blacks by using the phrase “That is offensive to African Americans.”

    “Err, I am Jamaican American, you racist.”

    But then I tend to frequent Aunt Annie’s pretzel shop, so what do I know?

  292. That was unclear. Of course, you can ask the author. My point is that the inquiry does not end when he answers that question.

  293. Comment by Jeff G. on 3/15 @ 3:57 pm #

    And the point is, the signifieds are NOT agreed upon, meaning the child and the black man aren’t even addressing the same text.

    Yes, the signifiers, signified and referents are all agreed upon and distinct in connotation.

    A black man would not confuse a boy calling his dog “boy” with hicks referring to a black man as a “boy,” nor the other way around.

    It’s a flawed example given the differetialism in the signified is a too obvious contextualization, (the semantic change in the homonym) and not a example of disagreement of definitions. There is no ambiguity in the signifiers, signified or referents whatsoever.

    Patterico, use the worn out “cat” example or revert to Derrida’s pharmakon, and excuse my jargon.

  294. Patterico

    Here’s a real life real time example for you to chew over. SEK makes an jawdropping claim that intent never defines meaning, so explain:

    Two co-workers, one black, one Hispanic. The Hispanic worker takes a personal call from home, talking with her niece in Spanish and using a nickname for her niece “little black bug” … the black co-worker doesn’t speak Spanish but hears “negro” takes offense and charges “hostile work place”.

  295. When you put the word “racist” in quotes like that, are you pretending to quote me?

    Your rules, honey. Deal with it.

  296. “His argument has shifted many times, I realize . . ”

    I don’t think it has. I think I have clarified it so that it cannot be as easily misinterpreted.

    You understand my point fairly well when you say “he is now arguing that there is no independent ground from which to judge the relative “correctness” of an interpretation (presumably in complex texts)” — except for the gratuitous use of the word “now” — but you seem to think that’s an unimportant point.

    I think it’s a very important point. Do you agree with it? Do you think your readers do?

  297. “Anybody have any idea what Patterico is arguing?”

    I asked for a summary point blank.

    His basic point? I think he’s saying, “It’s hard to tell what people mean. So, how do we proceed? I’d say we should apply the ‘reasonable man’ test. What would an open minded and competent listener think of the statement?”

    I think that’s fair, or I don’t understand him.

  298. Did you even know it?

  299. I really want to know how Jeff and Darleen would answer the hypos I posed in my post. Make the boy a man if you think it muddies things to say the speaker is a boy.

  300. You know, I’d be prepared to wager a large sum of money that when Patterico gets sick, or needs tax advice, or wants to get some real estate appraised, or needs any other service typically provided by experts, he doesn’t take a poll of his neighbors and act according to a “reasonable man’s” evaluation of what he should do.

  301. Did you even know it?

    Did I even know what? That you are a mendacious liar?

    Yeah, actually, I did.

    You’re also antisemitic. That’s my interpretation of your remark, and I’m sticking to it.

    Again: deal with it, honey.

  302. Patterico, please, because I’m extremely curious, could you just give us your idea in a paragraph or so? I have no intention of giving you shit over loose phrasing or the like. Could you just give a quick and dirty recapitulation?

  303. You want a summary? Jeff linked this post. Did anyone read it?

    If you want a summary, go to that post and only read the parts I have in bold. That’s a decent summary of what I’m saying.

  304. Patterico

    You’re the supervisor of the black and Hispanic co-worker. Do you counsel the Hispanic woman to not use her niece’s nickname at work?

  305. If you’re implying that I haven’t read the relevant text, I have. I was simply asking if you’d tighten it up into a standard declarative theory.

  306. I’m pointing out that the theory has limitations,

    I’m thinking that you’re saying “has limitations” where Jeff is saying “is a limitation”. Not the same thing, I think.

  307. Jeff,

    If I am guessing correctly Patterico is a defense attorney who spends his time convincing juries that reasonable doubt is present for all of his clients. To convince a jury it is helpful if he also is convinced that there is reasonable doubt. The best way to accomplish this (especially for guilty defendants) is by redifining what is reasonable to the point where possible = reasonable (e.g. O.J’s defense team’s drug dealer profer). Having said that, I don’t think that Patterico is being purposefully contrarian he merely is subconciously playing devil’s advocate.

  308. “Two co-workers, one black, one Hispanic. The Hispanic worker takes a personal call from home, talking with her niece in Spanish and using a nickname for her niece “little black bug” … the black co-worker doesn’t speak Spanish but hears “negro” takes offense and charges “hostile work place”.”

    Yeah, a friend’s wife once used the phrase “sticky wickets” (a British phrase) in front of a black person who somehow heard the n-word and got offended. If you think I’m standing up for the right of that person to fly off the handle, and maintain their anger in the face of an explanation of what happened, then you’re not hearing me.

  309. DUDE, THE ONLY INTERPRETATION THAT CAN BE BEST (CAUSE BEST IS A UNIQUE IDENTIFIER) IS THE AUTHOR’S IN EVERY INSTANCE. He thought it, uttered it, and reacts based on that.

    To try to qualify his intent with your suppositions as to truthfulness, sincereness or whatever the fuck else is you pushing your intent to the fore and suborning his thoughts to yours…

    You might think he is not truthful, sincere or whatever the fuck else, but ABSENT PROOF TO THE CONTRARY, you must accept his intent or you are a fucking fascist; because, to do otherwise, you are saying that you are willfully suborning his thoughts to yours in your BEST CASE evaluation.

    Without proof, your suppositions about his intent are like assholes… everyone’s got one, but his is the one that counts cause his farted and he alone knows whether it left skidmarks or not…

  310. “If I am guessing correctly Patterico is a defense attorney . . ”

    hahahahahahaha

    I love it.

  311. “You might think he is not truthful, sincere or whatever the fuck else, but ABSENT PROOF TO THE CONTRARY, you must accept his intent or you are a fucking fascist . . .”

    OK . . . so what if you think there is proof to the contrary, and I don’t?

  312. By the way, enough with the bizarre insults towards P. To generalize from his profession is an obvious error.

    People have been known to disagree. Big deal.

  313. “Yeah, a friend’s wife once used the phrase “sticky wickets” (a British phrase) in front of a black person who somehow heard the n-word and got offended.”

    Actually, I think it was “sticky knickers.” Which makes it easier to see.

  314. “By the way, enough with the bizarre insults towards P. To generalize from his profession is an obvious error.’

    Not to mention that my profession is not “defense attorney.”

  315. You guys really think Patterico is something other than a prosecutor?

    Good for him by the way.

  316. Danger, Pat’s a prosecutor in LA. Go to his site and read around, read back into his archives, you’ll have a blast.

  317. Beat me to it, P.

  318. Patterico,

    You still have not explained why a reasonable interpretation is the acceptable standard for judging a persons intent especially when it often leads to more than one interpretation

  319. Pat, there is a fairly longstanding philosophical attempt to get at your question, or at least I think it goes to your question, called the principle of charity. I linked the wiki to it at 29 above. It is only one of a few (two? handful?) of running goes at the question from a philosophical pov, which may well be of no use in our humdrum day to day puzzles of meaning. But then on the other hand, it may well be just the thing.

  320. Well, if you can convince enough people of your proof, you form a mob and invoke a truth council to try him for his thought crime…

    As opposed to just ignoring him cause he’s an asshole and not fit for polite company…and let other people discover this for themselves…

  321. “DUDE, THE ONLY INTERPRETATION THAT CAN BE BEST (CAUSE BEST IS A UNIQUE IDENTIFIER) IS THE AUTHOR’S IN EVERY INSTANCE.”

    See, this is the problem. Ask Jeff if that’s true.

    He’ll tell you it’s not. He’ll tell you the author is the only person who determines the intent at the time the text is created.

    But once the text is created, the author is not the sole person who determines the interpretation. He’s not even necessarily the most authoritative interpreter.

    Since we’re always interpreting in real life, that means that intentionalism does not tell you that you can go to the author to ask him his interpretation, and assume that the answer he gives is correct.

    Which, in my opinion, undercuts the force of the rhetoric about controlling your meaning. Sure, you do, when you utter the text. But when you’re later in an argument with someone who tells you that you don’t mean what you say you mean, you can’t cite Jeff’s theory to tell them that they’re automatically wrong. As long as they’re trying to divine your meaning, they can “control” what the (perceived to be “correct”) interpretation is by simply advancing the “best” argument about what you really meant.

    I think some readers would be shocked to learn that. Pretty sure Stephanie would.

    How’s that for a summary, blowhard?

  322. Patterico,
    My apologies for the Defense attorney assumption; however that does not undermine my assertion that reasonable is too vague a concept to apply to interpreting someone’s intent.

  323. Patterico

    It isn’t a matter of “flying off the handle”, it is a real matter of who gets to CONTROL the meaning. In the work situation, the black worker’s emotional response is given more weight – more “authenticity” if you will, then the context of the Hispanic woman’s talking to her niece. Thus HR is going to tell the supervisor to “talk with” the Hispanic woman and “caution her” to avoid using that nickname.

    It’s complete and utter bullshit but that is what in the real world we are up against exactly for the reasons Jeff details and argues against.

    While emotional responses can be understandable, in that in your hypo’s a black man may feel offended by hearing “boy”, it IS wrong that that emotional response have more authenticity than the context of the “boy” statement.

  324. “Pat, there is a fairly longstanding philosophical attempt to get at your question, or at least I think it goes to your question, called the principle of charity.”

    I like that principle. I don’t find it to be consistently applied by advocates of the intentionalism theory, however.

  325. Was that the question?

  326. “My apologies for the Defense attorney assumption; however that does not undermine my assertion that reasonable is too vague a concept to apply to interpreting someone’s intent.’

    It is vague. But what is your substitute.

    For Jeff, it’s whatever Jeff thinks is the best argument for what the speaker meant.

    So, Danger, this means that you can say something, and if you and Jeff get into an argument about what you meant, he will feel perfectly within his rights to tell you that you didn’t mean what you say you meant — as long as he feels his argument about your meaning is better than yours.

    If “reasonable person” is too vague, Danger, how would YOU decide which interpretation is best? Do you have a non-vague answer? Seriously.

    I’d like to throw that question open to everyone reading this.

  327. Darleen,

    I really wish you’d answer the hypos I posed.

  328. “Was that the question?”

    Was what the question?

  329. Anybody have any idea what Patterico is arguing?

    I think he’s trying to say if you mention that it’s a dark night(being cloudy, moonless, and 2am), a person with more darker skin than you can reasonably demand an apology.

    What you should have said is your vision is limited due to it being cloudy, moonless and 2am, on account of it’s harder for anyone to take offense.

    Also, that Gregory Peck guy in the movie 12 O’clock High shouldn’t a named his dog Nigger.

    That was just asking for trouble.

  330. I don’t find it to be consistently applied by advocates of the intentionalism theory, however.

    That.

  331. the principle of charity presumes good faith

    Those that throw their lot behind the supremacy of the perceiver in determining meaning rather than the utterer rarely act in good faith.

  332. “While emotional responses can be understandable, in that in your hypo’s a black man may feel offended by hearing “boy”, it IS wrong that that emotional response have more authenticity than the context of the “boy” statement.”

    I agree with that, but you and Jeff are assuming that the black man’s reaction is emotional, as opposed to a reaction that is based on an honest reading of the boy’s intent that takes context into account.

    If you actually answered the examples it might make the point clearer. There are six in all.

  333. Okay, P, I think I understand you now.

    For me then, past the clear authorial intent, I’d move to agnosticism (from the grand “I don’t know” tradition).

    It’s fun to theorize past intent (oh jeebus, I do it from Brett Easton Ellis to Lost), but don’t we then acknowledge the limitations of any further approaches quite strongly?

  334. Well, good faith, sure. But if you think those philosopher guys are in a conversation that stretches across ages, I think good faith may prove out. Not always, mind you, but often enough that they think they’re getting somewhere. Or would we rather no conversation presuming good faith to be possible at all?

  335. So, Danger, this means that you can say something, and if you and Jeff get into an argument about what you meant, he will feel perfectly within his rights to tell you that you didn’t mean what you say you meant — as long as he feels his argument about your meaning is better than yours.

    Almost.

    Were that to happen, Jeff’s argument would undoubtedly contain an appeal to Danger’s intent and he’d be able to offer reasons for the conclusions drawn.

    Your hypothetical black man can only appeal to the unknown hue of the boy’s skin and/or one specific definition of “boy” out of several to choose from. Oh, and emotional (unreasonable) reaction. Has quite a ways to go to get to “best.”

  336. “the principle of charity presumes good faith”

    See, sdferr: that’s what I mean. The principle of charity applies, except when it doesn’t.

    It’s like saying the author’s interpretation is generally best, except when it isn’t.

    There’s all this rhetoric about control, but in the real world it amounts to very little. Because as long as I am genuinely trying to decide what you mean, and I believe my interpretation of your words is best, then I can tell you that MY interpretation of YOUR words is right, and YOURS is wrong. And I can be completely consistent with Jeff’s theory.

    Of course, you still control your meaning, because it is what it is. But that’s unlikely to be of much comfort to you as I sit here and tell you that your interpretation of your own words is wrong.

    And maybe I’m not invoking the principle of charity — but that’s OK too, because maybe I decided that you’re not operating in good faith and so you don’t deserve it.

    There are no absolutes here, and the sense that there are is what I’m working to dispel.

  337. “Were that to happen, Jeff’s argument would undoubtedly contain an appeal to Danger’s intent and he’d be able to offer reasons for the conclusions drawn.”

    Sure. There’s always an argument that can be made.

  338. I agree with that, but you and Jeff are assuming that the black man’s reaction is emotional.

    Are you proposing that one can be offended in an unemotional way? Or are you withdrawing “offense” on the part of the black man?

  339. There’s always an argument that can be made.

    A good one?

    The best one?

  340. “Those that throw their lot behind the supremacy of the perceiver in determining meaning rather than the utterer rarely act in good faith.”

    Ah, but rarely is not never.

  341. A good one?

    The best one?

    Matter of opinion.

  342. ‘Your hypothetical black man can only appeal to the unknown hue of the boy’s skin and/or one specific definition of “boy” out of several to choose from. Oh, and emotional (unreasonable) reaction. Has quite a ways to go to get to “best.””

    Which of my six examples are you referring to? Have you read my post, or are you looking only to the example given above in this one?

  343. Incidentally, everyone is far too hung up on the racial aspects of your hypotheticals.

  344. The people reading this, I wish you’d go answer my hypos. Would you?

  345. Is the dog telling the boy to do things? Because we do not need another David Berkowitz.

  346. But when you’re later in an argument with someone who tells you that you don’t mean what you say you mean,

    You are not in my head and can’t even begin to tell me what I mean… you can only misinterpret what I mean or understand what I mean. Not some weird betweenness of the two…

    I believe that meme is “THAT doesn’t mean what you think it means” not “you don’t mean what you think you mean.”

    Unless we are playing telephone… in that case. Dude. You’re arguing idiocity… I said X. I meant X. Just cause you hear Y doesn’t disprove that I said and meant X.

    And I don’t think you have captured Jeff’s argument accurately.

  347. Incidentally, everyone is far too hung up on the racial aspects of your hypotheticals.

    You should be able to answer them without getting hung up on that.

  348. Patterico,

    Yes I stated before I would use the likely intent standard. In other words considering the context in which the statement was made what do I think was his most probable meaning.

    If I made a statement that I thought Jeff misinterpretted I would try to rephrase it to make my intent clear. Conversely if Jeff made a statement that I found offensive (not likely because I almost always give people the benefit of the doubt ) I would ask him if I interpreted his meaning correctly.

  349. Here it seems is another shot at the question (the bigger one), titled the Projective Principle, quoting Quine:

    When we quote a man’s utterance directly we report it almost as we might a bird call. However significant the utterance, direct quotation merely reports the physical incident and leaves any implication to us. On the other hand in indirect quotation we project ourselves into what, from his remarks and other indications, we imagine the speaker’s state of mind to have been, and then we say what, in our language, is natural and relevant for us in the state thus feigned. (Word and Object, 1960)

  350. “And I don’t think you have captured Jeff’s argument accurately.”

    Ask him: is the author’s interpretation of his intent always the correct one?

    He has said in the past that it is not.

  351. People love to fly off onto tangents with race questions. Signal to noise ratio, very low.

  352. Who is claiming absolutes Pat? I had thought you were looking for a “best” approach to interpretation? Does best preclude the possibility of error?

  353. “If I made a statement that I thought Jeff misinterpretted I would try to rephrase it to make my intent clear.”

    Sure, but he might refuse to accept your rephrasing. He might tell you that he knows that what you claim to be your intent, isn’t.

  354. Matter of opinion.

    So is the mythical “reasonable man.”

    I answered as much of your hypotheticals as I felt were waranted. 1 and 6 are the only ones that aren’t just silly, especially as I don’t need to have the inherent uncertainly of interpretaion demonstrated.

  355. Patterico, is your intent to get people to leave Jeff’s site and go to yours?

    Can I reasonably conclude you are blog-whoring?

    I can make an argument for it with your words.

    Do I need to apologize to whores?

  356. In fact, you just agreed with what I said. I’m pointing out that the theory has limitations, and you’re agreeing that it does, and that you’ve never said otherwise. That exchange shows that I understand precisely what you’re arguing. I’m merely highlighting a limitation of the argument — one that not all your readers understand

    I am not agreeing the “theory of intention” has limitations. I’m saying that the “theory of intention” makes the claim that meaning belongs to the author at the moment of signification, and that to claim to be interpreting, you must appeal to that intent.

    The fact that you find limitations in that suggests you haven’t understood what I’m arguing. You keep saying you do but you don’t. This exchange is not highlighting what you think it is.

    Intentionalism is not about how to achieve the best interpretation. The argument is that interpretation as a process doesn’t exist without intentionalism. And this argument is about what interpretation is and how it works and why it works the way it does. It is also about what meaning is, how it gets made, who controls it, how, and why.

    Questions about who decides on the best interpretation are of a different stripe. If the text is testable, the answer is more easily determined. If there is no judge, the answer is whomever provides the best rationale, using the most convincing appeal to the author’s intent.

    None of which has any impact whatever on authorial intent and the creation of meaning — except when we are told that it is okay to appeal to the “plain meaning of words” without any regard for authorial intent. At that point, we impose our own intent on signifiers and create our own meaning.

    If, as you claim, you’ve understood this all along, what is your argument? Because I’ve been making this same argument for years.

  357. Pat

    1) No boy calling his dog is going to think he is offending a nearby black man because he is not calling the black man “boy” he’s only calling his dog. A black man may feel angry when first hearing the word not understanding the circumstance, but he would be wrong in acting on that emotion.

    2) Dad has issues — unless he suspects his kid is racist then pre-emptively telling his child NOT to say “come here, boy” to the dog is going to raise more questions in his child. “Dad? What am I doing wrong? Am I a bad person?”

    3) Boys don’t have that internal dialogue. As an adult that internal dialogue has less to do with language and more to do with bad manners as the adult is seeking to create an emotional response in the listener.

    4,5, 6 The boy’s intent is to be obnoxious. The black man’s emotional response is understandable, but he should no more act on it then if the boy was saying “poopyhead!”

  358. Word.

  359. Can I give you the big meta answer here?

    Depends and maybe. From a huge number of angles. Times 10.

  360. Sure. There’s always an argument that can be made.

    The unasked question: What of the interpreter who makes no argument? He simply says, “Patterico realy means…,” without elaboration?

  361. “Who is claiming absolutes Pat?”

    Stephanie said: “DUDE, THE ONLY INTERPRETATION THAT CAN BE BEST (CAUSE BEST IS A UNIQUE IDENTIFIER) IS THE AUTHOR’S IN EVERY INSTANCE.”

    Sounds pretty absolute to me.

    But if we concede the lack of absolutes — as most (even Stephanie) will, when pressed — then doesn’t that undercut the force of the rhetoric of control over one’s meaning? If I can control my meaning, but aurrender my right to interpret it, of what real-life value is that? I still have to withstand people telling me I didn’t mean what I know I meant. And yes, I can and should try to clarify — but Jeff’s theory doesn’t provide a basis for me to tell them that MY CLARIFICATION IS RIGHT.

  362. ““when we claim to be interpreting, we strive to know the author’s intent as a condition of that claim.””
    “Yet judgement about how prudent or appropriate his message is, is a completely separate judgement…. you agree?”

    Is this saying first you must suss out the author’s intended message, then and only then can you determine if that intended message was prudent or appropriate? The intended message, not some other one that was put into the words by another?

    If that is what you are saying, I agree.

    Some of this discussion seems to be conflating two different situations.

    Most people will strive to be polite and as unoffensive as they can be in their relations with others. This is courtesy and manners. There are however areas where these behaviors become liabilities.

    We do not expect courtesy and manners to obtain in a life and death struggle. In an all out power struggle these fall by the wayside. In total war there is only victory or death/enslavement.

    We romanticize that politics is a game, a limited sporting event. Everyone shakes hands and goes back to their warm, safe home afterward. History does not make that case except in very limited times and places. Eventually there will come an issue that cannot be compromised away, cannot be tabled for another day.

    Language is to politics as weapons are to war. It is a war of words and the ideas those words encode and spread. Allowing one side to place, to force the placement of limits on the other side’s language is an act of unilateral disarmament and tantamount to a surrender. This language argument is about power and in whose hands that power rests.

  363. Ah, stephanie. I mistook you for talking directly to me and hadn’t been able to read and write fast enough to see what she has written (still haven’t, sorry stephanie).

  364. From the wiki:

    In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity is an approach to understanding a speaker’s statements by interpreting the speaker’s statements to be rational and, in the case of any argument, rendering the best, strongest possible interpretation of an argument. In its narrowest sense, the goal of this methodological principle is to avoid attributing irrationality, logical fallacies or falsehoods to the statements of others, when there is another coherent, rational interpretation of the statements. According to Simon Blackburn (1994), “it constrains the interpreter to maximize the truth or rationality in the subject’s sayings.”

  365. “If there is no judge, the answer is whomever provides the best rationale, using the most convincing appeal to the author’s intent.”

    And who decides which is the best rationale? Who decides which is the most convincing appeal to the author’s intent?

    For you, it will always be whatever YOU think is the best rationale. So in your view, the best interpretation is always going to be the one YOU find the most convincing. Yes?

    I may have control over my meaning, but when you decide to choose your interpretation of my meaning over mine, because you find your interpretation more convincing, then I think that takes the force out of the rhetoric that I control my meaning. Sure, I control it. But I can’t control whether it’s misinterpreted by someone who thinks their interpretation of my meaning is better. And your theory does nothing to help me in that regard.

  366. Ahh, but Pat I don’t. So there you have interpreted me incorrectly. I may be incorrect as to facts, but I am correct in my absoluteness as it was conveyed of my mind’s thoughts. I don’t concede the lack of absolutes. I thought. I wrote. I meant it. That you want to subset me to advance your argument perverts my statement and my intent when I wrote it.

    That however doesn’t disqualify me from being edumakated that another theory than what I wrote is better. But at that time it was (and still is) my intent in my statement and I stand by it.

  367. Patterico,

    You have not responded to the likely intent standard I proposed.

  368. One might wonder, if the Pr. of charity were applied in bad faith, who would suffer the harm, the utterer or the falsifier?

  369. “No boy calling his dog is going to think he is offending a nearby black man because he is not calling the black man “boy” he’s only calling his dog.’

    Darleen, you’re not playing fair. I expressly state in the hypo that the boy DOES think the black man may be offended. By writing that out of the hypo you’re changing it.

    In fact, you didn’t really answer the questions I asked as to any of them. I asked: “Has the boy done anything wrong? Should he have done anything differently?” You didn’t answer that as to any of them. You changed one of the hypos and you failed to answer the question I asked as to all of them.

  370. The principle of Charity is a good place to start when determining the likely intent. Unless someone proves to be unworthy then I would suggest that interpreting their message is a waste of time and ignoring their message is more appropriate.

  371. What I’m wondering, who has proven the existence of clear meaning past clear meaning?

    If it isn’t known to exist, why are we arguing about its required proof?

    My stance is simple, past clear meaning we find conjecture, Jeff argues the further conjecture should mimic the initial interpretation. Makes sense to me, I agree and then put big agnostic disclaimers on it.

  372. Ahh, but Pat I don’t. So there you have interpreted me incorrectly. I may be incorrect as to facts, but I am correct in my absoluteness as it was conveyed of my mind’s thoughts. I don’t concede the lack of absolutes. I thought. I wrote. I meant it.

    Actually, you did concede the lack of absolutes when you wrote: “You might think he is not truthful, sincere or whatever the fuck else, but ABSENT PROOF TO THE CONTRARY, you must accept his intent . . .”

    So you said ABSOLUTELY that you must accept the speaker’s interpretation . . . “ABSENT PROOF TO THE CONTRARY.” And BOOM! there is the qualification on the absolute.

    Still, to the extent that you’re claiming an absolute devotion to the author’s interpretation, I present you to sdferr as “Exhibit A” to his question “Who is claiming absolutes Pat?”

  373. Patterico,
    So in your hypo described in 372 how does the Man know that the boy intended to offend.

  374. “Yes I stated before I would use the likely intent standard. In other words considering the context in which the statement was made what do I think was his most probable meaning.”

    1) How is this different from “the most reasonable reading”?

    2) Who gets to decide which is the most probable meaning? You, right?

  375. People love to fly off onto tangents with race questions.

    Well, I tried to phrase it in terms of binary codes in #38 above, but no one seems to want to address that. More fun to argue about racism, I guess.

  376. “So in your hypo described in 372 how does the Man know that the boy intended to offend.”

    The hypos are here.

    If you read them, you’ll see clues in the facts given.

  377. The principle of charity applies, except when it doesn’t.

    No, I don’t think that is what they were getting at. Not at all, in fact. The men formulating the principle were expecting it to be used. Not abused. If applied in such a way as to deny rationality to the statement under interpretation we would have a failure to use the principle. So long as another interpretation assuming no irrationality, falsehood or fallacy is available, but unused, we would have a failure on our hands. So I don’t think it is aa willy-nilly as has been made to appear.

  378. SPA, I didn’t respond to it because it made perfect sense to me.

  379. For you, it will always be whatever YOU think is the best rationale. So in your view, the best interpretation is always going to be the one YOU find the most convincing. Yes?

    Of course not. Most people are suasable, given a sufficiently strong appropriate argument.

    Of course, most people aren’t attorneys.

  380. “The principle of Charity is a good place to start when determining the likely intent. Unless someone proves to be unworthy then I would suggest that interpreting their message is a waste of time and ignoring their message is more appropriate.”

    I agree that we should apply the principle of charity. I’m not sure everyone agrees with you. Certainly they don’t agree on when it’s right not to apply it — some people will stop applying it in one situation where others will persist.

  381. But if we concede the lack of absolutes — as most (even Stephanie) will, when pressed — then doesn’t that undercut the force of the rhetoric of control over one’s meaning? If I can control my meaning, but aurrender my right to interpret it, of what real-life value is that? I still have to withstand people telling me I didn’t mean what I know I meant. And yes, I can and should try to clarify — but Jeff’s theory doesn’t provide a basis for me to tell them that MY CLARIFICATION IS RIGHT.

    I don’t even know how to respond to this, it is so nonsensical.

    In every instance where I talk about ceding control of language, the set up is that either the interpreter is not appealing to the author’s intent, or we know the author’s intent, yet we are willing to chide him for phrasing his communication such that others can pretend they are interpreting him and so find offense in his supposed meaning. Which we know not to be his meaning.

    the child / dog / boy example works the same way. If the child didn’t mean to be offensive, he didn’t mean to be offensive. If the black man believed it was the intent of the boy to be offensive, he has interpreted the remark, though likely he has done so poorly. If the black man takes offense at the child’s use of “boy” even though he doesn’t believe the boy intended it as a slur — but rather because he believes that a white child needs to be taught the history of the slur, and showing offense will learn the little ahistorical cracker — he is not even dealing with the same text as the boy is, because how the child meant boy is not important to the man: he just hears the signifier and decides to make the argument that it can mean a slur in addition to whatever the boy meant.

    It can’t. Unless the man’s intent is given equal weight as the child’s in determining the child’s meaning.

    In your “Good Man” argument, I used other things you’d written about Obama to make my argument that your calling him a good man was an empty honorarium. If you feel as though I misrepresented you, you were free to say so, or tell me to bugger off. But I made my case, I drew on intertextual evidence, and laid out my interpretation, which I then turned into an argument.

    People were free to agree or disagree. I may have completely misunderstood your intent. Or I may have hit it dead on. But your denial holds precisely the amount of influence it should: you have a reputation for being honest, so many people sided with you. I have a reputation for being a pretty good interpreter, so some people sided with me.

    In making their own interpretations, they took in as much evidence as they could and came to their own conclusions. Precisely as they should have.

  382. Pat, so now you are arguing that assholes shouldn’t act assholey?

    How about this… I am looking for my dog, that black man might get offended by my calling “here, boy” but fuck him. He’s a pansy for being offended about my conversation with my dog and I am offended that not saying “here, boy” won’t allow me to be an asshole… therefore I am going to say “here, boy.”

    Cause I’m all for sticking up for assholes…

    It just depends which group’s right to be offended you want to subvert to the other….

  383. Patterico,

    Patterico,

    I believe your original arguement from the Rush Limbaugh discussion was that we (the sender of a message) had to guard against someone using any possible interpretation of our intent. Later you conceded that it might not be a good idea to guard against unreasonable interpretations. I don’t remember you ever saying a “most” reasonable standard should apply.

  384. Patterico, your thread is infected with odd personal anecdotes. This thread has had its moments too.

    There is a reason why the word problems in math books don’t start, “Your mother is clearly a whore. While whoring for $20 a trick, she meets five men…”

    I like problems like, “There is a man called X, he sells widgets…” That way I don’t have to wade through a bunch of nonsense to get to the actual meat of the issue.

  385. …some people will stop applying it in one situation…

    And these will be identified to be lying to themselves as well as everyone else. And be labeled as such. Which in its own way is the check we hold. Which is why I was so insistent that we apply just that label to the WH spokesman R. Gibbs when he intentionally mischaracterized the RL statement of January. When people lie and we catch them at it, we have a need to point it out.

  386. And who decides which is the best rationale? Who decides which is the most convincing appeal to the author’s intent?

    For you, it will always be whatever YOU think is the best rationale. So in your view, the best interpretation is always going to be the one YOU find the most convincing. Yes?

    Of course. But that interpretation is not always mine.

    And the best rationale comes from making the best arguments using evidence, with the appeal to intent a given — ie., things like textual markers, context, history, cultural conventions, biography, an examination of narrative structures, intra- and intertextual examinations, and on and on and on.

    But again, what has that to do with my “theory of intentionalism”? Nothing. You’re now making the rather pedestrian point that, because we live in world built on language, Absolute Truth is often unknowable.

  387. Let me ask you this. You are all devotees of trying to ascertain the author’s intent. Presumably the first step is to actually read his words.

    Now be honest. Really, be honest. Has anyone here EVER read something here about something that I have written, and made up their mind about my point of view WITHOUT GOING TO READ MY POST FIRST?

    Up the thread, there is a trackback from Little Miss Attila in which she declared Jeff the victor in this debate. I left her a comment asking if she had read my post, and she wrote an update admitting that she had not. (She still voted his way; my point is not about who she agrees with.) Now, here she is, presumably a devotee of the theory of seeking the author’s intent — and she pronounced an opinion about the author’s writings without reading the whole thing to see it in context.

    Now, really. Is she the ONLY devotee of intentionalism to have done that?

    I mean, I KNOW she isn’t.

    Is she? Can anyone else admit that they’ve come to an opinion about something I’ve written based only on the part quoted in one of Jeff’s posts, together with his commentary on my meaning? Anyone?

  388. Sorry about the Double Patterico, I was not meaning to lecture, just trying to type and read fast.

  389. “Yes I stated before I would use the likely intent standard. In other words considering the context in which the statement was made what do I think was his most probable meaning.”

    Jeff correct me if I am wrong but isn’t this practicing intentionalism?

  390. Patterico, how can that matter?

    Personally, I’m talking about truth. You’re trying to pick off the weak members of the herd and… well something.

    If everyone here was a drooling moron who has read none of the text and everyone at your blog was a genius who has read all of the text, what would that prove about the issues?

    Retract this silliness or lose credibility.

  391. …she wrote an update admitting that she had not.

    That strikes me as a silly way (or no way at all) to be asking for a fair hearing, which is my gist of the point of insisting on a speaker’s meaning holding primacy in the first place.

  392. Has anyone here EVER read something here about something that I have written, and made up their mind about my point of view WITHOUT GOING TO READ MY POST FIRST?

    Of course. I don’t see how it can possibly work any other way. Might be a great if people could hold their judgments and the drawing of conclusions completley in check until they had time to follow up or gather more information, but human brains aren’t built that way.

  393. Wow, what a bizarre thing.

    Again, Patterico, retract, prove relevance to the issue at hand or lose credibility.

  394. “I don’t even know how to respond to this, it is so nonsensical.”

    I don’t see how a comment like that advances the argument.

    “the child / dog / boy example works the same way. If the child didn’t mean to be offensive, he didn’t mean to be offensive.”

    You didn’t really answer all the examples, but this formulation to me illustrates the limits of the usefulness of your theory.

    Yes, if he didn’t mean it, he didn’t mean it. One could call it a “rather pedestrian point” to say that people mean what they mean. But because not everyone understands that, it’s fine to point it out.

    But that statement has limitations. It doesn’t tell us what the best interpretation is. You admit this, even though you denigrate the importance of the observation.

    In the last example given in my post, we don’t know what the boy intended. We’re not spoonfed the author’s intent. We’re merely given some clues.

    And that’s how it works in real life. We have to operate off of clues. People will disagree about the proper interpretation. And your theory doesn’t provide the answer. It only insists that any proper interpretation must be guided by a search for intent.

    But not everyone will agree on what the proper interpretation is. And the author doesn’t get to control what others find to be the best interpretation. Stephanie seems to think he does — and I think this may be a misconception held by other of your readers. Not the majority, but some.

    Again, I press these issues, Jeff, because I think they illustrate the limitations of what your theory does for people. For example, I can say this:

    For you, it will always be whatever YOU think is the best rationale. So in your view, the best interpretation is always going to be the one YOU find the most convincing. Yes?

    And Jeff, you respond “Of course” as if this is such an obvious point that there’s no use in my making it.

    And RTO Trainer replies, answering the same question: “Of course not.”

    So I’ll keep making the point, because what seems obvious to you is apparently not obvious to everyone.

  395. Again, Patterico, retract, prove relevance to the issue at hand or lose credibility.

  396. Patterico,

    I can see why you’d make a good prosecutor. You don’t give up, do you? And I don’t mean that pejoratively – I actually give you a lot of credit for that even though I think you’re cuckoo bananas on this issue.

  397. So I’ll keep making the point, because what seems obvious to you is apparently not obvious to everyone.

    or RTO just like to be contrary. trust me on this.

  398. “Retract this silliness or lose credibility.’

    I have to go to bed and don’t understand what you mean. I like Little Miss Attila. I think she’s great, and what she did in her post, bloggers do all the time. I’m just suggesting, as someone who has been misinterpreted here by commenters from time to time, that if you are devoted to intentionalism you should start reading people’s writings first before you criticize them. Is that a crazy suggestion? It doesn’t seem like it to me.

  399. C’mon, I was happy to defend you against charges of lawyerism (whatever that is), defense attorneyism (whatever that is) and poopeyheadedness (I know what that is).

    Retract or lose credibility.

  400. And Jeff, you respond “Of course” as if this is such an obvious point that there’s no use in my making it.

    And RTO Trainer replies, answering the same question: “Of course not.”

    So I’ll keep making the point, because what seems obvious to you is apparently not obvious to everyone.

    Jeff and I are responding to the same statement, but are we answering the same question?

    Whichever way, Jeff speaks for himself as do I.

  401. I don’t get your vehemence blowhard? What’s the thing Pat’s done there that would cause him a loss of credibility? I mean, that he’s nailed someone doesn’t imply that everyone else is that way too, does it? He may suspect that there may be other examples (but secretly, so do I, don’t you?) It’s natural that he’s frustrated with that position in that person, or is there more to it than that?

  402. Jeff and I are responding to the same statement, but are we answering the same question?

    Whichever way, Jeff speaks for himself as do I.

    ha ha, I made the same answer but pithier. being married does that. or it being almost three o’clock.

  403. Personally, I’m talking about truth. You’re trying to pick off the weak members of the herd and… well something.

    I don’t even know what that means. It doesn’t sound like the principle of charity in action. But I don’t know what it means. Who is the weak member? I have taken on all comers tonight, have I not?

    If everyone here was a drooling moron who has read none of the text and everyone at your blog was a genius who has read all of the text, what would that prove about the issues?

    I never made any such claim and have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Retract this silliness or lose credibility.

    I don’t understand why you’re offended.

  404. But clearly, it’s important to point out that everyone (let’s imply that it’s probably all, let’s see a show of hands) hasn’t read your points.

    Fill us in on the import of that statement. Does it have anything to do with the issues at hand or not?

  405. Hey maggie, did you find the B’day present in the old thread on b’days?

  406. you should start reading people’s writings first before you criticize them

    But… You’re here. The author can support his own intent in person. What can be better?

  407. I may have control over my meaning, but when you decide to choose your interpretation of my meaning over mine, because you find your interpretation more convincing, then I think that takes the force out of the rhetoric that I control my meaning. Sure, I control it. But I can’t control whether it’s misinterpreted by someone who thinks their interpretation of my meaning is better. And your theory does nothing to help me in that regard.

    Would you like me to amend the theory so that nobody can ever be sure that they won’t be be misinterpreted except Patterico?

    When did I ever claim that intentionalism guarded against misinterpretation? All I’ve ever argued is that by appealing to intent, you are interpreting, and that the meaning is fixed in the text at the time it is signified. Conversely, when you don’t appeal to authorial intent, you aren’t interpreting, because you aren’t dealing with another’s signs. You are viewing them merely as signifiers to which you are free to attach your own signifieds, in so doing, privileging your own intent, which you can potentially turn around and ascribe to the author. Or, you can say that though the author never intended the text to do what I’m able to make it do, the “plain words” and the fact that I’m “reasonable” allow me to ignore his intent and create new, additional meanings — an impossibility, because at that point you are reading a different text entirely from the one that was intended.

    So I repeat. You still don’t know what my argument is.

  408. Jeez. I don’t even understand what I did to offend blowhard. I’m worried I can’t stay up late enough to resolve the misunderstanding.

  409. Hey maggie, did you find the B’day present in the old thread on b’days?

    no, I’ve been trying to catch up on this behemoth. I’ll go check it out…

  410. or it being almost three o’clock.

    Jaysus, so it is. Good night, everybody.

  411. um, no, I think it’s almost four o’clock.

  412. One could call it a “rather pedestrian point” to say that people mean what they mean. But because not everyone understands that, it’s fine to point it out.

    I believe I have.

    In fact, I think I’ve said it this way: intentionalism just is.

  413. Patterico, I’m not offended. Your statement at #390 was clear. It had nothing to do with the issues at hand. Besides, “devotee to intentionalism”, yep, that’s right. Jeff raises us in a garden in his backyard.

  414. Nope. Read it all. Most of the comments both places, too. So your argument is fallible, WRT me.

    And I hold that you have still missed the nub of the argument. To wit…

    Progs know the author’s intent and are still going to haul him behind the courthouse to be whipped because his intent can willfully be perverted to further their political agenda and so are going to proceed from this falseness and destroy him to further their agenda… and you are just gonna stand by and watch the whipping…knowing it is bullshit but fearing being tarred with the same baby…

    or are you going to say, no you fucking well know that is not what was meant and you are not going to pervert the meaning of X to further your political agenda…

    Every damned word or phrase has layers of meanings and to meekly allow the progressive to impute his meaning on my or anyone else’s utterance to further his cause is a disgusting farce and misuse of language that should be fought.

  415. But that statement has limitations. It doesn’t tell us what the best interpretation is. You admit this, even though you denigrate the importance of the observation.

    It also doesn’t tell us who will win Best Actor Oscar in 2017, or how to make the world’s best mojito. I admit that too. And follow up again with a hardy so what?

    I “denigrate the importance of the observation” because the observation has nothing to do with my argument or intentionalism. Which you still don’t understand, and which I’m tired of explaining.

  416. “Or, you can say that though the author never intended the text to do what I’m able to make it do, the “plain words” and the fact that I’m “reasonable” allow me to ignore his intent and create new, additional meanings — an impossibility, because at that point you are reading a different text entirely from the one that was intended.”

    Which is, of course, not what I’m advocating.

    Once again, I understand your argument perfectly, and you can say that I don’t as many times as you like, but the sheer repetition does not make your incorrect claim correct.

    I’m saying here, again and again, that you don’t even claim to be doing what I say your theory can’t do. I don’t have to be refuting something you’ve said to make a point. I’m just making a point.

    What’s the relevance of my point, then? I’ve said it several times tonight already: that because your arguments achieve only so much, the rhetoric of controlling your meaning is overblown. The intentionalism theory does not defeat fascism, because people can always come along and argue an interpretation of your words that is at odds with yours. As long as they can convincingly claim that they are trying to discern your intent, they can make whatever argument they like. You might not find their argument convincing, but others might. So while you may control your meaning, it’s small comfort as you watch the interpretation get distorted by others.

  417. What if the dog is actually a girl?

  418. Jeff doesn’t this earlier post by Patterico

    “Yes I stated before I would use the likely intent standard. In other words considering the context in which the statement was made what do I think was his most probable meaning come close to this:

    “All I’ve ever argued is that by appealing to intent, you are interpreting”

    Perhaps Patterico is a believer in intentionallism but is unable or unwilling to admit it.

  419. I think what blowhard was getting at is Pattericos #390 had nothing to do with anything, and seemed to be just a cheap distraction. Ironic that it was followed by #397: “I don’t see how a comment like that advances the argument”.

    I could be wrong though, so I will let blowhard tell us his intent.

  420. You hit the nail on the head, Lee. Patterico doesn’t normally do this. So he loses a bit of credibility.

  421. Your statement at #390 was clear. It had nothing to do with the issues at hand.

    I think it does. Because it goes to the failure of Jeff’s theory to guard against misinterpretation. (Which, I hasten to add, he doesn’t claim it does guard against it with absolute success.)

    It’s relevant to point out that even adherents to his theory — who, you’d think, would be the very people most insistent on surveying the author’s language firsthand — don’t always read the texts they purport to interpret.

  422. um, no, I think it’s almost four o’clock.

    oh shoosh, Sdferr. do you work at night? i just, um, don’t sleep without help lately and tomorrow’s a day of running around, but not anything “important”.

  423. “Perhaps Patterico is a believer in intentionallism but is unable or unwilling to admit it.”

    I’ve said that I think Jeff and I are saying the same thing. What makes you think I disbelieve the theory?

  424. What if the dog is actually a girl?

    that’s totally not part of the hypothetical argument and you know it, Steve B. quite trying to twist everything!

  425. I’ve said it several times tonight already: that because your arguments achieve only so much, the rhetoric of controlling your meaning is overblown. The intentionalism theory does not defeat fascism, because people can always come along and argue an interpretation of your words that is at odds with yours. As long as they can convincingly claim that they are trying to discern your intent, they can make whatever argument they like. You might not find their argument convincing, but others might. So while you may control your meaning, it’s small comfort as you watch the interpretation get distorted by others.

    And?

    The point then is that we can’t give up. We can’t conceede the middle ground. And to return to the original argument (which I know you no longer like, but it can’t just be discarded) Rush was right to make his statement provocative and deliberately twistable as a new and relevant illustration of the new administration’s and the old establised press’s willingness to take the bait and twist the statement.

    Nothing is going to prevent that so make the best use of it you can.

    The only way they could have beat Rush at this would have been not to take the bait.

    The only way the black man can beat the obnoxious kid of 3 4 and 5 is to choose not to take offense, that is, to act reasonably.

  426. Are words even the hard case when it comes to communication, meaning and intent? I pushed poetry, music and painting the other day (none of which Pat wanted anything to do with at the time), all of which seem in some sense much harder to me, or at least harder to get beyond the reading of the poem, the playing of the song, the gazing on the canvas when attempting to understand intent. SBP and others (blowhard?) have used mathematical examples a few times. Then there are the cases of encoding of encodings of encodings which might be dealt with under a theory of symbols. Be-f’ing-wildering. Blather blather blather snore.

  427. I’ve explained what I believe the relevance is. blowhard, perhaps you’ve decided that I’m not worthy of the principle of charity, but I don’t see why not. My general point on this thread is to discuss the limitations of the usefulness of Jeff’s theory, in my view, to an author who seeks to prevent others from misiterpreting his words.

    One aspect of the limitation is that interpretation is still not governed by the author’s interpretation, even under Jeff’s theory.

    A second aspect is that even adherents of the theory will interpret intent without reading the author’s context.

    You can like my point or not, but I think it’s relevant and I’ve explained why. If you’re applying the principle of charity you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt and accept my explanation of the relevance.

    I have to go to bed.

  428. Okay, I’m confused. How in the world could people commenting here have anything to do with the truth/untruth of Jeff’s ideas?

    It simply isn’t logical. It’s a red herring and irrelevant.

  429. For charity? Sleep well, don’t let the bed bugs bite.

  430. Looked to me like he was stereotyping all by the actions of one. But that’s just me. And I knocked that puppy down.

    Pat… the gist of the argument is “don’t fucking let anyone put words in your mouth.” Period. No other interpreting is allowed as the only interpretation that is valid is the one made by the utterer at the time of the utterance not 10 minutes later, not 10 years later. And any attempt to “interpret” or put words in my mouth is to be fought… especially in the political realm.

    That you are still arguing that any interpretation can be made at any later date indicates that you haven’t gotten this little nub…

    And I have a question…

    why are you imputing all the evil intentions on the utterer and not on the listener?

  431. Okay, I’m confused. How in the world could people commenting here have anything to do with the truth/untruth of Jeff’s ideas?

    OK, I think I get your point. Failure of adherents to apply the theory does not undermine the theory. I can accept that.

    Take it as an exhortation to go actually read my post with the hypos — those of you who haven’t. Because I can tell some haven’t. If you want to understand what I mean, read what I have to say.

    Good night.

  432. Danger —

    Patterico is saying his is now an intentionalist, but that intentionalism doesn’t prevent misinterpretation.

  433. The intentionalism theory does not defeat fascism, because people can always come along and argue an interpretation of your words that is at odds with yours.

    Yeah, as long as certain useful idiots give credence to the misinterpretation and say your are self serving, incendiary, ugly, and too provocative, when they are in fact not.

    The fascism can be beaten back if people of understanding stand up for truth, and fight those that would purposely twist others words for political gain.

  434. …to an author who seeks to prevent others from misiterpreting his words.

    I don’t think that the author is the limiting case even. Some of us happen at times to be genuinely interested in finding the truth about some things, which in turn can militate a positive concern not to mistake, not to misinterpret, not to misapprehend, not to miss the reason in someone else’s words.

  435. “Looked to me like he was stereotyping all by the actions of one.”

    Did I say “all”?

  436. I don’t think so, sleepy pussy.

  437. “Patterico is saying his is now an intentionalist, but that intentionalism doesn’t prevent misinterpretation.”

    You like to say “now” but I’m not sure I ever was not one. It seems intuitive that what someone “means” is what they meant. I certainly phrase things more accurately now, but I don’t think I ever wasn’t an intentionalist — even if I MIGHT HAVE written things in a sloppy manner that MIGHT HAVE suggested otherwise. (Who knows?)

  438. OK, really going to bed now. Man, it’s late. Thank you for the discussion.

  439. the failure of Jeff’s theory to guard against misinterpretation

    You keep saying “Jeffs theory”, like it’s some abstract yet unproven idea.

    Hows this. The theory of fighting crime fails to guard against lawlessness. So?

  440. Patterico,

    “My general point on this thread is to discuss the limitations of the usefulness of Jeff’s theory, in my view, to an author who seeks to prevent others from misiterpreting his words.”

    So should an author seek to prevent the 1.reasonable 2. unreasonable or 3. Most reasonable persons liklihood of misinterpreting his words? or all of the above?

  441. It’s a red herring and irrelevant.

    Lawyer trick.

  442. “Patterico is saying his is now an intentionalist, but that intentionalism doesn’t prevent misinterpretation”

    Awesome, now can we start sending some volleys down range. There are some @$$h0Le5 on the left desperately needing an attitude adjustment.

  443. Imputing to the theory a failure on account of the failure of someone to fully understand it won’t wash, blowhard’s right there.

  444. What’s the relevance of my point, then? I’ve said it several times tonight already: that because your arguments achieve only so much, the rhetoric of controlling your meaning is overblown. The intentionalism theory does not defeat fascism, because people can always come along and argue an interpretation of your words that is at odds with yours. As long as they can convincingly claim that they are trying to discern your intent, they can make whatever argument they like.

    Not true. It suddenly has to be plausible as a function of your intent.

    You might not find their argument convincing, but others might. So while you may control your meaning, it’s small comfort as you watch the interpretation get distorted by others.

    People can always get your meaning wrong. But so long as they are forced to address your intent, they are constrained by your text — not the signifiers, but the signs. Which makes it a whole lot more difficult for them to use your text in ways they otherwise might, and, because everyone is arguing from the same set of assumptions, it makes defending the text that much easier.

    The prevailing interpretive paradigm posits the death of the author. Intentionalism disallows that and shows why it is linguistically incoherent. That it can’t prevent someone from misinterpreting is not the same as it allowing people to do whatever they please with a text.

    Too, those who don’t appeal to intent can’t lay claim to engaging interpretation. You seem to be making the perfect the enemy of the good. Without intentionalism, no one is required to appeal to your meaning.

  445. Can anyone else admit …

    Now be honest. Really, be honest. Has anyone here EVER

    Seems those two question/statements were leading and implying that the answer you expected was that we would all just up and confess to commenting without facts in evidence or some such… Particularly when you added the NOW BE HONEST REALLY BE HONEST…

    NOW BE HONEST REALLY BE HONEST…Kinda like saying “The truth is… or as a matter of fact” in the middle of an argument… kinda makes me wonder which parts before were lies…

    “Now be honest” is usually a signifier that you expect most of the answers to fit your preconceived answer and that preconceived answer was that little miss attila didn’t so we didn’t either….

    And that was your signifier that lead me to that conclusion. Oops…

  446. No need to see the movie, just write the damned review already.

  447. No need to hear the symphony, just bitch out the french horn section and be done with it.

  448. No need to read the libretto, we’re doing “Planet of the Apes”

  449. maggie, when you have the leisure wander on over to those kids website and check out their other video’s (there are maybe 10, running from 8 mins to 2 mins I’d guess.) They are having them some infectious fun.

  450. Feh. What has criticism (especially in the Arts) to do with interpretation?

  451. I went and checked out their bios, but at the moment, I don’t have much of an attention span. ;D

  452. I’m to bed. Night all.

  453. I just got an e-mail from my mom with the following story and since the thread is winding down I hope you dont mind if I share it;

    The IRS decides to audit Grandpa, and summons him to the IRS office.
    The IRS auditor was not surprised when Grandpa showed up with his attorney.
    The auditor said, ‘Well, sir, you have an extravagant lifestyle and no full-time employment, Which you explain by saying that you win money gambling. I’m not sure the IRS finds that believable.’
    I’m a great gambler, and I can prove it,’ says Grandpa. ‘How about a demonstration?’
    The auditor thinks for a moment and said, ‘Okay. Go ahead.’
    Grandpa says, ‘I’ll bet you a thousand dollars that I can bite my own eye.’
    The auditor thinks a moment and says, ‘It’s a bet.’
    Grandpa removes his glass eye and bites it. The auditor’s jaw drops.
    Grandpa says, ‘Now, I’ll bet you two thousand dollars that I can bite my other eye.’
    Now the auditor can tell Grandpa isn’t blind, so he takes the bet.
    Grandpa removes his dentures and bites his good eye.
    The stunned auditor now realizes he has wagered and lost three grand, with Grandpa’s attorney as a witness. He starts to get nervous.
    ‘Want to go double or nothing?’ Grandpa asks ‘I’ll bet you six thousand dollars that I can stand on one side of your desk, and pee into that wastebasket on the other side, and never get a drop anywhere in between.’
    The auditor, twice burned, is cautious now, but he looks carefully and decides there’s no way this old guy could possibly manage that stunt, so he agrees again.
    Grandpa stands beside the desk and unzips his pants, but although he strains mightily, he can’t make the stream reach the wastebasket on the other side, so he pretty much urinates all over the auditor’s desk.
    The auditor leaps with joy, realizing that he has just turned a major loss into a huge win.
    But Grandpa’s own attorney moans and puts his head in his hands.
    ‘Are you okay?’ the auditor asks.
    ‘Not really,’ says the attorney. ‘This morning, when Grandpa told me he’d been summoned for an audit, he bet me twenty-five thousand dollars that he could come in here and piss all over your desk and that you’d be happy about it!’

    Don’t Mess with Old People!!

  454. Congrats to me! I’m the worst writer and thinker EVAH!

  455. Gawd, no wonder Pajamas Media is shitcanning you.

  456. No Congrats to me I got the MAN (Jeff) to respond with affirmation to me. I am never washing these hands again;)

  457. Yep, my comment is already deleted over there. I was quite tame actually.

  458. Okay, now it’s back. Time for me to step away from the cough syrup. Good night.

  459. Jeff,

    That was one of those @$$h0le$ I was speaking of

  460. Admirers on all sides of the political divide. That’s me.

  461. Jeff,

    Most of the ones on the right just need some patience (and maybe a hug).

    Now the ones on the left are desperately in need of an ass whooping (rhetorical of course)

  462. JeffG Wrote:
    Congrats to me! I’m the worst writer and thinker EVAH!

    Wow, so bad the guy who declared it didn’t have to show how you were the worst? Amazing. Convenient too.

  463. P,

    I use words with great exactitude.

    I can’t help it if you (hypotheticaly) don’t understand me.

    I stated the other day, ‘Did I hurt your feelings? Tough shit.’

  464. Or, as Robert A. Heinlein put it, a critic is someone who can’t understand a simple declarative English sentence.

  465. OK. Thanks RTO, sir. IOW, pretty much what I’ve been doing all along. I have to say I enjoy Jeffs precisiion with the language.

  466. Pingback: Words Mean Things … Or Do They?

  467. Thanks Jeff, for my continuing education! I concur wholeheartedly. This is about our liberty, and i’ll be damned if I’m gonna give it up to spare some scumbag’s “feelings” or possible offense.
    If free speech never offends then it’s not free speech. Hell, even PC speech offends some folks, namelt Classical Liberals, Conservatives and Libertarians, so I don’t get why folks keep fighting to control speech in any way whatsoever (and no, I’m not talkin’ about inciting riots or yelling fire in theatres kind of stuff) other than to gain power.

    IOW’s speech will offend someone anyway, so why not keep it free? Sure, free speech is more likely to offend, but so what? Tough titty! If someone don’t like it they can become a hermit. Otherwise they can fuck off!

  468. That you were inventing that quote.

  469. Jeff, I appreciate the multiple posts on this issue, because it reinforces and builds on what I’m learnin’ here. Personally, I think Patterico is arguing past this issue or around it.
    The Leftist paradigm Jeff mentions is insidious and covert. We have all been exposed to countless hours of this drivel in our public schools since the late 60’s at least.

    I find myself using it sometimes, so I’m conciously working on breaking this very destructive habit, because I love liberty and I love truth. It will take time but I’m determined to challenge anyone attempting to seize control of free speech as it’s meant to be: FREE.

    I have seen folks here talkin’ about the Golden rule. Good. If I’m moving away from truth in anyway I want my friends and family to bash me brutally with the truth. And that’s how I treat others, because that’s how i want to be treated.

    Without truth everything else is meaningless. Without truth there is no honest communication and there is no liberty. Everything breaks down without it. If the truth offends anyones delicate sensibilities well…tough shit.

    I believe Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is much more valuable than trying not to offend idiots who are tryin’ to take it away. It really is as simple as that, but it requires effort. So count me in.

    Like I said, if I commit cluelesside, just whack me upside the head. The truth may hurt but the alternative is much worse. :^)

  470. Yeah, a friend’s wife once used the phrase “sticky wickets” (a British phrase) in front of a black person who somehow heard the n-word and got offended. If you think I’m standing up for the right of that person to fly off the handle, and maintain their anger in the face of an explanation of what happened, then you’re not hearing me.

    Whose explanation? Your friend’s wife? What if the offended person refuses to believe her? Does that really change what she meant by the phrase?

  471. Over here over here overhere overhear rover.

  472. http://www.tmz.com/2009/03/15/jackie-mason-hurls-insult-at-obama/

    There you go, something to talk about and I have to go to work…

  473. Another classic post, bookmarked. Ongoing education, indeed.

    Time to hit the tip jar, folks. I’ve led the way.

    Match it!

  474. So we are only allowed to call blacks black in English, now?

  475. I left a comment at the “Most Important Drivel” post, which I expect will be deleted:

    I think you’re wrong.

    Jeff is not “self-important”. On the contrary; he is actually quite self-deprecating at times. But when it is necessary to use academic jargon, he employs it with precision.

    Ironically, as the subject of the linked post is the philosophy of communication, your casual assertion that it is amenable to “deconstruction” indicates your fundamental nihilism, which precludes any rational discussion, and in fact declares the attempt at such to be irrelevant at best.

    Oh, what’s that? You think I’ve jumped to conclusions in, uh, INTERPRETING what you wrote, to assume that your use of the code word “deconstruction” necessarily implies that you’ve bought the entire Derrida combo platter, then moved on to Heiddeger and Nietsche for dessert? You think it’s unfair that I assert the power to read this meaning into your words? You insist that your words mean what you meant when you wrote them?

    But you can’t think that, because that’s the core of Jeff’s “profoundly flawed” argument.

  476. That you were inventing that quote.

    You are a mendacious liar, SFAG.

    Whether you used that “quote” or not, you were implying that the use of Zimbabwe was racist.

    Goodbye, SFAG. See you in a week.

  477. That’s nice, but did you realize you were making it up or were you just that dumb?

  478. From the link about Jackie Mason: We spoke with Mason by phone a few minutes ago, and he was outraged at the criticism, saying, “I’m not going to defend myself. Chris Rock has told a lot more jokes about whites than I have against Blacks. What about the demeaning words Blacks say about Jews?”

    Mason added, “If it’s a racist society, the white people are the ones being persecuted because they have to defend themselves.” Mason called people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson “professional racists.”

    Mason added, “I’m an old Jew. I was raised in a Jewish family where ‘schwartza’ was used. It’s not a demeaning word and I’m not going to defend myself.”

    Yeah! WTG Jackie! That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Great response!

  479. Heh. Excellent comment, Monster. That entire post was just a lazy, drive-by hit piece. The writer was even too lazy to attempt to back up it’s moronic accusations.

  480. You still have not explained why a reasonable interpretation is the acceptable standard for judging a persons intent especially when it often leads to more than one interpretation”

    Not A reasonable interpretation. The reasonable interpretation.
    I that means the test of reasonableness exquisitely and specifically applied to a specific situation, rather than a test of mere plausibility applied to some general happenstance.

    For example, In the incident cited by Darleen about sticky nickers, the test of reasonableness in that situation would demand a. one allows for the mishearing, and gives and explanation as necessary and appropriate, but that the aggreived party be satisfied barring some REASONABLE suspicioun that the sound-alike phrase was used to poke fun at him deliberately.

    In the “little black bug” incident, It’s clearly unreasonable to have assumed intentional offense in the first usage in telephone conversation.

    Once informed that it bothered and confused someone, the innocent usage in the future can’t be so generously assumed. People are brats and use excuses to get under one another’s skin, but lets assume the aunt has no desire to deliberately poke anyone, but wishes to go ahead and use her preferred niece-nickname in spite of the confusion and alarm it causes mis-understanders. She might choose to disreguard the feelings of others and go right on as before. Fark them if they can’t take a joke.

    Well, you know that’s appropriate in some situations, especially on ones own dime. However an employer has broader concerns, not just of keeping a work environment free of blatant racial discrimination or intimidation, but also in minimizing conflict between workers in the work place. Keeping the peace, if you will. Within the limits of the law, and contract employers can restrict workplace speech. They have a right to say, act as demanded, or get out. They have a right to be arbitrary based on who butters their bread, at least in employment-at-will situations.

    So I don’t have a problem with a supervisor saying “ixne on the egrone” and jerking his head towards Mr. Sensitive in the cubicle next door.
    FWIW, the employer has a right to be arbitrary and wrong and rather unreasonable. They have a right to fire you if they don’t like your hair or your taste in clothes or your nieces nickname, even if that nickname is “Sallyann”.

    I do however, have a problem with the idea that any trier of fact would insist that “negro” as used on the phone in the first incident is primae facie evidence of a hostile workplace or an attempt to belittle and offend a race of persons. It isn’t.

    And if I were the employer I would tell my employees to speak English in the office, and be hauled before a tribunal and shot.

    And in a place like

  481. Comment by Stephanie on 3/15 @ 11:41 pm #

    Not my point… my point is that we now have a thriving enterprise based around informing people that they should be offended and schooling them on the various ways to claim/look for offense and to carry that mantle into battle.

    IOW, some people are not offended until they are informed they should be and that that is a “false” offendedness that is advancing the power of the group on the individual and requiring him to be offended whether he was in fact or not…

    I’m not sure whom you were addressing at 291, but I know I made the point that “propriety” is being used as a political weapon.

  482. The cooking lesson:

    Ok kids, now, what’s the first thing we do after we dice those pretty Scotch Bonnet peppers?

    ……………..That’s right, reach on in there and scratch your balls. Good. And the next thing?

    Eggsactly! Chop that cilantro. Now we’re cookin’! You’re gonna be chefs in no time, you’ll see.

    Hey, where ya goin’?

  483. I’m the worst writer and thinker EVAH!

    Compared with the gang of rocket scientist commenters over there, probably.

  484. The cooking lesson:

    Next week: having a year-round supply of those habaneros by pressure-canning.*

    *Advisory: full SCUBA gear may be a good idea when attempting this.

  485. SarahW,

    “Once informed that it bothered and confused someone, the innocent usage in the future can’t be so generously assumed. People are brats and use excuses to get under one another’s skin, but lets assume the aunt has no desire to deliberately poke anyone, but wishes to go ahead and use her preferred niece-nickname in spite of the confusion and alarm it causes mis-understanders. She might choose to disreguard the feelings of others and go right on as before. Fark them if they can’t take a joke.

    Well, you know that’s appropriate in some situations, especially on ones own dime. However an employer has broader concerns, not just of keeping a work environment free of blatant racial discrimination or intimidation, but also in minimizing conflict between workers in the work place. Keeping the peace, if you will. Within the limits of the law, and contract employers can restrict workplace speech. They have a right to say, act as demanded, or get out. They have a right to be arbitrary based on who butters their bread, at least in employment-at-will situations.”

    Granted an employer has an interest and right to intervene; however, why not respond by counseling the nosy/offended worker about the real interpretation of the word she heard and the inappropriateness of snooping on someone elses phone conversation. How is someone offended by a phone conversation not involving themselves by someone speaking spanish in the first place?

    “Not A reasonable interpretation. The reasonable interpretation.
    I that means the test of reasonableness exquisitely and specifically applied to a specific situation, rather than a test of mere plausibility applied to some general happenstance”.

    Going back a few comments I asked Patterico about his original assertion in another post:

    “I believe your original arguement from the Rush Limbaugh discussion was that we (the sender of a message) had to guard against someone using any possible interpretation of our intent. Later you conceded that it might not be a good idea to guard against unreasonable interpretations. I don’t remember you ever saying a “most” reasonable standard should apply”.

    In other words, neglecting context (which is easy to do if a quote is selectively pulled from an article) could lead to more than one “reasonable” interpretation.

  486. Next week: having a year-round supply of those habaneros by pressure-canning.*

    I wear disposable latex gloves and just throw ‘em into the brine whole.

  487. Actually, they freeze really well. Alas, I didn’t find that out until after the pressure-canning incident.

    In which I thought I was having a heart attack, and may in fact have been partly correct, but for reasons involving external stimulus.

    Oh, and also: all of the skin on all of my fingertips, particularly right under my fingernails, was badly chemically burned and peeled off after a day or two. If you don’t have latex, use a ziploc bag.

  488. Sometimes I also string them on nylon fishing line and hang them up to dry (gloves also recommended for that).

    I didn’t grow any the last two years ’cause I had a bumper crop, but we’re starting to run low… I ordered seeds for this year.

  489. Slart, I’d be delighted to read an Engineer(s) at the Stove column, how about it? Maybe an occasional on the Pub?

  490. Ok, why would someone eat something that will peel off you friggin’ fingerprints???????

  491. I didn’t lose my fingerprints. Just the skin under my fingernails.

    Regardless, the answer is: because it hurts so good.

  492. Pingback: Steynian 335 « Free Canuckistan!

  493. I think I just left a nasty mark on Kathy’s ego.

  494. I think Kathy is about 30 IQ points below the weight class for this discussion.

  495. Anyone else have an odd OCD-like preference for zeros at the end of numbers?

  496. I do. There, 500.

  497. 498
    It’s cause she loaned so many brain cells out. You should never do that. You never know when they may be needed.

  498. I can guarantee when I say something, I don’t use code words. I say what I mean and I don’t care what other people say. I have no consideration for “races” because I don’t believe in them. If you’re plaid and I say something that remotely resembles a code for racism against plaid people, that’s your faulty interpretation of what I said and absolutely not my problem. If you took offense, you’re the arrogant idiot, not me. Although, I am arrogant in my “there are no races” stance.

    I also taught my daughter there are no races. And I like to think she learned well.

  499. This one needs to be added to that category of intent and language. As do several recent others. Is that something that only you can do Jeff, or can someone else do it?

    Love to help if I can.

  500. I thought it was already there.

    Will add.

  501. I think Kathy is about 30 IQ points below the weight class for this discussion.

    And the sad thing … she doesn’t KNOW it.

  502. They’re now on to the Cockula thing, and suggestions that I’m not my son’s father. Also, the readers here want to blow me, Darleen is a whore, etc.

    Such tough talk from “tas” and “jpoontang” and “the searcher”.

    Incidentally, here’s a bit about tas:

    Besides bills, I hardly ever get snail mail — so I never like going to the mailbox and getting some unanticipated tax bill and what not (which came in last week). So I was surprised to find not one, nor two, but three good pieces of mail waiting for me today:

    1) A W-9 form from a media company I cannot yet name. My blogging habit maybe be getting a larger audience and some pocket change to boot. Which is good because…

    2) I also received notification of an appointment at the food stamps office Monday. Work has been cutting back on shifts for servers (ever though they hired another server for no apparent reason). I’ve only had one shift in the past two weeks and made $49. I’m not sure how long my employment situation will be like this (or if things will get worse), and even though student loans are paying the rent right no – and I could beg people for money — I need to cover all my bases here. I ain’t rich, work is scant, and if I qualify for assistance then I’ll consider it a return on all the state income tax Massachusetts charged me in the late 1990s when I worked an IT job in Canton but still lived in Rhode Island.

    On the plus side, I’ve honed my cheap ass gourmet skills. My lunches have been 3/4 cup pasta for a carb, and 1/2 textured vegetable protein for my protein. Mix the TVP with tomato sauce and it tastes decent. And compare to meat sources of protein, TVP at $2.29 a pound is dirt cheap and lasts a hell of a lot longer. As far as meat goes, Trader Joes has 2.5 lbs. bags of frozen chicken breasts for $7.49. That lasts a week, plus it’s not fatty and crappy like ground meat. Between the chicken, veggies, and rice, my dinners probably cost less than two bucks a plate.

    3) I won’t have to worry about purchasing more coffee for a while: My Dad sent me a two and ahalf pound bag of Dunkin Donuts grounds. Score.

    The blog thing fell through for him, alas. And the URL can’t bring him any dough because he’s using a hosting service that won’t allow him to sell ads.

    No wonder he needs Obama. How can he be expected to find work when there are Cockulas to be slayed!

  503. Is this Kathy the elementary school teacher? she’s always entertaining. has she called everyone RACIST! yet?

  504. Incidentally, here’s a bit about tas:

    oh, that explains the fixation on all of us not having jobs.

  505. Yeah, that’s her. She’s a great and accomplished writer.

  506. Kathy the elementary school teacher?

    That explains her mad skillz of argument.

  507. Steele. wsj, deserves a read today:

    And here is conservatism’s great problem with minorities. In an era when even failed moral activism is redemptive — and thus a source of moral authority and power — conservatism stands flat-footed with only discipline to offer. It has only an invisible hand to compete with the activism of the left. So conservatism has no way to show itself redeemed of America’s bigoted past, no way like the Great Society to engineer a grand display of its innocence, and no way to show deference to minorities for the oppression they endured. Thus it seems to be in league with that oppression.

    Added to this, American minorities of color — especially blacks — are often born into grievance-focused identities. The idea of grievance will seem to define them in some eternal way, and it will link them atavistically to a community of loved ones. To separate from grievance — to say simply that one is no longer racially aggrieved — will surely feel like an act of betrayal that threatens to cut one off from community, family and history. So, paradoxically, a certain chauvinism develops around one’s sense of grievance. Today the feeling of being aggrieved by American bigotry is far more a matter of identity than of actual aggrievement.

  508. What’s textured vegetable protein?

  509. I think it might be fish food.

  510. That looks very space agey really. It’s an extruded food. That sounds very modern.

  511. oh, that explains even more, happyfeet.

    But wait. Eating too much soy may do you more harm than good. Research scientists and doctors say that soy and its chemical components may promote cancer, dementia, reproductive abnormalities, and thyroid disorders. ”You don’t want to go overboard with soy,” says Bonnie Liebman, who is director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C.

  512. Soy sauce has been a condiment for over 2,500 years. I love soy sauce, stabilizer of the universe.

  513. I’ve said the same thing, sdferr, but I get the sense that for Steele, “we” need to tap into some of that by making the same kinds of promises to minorities that have served them so poorly coming from Dems.

  514. Today the feeling of being aggrieved by American bigotry is far more a matter of identity than of actual aggrievement.

    so to win that vote you sell out your principles and indulge their delusions?

  515. I must think and for that, I’ll need a little time. I will return to his subject however, once I’ve pondered it a bit more.

  516. “we” need to tap into some of that by making the same kinds of promises to minorities that have served them so poorly coming from Dems.

    yes, yes, was reading in the paper today about how voter ID laws might lose the GOP some Latino votes. God forbid we try to prevent some voter fraud.

  517. omg on the soy. I love the milk but

    Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, or plant substances that behave like weak forms of the hormone estrogen.

    oh. but soy milk is happy soy… cause it’s whole

    As a population, the Japanese tend to be healthier and live longer than Americans, and they eat around 7 grams to 10 grams per day of whole soy foods, such as tofu, soy milk, and edamame, as well as the fermented versions, tempeh and miso (table).

    Mostly my soy is the milk and the ice cream and the edamame. And something else but I can’t think right now.

  518. soylent green?

  519. Signs Signs Everywhere there’s signs
    Blocking up the scenery Breaking up my mind
    Do this Don’t do that Can’t you read the signs?

  520. I’ve read through All the posts and found the most salient in one of Darleen’s

    Salient ‘leen it is, then.

  521. From Steele’s piece (bolding mine):

    The first impulse is to moderate. With “compassionate conservatism” and “affirmative access” and “faith-based initiatives,” President George W. Bush tried to show a redemptive conservatism that could be activist against the legacy of America’s disgraceful past</b

    You know what, I am so done with Steele.

    Slavery was a fact of life for all cultures in all the world for all of history up until the time of the founding of America. America has done more than any other country, save Briton, to end slavery. Thomas Sowell notes white men were still being sold on the block in Africa a generation after emancipation in this country, and I will add slavery is still practiced in Africa to this day. Certainly slaves in this country were bought from black Africans.

    Steele’s “legacy of disgrace” seems to be a matter of his own “grievance-focused identity”,than anything based in truth.

    Having said that, he does have a point that the left has taken advantage of white guilt to a remarkable degree. Like Jeff however, I am uncomfortable with what seems to be his solution.

  522. I took me awhile to figure out the source of my confusion was me. So my apologies are due right off for misleading you Jeff. I wrote “Steele” without thinking of Michael Steele, he just didn’t occur to me, so little does he mean to me (for the very reason you cite). Again, my bad. Soon may he be gone, in fact.

    You have said the same thing as the bit of Shelby Steele I excerpted up there Jeff, and in the fullness of the article you and he agree on much more as well. For instance, gisting: “Do you have something true to tell? Keep at it, don’t quit. Your true thing is your best thing.”

    In this article though, I don’t see any hint of the sentiment you (and I) sense in the other Steele, this cheap trick crap:

    “we” need to tap into some of that by making the same kinds of promises to minorities that have served them so poorly coming from Dems.

    Far from it. The better Steele, the truth telling Steele says that conservatives cannot compete with what he calls “redemptive liberalism”, there simply is “no mechanism” with which the GOP can play this game. Further, conservatives, as we’ve seen, recoil when Michael Steel tries it. About Bush’s compassionate conservatism he says, “But in the end it was only a marketer’s ploy — a shrewd advertisement with no actual product to sell”.

    Here’s what he says conservatism has to bring to the table:

    The appeal of conservatism is the mutuality it asserts between individual and political freedom, its beautiful idea of a free man in a free society. And it offers minorities the one thing they can never get from liberalism: human rather than racial dignity.

    And here is his prescription for the future:

    Liberalism’s glamour follows from its promise of a new American innocence. But the appeal of conservatism is relief from this supercilious idea. Innocence is not possible for America. This nation did what it did. And conservatism’s appeal is that it does not bank on the recovery of lost innocence. It seeks the discipline of ordinary people rather than the virtuousness of extraordinary people. The challenge for conservatives today is simply self-acceptance, and even a little pride in the way we flail away at problems with an invisible hand.

  523. Apologies to lee too, then. A cascade of error, my fault.

  524. Wait, Kathy is getting welfare and foodstamps, and STILL CAN’T PAY HER FRIGGIN’ RENT?

    WHAT. THE. FUCK.

    Why do I suspect that not one of those people has ever contributed anything to society?

  525. I never said interpretation was full-proof

    Michael Moore, I think you said.

  526. Steele’s “legacy of disgrace” seems to be a matter of his own “grievance-focused identity”,than anything based in truth.

    Now that right there is full on stupid. Sorry, lee. That one you done to yourself.

  527. Not Kathy, SBP. Tas. The little foul-mouthed blog fart that has been stinking up leftwing airspace for years now.

    Shelby Steele. Yeah, I’ve often agreed with him. Last time caused a HUGE outpouring of leftist hate toward both of us. The post is somewhere in the archives. By the time it was done, much invective had been volleyed back at them. But it drained me.

  528. Jeff, there’s a later comment on there where Kathy says that she, too, is on welfare. And food stamps. And somehow can’t manage to pay her rent, so she’s looking at eviction.

    I guess Teleprompter Jesus isn’t coming through with the free gas and mortgage payments quite as fast as she’d planned.

  529. Sdferr,
    Thank you for the wsj link, even with the mixup. He makes some good points but the advise is just to keep trudging through this hell and eventually there will be an escape.

    The Liberal Left can impose the most appalling schemes on minorities. Schemes which destroy those they claim to be helping and spread havoc through all society. And yet, and yet they are absolved of all by their loudly insistent self proclamation of good intentions. Intentions they wrap as a shield around themselves while also proclaiming all of conservatives as covered thick in bad intentions.

    This in the field not only of actions, but of speech too. For conservatives even if they do good, even if they never offer an offense, in word or deed, are contemptible because their intentions are always bad.

    This is, too me, what the furor over Intentionalism is about. They assign intentions to groups. Intentionalism assigns it to individuals and investigates and judges it on a case by case basis. If they lose that shield, of preassigned good intent, they will have to answer for their results.

  530. geoffb, there’s a new post up on the front page on topic. Let’s pull on over there?

  531. Sorry I should have said it is partly about.

  532. Sorry Sdferr, I did think that was from Michael, but either way I object to America having a legacy of disgrace, for the reasons I stated.

    I see America being born in a time when slavery was accepted (much as abortion is now, not universally viewed as morally right, but accepted within our law abiding society, a difference being at the time of slavery in America, it was a universal practice from time immemorial), and being a key player in it’s abolition.

    If you want to view yourself as carrying some sort of legacy of disgrace, have at it, but I reject it as a premise, with regards to Americans having some sort of special evilness we must atone for.

  533. You guys, why not re-post your most recent comments in the new post, they would both help to get it going I think.

  534. Think I should offer her a job as a professional hater?

  535. yes, Jeff. FOR TEH KITTEHS!

  536. Wait a minute…tas is a failed waiter? And he’s living on an Archer Daniels Midland/Evil Farming Conglomerate, Inc soybean byproduct?

    That, my friends, is some funny shit. I think I’m having tenderloin for breakfast.

  537. Last time caused a HUGE outpouring of leftist hate toward both of us. The post is somewhere in the archives.

    Was that the White/Western guilt conversation? Good times.

  538. Wait a minute…tas is a failed waiter?

    I just wanted to set that out by itself and admire it.

    A failed waiter.

    You want to know why they hired another waiter even though business is slow? Because you suck at your job and you’re driving away customers. Hope that helps.

  539. Oh bummer. It just occurred to me. This whole language/intent thing. It’s not that it’s important. It’s that this has to get fixed before anything else can get fixed. Before we can fix our schools and univerisities. Before we can change the media culture. Before our politics can move from that of the last century to the realities of this century. Man, this is going to suck.

  540. You want to know why they hired another waiter even though business is slow? Because you suck at your job and you’re driving away customers.

    Right. That guy they hired “for no apparent reason” is your replacement.

  541. I want to add that there’s nothing wrong with being a waiter. Been there, done that. It’s honest work, and you can get decent pay if you hustle, don’t screw up people’s orders, and are polite. I suspect that this turkey fails in every respect.

    If you’re only getting one shift in a couple of weeks — dude, it’s time to look for something that better matches your…talents.

    If any.

  542. I want to add that there’s nothing wrong with being a waiter.

    Nope, nothing wrong with that at all…assuming that you possess basic competence and are capable of being service oriented. Entitlement doesn’t fit well into such a customer service intensive paradigm.

    I’ve been there too, and I tip good servers generously. They also get my repeat business. But if I get the impression that you think your personal issues take precedence over the service I’m paying you to provide, you’re getting no more than 15%, and you won’t be seeing me again. Which is to say that as a server, you fail. I suspect tas falls into that category.

  543. There’s no smack talk like anonymous smack talk, it appears.

    I hope to God that I don’t ever sound like that.

  544. It’s not really anonymous when you the “tas’s” name, Adam P DuPont; know where he goes to school, U Mass-Amherst; know where his family is from; have a bunch of pictures (like, for instance, this one); and know his age, 30, to turn 31 in a couple months.

    Be seein’ ya’, tas. But I won’t be bringing along my bastard son or my (evidently) whorish wife. I prefer to do my own work.

  545. Pingback: Jim's Blog

  546. Got this from the “editor” of comments from left field, the blog where I was informed by “tas” and a few others of my worthlessness. In fact, someone actually noted that my son is probably not mine, my wife being a whore and all…

    When a person decides to blog under an adopted pseudonym, they have chosen to do so for reasons specific and important to them. For those who write for me, it is my intent to see that the wish for anonymity be respected. You breached that, and your comments will be scrubbed from the site as any further contributions from you will be. Say what you will about our commenting practices; we have had many discussions over the years and have ultimately decided to let most comments be published as is with the exception of the most heinous and offensive which have been swiftly and publicly dealt with. We pride ourselves in doing whatever we can to not restrict debate regardless of how heated and at times hurtful it can get.

    But you crossed a line that you should have understood full well being a blogger yourself.


    Kyle E. Moore

    My response to Mr Kyle E —

    Fuck you, you self-righteous twat.

    Adam P. DuPont is “tas”. “tas” likes to act like a cyber thug, a tough-talking anonymous internet fuck who spends much of his time trying to tear down people whose socks he’s not fit to sniff.

    If Mr Adam P. DuPont, 30 (he’ll be 31 in May), wants to fuck with me, my family, my wife and kid and my reputation — which he’s able to do because my name is appended to my work — he should be prepared to do so out in the open, whether from Northampton, Mass, where he currently lives while attending Amherst (middle eastern studies, Deans List!), or from his home state of Rhode Island, where just a few months ago he went to celebrate his mother’s birthday.

    Mr Adam P. DuPont, who for reasons only he knows decided to deride my commenters as losers who need jobs, and who along with some pals wrote about my being supported by my wife (not true, by the way), is living off of student loans, a single waiting shift, and food stamps.

    How he has time to proffer quite so much vitriol when he could be out looking for additional shifts at Denny’s is beyond me. But Mr. Adam P. DuPont — “tas” — finds the time. And once too often he’s spent that time on me.

    So. You want to remain “anonymous,” do you “tas”? Or rather, Adam P. DuPont? Fine. Come kiss my ass like a good little waiter would. Bring me fresh biscuits and an iced tea refill. Otherwise, scrubbing comments at your little site will turn out to be a very big tactical error.

    Told you, Adam P. DuPont / “tas”: you should have just manned up.

  547. Is this the guy what eats fish food? I looked for that at Ralph’s. Maybe you have to ask for it special.

  548. Pingback: Fish Fear Me

  549. Well, as the author of the comment from which the quote is excerpted in the post, I’ll pitch in at least once.

    I’m not, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination a liberal. Nor am I a Derridan. I am merely writing as one who knows that no one is capable of knowing the intention of a speaker or writer, even when the speaker or writer is right there to explain his or her meaning and, therefore, both the speaker or writer AND the hearer or reader attach meaning to the words spoken/heard or written/read. There is no other possibility until Spock comes along and teaches us the Vulcan mind-meld. All I can do is the best I can to make my intended meaning clear and hope that you, my reader, will take my words in the sense that I write them.

    In most instances of communication, there is little problem but there are words and phrases in contexts that are more likely to lead to problems. Any instance where race is at issue is likely to be one such instance.

    Okay, sure, I suppose that it is possible to imagine scenarios where the black man would not even think of taking offense. However this was really an instance where I did not communicate my meaning completely. I should have also included that the black man was a stranger to the group of good old boys, and perhaps justified their “good old boys” moniker in some way, like, the black man heard them making racially demeaning jokes not long before they called out to him with, “Come here, boy.”

    Given that scenario, I suppose the men could say they meant no disrespect to the black man and give some explanation but I guarantee you there is no way the black man would believe their explanations as the genuine meaning of their text. Whether he’d be right or wrong in doing so — and I have to say that in the newly altered scenario, I’d agree with the black man — the history of race in this country and the history attached to the word boy used by southern whites in reference to blacks is too strong.

  550. Pingback: In response to a public lynching: Patrick Frey has no honor. In my opinion. Which qualifier, like, saves me from a libel suit I think [updated to include linked "annotations"]

  551. Pingback: Black Shards, In Your Eyes, Blinding » Texas School Board Rejects Scientific Method

  552. Pablo suggested I post this again:

    Jeff Goldstein’s threat of violence:

    I READILY ADMIT TO THREATENING TO BEAT CERTAIN PEOPLE’S ASSES. And you know what? I’d still do it to most of them if we ever met up. So?

    Jeff Goldstein’s threat of violence:

    Scott Jacobs is one of those guys I mentioned that if I ever met him in person, I’d leave him in a heap, mewling like a baby pussy.

    Jeff Goldstein’s threat of violence:

    Hey, listen: Doc Weasel is a cover band. The guy who runs their site, Kenny, is a 140lb unpaid roadie and all around lackey living at home with mom, posting amateur porn and tugging at his own little doc weasel. If I ever run into him, I’ll break him like a toothpick.

    Jeff Goldstein’s threat of violence:

    Note that I said if I ever ran across some of these people, I’d have no problem — and feel no guilt — about snapping their ACL.

    Jeff Goldstein’s threat of violence:

    As I said earlier, why the fuck should I be embarrassed about telling people who’ve said some vile things to me that I’d be happy to meet up with them in person, where I’d give them the opportunity to say those same vile things directly to my face. Just before I broke their fucking ankles?

    Jeff Goldstein’s threat of violence:

    I’ve probably gotten into it with about a half dozen people over the years, some of whom if I ran into them in the street I would beat their ass without hesitation.

    From: Jeff Goldstein: Arguing “On Point” — With Threats of Violence.

    Thanks to Pablo for the suggestion. It’s a good one. Sorta makes it clear who wrote this post.

  553. Yep, Frey has now degenerated to comment spamming, on a site owned by someone he’s banned from commenting at all on his own site.

    I hope somebody does call attention to this at Frey’s boss’ office.

  554. Reply to Patterico re: “violence” charges here.

  555. Pingback: If Obamacare passes, our American experiment may be at Code Blue « Sharp Right Turn

  556. Pingback: Why We Fight « A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics

  557. Me, I’d just name the dog “Nigger”…

    What? It’s a movie reference. Sheesh.

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