Dear Nancy,

As you know origins are tricky -- language itself does not originate  
with the individual who learns one.

As for discourses, like the many feminisms from liberal humanist to  
radical postructuralist, who can say if any one person started them,  
or if a collective intention reached a critical intensity and was  
articulated as a system of ideas whose time had come.

No doubt Freud's ideas would have arrived in some form bearing someone  
else's name.

Discourses have a life of their own -- although people put their names  
to them. Someone would have taken credit for inventing the wheel if  
there had been a way to do it.

Language, as a system, is a capacity with which we are born -- how it  
originated as you know is a mystery.

When a species evolves to a point where language is possible everyone  
participates in its arrival.

No one invented language, or thought. They evolved, like the opposable  

Individualism is highly overrated, in my opinion.

Anyway there's no one whose ideas on the subject I'd rather hear than  



Sent from my iPod

On Jan 15, 2010, at 1:12 PM, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Dear Diana,
> I know what they mean. I don't just fully agree with any of them.  I  
> think, as I said, that the notion of humans as devoid of agency is  
> simply false.
> Plato's realm is not disembodied either except the highest realm of  
> the Real--there is an actual world where humans see, perhaps only  
> shadows, but where they must choose.  Otherwise there could be no  
> dialogues.  And souls may end up there.  But Plato was pretty clear  
> on the necessity of making choices that would lead to it.
> Discourses are in one fundamental sense prior to any specific  
> person: we enter into a world where they exist.  But humans are not  
> mere passive recipients of them.  Where, then, do they begin?  They  
> are, at some point, humanly created words, and humans alter,  
> rearrange, add to or limit what they experience in discourse.   
> Otherwise there would not be any difference between Foucault and  
> Plato.  You have not responded to the problem of names.  Who or what  
> is Foucault that "he" had any theory at all, much less one that was  
> not already existing since--since when? the Big Bang?
> I am not being stupid or obtuse:  discourse is a human activity, not  
> a world without humans in which we happen to get in the way of  
> traveling words at times.  If we are less undetermined and less an  
> originary source of discourse than Coleridge imagined, we are also  
> less determined and less mere recipients than your (and many  
> others') reading of these writers means.  Someone, somewhere,  
> somehow, sometime has ideas, words, thoughts that alter any dominant  
> discourse.  That's why, for example, there is femininism.
> The real issue in these theories is not whether there is any author  
> in any sense but what an author is--as in Foucault's use of many  
> discourses to frame a particular question and offer an answer.
> That he said it--or anyone said it--does not carry any weight unless  
> it is convincing.
> Cheers,
> Nancy
> >>> Diana Manister 01/15/10 12:49 PM >>>
> Nancy wrote:
> "If only thoughts occur, they must exist in some possibly Platonic  
> realm where there is nothing but thought. I don't happen to think  
> that makes sense."
> Dear Nancy,
> There is nothing disembodied about thought. When Russell said  
> "thoughts occur" he meant they self-create and self-regulate, like  
> breathing and pulse, which are not Platonic or abstract.
> Likewise when Foucault and Blanchot say we are spoken by circulating  
> discourses, they mean that these pass automatically among members of  
> a culture. No self consents to receiving them.
> I see positive value in admitting that we are more determined than  
> we would like to admit; we are implicated in the ideologies we  
> criticize. Foregrounding our ideological conditioning can only  
> increase awareness. As Martha Stewart says, "It's a good thing."
> Diana
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