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What if we accept Wittgenstein’s rope metaphor? If meaning does consist, like a rope, of various strings that are strung together, rarely not long enough so as to span the entire length of the rope (this would account for its flexibility over time/context), then any dialogue, any real “bridge” of meaning, would look a lot more like a maze than what we think of when we say “bridge.” But change that, and you can also change – and to my mind this is sorely needed – your understanding of dialogue.

Unlike Parmenides’ “Is”, language must employ such shifts and breaks, that is, must have non-meaning already there, presupposed. Otherwise meaning would be mutilated down to a line and then further down to a point, making a good, steady brick to build a good steady bridge, a perfect speech situation, whatever. So long as it is a secure enough common ground.

While a maze is a place to turn, to turn back, to reflect and reconsider. The bridge does not forbid this – it is a space of freedom/equality – but really empties precisely the meaning of the whole thing. It seems so straightforward – why bother second-guessing myself, my memory and history, my knowledge and methods, my goals and priorities?

This is why I call it the space of delusion. It is not only lacking reality, but it has secured the lack. Hence its anesthetic/depressive function in relation to thought, and the ease by which today it gives itself to algorithm. This is not a space of responsibility, for here occur exchanges, not encounters; it is the white space of accountability, of “fundamental decency”. Like AI, it is unlimited, but not infinite. And, what’s more, it has denied access to the infinite. This encounter with the infinite, this futurity that has not yet been desiccated in formula, is an encounter with the otherness of time.

[I suspect the following had gotten too Levinasian; oh well:]

In this encounter, like in the encounter with death – echoed by encounters with the death of others – the conditions are asymmetrical, unfair, AND YET compelling. I can do nothing when facing death – mine, and more importantly another’s –, and yet called by this encounter to compensate for that which has no compensation, no exchange rates, no code. The otherness of time throws up an encounter that breaks with projected anythings, of mice and men alike. No exchanges, no secure common ground, a communication is opened, a site of reflection and question, where moral valuation goes for sustenance. It is an ethical encounter, but of an ethics perhaps orthogonal to the one above, you know, the “justice as fairness” one.

The insistence on a secure common ground as a basis for ethics is where said delusion denies the encounter with time, denies death, and continues “automatic for the people-ing” all over the place, even after it knows for certain that it is, in fact, fracking the ground under its feet. IT continues anyway, such is delusion. It has its own ground already.

This is but one facet of this autistic space that boasts of full accountability yet purloins its zero responsibility. This space is super-imposed on the fragmented reality of such communicative encounters, and I admit I’m not sure if it only distorts it, or actually sucking it dry. Super-imposed, imposed from above, not from within. That is the meaning of securing a common ground as a basis for dialogue. The latter loses ethically crucial dimensions of meaning by this imposition.

Read this into socio-political discourse as you will.

<Photo by cottonbro, downloaded from Pexels>

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