Saturday, October 15, 2011

And speech about God above all

The "early guesswork [of the child learning to speak] may appear floundering and foolish to adults, but the conjectural character of linguistic usage which it reveals is necessarily inherent in all speech and remains inherent in ours to the end."

Michael Polanyi, Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973 (1962, 1958)), 106.  Yet just as what the child gropes towards is a mastery of the rules of adult discourse (rules developed in personal contact with reality), so what the Christian gropes towards is something objective:  an ability to speak with facility the language of God and the saints.  That Polanyi is a realist is made abundantly clear from p. 110 ("If we can say of an unprecedented owl, belonging perhaps to a new species:  'This is an owl', using this designation in an appropriately modified sense, why should we not equally well say of an owl:  'This is a sparrow', meaning a new kind of sparrow, not known so far by that name?  Indeed, why should we ever say one thing rather than another, and not pick our descriptive terms at random?").

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