Friday, August 19, 2011

Encylopedia of Received Ideas

I have been thinking of a kind of Encyclopedia of the sort once undertaken by the French thinkers of the 18th century, but it would be a list of ideas and words which are frequently used but which should not be.  Many of the ideas and words I have in mind are very difficult to make use of today because of the abuse we have suffered, an abuse which is registered as much at the level of ideas and words as it is in material deprivation.  The rest of the ideas and words I have in mind have been substituted for another, earlier term, and like all substitutes, they are used.  Substitutes are generally used because they are cheaper and easier to process, but they also lower the quality and dilute the substance.

As a part of this project I will, from time to time, post a word or idea and my judgment (or the judgment of someone else if  I find it particularly enlightening.)  This will not be open to comment because the point isn't to bicker about it and exchange opinions, but to raise the expectation that when people use words and ideas, that they develop them and take them seriously and respect them because nothing will change for the better in the absence of reason and reason cannot flourish if its very medium is depleted and degraded.

In this, my sentiment is expressed marvelously by the writer and translator Alexis Lykiard:
"Ducasse in one sense leads to the Orwell of Politics and the English Language and beyond, to Vaneigem and the Situationists who by shrewd use of collage and juxtaposition exposed both the poverty and richness of slogans, and the thinly veiled hypocrisy of a society which by not respecting words abuses people, and by insulting the intelligence creates a state of political cretinisation in which the various forms of authoritarian control may dominate." —Introduction to his translation of Ducasse’s Po├ęsies (1978)

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