Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Repertory of Questions?

In what sense does the question—in contradistinction to the assertion, perhaps—open up the possibility for a contradiction of experience, a subjunctivity at the nexus of conceptual and communicative praxis? A more basic question concerns the irrealizing function of the question, its operation without a single apparent referent. What is the real question? The fact that we say such things reveals an attitude about questioning, shows a facet of what its consequences are for mental life and what the question as question is. Questions are multilayered, but the layers are moving, more undulant than level, more given to transformative paraphrase than to pure synonymy, such as it exists. (As usual, I side with Sapir against the hypostatization of *language, a theoretical stance that may be implied by though not fully explored in Hagège's work.)

In The Dialogic Species Hagège presents a twofold conception of language: on the one hand language is the work of conceptual intelligence, language is signification, the traffic in signs and their meanings in place of things; on the other hand language is a dialogic exchange between speakers. He places the question, along with injunction, in the hand with dialogic communication. The argument seems to be that in human speech there is something like completely intersubjective dialogue whereby the listener assumes the full functions of the speaker. Does this division between signification and communication help make sense of the question? Here's Hagège:

[M]an, alone in the living world, is able to signify and to communicate in the full sense of each of these notions. Man uses a continually evolving repertory of signs, organized into coherent structures, to transmit and interpret messages presupposing a highly complex social relation of interaction and dialogue. These are messages that assert, interrogate, command and express states. And it is because human languages are the only systems invested simultaneously with this dual property that they must be recognized as unique.

(p. 79)

How does a question belong to a repertory of signs? Do we have repertories of questions that we necessarily work from when we ask any and all questions? Is it the case that creative, performative inquiry (repertory) begets the sign in its sense of its attachment to a system of differential meanings? Is inquiry of itself systematizing?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 5:33 AM.


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