Thursday, May 11, 2006

Stanley Fish on Heavenly Discourse

Here's an interesting excerpt from an interview with Stanley Fish regarding freedom of speech:
Q : You have written that speech is never a value in and of itself but is always produced within the precincts of some assumed conception of the good to which it must yield in the event of conflict. Could you elaborate on this notion?

A : That's a wordy way of simply saying that when you talk you're talking in the service of something. In any normal situation you speak for a reason: to inform, to command, to acquiesce, to ask a question, to further an agenda, to close an agenda down. Another way to put this is to say that speech and communication are the signs of our distance from the condition we would most like to inhabit.

In paradise or in heaven (I speak here only through report and not direct experience), discursive speech is unnecessary because everyone is already in the place he or she would desire to be, allied in a perfect and an indistinguishable way with the good. Therefore there is no reason to say anything to anyone; because again the only reason to say something to someone else is to advance both of you in the direction you desire. But in heaven, everyone is at the place of optimal desire so it is imagined in great literature like Milton's Paradise Lost not as a scene of communication, but as a scene of celebration. Heaven's inhabitants express themselves as a chorus all of whose members sing the same song, and sound a note that is repetitive, ritual and ceremonial -- in short a long endless amen or hallelujah. It is only in Heaven that speech is free and spontaneous, because it doesn't mean anything; it doesn't have to mean anything. In this vale of tears, speech means, has a purpose and when we feel this purpose threatened by some of speech's forms, we will always curtail it.
Read the whole interview here.

1 comment:

Apollodorus said...

Is that Stanley Fish...making sense? Is the Apocalypse around the corner?