Monday, June 21, 2010

Susanne Langer Holds the Line Against the Annihilating Positivist Blob

There is a widespread and familiar fallacy, known as the "genetic fallacy," which arises from the historical method in philosophy and criticism: the error of confusing the origin of a thing with its import, of tracing the thing to its most primitive form and then calling it "merely" this archaic phenomenon. In a philosophy of symbolism this mistake is particularly fatal, since all elementary symbolic forms have their origin in something else than symbolistic interest. Significance is always an adventitious value. Words were probably ritualistic sounds before they were communicative devices; that does not mean that language is now not "really" a means of communication, but is "really" a mere residue of tribal excitement. (Philosophy in a New Key, 248)

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