[percy-l] In and About the world

Ken Armstrong armstron at ohiou.edu
Sun Aug 17 19:28:20 EDT 2003

Jim, Steve, Karey,

  This is a terrific discussion, especially this post from Jim. I'm 
wondering if I can add a complication that is hopefully not a confusion. It 
seems to me, too, that the event Percy is dealing with in his triadic 
relationship is symbolization. Jim makes good points about what the ability 
to symbolize does in giving us distance from and therefore some measure of 
power over what it is that we symbolize. But what is mysterious about it or 
what keeps it mysterious is that we get "distance from" while even more 
"participating in" the event symbolized.  In this respect, it is we, too, 
who are symbolized in the actualization of a triadic event. It is one of 
those things that might be seen as contradictory or as paradoxical: by 
gaining distance from and knowledge of something, we participate in it more 
deeply. Or maybe deeply is not the right word. Problem come when one aspect 
or the other is emphasized to the diminishment or exclusion of the other 
(the old culture vs. science contretemps). But as Jim notes, we know that 
we know (thus the beaming smile on the young child in Percy's example when 
he says the word "ball!"). I think Peirce's problem with transubstantiation 
might (I emphasize "might") have been his concentrating on the leverage 
gained over physical events and the expectations raised to the exclusion of 
the event of communion.

Steve said "This is also, I believe, why humans are so unique among the 
beasts -- our ability to use language in this particular way."

  Hmm. I seem to be stuck in Steve's blue font. Oh well. Steve, I'm not 
sure I'm quite following your statement quoted above as it follows 
your  quick outline of conception. It seems to me as though in your example 
it is not we who are using language, but God. That is just an observation. 
What I think Percy and many others say about language is that it is a human 
activity; the beasts don't have language. Period. BTW, I think this is only 
a phenomenological judgement, not a value judgement, tho it is not untied 
to the reason human beings have dominion over the beasts. Speaking of 
which, mine won't stop barking, so adieu for now.

Ken Armstrong

At 02:57 PM 8/17/2003 -0400, you wrote:
>Dear Folks,
>I think Percy talks a bit about the notion of having a world  and the 
>distinction between an event occuring "in" the world vs talking "about" or 
>symbolizing such an event.  Granted symbolizing occurs in part as an event 
>"in" the world but symbolizing is also a way of stepping back from the 
>world and talking "about" events that are merely "in" (and not one step 
>back so to speak) from the world.  The question is:  How does this seeming 
>ability to partially transcend the world arise and what are its 
>theological, philosophical and psychological implications.
>Fundamental to this discussion is of course the distinction between the 
>nature of an event which is merely "in" the world vs an event such as 
>symbolizing which is "about" events in the world.  That these are in 
>principle two fundamentally different kinds of events is (it seems to me) 
>one of the first and main points Percy attempts to get across and is a 
>theme he repeatedly returns to in both his essays and novels.

More information about the Percy-L mailing list