Friday January 11th 2013
Work is being done by a new breed of brilliant men
and women who have decided it might make no sense to take a scalpel to
the brain, try to tease out that part of it which is in charge of
language, then stick it with an electrode to see if it utters, and
whether it's utterance will contain grammar and semicolons.
And, I'd like to think of these brilliant men and women, as being in a
room where the walls are papered with images of brains that range from
cross section, through X-ray all the way to glorious Technicolor.
Along one side of the room is a shelf of large jars, inside of which are
the pickled brains from those possessed of sufficient arrogance to both
donate and know how to donate, their remains to science professionals.
Up in one corner of the shelf, below a phrenology chart, is
Wittgenstein's brain, which as we all know might not have died.
Best to think of Karl Kraus, who was a satirist, so
maybe he was just being a insensitive, when he said, "I can't believe that
half a man can utter a whole sentence." Then you can go to those who have
called themselves philosophers and find "the sole remaining task of
philosophy is the analysis of language." Which maybe a paraphrase from
Wittgenstein or Hawking, but who really knows when "Ambition is the death of
thought." As well, "faith," heroes have said, is "passion," whereas
"philosophy is passionless." In that room, its walls papered with
images of brains, the word 'grasp,' is being held up to scrutiny, and it's
been decided that the word 'grasp' might have as much to do with the act of
grasping, as it has to do with the reason for grasping, whether or not
to go ahead and 'grasp,' and how mightily to 'grasp' should 'grasping'
be unavoidable. Not just in one part of the brain, but a little bit
from here, a little bit from there, and all the way to the end of the
fingers. Or in another way, language they suggest, is more like a
perception. And for some of us, this means smiling.