Barfield and Rorty

(Broad-band internet link from Aotou, China enables this post !) Finished Barfield’s History in English Words and started Rorty’s Contingency, Irony and Solidarity on the flight.

Barfield uses etymology of English words to paint a picture of the history of thought through language, not just through the stems and origins of the individual words, but most importatly through their evolving useage and semantics. (See the Aryans post below) He comes down very heavily on the side of the poets who’ve contributed the most – Shakespeare, Coleridge and Wordsworth in particular, and the Oxford English Dictionary as the best source there is (1953). How does one get access to the full OED, rather than all the various “concise” forms ?

As for Wordsworth he quotes the lines from Tables Turned …. Our meddling intellect, rhyming with, We murder to dissect. Apart from re-inforcing the death of / through logic angle – I couln’t help hearing “analysis paralysis” in murder to dissect.

“Sweet is the lore which nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mishapes the beauteous forms of things;
”We murder to dissect.”

(Wordsworth, “The Tables Turned”, 1800)

Rorty – this is the first I’ve read since struggling with his Mirror of Nature, apart from his autobiographical essay Wild Orchids and Trotsky – Contingency, Irony and Solidarity. Apart from the preface and intro, I’ve read only the “Contingency of Language” chapter so far. Absolutely brilliant – natural follow on from Barfield. He very much supports the line that if its human nature you’re interested in it’s a work of fiction you should be reading, prose or poetry. Apart from the usual Marx, Nietzsche, Hegel, Kirkegaard, Heidegger, Dewey, James, etc, he relies strongly on Donald Davidson here. [Quote] Davidson breaks with the notion of language as a medium , and not for either representation or expression.[Unquote] Very much the same as Lakoff’s conduit metaphor rant, and evocative of McLuhan [and Wittgenstein of course, little did I know then.]

Also, of more than passing day-job interest [Quote] … the term intrinsic is one which it would pay us not to use, one which has caused more trouble than it has been worth.[Unquote] Tell me about it.

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