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First published in , this reissue is a study of the sociology of language, which aims to bridge the gap between textbook and monograph by alternating chapters of explication and analysis. A chapter outlining a particular theory and suggesting general criticisms is followed by a chapter offering an original application of that theory. The aim of the authors is to treat text and talk as the site of specific practices which sustain or subvert particular relations between appearance and reality. I Introduction: the language of mastery 1. Interrupting the 'I' 2. Language and ideology in Althuser II The limits of language 3.

Wittgenstein's two languages 4. Kafka: the poet of black and white III Language and thought 5. Husserl's two phenomenolgies 6. Heidegger: from letters to being, or from being to letters? IV LAnguage and society 7. The essentialism of ethnomethodology 8. Codes in conversation: the speech of Bernstein and Labdov V The practice of ordinary language 9.

What Austin does with words Locke's text of property VI Language, sign and text Within the Trinity, the Father instantiates himself through the creation of the Son, an 'other' which is essentially his formal embodiment just as a work of art is a formal embodiment of an idea. This is not linguistic, though as an act which itself grounds Being, the Trinity prefigures and grounds the much later repetition of this in the finite faculty of the understanding. Conventional language doesn't ground being, but in its limited way it expresses or reflects that grounding by joining subject and predicate through the copula.

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This needs further explanation—an explanation that takes us to the heart of Coleridge's primary imagination. In the Logic , Coleridge tells us that 'the rose [as a subject] manifests itself, Similarly, Coleridge claims that substance is the unity of 'accidents', or properties—a claim that has much in common with Leibniz's denial that substance is anything other than a collection of properties, or that sensation involves any contact with an external substance. But Coleridge is an idealist, for whom no material substances, no physical universe, and ultimately no objects exist: These subjects include other people, but they also include roses and buses and beef-steaks.

It may seem strange to call these latter 'subjects', but in an idealist world there ultimately is nothing outside subjectivity, and so these 'objects' are in fact reflections of the psyche. Though they derive from archetypes within the pleroma the divine ideas , objects appear to us only as a result of the finite self's delusory attempt to perceive itself as object. The finite self is driven through the dialectic by its pursuit of this chimera, a pursuit that comes to a kind of resolution in the moment of reflection, where sensory perception occurs and finite subject and 'object' appear.

Physical form and substance are merely the creations of the understanding, the abstracting and reifying faculty that is the condition of the illusory separation of being into subject and object.

The Material Word (Routledge Revivals): Some theories of language and its limits

This means that sensation, in the sensory manifold, is totally particular, since it is prior to the understanding's imposition of form, category, and substance. We know that it is non-linguistic because it is 'the unity of primary perception', the ' primary mental act' which is 'presupposed For to be strictly accurate, we have not yet arrived at the actual perception, at a point in space and time, of the rose itself—since the 'primary mental act' constitutes the second of Schelling's epochs the first was the creation of the Absolute. It is only through the process of reflection on this primary act that consciousness emerges, a process that necessitates the construction of the understanding; for 'reflection', Coleridge tells us, 'is the understanding itself, a synonym[,] not a predicate' p.

This is Schelling's third epoch; and actual perception only occurs in the moment when a thinking subject consciously perceives an object. The Logic puts it more succinctly: We can conclude, then, that we cannot understand the Logic unless we appreciate the role that Schelling's deduction plays in it, for though the Logic contains no talk of dialectic, its use of the crucial word 'reflection' identifies that context. Once this is understood, we can see that the Logic 's talk of the 'primary mental act' looks back to Coleridge's 'primary imagination', and the text effectively provides the argument Coleridge was unable to produce in the Biographia.

Far from centering on conventional language, the Logic relegates its place to the end of the dialectic, as a product of the limited faculty of the understanding. It is both interesting and unexpected, as McKusick says, that in one respect language reflects or repeats the structure of the primary affirmation p. For just as the primary affirmation joins the 'accidents' or properties colour, scent, etc. It is time to turn to the infinite I AM. Referring to this, Coleridge tells us in the Logic that 'the verb substantive or first form in the science of grammar brings us the highest possible external evidence of its truth' p.

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Again, there is a shared structure that we might not have expected. But this is explicitly 'external' evidence, for Coleridge is not saying that 'God' is a linguistic entity, nor even that God's self-realisation through the Logos is a linguistic utterance in the sense that it involves the use of conventional and arbitrary language.

Rather, and as we have already seen, the Logos is the formal embodiment of the Father, just as the physical form of a sculpture can embody the artist's conception. I have argued above in rather abstract terms, and wish to turn below to some of Coleridge's more specific comments on language. In general, these show that Coleridge was fully aware of the arbitrary nature of conventional symbols, a view that he first makes explicit in a letter to his wife in May where he says that 'a Word is but an arb[itrary character]'.

But there is a complexity, for in distinguishing the discursive from the intuitive, Coleridge rather surprisingly suggests that they are to use Raphael's words in Paradise Lost 'Differing but in degree, of kind the same' vol. Where neoplatonic metaphysics tends to think in terms of disembodied 'ideas', Coleridge as Coburn and Modiano argue insists upon the Logos as embodied or externalised idea. At such moments, the 'Opus Maximum' tells us, mind 'outers' itself, for it takes the disembodied idea and locates it in the outward form of a conventional symbol.


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Now in human language the symbols are of course merely conventional, for they belong to the understanding, but 'outer-ance', as I have already suggested, turns out for Coleridge to lie at the very heart of being. God instantiates himself not through a disembodied self-knowing, but through the process in which the Father knows himself through the form of the Son.

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This has a grand ring to it, for Coleridge is again pointing in the idea of the 'epiphany' to the mystery that meaning can be embodied and externalised in language. But we must not overstate the significance of this, for in its immediate context it is only a passing comment; and in the same manuscript Coleridge defines the soul as the 'synonyme' sic of the understanding vol.

We should also note that where Coleridge calls the elements of grammar 'the most appropriate metaphors', metaphor is for Coleridge a limited mode of the understanding, and its role is explicitly limited here to 'human' reasoning. Nor is Coleridge here suggesting a constitutive role for conventional language: Coleridge goes on to say that for the human mind thought can only be communicated 'by words or language' vol.

But this does not make thought and language synonymous, for where thought or Idea belong to the immediate or intuitive realm of presentational form, the 'language' of the Logos, words are 'the instruments of communication, Conventional language then is a fundamentally human product, for as Coleridge says, 'All language originates in reflection', and 'reflection', as we have seen, is another name for the emergence of the understanding Logic p.

As Coleridge says in the 'Opus Maximum', 'all language in its very essence is appearance' vol.


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  5. Indeed, as David Vallins shows, amongst Coleridge's many cautionary and critical comments on conventional language is the claim that language inherits the contradictory foundations of the understanding. We should note that Coleridge here implies that under certain conditions the problem of contradiction can be overcome.

    Because words do not in themselves constitute it, Coleridge needs an account of meaning. The familiar though unfashionable correspondence view that words correspond to and gain their meaning from internal ideas can be seen as early as February , where Coleridge claims that 'articulate sounds are made by the Reason to represent Forms, in the mind, ['phaenomena']' Notebooks vol. The best part of human language, properly so called, is derived from reflection on the acts of the mind itself.

    It is formed by a voluntary appropriation of fixed symbols to internal acts, to processes and results of imagination. Since Coleridge is an Idealist, the 'results of imagination' encompass amongst other things the objects of the natural world, to which the fixed symbols of language are appropriated.