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Tuesday Quought: all that has an end has an end

“Meaningful criteria are not simply those posited by society – or those of our ancestors – applied as law to a given case. Rather, every concrete determination by the individual contributes to socially meaningful norms. The problem is similar to that of correct speech. There too we find undisputed agreement on what is admissible, and we subject it to codification. The teaching of language in schools, for example, make it necessary that the schoolmaster apply these rules. But language continues to live, and it thrives not according to a strict adherence to rules, but by general innovations in spoken usage, and in the last instance from the contributions of every individual.” Hans-Georg Gadamer, in “On Education, Poetry, and History. Applied Hermeneutics, SUNY, 1992, p. 173.

It’s hard writing this and at the same time listening to a live report in Spanish of a Real Madrid game. All indications are I’d do better doing neither. But here I am, thinking about whether things that – like my life, this place – ultimately come to an end still come to an end. They do. Although not in the way most people like their ends – final, clean and clear cut -, they do. Every contribution contributes. To what? How? No clue. A certain amount of voluntarism is indispensable. Not a question of laissez faire the big things but one of laissez aller the small ones.

I am a control freak and so probably are you: that’s the norm by which we are taught and that norm is fair enough in a schoolmaster type of way. Life however is not exhausted by control; life ends and therefore has to have an end. An end beyond contribution of the individual. An end which remains open to other contributions of other individuals because, once the end is closed, the request for new contributions is closed as well. Every end that becomes the end deserves the definite article.

Resisting the end is the heroism of every individual. Acknowledging that resistance is showing respect. Intimidating people not to make a contribution (whether actively by shouting or passively by belittling their importance as individuals) is the ultimate crime. It may be fully impossible to know where we go, it’s totally possible to identify how we won’t get anywhere.

Given we’re all becoming control freaks, the latter is also a rule that can be taught: let people contribute and acknowledge that there’s no single contribution that will be left behind.



September 3, 2013 - Posted by | Tuesday Quought | , , ,


  1. “…it’s totally possible to identify how we won’t get anywhere.”

    So, true, and can be terrifying if there is more behind you than there is before you – that’s where the bravery part comes in.

    Still, I’m not sure if I agree with Gadamer much. Society posits nothing, individuals posit some kind of mathematical average of the sum of all individuals concrete determinations and call it culture. Socially meaningful norms may still be regressive, asinine, and even evil – just look at the Third Reich, the Nazis had an incredibly meaningful set of social values – for themselves – they thought they were the master race. If individuals posit that evolution has a directionality and that arrow points in the direction of greater: depth, complexity and maturity, then it gives the individual a compass and a light to navigate the existential reality of the finite – and remain human at the same time.


    Comment by w.w.wygart | September 12, 2013

  2. I agree, individuals may conspire to regress as much as they may conspire to progress. I just think that the average, if taken over all and not just a part of humans, is such that it defeats conspiring and directs to progress.

    This does not mean, as history shows, we can’t get stuck in a local minimum.

    Comment by Guido Nius | September 13, 2013

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