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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Sunday, January 04, 2004

The Deconstruction of Alice

the Mad Hatter deconstructs
'When I use a word,' said Humpty Dumpty scornfully, 'it means what I want it to mean, neither more nor less.'

'My dear old thing,' said the March Hare, 'there's more to it than that. When you say or write something, you've got to reckon that you can't keep tabs on it. Other people may take what you say quite differently from how you meant it. It's like setting a bird free. Once it's gone, it flies where it wants.'

'I'm afraid he's right, Humpty' chipped in Alice , passing him his tea. 'If you want to get through to us, you've got to use words in ways that we'll understand.'

'Absolutely,' the March Hare agreed. 'There's no ultimate reason why we shouldn't call that teapot over there by the name "hot water bottle" instead. But if you were the only one who did call it "hot water bottle" you'd be in for a shock come teatime.'

Alice continued, 'Of course, you could start a new fashion, and if you did it frequently enough then at least all your friends could get the hang of it, and we'd know "hot water bottle" meant "teapot".'

The Mad Hatter had been listening to all this with mounting displeasure. 'What tommy rot! You're both talking as though Humpty could use language to communicate something.'

'He's not as thick as that,' objected the March Hare defensively.

'Not just him - anyone,' the Mad Hatter came back, splattering bits of muffin over the tea party in his intensity. 'Language doesn't give me access to what Humpty thinks. How could I know he was using language in the same way I was? When he says, "I'm having a nice time here" he might mean by "nice" what I mean by "nasty". And we could never find that out, because all we have to say is that what we mean by "nice" and "nasty" are other words. It's all just words. It's as though each one of us is inside a little bubble, all on our own, and every now and then we float close to each other, but we never know what's going on in the bubble next door.' He paused for breath and turned to Alice . 'Another cuppa, please, Alice pet, three sugars.'

'Pet, eh?' said Alice from between clenched teeth. 'That sounds like an offensive socially conditioned sexist term.'

'Only to you, Alice dear, just your subjective reaction,' said the Mad Hatter, taking his tea and sipping it. 'Blinking heck, I asked for sugar, didn't I?'

'So sorry,' said Alice sweetly 'In my language "three sugars" means you don't want any.'

'You know jolly well what I meant ...' the Mad Hatter accused as the tea party broke up in disarray

Michael Ovey "a hitherto unpublished fragment of Lewis Carroll's work about Alice".

5:13:00 pm