October CommQuote

The therapists miss the eccentricity of the self to itself and the public character of signs. They imagine the self as a holder of private experiential property and language as the courier of its messages. Their cure is as bad as the disease….. Sending clear messages might not make for better relations; we might like each other less the more we understood about one another. The transmission of signals is an inadequate metaphor for the interpretation of signs…
Instead, the most wonderful thing about our contact with each other is its free dissemination, not its anguished communion. The ultimate futility of our attempts to “communicate” is not lamentable; it is a handsome condition. The notion of communication needs to be liberated from its earnestness and spiritualism, its demand for precision and agreement…The requirement of interpersonal mimesis can be despotic. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Willliam James struck the right note: acknowledging the splendid otherness of all creatures that share our world without bemoaning our impotence to tap their interiority. The task is to recognize the creature’s otherness, not to make it over in one’s own likeness and image. The ideal of communication, as Adorno said, would be a condition in which the only thing that survives the disgraceful fact of our mutual difference is the delight that difference makes possible.”

–John Durham Peters, Speaking Into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication

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