oxford-dons.jpg
According to Witgenstein, there are laid up in the forms of our languages and in the metaphors and similes we use as a matter of course, emblematic illustrations of our concepts. The picture of blindness as a darkness in the soul or that a person has a soul are examples of such iconographic representations.

At play in academia is the picture that illustrates the scholar as a stick figure with an inflated head. Many academics and institutions cleave to this form of representation. It influences academic experience, academic relations and academic values. The picture encourages the view that mind matters most. By contrast, the body is the incubator that digests and secretes. It is like a hollow test tube acting as pedastal for the overblown head that crowns and overcomes it.

The picture encourages false seriousness in human relations. For one wants to be seen to be extended beyond the mere obviousness of one’s body. In academic writing, the hold of the picture has been detected and is called ‘false difficulty’. Nonetheless, it is still widely judged to be a sin of the mind, not of the will. The air of soleminity at academic gatherings, such as the conference and lecture, gives to the feeling that something of vital importance is transpiring. The strong inclination to think this may show the resolve of the picture only, through whose spectacled frame we see whatever we look it. The appeal to tradition, to the great minds whose passing we still mourn and in whose name we speak in hushed tones: we merely curl and caress with our fingers the conceptual frame that sits on our nose. Don’t we ever wish to take them off? 

Advertisements