November 19, 2012

Existing in the Natural World First

           This article blew my mind, particularly in the brief discussion on Keller's blindness. While the comparison between Burke and Keller is both impressive and beneficial to our understanding of various rhetorical theories, it is Keller's inability to see or hear that I want to stay focused on. In Catalina's post (just a few posts down from this one), she discusses how some people are "quall" and see all colors for their opposites. They see a blue firetruck, but call it red because that is what society calls it. When thinking of this dilemma after all the theories we have read this year, we immediately see how words are little more than symbols chosen by man, and there is no right or wrong word for any word, just one that has been agreed upon.
           Enter Helen Keller. Although this article is focused on her rhetorical theory and not her inability to hear or see, it is quite beneficial to think about how these things have aided her in her ability to see relationships between the individual and the world more clearly. While so many people are stuck in the physical world, where words are understood as being the right words instead of merely words that are agreed upon, Keller lives in her own world that is free of these superficial constructions of reality. The article quotes Keller saying, "Very few people open fresh, fearless eyes upon the world they live in. They do not look at anything straight. They have not learned to use their eyes, except in the most rudimentary ways" (George, Page 341).
How ironic it is that someone without the ability to open their eyes is critiquing the way human beings cannot see things clearly. Keller is able to make this comment because she lives in the world of ideas, of nature, of existence devoid of manipulation. Keller wasn't taught how to be a genius by Anne Sullivan Macy, she was taught how to communicate. Could it be that living in her own world of nature allowed her to see meaning behind the world more clearly? Absolutely. Because Keller was able to remain in such a pure state, she did not succumb to materialism  and was not easily fooled by persuasive speech. Because she existed in the natural and communicated with the material world, she could easily see ways in which people used the material to represent the natural, bending true meaning to their own cause or advantage.
I think we must try and exist in the natural world as much as possible. Instead of existing in the material world first, and thinking about the meaning behind things/representation second, we should reverse this order, much as it is reversed for Keller. We must see past the physical, because the physical is a superficial layer that is based off of representations and symbols. As Plato said, all truth and knowledge lies in the noumenal world. Helen Keller exists in the noumenal world, giving her a keen understanding of the relationship between man, usage of symbols, and society. 

1 comment:

Nicole Lynn said...

I do love the way in which you describe Keller having a keener understanding than others the relationship between symbols, man, and society, I don't completely agree with the purity you give her due to her blindness. Yes in ways that has given her a rhetorical advantage for she is able to look beyond what others are not, but at the same time she is a product of language just as we are. People are heavily influenced by the language they use and learn throughout their life and they learn of many experiences in the past or even present through language and the way they think of these situations will hence be influenced from it. Thus Keller may be able to recognize things more easily but she is not completely separated from the influences of language on our society or culture.

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