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Fr. 522

June 10, 2014

Taylor maintains that, for the so-called moderns, all worldviews are without exception indexed to some personal point of view; there can be no unspoken common ground or encompassing ethico-epistemological background as for earlier ages. Accordingly, the nature of worldview consists precisely in its being spoken or expressed as it can no longer be detached from the particular expression that the adherent gives it. This expression suggests perhaps another schema under which to approach this dilemma: expresser (the one who expresses), expressed (that which is expressed), expression (the fact of being expressed).

If, for the Romantics, the terms whose separation is to be avoided at all cost are those of expressed and expression (in the coming together of the symbol, for Taylor’s moderns the ethico-epistemological landscape has shifted to some extent. Indeed, for the latter, the matter is rather that of the inseparability of, first, expresser and expressed and, secondly, expresser and expression. The first bond concerns precisely the point made above by Taylor. The modern cannot express a worldview without making apparent for his or her interlocutors the individual particularities informing that same worldview, for the worldview’s expression is conditioned or framed, at least in part, by those same particularities.

The second bond underscores a parallel necessity. Earlier times emphasized expression over expresser in that the expression itself confirmed the expressed in lieu of any qualities that the expresser might bring to that expression. Modern times have, however, turned this necessity on its head. For the moderns are keen to point out the extent to which phenomenon of expression is dependent on the intervention of an expresser. Therefore, we cannot simply parse out expresser from expression because, without that which the expresser brings to the expression, there can be no expression whatsoever.

Certainly, there are those who seek a return to a confirmed background belief or common ground which serves as an objective framework to which all can appeal. Be this religious or scientistic in nature, the draw is the same: to remove the expresser’s prominence in the modern formula for expression. Yet a fallacy lies at the root of the desire to set aside and step out of the personal point of view to which any and all expression is necessarily linked. In truth, there is no way to step back and present things simply as they are. An interesting example of this can perhaps be found in Thomas Hirschhorn’s “mindmaps”.



Therein can be found two layers, a foundation and an overlay, as it were. The former consists in a number of texts, documents and images constituting the fact of the thinker and his or her work. The latter seeks to draw out the connections and themes shared between these texts, documents and images through the use of arrows, highlighting, and notes. The initial temptation here is the following: to approach the foundation as a brute, objective fact, the author’s corpus, yet approach the overlay as an interpretive, less objective instance (no matter how true or insightful the reading). In keeping with¬†the objectivist goal outlined above, the subsequent temptation would be to set aside the overlay with the aim of presenting the foundation as it is, for there is certainly some way that it is in itself.

The reality of the matter is quite the contrary. Specifically, the objectivist commits a fatal mistake when he or she forgets that this foundation requires presentation. To continue our parallel, if these facts exist in the world, they do not exist under the form in which they are here presented in that the artist has performed an initial sorting of documents and then subsequently arranged them in an order. This order is perhaps no less interpretative than that captured in the overlay. In other words, where the objectivist sees presentation in the foundation and representation in the overlay, the enlightened modern recalls that presentation is (re)presentation and sees its work in both instances. No matter the object, the person must make it available to his or her interlocutor in some way, and this making availability entails without fail sorting, arrangement and framing, even in the gesturing towards a natural phenomenon.

In such a way, we both drive Taylor’s point home more forcefully and extend the argument itself with the aid of distinct conceptual resources.


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