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By Zaine Ridling

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For we say ‘make’ when we make something happen, and when we can make it not happen and don’t do it” (I 263 D162; see also I 34 M30, I 162 G61, I 182 Ve83, I 234 D132, I 265 25 Ridling: Anselm and the Logic of Illusion D165, and II 62 H61). Which problem becomes especially troublesome when we realize that there might be an ambiguity between anything we mean by an expression and what God means by it: Therefore in what way are You both merciful and not merciful, Lord, if not because You are merciful according to us, and not according to Yourself?

It’s not just that if we ever ran into a fool we would know what to do; all of us are fools to some extent, and the perpetual search for transparency that Anselm suggests, the reading of, and meditating on, the “examples” he and others offer on how to conduct this search, and the stubborn confrontation with the opacity of language that so much of the search comes down to, are going to contribute to making us – all of us – less foolish. Rational enlightenment will not come at once to humankind, the way revelation did; it will, rather, consist of an unending effort, of a constant struggle, never quite victorious but still relentlessly progressing, against all the confusion in which we are immersed, all the nonsense that our weak, sinful race has been burdened with, probably as a punishment for its sin.

164) And this universality is a problem. ). ). 34 Ridling: Anselm and the Logic of Illusion But if Tarski’s metaphors are different from Frege’s, the message conveyed is essentially the same: the problem of (colloquial) language may be one of richness, there may be too much potential there for our (and its own) good, but in practice we end up with the same sort of embarrassment. We cannot function properly with this unlimited means of expression, and hence we are limited in the use we can make of it, as people might be with an overbearing, genial, but somewhat inconsistent person.

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Anselm and the Logic of Illusion by Zaine Ridling


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