Tuesday, August 20, 2019


Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:51 AM

 "The inception  of critical thought, of a philosophic
anthropology, is contained in the archaic Greek definition
of man as a 'language-animal'…."

— George SteinerReal Presences

A schoolgirl in 1961 —

"Non, rien de rien…"

— Edith Piaf

"I get a kick though it's clear to see,
You obviously don't adore me."

— Cole Porter

Friday, March 30, 2012

Steiner on Language

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 4:00 PM

March 28 review in the Times Literary Supplement  of
George Steiner's new book The Poetry of Thought

"If this new book opens with the concession that
language has neither the performative power of music
nor the elegant precision of mathematics,
it is language, for Steiner, that defines the human.

The survey accordingly begins from the ancient Greek
view of man as the 'language-animal.'" 

A check of this phrase yields, in a 1969 Steiner essay,
"The Language Animal," a Greek form of the phrase—

In short, the least inadequate definition we can arrive at
of the genus homo , the definition that fully distinguishes
him from all neighbouring life-forms, is this:
man is a zoon phonanta , a language-animal.

— p. 10 in Encounter , August 1969 (essay on pp. 7-23)

After introducing "language-animal" as a translation of  "zoon phonanta " in 1969,
Steiner in later writing went on to attribute this phrase to the ancient Greeks.

 "The inception of critical thought, of a philosophic anthropology, 
is contained in the archaic Greek definition of man as a

— George SteinerReal Presences , U. of Chicago Press, 1991, p. 89

"… the 'language-animal' we have been since ancient Greece
so designated us…. "

— George Steiner, Grammars of Creation , Yale U. Press, 2002, p. 265

Despite this, there seems to be no evidence for use of this phrase
by the ancient Greeks.

A Google search today for zoon phonanta  (ζῷον φωνᾶντα)—

There are also no results from searches for the similar phrases
"ζωον φωναντα," "ζωον φωνᾶντα," and "ζῷον φωναντα."

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 11:00 AM

Suggested by a poem in the current  New Yorker.

Today's text —

"We have no more beginnings. 
Incipit : that proud Latin word
which signals the start
survives in our dusty 'inception'."

— George Steiner, beginning of
      Grammars of Creation

Reply in the Latin tradition—



(From the Log24 posts
of August 23-24, 2013)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Kick

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 9:00 AM

George Steiner, Real Presences , first published in 1989—

The inception of critical thought, of a philosophic anthropology,
is contained in the archaic Greek definition of man as a

Richard Powers, The Gold Bug Variations , first published in 1991—

Botkin, whatever her gifts as a conversationist, is almost as old
as the rediscovery of Mendel. The other extreme in age,
Joe Lovering, beat a time-honored path out of pure math
into muddy population statistics. Ressler has seen the guy
potting about in the lab, although exactly what the excitable kid
does is anybody's guess. He looks decidedly gumfooted holding
any equipment more corporeal than a chi-square. Stuart takes
him to the Y for lunch, part of a court-your-resources campaign.
He has the sub, Levering the congealed mac and cheese.
Hardly are they seated when Joe whips out a napkin and begins
sketching proofs. He argues that the genetic code, as an
algorithmic formal system, is subject to Gödel's Incompleteness
Theorem. "That would mean the symbolic language of the code
can't be both consistent and complete. Wouldn't that be a kick
in the head?"

Kid talk, competitive showing off, intellectual fantasy.
But Ressler knows what Joe is driving at. He's toyed with similar
ideas, cast in less abstruse terms. We are the by-product of the
mechanism in there. So it must be more ingenious than us.
Anything complex enough to create consciousness may be too
complex for consciousness to understand. Yet the ultimate paradox
is Lovering, crouched over his table napkin, using proofs to
demonstrate proof's limits. Lovering laughs off recursion and takes
up another tack: the key is to find some formal symmetry folded
in this four-base chaos
. Stuart distrusts this approach even more.
He picks up the tab for their two untouched lunches, thanking
Lovering politely for the insight.

Edith Piaf—

Non, rien de rien

See last midnight's post and Theme and Variations.

"The key is to find some formal symmetry…."

IMAGE- Valéry on ornament in 'Method of Leonardo,' with Valéry's serpent-and-key emblem

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Kick

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 11:30 AM

"The inception of critical thought, of a philosophic anthropology, is contained in the archaic Greek definition of man as a 'language-animal'…."

— George Steiner, Real Presences , U. of Chicago Press, 1991, p. 89 (See also Steiner on Language.)

"To some, Inception  is a film about the creative process, specifically filmmaking, with Cobb as the director, Saito the producer, Ariadne the screenwriter, Eames the actor, and so on.  To others the entire movie is a dream in that the film supports Carl Jungs' dream analysis; with all of the supporting characters acting as classical archetypes to Cobb's multiple personalities (which would also justify the lack of development in the supporting characters).  The fact that Inception , in the few months since its initial release, has already given rise to so much discussion and critical thought is much more revelatory than whether or not Cobb is still dreaming."

— Russell Espinosa at FilmFracture.com, Jan. 1, 2011

See also Piaf's "Rien de Rien in a Log24 post from Jan. 19, 2012.

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