Richard Rhodes is blogging a foundation for a language theory that will further prop up an understanding of the Bible as God-inspired. He’s working through the low-level first-order concept of felicity, which he sees as “the null assumption for any communication and particularly for historical texts.” Such a baby step (for "inerrancy [being] the 800 pound gorilla in the room") is critical for the in-vogue translation methods Bible translators these days have grabbed onto: relevance theory.
(By the way, not many days ago, a friend of mine arranged for me to meet at SIL with one of the leading instructors of relevance theory, who tells me it’s a misnomer of sorts. The theory focus is not so much on what’s “relevant” as on “how things make sense,” on how the gap is closed between what is said and what is meant, on what goes on in the mind, as with cognitive linguistics, and what the listener or reader gets right or right enough. Speech act theory and pragmatic theory are useful prereqs.)
Felicity is as necessary to relevance theory as grammar is, for ESL teachers, to helping their English language students improve their abilities in writing or speaking or as mathematics is, for engineering professors, to communicating advanced concepts in their structural discipline. “Felicity” is a prerequisite, just as “logic” is for Aristotle in all of his other advanced observations.
Felicity, like truth, like logic, like Chomskyan linguistics, like most science, like phallologocentricism, is based on the binary. Either there’s felicity or there’s NOT felicity. “Not felicity” is bad; “felicity” is good.
Now quite different from the mere binary are feminisms and feminist rhetorical theory. In such, person stays “above” the mere binary, above logic, above formalism, above mathematics, above grammar, and even above binary felicity. I’m using “above” metaphorically here just to say the person is always more important than any of these things. How does that work? Allison Randal would agree with Larry Wall and declare There is more than one way to do it. (And both Randal and Wall work with the language of computers, which so it seems today always and only must operate on the system of binaries.)
Well, I told myself I’d only take 15 minutes to write this post, so let me hit the high points. The binary insists on boundaries. It’s a particle view. And feminisms include that view too. But rather than the mere “dimorphic” view, a feminist rhetorical view of language is “polymorphic.” feminisms also allow for and even insist on these: a wave view (as in dynamism, or powerful change, as in a conception, pregnancy, and birth where the boundaries of life but the very development of life is crucial); a field view (as in relationships, where it also matters tremendously whether I’m an outsider or an insider, whether sexed female or sexed male, whether you are somebody's grandaughter daughter niece sister mother or grandmother when we talk); a subjectivity that allows for the “fact” that whenever anyone observes any subject (whether another person or a thing) then both the observer and the observed person or thing change in the discovery.
Huh? I’ve got just a few more minutes. So here’s a little illustration. Judy Redman makes these great statements about grammar over at Mike Aubrey’s blog. Oops. Time’s up. I really must stop blogging.