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Words and Deeds - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
Words and Deeds
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cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 20th, 2005 05:08 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Wow! That's incredibly eloquent. I remember sitting in church as a child and listening to a sermon about the "Sermon on the Mount" in the Gospel of Matthew that focused on that passage about how thinking about sin is actually the same thing as sinning. Even as a pre-teen, I was troubled by the (il)logic of that conflation. It's odd, though, that so much of the theoretical stuff I've used in my work over the past fifteen years seems to make a similar point, suggesting that words are deeds. Maybe we need to decide A) that words are deeds; and B) that there's still a fundamental difference between the sort of deeds performed solely with words and those that have what Descartes called "extension" in the world. But even as I wrote that last sentence I was already finding ways of taking it apart. Tricky stuff.
leela_cat From: leela_cat Date: May 20th, 2005 05:20 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I think that you're still conflating things. Words can be deeds, yes, but there isn't a 1:1 ratio between the deeds performed with words and the "equivalent" action.

Take your example of an affair vs. flirting. If I perform the actions, then I'm having an affair. If I merely flirt with words, then I'm not having an affair. However, if I'm in a serious relationship where my partner has expectations of monogamy, and if I'm not upfront about the flirtation, then my flirting words can cause almost equivalent pain to my partner.

I'd argue though that the deed of causing pain through words is a different deed than that of causing pain through actions. What I did by flirting in that case can only cause pain if I'm not upfront and honest with my partner and set the correct expectations. I didn't have an affair (ie cheat), nor did I lie to my partner in any demonstrable way.

What I did was to destroy trust.

That also occurs during an affair, but it's only part of the deed of having an affair.

Words can also be weapons but that's another discussion.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 20th, 2005 05:36 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Again, wonderfully thought out. I want to say, though, that I'm not conflating myself so much as thinking about how others conflate. That is, I'm trying to think my way out of a theoretical position that seems intractable in this instance. One thing I still wonder, though, after reading your comments, is whether we can really establish a fundamental difference between sexual stimulation done by touch and sexual stimulation by words. If the results are the same, doesn't that make it seem like the divide is tenuous?
leela_cat From: leela_cat Date: May 20th, 2005 09:09 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
True. You are talking about how others conflate, and they alwayss will.

I think that, in the example of sexual stimulation, the words are not the deed. The deed is sexual stimulation. The words are merely the tool used to accomplish the deed.

Maybe that's part of it? Words are a tool, not a deed. The question is whether the words are actually used to accomplish the deed or simply to explore, discuss or describe the deed.

Hmm... must think on this some.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 21st, 2005 05:39 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The more I think about this, the more uncertain I become. To speak or write words is to act. In that sense, there is a deed already, before any other extra-linguistic deeds that might follow in its wake. On the other hand, as you have so nicely pointed out, there is a huge difference between words and actions that go beyond them. Thanks for helping me think through all this, even if I'm unlikely to make it to the other side anytime soon.
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