Is an ethics centered around one's behavior to an Other located in language (rather than an Other who is another person) a dehumanized and/or alienated ethics, no matter how socially constructed that language may be?

I mean, I suspect it is, but I might be wrong.


  1. Ron said...

    Maybe, but two things first: most "person to person" interaction is at least partially mediated by oral language too; and I am wary of the baggage contained within the words "dehumanized" and "alienated". If humans are largely distinguished as the animals who use language, what does it even mean to call language-mediated interaction "dehumanizing"?  

  2. Chris said...

    I was unclear! Maybe. That may not matter. Because you're helping me get at my point: That, by focusing on the Other of language rather than the Other of, well, others, you move away from "person to person" interaction and towards "person to language" interaction. And I of all people have nothing against "person to language" interaction! But to suggest that this is an "ethical" move troubles me (though I might be wrong to be troubled).

    Or, at what point does "language-mediated interaction" become "language interaction"? I guess, when it stops coming between one person and another.  

  3. Surjective said...

    Treat the infinitive with care, and all is to certainly be well.

    What I've always loved about ethics is that they exist in social structures. Legal ethics are vastly different from hackers ethics, and often at odds. A good guide always reminds the uninitiated about campground ethics.

    You needn't worry about whether an ethics centered in language is dehumanized, because it only exists there. We all (I hope) subscribe to more than one ethics.  

  4. Ron said...

    So the distinction you're making is between language as an Other rather than some other person as an Other? Sorry if I am being dense (or betraying my sad lack of education in philosophy).

    Also, from my limited p.o.v., the phrase "language as an other" reminds me of the computer industry catchphrase "software as a service." (Sigh.)  

  5. Surjective said...

    That was my initial take of it. Poetic ethics. A haiku makes only one reference to a season of the year because it's rude to point with two fingers. Brevity is much admired.

    I also thought about languages that do not exist on paper. They all shared some performance aspect -- ASL, orchestral music, dance. I have so much difficulty separating the language from the speaker that I'm certain this is not Chris' aim.

    When I go back to writable languages I am again back at my initial thoughts. At least for the examples I can come up with, I can reframe any ethics as deference for the reader.  


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