Primacy of Reason, Primacy of Text


We have lived for generations with a particular idea of an educated human being as the highest ideal, with a particular type of education being exemplary. The “best” meaning is that which has been most thought through, and the most clearly articulated in writing. To be human is to think, to think is to reason, to reason is to argue, to argue is to write, to write is to participate. Thus it is proven. QED. This is why our “best”  writers are frequently called “our best minds”, whereas our best visual artists are rarely termed so. The production of reasoned text is the mark of an educated person in our culture. Those who are incapable of participating in the Great Conversation in this way are left out of it completely, a Subaltern who may speak  [pdf], but to whom nobody will listen. It is not to be voiceless that is to be entirely abandoned by the privileged; it is to be textless.

What a profound system of neglect! It leaves deep meaning, one of the principle drives of humanity, open only to the most skilled at the manipulation of this one technology, leaving “the masses” in a sere intellectual landscape, stripped even of the balm of religion. This is no way to run a culture, holding people hostage to their fear of shunning by keeping the achievement of beauty, meaning, and belonging ever just beyond reach.

Reason, although a capacity of the human mind, is not the entirety of human experience. “The” human is not the unencumbered male of the species with adequate resources to permit a retreat to the life of the mind. There cannot be the human narrative, except the quest for meaning that must start from wherever the agent comes into the world. An honest search for Truth must encompass and value the narratives of the elderly, the young, and the mentally ill… the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginal… the sum of human experience, not the skimming of the meaning of those who have the most status.


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