Nichole Kypreos

Histories of Meaning

16 January, 1999

Earl Jackson,


is in white with
comments in
turquoise are 

responses to Nichole’s text in red.
Knight in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland entertains the question
of the existence of an existential relationship between a thing and the
name it is called.
exists a disparity between what a thing is and what it is called
a „disparity“ to those who aren’t familiar with the system. To the knight,these
are merely differences in kind, since he manipulates the system as a rational
one, and does not confront it as a problem. This is indeed a problem for
the Socrates of the Cratylus, however, and for Alice too, although she
is probably not aware of it in those terms.
call is to name
is ostensibly true, in ordinary English. But since we are faced with a
language that is other than ordinary, and given that Lewis Carroll wasa
logician, I think we must presume that the two terms in the text are
synonymous.It then behooves us to read the text in order to a thesis on
how the theterms differ.

Also, even if they were the ordinary English usage,
note that „to call“ occurs only in the passive voice, and the verb „to
name“ is at best only implied in the use of the noun „name.“

Lewis Carroll’s Knight and Plato’s Socrates make a distinction between
a name and a thing, as the two must be studied separately as first the
signifier or representation and, secondly, the thing itself.
are absolutely right about Socrates. But the Knight makes at least four

[1] the thing

[2] the name of the thing

[3] what the thing is called

[4] what the name of the thing is


is the difference you bring up (perhaps unintentionally) between a „signifier“
and a „representation“? This would be a good question to pursue, if not
now in this context, some time in some context.
To be
immersed in language is to be caught
in a
web of signifiers that,
while not definitiveof
the surrounding world, prove complex and confusing to those who wish to
understand it
the „web of signifiers“ is „not definitive of the surrounding world“ what
is? In asking it with slant, am I aligning myself with Hermogenes, Cratylus,or

Also, the „while not definitive“ leads one to
expect a concessive relation to the conclusion of the sentence, which isnot
the case, and therefore ironically render the sentence „confusing“rather
than the web it means to indicate.

real proves to
be something altogether different from
world of language
in which names
and signifiers reveal the natural world
through distorted lenses
of the following questions is rhetorical:

1. What is the difference between a name and asignifier?

[In your answer, bring in Augustine’s

„On the Teacher.“

2. How could signifiers reveal a natural world?

On second thought, the second question probablyis

Advice: Don’t let metaphors do the thinking foryou
in any part of your argument. And watch your syntax. In the sentence in
which names and signifiers reveal the world, the placement of „distorted
lenses“ requires the reader to assume that the revealing takes place throughthe
distorted lenses – in which case it is hardly an act of „revelation“ if
it is distorting an other wise natural (but somehow undisclosed world prior
to the signifying distortions).

The great thing about infelicities like this
is that they can be clarified so easily. Try it and you’ll see (I’m not
being coy or sarcastic. We all write sentences like this. It happens when
thinking goes faster than the writing, and what you write down is understandable
to you, but may really be functioning as a kind of shorthand, an idiolect
that doesnt automatically translate to the reader not privy to the full
process of the thinking and research that had gone into the paper overall.Please
do rewrite the sentence. Pretend to be me, and look at it from my,curmudgeonly,
bookwormish, dry-as-dust grammarian viewpoint. When it survives that withering
gaze, you’ve got a sterling next step in the argument. Remember grammar
is the royal road to salvation (as Bhartrhari tells us). This also includes
syntax, rhetorical devices, and what I’d call „coherence markers.“

of this, Socrates addresses how, if it is at all possible, to studyreal
existence when it becomes clear that „the knowledge of things is notto
be derived from names . . . they must be studied and investigated in themselves.“
Here he clearly places emphasis not
on the thing itself, but the signifier

admits to Socrates that the name is the representation of a thing [433].
signifier, the representation, must first be analyzed to discover if, in
fact, the representation, in Derrida’s words, mingles with what it represents.
raise an interesting question here. I interpret the line you cite from
to mean that Socrates’s places emphasis on the thing itself,
on the signifier.

While what he says points toward the thing itself,I
an see your interpretation justified by the fact that the actual investigation
Socrates conducts focuses almost exclusively on the signifier. This merits
further consideration.
to Carroll’s Knight, it does not. The Knight outlines four different namesof
the song that have little or no relation to each other. What the name is
called and what the name is are two incredibly different denominations.They
are „HADDOCK’S EYES“ and „THE AGED AGED MAN,“ respectively. Conversely,the
song is called and is „WAYS AND MEANS“ and „A-SITTING ON A GATE,“ respectively.
seems to be the only socially accepted and most widely used mode by which
to examine, analyze, and describe the surrounding world.

Words then,are mere imitations and representations
of the true thing and, no matter how accurate or inaccurate in resemblance,
they describe nonetheless. Socrates mentions the signified, which has to
do with groups of letters forming words acting as participants in signification.
Socrates reflects if there can exist a way, beyond language, people may
know things in their respective truths and affinities. What, I think, Socrates
is doing is separating the thing from the name chosen to describe it, which
reminds me of Derrida’s statement, „The sign is that ill-named
thing.“The existence of a direct correlation between a
thing and its corresponding name is questionable
and doubtable. Moreover, Derrida cannot help but use the language he simultaneously
proves to be an inadequate representation of the natural world. In writing,
the above statement seems to be especially powerful, as Derrida must cross
out certain words while using them to convey his argument to the reader.
The difficulty should be obvious. Only yearslater can Alice understand
what the Knight truly meant by his labyrinth-like explanation of the song’s
name. This essay should demonstrate the same difficulties and complexities.
The question „what is“ best describes Plato’s dialogue and Carroll’s
conversation between the Knight and Alice.
seems they have realized what it is not, which is a step in an insightful,
thought-provoking inquiry.
last sentence below describes what you’ve accomplished here: a step in
an insightful, thought-provoking inquiry.

This was very intersting and bodes well.


To the syllabus

To the lexicon

To our orientation

To the prehistory of the seminar

To the metapaideia

To Fantasy

To AnotherScene

To LetsDeviant

E mail Earl

To another
take on a maltese falcon

to the Robert
Gluck Interview on Margery Kempe