1.22.2002

I think the argument from physiological isomorphism has its origins in Shylock's speech, "Hath not a Jew..." Certainly cultures regard the body differently. It can be celebrated and decorated; it can be loathed and denigrated. Sometimes these competing body images exist side-by-side and demarcate gender or religious differences within a culture. (No one told me I bear a resemblance to John Lennon until I started seeing Sunhee.) And the isomorphism can be questioned: Is my identity altered by the loss of a limb? Is my mother's perspective changed by the osteoporosis that bends her spine? Despite differences, what unites are experiences of pain (although my pain threshold is much lower than that of a hockey player or one who has been tortured), mortality, vanity, and so on. Wittgenstein will talk about traversing forms of life in terms of criteria for pain. You can feign pain, but you cannot feign the criteria for pain. When someone holds up a swollen finger and says "this hurts," we can respond by acknowledging "I know it does." This is not some empty Clintonesque moment, "I feel your pain." Rather it is empathy borne from experience.

Barriers to another language and culture remain significant. Sadly, some of these barriers are undergoing effacement by market forces. My whole time in the Far East, I tried to get away from America and Americans. I couldn't walk down a street without being assaulted by Pizza Hut signs. If globalization can be an indication of something other than the illusion of limitless growth, it is that these cultural boundaries are all too permeable.

1 Comments:

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