4.0895 Responses Part I: Humanist, War, and Metaphor (5/180)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 15 Jan 91 19:28:56 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0895. Tuesday, 15 Jan 1991.

(1) Date: Mon, 14 Jan 91 16:29:31 PDT (21 lines)
From: Steve Condit <STEVEC@FHCRCVM>
Subject: war, metaphor

(2) Date: 15 Jan 91 14:06:00 EST (79 lines)
From: "Mary Dee Harris" <mdharris@guvax.georgetown.edu>
Subject: On January 15 ...

(3) Date: Tue, 15 Jan 1991 9:14:46 CST (23 lines)
From: 1ECHAD@UTSA86.UTSA.EDU (Helen Aristar-Dry)
Subject: RE: 4.0888 War: Is it an Appropriate Topic for Humanist?

(4) Date: Mon, 14 Jan 91 22:54:28 EST (38 lines)
Subject: To publish on HUMANIST or not to publish

(5) Date: Mon, 14 Jan 91 18:57 PST (19 lines)
From: "Robert S. Kirsner" <IDT1RSK@UCLAMVS.BITNET>
Subject: Re Lakoff submission

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 91 16:29:31 PDT
From: Steve Condit <STEVEC@FHCRCVM>
Subject: war, metaphor

I disagree with Bob Werman. It seems to me that the analysis of
metaphor (even if it lacked the scholarly apparatus of footnotes etc.)
is an example of a major concern of humanist, namely understanding
the use of language. It seems to me also to be a task that more
humanists should be undertaking together.

I share Timothy Reuter's puzzlement also. I have been hopeing for so
insights into this insanity from humanist. I suspect part of the lack
of discussion is a feeling of futility. Our leaders are not listening -
Bush has had the White House comment phone line disconnected according
to the Seattle news last night! Who wants this war? Who will profit?
Where are all these supporters of U.S. offensive action? I'm in a
medical research and talking with a friend in highway construction we
haven't encountered the 60- 75% the polls say are out there!

I we separate our academic lives from the live encompassing issue of
a Gulf war, what hope is there?
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------87----
Date: 15 Jan 91 14:06:00 EST
From: "Mary Dee Harris" <mdharris@guvax.georgetown.edu>

I've been debating for several weeks whether to express my feelings in
this forum about the choice of today's date and the arguments for and
against war, and today's HUMANIST mail made my decision for me. First
came the message that HUMANIST is a inappropriate forum for a discussion
of war; then a commentary expressing surprise of no discussion of the
issue. In response to the first, I feel obliged to ask, "Who should
make decisions about war? The people in the political arena whose
primary obligations seem to be toward their own chance for re-election?
or people who have spent their lives studying to understand those
principles referred to as 'humanistic'?" I have to vote for the
latter--especially those who are forward-looking enough to have learned
to use today'stechnology to understand timeless concerns. I believe
that they are more likely than some to also know more about contemporary

Why am I concerned about the choice of this date for the deadline for
starting a war? Because today is my birthday. (I'm not saying how old
I am, but I don't call myself young and I don't fall into the
fiftysomething category so perhaps I'll just be an exception to the
bimodal curve of ages of e-mail users.) For many years I have been
proud to share my birth date with Martin Luther King, Jr., who for all
his currently known frailties, has been known as a man of peace, a man
of dreams. We, in most of the United States, celebrate his birthday
with a national holiday, (held on the Monday following the actual date
of his birth. How many of you can claim a national holiday for your
birthday? But now my birthday, and Dr. King's, is known as the day the
war starts, or to be specific, the day the war is authorized to start.

In 1986 I moved to Washington, DC, to take a job with a consulting firm
that did (and does) about 90% of their business with the US Department of
Defense. Some of you may remember that I spoke at ICCH/87 in South
Carolina about the project I was working on: a natural language
interface to an expert system designed to assess tactical capability of
the US Air Force in central Germany. The expert system simulated flying
sorties so the language involved the names and nicknames of fighter
planes and missiles. I once could tell you the differences among
Mavericks, Sidewinders, and 'dumb bombs'. I have since left that
environment to work independently on non-DoD contracts. But at that
time I learned a lot about the military mentality of our country and the
people who chose that world.

Military people think differently from the way humanists do, and there
were many times that I was glad that I was in that organization so I
would have a say in opposition to the standard military mentality. The
joke about the "military intelligence" being the classic oxymoron is
unfortunate; some of the people I worked with were brilliant; all, much
more than just competent. But they don't understand the humanist
perspective on the world; they've never learned about it.

One of the values of efforts such as Lakoff's to put the war into a
different perspective from that chosen by the politicians and the press,
is to make people think about what the politicians and the press are
doing. I had already observed before Lakoff pointed it out, that
televised sporting events have taken on a patriotic tone, as if war is
the ultimate football game, and 'us sports fans' can help 'our boys and
girls in the gulf' by rooting for the right side.

Perhaps this is just rambling on my part, but it's a sore subject with
me that some people say one should avoid contact with those one
disagrees with because one might get contaminated. I suppose I think
more highly of myself than that. I happen to believe that I might make
a difference by showing "the other side" a new perspective.

By the way, I intend to celebrate my birthday despite today's prospect,
by visiting the National Gallery exhibition of Titian's paintings,
followed by dinner with friends, and perhaps a short stop at the White
House with the protesters to show my concern.

"All we are asking is,
Give peace a chance."

Mary Dee Harris

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------32----
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 1991 9:14:46 CST
From: 1ECHAD@UTSA86.UTSA.EDU (Helen Aristar-Dry)
Subject: RE: 4.0888 War: Is it an Appropriate Topic for Humanist?

As a moderator for Linguist--another net that posted the Lakoff paper
on the Listserv--I also confronted the question raised by Bob Werman:
i.e., was the material appropriate for a net dedicated to academic
matters, rather than politics. (Yes, I AM aware that these divisions
have always been fuzzy, and that many today consider them non-existent.)
I and my co-moderator, Anthony Aristar, decided to post it because
the paper has genuine linguistic content. Lakoff and Johnson, as
many of you know, are primarily responsible for the development of a
new sub-field in linguistics: study of the cognitive implications of
metaphor. Several influential books, and at least one new journal, are
dedicated to pursuing the kind of analysis Lakoff uses in his paper.
So my point is that, whatever you think of the topic of the analysis,
the approach itself makes the paper worth posting on a linguistics
net. And, in fact, Linguist had over 150 requests for the paper.

I don't know how far these justifications fit the Humanist posting,
but I offer them in the belief that they may have some relevance.

Helen Dry
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------46----
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 91 22:54:28 EST
Subject: To publish on HUMANIST or not to publish

I must disagree that it is inappropriate for a fellow Humanist to offer
those on HUMANIST the chance to see hir writing. I must also disagree
that length is of any consequence in deciding propriety here. Perhaps
others work with HUMANIST interactively and experience it quite
differently than I, but I receive mail with convenient headers that
allow me to skip or read as I choose. In the case of George Lakoff's
piece on metaphorical thinking and the current crisis, I had to request
the file and, when it arrived, knew how many records it filled even
before I elected to read its first line. If I care to spend time on it,
that is my choice, not an imposition.

As it happens, I put off reading it until a voice from Israel
complained. Then, before rising to the civil libertarian point, I read
the article. I still believe that HUMANIST is within its bounds by
making such an article available and that George Lakoff, by his own
lights, gave a fair advertisement for what that article would be.

However, his lights are not mine, and that suggests to me an extension
of a point he clearly makes: when considering the implications of
discourse systems, one must also seek to define the social world within
which the discourses function. I do not see these discourses as limited
to the U.S., our primarily European "coalition partners," and the Arab
population within missile range of the Eastern Mediterranean. I see, as
does Saddam Hussein, that all of these discussions have to do as much
with the continued existence of the state of Israel as they do with the
renewed existence of the state of Kuwait. My suppostion is that
Israelis may also see this. And articles of great length on this
subject that mention Israel only once and then only to assert the number
of its nuclear weapons must strike some of them as fatally biased. No
wonder some might feel the need to object.

Eric Rabkin
(5) --------------------------------------------------------------29----
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 91 18:57 PST
From: "Robert S. Kirsner" <IDT1RSK@UCLAMVS.BITNET>
Subject: Re Lakoff submission

Just for the record, I feel it would have been utterly ASSININE if
Humanist had N*O*T* been used to disseminate Prof. Lakoff's paper. What
does the title "Humanist" mean? Or are we to babble electronically over
sherry and muse about the ecclesiastical use of Latin words (for example)
while either (check one) (i) another President sacrifices another
generation of young men or (ii) another President dithers reading the
polls while a new Hitler gains strength in the sand. To not have
distributed George Lakoff's paper would have been an example of "Wir
haben es nie gewusst." Once was surely enough!

Robert S. Kirsner

(P.S. Gee. Perhaps I was happy to see Lakoff's piece because I am
a linguist. Linguists seem to be interested in the external world
(cf. Chomsky). Where are all the Literature people in the present crisis?)