Some questions yo

How does community foster individuality or potentially undermine the idea of the self?

Is the idea of the autonomous self true? Is the idea actually just a byproduct of literacy?

Do the linguistic limits of communities, specifically support groups, provide a greater independence than an existence without any rules or constructions?

Does tangible freedom actually require a submission of self? Is this freedom gained through linguistic sacrifice?

Are words private? Is the idea of private language possible? If language is privatized does the created isolation equal freedom? Is liberation simply a different prison? Is autonomy essentially a choice of language and convention and operation within those specific rules?

These are my angsty teen questions. I knew I wanted to do something with Infinite Jest if for nothing else than the fact that I find the book to be just plain super. Anyway I’ve read the Tractatus and Orality and Literacy and these books have kind of guided the initial questions along with an identity crisis fit for Sammy Beckett. Ong talks a lot about literacy’s impact on creating the idea of the self and how that shift occurred in relation to communities structured around orality and formula. These formulas dictated limits for speech in performances of epic poems (The Iliad etc.) where language was manipulated in various ways between basically a few walls. With the inception the alphabet and literacy language was capable of abstraction as opposed to the totalizing instincts of the pristinely oral community member. This allowed for seemingly endless self reflection as language interiorized in the brain. Obviously any form of language, oral or literate, will have its limits but language derived from an alphabet has much more ambiguous ends that vary from person to person, I think, so far. As far as Mr. Wiggy goes he talks about cleaning up the messiness of language to properly elucidate. I think this is more likely to occur in communities where convention is agreed upon and creates an environment in which an individual can operate under fixed limits.

As to where I’m going is a fun question to entertain in general but for the sake of an audience not comprised of nosy distant relatives I’ll restrict it the potential paper in question. What I’d like to show is how limiting language creates a convention where privatizing language becomes another kind of prison. To exercise something close to autonomy is to choose the convention in which to operate. This also means choosing a language in which to think with. Don Gately is able to escape the limits of self hood and solipsistic indulgence in drug abuse by choosing a system that can give him fixed variables to govern his choices by relegating the abuse of drugs as “nonsense” or as something outside the selected system. Hal Incandenza’s descent into solipsism is predicated on an inability to find a place to situate himself communally and the involutions of self hood entrap him. The exception is in his ability to still play incredibly high level tennis as his body is able to communicate in a system of fixed limits whereas his individuality is alienated by his privatized language. This is what I’m running with for the time being until someone else points out (ie Professor, classmate, yet to be read source material etc.) tells me hold on a second this whole thing seems quite silly.

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