Sunday, May 02, 2004

Man and Adversity

"A man cannot receive a heritage of ideas without transforming it by the very fact that he comes to know it, without injecting his own always different way of being into it...
How would we dare enumerate acquired ideas, since even when they have gotten themselves almost universally accepted, they have always done so by also becoming different from themselves?
Furthermore, a catalogue of acquired knowledge would not suffice. Even if we were to lay the "truths" of this half-century end-to-end, in order to restore their hidden affinity, we would still have to revive the personal and interpersonal experience they are a response to, and the logic of situations in reference to which they were defined. The great or valuable work is never an effect of life, but it is always a response to life's very particular events or most general structures...
Yet this transformation of our understanding of man, which we cannot hope to determine by a rigorous method on the basis of works, ideas, and history, is sedimented in us. It is our substance... What we can try to do is to mark within ourselves, according to two or three selected relationships, modifications in the human situation." ('Man and Adversity', Signs, 224-5)

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