Comments on La Rochefoucauld

I will be posting short essays on each of La Rouchefoucauld's Maxims

Friday, August 19, 2005

Maxim 632

"We enjoy seeing through others, but not being seen through."

To take this "literally," or to take it as a play on words. We do like being able to "see through" others, to have them transparent to our gaze, to understand their motivations, to know what they really mean. This is why we have Bible literalists – they want a work that is transparent, something truly impossible, since the world is interpretable, and this most obviously includes written texts such as the Bible. But at the same time, we don’t want to be transparent. We want to be mysterious, to have our motivations not fully understood. By being mysterious, we remain interesting.

But if we think about the wording another way: we enjoy seeing the world through others... Which we do, because the different perspectives will either help to inform our own views, or they will give us something to be against. We love to be a part of a larger group – we are social mammals, after all – but at the same time, to be part of a larger group means to also be against another group. Thus, we have to be for, and against. Us versus Them.

But does this latter interpretation make sense for the second part of the sentence? How many writers would be completely satisfied if everything they wrote were completely, unqualifiedly understood? We all like to fancy ourselves better writers than that. Which makes it all the more ironic that Bible literalists insist that the Bible is so poorly written as to be transparently obvious in what it means.


Anonymous mortgage broker said...

thought-provoking, mootable pv. just my thoughts, well anyways gl & be chipper is what i say

1:20 PM  

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