Monday, August 07, 2006

Reformed Readers: Metaphysical and/or Physical?

There are at least two types of readers of texts in the world. Let’s call them physical and metaphysical readers.

Physical readers are attentive to the very text themselves, particularly in its literary dimensions. It is the words, the grammatical constructions, syntax, etc. which are the principal conveyers of meaning. These types of readers evince very little concern for conceptual figurations which may lie beyond and above the text. But where their reading schemes inevitably lead them in that direction, they are less interested in adducing mathematical-like propositions than organic imaginative metaphorical relations. Quite simply, it is the contours and character of texts that capture their imaginations more than any deep structural content embedded in them. For them, the medium of the script is its message. They strike me as people whose cognitive orientation would lead them to study toward a B.A. in English, not a B.S. in engineering.

They are intrigued by the rough edges and odd shapes of texts and don’t feel too existentially driven to smooth out the ‘ill-formedness’. Again, they see meaning in the messy material of texts and delight to inhabit its rhetorical spaces.

Metaphysical readers are attuned to the conceptual content of texts. For them, words and syntax are merely the grammatical husks that must be shed in order to get to the real stuff underneath. These types of readers often have little literary sensibility and/or nuance and often are bad grammarians/spellers. Consequently, their papers/books need more editing than most. This is OK with them because the texts are just there to be mined for their truth value content in any case. And the truth data, having been thus mined, is then placed in its rightful propositional place. Reading is fundamentally an act of essence distillation in which essences are distilled from the coarse materiality of the written words on the page.

But for all of their love of the science of conceptual extraction, they quite often show an aversion to categorizing their findings under narrative, story, or drama. I’m not quite sure why but I suspect that these categories clash with their cognitive sensibilities concerning structure and order and don’t conform easily to certain processes of conventional logical rigor.

We reformed types are truth-value kind of readers on the whole I think. Yeah, we appreciate the literary sense types who root themselves in the actual phenomena of scripture. Our instincts tell us that this is a good and necessary first step. Deep down, we harbor a superiority complex though. We say, “If they were really good readers/thinkers, they’d get to the epiphenomenal stuff like us.” It’s good to be a textual technician but it is better to be a theologian.

Now of course, these are grossly exaggerated generalizations but I needed a little midsummer night’s humor of a reformed parody sort. That being said, something about this rings true at some level to me.

2 comments:

Foolish Tar Heel said...

So, Mark, which one am I?

Mark Robinson said...

Ah, foolish tar heel, Your cognitive powers transcend such reductionsitic dichotmies of average mortal thought. Actually I suspect that you are a young schrizophrenic intellectual type who (like me) can't park down anywhere with certitude. One day your this...one day that. You get the point I'm sure