Introduction to Dialectical Logic

Linguistic communication and genesis of ideas:

Henri Wald

II. Linguistic communication and genesis of ideas 25
1. Spirit 25
2. Writing 27
3. Number 32
4. Abstraction 34
5. Speech and logic 36
Conclusion 41

*     *     *     *     *


Everybody knows that there is a difference between oral and written, but few know what this difference lies in and how important it is for culture. People have created speech first, then writing. Children learn first to speak and only much later to write. There were never people that could not speak, but today there are still people that cannot write.

Experiences are changed to thoughts through speech. Writing is the graphic image of speech; writing is the visual significant of an audio significant spatialization of time, conversion into a reversible operation of some irreversible process. Whereas “verba volant”, “scripta manent”. A text can be re-read but never in the same voice, with the same intonation, at the same speed, with the same stress. . .

People have devised speech in order to exchange their intentions concerning the environment. In the beginning, speech referred to something “unseen yet”, not to the “invisible”, i.e. to a “hidden animal”, not to the “essence of things”. It expressed wishes and urges rather than knowledge. Being direct in the presence of the audience, indicative as it hints at the circumstances referred to, variable, according to the way of articulation, personal, according to one’s inner disposition, and irreversible because of its temporal character, speech is prevailingly sensitive-affective and keeps knowledge in the neighborhood reality. Being indirect, in the absence of both writer and reader, uniform, according to the means used, explicative, in the absence of the circumstances referred to, impersonal, when detached from the inner" disposition of the writer and reversible because of its spatiality, writing drives thinking towards ever more abstract and general logical significations. Speech reveals knowledge of similar properties, but delays knowledge of general properties, whereas writing contributes to knowledge of general properties but outdistances the individual. Speaking breeds a mentality where pragmatic activity and affective life have greater weight than intellectual work. Writing mainly stimulates thinking, writing requires considerably greater effort than speaking. To write means to outdistance the present considerably, to delay action on the environment, to ignore the numberless individual properties of things, and to prepare a more distant future action. Writing is much more difficult than speaking. Whereas speech is a cultural function added to some material organs, writing also implies some tool to write with and something to write on. To write man had to devise in turn the stylet, feather, pencil, pen, typewriter as well as parchment, papyrus, paper.

The abstracting virtues of writing increase while passing from pictography to ideography, and ultimately to phonography. The logocentrism of European mentality would have been impossible without alphabetic culture. Oral cultures cannot transcend a mytho-magical conception within which the “Essence” is reduced to an “Original phenomenon” and the “General” to “Genesis”. Only alphabetic writing may outdistance the phenomena such as to enable reflection of some essences. All other writings are still too much bound to the individual image of things they refer to in order to enable thinking to know the universe.

But, like any kind of relief, alphabetic writing also casts shade: it overdevelops the mind at the expense of soul. Man in the West and Far West today computes increasingly more and lives increasingly less. There is a growing gap between science’s overdevelopment and consciousness’ underdevelopment. Men ask ever more often how a word is written and ever more seldom how it is pronounced, as if writing and not speaking were of paramount importance. Under the influence of writing, our speeches have become “spoken texts” rather than talks. A language is being aimed at that should be only written: the logical syntax of science. Universal language can no longer be spoken, but only written since it is no longer particularly national, or individually original, but only generally human. Only that the future world language will never be reduced to a like universal language, since people must convey to one another not only accurate knowledge, but also more confusing frames of mind, not only information but urges as well, not only the experience of all but also the experience of each. Language conveys not only truth, but also the good, and the beautiful. Through language people interchange communication not only on what identifies them, but on what differentiates them. Whereas speech has democratic tendencies, writing has bureaucratic ones. Speech tends towards dialoguing, writing towards monologuing.

It is not writing but speech that unmediatedly contributes to making one frame of mind turn into idea. Writing can but continue the abstracting and generalizing process, may be leading it to the elaboration of categories. While writing is the attire of thought, speech is its very body. When writing in a particular language, people are only left the freedom to choose the words and combine them in a personal way; when speaking, they also have the freedom to change intonation, speed, accent and mimic, not only to convey information on reality but their attitude to it as well. In order to maintain the fertile equilibrium between reason and sensitivity, interaction of the logical ability of writing and the affective intensity of speech must be permanently cultivated.

SOURCE: Wald, Henri. Introduction to Dialectical Logic (1959). Bucuresti: Editura Academiei; Amsterdam: B.R. Grüner B.V., 1975. (Philosophical Currents; v. 14) Chapter 2, Conclusion, pp. 41-43. Boldface added.

See also:

Tismaneanu, Vladimir. “From Arrogance to Irrelevance: Avatars of Marxism in Romania,” in The Road to Disillusion: From Critical Marxism to Post-communism in Eastern Europe, edited by Raymond Taras (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1992), pp. 135-150.

[....] through its unabashed support for the reemergence of rightist, ethnocentric groups and formations, Ceausescu and his clique made a mockery of their own passionate plea for the preservation of the "sacred values" of historical materialism and internationalism. For example, in the early 1980s when philosopher Henri Wald tried to publish a Marxist Reader, which included young Marx's early philosophical inquiries, he encountered opposition from precisely those official “instructors” who were supposed to watch over the ideological purity of Romanian cultural life.

Wald gets only a brief mention (p. 135) but the larger repressive national context can be found here.

by Henri Wald

Philosophical Rehabilitations: Humor
by Henri Wald

Mass Media and Creative Thinking
by Henri Wald

"On Trends in the Status of Dialectical Logic:
A Brief Study of Lefebvre, Ilyenkov and Wald
by Claude M. J. Braun

Henri Wald’s Contribution to Romanian Culture and Philosophy
by Alexandru Singer

Sense and Nonsense of McLuhan
by Sidney Finkelstein

Details, details! (From Marshall & Me blog)

Selections from Contemporary East European Philosophy,
Revolutionary World, B. R. Grüner Publishing Co, & Related Publications:
Bibliography & Web Links

Salvaging Soviet Philosophy (1)

Positivism vs Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie) Study Guide

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

Philosophical and Universal Languages, 1600-1800,
and Related Themes: Selected Bibliography

Esperanto & Interlinguistics Study Guide /
Esperanto-Gvidilo (kun interlingvistiko)


Henri Wald - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wald, Henri
by Andrei Corbea-Hoisie, trans. Anca Mircea
(The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe)

Henry Wald - 80 (Romanian Jewish Heritage)

Henri Wald (1920 - 2002) Manuscripts archive

East-West Dialogues
ed. Paul K. Crosser, David H. Degrood and Dale Riepe

Introduction to Dialectical Logic
by Henri Wald

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