05 August 2007

Ernst Bloch

[from George Steiner's After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation]

We hypothesize and project thought and imagination into the 'if-ness', into the free conditionalities of the unknown. Such projection is no logical muddle, no abuse of induction. It is far more than a probabilistic convention. It is the master nerve of human action. Counter-factuals and conditionals, argues Bloch, make up a grammar of constant renewal. They force us to proceed afresh in the morning, to leave failed history behind. Otherwise our posture would be static and we would choke on disappointed dreams. . . . Bloch has insisted that 'reasonings on a supposition' are not, as Hume in his exercise of systematic doubt ruled, 'chimerical and without foundation'. They are, on the contrary, the means for our survival and the distinctive mechanism of personal and social evolution. Natural selection, as it were, favoured the subjunctive.

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