Loose ends, #2

–“Safety” is its most problematic as a noun, when better thought of as a set of adverbial properties associated with really-existing behavior and practices, e.g., “the machine is operating safely at the same time.” Yes, the behavior and practices in question constitute a culture of sorts, but that culture is the set of practices and not something in addition to be fostered or prior to those practices.

In this way safety is no different from, say, democracy or intelligence. Here too democracy is not a noun so much as an adverb—“behaving democratically in that s/he evidences the following practices,  i.e., voting in elections, paying taxes and more—and intelligence is “thinking intelligently,” i.e., “s/he is doing so by virtue of behaving in x, y and z ways”). If I am right, this matters because to think of safety, democracy and intelligence otherwise is like thinking you make fish from fish soup.

–We hanker after the old language, like that of Baroque music or Mozart, and keep asking why we can’t have more of the same old good. But it’s not only that the language has changed, that we can’t go back, and that new language is needed for the new meanings once pushed further. They want more Bach because that way they don’t have to think about the new meanings nor the older changes.

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