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January 12, 2012


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James Grimmelmann

Post-modernism? Really?

What is the "fixed standard" according to which the word "fuck" could be judged unacceptable? I'll agree that "fuck" was profoundly vulgar and offensive according to the cultural norms of the United States as of several decades ago. Are you really prepared to argue that those norms are a universal "fixed standard" of propriety transcending time and place?

Calvin Massey

Thanks, James; you have illustrated my point.

Larry Catá Backer

Well put Calvin, though I make no judgement about the quality or character of this age (something I leave to doctoral students a century from now. . .and our grandchildren). The point, though is right on. As many industry titans (and our churches) have recently rediscovered--it is the control of the mechanisms that produce cultural and social norms, not those that produce law, that ultimately have the greatest bite. Social engineering through law, the positivist turn in law, of the rightist or leftist variety, without a strong foundation in social norms, may have powerful effect (e.g., Prohibition as a good example) but hardly in the direction intended.

James Grimmelmann

Is it self-evident that this is a "coarse and vulgar age," or is there some specific standard of universal validity by which the age's vulgarity can be shown? If so, what is it?

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