Click below for all "Seinfeld Ethnography" posts:
Marine Biologist The Doorman Opposite George Newman's Mail The Bootleg Marriage
Just Dessert Sleep Desk Late Coffee High Stakes Motor Oil Downtown
Code Cracking Nonfat Yogurt Bad Boy It's Not You I Can't Be... Exploding Wallet
Elaine Flies Coach The Close Talker The Alliance Broccoli Coated Culture Dinner Party
Click here for the reference to the "Argonauts" title, below.
|[a] Greetings RF|
|[b] Hierarchy RF|
Have you noticed that irony is often a large part of the rhetorical exchange? Yes, indeed, and there was more than a little of it in the Seinfeld clip above.
|[c] Roles RF|
Let me remind you, as I do with every week's Seinfeld readings, that these snippets are not meant to address the topic directly. I will not rehash the details here, but suffice it to say that I believe in "intellectual juxtaposition" and the fireworks it can create. Today you will encounter Wittgensteinian ideas about "rules" (are there "rules" for doorman interaction?), David Hume's thoughts on pride and humility, and even read a bit of Thomas More's Utopia. Pride, humility, rules, and social roles—just think about 'em. That's all I ask.
"Then can whatever I do be brought into accord with the rule?"—Let me ask this: what has the expression of a rule—say a sign post—got to do with my actions? What sort of connexion is there here? Well, perhaps this one: I have been trained to react to this sign in a particular way, and now I do so react to it.
But that is only to give a causal connexion; to tell how it has come about that we now go by the sign-post; not what this going-by-the-sign really consists in. On the contrary, I have further indicated that a person goes by a sign post only in so far as there exists a regular use of sign-posts, a custom.
199. Is what we call "obeying a rule" something that it would be possible for only one man to do, and to do only once in his life?—This is of course a note on the grammar of the expression "to obey a rule."
It is not possible that there should have been only one occasion on which someone obeyed a rule. It is not possible that there should have been only one occasion on which a report was made, an order given or understood; and so on.—To obey a rule, to make a report, to give an order, to play a game of chess, are customs (uses, institutions).
To understand a sentence means to understand a language. To understand a language means to be master of a technique.
A Treatise of Human Nature
And then isn't it equally stupid to be much taken with empty and worthless honors? For what natural pleasure is there in someone's baring his head to you or bending his knee? Will that relieve pain in your knee or cure the delirium in your head? It is amazing how some are caught up in this imaginary, specious pleasure: delightfully insane, they flatter themselves and take pride in their imagined nobility simply because they are descended from a long series of ancestors who are considered to be rich, above all rich landlords (for nowadays there is no other source of nobility except wealth), and yet they think they are not a whit less the noble even if their ancestors left them no wealth or they themselves have squandered it.
 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations [Transl. G.E.M. Anscombe] (New York: Prentice Hall, 1953, 80-81.
Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature. New York: Penguin Books, 1969.
More, Thomas. Utopia [transl. Clarence H. Miller]. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.
"Hi, I'm George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents."
More social psychology next week in Argonauts of the Seinfeldian Specific.