PRINT January 2008


The Leaky Kettle:

Concerning the Difficulty of Applying a Rule

THE INCONSPICUOUS LABORATORY of the transformation of a form of life lies within the dissimilar, and at times contradictory, ways in which it is possible to apply a rule to a particular case. The “creativity” of the human animal is nothing other than a response to the dilemmas provoked by this application. Jokes exhibit the logico-linguistic resources that nurture innovation in general, precisely because they are found in a no-man’s-land that separates any norm from its own realization within a contingent situation. The joke is the loquacious sentry of this no-man’s-land: It shows, again and again, how tortured, and subject to abrupt diversions, is its own path.

How to apply a rule to a particular case: The problem crops up again, in forms not all that different, in the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, in Kant’s Critique of

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