There are such things as Meta-Languages

There exists something inside of language which is more than language itself. This is what we sometimes refer to as objet petit a. We know very well that it does not exist outside of language because (according to the traditional view) there is nothing outside of language. As such, there is no meta-language. Contrary to this point of view, my claim is that we can redefine the concept of meta-language. Afterall, the prefix “meta-” refers not just to that which is “outside of” or “higher than,” it also refers to that which is a “quest” of which we are in “pursuit,” it is that which is “in common with,” it is that which is “beyond”, and so on.  It is in this sense that the objet petit a is a component of discourse which gives us the ability to speak a meta-language.

One of the problems is that many of us have taken Lacan’s claim about there being no meta-language to imply that there is no “beyond” to language. Yet, we know very well that objet petit a is beyond language for Lacan, and that it is the unique object of the Real. My belief is that meta-languages exist and that there are different types. The analyst’s discourse, which puts objet petit a as its agent, is a particularly privileged meta-language. This does not mean that people who are non-analysts are incapable of speaking a meta-language. In fact, there are meta-languages which are problematic: these are meta-languages which are trapped in poetic forms, trapped forever in the metaphoric function of language and the endless production of novelty. There are meta-languages which are entered by the layman who dabbles in this and that field of inquiry. And then there are meta-languages which are entered into by philosophers who resist the temptation to suture their thinking to a single truth condition.

So, some meta-languages are better than others. The dabbler is a good conversationalist but can not speak with the same effectiveness as the analyst. The analyst is great at producing effects but he can not produce a new subject like the philosopher. On this point, the point of meta-language, it is the philosopher who is king. The analyst is queen. The dabbler is entertaining. The poet is annoying.


3 thoughts on “There are such things as Meta-Languages

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  1. I still have no idea what a meta-language is or what any of this means. I think you’re confused and/or saying something completely ordinary but using jargon to obscure an otherwise unremarkable idea. Big deal, language reaches for something non or extra linguistic. Do you want a fucking medal now?

  2. I’ve rather thought that the concision of philosophers in their definitions, in hand with their ratio-logic constructions fairly eschewed meta-language, with perhaps the exception of their jargon which carries weighty conceptual baggage, something like meta-language but theoretically dense, and so distinct from the nuanced suggestiveness of poetic-metaphorical language which, I’ve been supposing, is more meta-language-like. I DO find many poets quite annoying, also; though mostly for their hyper-subjectivity and inaccessibility, but which I do not equate with meta-language, which I see in metaphor and myth where the inferences are clear because culturally viable and still in use.

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