What does it mean to put one’s name in quotes? I realize that people are not apt to do this, but on a lark I recently did so (I am quite impulsive), and having done so, it made me wonder what the significance of this action would be. The deal is, if one puts the word reality in quotes such a one means to indicate that perception is implicit in the use of the word reality, which is to circumscribe the scope of what the word refers to by drawing attention to the issue of consciousness and the distance between one’s conception of the world and the world as it is in and of itself. To place the word reality in quotes is kind of like an inside joke for the postmodernly enlightened, as if to say, “Sure, we’ll use this word, but we know better.”
So, if I put my name in quotes, am I saying something along these lines? If so, a vague image from my past comes to mind, an image of an at-risk student who, when I would call him or her out on some behavioral issue, would respond by saying, “You don’t know me!!” And who, if he or she had engaged the education I was trying to facilitate in his or her life, would have had the intellectual development to follow up such a statement by going to the board to write his or her name in quotes, at which point I would have responded by saying, “You may leave the temple,” because, clearly such a student would have had the cognitive skills necessary to successfully engage the world, such as it may be.
After saying all this, I guess my conclusion is that putting one’s name in quotes is to essentially say, “You don’t know me” Although, this gesture need not have the connotation of strident self-defensiveness that I too often saw among my at-risk students. It could merely be drawing attention to the irony that the consciousness which allows us to be self-reflectively aware of the other is also, in some measure, the source of alienation from the other. Perhaps this is not better than strident self-defensiveness, but at least it’s a little less in-your-face.
Oh, and just to clarify where I stand on the relationship between the world as we conceive it and the world as it is in and of itself, I am not a card carrying postmodernist, but rather something of critical realist, which is to say that though we see the world, we see at a distance, kind of like looking through a dark glass. And, regarding that hypothetical kid and his or her leaving the temple, I would disagree with such a one’s epistemological convictions, but dang if I wouldn’t be impressed by his or her intellectual sophistication.
“Hey babe, I love you… Well, that is… I love you through the mental representation I have of you in my mind, which to some degree may approximate the real you, but neither you nor I will ever know.”