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Knowledge and Censorship by Ilan Stavans

By Ilan Stavans

This quantity collects 4 sharp philosophical essays through Ilan Stavans at the acquisition of knowledge in multi-ethnic environments, the function that dictionaries play within the protection of memory, the function of libraries within the digital age, and the makes use of of censorship. In the second one a part of the quantity, Verónica Albin engages Stavans in a chain of 4 conversations during which he expounds at the arguments he constructed within the essays.

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VA: What does the adjective “inalienable” suggest when appended to the concept of right? IS: It is a term that comes from English Common Law. It announces that fundamental rights cannot be transferred or surrendered. No matter what a person does or says, if he’s handicapped, if his parents were criminals, the same rights that apply to everybody apply to him as well. KNOWLEDGE 39 Again, I return to the concept of democracy. It’s a most fragile system of social organization because it is based on a tacit contract: all men are created equal.

Nor do I need to love you or what you represent. My only requirement—and yours too—is rather minimal: to tolerate one another. ” VA: You use the OED as if it were the Bible. Or perhaps the Magna Carta. IS: Its roots are similar. Isn’t the dictionary a compendium of lore, organized alphabetically, whose authority permeates every aspect of society? Obviously, nobody is condemned to death using the OED as a code of law. But it certainly is a code of knowledge. ” IS: Except that every generation builds on it.

Amén. 50 Knowledge and Censorship VA: How are dreams instruments of knowledge? IS: Samuel Taylor Coleridge said in 1803: “God forbid that my enemy should ever have the nights and the sleep that I have had, night after night . . ” In other words, a person without dreams is like a tree without water. Through these sequences, we’re able to make sense of the chaos that surrounds us. VA: Yet dreams are chaotic . . IS: Dreams have their own grammar, incomprehensible to the rational self. We don’t process the world through sleep in the same way we do through rational thought.

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