Re: Phallogocentrism

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon May 06 1996 - 21:37:52 EDT

At 6:31 PM -0500 5/6/96, Shaughn Daniel wrote:
>>When I alluded yesterday to the notion that these terms are the product of
>>what a feminist theory calls "phallogocentrism," evidently referring to
>>logical fallacies deriving from the mind-set of a gender that thinks with
>>its penis, there was no reaction, either because no one was interested or
>>because the expression appeared too shocking to ponder (was mir zwar ganz
>>unwahrscheinlich scheint!).
>Or because some people (like me!) don't understand how penises relate to
>the concept of "perishing/destruction" in Paul, unless, we are pondering
>the potential impotency of Jewish celebates and their subsequent impotent
>messages and followers. =)

You young whippersnapper! How dare you recombine what I deliberately set
apart in my discussion of (1) APOLLUMENOIS/SWZOMENOIS and (2) the chaotic
state of the categories in which we describe verbal "voice" and
"transitive" and "intransitive" verbs. Did I really not make that
distinction clear in that lengthy epistle?

>But seriously, Carl, what is the point that you are trying to make about

I think you're putting me on, Shaughn, but just in case you're not, let me
cross the T's and dot the I's. Someone (OUK OID' hOSTIS ... ) has argued
that grammatical terminology and the enire grammatical analysis of verbs
with regard to "active" and "middle" and "passive" and "transitive" and
"intransitive" has been governed by a mind-set accustomed to think in terms
of dominance and control--"active" and passive submission to control--which
is to say, the old Pythagorean polarity of male & female, active & passive,
etc. According to such thinking, the real polarity in voice is between
active and passive and the "middle" is something in between. The clear
historical fact, however, is that the passive in Greek without question and
in Latin very probably (I won't try to talk about Indo-European languages
about which I know even less than those) is an altogether
secondary--later--development out of an earlier verbal system wherein what
we call "active" and what we call "middle" were the only alternatives
(passive verbs are just middle verbs accompanied by an agent construction
or an instrumental complement).

So--the feminist who thunk up (I thunk that's what she did) the term
PHALLOGOCENTRISM meant to call attention to the way male thinkers with
their preoccupation with the active/passive polarity had fouled up the
understanding of the verbal system in proto-Indo-European and in the
classical languages.

Is that any clearer? I surely do hope so. I'm less concerned with how the
grammatical analysis and description got fouled up with how it might more
intelligently be reconstructed. Where are those linguists when we need
them? Mari Olsen? Mikeal Palmer? James Tauber? Rod Decker? Phil Graber?
Have you nothing to say to help us in this? Or do you think its a tempest
in a teapot (bzw. beer mug)?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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