The Power of Words

Philosophy 68 (265):325 - 342 (1993)


The origin of this paper is a problem: I had long been struck by the fact that if my glance happened to fall on a newspaper, a message on a note pad, printing on a label, etc., I would begin to read what was there written or printed—if I could see it and it was in English. If I can see it, and it is in English, I cannot but read what my glance falls on, even if I wish not to do so. So my reading—at least on these occasions and of this brief sort—seemed to be involuntary. The illiterate person, of course, cannot read and, in that way, is not free to read. The person learning to read does not read freely. But the ‘free’ reader is not free not- to read that on which his glance falls

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