A spellbinding hour with philosopher and self-confessed “many-layered anorak” Raymond Tallis on the subject of pointing. Yes, sticking your finger in the air and directing it at an object. It is, he argued, one of the attributes that mark us out as human beings with a sense of ourselves and others in a shared space: no other animal, including pointers and chimps, can use pointing fully. He reflected on its use for babies as a staging post towards acquiring language; and noted that in autistic children there is often an absence of pointing. He talked about pointing and power: the pointing that marks some unfortunate from a crowd and summons them to who-knows-what; the Malcolm Tucker-esque jabbing of the air that is tantamount to “a one-fingered punching at the self”. Then there is the disembodied, absent, generalised pointing of the fingerpost, which has “the ghost of intention about it”.
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