Study Guide

The Cool Web Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Robert Graves

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

In "The Cool Web," it's hard to separate the question of language from questions of consciousness and existence (try it, we dare ya). Since language actually gives shape to our experience of the world around us, it might be safe to say that for Graves, language is consciousness. In other words, our thoughts in general are totally rooted in language, and without language, thinking as we know it wouldn't even be possible. Far out, right? To this extent, a very powerful change happens in our lives when we go from being non-speaking kids to speaking adults. Our consciousness totally changes, and we start to organize our experiences according to rational categories instead or experiencing everything seemingly at random.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

  1. Do you buy the idea that human consciousness is totally made up of language? Are there other things in human thought that aren't made up in language? Why or why not?
  2. What does Graves mean when he says that the cool web of language protects us from "too much joy or too much fear?" What is the upside to this? The downside?
  3. What does Graves mean when he claims that we end up escaping from language "when death comes"? Is he promoting suicide here? Why or why not?

Chew on This

In "The Cool Web," Graves suggests that all human consciousness exists in language, and that without language, we'd have no clue how to make sense of experience. We be totally clueless, but without any words to say just how clueless we were—weird.

In "The Cool Web," Graves suggests that the goal of human life is to make our experience so peaceful and calm that it's hard to tell whether we're alive or dead. Fun times?

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