A space for conversations in a time of global disruption
In an other topic (deep-green-resistance) Wolfbird responded to my
"the world" is not a person one can address. It is not a living entity. It has no senses, no ears - it can not hear you. with:
People define the word 'world' in very different ways, so there is plenty of scope for confusion ( sometimes synonymous with Earth, planet, Gaia, etc, sometimes not ), but I'd like to know why you state that 'it' is not a living entity. Plenty of people, both in the past and present, would disagree with that claim.
I'd also like to know where you draw the boundary, between yourself, and 'the world'.
This is the second time (the first time was about 'nature') that Wolfbird asks about the intended meaning of a word. Questions to the meaning of words have been asked many many times before, so 'they' made an academic study out of it: Semantics - the study of words, signs and symbols and what they stand for - their meaning. Semantics now has many branches, but for the purpose of 'forum talk' the philosophical branch seem most appropriate - if only because anyone can reflect on his own words and text to check if they carry their intention.
Wolfbird: People define the word 'world' in very different ways, so there is plenty of scope for confusion ...
That is true, so the meaning of this term strongly depends on it's context.
Wolfbird: .., but I'd like to know why you state that 'it' is not a living entity.
Nothing under the sleeves here, I just reacted to 'saving the world from it's deadly course, and the frustration that no amount of shouting seems to have any effect on the projected course of 'the world.' I came up with an alternative explanation as to why 'the world' does not seem to heed the warnings : .. 'it' can't hear you because it has no ears to hear you. To widen this 'argument' I stated that 'it' has no senses at all. Ergo, it is not a living thing, and one might as well go tell the mountain that it is crumbling.
Wolfbird: Plenty of people, both in the past and present, would disagree with the clame that 'the world' is not a living entity. (meaning that they think it is a living entity.)
Maybe, but than they probably misunderstood what I was pointing at with the term 'world.' I am not animistic. I do not accept the independent and will full existence of entities from the spirit world of the ancestors or natural spirits. (Although I can immensely enjoy a good story about it, and of course 'believe' it as long as the story runs, otherwise there would be no fun in it.)
In context with the discussion I meant the term 'world' as a common name for the whole of human civilization, pertaining to the view that this 'world' (civilisation) is now firmly set on a downward curve towards that drain where many civilisations of the past have disappeared into - notwithstanding endless warnings and proposed solutions.
Wolfbird also likes to know where I draw the boundary between myself and 'the world.' Considering the above I wonder if that question is still valid.
Replies are closed for this discussion.
Thanks for the wonderful links wolfbird. The deep astronomy actually creates a strange physical feeling in my head - it's like my rational brain can't cope with the information and wants to just look away, or shut down. Truly mind boggling. Who needs class A's!
I've always been fascinated by alternatives to the Cartesian, rationalist mindset that we in the industrial world inherit. Sadly, much of what I've witnessed here in the West, particularily in the 'new age' movement, just doesn't seem genuine. I've met my fair share of sham shamen, so to speak. And yet, and yet...
Loved the two links Wolfbird.Thought you might like this one on neuroscience and freewill. I would write more but have a hectic couple of days ahead. Cheers Simeon
Wb: I meant alive, as in the sense, is a tree alive ? The wood is dead, the bark is dead. The cambium and leaves and roots are alive.
With that you bypass my reason for saying that the world is not alive (in response to Roger,) and attribute an other (perfectly reasonable) meaning to it. In general - when you force a certain (your) meaning upon a term that someone uses to explain or talk about his or hers point of view or emotion, you in effect bypass that persons intent. That shows that you are not really interested in what the other is saying, or wants to say but doesn't know yet how to formulate properly .
Anyhow, when we discuss the boundaries between life and death, I will already know what your starting position in the matter is.
I already explained what I meant by 'the world not being alive' in context with my response to Roger, but in an other context ( or an other discussion,) I might just as well use the term 'alive' the way you just pointed out.
In short: the same word can have different meanings, and that's why the context plays a major role, in particular on a forum where all we have is words. Would you agree?
Wb: My meaning of the word world is very,very different from yours, bert, not at all equating to human civilization.
I think of 'the world' as the mental concept that points towards the place where we all live. Not human civilization, but the rocky planet, with it's thin biosphere and atmosphere, where everything is connected to everything else.
Not different at all. I can easily take your meaning as mine when the context requires it. Look it up in a dictionary and see that the term 'world' has more meanings than one. And besides the dictionary there is also the ad hoc use of the term - like 'the world of war craft,' or as in 'a world of pain.'
I would love to talk about "Gaian thinking" or reductive biologism, or reality, but not here in this topic.
You wrote: "... there's also the problem of the words and language we use to approach the problem, our language itself has so much built-in muddle and confusion..."
Indeed I say. But let's focus for a moment on the problem of continuously forcing any discussion to your mindset, leaving little room for other participants and for the topic to develop openly. Is that your intent and purpose? If so than I must complement you, for you are really successful in achieving that goal. If that is not your intent than please reread my posts in this topic, and react to my reason for posting it as I did explain, and will happily explain further if you (or anyone) show interest.
B-L: "In general - when you force a certain (your) meaning upon a term that someone uses to explain or talk about his or hers point of view or emotion, you in effect bypass that persons intent. That shows that you are not really interested in what the other is saying, or wants to say but doesn't know yet how to formulate properly ."
Wb: It doesn't show anything of the kind. That's just your chosen interpretation.
What it shows, is that words are vague, slippery, only defined by other words, which are equally vague and slippery. The words form a kind of net, a web, with which we strive to catch meanings and communicate, but it is always an uncertain and chancy business. That's why scientists use numbers and algebra, because it provides a level of precision superior to vernacular language.
Thanks :) I like picturing words as the basic elements of a mental 'web' - a kind of virtual network of meaning and purpose, that stretches way beyond the confines of ones own mind. The complexity of it is mind boggling, and with the 'element' of uncertainty as a universal principle, the endeavour for meaning and purpose sure is chancy business of trial and error.
I give it to you that this focussing on the meaning of words doesn't necessarily show that one is not interested in what the other is trying to say ...
Since this 'catching of meaning' is such a chancy business some basic logic and rules of engagement must apply. The topics, the issues and their argumentation on D-M can (at best) only partly be grounded empirically, and thus have a strong tendency to lift of into the Blue Yonder on the wings of ideologies and personal convictions that can not (or not yet) be validated.
-- Well, I didn't exactely want a topic to discuss the difficulties of communication and to leave it at your conclusion (falsly) that this is inherent to language. I really wanted to talk about some solutions, and a classic way to do that is to point out fallacies. That's like learning from our mistakes and than applying some logic and rules to prevent them.
About fallacies of relevance, here are a couple of them that I have noticed on this forum and that have that distracting effect that I was talking about:
A distraction that is committed when a listener attempts to divert an arguer from his argument by introducing another topic. (Most frustrating, and effective.) Happens here too, like discussing gardening and mud-brick-making and the evils of social darwinism in a "deep green" ideological topic that calls for activism against the forces of evil.
Personal Attack : To discredit positions by discrediting those who hold them. (like in the Roger - Wolfbird debate.)
Straw Man Fallacy:
To misrepresent a position to make it appear weaker than it actually is, refute it, and conclude that the real position has been refuted.
There are of course many more fallacies, so many in fact that when the world (now I mean all the people talking) would suddently stop using any of them - it would become eerily silent :)
... You want to discuss semantics and the difficulties of communicating. I'm saying that the problem is inherent in language. Look at Wittgenstein's famous duckrabbit. You say it's a duck, I say it's a rabbit. We are both right, and we are both wrong. Don't blame me for that. It's the nature of symbolic language.
-- I would argue that the problem of unceartainty in language is purely philosohical and not inherent to language. Miscommunication can often be reduced to errors in logic, argumentation and simply bad presentation that leaves us quessing what one is on about. But even more fundamental (to avoiding confusion and endless disputes) is the realisation that this 'vaqueness' occures when the subject (what we talk about) is not at hand, and when we don't have a clear understanding of the subject. Like in your example of telling the quy what a goose is when he only knows ducks. That however is really not a language problem, but a practical problem that can easily be remided. So again no argument for your point of view that this 'vaqueness' is inherent to language.
-- I think that you misinterpret this duckrabit thing. I think it is about pictures that can be seen and understood in different ways. I don't see the 'duckrabbit' as an argument to your positon that vagueness and unceartainty are inherent to language.
My position is that this so called 'vagueness' can be reduced to inproper reasoning, and most important: a lack of empirical context.
I get the impression that you don't get the crux of Wittgenstein's thinking, otherwise you would not reference him to underpin your view that this 'vaqueness' we are talking about is inherent to language.
You argue that words are only defined by other words, but in really we don't need to exactly define words (a point Wittgenstein makes.) That is because language is not a tool to understand language - it is a tool to organise ourselves and to understand the world.
B-L: "-- I think that you misinterpret this duckrabit thing. I think it is about pictures that can be seen and understood in different ways. I don't see the 'duckrabbit' as an argument to your positon that vagueness and uncertainty are inherent to language."
Wb: Yes, it is a picture. But what is the difference between a picture and a word? They are all signs, symbols, aren't they ? Images which convey information. Images which can convey dual, or poly-meanings simultaneously.
Excuse me, but I think you committed a fallacy there (lifting my argument out of it's context.) I was clearly speaking about human language (written in our case,) the meaning of words, with the overall gist of sharing and recombining our thoughts on a subject, to get new and interesting ideas.
You however respond to my quoted text (which is only one of my critiques to your argumentation that vagueness is inherent to language) from a semiotic point of view (... they both convey information) .. but with that you do not nullify my critique and rejection of your 'duckrabit' reasoning as supportive to your idea that language is inherently vague.
Let me try to simplify the problem that I have with your "inherent" thesis, with an analogy that follows the pattern of your thinking (as I read you) :
A hammer is a tool meant to deliver an impact to an object, like driving nails, fitting parts, forging metal or breaking up things. Sometimes, by accident, one hammers ones own fingers !**##**!!!. You state that this phenomenon is inherent to the hammer - like it's the hammers fault.
But that can not be right. A hammer is just a tool that we use for a specific and practical job - it has no will of it's own. It is not meant for hitting oneself, and if that happens it is an accident. One can learn to avoid such accidents by learning the proper technique of handling the damn thing and (in general) by practising focus on the job at hand.
To react to the rest of your so eloquently formulated post(s) I will for a moment go beyond the scope of this topic, as you do - because your words show such depth of thinking and involvement with the human condition in so many of it aspects.
Wb: The 'construction' of meaning happens in our mind. It doesn't happen 'out there'. It's not even a fixed thing,... which is what I meant by vague and slippery.
That I follow, and by all means call it vague and slippery, but call it that because we do not (yet) have a general understanding (theory) of how our knowledge of information systems to date applies to the human mind.
Wb: You seem to be under the impression that there is some way out of this 'language problem', the perils of 'miscommunication'. I don't think so. Of course, it helps to be widely-read, educated, but if you're thinking of language as "a tool to organise ourselves and to understand the world", it's like trying to catch water in a sieve.
No I am not under that impression. There is no way in or out of that "language problem." That is because (within the confines of this topic) there is no "language problem." Falling back to the analogy of the hammer: it is not the hammers fault. The problem of hitting oneself with it (or someone else for that matter,) can not be attributed to the hammer (providing it is well balanced) - it is a matter of control and purpose - concentration on the job at hand.
Wb: I mean, I try to explain things to people, but it is like throwing mud at a wall, hoping some will stick, while I watch most of it fall off.
I can emphasise with that. Lots of effort go waist - frustrating. I have come to realise that this kind of frustration can be eased by explaining less and listening more.
Wb: Unfortunately, we're stuck with the language we have, with the illogical antique madness of 'bough', 'plough', 'through', 'trough', 'tough','slough'...... enough :-)
Yes .. but no. Language is a tool to get things done, so focus on the things. Have you ever read Ecclesiastes (a book of the Hebrew Bible,) I think the author reasons that point very nicely.
Wb: IMO, it's all duckrabbits, all the way down :-)
Yes, I get your reference to the old lady anecdote. But the old story of an elephant supporting the world on its back ... standing on a turtle,.. which in turn stands upon an other turtle,.. ad infinitum, shows a fundamental flaw in our thinking about the purpose of language, and not a flaw or property of language itself.
If I were a moderator I would split this topic after this post, so the interesting philosophical aspect of this topic could be continues elsewhere - making room for the discussion of structuring a topic with some basic argument analysis.
Yes, thank you wolfbird :) It took me multiple reading and writing sessions to come up with a response worthy of your latest post. For now this result will to do, knowing that tomorrow I will see many flaws in it.
Wb: I think that the crux of your argument, underlying each of the points you make, is your conception of language as a tool.
The practical use of language - the semantics of it. I started this topic so we could talk about some basic rules that can help to make a discussion fruitful. To call attention to of some common argument and reasoning fallacies, often unconsciously made .. because they lead to misunderstanding and the falling apart of a topic. I mentioned a few earlier.
Wb: I think 'language as tool' is valid, to a degree,... ...
Wb: I think that a utilitarian approach, ' a tool to get things done ' is over-simple. Obviously, language does work that way. I say, 'Pass me that hammer ', you understand the phrase, and hand me the correct object. But, to end an enquiry there would be very superficial, when it is obvious that there is so much more to language, so much more to be considered.
If language obviously works that way, why is it than over-simple to view it that way?
I agreed: obviously the enquiry into language itself and any other information system (semiotics) doesn't end there. But in a practical sense - in order to get the days work done - it would be wise to just start using the hammer instead of talking about it.
I like to view the forum as a workspace where (amongst other topics) ideas and theories concerning sociocultural evolution can also be discussed to the interest of the participants and readers. But due to a lack of self restraint, sloppy formulating and reading, invalid argumentation and so on, a topic like the one about green activism got completely out of hand and became something completely different. I think that's a shame and a waist of effort, and also because no one would expect a conversation (battle) about social Darwinism hiding behind green activism. I think that it drives people away, who might otherwise have made valuable contributions.
Wb: As Dylan Thomas said, "A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him."
In my mind this applies not only to poetry but to all the arts, as they are all sources of inspiration.
Wb: Thomas subverted the conventional, orthodox uses of language, by using words as if they were colours, to convey feelings, impressions, for example, ' Time held me green and dying though I sang in my chains like the sea ' and nobody can state that they have apprehended his exact meaning correctly or incorrectly. It's a duckrabbit. I think your 'tool' analogy breaks down. There isn't a 'correct' way to use the hammer, as there is in, say, 'the cat sat on the mat', or 'one plus one equals two '.
Language is the chosen tool of the writer and the poet. The poet is free to use words as if they were colours, but that really does not undermine the notion of language as a tool for the purpose of this topic.
Wb: I don't think it is possible to separate out language, ( your 'not having a will of its own' ), from the human mind and the semiotics. Language is an artefact of the mind.
I believe that's true, and that must be where semiotic comes into play, because this intellectual enterprise counts all information system to its field of inquiry, and welcomes input from other academic and scientific fields that may have something to contribute.
Language an artefact of the mind?
It seems to me that by stating that, you accidentally weakened (maybe even refuted) the notion of non-separation. In other words: by saying that language is an artefact of the mind you separate out language from the mind. No?
If you had said that these two (language and mind) evolve together, and that neither one can exist without the other ... well, that would than be in harmony with the notion of non-separation - me thinks. :)
But let me associate on "Language is an artefact of the mind" for a moment.
That would make sense to me when I take it in context with your notion of X (X denoting the mind.) Yes ... but than everything else could easily be an artefact of the mind (of X), and that wouldn't clarify much.
Maybe your notion of X comes from an encounter with eternety at the edge of the proverbial 'existential abyss.' Maybe it frightened you ... you ran away, but still could not escape the haunting sensation that something had stared right back at you - into the very depth of your soul. Something that has the potential to make everything that you know, everything that you hold dear, including you, dissapear in a flash of insane insight into your own being. Maybe you found an inner sanctuary where you came to accept without question that this soul crushing, mind numbing momentairy glimmer must have been a reflection of your own being upon the very fabric of reality. (Sometimes I like to get a bit metaphisical myself :)
Wb: If you think of language in your terms, as a tool, then its job is to carry, or to evoke, meaning, and that meaning can only reside in the mind, yours or mine.
I can't agree, because that does not convey my notion of language a tool correctly. I did not say that it's purpose is to carry or to evoke meaning, I said that it's purpose is to organise ourselves and to get things done, and that is not the same. The older theories that see language as a mere carrier of meaning, and than goes on to theorise about how meaning gets from one head into an other, have turned out to be far to primitive to get a handle on the complex entanglement of language and mind.
Wb: My basic position, as I stated before, is that there is a 'something' - call it 'reality', or 'the world', or 'life', or X, or whatever you like... - that is utterly mysterious and defies all attempts at comprehension. And there is this 'other thing', - words, names, labels, language, whether written or spoken, - which we use to attempt to map X. It's a very simple point, isn't it ?
Yes, a simple point, but ever so strong. Some sentences ago I already associated on X .. did that ring a bell? Without going into the 'tao of things', I believe that the old master called your X Tao and went out of his way to impress upon us that that is not its real name. Now I ask you, could it be that we are talking about the same X?
Inspired by Magritte's pipe I'll sign of with a little poem of my own
I am X
I am not that.
“language is a virus from out of space”….. William Burroughs.
I wonder about language and all the troubles that we have ,all the sectarian strife , our civil and not so civil wars. I wonder in this almost monoculture of the English language, in this age of information , when language seems to approach us so unbeckoned from each side, when just the holding of a steady point of view amongst all the onslaught of words is a monumental task in its own right.I wonder if we value words any more ,if in turn we truly value what we have to say .[by this i often see the English language as another resource that is overused in all its shapes and forms] My feeling is that we are a little like traffic cones in the midst of the super highway, language bearing down on us helter skelter . And our perceived options our quite narrow, we either shout back parroting the noise that surrounds us or we stay quiet.Drawing our heads back into the sand . Is there a middle path to take us out . One where we stay grounded and whole and the onslaught does not fracture us.A place where we can let ideas form in there own time, building like sediment on top of each other.Slowly filling the coarse geography that is ourselves.
I think when we look at language and words , it is important to take in to account ,an account from someone who has once had language and then lost it ,To regain it ten years later.BK Loren in her beautiful essay Word Hoard, describes this
.Aphasia is the full or partial loss of the power to use or understand words,usually as result of brain damage.And although i could not find her essay in the public domain , i quote a few choice lines describing this experience.
“I needed to know the genetic origin of words.Their family tree.I mean, without that all words are adopted. They grow up angry foster children wanting to burn things down. i wanted to know their mother and grandmother. I wanted to know their Adam, their Eve, Their Eden,their original sin.Knowledge
.“ in those years without words , i was limbless, I had no way to reach out. i had no way to touch others or myself.My body had no reason to come or go anywhere. Words our my nourishment, they are the molecules that seethe in my veins.They are the light that filters through the rods and cones of my eyes to create colour and dimension.They are my resting heart rate,my tulips,my knives , my forks and my spoons.
Once,I was aphasic.The condition lasted to some extent or another,nearly ten years. When I came back to wordsI came back like a lover who’d had a mistaken affair.Once the damage is done ,its done.But there is carefulness that follows.You don’t take things for granted.You speak from the soles of your feet,a current of meaning running through your body,each word carrying with it its history and the intimate mouths of your ancestors speaking it.There lips touch yours as the word leaves you.This is what connects you to who you are.What you love.What you caress.Whatever it is that leaves you and in its absence makes you lonelier than god.When it returns it becomes holy. When it returns you see the sacred in the profane.You do not fall prostrate before it.You hold it close .You let it go. You live with it . you live.”
The conversation i find facinating, And i think Wolfbird had a great point several posts back when he urged us not to look at who we are , but what we are..I will get back to that ,because i see it as being of absolute importance in understanding our predicament.Although you may need to excuse my speed.
I wanted to write more on words and languages, I loved your interpretation of using words like setting gems . I do think that with the English language being such a dilute language, and by this i mean that it has colonised and conQuered so many weaker languages in its crazy march to world dominance.Now im no expert on languages , but my feeling is that English is generally an egoic language , very self centred. When we compare it to say Aboriginal languages ,that are firmly rooted in place.You speak the language of the country that you reside in, landscape and language are entwined. Words are more often than not sounds of animals,the scurry of a lizard, the feel of night coming down , the popping of a seed pod , the sound of running water.My thoughts are that the English language grew very slowly out of place, and with its rush and its hurry of spread has moved from the utterance of home and has become person centred.Perhaps the poets are able to relocate there words back into the country , back into the depths of experience .It is this very deliberation of words that gives the ability to do this.
I wonder too the gap between thought and speech, it seems that we are so tied into our language that it is not possible to think without language , we have this learnt habit of naming, every thing must be named from a point of almost domination, of ownership..Then here, if our thoughts are our language, and in turn our language has become divorced from our country and our earth, then how is it possible to come closer to this amazing place that we live within.How can we start to tell a different story than the yarn that has us believe we are master and dominator of the world? My feeling is that with a deeper consideration of words,without hurry and fluster, we can come back into the roots of language, back into its soil, and this place is meditation and mindfulness enough, this is the place that brings language back to earth.
A short peice on how our language dictates how we think.
By themselves words don't mean much to me. The purley mental contex of an online forum is really not enough to fix 'nature' to a denota I can be sure of we share.
To me 'meaning' arises from human interaction on shared experiences in the real world, and not from abstract thinking. (The pure logic of mathematics seems to transcend this view.)
Within our little on-line mental bubble we are missing a solid rock to kick.
So when Wolfbird says that he has no idea what Peter means by the word Nature, I'm thinking that's because he doesn't know Peter.
Any ways I concur - the whole thing is in flux ... except I