Looking at the Wall...

Implications - Set One

  1. The above exploration into some of the basic, primal, primitives of our language has some important implications.

  2. First, our macro-level language seems to be 'stable' and usable. The meaning of these basics seem to be 'fixed' intersubjectively, although the terminology is acquired during the process of interactions between the person, the universe, the individual culture(s). We KNOW what the words "pattern, relation, thing, event, attribute, field, essence, nature" etc. MEAN--we just cannot define/explain them without resource to the OTHER words in the above list. But, if we stay within certain boundaries, these words are useful tools.

  3. Secondly, this macro-level language seems adequate for real life. Although in contexts which target extra levels of precision, these words can be NOTORIOUSLY 'useless'; in ordinary discourse, they are VERY pragmatic. For example, to try to articulate the difference between 'substance' and 'essence' and 'nature' in a philosophical context is WOEFULLY unproductive (some would add, "pointless")--perhaps even in academic pursuits; but when someone tells us in ordinary discourse that it is John's "nature" to be kind, we understand exactly what is being said--a statement about the general predictability of behavior or attitudinal patterns from John.

  4. Thirdly, most (if not all) of these words were gestalten--irreducible complexes of experience/concepts that are structured as wholes. We don't experience these components 'discreetly' but as a patterned, structured UNIT.

  5. These gestalten resist further attempts at precision 'enhancement'. As we 'push' on the concept and try to expand the description (often using Aristotelian methods of classify/distinguish) we end up invoking OTHER words in the same 'precision category'--without much improvement. To use a spatial metaphor, when we try to 'push' the word-concept 'closer to' some absolute reality, the word-concept simply deflects our force onto a web of related word-concepts, none of which yield any 'net gain' in precision. We try to push it BACKWARDS; it re-routes us SIDEWAYS. We push on a spot on the linguistic wall--and find ourselves moving sideways along the wall (but not beyond or thru the wall).

  6. But what is this elusive precision anyway? One crude way of looking at it is that we seek a word that 'applies' to exactly ONE THING and ONLY one thing. No ambiguity at all--the final target. Univocity, and by mere mortals! In this case, when we used a word--there would be no 'confusion' as to what was denoted thereby. As knowers, in communication with other knowers, the referents would be exactly described by our language.

  7. But curiously enough, I think that is the case anyway! In the above analysis (esp of existence) I really didn't make a strong distinction between 'existence' and existence--between the 'reality' and the word. It seems obvious to me (more or less) that reality has this 'imprecise' and gestaltive character as well.

  8. Consider this: in the case of sub-atomic physics, it is not so much that our words 'field', 'particle', and 'wave' are imprecise; it is the phenomena of light ITSELF THAT EXHIBITS this imprecise character. The infamous 'double slit' experiment, in which the electron behaves differently DEPENDING ON the characteristics of the observer(!) is the ultimate imprecision--a virtually sentient (and almost impish) pattern of behavior!--subatomic schizophrenia. It is the phenomena of 'stuff' that at the micro-level (as in the language about it, in hyper-precise usage) that exhibits this 'fuzziness' or imprecision (or even ambiguity).

  9. Indeed, even the apparent 'stability/solidity' of macro-level understandings of these primal words is mirrored in the 'stuff'. Just as the words 'nature' and 'substance' have a solid meaning at a pragmatic or 'normal' usage of them (but lose that solidity as soon as we start 'pushing' on it), so too MATTER ITSELF is solid and reliable at our normal, macro level (but loses that when we 'push' experimentally on it--the 'solidity' of the atom turns out to be vast amounts of empty space!). I really think there is something important here. The very solidity of the universe, in which we live and move and make our mark, ONLY EXISTS at a macro-normal level. And when we 'push on it' experimentally, that solidity dissolves. (Granted, this sub-solid 'level' of reality has ALSO proven to be useful--in the technology arena especially--but this merely mirrors the idea of a 'gestalt within a gestalt'.)

  10. Now, if we remember that this stuff-solidity dissolves at finer levels of granularity (just like our language), what happens to it 'down there'? On the language side, as we push a macro word-concept down past solidity, it diverts us 'sideways' to other concepts at the same primitive precision level. Might the same occur on the 'stuff' side?

  11. What the analogue would look like on the stuff-side would be that as we subjected a particle to more tests, looking for a better definition of its predictable behavior (i.e. more precision), it would begin to appear like a 'non-particle' (e.g. a wave or field). And vice versa...if we started the examination of it from a wave-motif, it would shift on us to a particle-motif ONCE WE GOT TO ANOTHER LEVEL of attempted precision. (Notice this would NOT occur at the macro-level; up 'here' we only USE the stuff, not dissect it).

  12. The history of quantum theory might be a loose example of this. As we drilled down on the electron as a particle--trying to get MORE precision in terms of location, direction, mass-- it turned into a statistical field.

  13. I am not comfortable that I have analyzed this carefully enough, but there is enough there to suggest a mild support for my exploration--that language and 'stuff' are both solid, real, and stable--but ONLY at a macro, day-to-day life level. Below that level, behind that wall--it is ambiguous, imprecise, gossamer, convertable to 'other stuff'.

  14. One other point here before I look at a life implication of this. If I switch gears from the hyper-micro (sub-atomics) to the hyper-macro (cosmology), I see a parallel situation. The stuff-side universe is generally considered to be 'finite, yet unbounded'. In other words, the universe is actually finite in size, but doesn't have an 'edge' (unless it has a VERY, VERY bad day, of course). Theoretically, if you go out to the 'edge' and keep going, you simply are 'diverted' ALONG the 'edge' and keep traveling [although I PERSONALLY have not tried this, but my cousin said he tried it last October and that it was true ;>) ] This looks strangely like the other situations I have described:

    1. If I push on sub-atomic entities, they push me sideways to OTHER related sub-atomic entities.
    2. If I push on linguistic primitive gestalts, they push me sideways to OTHER related linguistic primitive gestalts.
    3. If I push on a specific area on 'edge' of space-time, it pushes me sideways to ANOTHER area on the 'edge' of space-time.

  15. In other words, I AM "TRAPPED" IN A MACRO-LEVEL REALITY "BUBBLE"! Inside this bubble, space/time/words/matter are solid, stable, useful. When I try to 'probe' beyond the walls of this bubble, the bubble-wall just 'slides me over sideways'. Everything 'inside the bubble' is 'real' to me--it has the same 'level' of reality as I do--(remember our first analysis of 'existence' above).

  16. Please note that I am NOT arguing against the usefulness of 'more precision'. I believe is using clear terms, clearing up ambiguity, sub-atomic research (finding quirks among quarks, and all), and astrophysics study. What I AM arguing for is that the paradigm of 'reality' and 'meaningfulness' NOT BE DEFINED around these gossamer edge-domains. For example, because I cannot give a 'precise' definition of 'love', it should NOT therefore be accorded 'insignificance' in status nor relegated to some 'outside science' arena of second-class epistemic status (as in 'folk psychology')!

  17. Let me say this again. I am arguing that the basic lexical stock of our languages is FULLY USEFUL at the macro-level of everyday ambiguity. They are PERFECTLY acceptable--because, among other reasons, there are NO OTHER LEVELS of 'less ambiguity' that still describe the 'real world'. The apparent precision of technical lexicons and descriptions and calculii and formulations is generally just that--APPARENT. What this leads me to is the simple notion that ordinary ambiguity is AS CLOSE AS WE GET TO "REALITY"--indeed, it IS reality. The more generality (after some point) we have in our terms (i.e. higher levels of ambiguity) the less 'attached to reality' our terms are. And the more precise (after some point) our terms are, the less 'attached to reality' our terms are as well (see the spectrum diagram below).

  18. Therefore, I should NOT have to 'throw out' words that cannot be 'precisely' defined (for this precision is illusionary, at some level).

  19. This has MASSIVE implications for a number of topics, many of which involve terms that are reasonably obvious, solid, stable to intersubjectively-matched people. Some such terms might be the primitives above, causality, person, consciousness, will, influence, God, right and wrong, language and meaning, etc.

  20. But this suggests one over-arching THEOLOGICAL interpretation of this that comes immediately to my mind--that we are placed in this universe FOR A PURPOSE.

  21. At first blush, this argument leads me to believe that we are given this stuff, this language, this space-time context...for PRAGMATIC uses (primarily) and ANALYSIS (secondarily). [Again, I am NOT suggesting that we stop research etc. and simply use all the 'current and soon, old' tools forever, but rather that we become aware of the ethical and pragmatic implications of discovery...It is to find/create new tools to use in pursuit of our REAL MISSION--whatever that turns out to be.]

  22. We are locked in this bubble, surrounded by things that are fundamentally useful in ORDINARY life, and inseparably related/linked to them (we cannot escape this bubble). It smells too much like an 'engineered' situation, much like I used to create for my pre-school age kids.

  23. Anyway...more on this later, but you probably get the idea.

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