The Scope And Variants Of The SEE


‘Be so kind as to not interrupt me while I am ignoring you’

Maharani Sita Kumari of Kapurthala [1915-2002], a then permanent resident on the ‘World’s Best Dressed’ list. [Just a little joke, your highness. I’m a die-hard Royalist.]

The Self Negating Expression is simply the generalized capture of a very specific Logical Form. What is Logical Form? When you fill in the question mark to the statement: ‘Bird is to plane as fish is to ?’, you have captured its Logical Form.

I could go on giving more examples. But I’ll save us both some time and instead display an old Post from my former [if very brief] days of activist writing:

What is common between:

The oldest posit of the Upaniṣads; the central metaphor of Buddhism; the opening lines of the opening verse of the Chinese Tao-Te-Ching [the first philosophy of China]; the opening Zen Koan from the Japanese Mumonkon; the final stage of Islamic Sufi Practice; the Synod of Nicaea [the first ecumenical meeting of the Catholic Church]; The Bhagavad Gita’s ideal Yogin; ‘Vishnu’s Dream’, the best-known of Puranic Myths; Ramana Maharishi, the preeminent Vedanthin’s principal teaching metaphor; The central directive of Taoism; Friedrich Hegel’s very definition of Philosophy; Immanuel Kant’s caution to readers of his ‘Critique’; the sarcophagus of ToutAnkhAmun at the Egypt museum in Cairo; Kurt Godel’s proof [‘The Most Significant Mathematical Discovery of the Century’-cooed Harvard in 1952]; Aristotle’s ‘God’ and his defense of the ‘First Principle of all Analytic Cognition’ as he put it; the grounding assumptions of Epistemology and Ontology, the twin pillars of Academic Philosophy; of Semiotics and Semantics and the origins of Language; the base of ‘Scientific Method’; the Binary Code and the genesis of the Information Age…

OK. I’ll stop right here. 

What’s common between them is that they all pivot on the logical form of the Self-Negating Expression. I’ll get to each one, bye and bye.

[Depending on when the Post was written, I have used Self-Negating Expression and Self-Eating Expression alternatively and as perfect synonyms. I liked the acronym of the latter: ‘SEE’]

Finally a note of caution. A Self-Negating Expression is a handrail, an investigative tool meant to be unwound sequentially in the ‘Backward Step’. It is not to be stared at as a static logical complexity [as for example in the contemporary mathematical literature]. That just sinks you deeper into the swamp.

‘Mama, I am dead!’ is conclusive evidence that the kid is very much alive. ‘I don’t Exist!’ unwinds in a negation that throws you into the center of the vortex that is an Infinite Regress.

There are at least three levels of the lingual Self-Negating Expression, a useful distinction. First as the simple self-contradiction as in Aristotle’s ‘Unmover Mover’. These can be intuitively helpful but hard to work with.

Second, again from Aristotle, ‘All Things are False’, a phrase he uses in his celebrated defense of the Principal of Contradiction. Replace it with its legitimate equivalent: ‘All Words are Meaningless’-itself an expression in words, and you have a workable Self-Negating Expression, ready for the ‘Backward Step’.

The most effective lingual Self-Eating Expressions typically include words like: I, Me, All, None, Everything, Nothing, Always, Never. [Nice, slippery, unstable wordsl you wonder why?] The Self-Negating Expression: ‘All statements are false’-itself a statement, is more usable than the expression: ‘This statement is false’. 

Finally, the Popular Variants which tend to be rhetorical devices such as autological ‘Oxymorons’ or literary embellishments [‘Expressive Silence’] or verbal dig [‘Microsoft Works’].

The best of the world’s Mystic Literature is made up of Self-Negating Expressions. The Logical-Form can show-up in many guises. Not all are trekking-aids.