The Perfect Board Score

 

Universities will love you unconditionally if you are good at Numbers and Words. Math-Verbal skills: an ability to express in Words and figure-out in Numbers [you get to pay so that they can test you on it].

That’s because the primary service of a University today is training in the ability to build advanced models. And great math-verbal skills, the ability to take-apart and put-together using signs and symbols is the most desirable raw-material for training in advanced model-building.

As the level of intricacy and sophistication of subjects increase as in Academic Philosophy or Theoretical Science [my favorite though remains ‘Post-Modernism’] their content becomes a complex mix of abstraction and reification, an intricate cross-referencing play of sign upon sign.

Signs that refer exclusively to other signs. Thoughts that refer exclusively to other thoughts. Words defined entirely using other words. Every untied knot revealing a new knot.

Sign-world. A closed, contained world of abstraction and analogic expression, layer upon layer, in a self-referential interweaving of sign and symbol. A hall of mirrors with a soapy, slippery floor. So watch your step.

What is a ‘Thought’, Dr. Wittgenstein?

 

Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein taught Logic and Language at Cambridge with Bertrand Russell [Principia Mathematica] and was a reluctant founder of Analytical Philosophy.

Wittgenstein wrote: When I think in Language there are not meanings going through my mind in addition to the verbal expressions: the language is itself the vehicle of thought.

This is pretty strong stuff. Professors have made a nice living arguing about what a ‘Thought‘ and a ‘Concept‘ is for centuries-using thought and concept, of course.

And here was Ludwig Wittgenstein saying its all mostly words. This mysterious thing we called ‘Thinking’ is made up of just plain old words. Games we play with words.

Don’t believe him of course. Get back on the Meditation Mat and Sit.

 


I always liked Professor Wittgenstein. He was the established star at Cambridge, a serious philosopher who also had a fan-following. [Stranger things happen. Paris shut-down for Jean-Paul Sartre’s funeral.]

And Wittgenstein just turned and walked away from it all once he stopped believing in what he was teaching. That’s intellectual honesty.

So here he is from one of his later works:

It is of the essence of our investigation that we do not seek to learn anything new by it. We want to understand something that is already in plain view. For this is what we seem..not to understand.

[The].. a priori order of the World, it seems must be utterly simple.. it is prior to all experience, must run through all experience..as it were the hardest thing there is.

The aspect of things that are most important..are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. One is unable to notice something because it is always before one’s eyes. The real foundation of his inquiry do not strike a man at all unless that fact has at some time struck him.

‘The Bewitchment of Our Intelligence’

 

i-love-words-1

The limits of my language means the limits of my world‘ observed the reformed Ludwig Wittgenstein and warned: ‘Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by language.’

Language comes alive in the Two-ness Template.

The World is divided into Subject and Object, Noun and Verb, Gender and Tense. Words like ‘of’ and ‘for’, ‘to’ and ‘from’, ‘and’ and ‘or’, create a sanctioned and structured web of associations and divisions.

And we are to be forgiven if we take this synthetic structure as intrinsic to the way the World is, the way the World works.

Language maps the World in it’s own image. It draws the boundaries, shades the colors. And it is a self-sufficient mapped World that is very good at explaining itself to itself.

‘The World outside makes no sense. But come into my parlor and I will serve you a fresh helping of Words that will make everything nice and cozy’.

The language you ‘think-in’ is the unexamined repository of a millennia of influences. What ideas and things did the culture see as worth labeling? What distinctions did the culture see as worth marking?  Eskimos famously have a dozen names for Snow and the modern Investment-Banker a dozen names for Money.

Language creates the convention of legitimate distinctions that allow discourse. It draws the lines in the socio-linguistic matrix. Reality carved in familiar ways is ceaselessly reinforced. A self-created line, repeated, entrenched, is now seen as a self-evident divide. Distinction, as Difference.

You have no idea how much of your World is based on Language until you pay attention to these words in your head. It fits us like a snug set of contact lenses. We view the World through them. And we don’t remember that we have them on until something hits us in the eye.

Schopenhauer: The One-Dollar Bill

 

Arthur Schopenhauer [1788-1860]

Everything else can satisfy only one wish’ wrote Arthur Schopenhauer, ‘[but] money alone is absolutely good…because it is the abstract satisfaction of every wish…

Sign is like a Dollar-bill. A Dollar-bill is a printed piece of paper with a lot of signs on it. We can confound the paper with the things it can buy. And at the next level, the cheer it can bring. And so on.

This is Everyman’s ‘Money-Illusion’. The Economist’s can have theirs back.

The paper is worthless if not for the signs. You can buy a meal, have a drink with a Dollar-bill. But you are not supposed to eat the Dollar-bill for lunch.

 


The Economist’s term ‘Money-Illusion’, is the name for the state where you confound the dollar-amount of your Income with the things you can buy with it.

If you suffer from Money-Illusion, you remain unconcerned when prices double and your Income remains flat. Or you feel elated with a 10% bonus when the inflation-rate has just surged 50%.

Take a look at the One-Dollar Bill. You’ll see the ‘Great Seal of the United States’. And lots of interesting symbols. And inspiring Latin regularly misused by Presidents [Annuit Coeptis, E Pluribus Unum, Novus Ordo Seclorum]. And more.

It’s a rich, unappreciated, ignored document. I’ve yet to see anyone take a look at it twice. But they do count them very carefully.

The Definition of Definition

 

While we are at it, we might as well throw in another example or two on self-referential slides.

All Inquiry begins with Definition. It is the center bolt of Rational Discourse. And the line limiting fraudulent bombast.

‘Definition’ derives from the Latin: De Finito-‘to make finite’. In other words, to draw a line. to divide and to make Double. Definitions are co-dependent and have no life except in mutual relationship.

But how do I define ‘Definition’ when every definition of ‘Definition’ is itself a defined word?

 


Definition can be verbal, as that provided by a Dictionary. It can be spatial, auditory, tactile; it can be explicit, implicit, smooth or crooked; static, dynamic, clear or vague.

You may not explicitly know the definitions, but are implicitly using them in any form of expression, logic or language. But there must be a boundary in order to define something. And there must be a definition, explicit or implied, in order to have a dialogue.

We’ve got ourselves a fenced space where the fence needs to be moved further and further out as we repeatedly try to fence it in. If you can’t define ‘Definition’ all Inference drawn is spurious precision. The Logic will prove whatever you want it to prove.

Your best defense is to shelter behind Aristotle. ‘The beginning of demonstration’ he famously quipped ‘cannot [itself] be demonstrated’. In other words, posit a First Principle. The issue with that is that all First Principles themselves necessarily mount on the presumption of a Separated ‘Self’. We’ll get to it in time.

In the wonder-world of the Self-Loop, the word with the most number of posted definitions seems to be the word ‘Set’, as in Mathematical Set, which is another word for ‘Definition’.

So what’s the definition of ‘Love’? What’s that? You’ll tell me when you feel it? Touché!

 

See: ‘The Concept of Concept
True Everything

This is Not ‘New York City’

 

The above photograph is not New York City. It is  a photograph of New York City.

So what is ‘New York City’?

I don’t recognize Manhattan anymore, the home of my wanton youth. New buildings, bars, restaurants. SOHO used to be a truck- stop before Gucci moved in. The hole-in-the-wall bars were a place for good, cheap beer, genuinely starving artists, the occasional erudite hooker and others of ambiguous gender.

So what is ‘New York City’?

Call the Mayor’s office and take a Surveyor with you for a walk along the East River. Where does Manhattan begin? The sand along the  river’s edge has long moved on, the shrubs of last year now replaced by new ones. The water in the river today has no memory of the water that flowed yesterday. [See: ‘Cratylus‘]

So what is ‘New York City’? A confounding snarl of sign, symbol, name, map, copy and terrain.

‘New York City’ is a reference, an Idea.

‘New York City’

 

new-york-direction-sign-k-9951-nyWhat’s so special about this sign with the pointing arrow that reads: ‘New York’?

The sign ‘New York’ is both a sign that says ‘New York’ and a pointer to the State of New York. You read the sign ‘New York’ and follow it’s directions to the State of New York.

A proper sign always does this two-step jingle. It both stands for itself and refers to something else. [Check with a Professor of Semiotics, though.]

Language and Logic are expressed in Signs. The Alphabet and the Number System are structures of made-up of signs. But the most important, intractable signs are those that bounce around in our head. Like ‘Thoughts‘.

Sign, like the Meta-Trinity: Thought, Mind and Consciousness, has this extraordinary ability to multiply and divide, while all the time remaining itself. Sign doubles, while remaining single. Sign in other words, ‘Gives Birth to Itself’.