‘Know Thyself’: Gnothi Seauton. In the Sanskrit: Atmanam Viddhi. You can find variants of it in every literate culture. The oldest, most ubiquitous injunction in Language.
Self-Inquiry is an absurd idea. I can inquire about any and all things in this great and grand world of ours. Except inquire about me.
Self-Awareness? I can never be aware of that which is aware. I can be aware of anything but the source of my awareness.
Self-Knowledge? I can know about all things in this our magnificent cosmos. But I may never know myself.
Any Self I can inquire about, be aware of or know, is not me but a model of ‘Me’. A confounding of ‘Object as Subject’.
Perhaps one of the strongest convictions of this less-than-luminous Age is: ‘I am my Body’.
The article below from which the opening lines above are excerpted sourced it’s findings on Dr. Paul Aebersold’s study [Smithsonian: 1953-54] on radioisotope experiments. Earlier he had helped build the first Cyclotron at Berkeley.
‘Studies at the Oak Ridge Atomic Research Center have revealed that about 98 percent of all the atoms in a human body are replaced every year.
You get a new suit of skin every month and a new liver every six weeks. [Stomach] lining lasts five days…bones are not the solid, stable, concrete-like things you [thought]…the bones you have today are different from the bones you had a year ago.
This revelation brought great excitement to the New-Age community which claimed it confirmed their long-held belief in out-of-body experiences. It was vigorously attacked by more sober scientists who after diligent research showed that the number was not 98% as claimed, but in fact only 91%.
Later findings on neural-cell DNA and Tooth-Enamel further brought down the number. Perhaps you are your Tooth-Enamel.
What is a Sign? ‘Sign’, from the Latin Signum, is a mark, an indication, a point, a reference [note the similarity with the above definition of Logic’s ‘Form’. See ‘Logic and Mathematics’].
A proper sign always does a two-step jingle. It both stands for itself and refers to something else.
What’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. [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. 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’.
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.
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.
Any linguistic discussion on Language must be introduced with the cautionary note that you are diving headlong into the swirl of the Self-Loop. It is Language on Language.
So try and not take long leaps however much that might impress the girls.
‘In the beginning was the Word’. The World begins in Vac [Sanskrit]; Vox [Latin] ; Voice, in good old English. When you speak, it is ‘You’ who speaks. The deep embedding of the Separated ‘Self’. Your World begins here.
Every word written in the Posts about Language is itself in Language. This is true of everything we have talked abut. [You are conscious when reading the Posts on Consciousness, for example.] But it is particularly true of ‘Language’ where the ground can get very slippery, very quickly.
[A caution uniformly dismissed by all authors on Language, especially the scholarly ones who write the expensive 500 page tomes.]
Words ‘Refer’; but ‘Refer’ is a word. Sort of like the Self-Eating Expression:’All Words Miscue!‘
‘So how did Language originate?’
That’s language. A ‘Cause and Effect’ Aficionado.
‘And when did it begin?’
More language. The Temporal Man.
‘Any idea where?’
Still more language. The Spatial Man,
‘We all know that ‘Why?’ never has an answer, right?’
Deep language, but still language.
‘The questions are in Language. So they are invalid?’
Skeptical language, but still language.
‘So the answers are in Language. That does not make them wrong.’
Righteous language, but still language.
‘I think the Gene-Idea makes perfect sense. It’s all DNA and stuff.’
Faith language, but still language.
‘I don’t think you know the whole story. Something slippery here.’
Suspicious language, but still language.
‘As Wittgenstein claimed, is language itself the vehicle of thought?’
Thinking language, but still language.
‘None of this is very convincing. You might be right. But so what?’
Defiant language, but still language.
‘This is Bullshit!’
Angry language, but still language.
The most expressive language so far.
It can take a lifetime of observation to appreciate how much of our World is based on Language.
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.
‘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.’
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 can’t get to the ‘Origin’ of Language, an idea deeply embedded in a linguistic-understanding of ‘Self’ and ‘World’, using Language [Language again. Yikes!].
If you do, you will build fine elegant models of the ‘Origin of Language’, a praiseworthy project. But it has nothing at all to do with the origin of Language.
[You have to step out of language. And that starts with a formal Meditation Practice. You know any required courses on Meditation at your University?]