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March 2018



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In the begining

“The Limits of My Language Are the Limits of My World.” But They Are Not the Only Limits.

joculum writes another post that makes me feel like I'm flying. This guy is amazing.
...certain books only sum things up if you have already been wading around in the wrong ways of putting it, or the more awkward ways of putting it, or the more conventional ways of putting it. And this means that the very same books would do no good at all for people coming from different sets of prior terminology and presuppositions. This is why college courses basically take people through the same sets of frequently wrongheaded prior thinkers before ending with the state of affairs just before where we are today.

It’s the difference, as has often been pointed out, between the physical sciences and the human sciences; with the result that the physical sciences have had to be reminded that they too are bounded by the limits described by the human sciences, and the human sciences have had to be reminded that their practices basically don’t know diddly about the mathematical principles underlying the physical universe.
...you may need to be instructed in the nature of complex interactions, including your own social presuppositions based on your own culturally modified psychology.
The parenthetical aside was a further illustration of the difficulty of explaining anything at all when you are starting from point zero. (This is also—and this really is an aside—one reason that art writing is so often addressed to those who already share the presuppositions of contemporary art (including what should be excluded from discussion) and why my brand of art writing so often reduces complex issues to vastly simplified high points that, to some degree, distort the discourse. The scale creates the phenomenon, or, if we refine the discussion any further, we shall never get to the art.)
Everyone, and I do mean everyone, believes he or she has established their point when they have done no more than reinforced their own rhetorical structure. Start talking about something in a certain way, and you need not bother to demolish the other party’s way of approaching the problem. You literally will not know what the other party is talking about, because you only know one way to talk about the problem.
Likewise with how to handle the problem of rhetorical presuppositions. I got a lot of mileage out of Wayne C. Booth’s Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent insofar as it explored the linguistic presuppositions underlying systematic skepticism. (And it is pretty much a matter of rhetoric rather than reasoned analysis…”reason” being a god-term designed to exclude psychological dynamics and unexamined social determinants and generally shut down debate regarding the variables in a system. Often opposed to that other god-term, “faith.” Binary oppositions do us in every time, just like Levi-Strauss kind of said…though he didn’t really say that.)
The limits of my language are the limits of my world, as Wittgenstein wrote to the detriment of generations of “ordinary language” philosophers, but they are not the only limits, starting with our perception of the electromagnetic spectrum. We just wouldn’t have any way of spelling out those other limits without the benefit of our limited verbal and mathematical and visual-symbolic languages.
It’s a useful entry point into the construction of social reality through psychological self-definition combined with the definitions imposed by others, and imposed by the shifting nature of “just plain common sense” at any given moment.
What distinguishes Eco from the others is his insistence that physical and social reality does set limits to the discussion…you can only go so far off into your own fantasies before you cease to be intelligible even to yourself or you prescribe courses of action so at variance with the physical order of things that you will be eliminated by the environing circumstances.


a post that I have temporarily taken down because some of the asides you didn't quote were just too silly and might have been taken in ways I didn't intend, but I'll restore my own edited version of it sometime in the next day or so, I hope. Thanks for your vote of confidence.
Aw. I liked your whole post, including the asides :-)

The way you describe things just blows my mind.
Most of the asides are still there. I had to knock out one that I thought might be misunderstood, and I eliminated one or two words in which I didn't quite believe. Otherwise it's all still there now...with the explanatory followup still to come as to where all this is going. (Hint: it may already have been mentioned in a custom friends-only post but my custom groups are so varied I can't remember whether you were included on this one or not.)
I don't know if I'm in any of your custom friends groups. Since I'm just a stranger on LJ who found you through crowleycrow, who's books I'm very fond of.

Of your most recent 20 posts the only one that has a lock on it that I can see is "The argument from intelligent invisible flying unicorns."
Okay...rather than put some very tentative thoughts out there that I'm not ready to fact-check and correlate with a lot of other academic-type sources, know that Jeffrey Kripal has a brand-new book that you might like but that I most certainly do, because it raises questions of consciousness and culture in ways that may not be right but most certainly ask the right kind of fruitfully annoying questions, whether the answers are right or not. (And since the answers are mostly "I don't know!" I am not sure how wrong they can be—though as Gravity's Rainbow says, if They can get you to ask the wrong questions, They don't have to worry about answers.)

Edited at 2010-05-29 01:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the recommendation. He sounds like just my kind of author. His other books also look interesting and the cluster of authors Amazon puts around him look good too.