Re: MD Barfield

From: Scott Roberts (
Date: Mon Jun 20 2005 - 15:30:57 BST

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    Scott prev:
    [Barfield] does start with the SOM vocabulary, ('subject', 'objective
    reality', 'representation', etc.) since that is the vocabulary of his
    audience. But where does he end up?

    - with evidence of the mutual dependence of the growth of alpha-thinking
    ("thinking about things") with our notion of 'objective reality', that is,
    that the latter developed in recorded history starting (in the West) with
    the Greeks, and so is contingent and not fundamental.

    Paul: "The particles" or "the unrepresented" remain throughout all of this
    -- from original to final participation -- so it certainly seems to be
    fundamental to Barfield's thesis.

    They remain because the discussion remains on the level of our current,
    non-consciously participating, understanding. Unless and until one moves to
    final participation, the vocabulary is necessary.

    Scott (prev) continues:
    - that our current belief in nature as objective reality did not become as
    it is until about 1500, i.e., with the rise of SOM.

    Paul: As said previously, all he has done is said that macroscopic nature
    is not part of the objective realm (i.e. as independent of consciousness,
    where, according to Barfield, it has been placed since c1500) and was
    actually always in the subjective realm (dependent on human consciousness
    i.e. the unconscious).

    That's all? Given that Darwinism, nominalism -- in short, the weltanchauung
    of modern intellectual society -- is based on the belief that macroscopic
    nature *is* independent of consciousness, this is a rather important thing
    to point out, no? And a correction: it was not always subjective -- it only
    started becoming so with the rise of intellect (before that there was no

    Scott (prev) continues:
    - that before then and after this current stage, this SOM-like separation
    does not hold

    Paul: The unrepresented is, by definition, what remains of reality when
    representations/represented are subtracted, is it not? So, unless....

    Scott (prev) continues:
    - that what we (as SOMites) think of as 'that which is to be represented',
    i.e., truth by correspondence with external reality, has it backwards, that
    instead, the supposed objective external reality is in fact a representation
    -- that it is semiotic.

    Paul: So "the unrepresented" is, in fact, also a representation? This is
    nonsense isn't it?

    The "unrepresented" is not represented in our sense perceptions. We see
    trees, not electrons or Heisenberg uncertainty. The physical knowledge we
    have (which of course may change) is known, to the extent it is, only
    conceptually. What macroscopic nature represents is, so to speak, Nature,
    Life, and so forth that original participators could "read" in the trees,
    and we can't. Think of our scientific knowledge of macroscopic nature as
    studying its syntax, but having no clue to its semantics, like studying
    hieroglyphics before the discovery of the Rosetta stone.

    Scott (prev) ridicules:
    So it seems to me to accuse Barfield of SOM is ridiculous.

    There is, though, a major difference between what he does about it with what
    Pirsig does, and that difference lies in Pirsig's being a nominalist, and
    Barfield not.

    Paul: See below.

    Scott (prev):
    That which the inorganic represents, according to Barfield, is what is
    traditionally called by such names as 'spirit', 'mana', 'waken', or 'life
    principle'), and which can also be called Quality. So it "represents" in the
    same sense that your words in this post represent what you think.

    Paul: So "spirit" speaks in particles? I'm afraid I'm losing the thread
    here. I may need to reread the old cat.

    No, "spirit" speaks in the spatio-temporal form of trees and wind. The
    particles correlate with that speaking, but are not the message, like
    phonemes correlate with the meaning of our words.


    [Consciousness issues skipped -- needs, or not, a separate thread]

    Scott prev:
    Furthermore, the only alternative to objective reality is NOT the subjective
    self (in my philosophy, nor in Barfield's).

    Paul: I know, but you said -- "As for "reality insofar as it is independent
    of our awareness", the only way to not consider such a possibility is
    solipsism. -- So *you* said the reality of the subjective self was the only
    alternative which, of course, you have now retracted.

    No. It was you who renamed "solipsism" as "subjective self" and "reality as
    it is independent of our awareness" as "objective reality". It was that
    renaming to which I say there are alternatives. One could be a MOQ
    solipsist, after all


    Paul: Do we have to learn to speak inorganic, like subatomic Braille? ;-)
    Sorry, I just can't imagine what this means, which I know is my problem.

    Scott: See above on what it means. It is everybody's problem, which is why
    Barfield subtitles his book "A Study in Idolatry".

    Paul [some skipped]:
    I still think you have sucked the meaning out of nominalism, Scott. The
    presupposition -- that there are things which are real and particular
    *anyway* and it only remains to be agreed on whether they really manifest
    universals or not -- is not one that the MOQ makes.

    Yes, the MOQ does not make that assumption. That leaves unconsidered how
    concepts come to be at all, how abstraction can actually be done, the origin
    of language, and so on. The Barfield view is that both macroscopic nature
    and human language manifest concepts, that all of reality is this
    manifestation, while the MOQ view is that concepts didn't come about until
    humans (somehow) learned language. Now the MOQ will likely dismiss this as
    Platonism, and it is Platonism of a sort, but the MOQ dismissal leaves these
    issues unanswered. And the beginning of that dismissal came under the banner
    of nominalism (William of Ockham, mainly) -- the beginning of the removal of
    value (meaning) from nature. By using the word nominalism, I am trying to
    point out that the MOQ belief that language and intellect is a late-comer
    stems from that belief in nominalism.

    - Scott

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