RE: MF Discussion Topic for September 2004

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Sep 12 2004 - 04:07:07 BST

  • Next message: "Re: MF Discussion Topic for September 2004"

    Howdy Focusers:

    Sam said:
    I have written before about Wittgenstein's view of language, principally
    that language has a 'depth grammar' which relates the words spoken/written
    to their context within a form of life (lebensformen). Wittgenstein's view
    of language specifically breaks down the positivist view (descending from
    Descartes) that sees language as composed of distinct units of sense (ie
    'clear and distinct ideas') which map clearly on to 'reality'. In contrast
    to this view - very much part of SOM of course - Wittgenstein's conception
    is much 'thicker'; he is the one who rejects 'flatland' most profoundly.

    dmb adds:
    I don't know the particulars of Wittgenstein's work nor if he's the most
    profound rejecter, but he's certainly not alone. Wilber calls it flatland
    and Pirsig calls it SOM, but its also known as the enlightenment paradigm,
    the representational, reflection, and mirror paradigms, scientific
    objectivity or most simply, the Modern worldview. Rejecting it pretty much
    defines postmodernism as a movement and I think its safe to say that Pirsig
    is among them. I like the way Ken Wilber lays it out...

    "There are many ways to summarize the limitations of the representational
    paradigm, the idea that knowledge consists basically in making maps of the
    world. But the simplest way to state the problem with maps is THEY LEAVE OUT
    ..And no matter how different the various POSTMODERN attacks were, THEY WERE
    assaulted the reflection paradigm, the 'mirror of nature' paradigm - the
    idea that there is a single empirical world or empirical nature. Begining
    especially with Kant and running through Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche,
    Dilthey, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrid - all the great 'postmodern' theorists
    - in all of them we find a powerful attack on the mapping paradigm, because
    it fails to take into account the self that is making the maps in the first

    Sam said;
    A key part of the early argument in Wittgenstein's Philosophical
    Investigations is the debunking of the notion of a private language, ie one
    in which the reference for words or concepts is only known to the person
    developing the language. Wittgenstein shows how this is radically confused.
    Language is essentially shareable and cannot be otherwise. Similarly,
    Wittgenstein argues that rules must be public and verifiable, and embedded
    in a social practice. So grammatical rules, but also things like mathematics
    must be embedded in a social context which reinforces the rule and gives it
    its sense.

    dmb adds:
    Right. If I follow, you're talking about the way language functions to open
    up an intersubjective space. Meaning can only be transmitted to and from
    those who share this "space". And that intersubjective space can only arise
    out of a more basic social context and the shared experience that allows it
    to make sense. If I'm getting you, it sounds like Witt is describing how
    language begins. I also see echoes of Pirsig's rejection of the isolated ego
    and his insistence that great ideas are only great ideas in their own
    contexts. Doesn't he quote Witt, saying "we are suspended in language"?
    Isn't that the point of denying the possibility of a private language? To
    demonstrate that language is a shared, collective reality by nature?

    Sam said:
    The point about Descartes and Pirsig's revision: 'French culture exists,
    therefore I am' - this is very much a part of what Wittgenstein is

    dmb says:
    Pirsig asks if Descartes would have been so well recieved in other cultures
    or in other times, and revises his famous saying to read: 17th century
    French culture exists, therefore I think, therefore I am." Do you NOT see
    this as a rejection of the representational paradigm and the assertion of
    contextual truth instead? Do you NOT see this as asserting intellect as
    dependent on that context? I do.

    Sam continued:
    The ironic thing is that Pirsig himself is still a Cartesian (ie an SOM
    thinker) when it comes to some elements of his system. Specifically, the
    idea that the fourth level is about 'the manipulation of symbols' comes
    crashing down if there is any truth in Wittgenstein's perspective.
    What is a symbol if not a 'clear and distinct idea'? And how can it be
    manipulated in the way that Pirsig wants (eg in higher mathematics) if there
    is no social lebensformen within which the rules governing that manipulation
    can make sense?

    dmb says:
    I don't see how Pirsig is a Cartesian or how the fourth level comes crashing
    down, but let me share an idea or two that might be helpful. (Paul Turner
    did some excellent posts explaining the difference between third and fourth
    level uses of symbols and hoped to quote him extensively, but I seem to have
    lost it.) I think the distinction Wilber makes between mythic thinking and
    rational thinking is instructive here. (The mythic and rational are roughly
    equal to Pirsig's social and intellectual levels.) Wilber describes them in
    terms of HOW THEY HANDLE SYMBOLS because they handle them so differently.
    They have different capabilities with respect to symbol manipulation. To
    reflect that difference he describes mythic level consciousness as "concrete
    operational" thinking and rational consciousness as "formal operational"
    thinking. The concrete level is well named becasue is conjures up to social
    embeddedness insisted upon by Witty and it reflects the literalistic
    thinking of fundamentalists. The mythic mind can work with concrete symbols,
    if you will, but not abstract symbols. The mythic mind has language and uses
    language, but the vocabulary and conceptual categories are limited by their
    connection to visceral life. By contrast, the rational or intellectual mind
    is capable of preforming formal operations upon symbols such as words and
    can manipulate them in ways that may or may not have anything to do with
    life as it actually is. I've used CAPITOL letters where Wilber uses

    "Cognitive psychologists and anthropologists tend to use RATIONALITY to mean
    'formal operational cognition', which simply means the capacity not just to
    think, but to think about thinking and thus 'operate upon' thinking. Since
    you can operate upon or REFLECT UPON your own thought processes, you are to
    some degree free of them; you can to some degree TRANSCEND them; you can
    take PERSPECTIVES different from your own; you can entertain HYPOTHETICAL
    possibilities; and you can become highly INTROSPECTIVE. ...all of these come
    into existence with the emergence of formal operational cognition, or

    And so returning to the elected topic, I don't know if language is primarily
    social in the MOQ. It would depend on what you mean by "primarily". But I'd
    say that it begins on the social level, is originally social, but has
    evolved right along with intellect. In fact, the intersubjective space that
    defines a language and a society is just as necessary at the intellectual
    level, the difference is only that the intellectual level is a larger, more
    universal intersubjective space. Its language with a larger vocabularies -
    no, its a multitude of languages with larger vocabularies.


    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archive -
    MF Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_focus follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Sep 13 2004 - 00:28:09 BST