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Think In Pictures

 
 
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Feb, 2010 03:22 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;126986 wrote:
I agree. It makes sense to apply Darwin to tropes. How many neologisms are lost with the snows of yesteryear?

The word "through" comes from the word for tree, apparently. Perhaps it was common to use trees as poles, spears, etc. One day someone uses the word for tree but isn't thinking of a tree, but only it's through-ness. He chances the word for tree with a certain tone in his voice and appropriate gestures and it catches on. It's not that sensual experience is imposed but rather borrowed. Of course as man invents technology he is providing himself with more common objects (with common names) to work from in the creation of abstractions. Terrence Mckenna used "software" as a metaphor for human culture, for instance. One possible source of the word person is "persona," the mask used in Greek Tragedy. I can imagine one guy saying that so-and-so's "mask" is (fill in the blank).


Applying Darwinism to tropes is itself a trope. More generally we are talking about Dawkin's memes. But there is a disconnect here. There is a Baudrillardian despair to be rooted out here. The simulacra threatens to overwhelm that which it represents. The connotations of the signifier (Darwinism) overwhelms the signified (tropes/language). There is more hope in Wittgenstein's ludic/utilitarian genesis of language (so far as I understand it). Do words survive because they work or do they work because they survived? And by work I guess I mean 'have meaning' which is probably a departure from Wittgenstein.

I'm not sure what you think of that dichotomy - Ludic/useful vs. the mere reflection of tropes. I'm not sure what I think of it.

Reflections are playful and useful. Tropes are playful and useful. But the ludic/useful is not in every case tropical. An anchor is useful and playful. I do not want my anchor to become a mere semblance, a mere reflection, a mere trope, the mere ersatz of an anchor. When the anchor is up it is playful. When the anchor is lowered it is useful. I do not want my anchor to become a mere facsimile of playfulness nor the mere semblance of usefulness. My ship will float away when I don't want it to and that's not much fun. Wisdom is an anchor. (That's some pretty bad poetry but you get the idea.)
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Feb, 2010 09:43 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;126994 wrote:
Do words survive because they work or do they work because they survived? And by work I guess I mean 'have meaning' which is probably a departure from Wittgenstein.

I think the better answer would be "it survived because it worked." Our abstractions comes from successful tropes (my view at least). The original word had to be there. (Native was twisted into natural). But then the trope has to spread from its single use until this new use is the standard meaning, and the success of the trope erases its trope-ness. No one hears the old meaning anymore, but just the twisted-troped meaning. "Nature" is a good example. So perhaps is "philosophy." It's a tough question, though. As far as words for trees, or stars, etc., I suspect that sound plays a role. Do we use words whose sounds accord emotionally with meaning associations?

---------- Post added 02-11-2010 at 10:52 PM ----------

Deckard;126994 wrote:

I do not want my anchor to become a mere semblance, a mere reflection, a mere trope, the mere ersatz of an anchor. When the anchor is up it is playful. When the anchor is lowered it is useful. I do not want my anchor to become a mere facsimile of playfulness nor the mere semblance of usefulness. My ship will float away when I don't want it to and that's not much fun. Wisdom is an anchor. (That's some pretty bad poetry but you get the idea.)


I agree with this. I would say that an awareness of trope is to some degree a protection from it. I think our struggle for survival as a species will keep us from stacking the tropes too high. Maybe it was what I perceived as the careless use of words like "truth" and "justice" that steered me toward linguistic concerns. Also the desire to strip the Goddess. To think about thinking. To discover the structure of structure. I don't think there's a end to it.
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Feb, 2010 10:14 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;127283 wrote:
I think the better answer would be "it survived because it worked." Our abstractions comes from successful tropes (my view at least). The original word had to be there. (Native was twisted into natural). But then the trope has to spread from its single use until this new use is the standard meaning, and the success of the trope erases its trope-ness. No one hears the old meaning anymore, but just the twisted-troped meaning. "Nature" is a good example. So perhaps is "philosophy." It's a tough question, though. As far as words for trees, or stars, etc., I suspect that sound plays a role. Do we use words whose sounds accord emotionally with meaning associations?


I find etymologies fascinating too. Etymologies do give rise to a multitude of fascinating connotations and relations between words. It is as if there might be hidden codes in language to be cracked. It is as if every time we say something we may be saying a whole bunch of other things at the same time and that these other meanings may have some kind of subconscious life of their own.

Still, I think that the genesis of these connections is really because words are coined using the resources that are immediately at hand and that means using other words.

The way a word is used has more bearing on its actual meaning than its hidden historical connotation and all of the truly fascinating images and pictures that those etymologies conjure up.

I've always had a difficult time distinguishing between etymology and philology. Is there some major difference? Philology seems to have passed away as a serious science in the 19th century along with phrenology and the luminiferous aether. I think that philology may depend upon the belief that those hidden connotations have more bearing on meaning than they actually do and that studying them is the search for some primal language that existed before the proverbial Tower of Babel fell. Back then the signs were always clear and everyone always understood everyone else perfectly.
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Feb, 2010 10:32 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;127308 wrote:

The way a word is used has more bearing on its actual meaning than its hidden historical connotation and all of the truly fascinating images and pictures that those etymologies conjure up.


I agree. Use is more important than history, as far as meaning is concerned.

If one assumes that the limits of language are the limits of thought, then man's (slow?) creation of abstractions becomes especially fascinating. Sentences are some of our strangest tools.

Because I do think that meaning is use in the context of social practice, I also think that words like "justice" and "truth" are blurry indeed, as they are used without care, in plenty of rhetoric.

If I'm fond of the word rhetoric it's because I'm fond of the truth/motive relationship, which ties back to my worldly experience. We see self-justification all around us. We do it ourselves. It's not automatically a bad thing. Why call anything both universal and bad? Perhaps this ties in to the world as will and representation, in a less profound sense. If words are tools, what are these tools used for? All sorts of things, of course. Often enough for food, sex, status, self-esteem. How can epistemology exclude motive? How can philosophical self-consciousness and self-justification exclude epistemology and motive? To put it all on paper would be to write the Vortext.
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 10:31 pm
@Reconstructo,
Searle on Wittgenstein's Tractatus and the picture theory of meaning.

Skip the intro if you want. Searle starts talking about it exactly at 4 minutes.

YouTube - John Searle on Ludwig Wittgenstein: Section 1
Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 10:57 pm
@Deckard,
Deckard;129218 wrote:
Searle on Wittgenstein's Tractatus and the picture theory of meaning.

Skip the intro if you want. Searle starts talking about it exactly at 4 minutes.

YouTube - John Searle on Ludwig Wittgenstein: Section 1



Good stuff. I've always enjoyed digging up episodes of that program. I do wish I could find some video of Wittgenstein himself. There's a thematic relationship between my understanding of "think in pictures" and the picture theory of language, but also significant differences, as you may see quite well already. My favorite Wittgenstein is the guy who could see that linguistic philosophy itself was one more language game and could not gain a transcendental position. But the Frege-like Wittgenstein is also important. Also, there are those other strange parts of the Tractatus. The self as the limit of the world. Pure solipsism connecting to pure realism. The ladder, the silence, etc.
0 Replies
 
Deckard
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Feb, 2010 12:21 am
@Deckard,
Reconstructo;129220 wrote:
Good stuff. I've always enjoyed digging up episodes of that program. I do wish I could find some video of Wittgenstein himself. There's a thematic relationship between my understanding of "think in pictures" and the picture theory of language, but also significant differences, as you may see quite well already. My favorite Wittgenstein is the guy who could see that linguistic philosophy itself was one more language game and could not gain a transcendental position. But the Frege-like Wittgenstein is also important. Also, there are those other strange parts of the Tractatus. The self as the limit of the world. Pure solipsism connecting to pure realism. The ladder, the silence, etc.

I'm not as well versed in Wittgenstein (or philosophy in general) as I should be. I didn't know about the picture theory of meaning in the Tractatus until tonight.

Yet it would seem a few posts back on this thread I was dismissing something like older picture meaning Wittgenstein in favor of newer tool/game language Wittgenstein. Yet as I read over my previous post it would seem that I was motivated more by aesthetics than anything else. I almost made it a moral issue. I was more or less setting up a moral dichotomy:

Fake picture Evil / useful tools and games Good.

Maybe there was some similar subtle aesthetic/moral motivation that caused Wittgenstein to make the shift? I'm not going to quote myself but this is the post that I am talking about.

Deckard;126974 wrote:
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Reconstructo
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Feb, 2010 12:53 am
@Deckard,
Deckard;129260 wrote:


Maybe there was some similar subtle aesthetic/moral motivation that caused Wittgenstein to make the shift?


"To see the world as a limited whole. That is the mystical." This is one of those strange Tractatus lines (many near the end) that suggest what his motives were for writing the book. What he really cared about were those things whereof we were supposed to be silent. He wanted to escape language, to step outside it and see it as a bounded whole. This is a Rorty-inspired interpretation. As far as I can tell, Davidson makes Wittgenstein's position more explicit. But I know Davidson only through Rorty, who quotes the crap out of em. Witt's later style was not exactly abstract. He stuck to details. This is the medium as the message. Davidson would venture the anti-transcendental abstractions. We can't say ahead of time what sort of things we might or might not be able to say. That sort of thing.

---------- Post added 02-17-2010 at 01:56 AM ----------

Deckard;129260 wrote:

Fake picture Evil / useful tools and games Good.


The picture theory did seem to appeal to the anti-wisdom bunch. They wanted to use it against metaphysics. This ties to Heidegger, I think. They wanted to master the medium, to delineate its possibilities. They didn't like metaphysics. To me, there's a certain Evil in this eagerness to reduce man's expressive possibilities.

Whereas the tool metaphor is friendly. Also it's much more open.

---------- Post added 02-17-2010 at 02:04 AM ----------

Deckard;129260 wrote:

I'm not as well versed in Wittgenstein (or philosophy in general) as I should be.


I haven't read much Plato or Aristotle in their own words. Sure, I've read about them, but most of Plato and Aristotle move too slow for me. I get impatient. Plato's damn demonstrative dialogues. I liked the Symposium, but I generally find fake dialogues that mean to prove something tedious.

I wonder what Aristotle was like as a writer? I love what can be inferred about him. Word has it only his lecture notes survive. Ain't it a shame?

The later Wittgenstein is so stuck on details that most of it bores me. Here and there he will throw down a killer line. Lucky for me he is much quoted. For me, he's as much an interesting character as a philosopher. But then I think biography is a legitimate aspect of philosophy. Just as I think psychology and philosophy are completely inseparable.
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