Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sight, insight and even some insight on sight from one who is blind...

I posted this originally as a comment at Two or Three:

I'm not religious, so to me, any fundamentalist seems to be a nutbag who believes more in a book than what s/he is able to see with her/his own eyes.

How you have eyes in the first place is more important than what you see with them. Only those who have the eyes to see, can see. And you're actually making yourself subject to charlatans, "cult"ure, your own delusions or cultural illusions and so on if you only believe in the limited amount of light that you can see "with your own eyes." As even one with the urge to merge has realized, insight is superior to sight:
Earlier than the Great Leap Forward, man-made artefacts had hardly changed for a million years. The ones that survive for us are almost entirely stone tools and weapons, quite crudely shaped. Doubtless wood (or, in Asia, bamboo) was a more frequently worked material, but wooden relics don’t easily survive. As far as we can tell, there were no paintings, no carvings, no figurines, no grave goods, no ornamentation. After the Leap, all these things suddenly appear in the archaeological record, together with musical instruments such as bone flutes, and it wasn’t long before stunning creations like the Lascaux Cave murals were created by Cro-Magnon people. A disinterested observer taking the long view from another planet might see our modern culture, with its computers, supersonic planes and space exploration, as an afterthought to the Great Leap Forward. On the very long geological timescale, all our modern achievements, from the Sistine Chapel to Special Relativity, from the Goldberg Variations to the Goldbach Conjecture, could be seen as almost contemporaneous with the Venus of Willendorf and the Lascaux Caves, all part of the same cultural revolution, all part of the blooming cultural upsurge that succeeded the long Lower Palaeolithic stagnation. Actually I’m not sure that our extraplanetary observer’s uniformitarian view would stand up to much searching analysis...
If not language itself, perhaps the Great Leap Forward coincided with the sudden discovery of what we might call a new software technique: maybe a new trick of grammar, such as the conditional clause, which, at a stroke, would have enabled ‘what if’ imagination to flower. Or maybe early language, before the leap, could be used to talk only about things that were there, on the scene. Perhaps some forgotten genius realised the possibility of using words referentially as tokens of things that were not immediately present. It is the difference between ‘That waterhole which we can both see’ and ‘Suppose there was a waterhole the other side of the hil’ Or perhaps representational art, which is all but unknown in the archaeological record before the Leap, was the bridge to referential language. Perhaps people learned to draw bison, before they learned to talk about bison that were not immediately visible.
(The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution
By Richard Dawkins :35-36)

One should not be surprised that science, technology and so on have had a history of following monotheistic cultures that believe symbols and signs can be designed, with insight precisely stated in a language without metaphors such as mathematics. This is combined with the assumption that the world bears the imprint of an underlying rationality, an assumption that only those who have a rationale for rationality make. Note that if Dawkin's own historical narrative is correct in any sense then such a genius forging new associations between invisible information and visible formations and so on would have had to deal with half-wits saying, "Nothing exists but the forms that we see and test. See here, I can eat this dirt to test it and taste it. Besides, believing that form can be separated from this formation here is just like believing in a Flying Spaghetti Monster or somethin'."

Of course, anyone using language is constantly stating that their own words have indeed captured meaning in some way by being "just like" this or that. It's either a good likeness or the associations which create meaning have broken down "or somethin'."

This parable represents a few things about language, likeness and how creatures try to define what they like:The Beasts

It could probably use some refining and defining, but isn't that always the case...

A side note, I guess I'm slowing down these days when it comes to writing. But I have a few stories about the invisible and the visible left in me, the metaphoric mind is all craaaazy like that. Quite insane, or so our little Soul Doctors will argue just as they always have. Their own soul is rather flat. So they must make themselves feel better about it all. So now, how does that make you feeel? These days if we go on a journey of the mind and come to the inner sanctum of the soul we will find the muddy tracks of the psychologist through its garden. They trample on the mentation that could grow so fine in the feelings of the soul and so eventually other souls come to feel as flat as their own, the poor souls.

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