On Religion and stuff

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Lambuzhao
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Lambuzhao » Sun 14 Oct 2012, 00:27

Indeed, He of the Brow over the Eye that incites perpetual Awe!

Your discursus made me immediately think of two things. First, how, in learning Judo, many terms for kata forms are learned sort of without question. After I took a couple of years of Japanese, however, they became pretty diaphanous (and rather mundane): "foot sweep", "high kick", "shoulder throw".

Your discussion had me recall a revealing study by Miner (1956), which draws special attention to the problems of emist/etist points of view in anthropology.
Check it out here:
https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html?pagewanted=al

[;)]
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Lambuzhao » Sun 28 Oct 2012, 18:24

On a completely other note -


I only know a smidgeon of Lenni-Lenape, Susquehannok, Tzotzil Maya and Kechwa, but....

Is it me, or do Native American languages seem much better equipped linguistically
To tackle deeper deontic/epistemiological/ontological/evidential nuances of philosophy and religion?


In my opinion, when Native Americans make a serious exegesis of Western Philosophy in their own languages, I believe that many philosophical and religious “Gordian Knots”
that have clusterfokked western philosophic & religious thought Will almost magically become clear, as if elevated into the 4th Dimension and allowed to simply slip apart.

I long for that day.
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Torco » Mon 29 Oct 2012, 17:57

I really have no idea... why would they?
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Xing » Mon 29 Oct 2012, 22:48

Lambuzhao wrote: Is it me, or do Native American languages seem much better equipped linguistically
To tackle deeper deontic/epistemiological/ontological/evidential nuances of philosophy and religion?

In what way(s)?

Would my master's thesis in philosophy have become better if I had written it in a Native American language?
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Lambuzhao » Mon 29 Oct 2012, 23:41

Whoa, a big sweeping claim. Rather than make the sweeping claim, let me recast it as a wondering aloud.

And let me focus the meandering down somewhat.

I wonder if a Socratic dialogue would have turned out differently if iy were spoken in Kechwa, for example.
I wonder if more explicit evidentiality cues would've helped it along. Now, I [<3] :grc: , probably more than most, as a well-nigh incomparable vehicle for some pretty sublime thought. Although :eng: certainly gets a lot more press nowadays, I have found it sorely lacking when reading texts in the original :grc:, and then looking at scholarly translations.

I just wonder if :que: , or another Native American language ( :chr: :nav: :mex: ) , could discuss such things as the nature of soul. or freedom or equality in a more straightforward/economical way.

I'm wondering, and I also wonder if there are some speakers of :que: :chr: :nav: :mex: or other Native Tongues who might shed some light.

Third, as an example, I wonder if I might have been able to write my undergrad thesis on applications of Rawlsian Justice in a more succinct/straightforward/economical manner using a Native American language.

Thoughts?
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by CrazyEttin » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 00:37

Lambuzhao wrote:Whoa, a big sweeping claim. Rather than make the sweeping claim, let me recast it as a wondering aloud.

And let me focus the meandering down somewhat.

I wonder if a Socratic dialogue would have turned out differently if iy were spoken in Kechwa, for example.
I wonder if more explicit evidentiality cues would've helped it along. Now, I [<3] :grc: , probably more than most, as a well-nigh incomparable vehicle for some pretty sublime thought. Although :eng: certainly gets a lot more press nowadays, I have found it sorely lacking when reading texts in the original :grc:, and then looking at scholarly translations.

I just wonder if :que: , or another Native American language ( :chr: :nav: :mex: ) , could discuss such things as the nature of soul. or freedom or equality in a more straightforward/economical way.

I'm wondering, and I also wonder if there are some speakers of :que: :chr: :nav: :mex: or other Native Tongues who might shed some light.

Third, as an example, I wonder if I might have been able to write my undergrad thesis on applications of Rawlsian Justice in a more succinct/straightforward/economical manner using a Native American language.

Thoughts?
I think any such generalisations about native american languages fail, because of the huge ammount of variety among the languages of the area. It's like asking if Eurasian langs are better at, say, talking about cooking.

(Also, any language can be made "optimal" for discussing philosophy: Just introduce the vocabulary needed, either as loans or neologisms.)
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by thetha » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 02:19

From what I have studied of Navajo, it's not really any better equipped at discussing those subjects than any other language. I feel like I'm missing something, because I don't really see how you would even come to the conclusion that it would have some sort of special perk in that department.
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Lambuzhao » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 02:53

Good points, thanks
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Trailsend » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 06:07

CrazyEttin wrote:I think any such generalisations about native american languages fail, because of the huge ammount of variety among the languages of the area. It's like asking if Eurasian langs are better at, say, talking about cooking.
To give a concrete example of this, it is much harder to discuss a great many philosophical concepts in Chinuk Wawa than in English. But is this because Wawa is a Native American language, or because it is a creole grown from a trade pidgin? ;)

But if we avoid getting into magical Native language stereotypes, I think your question is still interesting. Back in school I was required to take an extremely frustrating "Philosophy of Language" class, many of whose "profound questions" appeared to be mere products of linguistic accident that would vanish completely if your language happened to work differently. I noticed most of them, I think, because this came sometime after I had revamped Feayran to have no morphosyntactic notion of noun, and working with the language in this form had given me practice as thinking in terms of statements about points of reference instead of collections of nouns and verbs.

(So, for example, when one lecture featured the exciting conundrum of "Are numbers real things? Does the word 'three' refer to some kind of actual object?", I spent the entire time thinking, "The only reason this ever came up is that the word we use for 'three' happens to share morphosyntactic properties with the words we use for 'stick' and 'rock' and 'coconut.' If instead our word 'three' happened to share morphosyntactic properties with words like 'run' and 'enjoy' and 'grow,' you wouldn't have even thought of the question.")
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Systemzwang » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 13:34

Trailsend wrote: (So, for example, when one lecture featured the exciting conundrum of "Are numbers real things? Does the word 'three' refer to some kind of actual object?", I spent the entire time thinking, "The only reason this ever came up is that the word we use for 'three' happens to share morphosyntactic properties with the words we use for 'stick' and 'rock' and 'coconut.' If instead our word 'three' happened to share morphosyntactic properties with words like 'run' and 'enjoy' and 'grow,' you wouldn't have even thought of the question.")
People have thought of that question though - is there a real thing that the subject participates in in the sentence "John runs"? So your objection is dumb.
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Torco » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 14:05

have people ever tested this hipotheses? like used different langs to figure out of people can talk more effectively about this or that in this or that lang ?
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Lambuzhao » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 14:36

I think the word "effectively" is in and of itself a nest of vipers.
[:$]
But there would be a translation challenge!
It would be almost the polar opposite to the mindless google-translate & retranslate ad
absurdum ad infinitum. Y'know, the ones to see just how far away and unintelligible a computer-based translation can go off the rails from language to language.
[:x]

In this type of challenge, the translators would need to have their translations most replete with meaning (in, perhaps, the most linguistically economical, even austere, way).

[o.O]
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Lambuzhao » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 15:22

Torco, this may be a first baby-step towards what you asked (more anecdotal, though, I'm afraid)

http://unpolishedjade.wordpress.com/201 ... l-chinese/
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Torco » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 16:04

why would condensing the most information in the least amount of words or characters or anything like that be inherently a good thing? it might actually be distracting. like in spanish, sure, we encode gender, but no one cares whether brooms are feminine or sofas masculine. I would think that, if anything, certain grammatical structures might be associated with more effective discourse on certain stuff

but its not such an operational quagmire: you can have groups of people of roughly equal intelligence and education learn a language and use it to solve collectively some task; maybe you can use, say, English, Quechua and Hebrew or something, and see which group solves which cooperative tasks of various sorts faster and/or better.
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Lambuzhao » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 16:48

That's more in line, yes. Gracias, O Ceja Mirabile! [;)]
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Xing » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 18:02

Trailsend wrote:
(So, for example, when one lecture featured the exciting conundrum of "Are numbers real things? Does the word 'three' refer to some kind of actual object?", I spent the entire time thinking, "The only reason this ever came up is that the word we use for 'three' happens to share morphosyntactic properties with the words we use for 'stick' and 'rock' and 'coconut.' If instead our word 'three' happened to share morphosyntactic properties with words like 'run' and 'enjoy' and 'grow,' you wouldn't have even thought of the question.")
There has been a strain in contemporary philosophy - influence by Ludwig Wittgenstein - that claims that all (or at least most) philosophical problems are, at bottom, the result of language usage. Once we are clear about the way we use our language, the philosophical problems would vanish. For example, when it comes to the existence of God, they might say that we should just take careful note of how people use the word "God", or what "language game" they are playing. Once we've done that, they believe that there'll be no metaphysical problem left for us. Or when it comes to, say, the question of identity (whether or not to things or persons or whatever are "the same") - they might claim that we should just analyse what people mean when they use the word "same". ("Is A the same as B? Well, that depends on what you mean by 'the same'")

Now I - and I think the majority of Western- style philosophers - believe that there are such things as real, substantial philosophical problems. Whether God exists might be such a question - the answer to which may have huge consequences for many people.



To go back to Lambu's question - whether philosophical or religious issues would be dealt by in a different manner, if the language were different. It seems to me like it's a version of the classical question of linguistic relativity. And I guess the answer would be somewhat classical: I think that the more radical versions of linguistic determinism (that say, for example, that the language people speak have tremendous effects on their thoughts and world-view) are wrong. More moderate versions of linguistic relativity, might have some grain of truth in them (though the issue - as far as I know - is not completely settled).
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Lambuzhao » Tue 30 Oct 2012, 20:14

Yes, it seems I have tread into that "Frankenstorm" known as the Whorf Hypothesis.

I do not have the studies at my fingertips to correlate a stricter interpretation of what is called language determinism.

A glance at some Google hits, though, seems to put equal weight in both camps (in favor, against), but more so
giving weight to the language relativism (weak language determinism) camp.

Grand Ngohe of the Nizhmel, thanks for helping to rein in my train of thought!

This bears more reading of some nuts-n-bolts texts, lest I, like Stuart Chase before me, be called
"utterly incompetent by training and background to handle such a subject." (Whorf's words).

Takk!


BTW, Torco,
Eric Lenneberg and Roger Brown did some studies regarding color terminology in Zuni and English. I think that bears directly upon what you were asking.


I don't want to open another can of worms without reading some more, but

In what way(s)?

Would my master's thesis in philosophy have become better if I had written it in a Native American language?
That would depend upon what specific thesis question was at the heart of your work, and which Native American language we/you/somebody chose (or even Classical :zho: , or Sanskrit, or my hands-down fave, :grc:). An interesting thought-experiment, at any rate. I believe that, if I rewrote my old Rawlsian Justice paper in Classical
:grc:, I think that the language would discipline me into another mode of expression. Would it make my understanding more or less clear of Rawls? Would it make my arguments more transparent? I wonder at those questions, knowing in the back of my mind, how powerful a vehicle :grc: has been for "Big Guns" like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle.

It bears more thinking and reading.

Thanks again, Xing & Torco
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Micamo » Wed 31 Oct 2012, 14:54

Xing wrote:There has been a strain in contemporary philosophy - influence by Ludwig Wittgenstein - that claims that all (or at least most) philosophical problems are, at bottom, the result of language usage. Once we are clear about the way we use our language, the philosophical problems would vanish. For example, when it comes to the existence of God, they might say that we should just take careful note of how people use the word "God", or what "language game" they are playing. Once we've done that, they believe that there'll be no metaphysical problem left for us. Or when it comes to, say, the question of identity (whether or not to things or persons or whatever are "the same") - they might claim that we should just analyse what people mean when they use the word "same". ("Is A the same as B? Well, that depends on what you mean by 'the same'").
Well, philosophical problems are problems of understanding. This kind of position makes sense if you take all understanding to be linguistic in nature, but this feels like we're just twisting things around to explain them away instead of actually trying to solve them.
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Salmoneus » Wed 31 Oct 2012, 15:09

Xing wrote:
Trailsend wrote:
(So, for example, when one lecture featured the exciting conundrum of "Are numbers real things? Does the word 'three' refer to some kind of actual object?", I spent the entire time thinking, "The only reason this ever came up is that the word we use for 'three' happens to share morphosyntactic properties with the words we use for 'stick' and 'rock' and 'coconut.' If instead our word 'three' happened to share morphosyntactic properties with words like 'run' and 'enjoy' and 'grow,' you wouldn't have even thought of the question.")
There has been a strain in contemporary philosophy - influence by Ludwig Wittgenstein - that claims that all (or at least most) philosophical problems are, at bottom, the result of language usage. Once we are clear about the way we use our language, the philosophical problems would vanish. For example, when it comes to the existence of God, they might say that we should just take careful note of how people use the word "God", or what "language game" they are playing. Once we've done that, they believe that there'll be no metaphysical problem left for us. Or when it comes to, say, the question of identity (whether or not to things or persons or whatever are "the same") - they might claim that we should just analyse what people mean when they use the word "same". ("Is A the same as B? Well, that depends on what you mean by 'the same'")

Now I - and I think the majority of Western- style philosophers - believe that there are such things as real, substantial philosophical problems. Whether God exists might be such a question - the answer to which may have huge consequences for many people.
Of course - because from about 1960/1970 on, philosophy departments realised that if they paid any attention to Wittgenstein, Wisdom, Ryle, Quine, Austin, etc, or really any philosophy that had been done in the last twenty or thirty years, they'd all be out of a job. Unsurprisingly, when philosophy departments were asked the question "is there any good reason to keep paying people to maintain philosophy departments", the answer was a resounding 'yes, it's essential that you keep giving us money' - particularly from the younger philosophers who had not yet made a career for themselves!

Unfortunately, this spontaneous turn (Kripke, Lewis, Strawson, etc) involved flat-out ignoring all that inconvenient business and going on as though it had never happened. Wittgenstein and OLP were so far as I can see (for the most part, minus a few particular issues) never actually 'answered' or 'addressed', just ignored, and excorcised from history. Back when I was writing my 'history of philosophy' series of posts over at the ZBB, I was horrified to note that while the SEP has a big article for John Austin, early 19th century legal theorist and friend of Mill, it has no article whatsoever for John L Austin, the most influential english-language philosopher of the post-war period. Nor is there any article on OLP, nor is there an article on Wisdom, nor Hart; Grice and Ryle just scrape in, and Quine is still permitted due to his naturalistic bent. Think about that: an article on Hasdai Crescas, 14th century jewish polemicist, sure, and one on Joane Petrizi, noted 12th century georgian neoplatonist... but any articles on what a few short decades ago was the dominant philosophical school and the future of philosophy? No, of course not! In the whole of my degree I was never told to read Wittgenstein, Ryle, or any OLP except Strawson (except for, naturally, in the voluntary Later Wittgenstein module I took). Wittgenstein is widely adulated as the great philosopher of the century... but how many people taking philosophy courses are ever enjoined to give more than cursory attention to what he actually said?

----

On Rawls and Greek: it would be pointless writing about Rawls in Ancient Greek. Because just as any serious writing about the ancients is filled with untranslated jargon and editorial footnotes about how 'aition' doesn't exactly mean 'cause' and so on, so too any serious writing about Rawls in Ancient Greek would be filled with untranslated English words, and explanatory footnotes. Translation is a barrier between us and the meaning of the text.

------

On whether Rotokas is good for philosophy: it's, like most philosophical questions, a non-question. Obviously a Rotokas speaker who knows no philosophy would not be good at talking about philosophy. So you'd need one who knew philosophy. In what language would he have been taught philosophy? If he's been taught philosophy in English, testing his ability to philosophise in Rotokas would be meaningless, just a test of how good he is at translating. But if he's been taught philosophy in Rotokas, what words did the teacher use? Words that mean exactly what the English words mean, or words with their own meaning? If he used words with their own meaning, no wonder he's not able to philosophise with us, since if he's been learning about Ryle through a vocabulary that doesnt' faithfully translate Ryle's meaning, he'll be very confused, and we'll be confused if we think we're both talking about Ryle. But if the teacher bends the Rotokas words, defines them for his student, so that they equate to the English (or German, Latin, Greek, etc) words, then he's just talking in a calque of English and we are not seeing the effect of real Rotokas on philosophy, just of English relexed to sound like Rotokas.

The problem is that philosophy isn't just a practical endeavour, but is also a literary tradition. We cannot compare it in two wholly different languages, because the languages must be, or be brought, within a close distance to enable the literature of one language to be faithfully understood through translation into the other.

Therefore, English philosophy is best carried out in English, and Chinese philosophy in Chinese... but this tells us nothing about either 'English' and 'Chinese', nor 'philosophy' per se.
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Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Salmoneus » Wed 31 Oct 2012, 15:25

Micamo wrote: Well, philosophical problems are problems of understanding. This kind of position makes sense if you take all understanding to be linguistic in nature, but this feels like we're just twisting things around to explain them away instead of actually trying to solve them.
But that presupposes that the problems exist. Wittgenstein doesn't usually claim to solve problems, but to dissolve them - to show that the problem we think we are trying to solve does not really exist.


====

Btw, Xing, I'd trace that strain of philosophy, which is closely associated with ordinary language analysis, and has been called 'therapeutic philosophy' as opposed to scholastic philosophy, back rather earlier. At the very least the thing was born with Moore, who developed both the idea of OL analysis and the idea of dissolution (cf his 'look, I've got a hand!' experiment). Before analytical philosophy, I think the approach can also be seen in Nietzsche - his genealogy of philosophy is both a condemnation of the ideal/real, and also a dissolution in its own right ('in abolishing the real world we have abolished the apparent world also').

[Regarding Moore, do you know Nagel's joke about the three approaches to skepticism? Doubt is an immense chasm, and we're on one side trying to get to the other. One type of philosopher, the heroic philosopher, takes a great running jump, shouts 'look at me cross the gap!', and then falls screaming into the abyss. The second type of philosopher, the skeptic, walks up to the chasm, starts crying, sits down on the ground and bewails 'woe is us! we can never get across this gap! nothing we can do will ever suffice to let us cross!'.
Then there's GE Moore. He walks up the chasm, ponders for a moment, checks that nobody is looking, then turns and puts his back to the precipice, looks back down the road he's come up on, and cries out 'look everybody! We're on the other side now! Isn't that great!?'
It's a joke that picks up on Moore's tendency to dissolve problems rather than 'solve' them. But it's also one that always comes to mind when I think about modern philosophy's relationship with wittgenstein. OLP jumped out into the chasm wittgenstein opened and was lost; a bunch of other people sat down and became linguists or psychologists; and modern philosophy just proclaims that we've reached the other side, and enjoins us to turn around and go back to doing what we were doing before.]
]
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