On Religion and stuff

Discussions regarding actual culture and history of Earth.
Systemzwang
greek
greek
Posts: 615
Joined: Sun 15 Aug 2010, 14:48
Contact:

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Systemzwang » Wed 31 Oct 2012, 16:00

The posts by Salmoneus in this thread are great. I wish I could have phrased myself that well, alas I lack the knowledge of philosophy to do so. I am a bit disappointed, though, that no one else but him and me here has spotted the basic flaw in ascribing a more "philosophical" nature to one language over another.

There's different ways of dealing with that which is different: some fear it, some idolize it, some idealize it, some dislike it, etc. Ascribing a more philosophical nature to this or that language in general is just another symptom of this inability to deal with that which is different in a relaxed, natural manner. "Native Americans have languages/cultures/.... that differ from European languages/cultures/..., therefore they must be less/more [...]". A naive approach to things, really.
Trailsend
moderator
moderator
Posts: 1622
Joined: Wed 18 Aug 2010, 04:22

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Trailsend » Wed 31 Oct 2012, 19:35

Salmoneus wrote: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.
Ah! This is what I was trying and failing to communicate earlier.
Trailsend wrote: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?
It would be much more difficult, for example, to discuss the Platonic notion of Ideal Forms in Wawa than it would be in English, but this has nothing to do with magical, inherent properties of English or Wawa, and everything to do with the fact that a community of English-speaking philosophers has taken the time to build up the necessary literature to bring English close enough to the original discussion of Greek to enable us to talk about (and extend) the ideas in English. The same could happen in Wawa, given a community of Wawa-speaking philosophers with sufficient motivation and time. If that sounds perfectly practical and banal, that's because it is.

(Thanks, Sal—talking about this in terms of established literature makes it a lot easier. I will be stealing that angle next time I encounter this question!)


EDIT: Also, Systemzwang, is there a particular work you could point me to regarding your response to me at the bottom of page 3? I would be happy to find out that there was actually an interesting issue underlying my professor's presentation of the question.
任何事物的发展都是物极必反,否极泰来。
User avatar
Xing
MVP
MVP
Posts: 5311
Joined: Sun 22 Aug 2010, 17:46

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Xing » Wed 31 Oct 2012, 19:57

I see there have been some interesting responses [:)]

Undoubtedly, analyses of terms is a necessary part of philosophical enquiry. This is particularly true when one is studying historical philosophical texts - it's both an exegetical/linguistic and a philosophical task. But in my opinion, it cannot stop there. When we are comparing - for example - the theories of Rawls and Nozick (or any two mutually excluding theories), we (or at least I) want to know which one is right. I would be disappointed by a philosophical dissertation that merely stated that Rawls and Nozick use terms like "rights" and "justice" etc. in different ways.
Salmoneus
MVP
MVP
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon 19 Sep 2011, 18:37

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Salmoneus » Thu 01 Nov 2012, 02:26

Xing wrote:I see there have been some interesting responses [:)]

Undoubtedly, analyses of terms is a necessary part of philosophical enquiry. This is particularly true when one is studying historical philosophical texts - it's both an exegetical/linguistic and a philosophical task. But in my opinion, it cannot stop there. When we are comparing - for example - the theories of Rawls and Nozick (or any two mutually excluding theories), we (or at least I) want to know which one is right. I would be disappointed by a philosophical dissertation that merely stated that Rawls and Nozick use terms like "rights" and "justice" etc. in different ways.
Well now, there are two Wittgensteinian issues at play here, and one scholastic note.
The first issue is the idea that problems should be dissolved, not solved. The second, related, one is that philosophy should 'leave everything as it is', with no real-world significance.
I'd agree with you that Wittgenstein was overly humble about the role of philosophy - philosophy can change our worldview and hence cause us to act in different ways. However, rejecting the 'leave things as they are' thesis doesn't mean rejecting the dissolution theory, provided we do not also hold a universalist/objectivist-rationalist faith that all disagreements come down to failures of reasoning.

What I mean by that is: many apparent disagreements between liberal egalitarians and libertarians may well be false disagreements, which can be dissolved through philosophy, showing how they are using different terms in different ways, or placing different priorities on things. You're right that it's hard to see how that can entirely resolve the argument and 'prove' that the Nozickians are wrong (or, more accurately, that both sides are wrong)... but maybe you just have too much faith that this is possible at all? Maybe we just need to reduce the political positions down to the basic forms of life that they represent, and then just choose for ourselves which form of life we prefer - why must there be one form of life that can be proven to be best through argument?
What's more, given that Wittgenstein's dissolutions inherently imply that some people are wrong, there's obviously nothing unwittgensteinian about thinking people, perhaps including nozick, are wrong. Thinking that the political question "what is justice?" is not truly the question being asked when people think they are asking what justice is does NOT necessarily mean not disagreeing with anyone when they say what they think justice is.

Which brings us to the scholastic point, that Wittgenstein's philosophy of dissolution seems in practice to have been directed primarily at metaphysics, and by extension epistemology. While he may have included certain metaphysical stances in metaethics within this, I don't get the impression that thinks all practical ethical reasoning is fruitless - just that it can't be approached through philosophical reasoning.




Trailsend: yes, I think we are seeing this in the same way, and your own post did help guide me in formulating my own.






In general: I will say that I do think there is a problem with a lack of awareness of linguistics among philosophers (and of course vice versa), and there are sometimes rather parochial views, particularly within the philosophy of language, philosophy of logic, and metaphysics, in which perhaps overly clear distinctions are insisted on between objects and processes, and too much credit is given to the precise details of English phrasings of things. However, I'm not sure that this involves any fundamental or irreparable fault in philosophy, only perhaps a degree of simplification.
User avatar
Xing
MVP
MVP
Posts: 5311
Joined: Sun 22 Aug 2010, 17:46

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Xing » Thu 01 Nov 2012, 17:05

It's a possible outcome of a philosophical enquiry can be that there is no "real" issue at stake - that the parties are just using philosophical terms in different ways.

We could take the discussions between externalists and internalists in epistemology, as an example. It could turn out, that our concept of knowledge is ambiguous - that there are some senses of "knowledge" for which an externalist account is suitable, and others for which an internalist account is. Or it could turn out, that externalism and internalism do not contradict each other - as soon as we are clear about what we *really* mean by those terms.

Some forms of analytical philosophy can - IMO - turn into a nitpicking about the use of certain words. But I don't think we should overemphasise the influence of language on philosophy. Many philosophers are - in my experience - often careful to distinguish their use of certain terms like "knowledge" from various everyday meaning of those terms, which might carry with them different connotations. And philosophy can make distinctions, where language does not. For example, anglophone philosophers may distinguish between different kinds of modality (epistemic, situational, etc.), though these are conflated in English (as opposed to what's the case in many other languages.)
Salmoneus
MVP
MVP
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon 19 Sep 2011, 18:37

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Salmoneus » Thu 01 Nov 2012, 19:28

Xing wrote:It's a possible outcome of a philosophical enquiry can be that there is no "real" issue at stake - that the parties are just using philosophical terms in different ways.

We could take the discussions between externalists and internalists in epistemology, as an example. It could turn out, that our concept of knowledge is ambiguous - that there are some senses of "knowledge" for which an externalist account is suitable, and others for which an internalist account is. Or it could turn out, that externalism and internalism do not contradict each other - as soon as we are clear about what we *really* mean by those terms.
Indeed, this seems very much to be the case.

Some forms of analytical philosophy can - IMO - turn into a nitpicking about the use of certain words. But I don't think we should overemphasise the influence of language on philosophy.
As soon as you start doing philosophy WITHOUT language, I'll accept that language isn't important. But go ask Mr Cratylus how that turned out...
Many philosophers are - in my experience - often careful to distinguish their use of certain terms like "knowledge" from various everyday meaning of those terms, which might carry with them different connotations. And philosophy can make distinctions, where language does not. For example, anglophone philosophers may distinguish between different kinds of modality (epistemic, situational, etc.), though these are conflated in English (as opposed to what's the case in many other languages.)
They're only able to make those distinctions through language - through their shared academic jargon, which is just another part of English. And if they take pains to distinguish their use of a word from its actual normal usage, their arguments about the precise meaning of that word become even more pointless - who cares if "Knowledge" is justified true belief or not, if "Knowledge" isn't a word for actual knowledge, i.e. if it doesn't mean what we use it to mean? Then they're just saying "this word you invented and can define to mean whatever you want it to mean - I think it means something different!". What practical significance does that have?
User avatar
Xing
MVP
MVP
Posts: 5311
Joined: Sun 22 Aug 2010, 17:46

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Xing » Thu 01 Nov 2012, 20:06

Salmoneus wrote:
Xing wrote:It's a possible outcome of a philosophical enquiry can be that there is no "real" issue at stake - that the parties are just using philosophical terms in different ways.

We could take the discussions between externalists and internalists in epistemology, as an example. It could turn out, that our concept of knowledge is ambiguous - that there are some senses of "knowledge" for which an externalist account is suitable, and others for which an internalist account is. Or it could turn out, that externalism and internalism do not contradict each other - as soon as we are clear about what we *really* mean by those terms.
Indeed, this seems very much to be the case.
Maybe, maybe not. I have at times leaned towards regarding "externalist" and "internalise" knowledge as different, though related concepts. But I'm not sure.

In any case, it would be to go to another extreme to say that all problems of epistemology are merely a matter of words. That English accidentally happened to have a word "knowledge" in English, whose usage we try to analyse, and that there would be no epistemology (as we know it) if it wasn't for this particular word.


Many philosophers are - in my experience - often careful to distinguish their use of certain terms like "knowledge" from various everyday meaning of those terms, which might carry with them different connotations. And philosophy can make distinctions, where language does not. For example, anglophone philosophers may distinguish between different kinds of modality (epistemic, situational, etc.), though these are conflated in English (as opposed to what's the case in many other languages.)
They're only able to make those distinctions through language - through their shared academic jargon, which is just another part of English. And if they take pains to distinguish their use of a word from its actual normal usage, their arguments about the precise meaning of that word become even more pointless - who cares if "Knowledge" is justified true belief or not, if "Knowledge" isn't a word for actual knowledge, i.e. if it doesn't mean what we use it to mean? Then they're just saying "this word you invented and can define to mean whatever you want it to mean - I think it means something different!". What practical significance does that have?
Philosophical concepts like "knowledge", "value", "justice" etc. need not be totally detached from everyday usage. Perhaps more refined. But not anything that philosophers just make up, independent of real problems in ethics, society, science, religion, etc. (Admittedly, it may be the case that philosophers use terms in such a narrow or technical sense that they become uninteresting - but that's not the rule, in my experience).
User avatar
Lambuzhao
earth
earth
Posts: 7552
Joined: Sun 13 May 2012, 01:57

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Lambuzhao » Thu 01 Nov 2012, 21:54

Systemzwang wrote:The posts by Salmoneus in this thread are great. I wish I could have phrased myself that well, alas I lack the knowledge of philosophy to do so. I am a bit disappointed, though, that no one else but him and me here has spotted the basic flaw in ascribing a more "philosophical" nature to one language over another.

There's different ways of dealing with that which is different: some fear it, some idolize it, some idealize it, some dislike it, etc. Ascribing a more philosophical nature to this or that language in general is just another symptom of this inability to deal with that which is different in a relaxed, natural manner. "Native Americans have languages/cultures/.... that differ from European languages/cultures/..., therefore they must be less/more [...]". A naive approach to things, really.
It seems to me that this was almost exactly the approach Whorf took when he began postulating what would become linguistic determinism/linguistic relativism.
When we started to talk about this, I wasn't aware that Whorf was Professor of Native American Languages, but, thanks to Xing, I found out now.

I imagine Whorf's approach was naive as well, upon reflection.

Thanks for the clarification.


Ad Salmoneo-
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,
Usually some notes in the Preface section would help (the reader, and the author). That's where those kind of notes ought to be found, in serious writings.
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.
Rawls' A Theory of Justice ? Not a text that leaps to mind when considering a
bevy of philosophical neologisms, or neologisms in general. If Peter Needham made a passable translation of Harry Potter into :grc: (a work of fiction), I fail to see the impossibility of writing about (or even translating) Rawls' work ( a work of philosophy) which has, at its core, probably more Greek-inspired ideas than Life at Hogwart's, wouldn't you think? I do not think commenting on or translating Rawls into Greek to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, I disagree that a contemporaneous work on political philosophy (like Rawls' A Theory of Justice ) would be untranslatable into the idiom within which a good portion of both Western Politics and Western Philosophy were forged.

------
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.
I just don't get it, Sal. It seems to me that you are saying translation is both a barrier, or a bridge. Or just a fence, and we're bucking it like moonshined buckaroos on a bronco. So, if the conditions are right between two langs, then we get an okay translation. Otherwise, translation's a barrier we cannot cross. Is that what your getting at? Please advise (maybe again).
Last edited by Lambuzhao on Thu 01 Nov 2012, 22:47, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Xing
MVP
MVP
Posts: 5311
Joined: Sun 22 Aug 2010, 17:46

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Xing » Thu 01 Nov 2012, 22:46

Lambuzhao wrote:
It seems to me that this was almost exactly the approach Whorf took when he began postulating what would become linguistic determinism/linguistic relativism.
When we started to talk about this, I wasn't aware that Whorf was Professor of Native American Languages, but, thanks to Xing, I found out now.

I imagine Whorf's approach was naive as well, upon reflection.

Thanks for the clarification.
Though the original version of the Sapir-Whorf-hypothesis may be naive, the basic questions need not be.

Words in different languages do not stand in a one-to-one correspondence to each other. Judging from what I have read about more sophisticated versions of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, there *might* be evidence that people are more prone to group together things that fall under the same word in their native languages.

Even a person like Mark C Baker, who do linguistics from a genrativist/principles and parameters-framwork, admits that there may be some grain of truths in more moderate versions of linguistic relativity:
Mark Baker wrote:"Even though all languages can express all ideas, this does not mean that all languages can express those ideas with equal ease."
/The Atoms of Language, p. 233

**********

We often encounter situations where one language has a word, that is difficult to translate properly into other languages, without losing some of its connotations, or having to make use of clumsy circumlocations. This could of course be the case with also with philosophical or theological terms - terms like God, virtue, soul, justice, soul etc.

Philosophical and religious traditions are - not surprisingly - different in different parts of the world. This may reflect in the languages spoken. (At least when it comes to vocabulary...) The question is in which way the causal link goes.
User avatar
Lambuzhao
earth
earth
Posts: 7552
Joined: Sun 13 May 2012, 01:57

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Lambuzhao » Thu 01 Nov 2012, 22:59

Words in different languages do not stand in a one-to-one correspondence to each other. Judging from what I have read about more sophisticated versions of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, there *might* be evidence that people are more prone to group together things that fall under the same word in their native languages.
Aha! Your quote reminds me of the trials and tribulations of the Color Terminology experiments. Calls of "Indo-European centrism" was an eyebrow lifter.
Aseca
sinic
sinic
Posts: 352
Joined: Mon 04 Jun 2012, 13:34

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Aseca » Thu 08 Nov 2012, 09:14

From what I've learnt from Philosophy, which tries to perceive absolute and relative position and reality itself, the thinking behind it, such as the famous Descartes' quote 'I think therefore I am', is inherently flawed as you can actually not think but still be, as in what they call 'the observer/consciousness' state (without the ego, ahamkara, the soul, ātman, exists)
As well as observations and postulates proposed by various philosophers such as Marx, Plato, Socrates, etc, were all about getting to the crux of the issue - 'who are you?', 'why are you here?', 'what is your purpose in life?', and the ultimate question - 'what is reality?'.

These questions are never answered aquedately in any current religion apart from 'letting Jesus in your heart' type responses and 'you must believe in Allah, God, etc'. The closest explanations to all these burning questions that everyone wants to know the answer to is all in the Vedas, most notably under the concept of 'Sanátama Dharma' or 'life morals', 'satisfied life, satisfaction unto itself', 'way of life', 'principle behind karma', 'the eternal law', etc, etc. Dharma certainly means 'purpose', 'way', 'action', 'path', 'destiny', but not fate.

Philosophy, in itself, is labelled in Yoga as 'Jñāna Yoga' or the 'intellect/mind-yoke'. Religion, if it is based on principles found in Sanatama Dharma, teaches 'Bhakti Yoga' (devotion, faith, love).
There are 8 different types of Yoga. The one you most commonly associate with is 'Hatha Yoga' which is body poses and stretches. As for the other 5, they are slightly different yet all lead to the essence which is essentially Sanatama Dharma and Samādhi (enlightenment). All this explains the whole concept of 'Dharma' and 'Karma', as in what you do with your life, your intentions, and your actions will feed back whether now or later in life.

I hope this answers most of your questions about the principles of Philosophy and Religion. They really are intertwined, yet use different means to achieve the same goal - oneness (or Samadhi, Advaita Devanta, Brahma & ātman within Māyā). To put it simply one could say there is not a God, but only Brahma and the ātman, as part of a whole, yet never separate. Only the ahamkara or ego makes that a Māyā or 'illusion-reality'.

I apologise for using Sanskrit terms, but unfortunately, English fails in describing them well enough. As for languages embodying religious principles, sure you can use language to describe religion, but it will never completely satisfy that part of life, as it will lead to more questions and more questions, never quite getting anywhere.
Sikatāyām kaṇam lokasya darśasi, svargam phale vanye ca.
See a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower.
Ānantam tava karatalena darasi, nityatām ghaṇṭabhyantare ca.
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.
Salmoneus
MVP
MVP
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon 19 Sep 2011, 18:37

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Salmoneus » Thu 08 Nov 2012, 14:04

Xing wrote:
Salmoneus wrote:
Xing wrote:It's a possible outcome of a philosophical enquiry can be that there is no "real" issue at stake - that the parties are just using philosophical terms in different ways.

We could take the discussions between externalists and internalists in epistemology, as an example. It could turn out, that our concept of knowledge is ambiguous - that there are some senses of "knowledge" for which an externalist account is suitable, and others for which an internalist account is. Or it could turn out, that externalism and internalism do not contradict each other - as soon as we are clear about what we *really* mean by those terms.
Indeed, this seems very much to be the case.
Maybe, maybe not. I have at times leaned towards regarding "externalist" and "internalise" knowledge as different, though related concepts. But I'm not sure.

In any case, it would be to go to another extreme to say that all problems of epistemology are merely a matter of words. That English accidentally happened to have a word "knowledge" in English, whose usage we try to analyse, and that there would be no epistemology (as we know it) if it wasn't for this particular word.
Correct. There would be no epistemology as we know it if we had no word 'knowledge' or a calque of it. This seems blindingly obvious. Just trying to remove that word from existing treatises on epistemology, let alone words defined through that word, should show you that epistemology without that word would have to be very different.
Salmoneus
MVP
MVP
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon 19 Sep 2011, 18:37

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Salmoneus » Thu 08 Nov 2012, 14:39

Lambuzhao wrote:
Ad Salmoneo-
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,
Usually some notes in the Preface section would help (the reader, and the author). That's where those kind of notes ought to be found, in serious writings.
No. Yes, extended notes on the meaning of really important words, like 'tao' or 'vorstellung' need to be in the preface. But in 'serious writings' there ought to be continued footnotes in the text to discuss other issues as they arise.
Rawls' A Theory of Justice ? Not a text that leaps to mind when considering a
bevy of philosophical neologisms, or neologisms in general.
Who said anything about neologisms? You seem to think that English has evolved from Greek and anything not found in Greek must be a neologism. Something can be non-Greek and yet still have a long history in English.
p176: "This scheme is part of the theory of justice as fairness and not an account of how constitutional conventions and legislatures actually proceed... Thus on many questions of social and economic policy we must fall back upon a notion of quasi-pure procedural justice... the controvery between proponants of negative and positive liberty as to how freedom should be defined is one I shall leave aside."
p370: "In these remarks about the devices of deliberation and time-related principles I have tried to fill in Sidgewick's notion of a person's good. In brief, our good is determined by the plan of life that we would adopt with full deliberative rationality if the future were accurately foreseen and adequately realised in the imagination... the criterion of good is hypothetical in a way similar to the criterion of justice."
p503: "Therefore acting wrongly is always liable to arouse feelings of guilt and shame, the emotions aroused by the defeat of our regulative moral sentiments. Of course, this does not mean that the realization of our nature as a free and rational being is itself an all or nothing affair. To the contrary, how far we succeed in expressing our nature depends upon how consistently we act from our sense of justice as finally regulative... suppose that even in a well-ordered society there are some persons for whom the affirmation of their sense of justice is not a good. Given their aims and wants and the peculiarities of their nature, the thin account of the good does not define reasons sufficient for them to maintain this regulative sentiment."
Etc etc.
This is all technical stuff, and a non-philosopher might ask for footnotes even in ENGLISH... let alone a poor Athenian to whom many of these concepts are alien, and whose language and literature have not evolved the means to express them clearly and concisely.
If Peter Needham made a passable translation of Harry Potter into :grc: (a work of fiction), I fail to see the impossibility of writing about (or even translating) Rawls' work ( a work of philosophy) which has, at its core, probably more Greek-inspired ideas than Life at Hogwart's, wouldn't you think? I do not think commenting on or translating Rawls into Greek to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, I disagree that a contemporaneous work on political philosophy (like Rawls' A Theory of Justice ) would be untranslatable into the idiom within which a good portion of both Western Politics and Western Philosophy were forged.
I didn't say untranslatable.
------
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.
I just don't get it, Sal. It seems to me that you are saying translation is both a barrier, or a bridge. Or just a fence, and we're bucking it like moonshined buckaroos on a bronco. So, if the conditions are right between two langs, then we get an okay translation. Otherwise, translation's a barrier we cannot cross. Is that what your getting at? Please advise (maybe again).
What matters is not translation between languages, but translation between forms of life. People who have radically different forms of life will struggle to understand each other - the rules they follow are different, and hence the categories they distinguish are different. Languages merely reify these distinctions. Imagine a poker player who sits down to play poker but everybody else is playing bridge. Better yet, the people around him are using their pack of cards to symbolise a top trumps pack, with each card in the normal pack corresponding to a top trump card. How does the poker player understand what is going on? How do other people 'translate' what is going on into terms the poker player recognises, assuming the poker player knows only about poker? Or vice versa, how is poker explained to people who only play top trumps? Some translations are relatively easy - 'card', for instance. Others are more complicated - maybe if they are playing an aircraft pack of top trumps, the poker player could explain 'suit' by reference to American, Russian, French, British aircraft. Other translations are more complicated - "big blind", for instance, is hard to directly express in the language of top trumps. And top trumps and poker are at least both comparison games... what about bridge and tarot? Of course, 'translations' can be constructed, but they will often be overly complex and unintuitive, requiring many footnotes... and the bridge player who learns about tarot readings by translating everything into bridge terminology in their head will be like to go astray when they try to reason about tarot, because the assumptions of bridge will be entrenched in their intuitive reasoning. They do not really 'understand' tarot completely so long as they must always interpret it as a peculiar form of bridge.
Some parts of language, of course, are very easy to translate. Talking about basic every-day items and activities is usually fairly easy, because here the two forms of life have the same structure - in this part of life, we are talking about two card-comparison games, the players are all trying the same thing, albeit in superficially different ways. But when we arrive at topics like ethics, metaphysics, political theory... then there is no guarentee that we are playing the same sorts of game at all. In those cases, we must learn the new game from the beginning.
Salmoneus
MVP
MVP
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon 19 Sep 2011, 18:37

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Salmoneus » Thu 08 Nov 2012, 14:48

Aseca wrote:From what I've learnt from Philosophy, which tries to perceive absolute and relative position and reality itself, the thinking behind it, such as the famous Descartes' quote 'I think therefore I am', is inherently flawed as you can actually not think but still be, as in what they call 'the observer/consciousness' state (without the ego, ahamkara, the soul, ātman, exists)
As well as observations and postulates proposed by various philosophers such as Marx, Plato, Socrates, etc, were all about getting to the crux of the issue - 'who are you?', 'why are you here?', 'what is your purpose in life?', and the ultimate question - 'what is reality?'.
*bangs head on table*
If you cannot reason, who are you to lecture us?
No, philosophy does not (or need not) try to perceive absolute and relative position and reality itself.
Whether you can be without thinking is debateable, but most importantly it is irrelevant to the question of whether you can think without being! Descartes did not say "I only exist because I think", he said that "I know that I am because I know that I think, and I know I cannot think unless I exist." This is entirely different!
And no, philosophers haven't all been asking what reality is, and they sure as hell haven't been asking 'why are you here' or suchlike.
These questions are never answered aquedately in any current religion apart from 'letting Jesus in your heart' type responses and 'you must believe in Allah, God, etc'. The closest explanations to all these burning questions that everyone wants to know the answer to is all in the Vedas, most notably under the concept of 'Sanátama Dharma' or 'life morals', 'satisfied life, satisfaction unto itself', 'way of life', 'principle behind karma', 'the eternal law', etc, etc. Dharma certainly means 'purpose', 'way', 'action', 'path', 'destiny', but not fate.
What is it with Hindus that they so often seem to think that blind and insistent parochialism is a better path than reason and observation? No need to study science or history or religion or philosophy, clearly the Vedas have the answer to everything! It's worth than the Biblical fundamentalists - at least they have some reason why the Bible's meant to be infallible, even if it's a crap one.

Philosophy, in itself, is labelled in Yoga as 'Jñāna Yoga' or the 'intellect/mind-yoke'. Religion, if it is based on principles found in Sanatama Dharma, teaches 'Bhakti Yoga' (devotion, faith, love).
There are 8 different types of Yoga. The one you most commonly associate with is 'Hatha Yoga' which is body poses and stretches. As for the other 5, they are slightly different yet all lead to the essence which is essentially Sanatama Dharma and Samādhi (enlightenment). All this explains the whole concept of 'Dharma' and 'Karma', as in what you do with your life, your intentions, and your actions will feed back whether now or later in life.

I hope this answers most of your questions about the principles of Philosophy and Religion. They really are intertwined, yet use different means to achieve the same goal - oneness (or Samadhi, Advaita Devanta, Brahma & ātman within Māyā). To put it simply one could say there is not a God, but only Brahma and the ātman, as part of a whole, yet never separate. Only the ahamkara or ego makes that a Māyā or 'illusion-reality'.
How could that POSSIBLY answer anybody's questions about the principle of philosophy and religion? All you have told us is your interpretation of what hinduism says about philosophy and religion. Unless people just accept without thinking that everything hinduism says is true, then this tells us nothing whatsoever! It's like answering the question "what is colour?" with "blue is the best colour!".
User avatar
Xing
MVP
MVP
Posts: 5311
Joined: Sun 22 Aug 2010, 17:46

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Xing » Thu 08 Nov 2012, 21:25

Salmoneus wrote: Correct. There would be no epistemology as we know it if we had no word 'knowledge' or a calque of it. This seems blindingly obvious. Just trying to remove that word from existing treatises on epistemology, let alone words defined through that word, should show you that epistemology without that word would have to be very different.
I must say, that I highly disagree with you on this issue. I believe that words are not just tokens to be played with in a game, but that they actually refer to things in reality. There are real differences between knowledge and ignorance, or between truth and untruth, or between justice and injustice.

Say we succeeded in enforcing a ban on using the word "knowledge" (or any in philosophical term of your choice). My prediction is that philosophers would not stop writing treatises. They would just find or invent new words to describe what used to be described by the banned word(s). That's because they (maybe not all, but many of them) are not primarily interested in the word "knowledge", but int the phenomenon of knowledge we talk about by using that word.
Salmoneus
MVP
MVP
Posts: 1445
Joined: Mon 19 Sep 2011, 18:37

Re: On Religion and stuff

Post by Salmoneus » Fri 09 Nov 2012, 01:23

Xing wrote:
Salmoneus wrote: Correct. There would be no epistemology as we know it if we had no word 'knowledge' or a calque of it. This seems blindingly obvious. Just trying to remove that word from existing treatises on epistemology, let alone words defined through that word, should show you that epistemology without that word would have to be very different.
I must say, that I highly disagree with you on this issue. I believe that words are not just tokens to be played with in a game, but that they actually refer to things in reality. There are real differences between knowledge and ignorance, or between truth and untruth, or between justice and injustice.

Say we succeeded in enforcing a ban on using the word "knowledge" (or any in philosophical term of your choice). My prediction is that philosophers would not stop writing treatises. They would just find or invent new words to describe what used to be described by the banned word(s). That's because they (maybe not all, but many of them) are not primarily interested in the word "knowledge", but int the phenomenon of knowledge we talk about by using that word.
Of course there is a difference between knowledge and ignorance. But which things are 'ignorance' and which things are 'knowledge' is a matter of knowing how and when those words are used correctly. As Tarski said, "snow is white" is true iff snow is white - and thus conversely, snow is white iff "snow is white" is true. And that's a fact about how we use the word 'white', and the word 'snow'.

Is there a difference between knowledge and ignorance? Yes, we call one thing knowledge and the other ignorance - and since we can be observed to use these words in similar ways to one another (ie what one man calls knowledge, another man is likely also to call knowledge, with the exception of some intentionally troublesome borderline cases), there must be some difference that we are distinguishing. But we cannot describe that difference except by making some distinction in our language, and hence we cannot refer to the difference in contradistinction to the distinction through which the difference is expressed. That is, we cannot distinguish the fact that something untrue is not a known thing from the fact that if a thing can be truly said to be 'untrue' it is not a known thing. The positivists attempted to define these criteria of use in terms of phenomenal experience, but phenomenal experience itself not only cannot be described without language, but is not itself prior to language-like structuring [we do not in reality experience seeing some hands and some arms and a torso and thus conclude that we are seeing a man... rather, we experience seeing a man, and thus conclude that we must also be seeing some hands, some arms and a torso... but the concept of 'man' is a linguistic or protolinguistic concept that cannot be extracted from our phenomenal experience].

Ultimately, I think, the meaning of words is fixed not in experience but in action - words are, as you put it, counters in a game, and the nature of the game (our mode of life) determines the counters we use and the relations between those counters. (We must assume there is some external constraint on our game, a reason why it takes the forms it takes and not others, but it is precisely that - external, unspeakable, not what we are ever talking about.

There are, I think, two different kinds of philosophical inquiry: ethical and lexicographical. Lexicographical inquiries take the counters that we use, and attempt to describe them and their relations more clearly. Ethical inquiries instead use those counters in a reflexive process of action. [There is a third potential type - the type that encourages use to use the counters differently. This we might call 'therapeutic'. All lexicography is ultimately therapeutic, but not all is self-aware in being so].

What would happen if the word 'knowledge' were banned? Well, as you say, first of all people would use a different word or series of words to stand in place of the banned word - they would have to, because their mode of life would not have changed, and that mode of life requires the concept of knowledge as we now think of it. It's as though we banned the use of cards in poker - people will just use tiles instead, in place of the cards - the functional demand remaining, an alternative counter is introduced into that function. This is why I originally said "or a calque". These expressions would be calques.

However, if our form of life were to be changed such that 'knowledge' no longer fulfilled a necessary function, we would by definition not need to replace it. In that case, lexicographical inquiries into the meaning of 'knowledge' would go away - there would be no word to investigate. Ethical inquiries would remain, and it is indeed hard to imagine an ethics without knowledge, which is why the whole thought experiment of a form of life without 'knowledge' seems so improbably. And yet, while ethics may seem to us to require what we might call a knowledge-type counter, that counter not only need not be the word 'knowledge', it need not be anything functionally equivalent to knowledge in its modern-day philosophical sense. Indeed, it's arguable I think that 'knowledge' as philosophers define it is not very indispensible at all, and that the way the word 'knowledge' is actually used in practical ethics is quite different. Or rather: philosophical discussions of knowledge are a political project (like all discussion) that advances one particular family of ethical theory. [Specifically, when a philosopher asks 'what is knowledge' he mostly seems to be asking about an ethical system in which rationality is a cardinal virtue and knowledge is its reward - Gettier problems are problematic because they are cases where "knowledge" as defined simply is awarded too easily, as the result of luck rather than of epistemological virtue - but at the same time a system in which epistemological virtues are not promoted per se, and are seen as defined by external, objective, facts of the matter. Outside these post-Kantian ethical commitments, it's hard to see why Modern Philosophical 'Knowledge' (as opposed to some other, differing or more vague, concept within a knowledge-like semantic field) is of any moral significance].

-----------


OK, I think i've strayed, and I'm making this too complicated (true, but too complicated). My simpler objection: sure, epistemology could carry on as normal without the word 'knowledge', but not without a calque of that word. This, to me, is cheating, because what I am talking about with the word 'word' is not the phonological surface form, but the functional identity, the place in the language. Epistemology as we know it depends on a language that has a word for 'knowledge', which is to say that the language shares with Modern Philosophical English a functional position, the position that in english is filled by the utterance 'knowledge'.

This is why we are, more or less, able to talk philosophy with Germans (or Austrians, at any rate) - because our languages have, as it were, analogous functional positions, which may not be purely identical, but which are sufficiently similar to allow translation. Imagine a language as an irregular grid of dots, and a philosophical treatise as a line-shape that joins up some of these dots - 'close' languages can translate because a line shape in one can be imposed on the other grid by joining up analogous dots, with minimal distortion. But when you try to translate into english from, say, ancient chinese, you run into problems, because the dots in the two grids are arranged so differently that joining up the analogous dots gives a totally distorted figure... or even because it is no longer clear which dots are really 'analogous' to one another.

Of course, as I said before, basic parts of our language usage will be easy enough to translate - they're part of any ethical system we could want. It's hard to imagine living for long without a concept of heat, for instance, so heat, in its basic physical sense, will be something we can talk about easily from one language to another. But more complicated ethical concepts, like 'knowledge', or 'chastity' or 'possession' will often be more specifical to one culture (and hence one language) than another, so translation will be difficult without describing a huge chunk of the surrounding form of life.

---

OK, this seemed very simple, so I'm going to resist trying to explain it again, though I'm sure there must be a better way that I've missed, because I'm making things sound complicated, I think...
Post Reply