Category Archives: philosophy

I love Kant, the later Wittgenstein, Derrida, post structualism, postmodernism and the philosophy of language.

Words are not things

Words are not things but semi-things. Their age matters not. The size of the fonts changes nothing of their meaning. And whether it is serif or san-serif will not make a single difference (apart from functional sustained legibility).

In other words, words have little to no properties. The font’s colour means nothing, unless it is an art t-shirt from that now-defunct Oxford Street shop in Sydney that read “blue” in red letters. Read the word out loud and the colour no longer has any meaning. This is word play in written form. The medium is the message as someone once said.

In Japan more people say the name King&Prince more than any other name right now (my daughter included). But nothing changes about the group. The group is still made up of six people no matter how many times one invokes the name. ‘Popularity’ means something else other than physical quantity. We may count the number of times in it is mentioned in the media or searched for on Google. Nothing changes the fact that they are ordinary people that bleed when pricked or cry when they are emotionally down.

My point is, words are not the same thing as the things or non-things they represent. Not only are they separate to the things/non-things they represent, their characteristics (if they can be characteristics at all) are different as well.

Freedom?

What does it mean when we say “we are free to do anything we want”?

It means we are deluded into thinking we are isolated individuals outside of an interconnect world. Everything I do affects everything else around me, so long as I related to it in some way.

So the question is is there any thing, space or time from which we are not related to all else? Experience tells me no. Some may argue that freedom is in the mind. But if the mind is located in the body, in the brain, then it is itself a relational operation. There is no thing which operates outside of things, space and time. Every action has real consequences. To think that even your thoughts do not have consequences is to be sorely mistaken. For although they do not have immediate “outer” consequences they have “inner” ones. They affect the body that thinks. To think is in itself an action.

Time and events

I remember 9/11.

But I don’t remember it as 9/11 but 9/12. I was in Sydney that day. Woke up to the images on the screen, my mother was staring in disbelief. Not much can silence my mother but this did.

Yes, I am a somewhat intelligent guy (been to university, even did postgraduate studies), but I still think of it as 9/12. I do this because it says something about time and our perception of it, especially in this day and age where real-time means I see 9/11 in 9/12.

Philosophically, that is important or not trivial to me. If this event had occurred before my birth or outside of my awareness of it I would learn and remember it as 9/11, that is, I would not pair the event with my time and place.

20210107 is another event I would remember as thus. The day American democracy was no longer such. That for years to come they will spend time repairing what had occurred in the four up until that moment. That the next administration will have a fight on their hands with something that was covert but now open. The ugly side of America has been exposed.

There is a beautiful side to America, to its values and culture. That, I will never forget. Those who stormed Capitol Hill are not representative — thankfully — of the majority as this last election has pointed out. But rather, America has a lot of soul searching to do for decades to come. And this comes from someone who does not believe in a soul.

Chain of Keys

1.
“This house was built in 1788.”

Although most people will see this statement is a factual one, I will argue that it is, in fact, imbued with value and judgment.

We choose to highlight something by stating it, by making it the subject of a statement. Something must be focused upon (apart from “dummy” statements like ‘it’s raining’ or ‘it’s me’ but I will argue these are not empty subjects) when we say anything. To choose to focus upon the house is something consciously done by a speaker. And to choose to highlight its age is another choice. Both are given importance by stating them as facts. Value is thus given to them. They – the house and its age – are judged to be important facts.

2.
Poets and songwriters are masters of value making. A good example is PJ Harvey’s Chain of Keys.

Fifteen keys
Fifteen keys hang on a chain
The chain is joint
The chain is joint and forms a ring
The ring is in
The ring is in a woman’s hand
She’s walking on
She’s walking on the dusty ground

The dusty ground’s a dead-end track
The neighbours won’t be coming back
Fifteen gardens overgrown
Fifteen houses falling down

The woman’s old
The woman’s old and dressed in black
She keeps her hands
She keeps her hands behind her back
Imagine what
Imagine what her eyes have seen
We ask but she
We ask but she won’t let us in

A key so simple and so small
How can it mean no chance at all?
A key, a promise, or a wish
How can it mean such hopelessness

“The circle is broken”, she says
“The circle is broken”, she says

Out of the void of the music comes fifteen keys on a chain. We send time wondering, imagining, what kind of keys and chain they are. We are told, next, chain is not a like a strand but is joined to form a loop (ring). But where is this ring of keys? It is in the hands of a woman. What is she like? How are we to imagine her? We don’t know, but we are told she is walking on the dusty ground. Why is she walking on here? So many questions. So many images. The sparse repetitive sax and drum line gives us an image of her walk walking among the fifteen empty falling down houses with their overgrown gardens. The story goes on.

I hope you can see how the words have created the image for you. It may well be based on an actual place with actual persons with actual things and actual dialogues but it no longer belongs to the event, only belonging to the memory (or thought) and (or) to the song.

3.
To take statements as facts of reality is to not understand that statements are acts in reality. They are acts within the reality. They do not stand outside of reality. This is what, I believe, Derrida had meant by there is no outside text (alternate translations ‘there is nothing outside of the text’; ‘there is no outside context’). The largest most inclusive category – as tiring as this approach physically and mentally is – must be taken in order for anything to be make complete sense. And we must forget that rational sense itself is an act within this reality not separate from it in any way.

Pure sensation

There are five main faculties. In ordinary language these are sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. It may be obvious but they need to be named. The most used faculty is sight. Your eyes work like a video camera and monitor. The camera captures light creating an image of the things in view and thus determining the space. The faculty of sound does something similar but only in audio form. The faculties of smell, taste and touch are more “localised” where distance and direction is not so important whereas intensity of source is.

Simultaneously, these five faculties give you all the information about the reality, informing you about what exists, their relationship in space and also inform you of time. This information however, needs to be interpreted in synchrony. And this is done by the mind. The act of mental interpretation is called perception.

Processes and noumenalisation

1.
Earth formed not long after the sun formed. But was does “forming” mean?

It is a process not so much deliberate as accidental. The conditions for conducive the weak forces of material mass brought about a lumping together that can only be called planetary formation. This accidental formation then is a process.

In the early 2000s a man named Steve Jobs invented a device (or a better one at least. Others too were working on similar a product) that could make phone calls, replace your diary and notebook, connect to the internet and not require a keyboard but on a multi-touch sensitive screen. Again, what do we mean by “invent”?

It is, in this case, a process not so much as accidental but deliberate. The conditions were also conducive of putting ideas together to invent the iPhone. This deliberate inventing is also a process.

Whether we talk about planet or iPhones they are things. The forming and inventing are processes that cannot be said to exist as thing but as processes of things.

2.
The word processes, in plural form, hints at the limits of language. To make processes a thing is not only to nominalise but also to noumenalise it. The act of giving a concept a signifier is to nominalise. The act of giving the sign (signifier-concept unit) quality of substance – that is to become a thing – is to noumenalise. Similar acts can be and are done regularly to qualities.

There are two problems. Firstly, the process of noumenalisation is so pervasive that almost goes unnoticed. And secondly, it leads to the perception that there is more than what actually exists.

And it is with this second problem that comes about the unbridgeable gap between ontology and metaphysics.

Rationality and Empiricism

Rationality without empiricism is impossible. A child born without experience is not considered “alive” for a reason. (This may sound circular but) we necessarily start with reality, then experience, then thought (reason). What ends in death is experience and thought but not reality, for the body remains.

This may be a common sense view, a conventional view, a “reductive” point-of-view but there is nothing that I should apologise for … except for being boring perhaps.