Tag Archives: philosophy of language

The general and the particular

Plato was mistaken, or at least his concept of forms (ideas) was.

The mistake was in the relationship between physical reality and innate ideas. The concept is understood to be that the thing of the reality is derived from the innate idea (forms). The concept is that forms are the true reality, and the physical world is but its shadow, or reflection of it.

Modern science has shown where ideas are created — in the brain as the mind. The more experience we have the better our ideas of the things of physical reality. Each particular thing categorised becomes a general idea of the thing. It is within the name-meaning (sign) that which our knowledge is based upon.

Philosophical realism

An object exists independent of our perception or conception of it. Michael Dummett is against this stance and calls it “colourless reductionism”.

Interestingly it is, in my opinion, precisely that reality is “colourless” that our minds colour it. It is the necessary part of our being conscious of our reality. And again, it is precisely because we erroneously supplement to the reality with minds that perhaps we need to reduce (remove) what was added to it.


The world is the totality of facts, not of things. (Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus)

I think Wittgenstein is wrong.

The world is the totality of things, not of facts.

To be sure, his assertion is a firm rejection of materialism. I firmly reassert it. What remains always are things, not facts, not souls. This is an inducted reason. Like a good philosophical citizen, I do not claim deduction.

Logic has its failings. It regards language as flawless a medium for expressing ideas. It is far from it. Philosophy must investigate language as well.

Emergent or projection?

Does the quality of something emerge from it or do we project into it the quality we want to see?

Are these appropriate metaphors for the way we experience the world?

Can we do away with metaphors?

I think how we approach the world as a sentient being determines how we engage with it.

When does a soul get created?

As a Buddhist, I do not believe in souls. Talk to most people – Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and even Buddhists – and they talk as though something survives after death. Such is the power and attraction of the concept of the soul.

Out of curiosity, I asked an American Muslim when is the soul created. He said, “at the moment of conception”. And thereafter it remains either in Heaven or Hell (and also Purgatory if you are Roman Catholic). So the mystery, it seems to me, is that the eternal soul did not start off as eternal but was created out of the grace of God or gods (of which again in Buddhism are concepts).

The problem here is that we have no evidence for these, only that of the textual sources, and not any independent or direct proof of souls and gods as such. Apart from being told by someone else, namely the sacred texts and by those who believe in word of the sacred texts, there is no other proof. Buddhism’s claim that everything is impermanent can be verified by observation. While we cannot observe everything, the weight of non-contrary evidence is substantial. Inferential logic tells us that the soul is perhaps one of these “things” which stands counter to impermanence even though no one can show us any evidence for its existence.

This alone should sound off alarm bells in your head.

While I do not have a problem with the concept of the soul, I do have problem with the belief in the existence of a soul. But at the same time, it is normal to think and believe that such a thing exists. This is something humans do very well, and perhaps defines us from other animals. But it is also natural that some for the human species (Buddhists) to “see through” it, that is, to understand the nature of it.

So it is baffling that in this day and age, where our understanding of the natural physical world has progressed this far, to be still caught in the grips of such an illusion. Powerful indeed is this illusion, passed on from generation to generation through speech and action.

Souls are not created. The concept of a soul is. The concept is perpetuated by its continued reinforcement. The root is therefore in the nature of words and not in the nature of the thing.

Physicalism, not atheism

I don’t like atheism.

I don’t like atheism because it drags God, god or gods in the conversation as if they exist. It assumes first that there is a god or gods then proceeds with the argument to deny it. Atheism is the trap that theists have set for the unsuspecting.

The better approach is physicalism. Conclude that everything is physical, then to proceed to see what is a god or gods means we can deal with it like the fiction that it is. The concept of god is then seen as ordinary like Harry Potter and purple unicorns. The verbalisation or iteration of these do not make them real. Physicalism allows us the possibility to deal with concepts.

The equality of objectivity

In objectivity everything has a value of 1. The problem is that it has a value. Choosing an equal value for everything is in itself a value-ladened choice, no different to choice unequal values.