All systems are necessarily closed. It has a range and limit. Everything within the system will define each and every other object within the system.
The English alphabet is one such system. There are 26 letters. each and every one of those letters contrast to each other for not being one another. Within the confines of these 26 letters all combinations of words are made. Saussure called this the system of difference. For the signifier this is difference is easy to understand. Together with the signified the story becomes less clear. Since the relationship between signifier and signified is arbitrary this means a signified can take any signifier. Up to a certain this can be true. However, the reality is that some signified meanings take on certain signifiers in the form of polysemy. Other forms of dictatorial tendencies may be seen in onomatopoeia, assonance and alliteration. In other words there is both arbitrariness and systematicity at work in the relationship between form and meaning.
To me, the implications of this is important to our understanding of the nature of language, and ultimately to the nature of thought.
Yesterday was the end of the Interleague series between the Japanese Central and Pacific League baseball. Had Hiroshima Carp won against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks they would have been at the top of that table. But the loss had meant they were second. This is the meaning of ordinal. Ordinal numbers indicate an order but not size.
As of yesterday Carp were 3 games ahead of Hanshin Tigers. This means that if Carp lost three games and the Tigers win three the two teams would be equal first. This is the meaning cardinal. Cardinal numbers indicate a size but not order. You could be fifth and sixth and the size could still be 3 games difference.
There could be two players with the same name in baseball. So how do we tell the difference between the two? By giving unique identification numbers (or ID). An ID is a unique number to indicate each individual object (or in this case, player). The ordinal and magnitude of the numbers are irrelevant, only that each ID is different from another. When used in this way a number is nominal. It is a label and nothing more. Numbers used as labels are a relatively recent invention. With the advent of databases and such we can keep track of millions, billions or even trillions or objects.
A word can be said to be like a nominal signifier. However, they are different in that a single signifier can have several different but related meanings. Unlike numbers signs need to be used in a sequence or syntax known as a sentence. Thus a word can have more than one meaning (polysemy) according to the sequence.
From a diachronic point of view, any concept must come into existence, that is, it must not have existed at some point in the passage of time.
The argument for God and existence of God supposes and privileges eternity and presence. Theism, then, supposes permanence. This must necessarily extend to atheism. Thus the idea of atheism must have been there from the beginning.
The theists have therefore pulled wool over your eyes when they argue in this way. The only way out is to argue for finitude, absence and impermanence.
The past is now part of my future. The present is well out of hand. (Ian Curtis, Joy Division, Heart and Soul)
Even this is projection in both directions. The past is interpreted while the future is predicted. In projecting the link between past and future, control is lost in the present. Dejection and pointlessness sets in. The point is there is no “link” without the present. And that there is always control in the form of projection.
We are always living in some kind of “now”. Our view of the world is forever locked into a “present” or illusionary presence. And in this way we habitually prefer the “synchrony of X” over its diachrony. What can only happen in any interpretation of “the history of X” is forever a reading with now in mind when now never was there in the past. Retrospection is never free from this now, forever placing itself into the past when it was not there. That is why in retrospect everything seems obvious.
To be pure historians of Buddhism we must place ourselves in the past without the baggage called “knowledge” into that time and place. The further back in time we go the less accurate the representation becomes. For example, Chinese Buddhism of the 4th century knows nothing of its advance into Japan the next centuries. It is not, “it had not reached Japan yet”, but rather, “did it know it was going anywhere to begin with”. I doubt Buddhism in the 1st century BCE knew it was entering China either. Buddhism simply had no plans. These are projections onto history after rather than before or during the fact. The interpretation of history continually changes as a time pushes forward, added to by more and more retrospection. The more we think the more the past changes.
If there is one thing useful that I would have to pick that Freud gave us, it is the idea of id, superego and ego. The id is what you want to do. The superego is what society wants you to do, and the ego is what you do in light of your id and superego. Something is wrong if you let either the id or superego do all the thinking. It is best to take the balance with the ego.
Japanese culture has this built-in to their thinking with the concept of in-group/out-group. We must always think of ourselves not as just mere individuals but also in relation to society.
Or this is similar to Schopenhauer’s idea of will and representation. We are individuals in charge and control of our self (will) to be contrasted to things outside beyond our control (representation).
While abstraction is something we humans are good at it is dangerous to let it take over without a return to the real world or reality. No matter what the world is where we exist and only exist. Any other thought is wrong.
It isn’t that something permanent does exist (though that is highly unlikely because if it does exist it has been hiding pretty well) but that it hasn’t shown itself whatsoever.
Some say the proof is God but nobody has made visual identification of him. There have been no “last seen at …” but just talk. It is all talk. “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word is God,” someone named John wrote. But isn’t this just a clever (read: wilful) metaphor?
No, there will never be any way for us to prove that God doesn’t exist. But neither do they have a way to prove that he does (and a capital ‘H’ for He isn’t proof, but only again a choice on the part of the writer.