The Ship of Theseus

The following essay was accepted for publication in a related blog at The Ship of Theseus /Knights of Thermopylae Inn of Court:

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

— George Orwell

As much as I hate giving Marxism credence for anything, so much in contemporary society forces me to credit as sound and pragmatically true both the Marxist disenchantment of morality and ethics concluding they are simply ruling class ideology and the socialist Upton Sinclair’s disenchantment of aesthetics as “all art is propaganda. It is universally and inescapably propaganda; sometimes unconsciously, but often deliberately, propaganda.” The zero sum wordgame that is patrician parlor game philosophy by sleight-of-hand wording has managed to take the analytic concept of social construct and change it to social and language deconstruction. Patrician academia and intelligentsia, solely through a will to power despite never having to take apart and rebuild anything except for rearranging verbiage for purely aesthetic reasons, continue to view themselves as individual mechanics viewing the social construct engine that is contemporary society as something they need to take apart and then reassemble in their image in order to “produce real progress”. The reality of individuality, perception, and any resulting social construct of contemporary society of which we are conscious and of which we can speak are that they are one-engine, and we do not view either from outside but we are it. There are no “illusions of trust”, there is either genuine pragmatic trust or there is no trust. We can no more deconstruct society, contemporary or otherwise, and its language than an engine can take itself apart — that is without destroying itself with nothing and no one remaining to reassemble it. No more can there be spoken “individual perception” than there can be a private language. Or better yet, to paraphrase the poetic propaganda of Delmore Schwartz, contemporary society is not that of a fire in which we burn, but we are the fire. This pragmatic reality should enchant morality and ethics with more than just ruling class ideology, but it never will.

 

The analytic concept of a social construct was fairly simple before post-modernism got a hold of it. Its simplicity is one reason post-modernism was able to grab onto it and turn it to entertaining fiction. Philosophy has argued knowledge as a pragmatic social construct since the Ancient Greeks. Science was grudgingly forced to accept pragmatic truth with the advent of quantum mechanics though it is still putting up a fight. The unfortunate epistemological reality is that sense perception is unavoidably intertwined with theory expressed by language that is itself laden with theory. Thus language often decides what facts we experience, observe, and use. As Albert Einstein stated, “whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.” Better yet is the description of Ludwig Wittgenstein: “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

 
Simple enough. However, these conclusions are in no way equivalent to concluding that language is reality; that deconstructing language is equivalent to deconstructing reality; or that the more words we throw into the world pot the larger the limits of the pot. No, as with any real pot, the words simply overflow. In the pot of language, they simply overflow into an aesthetic world in which meaningless words are the reality. For example, nominally, one can change a word such as “small pox” to “butterfly bumps”, “God’s Will”, and a multiple of other names to make its reality more aesthetically pleasing and this aesthetic truth may make it easier to die of it, but such nominal change does not in any way change the reality of small pox or stop it from killing you. At the other end of the pot, empirically, one can do all the scientific experimentation possible on one’s or anyone’s visual field in all possible worlds viewed but in none of them will one ever find the inner limit or the point from which its contents are seen because the existential observer or individual consciousness is it; without the consciousness of the observer there is no visual field. The meaning of words and wordgames are not simply their use but their usefulness to that use in the activity of life.

 

 

The Ship of Theseus / Knights of Thermopylae Inn of Court

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