The Three-Levels of Language-Based Understanding of ‘Reality’
* * * 4TH RESEND – REFLECTIONS ON THIS SERIES OF COMMENTS * * *
Public events such as the ‘trial of Omar Khadr’ bring out the divisions in Western society with respect to modes of cognition. The three modes of cognition formulated by Erich Jantsch in ‘Design for Evolution’ are useful in exploring what is actually going on in the cognitive habits of Westernized society. We can see how it is possible to socially divide into ‘three groups’ depending on ‘cognitive preference’ as to ‘what is ‘real’ in the process of ‘making sense of’ or ‘understanding’ the world we are included in. In Western society, the split into the two cognitive ‘realities’ of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ are the most popular. Both of these impressions assume the ABSTRACT (non-experience-grounded) ‘existence’ of human BEINGS as associates with NAMING relational forms in the flow, and differ as follows;
The following ‘Reflections on Reality’ have been informed by my ‘Stroke of Insight’ (as Jill Bolte Taylor’s book of the same name terms a ‘left-brain’ stroke). This type of stroke undermines one’s capacity for cognition that is dependent on ‘being/s’ as connoted by ‘names’ that stand for ‘things-in-themselves’. Names can come in a relational web of names where the relations among the named entities (which transcend the meaning in the names themselves) become the primary ‘informer’ that elicits ‘understanding’ (e.g. ‘Dances with Wolves’). Alternatively, ‘names’ can be ‘abstract’ in that they connote ‘stand-alone’ ‘things-in-themselves’ (e.g. ‘Rumpelstiltskin’) where the name is ‘abstract’ as in ‘absolute’ and does not derive its meaning from our relational experience. This type of abstract ‘thing-in-itself’ name that does not derive from relational exprience can ‘turn a pauper into a Prince’ as alluded to in the tale of Rumpelstiltskin who had the power to spin straw into gold. In Western culture, one might know two paupers very well through one’s relational experience yet discover, one day, that one of those paupers is Prince Igor. In Western culture, the name (intellectual cognition) over-rides experiential cognition so that one might kneel or curtsy and kiss the feet of a well-known (by experience) person the moment his Princely status is revealed or even ‘decreed’.
Not all cultures put intellectual cognition via ‘naming’ in precedence over relational experience, but that is the salient feature of Western culture that is examined in the fable of Rumpelstiltskin. Poets understand that relational experience informs us at a deeper level than ‘names’ ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ (Shakespeare). Nevertheless, in our Western culture, the poets no longer have the predominating influence of the mythopoetic era, thanks to the rise to (unnatural) precedence of ‘Newtonian’ science based (rational) understanding. Rational understanding elevates named-thing-in-itself based cognition over relational cognition and puts rational understanding into service as the ‘operative reality’, eclipsing the natural primacy of relational experience.
When the magic sword of Excalibur taps a pauper on the shoulder and has him arise as Sir Knight, those in his presence who have been born and raised in Western culture curtsy/or and kneel accordingly. So it is also when the big boss ceremonially anoints a common worker as a supervisor in a now common Western society replay of the ‘fairy-tale’ of ‘turning straw into gold’. Rational-intellectual cognition that cultivates pseudo-realities thus takes over from experiential reality, … in Western culture, that is, … although not in indigenous aboriginal culture where experiential-relational reality remains in its natural precedence over rational-intellectual pseudo-reality. It is also clear that the ‘poets’ of Western culture have not become extinct but have merely been ‘marginalized’ by the rise to social relational power of those who put ‘name-based rational intellection’ into an unnatural precedence over ‘relational experience’ “whereof one cannot speak, one mus remain silent” (Wittgenstein).
The philosophical works of Wittgenstein, Bohm, Nietzsche and others point to how the Western culture practice of inverting the natural precedence of relational experience over intellectual being-based cognitive construction is infusing dysfunction into the Western social dynamic that Bohm calls ‘incoherence’. As Nietzsche points out, ‘ego’ serves as an absolute (abstract) foundation that holds this ‘upside-down’ approach to cognition in place in Western culture.
The following ‘reflections on reality’ aim to illustrate how Western culture gives unnatural precedence to ‘language’ (abstraction) over ‘relational experience’ to construct a rational ‘operative reality’ that is (mis-) guiding and (mis-) shaping the Western social dynamic.
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Reflections on ‘reality’
This morning, the sense of mitakuye oyasin (mitahkweeasay) or ‘all my relations’ has been clear. what is clear is that language is the source of the abstraction of ‘being’. By ‘naming’ relational forms in the flow (Tao) we abstractly impute ‘being’ to them. Language allows us to re-present forms-in-the-flow in the abstract sense of ‘things-in-themselves’. Grammar allows us to ‘cast them’ as the jumpstart authors of actions and developments. All of this is name and language-based abstraction that enters into a cognitive competition with our experiential awareness of inclusion in a transforming relational continuum (the Tao) in which we, ourselves, are relational forms, and wherein ‘everything is in flux’ (Heraclitus).
Erich Jantsch’s three level model of cognition (three levels of reality) makes a lot of sense in both my pre-and-post-stroke impressions of ‘reality’.
The following is a brief review of how this model ‘makes sense’ (reconciles with our actual experience) in the context of the unfolding social dynamic of our times.
What may be difficult to accept is how far off our popularly accepted Western worldview is, from the physical reality of our actual experience. This could also be expressed: … ‘What may be difficult to accept is how far off our popularly accepted Western worldview is from the indigenous aboriginal worldview.” In other words, the indigenous aboriginal worldview is far closer to the physical reality of our actual experience than is the popularly accepted Western worldview, as elucidated by physicists David Bohm and F. David Peat in ‘Blackfoot Physics’;
A few months before his death, Bohm met with a number of Algonkian speakers and was struck by the perfect bridge between their language and worldview and his own exploratory philosophy. What to Bohm had been major breakthroughs in human thought — quantum theory, relativity, his implicate order and rheomode – were part of the everyday life and speech of the Blackfoot, Mic Maq, Cree and Ojibwaj.” – F. David Peat, ‘Blackfoot Physics’
Author’s Preface: The Eastern manner of conceiving of reality (eg. as in the writings of Lao Tzu) is rooted in the purely relational terms of ‘flow’ or ‘the Tau’. In this worldview, there is only an overall ‘becoming’ while ‘being’ is a cognitive abstraction. Nevertheless, as Wittgenstein points out, given that the world is flow and we are flow-features within it, it is impossible to speak about it because ‘everything is in flux’ and there are no fixed/persisting references on which to construct a linguistic representation that we could share with one another. The ‘work-around’ to this obstacle which would otherwise keep us ‘silent’, is called ‘bootstrapping’ where we use the abstraction of ‘being’ to assign ‘names’ to relational forms in the flow. The ‘name’ is something that cognitively persists even though the named form is an inherently transient relational feature in a transforming relational flow [e.g. as with a purely relational ‘whorl’ (hurricane) in the purely relational flow of the atmosphere which we impute ‘being’ to by naming it]. The ‘name’ has cognitive persistence and is not subject to continuous relational transformation as is the form it refers to. That is, a name imputes, cognitively, persisting existence otherwise known as ‘being’. ‘Being’ is cognitive abstraction which is not available to our real-life physical experience (as relational forms in a transforming relational continuum).
Nevertheless, ‘bootstrapping’ is a kind of ‘cognitive sleight-of-mind’ wherein we use language to set notional ‘things-that-be’ in relative motion with (noun-and-verb) grammar. The ultimate aim of this use of language is to get the mind to latch onto the ‘relational dynamics’ and when it does, ‘let go of’ the abstract notion of the ‘existence of things’ so as to ‘bootstrap’ a purely relational cognitive impression/understanding. The ‘being’ of name-labelled ‘things-in-themselves’ is thus an abstract expedient; … a cognitive tool (‘Wittgenstein ladder’) to ‘lift oneself up into purely relational cognitive mode.
The division between Eastern and Western cognition pivots from whether one considers ‘being’ to be ‘real’ or ‘poetic abstraction of convenience’ used in bootstrapping to facilitate language based discussion of a fluid reality that would otherwise be beyond linguistic capture/expression’.
“Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen” … “that which we are unable to capture in language, we must pass over in silence.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein
The following is a short (500 word) comment; ‘Acknowledging/Employing the ‘Insight’ that comes with a Stroke’.
(A supplementary discussion on the salient points follows in a brief ‘Appendix’)
Acknowledging/Employing the ‘Insight’ that comes with a Stroke
A stroke that leaves one with an inability to ‘bring names to mind’ is a stroke that ‘demotes’ the role, in cognition, of the abstract concept of ‘being’. The ‘insight’ that comes with the stroke is where the cognitive faculty goes directly to ‘relations’ without dependency on ‘being’. ‘Relations’ are the basis of the real physical world of our experience. Names signifying ‘being’ are an abstract ‘add on’ that can ‘block’ relational cognition. For example, relational cognition ‘comes first’ in indigenous aboriginal culture. E.g. ‘Dances with wolves’ is a relational way of identifying ‘John Dunbar’ that does not impute ‘being’ to the ‘relational life form as occurs in cognition of a particular thing-in-itself connoting ‘name’.
In the fable ‘Rumpelstiltskin’, Rumpelstiltskin is a curious little fellow who has the power to spin straw into gold. This is an allusion to what a ‘name’ does; i.e. it imputes ‘being’ to a relational form in the flow. A name can transform a pauper into a prince in our Western culture, although not in the indigenous aboriginal culture. What a (left-brain) stroke does is remove the concept of ‘being’ (cognition that is triggered by thing-in-itself naming) so that relational understanding ‘rises to the fore’. (more…)
Why East Doesn’t Meet West
The following is a ‘condensed’ account of how indigenous aboriginal ‘relational reality’ is faithful to our experience while Western ‘being-based’ (abstract) reality is the source of endemic social dysfunction. (more…)
The Anatomy of a ‘Left-Brain’ Stroke
My experiencing of a ‘left-brain’ stroke has a very beneficial offshoot to it, of the sort alluded to in Jill Bolte Taylor’s ‘My Stroke of Insight’.
This is a summary of my stroke-experience-based understanding of the source and nature of the benefit.
In figurative terms, what the ‘left-brain’ stroke damages/destroys includes Western culture conditioned cognitive habits that limit understanding of our natural living experience. An appropriate metaphor for the ‘benefit’ would be that of a ‘prison break’ thanks to ‘damage to the prison walls’. In terms of language, this would refer to the giving way of the dominant rigidity of being-based cognition to allow relational cognition to rise to its natural primacy.
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a meta-phor? –– Marshall McLuhan
The basic understanding shared in this essay is this; … what a ‘left-brain’ stroke does is to have the stroke experient revert to a ‘bootstrapping’ mode of cognition which ‘drops out’ cognition based on notional ‘things-in-themselves’ connoted by name-labels. This is why the stroke experient ‘forgets’ people in a name-based sense, yet does not forget them in a relational context. Understanding is conserved within relational context but cannot be easily expressed, by the stroke-experient, in terms of ‘thing-in-itself’ based rhetoric.
How does ‘Bootstrapping’ relate to ‘Stroke’? (see footnote explaining ‘bootstrapping)
It is possible to understand our ‘mode of understanding’ nature’s dynamics in terms of ‘bootstrapping’. Physicist Geoffrey Chew was a notable proponent of this mode of understanding as was John Wheeler. Wheeler’s ‘surprise version of the game of Twenty Questions’ is a ‘relational’ way of constructing portrayals of physical dynamics (‘what is going on out there’) that has no dependency on the existence of ‘things-in-themselves’. In other words, ‘bootstrapping’ can use the temporary notions of ‘things-in-themselves’ for the purpose of describing an experience to ‘trick the mind’ into ‘understanding’ and then pulling out the apparent thing-based foundations that one used to construct the picture that served to convey the understanding. In bootstrapping, ‘things’ are not ‘primary’ but are used to set up a web of relations to convey an understanding that, once understood, has no dependency on the ‘things’ that were used to create the web of relations (hence the notion of ‘bootstrapping’). Wittgenstein alludes to the necessity of the ‘bootstrap’ in the final two propositions in Tractatus Logico Philosophicus.
6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.
7 Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
My point in sharing a description of ‘how bootstrapping works’ is to illustrate why a ‘stroke-experient’ such as myself (or Jill Bolte Taylor in ‘My Stroke of Insight’) would refer to a seemingly entirely negative, mind-damaging experience like a ‘stroke’ in ‘positive’ terms. (more…)
Cognition by ‘Scatter and gather’ (simultaneous scatter-gather) a la Heraclitus
‘Field’ is relational and the scattering and gathering implies local centres as in vortices (e.g. water spouts and whirlpools or outwellings-and-inwellings )
Western thinking imputes sourcing agency in a flow to the vortex understood as a thing-in-itself [e.g. waterspout or whirlpool] rather than imputing the sourcing to the flowfield that the waterspout-whirlpool (conjugate) develops within. Noun-and-verb language ‘reifies’ the eye-catching flow-field-features [that which manifests most obviously] so that they serve as, at least in language-based cognition, … the notional ‘thing-in-itself’ that is the purported ‘source’ (sourcerer) of its own behaviour. Within a flow, gathering and scattering are flip sides of the same coin; i.e. the waterspout that is scattering water is inseparable from its water-gathering vortex-source.
Linguistic constructions formed from noun-and-verb grammar serve to both ‘reify’ and ‘animate’ the relational feature in the relational flow so that, at least in language-and-grammar based cognition, there is ‘concealment’ of the inherent ‘nonlocality’ of ‘identity’ as associates with a relational feature within a transforming relational flow-continuum.
The notion of self-sourcing arises from the noun-and-verb grammar of Western languages. The vortex is thus portrayed by language as a ‘thing’ that has ‘causal powers’ when, in the relational reality of our actual experience, the power-sourcing belongs to the relational field influence and not to the ‘form’ that is ‘forming’ within the flow-field; i.e. the forms arising in nature are never ‘independent’ of the energy-flow in which they are transient relational developments. Their portrayal as, and our coming to cognitively regard them as ‘things-in-themselves’, is the synthetic product of intellection based on the objects of language and grammar. There are no ‘things-in-themselves’ in the relational understanding of the ‘right brain’, there are only ‘relations’ as in ‘relational features’ in the flow-continuum.
Jantsch’s ‘three levels of cognition’ illustrate how the understanding of the sourcing of ‘dynamics’ in the world of our experience shifts from local-jumpstart source to relational sourcing over three levels.
This ‘afterthought’ arises from reviewing my Post-Stroke-Impression (PSI-2) comment. I will keep such ‘Afterthoughts’ short, and use them to add perspective to core concepts that I have tried to capture within the ‘body’ of the ‘Post-Stroke-Impression’ commentary.