Archive for July, 2018
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’