• unenlightened
    3.7k
    Use is meaning.

    The flag means the country; the strip means the team; the wine means the blood of Christ.

    When I burn your flag, it means something, and when you object, and I start talking about political correctness gone mad and how you are destroying my freedom, I am winding you up for the second time.

    When the Brexiteers turned their backs at the playing of the EU anthem (Who knew there even was one?), it means something just as it meant something when the Nazis turned their backs at the Reichstag in 1926. It shows, in both instances, a contempt for the political institution, and a challenge to its existence and legitimacy.

    Britain lays claim to the lion as symbol (why?). This does not exhaust the meaning of a lion symbol, but don't imagine some esoteric argument will cut any ice with England football fans on match day.

    Taking a name in vain is a serious business, a life and death affair. Blasphemy is betrayal.

    Identity is invariably ritualised and symbolic, and I hope no-one is going to attempt to claim a position of externality - as if they had a certificate of rationality or something. Much of life is conducted through the forms of ritual and icon - hands up if you wear a badge.

    (Note: if you didn't put your mental hand up because you do not wear a badge, you are joining in the hand-raising ritual.) {Other hand raising rituals are available.}

    So I hypothesise that language - the spoken and written human peculiarity - is a particular form of something more visceral, more important in the sense of having more import or meaning because more directly connected with emotion and embodiment, that is the ritual and symbolic interaction that constitutes still, the large weight of human interaction. Discussions of grammar and syntax delve into the froth of the reality of existence.
  • Wallows
    8.5k


    Hence, pragmatics?
  • frank
    2.8k
    Yet most societies in our world are organized around an abstraction: money. And all of our amazing technological feats, sort of like the massive shell of a great human crab, were produced by an invisible technology: a virtual reality that goes on in banks in the language of accounting.

    Money lent, when there was no money anywhere. And the money isn't physical to begin with.

    This fascination with the abstract isn't a philosophical wrong trail. It's an indirect approach to who we are; who we've become.
  • Pantagruel
    19
    Very different cultures attach very different values to certain ideas or concepts. Death in many eastern cultures is viewed quite differently from those in the west, for example. Experiments have been conducted in which exposing subjects to 'cultural icons' like pictures of architecture, etc, can skew their answers to questions aligned with such indicator values from those of their native culture to those of the "imprinted culture." As I recall, it did not require very extensive imprinting either.

    So, yes, I'd say we are driven by some rather complex 'visceral' ideas. I think of culture as the gateway to collective conciousness.
  • Valentinus
    467
    He spoke, nor did the lord of men Agamemnon neglect him,
    but straightway commanded the clear-voiced heralds to summon
    by proclamation to battle the flowing-haired Achaians;
    and the heralds made their cry and the men were assembled swiftly.
    And they, the god-supported kings, about Agamemnon
    ran marshalling the men, and among them grey-eyed Athene
    holding the dear treasured aegis, ageless, immortal,
    from whose edges float a hundred golden tassels,
    each one carefully woven, and each worth a hundred oxen.
    With this fluttering she swept through the host of the Achaians
    urging them to go forward. She kindled the strength in each man's
    heart to take the battle without respite and keep on fighting.
    And now battle became sweeter to them than to go back
    in their hollow ships to the beloved land of their fathers.

    Iliad, book 2, line 440
    translated by Richmond Lattimore
  • frank
    2.8k
    What's the significance of the fact that the source of battle lust is a goddess?
  • Valentinus
    467

    I don't read the story as saying Athene is the source of the lust. Earlier in the tale, she gets Achilles to chill out. She is a manipulator who uses different ways to attain different ends and they change as the situation unfolds. Her favorite mortal is Odysseus.

    In regards to the OP, I was thinking of the effect of the aegis in the midst of the Achaians being persuaded through words to stay and fight. The flutter of the tassels directly influencing each person.

    That is not to throw cold water on your question. I think it needs to be framed differently.
  • frank
    2.8k
    In regards to the OP, I was thinking of the effect of the aegis in the midst of the Achaians being persuaded through words to stay and fight. The flutter of the tassels directly influencing each person.Valentinus

    One way to interpret that passage is that the Achaians understood the rise of emotion as an external force. Moses Finley says that we don't know for sure, but that there's reason to doubt the conventional wisdom that the mention of a goddess was just poetic.

    But going with Finley's view, divinities were what we would think of as physical beings. Intangible spirit stuff wasn't on the scene yet. So that would mean they experienced collective emotion as an aspect of the world's body, so to speak.

    It would be as if we went to an action movie and reported that some divinity associated with the movie swept through the crowd and filled us with fear or whatever.
  • Valentinus
    467
    If the influence is not "just poetic", then the poetry is not just internal.
    Maybe one cannot truly mark where the "external" begins.

    So, in the matter of action films, the appearance of a potential we dismiss in other places as possible is a feature, not a bug. But I don't think that analogy is a good fit for the Homer narrative. The analogy projects a way to perceive phenomena instead of looking around nervously at our surroundings.
  • frank
    2.8k
    So, in the matter of action films, the appearance of a potential we dismiss in other places as possible is a feature, not a bug. But I don't think that analogy is a good fit for the Homer narrative. The analogy projects a way to perceive phenomena instead of looking around nervously at our surroundings.Valentinus

    But it wasn't an analogy. Imagine people sitting in a theater and sensing the rise of emotion in the crowd. Imagine that they all think of that rise of emotion as a conscious force in the environment. Words, traditions, and potent symbols are carried by conscious forces that influence us as Athena carried the aegis.

    There's no clear separation between humans and the environment in this outlook. The very idea of individuality is missing. Or not missing; Finley says individuality was a fearful concept in that world. Apparently to be a loner in that world was to have a short life.

    What do you mean "looking around nervously at our surrounding"?
  • Valentinus
    467

    I am not sure how to respond to the absence of individuality idea. It doesn't square with the depiction of all these different agendas of both mortals and immortals to advance their fortunes.

    The not being able to separate between the human and the environment idea is put to rest by the brutal way terrible acts of violence are constantly being compared to events in the natural world. From that point of view, the Iliad is an anti-war message.

    What I mean by looking around nervously is wondering how much energy is expended to create a safe zone for the individual. Nothing would make someone feel safer than the depiction of other times where people did not have our advantages.
  • frank
    2.8k
    I am not sure how to respond to the absence of individuality idea. It doesn't square with the depiction of all these different agendas of both mortals and immortals to advance their fortunes.Valentinus

    The things mortals do, think, and feel, are often indistinguishable from divine forces. Absence of individuality isn't right. It's that individuality wasn't lauded as it is in our world.

    The not being able to separate between the human and the environment idea is put to rest by the brutal way terrible acts of violence are constantly being compared to events in the natural world. From that point of view, the Iliad is an anti-war message.Valentinus

    Natural world? The perspective I've been talking about is that supposed to have existed at the end of the Bronze Age, which is the setting for the Iliad. They didn't think in terms of a natural world (as opposed to the world of conscious agents). When you get a chance, read Moses Finley's book. I think you'd like it.


    What I mean by looking around nervously is wondering how much energy is expended to create a safe zone for the individual. Nothing would make someone feel safer than the depiction of other times where people did not have our advantages.Valentinus

    Still not sure what you're talking about. Anyway, I really didn't think a conflict would arise here. It just interested me to think about how Homer relates to the OP.
  • unenlightened
    3.7k
    Yet most societies in our world are organized around an abstraction: money.frank

    Indeed. Just where we tend to think we are most certain, most pragmatic, most rational. there is not even an abstraction, but a complete fiction by which we rule our lives and deaths. One tends to think of the hedge-fund manager as somehow different from the shaman, but they are functionally identical, and just as in 'primitive society' if the money man curses you, you will die.
  • frank
    2.8k
    All hail the Lord of Illusion.
  • Evil
    120
    a complete fiction by which we rule our lives and deaths.unenlightened

    Is there any other way?
  • unenlightened
    3.7k
    Is there any other way?Evil

    Other fictions are available.

    But I'm pointing towards a loss of meaning that results from the philosophical project of rationality. The objectivity addict produces a world of meaningless facts - because facts are only meaningful if someone gives a damn; that's what it means to be meaningful.

    Whereas meaningful fictions operate 'through the agency of mind' as social constructs. 'Faith' is called in economics 'confidence' and in other social settings 'social cohesion' or 'solidarity' or 'love'.

    These are givings of damns that populate and imbue material with meaning. So to say that meaning is essentially emotional has implications for language, as per ...
    It's doing things with words.Banno

    One can dance or fight or inform or explore or confuse - with words. But always it is interpersonal, relational. But more broadly, the ever-failing attempt to derive ethics from the material fails because it works the other way about: definition - materiality is what one cannot escape caring about. And what one gives not a fig for is immaterial.
  • fdrake
    2.4k
    But I'm pointing towards a loss of meaning that results from the philosophical project of rationality. The objectivity addict produces a world of meaningless facts - because facts are only meaningful if someone gives a damn; that's what it means to be meaningful.unenlightened

    Something I've been entertaining recently is the integration of reason with passions. Hume was right that reason serves the passions, but to believe it wholly distinct might be an error. I believe it's possible to superimpose reason with other states, so that the two blend into a unified product. Something like what Phil Ochs portrays in "I Ain't Marching Any More":

    Now the labor leader's screamin'
    When they close the missile plants
    United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore
    Call it, Peace, or call it, Treason
    Call it, Love, or call it, Reason
    But I ain't marching anymore
    No, I ain't marching anymore
    — Phil Ochs

    or Brecht portrays in "The Critical Attitude":

    Canalising a river
    Grafting a fruit tree
    Educating a person
    Transforming a state
    These are instances of fruitful criticism
    And at the same time instances of art.

    It is tempting to portray reason as an inertia of the subject that calls or returns us to our essence, as in Spinoza or Epictetus, or as the central mediator of virtue as in Aristotle. What I wonder is if reason already does supply the form of expression the passions provide the content for, neither isolable from the other, and whether one can develop skill in this regard. Like relearning how to see.

    Inference, or patterned structural linkage of interpretation and sensation seems rooted in our perception/sensation as much as in our deliberation; when one reasons about what play to make, they find they already understand how the pieces may move. Such heuristics are inescapable, but perhaps they can be trained to become better at exercising the passions; perhaps giving them a robust or more relatable structure. In that way, perhaps developing this integration is a key source of expanding one's autonomy, through reciprocity, in the fleeting moments of our life; in further cultivating ourselves.
  • Evil
    120
    Discussions of grammar and syntax delve into the froth of the reality of existence.unenlightened

    Also, lexis

    This all sounds like applied linguistics.
  • Valentinus
    467
    Still not sure what you're talking about. Anyway, I really didn't think a conflict would arise here. It just interested me to think about how Homer relates to the OP.frank

    I am not trying to pick a fight.
    The Finley view is interesting and I will try to check it out. My comments were not an argument against them but trying to look at the challenge of the OP as something that put explanations of all kinds in a dim light.
  • Banno
    5.6k
    Discussions of grammar and syntax delve into the froth of the reality of existence.unenlightened

    This is so, because that's all words can do. The depths are at best, show, and more often, beyond expression.
  • frank
    2.8k
    My comments were not an argument against them but trying to look at the challenge of the OP as something that put explanations of all kinds in a dim light.Valentinus

    Probably so. Your comment about Homer just put me in mind of trying to use other cultures as a vantage point on our own. At least seeing how we're different from our ancestors.
  • unenlightened
    3.7k
    Hume was right that reason serves the passions, but to believe it wholly distinct might be an error.fdrake

    Hume is the man. But left and right are distinct enough, but not independent. Does one say that the architect is the slave of the builder? It is the other way round according to our social conventions - the builder does what the architect says - yet the architect without builders is a mere fantasist the master is dependent on his slaves for everything, but especially for his mastery.

    I was expecting Nietzsche to turn up about now. His view on the master/slave relationship seems relevant, and he is the official philosopher of passion. And he takes us again to the Greek gods - this time Apollo and Dionysus. And perhaps the previous paragraph will indicate where I think he went wrong in his diagnosis of Christianity.

    This is so, because that's all words can do. The depths are at best, show, and more often, beyond expression.Banno

    Well indeed. But although pencils can only make marks on paper, they are not confined to depicting pencils. Words can inform deeds, and deeds are motivated by passions. I think we could talk less about words and more about deeds. And perhaps, with great caution, we might sometimes enact our words. It does seem to me that such notions are not even mentioned very much in philosophy of late.
  • Banno
    5.6k
    Quite right. This calls for immediate discussion.

    Completely new motion, eh, that, ah-- that there be, ah, immediate action--

    In the-- in the light of fresh information from, ahh, sibling Un--
  • unenlightened
    3.7k
    Motion carried ... out?

    Cue Marx; "the point is..."
  • frank
    2.8k
    But left and right are distinct enough, but not independent.unenlightened

    :up:
  • fdrake
    2.4k
    Hume is the man. But left and right are distinct enough, but not independent. Does one say that the architect is the slave of the builder? It is the other way round according to our social conventions - the builder does what the architect says - yet the architect without builders is a mere fantasist the master is dependent on his slaves for everything, but especially for his mastery.unenlightened

    The Essence lights up in itself or is mere reflection: and therefore is only self-relation, not as immediate but as reflected. And that reflex relation is self-identity. — Hegel, The Doctrine of Essence

    The hierarchical asymmetry of power there only makes sense upon a reciprocal inter-dependence; you can't need to give an order without needing their actions. System internal feed forwards between two components always require (or really just are) their supporting feed backs . Even though the presence of both is an exploitable resource for another causal pattern, like a hierarchy, to emerge or be imposed.

    I think Master-Slave in Hegel follows that reflex logic I quoted above, but my Hegel foo is not particularly good. One becomes definable only in opposition to another, like left and right.

    But we have more freedom to intervene here, one can choose to cultivate integration or to cultivate detachment from oneself. One can cultivate a reciprocal interdependence between the two, perhaps so one can feel their thoughts and think their feelings (but this is an exaggeration).

    Just like an asymmetry may emerge from a reciprocal interdependence; parts and wholes dynamically reciprocate rather than passively abide. So the form content schema I used was clumsy, but I think it suggested the right thing.

    Maybe like left and right if we could choose the orientation of the cardinal directions.

    Edit: I don't really know what this does to ritual and icon. I suppose my perspective on it is similar, you can't really 'reason' your way from the wine to the blood of Christ without partaking in the tradition of interpretation that provides the links, or the road to follow. I would however defend that noble ritual of ritual choice, reason, and the feelings which inspire the choice.
  • frank
    2.8k
    The symbol is in stasis like an eternal shore that ever-changing, mortal experience breaks onto over and over.

    The same flag means a million different things.
  • fdrake
    2.4k
    The symbol is in stasis like an eternal shore that ever-changing, mortal experience breaks onto over and over.frank

    I like the metaphor, but the flag isn't a given either. The flux has a habit of making islands to flow around - which push back upon it and give it shape.
  • frank
    2.8k
    @fdrake
    Flags are made of flux?
  • fdrake
    2.4k
    Flags are made of flux?frank

    Well yes, in one respect they are. They're a stable object of an alliance of atoms that blows in the wind from atop buildings as a signal. Then they're a stable coagulation of cultural norms and social history with expressive power. A flag is a drawing with the right history.
  • frank
    2.8k

    Gilgamesh sought immortality and finally found it on a lapis lazuli stele bearing his story carved in cuneiform.

    He's still alive 5000 years later because he's taken shape in your imagination. He lives in you, and he will likely outlive you by 10,000 more years.

    None of us mortals are in a position to piss on grand immortal symbols. We're dust to them.
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