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Language and Human Social Structures
Desire to own good words
Trigger words can become very popular. When that happens, everyone wants to OWN them. To do this, they go into denial. They LIE to themselves. They shut off all the associations they might know that don’t belong in their current belief set.
Think of the problems this causes in communication when two people from different backgrounds have a discussion. When each person hears the trigger word, their brain lights up with their preferred set of beliefs. It’s as if they were then speaking different languages, even though the words are similar.
A group of people hear a speaker say, ‘LOVE your NEIGHBOR as yourself.’ This makes everyone happy. But the group might have very different people in it? Let’s pick out a few examples: a clergyman; a ruthless landlord; a street person; a drug addict; a policeman. Now consider how each of these people interpret the words ‘love’ and ‘neighbor’ as they encounter discussions of various events: the war in Vietnam; a fight between two neighbors about a fallen tree; the mugging of a rich casino owner; a homeless person who asks for money. The words ‘love’ and ‘neighbor’ take on so many different meanings. Do you see what I mean?”
“I think so. And it seems that this would occur even in less extreme cases than the ones you made up. I mean, every guy I knew in high school seemed to have that problem eventually with someone or other.”
“Exactly. It’s a tough problem. So, back to your question about fixing Social Security. No. It can’t be fixed just by adjusting the amount of money withheld from working people. Eventually, there will be so many people receiving Social Security money for so many years that the working population will not be able to afford it. Then, remember I told you about discussions to add medical coverage for retired people as well. It will be financed the same way. These programs will compound each other to increase the problem.”
Language can be both absolute and relative
“Fair enough. Let’s look at some examples. Let’s start with a concept that can be BOTH absolute and relative at the same time: LANGUAGE.
In English, we have a word for an object that grows out of the ground, is very tall, is very hard and has leaves. That object is called a ‘tree’. In Spanish, the same object is called ‘arbol’. So the sound that a person makes when they point to a tree is RELATIVE to the language they speak. By RELATIVE here, we mean that the word we use is ‘subject to an external condition’. Right?”
"Sure. The external condition is the language.”
“Correct. Now, consider the tree by itself, as a pure object, totally without regard to the word we call it. The tree, as a material object, as a life form, exists all by itself. It exists no matter who points to it, or what people call it. So, in short, we can call this an example of an absolute. Do you agree with that?”
"Sure. Language is just a symbolic way that humans communicate about things. But the world does not depend on human words to exist. For example, people say that Newton discovered gravity. That’s not true. Gravity was already there. He just put a name on it and established mathematical methods to measure it and explained principles to describe how it affected objects.”
“Very good. But even though the sounds we use to describe things are relative, like the word “tree”, once we have established the relationship between the sound and what it defines, we can’t just arbitrarily use that sound anywhere we want anymore. Once we establish that the sound “tree” means the tall thing growing out of the ground, we can’t just make up a sentence and use the word “tree” in it, when what we are talking about is a rock sticking out of the ground or a piece of grass sticking out of the ground. Do you agree with that?”
Absolute of abstraction – higher level of comprehension
“The ability to effectively incorporate higher abstractions into language is an important factor in moving society forward. This especially includes logic, which is essentially a higher level of definition, which is essentially a new level of absolutes. If humans are not able to understand absolutes, and if things in life can not be related to absolutes, there will be VERY SEVERE repercussions throughout all world cultures.”
Lie of omission
“Precisely! And I have a lot more to say about that. But, sort of summing up so far, philosophic stability, philosophic asymmetry and abstract absolutes can provide us with whole new categories of philosophy to explore religions, as well as many other aspects of society.”
"But what good would that do if most people aren’t going to pay attention to philosophy books anyway?”
“I agree, it’s a very tough situation. As I said, the average person lives in the world of SINGLE SENTENCE LOGIC. They only hear things as sound bites. They talk in sound bites. Each of these conveys just a small amount of information. Then, based on just these short pieces of information, they take action. They get mad at each other, they make big decisions, they pass laws, and on and on. And, as our societies become more integrated, and more cultures intermix, the tragedy of Single Sentence Logic will get worse.
So, let’s talk about this a little. Single Sentence Logic is a huge problem in our society. The problem, of course, is that knowledge by itself, even knowledge composed of truths, doesn’t have to tell the whole story. That means, so called EXPERTS, with a cause to promote, can spout off a whole lot of facts that seem to support their cause, and not be accused of lying. But of course, it is a lie. It’s a LIE of OMISSION. Moreover, as they speak, they methodically distort the story by omitting all the details that would support a contrasting story. And they do this wrapped in the flag of their credentials. The average person is totally unable to see through this. And when so much of what people hear, see or read in the media, in the schools, or in their churches is like this, they might as well be living in an insane asylum. People almost universally reject idealism. But, in fact, they live in a fantasy world, built of idealisms, which is littered with pragmatic one liners. Single sentence logic is the world SIMPLE MINDED and NARROW MINDED people live in and how they get through the day.”
"Ben did tell me quite a bit about this. He said a human’s first connection to language is through EMOTION. When people grow up, that same basic trait is foremost. Our memorizing ability, which for most people is actually quite large, can store a lot of data. But our reasoning ability, which for most people is quite small, needs to keep knowledge compartmentalized into compact elements. So, in most peoples heads, there is a MAP between EMOTIONS and SINGLE PHRASE GROUPS. He said that the human brain is somehow organized according to these SINGLE PHRASE GROUPS. So peoples heads are filled with SINGLE SENTENCE LOGIC.”
“Precisely! Now let’s tie that back into the concept of philosophical stability. What happens if the media wants to tell you that the government is anti-people? Do you think they can put together a story that is internally consistent?”
"Sure. Piece of cake.”
“Right. So the media sets up the problem in stages. First, they would go looking for a hot issue that has a strong negative human emotion. For example, say there is an oil spill that kills a lot of wildlife. People relate nature to wholesomeness. Anything that kills wild animals in droves, people will automatically view as a negative. They then find a scientist who is an expert in wild animals to explain how the oil spill killed the animals. Then they single out the businesses that sell oil and play on the human emotion that fears large corporations and big government. All of these are linked together with a sequence of Single Sentence Logic: Animals have been killed – a true fact; an oil spill killed them – true fact; oil is produced by big business – a true fact; the government subsidizes oil production – a true fact; THEREFORE, and this is where the Single Sentence Logic train goes off the track, government is against people. Do you see that the string of statements has internal consistency?”
“OK. How would you change just a few facts and turn this whole thing around? How would you turn it into a consistent story that proves government is FOR the people?”
"Well. . . What if we just expand on the government subsidy thing and single out a case where the subsidy was given to the oil companies to study ways to minimize damage to animals from oil spills?”
“Precisely! All we have to do is expand the statement about the government subsidy to say something like: the government subsidizes oil companies to study new ways to PROTECT nature from ACCIDENTS. That’s also a true statement. Now the whole train of proof says the government is FOR the people.”
"I understand that. But how does this become a big Single Sentence Logic issue?”
“Because, after the whole message is presented, people will forget most of it. Depending on which message has been recently pounded into their brains, they are going to start connecting every one of the short statements in this train to the final emotion. That is, if the overall pitch is aimed at the negative emotion conclusion that government is against the people, then when someone says, ‘an oil spill killed some wildlife’, people will initially view oil spills as government screw ups. Scientists will be viewed as pro-wildlife and anti government. Big oil will be viewed as against people.”
"Hmmm. . . whereas, if the message driven home was that government is for the people, then when someone says, ‘an oil spill killed some wildlife’, then people might feel sadness for the animals, but not relate the killing to the government. In fact, they might think that the government was right on top of things and will jump in there to help. Scientists might be viewed as pro-wildlife but supportive and cooperative with government. And big oil might be seen as trying to be responsible.”
“Right. Now, bring two groups of people together. One group was brainwashed with the pro-government argument; the other was brainwashed with the anti-government argument. What do you think they will do?”
"Well, for starters, they are going to get into a big argument. One side will have signs that say, ‘government allows oil spills that kill wildlife.’ The other side will have signs that say, ‘government fights oil spills that kill wildlife.’ Side one will say scientists are keeping government in line; side two will say scientists are working with government. Side one will say big oil is raping the environment; side two will say big oil is contributing major money to protect wildlife.”
“Precisely! So, what are we learning from this discussion?”
"First, that the principle of Single Sentence Logic tells us that facts are quickly replaced by emotions. Once this happens, the same statements mean very different things to different people. It’s almost as if we’ve stopped talking the same language. Second, even the small phrases get interpreted that way. Oil spill, as a phrase, will become an emotional trigger word, as will wildlife and scientist and big oil and government. Third, an influential opinion leader, like the media, can create an internal consistency to prove their point.”
“Right. But what is the real problem? Isn’t this just human nature? Isn’t this just discussion and open debate?”
"Well, sure??? This IS just human nature. But it doesn’t mean that it’s the best process to create harmony and understanding in society. And while any line of reasoning should be protected as free speech, free speech doesn’t always seem to be the best process to get us the best results.”
“Good points. And I think you are exactly right about questioning PROCESS. Culture is a relatively NEW element in human evolution. If we think about it, we can easily see that culture would form as early in the process of mental development as the concepts supporting culture emerged in the human brain. That means, we are building culture with mental concepts that could be very primitive. There may be a long way to go before we understand these processes well enough to get good results. As for Single Sentence Logic, I think it should be a primary role of education to move us away from that way of thinking. And as for ‘freedom of speech’, education should be taking people’s understanding of that fundamental right out of the domain of Single Sentence Logic.”
"Let me see if I understand what you just said. You think the human brain hasn’t developed the mechanisms needed to understand and implement culture very far. We still have a long way to go.”
“For most people on the planet, RIGHT! And since evolution proceeds at a very slow rate, this could take a very long time.”
"But you think that education should be trying to overcome this by teaching us how to rise above Single Sentence Logic.”
"But isn’t that what education is doing? I mean, don’t you think the role of education is to teach us HOW to think?”
“I know one of the major stated goals of education is to teach us how to think, but they are failing miserably. And while I think there is wide spread agreement about this failing, the system we are stuck in doesn’t know how to get around its problems. And that is, I believe, because they don’t even know how to articulate the key issues. So, we keep stumbling along. The role education has slipped into is being a knowledge factory. They fill student’s heads with facts. This is essentially just following the path of Single Sentence Logic.”
"But don’t you think the schools are teaching wisdom?”
“Not by a long shot. This is sort of a long discussion that I’ll want to come back to at a later time, but let me just summarize my views here. When a concept is understood very broadly and understood in a way that is consistent with reality, then people can get true VALUE from that. But VALUES are precisely what the educational system is forbidden to teach. And the reason the schools are not allowed to teach VALUES is that the adult population of this world still doesn’t understand VALUES themselves. So, to protect the huge number of competing views of what VALUES are, schools are barred from that area.
Greek words for love
But I think that’s a misuse of the word as well. Lust and love are two very different things. The ancient Greeks already understood love a lot better than modern man does. They had three separate words for love: Agape, Philia and Eros. Agape meant the emotion of love felt between a husband and wife for their bond as partners in life. It was not related to sexual attraction. Philia was love for a person or even an institution expressed as devotion or friendship. A good example is love of country or love of work. Eros was the word used for the passionate emotions that were associated with sexual attraction. The fact that our modern language does not have words to keep these issues separate has caused no end to the disasters it has caused us. So let’s confine lust to the sexual connection.
The reason lust is such a problem is that it so often leads to actions that western society CURRENTLY labels TABOOS. These are primarily related to the Judeo-Christian social institution of marriage - i.e. the union of one man with one woman. The taboos are then specific cases where people have sex outside of their marriage. You understand that right?”
"Sure. Thou shalt not commit adultery!”
“OK. And what does that mean?”
"Ugh, ugh! Remember, I’m taking the fifth on this. That’s the other commandment the nuns didn’t want to explain.”
“Right! God help us! OK. It’s time to shoo away the birds and bees and get into the details."