An epiphany, and prelude to other thoughts

by onacruse 79 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • onacruse

    Six, thanks for your thoughts. "The discovery is in the dialogue."

    you're weaving between words usage

    I'm not trying to obtuse, as if by clever use of words I'll gain some advantage. I'd only be fooling myself.

    A scientist who studies light or color, has a much more precise view of "red" than most of us, but that is just a matter of him having more information/data about it.

    Exactly. A scientist has a more precise and comprehensive definition of "red" that he and his fellow scientists have by concensus agreed to use for the purpose of communication. But have any of them "experienced" red? No, they've only experienced the sensory effect that "red" has on their physical organism, or clinically observed the electro-mechanical affect that "red" produces in their instrumentation. But, what "red" is, no one knows, any more than we "know" what gravity is, or what an electron is. Descriptive ability doesn't constitute "knowing" that which we describe.

    Just because he doesn't have language, doesn't mean he doesn't think.

    Most epistemologists would disagree. True, there are some cultures that use imagery in a more fundamental way than Western cultures, and to limited extent can substitute imagery for vocalization. But even so, it's still a matter of attaching meaning to a symbol, for without that meaning the symbol communicates nothing.

    Language is a part of our organism and no less complicated than it.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Without words to objectify and categorize our sensations and place them in relation to one another, we cannot evolve a tradition of what is real in the world.
    Ruth Hubbard

    As far as the baby understanding our words and behavior:

    You can't really believe that, can you?

    Like I said, I'm talking here about a new-born baby. Now, the very first time we smile at a baby, what is communicated? Nothing, because the baby has no way of knowing what it "means" when we expose our teeth and raise our cheeks in that manner. After a while, though, he begins to associate that expression with "pleasant" physical results: Momma smiles, and then baby gets food. Daddy smiles, and the baby gets warmed by a blanket, or a hug up against a warm body. After enough of this "conditioning," the baby eventually associates "smile" with a feeling that we verbalize as "I feel good." Now, what would happen if everytime Mommy and Daddy smiled, baby got hit? Or got cold water thrown on him? Then baby would associate a smile with "I feel bad." It's all a matter of conditioning.

    It may mean something as simple as "what's that?"... (and yes, for the sake of this discussion, a question is something)

    And what objective evidence is there that a new-born baby "questions" anything? Their reaction, I submit, is not the question "what's that?" but rather the awareness of "that is."

    however babies with no language say "what's that?

    Ahh, the question I'd put back to you then is: Tell me what that "however" is.

    But he's not a blank slate, not really.

    You're right. For 9 months the baby had been receiving sensory input while still in the womb, and there are very good reasons to assume that there are genetic predispositions that have already started formulating his personality. My analogy does have its limits

    Could you define those terms as you'll be using them?

    So far, the definitions I gave several posts back seem to be working. It remains to be seen if they hold muster after you review them!

    As for that fly, I'll buy.


  • larc


    I thought your were words were so good, that I asked my wife to come take a look. I had to wait for a TV commercial, but she took a look and agreed, and said, spontaneiously, "Very Good".

    Now, on a related subject, my favorite song is Nature Boy, sung by Nat King Cole and Gracie Slick of the Great Society, The Jefferson Air Plane and Jefferson StarShiip: "There was a boy, a very strange enthanted boy. He talked of many things, fools and kings, and then he said to me: "Greatest thing you'll ever learn, is to love and be loved in return.'"

  • SixofNine
    I'm not trying to obtuse, as if by clever use of words I'll gain some advantage. I'd only be fooling myself.

    Well, I wasn't accusing you of trying to be obtuse, or of using clever words to gain some advantage. I think you are headed down the road of fooling yourself if you think any epiphanies can be confirmed or explained by philosophy. Also, your points are getting lost or unsupported by fuzzy verbage, at least to me.

    As for epistemologist, when a philosopher builds a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to his door. Until such time, it seems a poor excuse for masturbation, imo. Masturbation may be self-abuse, but at least it's usually done privately and doesn't involve language abuse, at least not much, lol.

    A scientist has a more precise and comprehensive definition of "red" that he and his fellow scientists have by concensus agreed to use for the purpose of communication. But have any of them "experienced" red? No, they've only experienced the sensory effect that "red" has on their physical organism, or clinically observed the electro-mechanical affect that "red" produces in their instrumentation. But, what "red" is, no one knows, any more than we "know" what gravity is, or what an electron is. Descriptive ability doesn't constitute "knowing" that which we describe.

    I guess I'll just have to bow out of the discussion for now. If knowledge doesn't mean knowing, and philosophers don't think babies can think... then I have no tools to argue with.

    I did somehow miss your definitions of moral and ethical, so I'll go back and check them out and see if it all means more to me after reading them. Anyway, I'm outa here for a while. Be good, whatever that is.

    Btw, I recently heard an interesting interview with a clever man whose made it his lifes work to study facial expression. If he "knows" anything about it, facial expressions ain't learned.

  • Uzzah


    I have enjoyed reading your thoughts. I will try to add more to them when I get home but I can not help but repeat something I have often said over the past 5 years of JW inactivity;

    "There is no greater liberty or sense of freedom than to be able to say 'I don't know."


  • onacruse

    larc, I do that all the time...I drag Katie over to the screen and ask "Read that, will ya? Does it make any sense?" LOL I think that might just be called spousal abuse? "Enchanted" is a song I've not heard for many many years. My folks had Cole's records, and that was one of my favorites, too (though I had no clue what the lyrics meant).

    Katie just showed me a quote that is so wonderful (Melody Beattie, Journey to the Heart):

    Do more than just accept yourself, tolerate yourself, put up with yourself, endure what you are.

    Love yourself.

    There came a time in my life when I simply could no longer put up with putting up with myself. I had talked about self-love. I had said out loud that I loved myself. The words were good, but they didn't ring true. I had to actually begin experiencing and practicing love for myself. It became the next step on my path.

    Six, your last post reminds me why I find Kant so intriguing when he says "neither concepts without an intuition in some way corresponding to them, nor intuition without concepts, can yield knowledge." I've been plodding along on this thread, like walking down a twisted and vine-crossed mountain trail, to explain how I got to where I am now. Others (perhaps including you) may very well just intuitively jump right past me and, without any seeming effort at all, reach that same point. One man's "epiphany" is another man's "well, wasn't that perfectly obvious all along?" It doesn't matter how we get there, eh?

    Like I said, in a little bit here I'll get on to the "ethics" of all this, and I'd be glad to have you jump back in.

    Uzzah, I look forward to your thoughts, especially the "I don't know."


    Edit to add: I've been pondering now for a couple hours on what Six said, and I'd like to clarify a couple things:

    1) I mean "epiphany" only in the strictest personal sense of the term. Perhaps more like a "eureka!" in seeing, for myself and myself alone, something that makes "sense." A big part of this is that I've thrown away so very much of what I always accepted as the "standards (read pseudo-moral)" by which I lived. As I'm reconstructing my life, and my ideas of what life means, I find great satisfaction in feeling that my "new" direction is not without some affirmation from others that have gone down this path long before me. If what I share here has any value to y'all, then so much the better. But, I'M NOT TRYING TO PROVE ANYTHING. And I thank you all for sharing your thoughts in return.


  • SixofNine

    Craig, I dont' have time to jump back into this thread, but I'm very anxious to hear what your Eureka moment involved, especially as regards the thread that spawned it.

    Btw, I went back and read the philosophy you quoted on moral vs ethical. Seems an extremely fine line to me. I certainly see the difference, but it is so minute, and not something most people even think about, so why not just lump them together and just ask morality to get it's ass in gear and become ethical? "Step up to the plate my good word", as it were.

  • Carmel


    Re: proposition #2, by logical extension, there is no original thought. All that we think, therefore, is someone else's thoughts regurgitated though our mental filters. By definition, we must learn the process by early indoctrination (education) and never go beyond what others have already thought before.

    I would suggest that "metaphysical revelation" is not simply re-shuffling already known data, but in fact is new information that is contectualized by the aculturation process we go through as infants. My "eureka, I've found it" may not be as profound as the next person, but it can and frequently does go beyond "reorganization".

    Great thread, btw!


  • onacruse

    Six: It was min's thread on "If your JW relative needed blood, would you force it on them?" that started all this (yes, it's all min's fault! LOL ) My "eureka" moment was suddenly seeing a place to "step off the plate," as it were. All my life I didn't need to concern myself with what was "right" or "wrong," because morality was all spelled out for me in the Bible. In the past year I've rejected the Bible as a categorical authority, and that left me without a "basis" for the meaning and purpose of life. As I struggled with the issues on that thread, I suddenly realized that, for me, what these philosophers have observed about the nature of human existence and knowledge gave me a legitimate (moral) place to "step off to" and have the peace of mind that I am indeed "right," simply because "I am." (I know, that last sounds so sophomoric...what the hell! )

    As for the subtle distinctions between "moral and ethical," let me be blunt ("step up to the plate, my good word" ): I feel that we are deceiving ourselves to categorize such an action (like forcing blood on an otherwise unwilling but temporarily unconscious JW) as being a "moral" act. It's NOT a moral act. Morals only exist for the individual. It MIGHT be an ethical act. That several posters to that thread admitted that they "would face the consequences in court" shows that they themselves realize that their actions might very well not be ethical. So, if such an act is not moral, or even ethical, then what is it? Nothing more, and nothing less, than selfish. For myself, and for numerous other posters on min's thread and this one, selfish is not a good enough reason.

    I ask: Would you be quite so willing to do something to another human being if you recognized that your action was nothing more than selfishness, with no legitimate moral or ethical basis for your act? Just plain and simple "this is how I think the world should be, and this is how I think other people should act, and if they're too stupid to figure it out for themselves, then I'll figure it out for them, and force my way upon them?" I'm not suggesting that selfishness is bad...just a matter of calling a spade a spade.


    proposition #2, by logical extension, there is no original thought

    Very true, there is no "original thought" insofar as we conform to the conditioned symbol-meaning that's been superimposed on us. And conform to that conditioning we all do, for probably 99.9999999% of our lives (as you say, "regurgitation," very appropriate). Those few instances of "original thought" are so rare that they baffle us; we call them "flashes of inspiration," the "spark of genius." Those experiences of original thought can, for most of us, be counted on one hand. Even Einstein didn't produce one flash after another after another for any extended period. That "seminal" period is usually of very short duration, and of very narrow focus. That we today have advanced so far from Neandertals is nothing more than the very gradual accumulation of these infrequent "inspirations" extended over a period of thousands of years, involving billions of people. I submit that those occurences are "out of the bounds" of that superimposed conditioning...a "mystery???" Indeed, these extraordinary events of original thought are often baffling even to those that have them. "Where did you get that idea from?" "Ya know, I can't really say. It just sorta came to me. But it sure is cool, eh?"

    new information that is contectualized by the aculturation process we go through as infants

    I don't follow what you're driving at. Care to elaborate?

  • blackout

    Craig, Love this thread however I need you to define 'think' 'language' and 'know' before I can further understand as I feel my definition may be different to yours, seeing as I am an animal behaviourist.

  • onacruse

    blackout, thanks for joining the conversation

    Animal behavior is very relevant here. The constraints of animal "conditioned response" and "abstractive capabilites" are, in very many ways, reflective of the same behaviors we have as humans. Peter Ouspensky (mathematician-turned-philosopher-turned-mystic, not unlike Kant and many other philosophers) explores animal "logic" at length (Tertium Organum). After some preliminary groundwork, he states (p. 82):

    Common properties, class properties, and the specific signs of categories will not exist for animals. Each object will exist in and by itself, and all its properties will be the specific properties of it alone.

    As in my proposition #2 example of the human baby, the animal perceives the objects it encounters in the universe around it as "this is," not as "this means this." There is therefore no emotion "attached" by an animal to an external stimulus. Every moment exists only for that moment, every object only for that object. That's how an animal "knows" the universe. For an animal there is therefore no "regret," "hope," "I don't want to die before my time," "how can I live forever?" because those are non-real, symbolic, abstract concepts.

    Animals and humans begin to diverge when those abstractions of meaning-attached-to-symbol begin. But, as I say above, the association of meaning with symbol is "provided" to humans by other humans, even in the very words we use ("words" which in and of themselves have no reality, and are merely "symbols.") And, getting back to the existentialism of proposition #1, even those "meanings/words" don't remotely allow us to touch each other's "souls" (or whatever term might be better). This "passing of meaning" from one human generation to the next is not substantially too dissimilar to "instinct."

    Thus, for all that we like to think we as humans are far advanced over animals, we're actually not all that different, because most of our life boils down to "isolation" and "conditioned response."

    The WTS just happens to be exceptionally good at conditioning responses, rather like an animal trainer. It demeans our human potential (albeit a potential rarely exercised).

    blackout, perhaps this gives us a starting point?


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