onsdag 28 oktober 2009

East vs West: A few words about WORDS Part 3

Dear Dino

My point is that Socrates said the same thing: He hated written language and was sure it turned us into sloppy thinkers and de-spiritualized human beings. The irony of course being that Plato then wrote down Socrates' critical words and spread them through written language, turning Socrates into one of the greatest thinkers of all time in the process.

So I'm just not sure THIS is where we find a difference between east and west. More interesting is how they may have influenced each other (the origins of Zen in Zoroastrian Central Asia, for example) and how surrounding material conditions may have influenced them and their potential differences. I'm personally tired both of the idea that Greece is the origin of philosophy (it clearly is not) and that there is a mysterious East full of "wisdom", another myth we need to get rid of. Since when did wisdom have anything to do with mysticism to begin with? Shouldn't wisdom instead be all about clarity???
- Dölj citerad text -


2009/10/28 Special Kain

Still, the fact that there ARE Daoist scriptures that actually can be READ and STUDIED doesn't say anything about Daoist philosophers' critical (and often ironic) thoughts about language. It seems inconsistent, but makes perfect sense when applying memetics to the situation: in order to spread the message that language can't mirror the supreme reality you have to speak and write. And that message "wants" to be replicated and penerate people's minds.
It's a breathtaking generalization, but most philosophical essays are full of such generalizations and outrageously bold claims - which makes philosophy so interesting and controversial! (Because philosophy should be controversial and challenge one's ingrained ideas.) And I want to see whether it's correct and where this thought will take me.
What you've said about monism and dualism as expressions of different ecological and cultural environments is exactly what I had in mind, too. But I just hoped to find a more fascinating explanation that's different from mine and would teach me something new. ;-)

--- Alexander Bard schrieb am Mi, 28.10.2009:

Von: Alexander Bard
Betreff: [Ushta] East vs West: A few words about WORDS
An: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Datum: Mittwoch, 28. Oktober 2009, 21:57

And still, how do we know Dao-de-jing's thoughts, if not through his texts, his language?
Zarathushtra doesn't have a langauge theory since he lived in a pre-linguistic environment. He probably had no idea his ideas would one day be discussed from a text called "The Gathas". Which I find rather liberating! Zarathushtra could for one not have been cynical in any way and that is so attractive.
Monism and dualism? I believe that in cosmopolitan cultures, monism becomes the only credible option. But if you build a civilization in a desert oasis, organization is everything and the organization of an upper class of landowners versus an under class of slave-peasants becomes the norm, this is what happened in both Mesopotamia and Egypt. The result: A dualist worldview! Top and bottom becomes the metaphor for soul vs body, God vs Man, heaven vs earth, after-life vs current life etc.
These dichotomies permeating existence find no place in a cosmopolitan culture full of pluralities rather than dichotomies. So there instead monism (God as that which unifies all disparities) becomes the norm. Such as Brahmanism in relation to Hindu culture. I don't see Iranian culture as being any different here.

2009/10/28 Special Kain

Dear Alexander,

As far as I know, Indian and Chinese philosophers and religious practitioners are as obsessed with their texts as we westerners tend to be with ours. How about the Bahagadvad Gita for a start?

There it says that the creator can't be expressed in words. Also look at the Dao-de-jing: "He who knows doesn't speak, he who speaks doesn't know." As if language was pushing us even further away from the supreme reality behind the curtain, while pragmatists and existentialists (and also Zarathushtra, as far as I know) would say that language would enable us to enrich our existence and co-create our social identities. Even though I love Daoism, it seems to be a little anti-civilizationis t at times (like Diogenes).

And the idea that texts alone without religious practice does not amount to much is not really eastern.

Where did I say so? I've only made a statement about language in eastern and western philosophies.

Why would westerners otherwise have built monasteries where religion was supposedly practiced in minute detail? St Paul was adamant that texts without practice was useless. I just don't think there is that much difference here between "western" and "eastern" and as the "go-betweens" historically between east and west, perhaps a more radical Zoroastrian view would be that there is very little difference here between east and west, the balances between philosophy, poetry and practice being almost identical.

See, I don't believe in ontological differences, I don't buy into Kant's distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal. When it comes to such ontological differences I agree with Nietzsche's post-ontology. And I also agree with Rorty that philosophy is nothing but cultural politics without participating in sloppy anti-intellectualis m. Because I see anti-intellectualis m as anti-progress and anti-liberation.

What strikes me as a more radical difference is the roots in desert culture of western thought (with its focus on dualism) and the roots in early cosmopolitan culture of eastern thought (resulting in monism). The divide within Zoroastrianism is here clearly a divide between east and west.

Yes, I've always been fascinated with this difference, since different surroundings apparently shape philosophies and religious beliefs (words and beliefs as a means to control the environment and predict future events). It would be great to learn about the difference between deserts creating dualism and cosmopolitan cities creating monism. It would be even more fascinating to tie this in with what I said about the value and function of language in different parts of the world.

Alexander/don't know if I would agree with Rorty either that Nietzsche failed as a poet, "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is hardly a failure...

I don't know the Swedish translation, but the German original is awful. ;-))

Dino // hearts "The Gay Science" the most

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