Monday, January 29, 2007

Meaning vs. Logic

Focault's Pendulum is an extraordinary book that forces the reader to question the nature of meaning and logic. What I found most fascinating about the book is the clever method employed to contrast highly logical explanations of a given phenomenon, in this case Ingolf's text. One explanation is infused with elaborate and obscure knowledge of conspiracies of secret societies, originating in the 14th century, while another explanation reveals a rather mundane shorthand description of a 17th century merchant's laundry list. How could such contradictory, yet highly logically consistent explanations exist? Incidentally, Umberto Eco alludes to how this notion of finding meaning is plagued with the same basic problems embracing numerology, that we find what we wish to find, that we are only limited by our creative capacity in forming connections between things.

The implication here is that a logically consistent system of thought does not imply truth. Even further, that a logically consistent system of thought says nothing about reasons or causes. Aristotle speaks of many types of causes: material causes, formal causes, efficient causes, and final causes. In other words, there are many levels of reasons for a thing, and the truth depends on what level we are dealing with. To be a complete (highest?) truth, a truth must involve all levels, otherwise it falls into the domain of relative truth, i.e., from a given perspective. And in the realm of language, can we ever have anything other than relative truth? Can language ever really catch the essence of a thing, conveying it totally and completely? And what does it mean to have the complete truth of a thing? It seems one would need to consciously become and fully experience the thing itself.

Slight digression. Although, I am me, I haven't the slightest idea of who, or what me is. But that's because I'm not really conscious of me, or rather, the full experience of me, except at a superficial level. And so I don't really know me, and therefore am not able to possess the complete truth of me. Somehow I've become unconscious of the experience of me. It seems peculiar to have become me and not know what that is.

Anyway, even our conceptions of simple words such as tree, rock, house, and cloud, differ greatly. It's a small wonder that we are able to communicate at all. Our communications then, it seems, are based on similarities in conceptions—a small subset—the intersection of our pooled conceptions of a thing, which in turn may be partly based in personal experience, and partly in collective or apprehended experience รก la Jung.

So we see what we unconsciously wish to see—and we often attribute this to intuition. But true intuition can only operate when desire does not. In other words, we must be open to all possibilities. If we make any assumptions, those assumptions will become the lenses through which we see whatever follows. In making those assumptions, we have already pruned a large space of the tree of possibility. The state of mind we bring to any endeavour is all-important, and unconsciousness of our underlying motivations is literally blinding.

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