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Thread: The Limits of Language

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    All language includes deity metaphors...

    "We are as gods, we might as well get good at it."
    Stewart Brand
    This is so, yes. Nice quote.
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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by devildavid View Post
    Ineffable is a word, invented and defined by man. Maybe belching expresses it.
    In my experience, ineffability arises in debates from those who find themselves in a corner and unable to say anything coherent about a deity. In that case, they ought to remain silent, according to the wise bit of sophistry under discussion, but they can't help themselves.

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    In my experience, ineffability arises in debates from those who find themselves in a corner and unable to say anything coherent about a deity. In that case, they ought to remain silent, according to the wise bit of sophistry under discussion, but they can't help themselves.
    lol...
    "For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but through the one who subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself will also be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God. " Romans 8:20,21

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    In my experience, ineffability arises in debates from those who find themselves in a corner and unable to say anything coherent about a deity. In that case, they ought to remain silent, according to the wise bit of sophistry under discussion, but they can't help themselves.
    In my experience ineffability faces all those who attempt to express in language the mysterious corners of the human condition. Poets, for example.


    For Once, Then, Something
    Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

    Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
    Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
    Deeper down in the well than where the water
    Gives me back in a shining surface picture
    Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
    Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
    Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
    I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
    Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
    Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
    Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
    One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
    Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
    Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
    Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.
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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    In my experience ineffability faces all those who attempt to express in language the mysterious corners of the human condition. Poets, for example.


    For Once, Then, Something
    Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

    Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
    Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
    Deeper down in the well than where the water
    Gives me back in a shining surface picture
    Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
    Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
    Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
    I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
    Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
    Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
    Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
    One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
    Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
    Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
    Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.
    Actually, poets are quite good at expressing their thoughts in words. That's the whole point. It is not language that limits them. It is language that empowers them. We can talk about anything that we can have thoughts about, because language is basically word-guided mental telepathy. Any emotion or mood can be quite nicely described in terms of language, because the speech signal itself is only a means of evoking mental states and associations that we all already possess.

    What I was talking about was what I like to call the "ineffability defense", which seems invariably to crop up in debates over the nature of God. Concepts like "omnipotence" and "omniscience" lead to all sorts of contradictions and confusion, and a good case can be made that an "omnimax" deity of the sort that Christians attempt to describe is simply a logically impossible being. When confronted with the usual conundrums, believers tend to fall back on the facile claim that finite minds cannot possibly comprehend an infinite being, that such a being is ultimately "ineffable". IMO, that claim is intellectually bankrupt, since the person claiming it admittedly does not know what he or she is even talking about. The point of the adage in the OP is that pursuit of such a defense is pointless and should not even be tried.

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    Actually, poets are quite good at expressing their thoughts in words. That's the whole point. It is not language that limits them. It is language that empowers them. We can talk about anything that we can have thoughts about, because language is basically word-guided mental telepathy. Any emotion or mood can be quite nicely described in terms of language, because the speech signal itself is only a means of evoking mental states and associations that we all already possess.
    So what is the Frost poem about? We can go on to other poems and poets later, since you claim a certain authority on and familiarity with the subject, but let's start with the Frost poem, yes? What is it about, on your reading?

    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    What I was talking about was what I like to call the "ineffability defense", which seems invariably to crop up in debates over the nature of God. Concepts like "omnipotence" and "omniscience" lead to all sorts of contradictions and confusion, and a good case can be made that an "omnimax" deity of the sort that Christians attempt to describe is simply a logically impossible being. When confronted with the usual conundrums, believers tend to fall back on the facile claim that finite minds cannot possibly comprehend an infinite being, that such a being is ultimately "ineffable". IMO, that claim is intellectually bankrupt, since the person claiming it admittedly does not know what he or she is even talking about. The point of the adage in the OP is that pursuit of such a defense is pointless and should not even be tried.
    The case against any conception of the nature of God is easy enough to make -- Guru Dawkins has made a whole second career out of such facile polemics, and I see in your posts a worthy acolyte of Dawkinsism. Of course if the theist doesn't know what he's talking about, how much more "intellectually bankrupt" is the atheist, who can claim far less cachet to eff about God than the theist?

    By the by the quote in the OP is not an adage; it is a line from Wittgenstein's Tractatus, and are you confident that Wittgenstein's thesis in that work is fairly rendered by you as a an argument against apologetics?
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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    So what is the Frost poem about? We can go on to other poems and poets later, since you claim a certain authority on and familiarity with the subject, but let's start with the Frost poem, yes? What is it about, on your reading?
    Like most of his poetry, it was about his sense of not being certain of how to deal with uncertainty and confusion. Ineffability is not about our uncertainty or things we don't understand. Those are life's puzzles. It refers to what we cannot, in principle, understand. What is the point of striving to understand what is unreachable? The poem doesn't tell us to stop trying.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    The case against any conception of the nature of God is easy enough to make -- Guru Dawkins has made a whole second career out of such facile polemics, and I see in your posts a worthy acolyte of Dawkinsism. Of course if the theist doesn't know what he's talking about, how much more "intellectually bankrupt" is the atheist, who can claim far less cachet to eff about God than the theist?
    I see that you have something of an obsession with Guru Dawkins. I do like the guy, but I wouldn't climb up a mountain to sit at his feet in the hopes of imbibing a drop of wisdom. That's for disciples of Satan, and I am just one of the lesser minions. I did once go to a high school auditorium to listen to him speak. He seemed mortal, but who can say? Anyway, I would appreciate it if you would just sort of forget about Dawkins and respond to what I actually wrote. You keep bringing him up here, but I don't recall invoking his name in my last post. I am less of an authority on Dawkins. Peace Be Upon Him and Blessed Be His Name.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    By the by the quote in the OP is not an adage; it is a line from Wittgenstein's Tractatus, and are you confident that Wittgenstein's thesis in that work is fairly rendered by you as a an argument against apologetics?
    Oh, I actually quite like Wittgenstein, who had the distinction of being a seminal figure on both sides of the 20th century debate between Ideal and Ordinary Language philosophers. Nevertheless, you used the quote out of context and asked people to supply their sense of what it meant. That actually turned it into something of an adage in the context of this thread. Or did you expect everyone in this thread to have read and understood the Tractatus?

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    Like most of his poetry, it was about his sense of not being certain of how to deal with uncertainty and confusion. Ineffability is not about our uncertainty or things we don't understand. Those are life's puzzles. It refers to what we cannot, in principle, understand. What is the point of striving to understand what is unreachable? The poem doesn't tell us to stop trying.



    I see that you have something of an obsession with Guru Dawkins. I do like the guy, but I wouldn't climb up a mountain to sit at his feet in the hopes of imbibing a drop of wisdom. That's for disciples of Satan, and I am just one of the lesser minions. I did once go to a high school auditorium to listen to him speak. He seemed mortal, but who can say? Anyway, I would appreciate it if you would just sort of forget about Dawkins and respond to what I actually wrote. You keep bringing him up here, but I don't recall invoking his name in my last post. I am less of an authority on Dawkins. Peace Be Upon Him and Blessed Be His Name.



    Oh, I actually quite like Wittgenstein, who had the distinction of being a seminal figure on both sides of the 20th century debate between Ideal and Ordinary Language philosophers. Nevertheless, you used the quote out of context and asked people to supply their sense of what it meant. That actually turned it into something of an adage in the context of this thread. Or did you expect everyone in this thread to have read and understood the Tractatus?
    Your reading of the Frost poem fails to address the singularity expressed in the last line, which seems to me to be the whole point of the poem.

    Your debut post to this thread was an anti-theist mini-rant reminiscent of Guru Dawkins, and so you invited comparisons.
    Quid pro quo: I'll stop with the Dawkins; you stop with the anti-theism. This is supposed to be a philosophy thread on the limits of language after all.

    Your criticism of the OP fails at post #2.
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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    Your reading of the Frost poem fails to address the singularity expressed in the last line, which seems to me to be the whole point of the poem.
    I don't believe that my interpretation fails to address the last line, which fits in with what went before it. My reading is just different from yours. The beauty of poetry is in the images it invokes in the mind, and it is seldom the case that there is just one interpretation of its significance. Uncertainty is not the same as ineffability, and I think that is where your take on the quote in the OP goes off the tracks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    Your debut post to this thread was an anti-theist mini-rant reminiscent of Guru Dawkins, and so you invited comparisons.
    Quid pro quo: I'll stop with the Dawkins; you stop with the anti-theism. This is supposed to be a philosophy thread on the limits of language after all.
    I'll tell you what. You stop making silly comparisons between me and Richard Dawkins. I get that you and a lot of other people hate him, and so his name can be used to tar another individual rather than address the content of what that individual says. As for my anti-theism, that is probably a theme that is going to crop up in my contributions here at least as often as your anti-atheism does. So the deal I am willing to make with you is that we not try to muzzle each other's honest expression of disagreement.

    Quote Originally Posted by Angel View Post
    Your criticism of the OP fails at post #2.
    Oh, well, I tried. Yours failed at post #1, so you can keep the prize.

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    Re: The Limits of Language

    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I don't believe that my interpretation fails to address the last line, which fits in with what went before it. My reading is just different from yours. The beauty of poetry is in the images it invokes in the mind, and it is seldom the case that there is just one interpretation of its significance. Uncertainty is not the same as ineffability, and I think that is where your take on the quote in the OP goes off the tracks.
    If your paradigm of language-driven thought is correct, then uncertainty and ineffability are related, no?
    As for the Wittgenstein line quoted in the OP, it seems clear to me, even without identifying the source, that the line is about the limits of language, not the limits of thought. The terms are speaking and silence after all. And given the source -- since we both appear to have an appreciation of Wittgenstein -- you are no doubt familiar with the even more famous line of his in which he asserts that the limits of his language are the limits of his world, yes?
    In short, I don't see my take on the OP quote as "off the tracks," but I welcome elaboration from you on this score.

    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I'll tell you what. You stop making silly comparisons between me and Richard Dawkins. I get that you and a lot of other people hate him, and so his name can be used to tar another individual rather than address the content of what that individual says. As for my anti-theism, that is probably a theme that is going to crop up in my contributions here at least as often as your anti-atheism does. So the deal I am willing to make with you is that we not try to muzzle each other's honest expression of disagreement.
    For the record, I am not anti-atheist. I have the greatest respect for the great atheist thinkers of the past, such as Sartre and Camus. I am anti-anti-theist, which is today's pop atheism, a strident ill-informed brand of atheism that is really anti-religion and based on fear and ignorance, a brand of atheism generated some fifteen years ago by Dawkins and company, a form of religious bigotry that has done a great deal of harm in its influence on non-critical minds. Your debut post and its follow-up were chapter and verse out of the New Atheism, and so the association on my part was not silly as it addressed quite specifically the content of your posts.
    I'm completely in accord with your anti-muzzling agreement. I'm first and last in favor of the free and open marketplace of ideas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    Oh, well, I tried. Yours failed at post #1, so you can keep the prize.
    The intention of the OP was that knowledge of Wittgenstein or his work is unnecessary to forming an opinion on the quoted line, but it is identified as a line from a philosophical word and your characterization of it as an "adage" and "a wise piece of sophistry" that launched on this one-upmanship trophy hunt. We can move on.
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