Of course “in front of me right now is a computer monitor”; which of course I’m eyeing to a greater degree as I type…
However, outside of a certain behavior which includes making marks and noises, this statement really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. In the same way, outside of a system of communication which includes speaking, marking, making symbols, systems of arithmetic, logic, etc. a map makes no sense at all either.
As the example goes, the map is a representation of the terrain; it corresponds to certain objective/material aspects of it – dark lines with perpendicular hashes are railroads, blue squiggly lines are streams and rivers, while blue patches are lakes – green patches are parks and forested areas, with broad circles and numbers representing altitudes – then there’s those little blue boxes with the tent, those are camping areas, or perhaps a wayside rest, with little black lines paving they’re way adjacent to them, through the cities and past my house… This, it’s supposed to be believed, represents the land.
Direct intuition seems to suggest quite clearly that such is the case, to the point that no-one outright would have a problem accepting it – however I find it highly problematic. Certainly before a squiggly line can be conceived of as representing a river, it has to be understood the enormous amount of contingencies that lead to that particular symbol being coherent in the first place. Looking at it just by itself we say, “this line stands for the river.” Is it the representative character of that statement that allows me understand what you’re saying, or is it rather your behavior as a whole that allows me to understand it? In another way, to say that words and marks represent and correspond is to suggest (or so I take it as suggesting) that outside of human contingencies these words and marks still hold a certain truth in and of themselves – it’s the old, “the universe speaks a certain language” bit. Which is for me to suggest that languages are not elements of human behavior, but elements of the way things are in themselves – and this seems to lead somewhat dubiously to the thought that speaking (in the form of representing) is really a third person enterprise with my hands firmly grasping the controls of a mysterious chimera inside the skull of meat puppet.
As elements of the way things are in themselves it suggests to me that, outside of human needs and interests there are still “blue squiggly lines and green patches”, but then I’m confused because, where are those blue squiggly lines and green patches? In other words, maps (if I can loosely use “represent” without being attacked) are at best representations of human behavior, not land masses. They represent certain contingencies which are always relative to ourselves.
I can’t escape the idea that behind any realist worldview is the idea of some sort of absolute – which either exists in a certain sort of commensurate lingo, or an all powerful all knowing God. How can you be certain that you’ve represented reality? In what way is the manner of my speak incorrect? You see, the only way to validate a strict realist, representative circular worldview is [again] to appeal to a ghost in the machine (a third person perspective), which ultimately validates the claim. A view of language (on the other hand) which is more tool-like and behavioral, has no requirement for ultimate justification or circular reasoning as what I’m saying has no ultimate relation to things in themselves, but only relates (once again) to behavior.
One of the reasons why I bring up democracy over and over (to which I haven’t received a response on the matter), is if language represents the terrain, then what is the terrain of Democracy? Where do we see Democracy? Where do we bump into it and how is this bumping into any different from bumping into the so-called terrain? This is why I infer that the answer is naturally, that “Democracy is merely a creation of the human spirit.” But if that’s the case, what’s it representative of (what’s spirit, or whatever word one would insert here)? Is Democracy real? Is it a fairy? The realist perspective fails to account for such phenomenon’s – of which we could include religion, love, goodness, and countless other human institutions. However, looked at from a behavioral point of view, the line between the terrain and human institution is blurred to a point that it makes no sense to conceive of such distinctions; that anything and everything from rocks to God, to love, to physics, are nothing more then human conventions based on certain contingencies that arose in our effort to thrive, survive, be happy and procreate.
I’m thinking to myself that this sounds like a sort of reductionism of God and religion, however I must remind myself that at this point in the string of this talk on Realism vs Non-realism, I’ve merely been talking about God as it pertains to a behavioral perspective… I think after this post I’d like to move on and get back to some thoughts I’ve been having on Rorty and Buddhism – as Buddhism is my secret love, and this whole liberal ironist thing is really eatin’ a hole through me…..
Psiomniac, I’m not really sure where to go… And I’m really bothered by the fact that maybe I’m severely misunderstanding your point of view – it could be because I’m too much of a novice, or that I’m being too forceful with my own thoughts, I’m not sure. Perhaps you could draft a post on your blog that elucidates your major points??? Cuz I can be a little slow and stuff.