Non-Self Philosophical Reference Points

Philosophers tend to use their natural logic in a somewhat more disciplined way than do most people. They may construct a theory of everything or just a theory about thought. Language and logic have themselves been the subject of philosophical investigation as well as the nature of the material or spirit perceived by the mind. When one strips down the methods of logic and language to its bare essentials we have an opportunity to process data that may be presented to mind and reasoning a little more constructively. There may be ten-thousand ‘points of reference’ or perhaps just one (allow that would be a very monistic criterion making the observer or user of one reference point something of a passive partner to the one point of reference perhaps).

Referred to points may be suitable for a particular set theory, yet of course we would prefer more than one point if we hoped to construct something meaningful. In systems of relativity at least three points of reference are required for directions of motion to be established. In language, one referent would be a one word vocabulary. Primordially even apes accomplish more than that with recognizable grunt referent meanings. The challenge for linguistics is to denote specific lexical ontology referents amidst others. Philosophically the challenge may be to reduce the possible plethora of words and objects to primary structures of meaning. Martin Heidegger pursued language in such a way looking for ‘essents’. Modern analytical philosophers may exploit some of the ontological references of science for their cosmological criteria as well as neurological foundation for thought similes to epistemological phenomena subjectively.

Unreasonable points of reference are a little hoary, so we prefer reasonable ones if we are compelled to choose. So one must make a reasoned reasonable point to have a philosophy and eat it too, as if it were a cake. How might one argue with such fell logic as that? I think we must try.

A philosophy as an objective thing in itself seems something of a trivialization of the activity of the pursuit of wisdom. Yet moderns like to have sound bite reasoning and packaged products such as ‘a philosophy’ and then describe the contents it must have to be a marketable product. It needs a point of reference, and the point of reference must be reasonable. We cannot say who the judge must be of whether or not a particular point in a philosophy is reasonable or not. Certainly in ecclesiastical history there were those that de facto stipulated that ‘a philosophy’ was heretical and the authors would be burned at the stake or given unto the inquisition. At least Galileo learned to mind his p’s and q’s and was spared be burned at the stake. He knew when to assert a reasonable point of reference and when to kow-tow to the communist party ideologues of the day (a Chinese former communist professor was just given a ten year prison sentence for forming a political party. Only one party is reasonable in China).

We like to believe that in the many fields of philosophy including political philosophy virtually any approach regarding the mind or matter, spirit or social order, mass or energy might be taken with potential for good results. The French philosopher Descartes intentionally dispensed with any conventional points of reference in his quest to understand existence. His existential doubt was a result of the will to found philosophical knowledge upon first principles–things or ideas he could regard as direct knowledge in personal experience as true. He had no ‘point of reference’. Cogito ergo sum was self-standing or self-evident. At least he believed it was and that belief advanced philosophy significantly.

Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist researches expanded French philosophical rationalism beyond the a priori, analytic thinking efforts of Descartes. Sartre’s existentialism made the entirety of experience a self-aware cognitive field that was all that might be known. He recognized the heterodox nature of experience with the existence of other’s in the cognitive event. The Critique of Dialectical Reason was an effort to describe the concatenated nature of that experience.

If one has a reasoning mind it is important to keep free the criteria of investigation with which one might construct a philosophical lexicon of ideas. If one doesn’t have a reasoning mind then find a point of reference and make that your philosophy. Be an elephant that grasps hold of the tale before thee and waddle along to the beat of the same drummer booming through the speakers of your brain housing unit. Otherwise break down those ideas into workable size and use a little symbolic or even classical logic to analyze the meaning they have. Remove all of the adjectives and such to get to the salient proposition if it may be approached that way. Determine like Hume did what is sophistry and what isn’t. Determine what is actual rather than some sort of actually meaningless metaphysics or passing the buck refer to a point of reference next that is just one of an infinite series of points in some order along a meaningless path of unnatural numbers representing computer generated phrases. Think for yourself but read those great ideas worth learning in order to not reinvent the wheel each day.

Philosophy is more than an epistemology or theory of knowledge. A theory of knowledge is implicitly referential to something other than the immediate self-awareness; that is it must explain itself preferably within its own terms and context. Of course to do so is in a way self-defeating. Theories of knowledge naturally tend to be propositional ontologies other than self. If one is referring to a theory of knowledge as a theory of mind, which one presumably has, then it must always be a kind of alienation of idea as experience from self. It is a reductionism from mind to an ossified phrase and inert, or dead.

A point of reference does seem to a prior assume that points exist, and that a particular point-do we mean geographic or linguistic coordinate reference points- has some ordination from which all other inferences and deductions are made. A philosophy would seem in this context to be contingent upon a prime meridian for meaning, placing the meridian at a higher level than the egalitarian context of the rest.One may reasonably assume certain axioms within any given ontology to induct and construct the remainder of the composition members of the element set. In matters of life and experience referring to the world as it appears we find it improbable that a single reference point-a most obscure assumed premise-might adequately serve to anchor a theory of either monism or pluralism. it is instead a kind of social myopia that fails a criterion of pragmatism.

W.V.O. Quine’s ‘Word and Object’ and ‘Ontological Relativity’ of course are linguistic and logic based philosophical analysis of the meaning of language and of how it is used. It especially considers how the philosophical uses of language and symbolic logic are structured. Life itself has a self-standing reality about which people talk. Talk and words to refer to present and not present things or events are primordial in the history of mankind. Perhaps one-hundred thousand years ago more or less simple human languages existed. Language has as many objects or referents potentially to talk about as there are objects in the Universes of experience and imagination. Words refer to objects. It is a wonderful fact that words can refer to themselves. They are address points of meaning. The Universe itself is the one primary referent, and of course we include ourselves within this Universe. Human beings even refer to their own being, and self, in self-reference.

Philosophically we prefer to consider knowledge of what is experienced, and of knowledge beyond one’s personal being, and of course of existing at all as activities or investments of our time worth the pursuit. Some element of wisdom seems to exist in learning all one can about life. Of course we also pursue these most general yet intimately important of concerns is philosophical activities. Philosophy is a method of inquiry. Knowledge continually should advance without ever reaching a conclusion in some sort of omniscience. Theologically our interests are developed in learning about the Ultimate Designer of the Universe1 and of any potential other Universes. In such concerns our metaphysical inquiry becomes an alternate ontology rather than the self-evident one into which we are born, live and die.

It is somewhat fashionable nowadays more than a 150 years after Darwin’s theory for many in society to regard themselves as liberated from hoary church dogma of creation. So many were oppressed by corrupt ecclesiastical neo-theocratic relationships with feudal lords that history did not refer sufficiently to the role that the Catholic Church played occasionally in opposing rising national imperial powers. Following the Inquisition such neglect was perhaps well deserved in the popular realm. At any rate following the Darwinism many were concerned that the disbelief that a scientific explanation for the origin of the species could not be anything besides a contradiction and even a negation of the Genesis story of creation. The last forty years have shown us that a theistic evolution of the Universe is consistent with the Bible, yet without modern scientific knowledge there were few that could interpret the book of Genesis in such a light.

The ‘incredible lightness of being’; the giddiness of disbelief in God was feared by some authorities as leaving mankind rootless and adrift in a meaningless mechanical Universe. Of course the assumption that the Universe as it is cannot be a self-evident ground for being philosophically grounded isn’t too valid. Cicero’s natural law and a myriad other systems are able to provide an ordination for morality inferred from the criterion of being in-the-world. Kant’s categorical imperative is a deontological inference from logic and being. Kant believed in God yet his moral law is axiomatic. The ‘point of reference’ a mariner might have wanted in the era before the invention of the compass isn’t too applicable to philosophy. The Universe of experience exists for-itself; the ‘reference’ is all around us. We believe also that God exists transcendentally though we have no material point of reference for that faith. The ungrounded with hysterical ‘philosophies’ requiring a ‘point of reference’ have existed throughout history even before Darwin or the reformation. The Dionysian choice may itself become an ethic for a majority of ruling elites. A point of reference is no assurance of the existential validity of a particular philosophical ontology.

Philosophers did not first invent an a priori language such as found in Descartes cogito and then construct reality from it; they simply have tried to learn more and more about the actual world experienced. Perhaps some could miss it. Take the first right…

One comment

  1. “When one strips down the methods of logic and language to its bare essentials we have an opportunity to process data that may be presented to mind and reasoning a little more constructively.”

    I find this intriguing. I was wondering if you might say more about the 'bare essentials'. For instance, is this something more at the level of common sense or more at the level of scientific precision?

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