Saving the World
by Carl H. Flygt
Well, Iíve thought long and hard about this, and Iíve worked it out. The dream of humanity can be realized, and this world can become an ideal place in the cosmos. Loneliness, alienation and sorrow are unnecessary, to say nothing of vulgarity, terror and inhumanity, and they can be sloughed off, ruled out or otherwise outgrown. All-pervading beauty and lasting truth, which are the birthright of all, can be instituted in actual places on, under and above the earth. Individuality can be preserved and freedom enshrined. The good will can materialize and the New Jerusalem can be built. Peace and harmony can reign, and the lion can lie down with the lamb. Considerable ongoing work will be required, but that is as it should be.
The basic idea here is that we are all dreaming about this condition all the time anyway. It is something cosmic that wants to happen. Culturally, we just havenít yet gotten our inner lives coordinated with our outer lives. Objectively coordinated. Human evolution and human history are about the pragmatic coordination of that which is sensible in the outer world with what is supersensible, intelligible and desirable to the inner. Human evolution and history are about the human being as a law of nature, a law that requires an ideal state of affairs in the world. Given that, human experience really comes down to how well and how perfectly we are made to express what is living inside us. If our expression is good, then what is beautiful inside will be extruded outside, into material nature, and if our culture is good it will be preserved there as a reminder and a standard.
So we need a theory of conversation. We need to know as a matter of fact what conversation is, what conversation is for and how to test for it in reality. Conversation of course is the great medium of human experience, the a priori condition on human self-consciousness. As such, it is language in action and language in genesis. Conversation is the use and genesis of language itself.
Now it turns out that language use has a categorical structure. This structure was proposed by the Berkeley philosopher John Searle in 1979, and has never been refuted or challenged. On Searleís analysis, there are only five things that can be done in using language, and these can be determined quite unambiguously if oneís use of language is not overly complicated. In speaking, one can assert that p, promise that p, request that p, express p or make a declaration that p, where p is a propositional content, a judgment, a nugget of practical intelligence. Thus if I say
(1) It is raining
I am asserting or judging the proposition that it is raining. If I say
(2) I promise to come tomorrow evening
I am committing myself to the future action that is satisfied by the proposition (by the judgment) that I come tomorrow evening. If I say
(3) Please pass the salt
I am requesting someone else to satisfy the proposition (the condition) that the salt is passed. If I say
I am expressing the proposition (the ontological condition) that I am in some sort of pain. If I say
(5) Class is dismissed
and I am the duly appointed lecturer in the classroom, then not only do I assert the proposition (the situation in the world) that class is dismissed. but I also make it the actual case that class is dismissed. I bring about a change in the state of affairs in the world by using language in the right way. Language does each of these things, when used well in a moment does only one of these things and as a matter of empirical logic can do no more.
It would be hard to imagine anything more intimately bound up with our self-conscious intelligence than our use of language. Other a priori conditions on our experience of course do exist Ė the atmosphere, the gravitational field, our blood circulation, our bones and ligaments, the sun, nature in general, etc. But over and beyond these, and in a real sense at the front and center of them are our relationships with other such intelligences, and our communications with them. Now that little taxonomy we just rehearsed gives us something very important, should we become interested in engineering and optimizing that most fundamental of conditions on consciousness. It gives us a cipher key, a way to begin to see through everything social that is going on around us (and inside us) and organizing it into a great hierarchy of function that we create and that simultaneously creates us.
What is the human being in conversation doing or trying to do? What is happening to him (to her) all the time whether or not he (she) is conscious of it? The answer I think is the accomplishment of a satisfactory relationship among the elements of his (her) self-sense. He (she) is always and already motivated to do fundamental ontology. He (she) is trying to penetrate to the reality of existence. Listen to people in conversation. The overwhelming majority of their speech acts are assertions, judgments of ontological conditions. The overwhelming majority of our sentences (of our thoughts) have the form
(6) A is B
where A is some term and B is a predicate, a property attributed to that term. They are, in other words, ontological assertions. Well, I want to say that the reality of existence (ontology in general) goes very deep, that the gate to that world reality is in human consciousness (human experience) and that the key to that gate is in how we conduct ourselves in the living presence of other self-conscious intelligences. Regardless of how sophisticated, informed or otherwise practiced it is, fundamental ontology is what is always being attempted in conversation, and that is the medium into which the human being it always thrust.
To summarize what we have so far developed. Human beings live inside a structure, namely language, that is surprisingly simple in terms of its possibilities for action. This structure is a priori, i.e. existent before we can begin with anything self-conscious at all and it is generally used by people for the purpose of coming to terms with the reality of existence, or what is the same thing, with the self sense. In general, owing to historical adaptations, this purpose is pursued indirectly, obliquely and without much consensual understanding, to say nothing of any formal arrangement that would make it an explicit and objective part of social experience. Nevertheless it is there, exerting a pull on the common experience, history and cultural evolution.
Now remember, we are aiming to get a theory of conversation. So what the theory needs next is to ground the terms we use in language (not just the predicates, because that has just been done) in the reality of existence. (Terms are individual constants which most readily appear in language in the form of names, but which can also appear as ideas and other forms of substantial reference). The grounding of terms has been done! Itís called the causal theory of reference or the causal theory of names, and was proposed in 1972 by the logician Saul Kripke. Today, almost everyone working in the philosophy of language thinks it is true. The theory is that all reference bears a causal relationship to the thing, entity or event in the world that it is about. If in speaking I use the name ďHitler,Ē my thought actually becomes part of a causal chain that reaches back across space and time to a moment in the world when that name was formally coupled with the actual person of Adolf himself. Perhaps Hitler was baptized. Now that causal mechanism in most cases would be horrendously obscure to describe and trace definitively, but it must exist. Our use of language and by extension our subjective experience in language has causal links to the world. Real links. Efficient links.
The causal theory of reference means our speech and our thoughts themselves are not as trivial and subjective as we may suppose them to be, or as we may tend to treat them in ordinary conversation. In reality, they are literal extensions of the outer world. They are material objects. Now I ask, what could be more worthy of respect and even reverence than a human beingís thought, if we had a method to know something about it as a socially generated object? What could be more awe inspiring than to bear witness to the creation of an original idea if it could be perceived as an actual material object, full of beauty and splendor? And what kind of world could fall into vulgar commercialism and ignorant terrorism if it were known that certain human beings were in certain locales systematically creating a kind of semantic materiality that was in the world, not entirely of the world and causally appropriate to the world?
Now, if we are going to preserve our freedom while at the same time committing our language, our thinking and our conversations to a degree of material determinism, we are going to need a moral theory. We are going to need to understand how free actions in conversation are determined by moral law. To the theory we have then, we now simply add Kantís metaphysics of morals. In real conversation frame speech and thought in the service of ends, and never in the service of means. The latter is for hustlers, businesspeople, and politicians, the former for philosophers, nobility and angels. Act self-consciously as a law of nature, and in harmony (unity) with other such actors. Allow conversation to become an actual force in the world, whereby the cosmos itself projects its intrinsic forces and its harmonies into the common domain of human experience, thereby saving it from itself.
Most conversational acts are judgments (propositions).
All propositions are ontological.
All ontology entails reference.
Conversational contents in general are/can be/should be materially continuous with the outer world.
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