Monday, July 30, 2007

etumos logos, redux

Part of my fascination in the study of the etymological roots of words is in the inexplicable delight I obtain from uncovering the "true" nature of the words we use to express the concepts that we oftimes have a clumsily understanding of in our minds. By identifying the root of the word I sometimes appreciate a clearer grasp of the concept, although this fastidiousness approach may appear as intellectual overkill to my peers whose verbal usage is merely conventional and rote.

That said, the acclaimed sci-fi author John C. Wright has been hosting a debate on his personal blog on the nature of of conciousness, in support of the position that concepts and abstractions exist qua existence, although not in a material sense, stating that:
"The assertion that all awareness, value judgments, ideas, concepts, and abstractions can be ultimately reduced to some description of mass, length, and dimension is pure metaphysical mysticism. It is mysticism in that it is knowledge that does not come from empirical observation..."

I find this line of argument quite convincing, and in contrast to the causeless explanation of consciousness as found in Douglas Hofstadter's I am a Strange Loop, a book which I thought could be appropriately subtitled "The Incoherent Ramblings of an Aged Consciousness Which Was Once Thought Relevant". No hard feelings intended, [to those senseless neuron firings in that lump of grey matter entitled to a sense of consciousness self-referentially calling itself] Douglas.

What I enjoyed from this very same debate and in connection to the original topic of etymology was the author's response to one of the comments, in which he writes:
"The explanation of the correlation between the mathematics of the physical universe and the rationality of mathematics is this: both come out of one cause. For religious men, call it The Word of God, or Logos. For nonreligious men, call it Logic. Logic means that a statement about numbers cannot involve a self-contradiction. Logic in physics means that the universe cannot embrace or contain a self-contradiction.

The universe cannot be illogical because the word 'illogical' is something that only happens in speech or in unspoken thought: it is the condition where the symbols used to represent the universe no longer follow the rules that allow them to represent the universe. Illogical, in other words, means what the universe is not.

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