The symbols we use define our reality in many ways. They affect how we interpret the world and what we see around us. However, the symbols of our society are not concretely defined. They are always changing, depending on how they’re used and how wee the world. Peirce has said that we are always impacting and impacted by symbols. They are a fluid thing, guiding our communication and thought processes. For instance, the symbol of justice cannot be easily defined and, indeed, changes from case to case, moment to moment. And yet, we nearly all believe we have a concrete idea of justice upon which we base our conduct and the expectations of the conduct of others. Is would be useless to squabble over whether or not this fact is good or bad, it is merely a fact. However, we should realize the fact. We should understand that the symbols and terms we use are fluid. Many times we get stuck on a particular idea or way of looking at things when it is not, in fact, defined as such. How we have used a symbol, how we are now using it and its future use all play a part in what the symbol means.
Peirce’s pragmatism suggests that unless something makes an observable difference in the way we experience the world, an idea is pointless. I agree. However, this idea has some pretty strong consequences. If that is accepted, we can never assert to finally have “the truth.” We never know what facts lurk that simply have not made themselves known through a discernible difference. We will forever discover them, as our perceptions change and our ways of looking at the world become more complex. Will we ever understand everything? Maybe, but even if we did, how would we know that we did? Therefore: would it matter?
Thursday, October 9, 2008
While I once thought there was a dearth of Spanish philosophers, I recognized that it was just my Philosophy book. There is some great stuff here. I've been drooling over my copy of Unamuno's Del Sentimiento Tragico de la Vida. It's surprising easy to read philosophy in Spanish. I have also been plowing through his La Agonia of Cristianismo (The Agony of Christianity). I have also been trying to inundate myself in some Jose Ortega y Gasset. These guys are surprisingly in my line of thinking: mixing some James, Kierkegaard, Husserl, and Christianity into an interesting, pragmatic Christian existentialism to some extent. I have been enjoying John Thomas Graham's A Pragmatist Philosophy of Life in Ortega Y Gasset. And really want to get my hands on "Spain's Christian Existentialism," but of course it had to be someone's disertation... ugh. Anyway, I think I'm going to study some more Ortega y Gasset and Unamuno in grad school. As for some other Spanish philosophers, I'll want to go into George Santayana. And I have found John of the Cross' works surprisingly moving. The Spanish mystic is quite different than I would have expected; very different from other mystics.