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Words, Words, And More Words

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Posted by Aurino Souza on November 17, 2003 15:06:50 UTC

Hi Alan,

Thank you Aurino for your thoughtful reply.


My newborn recall includes conversations (without official English words obviously) with my newborn twin. (Although I might be able to translate into English from so-called "telepathy" sort of).

I think you'd lose a lot in that translation. It's essentially what we do when we think of something and then say it. In our heads it makes perfect sense, but when we write it out it often looks like gibberish - so much information missing.

That's my complaint with your "physics mapping" posts. I don't think your ideas are stupid, I think they must make a lot of sense to you. But you just can't rush it through brief posts, it's a waste of time and it makes you look like you have lost your mind. Which I know is not the case, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this.

If you understand about phenomena existing independent sticking a known word-tag on then you understand a lot.

Our inability to understand things doesn't make them less real. Likewise, our ability to understand other things doesn't make them real.

The above is the essence of most of my posts on this forum. I've found some people who agree with that - you, Dick, Paul perhaps. But most people seem to have a different opinion.

Roger Penrose also recognises that thought is more basic than language I think. Everyone has probably experienced thinking numerous things in a flash that might take pages to write out.

I think that is a bit controversial. The question is, does thought have similar properties as language? Of course it does, otherwise we wouldn't be able to describe thoughts in language. But does that similarity make thought a kind of language in itself? I'm not sure what the answer is.

As an English-speaker my understanding of the meaning of the word "evening" is that it has several meanings in practical common usage: ...

Actually, the point I was trying to make is a bit more subtle. The problem with "evening" is that there is no such thing in the realm of my experiences. That's what makes it so hard to learn what the word means.

"Night" seems to be a different story, but is it really? I'm not sure. Because every usage of the word "night" can be successfully mapped to my understanding of the Portuguese word for night, I never had a problem with it. But I could have had a problem if I had not learned to label some kinds of experiences as "night" when I was a child. Then I could have as much trouble with the word "night" means as I had with "evening".

I don't know if you can see through that. I'm trying to say something that is very hard to put in words, because those are ideas about words themselves and how they shape our perception of the world.

On your explanations of the word "evening":

1. "between sunset and midnight"
2. In far north or south locations: probably about between 5pm and midnight.
3. Depends on context: you might ask someone if they had a good evening at a party: it could mean 7pm to 10pm.
In practice around 10pm evening seems to become night.
But in summer there are "long summer evenings" which might include hours of late daylight: so evening might be from 5pm or from 6pm or from 7pm...
4. "tommorrow evening" would not be 3pm; nor 4pm; but in winter in Norway perhaps it could be 4pm; usually I think it would be 5pm in winter and 6pm or 7pm in summer.....seems to depend on the latitude...and the season...

Now look at what you just did! You gave me a list of patterns of words which may correlate with "evening". I can learn what "evening" means without ever experiencing one. Where is the link between words and experience? It doesn't seem to be necessary in most cases, if any.

Quote: "If you live 70 years, you will experience more than 25,000 nights, each different from the other. The word "night" is supposed to describe what all those thousands of experiences have in common, which on close examination turns out to be nothing! There is not a single thing that is common to all the 25,000 nights in the life of a 70 year-old man!"

It is true that each item by definition is different; but there is much in common: you told me one thing that was in common: "the life of a 70 year-old man!"

He is a "background" against which those nights are seen here. I they had nothing in common, how could you count them?

OK, you got me there! Let me think about it.


I think the reason we can count nights is because things don't need to be real to be counted. Counting is just an exercise of our imagination and it applies only to imaginary things - like mental concepts such as "night".

When I was a kid there was this guy on the radio who would announce birthdays for the callers. He would say something like "today Michelle is turning 16 springs old. Congratulations Michelle". I thought it was so odd, because since spring lasts only three months, Michelle's 16 springs would amount to four years only. How could she call the radio station, and why did the announcer say people's age as springs rather than years?

Well, in any case, it seems people are free to count things any way they want, because numbers are a human convention rather than anything with real existence.

Idea: you can know what "night" means when blind; just as you can know what "radar" means even if you are not a bat. By context and associations.

Context implies words. Associations implies words. Are words all there is?

Idea: Things can have names; its all a question of agreement. You cannot pin things down twice; they are already counted before you name them or how would you have something to name? But the relationship of you and the thing is a bit entangled in "naming" if you name it; as you have created a relationship of "you named the thing"...

I think it's more like "we named the thing", so we can communicate.

What facts does Thomas Szasz allegedly deny?

The fact that some mentally ill people need drugs as much as people who are physically ill. If you don't trust me ask my schizophrenic cousin. She's quite happy that the drugs make her hallucinations go away.

Have you ever had an episode of madness, Alan? Have you ever experienced a fear so griping you couldn't bear it? Have you ever been chased by monsters and devils, which you know come from your imagination but are just as scary? Have you ever felt you could lose your mind and do something you would regret for the rest of your life?

Mental health may be a metaphor, but for the person who lost control of their own mind, help is often appreciated.

He points out that "mental health" is a metaphor (like "economic health"); he does not deny that some people are mystified or upset at the behaviour of others; he just shows that the definition of these alleged disorders and the terms in which their remedy is sought is at odds with each other.

You are looking at the problem from one perspective: the perspective of those around the "crazy" person. Yes, a crazy man can be annoying, but I tend to agree with you that that does not justifying using drugs to control behaviour. But there's more to psychiatry than that (how much more, I'm not sure though)

You do not use medicine (drugs) to fix a sick economy (but you might use metaphorical: "economic" medicine). Psychiatrists confuse metaphors with reality.

Most of the time I think this is correct, but I would extend that to a good portion of medicine, not only psychiatry. From my personal experience, something like 90% of the drugs I ever took to cure any ailment turned out to have no result at all. And the drugs that do have some effect, it often wears out with repeated usage. A lot of medicine is little more than a sophisticated scam designed to enrich doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

That said, I wouldn't be so foolish as to ignore scientific medicine and turn to faith healers or something of the kind. In the end it's a matter of going for the lesser evil.

The solution to the social disputes mislabelled by society as "mental health" problems is to correctly identify these phenomena for what they are:
disputes about appropriate behaviour
disputes about what human beings are
lack of understanding
people trying to control each other
disputes about what kind of society we shall have

Are you sure mental health problems have nothing to do with neurons or neurotransmitters? I'm not advocating a materialist point of view, but it's a known fact that physical damages to the brain can cause damages to the mind. Try drinking a bottle of whyskey to see if all mental problems can be seen as disputes about behaviour or things like that.

Heating Bills: Seek and you shall find.

I think it's more like "seek and you shall freeze to death; then perhaps you might find"



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