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[Wittrs] response re Originalism and word meanings as a function of time... [message #5901] Wed, 29 December 2010 20:02
kirby urner is currently offline  kirby urner
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(sent to synergeo)

For the longest time, I would write to Ed Applewhite about "word meaning trajectories".

This is not to define an "original meaning" so much as to acknowledge that word meanings wander and re-negotiate their relationships.

Language is reflective.

Conceived of as an active alchemy (a work in progress), it's engaged in perennially re-balancing the archetypes, fine tuning (or not-so-fine tuning,
as the case may be).

Some of this writing maybe ended up at Stanford, where Ed committed his papers, including some correspondence, for storing with Bucky's. **

Certainly dictionaries can't keep up with all the subtle word shifts that go on, nor is that their job.

It's more for Madison Avenue types, to gauge the connotations, as well as denotations, of words like Corolla or Tylenol. The meaning of "Pepsi" is always changing, per the choice of a new generation. Recently, it's been resonated with Obama:


How could any dictionary keep track of such things? Even an urban dictionary of slang terms could never keep up. Power to the people then, in having this freedom to co-engineer. Art colonists, musicians, counter cultural figures, gravitate to this gap in the defenses. Fashionistas define the front lines in some way. I've got one living in the basement (long story).

When a young person today says "make a speech", this might conjure images of sitting in one's dorm room with a webcam, recording a Youtube.

That's how the speeches of others are likewise enjoyed.

Peer to peer diplomacy now proceeds by these means, using the Reply-To feature. I've been doing it myself, with this Russian named Zubek who thinks my philosophy is all askew.

Not so long ago, the imagery of "making a speech to the world" would involve taking a horse and buggy ride to some distant court house or club and holding forth in a more traditional standing up posture, likely with no microphone.

Would there be a stenographer? Probably not. Trial proceedings got those, but your average speech maker depended on journalists to get the word out in some metropolitan setting (hence the horse and buggy, needed to reach an urban hub).

Word of mouth got them to your venue. Radio came later, and turned to "the interview" as a more responsible way of signalling your views (have someone ask you what you think, don't just tell them -- sounds more civil, more polite than some ranting demagogue).

The print world had featured dialog also, a favorite form for presenting philosophy (dispute, debate, two voices) but the electronic media, able to resonate with the human voice, boosted bandwidth considerably. Talk show participation ballooned.

Actually, one of the most accepted ways to deliver a speech was and is literally from the pulpit. Although democracies talk about the town meeting and town hall, with Norman Rockwell style pictures, the anthropological norm was more the fire and brimstone preacher, confronting sinners with their hypocrisy.

It's that Sunday preacher who moved into the TV studio to become our "pundit" in some ways, a kind of "head puppet" (talking head) we want and expect to believe and imitate. These are the real "televangelists" of our age, inheriting the mantle from their churchy brethren. They help define a "reality principle" by which many orient their lives. Per Nietzsche, it's really a "moral compass" that's being provided. A philosophical investigation should *not* "steer clear" of aesthetic and/or ethical dimensions, as if this were for "those into mere nonsense". The inauthenticity of the "purely objective voice" (as narrator of history) is what Kierkegaard (an early media critic) reminds us to distrust, and is what the movie 'Idiocracy' ridicules (its narrator unabashedly sneering).

The lure of defining a "state religion" in the Age of Television was too alluring, a siren song, and speech makers rushed in to occupy the niche, half preacher, half talk show host, paid to keep it sensational, a crisis, perhaps even an apocalypse (2012 = Mayan Y2K).

Joe McCarthy was the prototype TV era pundit-prosecutor in many ways, Richard Nixon his ardent student. The silent majority likes "going after the bad guys" as a preferred genre. Lets watch nonconformists get their just deserts. Don't they resistance is futile?

The totalitarian impulse is to keep a tight leash on "eccentricity". TV may be used to define the boundaries of what's "normal" (per Church of the Subgenius lexicon, and related to "pink"). Internet TV is a different phenomenon in that the URI is a democratizing influence (thank you Switzerland). All Youtubes are created equal in the random access sense, and you don't have to "go through channels" to get your speech out there. That's a power shift.

Word meanings now revector all the more quickly, keeping up with future shock if they might. It's an ongoing computation.

We're blissfully unconscious about many of these time-dependent re-vectorings (swerves in meaning, like in rush hour freeway traffic) because we take them for granted as part of the warp 'n woof of daily culture. There's too much going on to really tune in. We're talking parallel processing on a truly massive scale.

The cell-silicon hybrid that we've become is too astronomically complex to be casually out-computed (as if simulated by some few equations). Prophesying the future, singing it into existence (the calling of the Delphinians) is more challenging than ever, but with a lot more to go on. Athena's priestesses are definitely taking advantage of the bandwidth, using Skype and whatever. So-called "girl scout math" involves lots of skills building. Nirel, Lindsey, Jody... impressive teachers.[2]

The meanings of "left" and "right" in the political sense continue to define a polarity, even as that polarity keeps precessing against a night sky fewer might speak about.[3] The elders have seen more.


Kirby Urner
Princeton 80
PSF 09



[1] re Applewhite... "they got the wrong Applewhite" he told me, when we were yakking on the cell, me in Seattle for a meeting about a certain philosophy Ed had collaborated in bringing to our collective awareness. I suppose you could call him a cult leader in that sense (as am I, Cult of Athena), but the Applewhite to which we were referring as "the wrong Applewhite" was the Hale-Bopp Cult guy, leader of Heaven's Gate.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/synergeo/message/30193 http://mybizmo.blogspot.com/2010/12/wanderers-20101229.html (paragraph 5)

[2] "girl scout math" (GSM):
http://mathforum.org/kb/message.jspa?messageID=7333086&tstart=0 http://mathforum.org/kb/thread.jspa?forumID=206&threadID=2213242&messageID=7322513 \
("girl scout math" meme, early genesis)

[3] "precession" has its traditional literal meaning, relating to spinning bodies and their seemingly counter-intuitive motions. Because of precession, the north-south axis of the Earth wobbles on a 26,000 year cycle, meaning having a North Star in Aquarius is a temporary condition. The North Star used to be in Draco. The word "precession" is also used in connection with "spin" in Bucky Fuller's philosophy and connects to notions of "meaning" (as in "spin doctor").

On Wed, Dec 29, 2010 at 2:16 PM, Sean Wilson <whoooo26505@yahoo.com> wrote:

> (sent to conlawprof)

<< snip >>

> There is nothing that can come of the expression "the original meaning of > language" other than confusion and nonsense. If what you mean is archaic > sense,
> say that. If what you mean is a draftsmen or floor-speaking intention or > assumption, say that. If what you mean is a program of implementation, be > sure
> to tell is it is an example of the idea. But at all costs, keep us from the > confusions of the outside world rather than making the television and radio > even
> worse.
> (P.S. Sent to Wittrs)
> Regards and thanks.
> Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
> Assistant Professor
> Wright State University
> Personal Website: http://seanwilson.org
> SSRN papers: http://ssrn.com/author=596860
> New Discussion Groups! http://ludwig.squarespace.com/discussionfora/ >

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