Quora answer: Are there any symbols or icons representing the concept of reality?

Jun 26 2011



To answer this question we have to lay some groundwork because this is actually a very deep question, something unusual here on Quora.

First I would like to say that Plato’s Cratylus is on this topic posed as the relation between conventions and true names. It is a comedy and no conclusion is drawn between the dialectical opposite positions, but in the process this question is explored in depth. I have written a commentary on the first part of the Cratylus which is at http://emergentdesign.net

But let us start from the question asked and try to explain the components of it. As has been said many times by me in various answers there are four aspects of Being which are Truth, Reality, Presence, and Identity and their opposites (anti-Aspects) and so all of these need to be considered together. Being of course appears in this statement as the first word “Are there . . .” Being has many roots and the “er” is one of them.

When we refer to the “concept” of Reality we are talking about intelligibility, and intelligibility is the main manifestation of Being. Since Reality is an aspect of Being we are asking about intelligibility of Being itself which is Heideggers question of the Meaning of Being.

So the question is under this interpretation are there any symbols or icons that express the meaning of Being with respect to its aspects?

Now Being is an artifact of language unique to the Indo-Europeans, it is in fact the central or highest concept of Indo-European language which is the basis for relating everything to everything else as we use language. It has several meanings which are conveyed by the aspects, and several roots because it is a idea that is fragmented. Ideas refer to illusory continuities and concepts refer to non-representable “meanings” beyond all representation. The illusory continuity of the Idea of Being papers over its fragmentation. The concept of Being is the essence of its intelligibility beyond all the beings that are its representations, say in language but also elsewhere in culture. Among these are various symbols and Icons.

Now when we talk about symbols verses Icons we are really talking about the difference between symbolism and semiotics. An Icon is one of Peirce’s types of sign. Saussure’s semiotics is relational (deals with signs as only Seconds), and Peirce’s takes into account mediations (what he calls thirds). Peirce developed semiotics in order to understand Logic better in its practical context of everyday use. And generally signs are the structural components of symbols. Signs are like patterns while symbols are like forms, in as much as symbols are the next higher synthesis beyond the sign. It should be noted that a “Idea” as ‘illusory continuity’ is equal to a Symbol (Pure; determinate; form, arrow or mapping; Third, continua; two dimensional) + Sign (Process; indeterminate, probability; pattern; functor; Second, relata; one dimensional) + Trace (Hyper; fuzzy, possibility; monad; modulation; First, isolata; zero dimensional) + Nuance (Wild; propensity; facet; fluctuation; Zeroth; negative one dimensional). We are noting here the meta-levels of Being, Schema, Math category level, Peircian Principle, and the dimensionality that seems to be related to each level of the Idea as illusory continuity. We are not saying that this set of relations can be completely defended under close analysis but giving this a a first level approximation just to demonstrate how complex the structure of the idea might be. But actually when you look into the relations between these various series the whole situation becomes even more complex than this. See my recent dissertation for more information and a closer scrutiny of the relations between these various series.

Anyway, with this background we may perhaps be prepared to attempt to deal with the question at hand. Of course, the question is actually asking for symbols or Icons of ultimate reality. But we are going to have to deal with the mundane case first because that is so complex that unless we try to come to terms with it first we may become hopelessly lost as most people do in this maze. But on the other hand if we understand the mundane case then perhaps we will be amazed at the outcome when we consider ultimates.

So our first question is whether there are any symbols, or icons of reality at the mundane level. And this is where the Craytlus comes in because it considers the question as to whether there are true names or not and it is posed as a comedy of naming. Basically there are two interlocutors one representing the position of conventional names and the other representing the position of true names. But when Socrates begins giving his etymologies for terms to get at their true names then he completely mangles the language as Heidegger is known to do on a regular basis, trying to force roots of words to say something about their real, true, identical, present, i.e. aspectival meaning. It is fascinating that what we want to know is whether words have an aspectival dimension or not. Now we can understand that Being has meta-levels and each meta-level has its different version of the aspects, and thus the apsects become essentially different at each meta-level. So for instance Heidegger talks of Truth as verification, while at the deeper process level it becomes Alethia which is uncovering, a process by which we know a deeper truth as seen in the Oedipus saga.

Now this has a deeper connotation when we realize that a formal system is made up of Truth, Presence, and Identity aspects with its properties being the relations between the aspects being consistency, completeness and clarity (wellformedness). Now when you add the aspect of Reality you get three more properties in addition to those of the formal system which are validity, verifiability, and coherence. So what Heidegger says about verification, can be extended to all of these properties. At the next level up, i.e. at the Process Being level all of these properties would be transformed essentially. How that would look I have not worked out because I just thought of it. But the key point is that this aspectival nature of words strikes to the heart of our worldview because it relates to science which compares theoretical models (formal systems) to the empirical world (reality). But what is not recognized widely, what is reality changes at each meta-level of Being, so there is no unified answer to this question because Being is fragmented among its roots and among its aspects.

So we can reinterpret the question to ask if any of our words represent the noumena as they are in themselves, or not. And then the more esoteric question merely asks whether in terms of the ultimates whether this problematic holds as well. Now I could punt the answer to say all my works are attempting to get at this question within its proper problematic, seeking deeper and deeper solutions. But that would be merely saying that this question is one way to strike to the core of our worldview that posits meta-levels of the Indo-european centric concept of Being, and its aspects, and roots which are the sources of words which either do or do not indicate something about the noumena. To me the structure that is specific to our worldview is more significant than any answer, per se. In effect only Indo-Europeans can actually ask this question. Other traditions without Being as a fundamental assumption and tool for thought cannot ask it because they either have existence or only the copula to work with and not the artificial fabricated concept of Being which is itself an illusory continuity as a basis for answering it. However, other non-indo-european cultures have their own version of this question. Now Hinduism in which Ohm is such a symbol or icon is Indo-European and it spawned Buddhism as a heresy that attempted to say there was no Being (SAT) with regard to the Self, at least, and rebelled against the tyranny of Being as perduring illusory continuity beneath everything. Buddhists denied as radically as they could this continuity, and chose aggregates (tattvas, dharmas) as the heterogeneous basis of all phenomena. We get a picture of the full scope of the question when we put it in terms of the relation between Hinduism and its nondual heresy of Buddhism and their historical interaction. The Hindu and Buddhist views of ultimates are very different due to the duality embraced by the former and the nonduality approximated by the later.

This might constitute a mere prolegomena for an appropriate answer to this question. It is not something that can be definitively answered in a short space of text but something that can take a lifetime of exploration. One of my favorite examples of someone who struggled with this question in a completely different context is in Knowledge Painfully Acquired by  Lo Ch’in-shun. He spent a lifetime trying to understand what the original Chinese tradition had to offer that Buddhism did not offer and he presents a final answer. I like his answer because it comes from an obvious rumination on the problem for years. Since my own studies of this question are not as mature as his I will defer to him in this case.



No responses yet

Comments are closed at this time.

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog