Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spit Torrent

Here is a recent development in digital rights management. There is a product called MediaDefenders which keeps software from being downloaded for free by peer-to-peer networks by planting a huge number of phony versions of the desirable files on networks--what happens then when someone downloads a copy is that they find they just have mush. The account I read (by Michael Wolff) called this carpet-bombing a peer-to-peer network, like bit-torrent.

Life has a similar trick--someone actually realizes a fact, but when they try to share this information, the listener cannot really grasp what the original seer saw. You read a good bit in mystical literature how "words cannot convey what happened to me." Of course unless you are Ludwig Wittgenstein that does not stop folks from discussing what they believe they saw. The readers (or hearers) of these accounts however, do not themselves then HAVE a mystical experience, themselves. Without something like that however, what is it that the lecturer conveys? Without the recipient of these accounts seeing what the speaker is discussing, we conclude they did not grasp the speakers content. Had they grasped the speakers point, they would have had an experience similar to the one the speaker is pointing to.

A Real Teacher grasps that there is this dilemma and must take this into account. It is perhaps this understanding, rather than any mystical experience , that sets apart certain historical figures of this endeavor. Mystical experiences after all are very common in the general population. (Soon perhaps we can look more closely at this commonness and why it is so little appreciated or accounted for. That is something to talk about in the near future.)

Look at Wittgenstein again--his major insight was if you cannot talk about it, don't try. So along came the positivists---(a philosophical school that says only externally verifiable information is valid,) and they loved Wittgenstein. He, however, would conclude that the positivists just did not understand his ideas.

Now Wittgenstein had a mystical experience (there must be a better way to put this.). And saying that if you cannot talk about something, then you should not do so, is a brutal truth that needed to be stressed. But when Wittgenstein was misunderstood to be saying that the mystical realm did not exist, when what he was really saying was that you could not talk about this level of experience -- what did he do? Or let me ask, what did he not do----he did not take this misunderstanding as data for him to expand his thoughts, he did not wonder why these mystical experiences were fleeting and beyond his control. Either of these plausible responses would have helped Wittgenstein on to a wider understanding. Such was not however Ludwig Wittgenstein's fate. He would wind up regarded as one of the most intelligent philosophers in the western world, and I guarantee that he did know he missed something, but he did not have the verve, the integrity, the energy to pursue the questions.

From the example of Wittgenstein perhaps we can see that intelligence is not what is missing in the difficulties facing a teacher determined to convey something.

So here are a couple of responses to the situation a teacher faces when he has an experience and feels a responsibility to -- somehow share. He can discuss the experience and in doing so lose it for himself and find that others never comprehended what he was saying, or he can formulate a philosophy of language which is highly regarded and utterly misinterpreted.

What other alternatives are there? The example of Jan Cox is one, and no doubt we will be saying more soon about this.

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