We all seem to ‘understand’ language and the ‘literal’ use of language and the ‘figurative’ use of language. Perhaps this is the problem – we all ‘seem’ to understand. Let’s see if we can get some clarity on this pre-understanding we all to seem to have.
The ‘literal’ use of language thinks “let’s go up the stream”. The figurative use of language is like “she is always so up”. From the literal standpoint ‘up’ points to a particular direction “up the stream not down the stream”. From a figurative standpoint ‘up’ means something like an elevated, more desirable mood. From the literal notion we have designated a particular which always implies two things: the universal set of all conditions in which ‘up’ is always the same as x = up and always not the same as x ≠ down. From the figurative standpoint ‘up’ is a metaphor, a simile, a kind of reflection of the universal case but not the same as. Notice how we use the conjunction as to equate both universals and particulars and shades of meanings or combinations of meanings which can no longer be called universals and particulars OR
simple nonsense because they employ multiple meanings which separately can have different contexts but together convey a concrete meaning which is different in some undiscernible degree from the universal/particular context.
The question among philosophers of language and aesthetics is which modality of language is superior or are they both valid in different ways or is one really subsumed by the other or can we just ignore one and acknowledge only the other or is it neither and they both do not mean anything as they are fundamentally indeterminate and unable to stand alone? With this in mind let’s see if we can flesh these notions out in a simplistic formulaic fashion:
up is not-down (in the gravitational field of earth)
up is down (in the vacuum of space)
Notice how the previous apparent universal case only makes sense by assuming one particular case.
up is both down and not-down (in the gravitational field of earth and the vacuum of space)
Notice how the contradiction of the universal case makes sense now given two particular cases.
up is beyond words (in the universal which encompasses all particulars)
Words, meaning and language must mean something beyond themselves.
up is beyond words and down (in the universal which encompasses all particulars and universal binary oppositions)
Since the universal by definition cannot be both true and not true it must point to some inability of language where meaning and nonsense have a kind of symbiotic relationship.
up is beyond words and not-down (in the universal which encompasses all particulars and universal binary oppositions and binary universals and binary universals where one term is negated)
Since the universal by definition cannot be both true and not true it must point to some inability of language where meaning and nonsense have a kind of symbiotic relationship AND where one particular case can be maintained on a universal level.
up is beyond words and both down and not-down (in the universal which encompasses all particulars and universal binary oppositions and binary universals and binary universals where both terms are negated)
Since the universal by definition cannot be both true and not true it must point to some inability of language where meaning and nonsense have a kind of symbiotic relationship AND where one particular case can be maintained on an absolute contradictory universal level.
Notice that we can never seem to find a case where all particular cases are congruent with the universal case. However, we can just completely dismiss the universal case as total nonsense. We can even find a way to maintain a blatant contradiction over the universal case. So how can we get around this dilemma?
Well, we can have a tautology. A tautology is always true no matter what by definition. This is the case of A = A. Philosophers call this an identity. It will always be true no matter what the particular conditions because we declare it thus. Deductive logic can be a tautology. Here is how:
All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
therefore, Socrates is mortal
A = B
C = B
∴ A == C
In this mathematical formula we can now declare that we have found the universal, but have we? Well, when we use the symbolic form of A, B, and C we drop out the particular cases of the words and substitute, reduce or ignore the particulars of man, Socrates and mortal. In so doing we have found a way to sustain the universal for all particular cases. So, in a way we have transformed the particularities of man, Socrates and mortal to mean the same thing as a symbol.
A symbol is something which stands for something else. However, in a strict universal sense we can define a symbol as something which stands for something else without specifying exactly what it stands for. Now we can chain symbols and equalities together to start and end in the same place as we did above. What we have really done is to ignore any particular cases for which they mean something and simply restated or repeated ourselves as if we found something significant. In this way we have discovered the joy of a tautology.
Now we can link particular cases together in commonly understood, by certain cultural, historical, ethnic, gender, etc., notions and endow them with the universal quality of a tautology. Isn’t this really a magician’s trick of hand? Deductive logic can communicate true conclusions if its premises have found a certain amount of conditional, particular restrictions which unite them in the terms of the conclusion. However, the appeal to the particular case of the premises and the truth-contingency of the conclusion makes this a case of inductive logic.
Inductive logic can communicate certain conditionally ‘real’ things which culminates in, for instance, science. But science strips itself of the joy of tautology and calls their endeavor inductive logic. Inductive logic finds certain empirical conditions under which prediction is made possible. When these conditions are duplicated, we can expect to see a certain outcome which can be repeated by anyone (we will not get into the notion of degrees of error in this post OR the possibility of some completely different explanation which may have less room for error – think absolute time and space and relativity). However, we can see with inductive logic we actually have the possibility of finding a completely different way to arrive at a predictability without being locked into the ‘truth’ of a tautology.
I would submit that in this brief analysis there may be a way to completely discredit Hegel…or not.
I want to thank Jainism for this…
o is P.
o is not-P.
o is both P and not-P.
o is beyond words.
o is beyond words and P.
o is beyond words and not-P.
o is beyond words and both P and not-P.
See The Literal-Nonliteral Distinction in Classical Indian Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Keating, M. (2021). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The Literal-Nonliteral Distinction in Classical Indian Philosophy. (E. N. Zalta, Ed.) Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.